09Nov/09

ST. PETE BEACH ABANDONS LOCAL EXPERIMENT IN AMENDMENT 4

Since beginning a 3-year experiment in Amendment 4-style rule, St. Pete Beach residents have seen endless lawsuits, higher taxes and widespread economic turmoil. In recent elections, the citizens of St. Pete Beach voted to scale back their local version of Amendment 4 so that only certain land use changes require a referendum.  With Florida voters set to soon decide the fate of Amendment 4 – a statewide Vote on Everything initiative – it is telling that St. Pete Beach voters chose to rein in their own local experiment by a decisive 60-40 margin.

More telling still are the words of Ward Friszolowski, former St. Pete Beach Mayor who retired in 2008.  “St. Pete Beach residents are tired of voting on everything, especially issues that don’t even relate to development,” said Friszolowski. “This amendment doesn’t work. It has resulted in chaotic, confusing and expensive elections driven by sound bites rather than sound planning.”

No other state in the union has adopted an amendment as heavy-handed and extreme as the one now being sold to Florida voters as Amendment 4.  Even the type of planning by sound bite that takes place in California would pale in comparison to what is being proposed in our state.  However, we can draw lessons from the story of St. Pete Beach, the first community in Florida to adopt a local version of Amendment 4.

The St. Pete Beach TIMELINE:

November, 2006: St. Pete Beach narrowly adopts a local version of Amendment 4, requiring a referendum for all changes to the local comprehensive plan. Amendment 4 supporters promise that they just want to give “the people a right to vote.”

June, 2008: St. Pete Beach voters approve a new comprehensive plan at the ballot box.

June, 2008: After losing the election, Amendment 4 supporters in St. Pete Beach file a string of legal challenges to invalidate the will of the people.

September, 2008: Numerous administrative challenges are subsequently filed by Amendment 4 co-author and co-founder Ross Burnaman.

June, 2009: The St. Petersburg Times reports that St. Pete Beach has exhausted its legal budget months before the end of the fiscal year.

September, 2009: Amidst rising legal bills, St. Pete Beach raises taxes.

October, 2009: Court-ordered mediation collapses when Amendment 4 supporters refuse to join the City and the business community in supporting a compromise.

St. Pete Beach is proof positive that Amendment 4 is not designed to give the people a say on growth. It is designed to give anti-growth lawyers another legal avenue to stop commonsense progress, even when voters approve it. In St. Pete Beach, the taxpayers’ legal bills continue to mount. Unfortunately, there is no end in sight.

Floridians for Smarter Growth leads opposition to Amendment 4. To date, more than 170 organizations throughout Florida have opposed Amendment 4. More join the fight every day.  For more information, please visit www.florida2010.org.

09Nov/09

LAKELAND-AREA STUDENTS ACHIEVE PERFECT FCATS

Nineteen students who attended Lakeland-area schools in 2008-2009 and achieved perfection on the reading and math portions of the 2008-2009 FCAT tests will be among those honored at a school district special event on November 10.

 These 19 students achieved the highest possible scores of 500 on both the reading and mathematics portions of the tests administered in March 2009.  More than 55,000 Polk students in grades three through ten took the tests. A total of 28 students districtwide scored a 500 on both the reading and math portions. These 28 represent approximately .0005 percent of the total number taking the tests. 

 The following list is  19 students from Lakeland-area schools with perfect FCAT reading and math scores from 2008-2009 testing.  They are listed according to school where they took the tests last year.  Any schools listed in parentheses after a student’s name is the school they are attending in 2009-2010.

 Carlton Palmore Elementary- Rachel Gould

Cleveland Court Elementary- Lindsey Kim

Lake Gibson Middle- Caleb Brady

Lakeland Highlands Middle-Hope Grimes, Ashley Valdez

Lincoln Avenue Academy- Alana Jones, Emma Schindler

Lawton Chiles Middle Academy- Sujaya Rajguru, Abhinav Venigalla, Tom Zhang (currently attending Bartow International Baccalaureate)

McKeel Elementary-Kylie Bridges, Andrew Brown

Philip O’Brien Elementary- Mark Stoughton

Scott Lake Elementary- Alexander Manning, Zachary Urillo

Southwest Elementary-Matthew Clere, Hannah Townley

Southwest Middle- Breanna Langley

Valleyview Elementary: Madelyn Graham (currently attending Spessard Holland Elementary-Bartow)

06Nov/09

CHAMBER AWARDED PRESTIGIOUS 40-YEAR ACCREDITATION WITH FIVE-STAR RATING

clip_image001The U.S. Chamber of Commerce announced this week that the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce has been awarded its 40-Year Five-Star Accreditation rating.  Only 55 chambers out of more than 7,000 chambers in the country have achieved this highest level of accreditation ranking. 

“We are extremely proud to be awarded our 40-year accreditation with Five-Star rating by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  Accreditation is one of the most prestigious honors bestowed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and offers an excellent measurement tool for chambers of commerce to achieve the highest standards of organizational excellence in representing their member businesses and communities,” said Lakeland Chamber President Kathleen Munson. “Achieving the highest level of accreditation is a tribute to the outstanding leadership of our Chamber volunteer leaders and professional staff, who unselfishly contribute their time and talent to make Lakeland such a tremendous place to live and work.”

The Accreditation program with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce defines organizational excellence in chamber planning and recognizes chambers for outstanding contributions toward positive change in their communities. In order to achieve accreditation rating, chambers undergo a comprehensive evaluation in nine areas:  governance, finance, human resources, government affairs, program development, communications, technology, facilities and benchmarking.

To successfully complete the accreditation application, Chairman of the Board Anu Saxena (ASC geosciences, inc.) appointed an Accreditation Review Task Force to lead the Chamber through the evaluation process.  The Chamber would like to recognize the following leaders who worked with staff for more than six months to successfully complete the application:

Chair: Melinda Harrison (Watson Clinic LLP)

Governance: Timothy F. Campbell (Clark, Campbell, Mawhinney and Lancaster, P.A.)

Finance: Walker Wilkerson (The NCT Group, CPAs, LLP)

Human Resources: Don Selvage (SHR Human Resources, LLC)

Government Affairs: Mark E. Wilson (Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc.)

Program Development: Maureen Shaw (Flower Cart Florist)

Communication: Sam Nimah (Southern Wine and Spirits of Florida)

Technology: Todd Baylis (Cipher Integrations, Inc.)

Facilities: Joe L. Ruthven (The Ruthvens)

Benchmarking: Paul Noris (Bank of Central Florida)

The Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce represents more than 1,800 businesses in the Greater Lakeland area.  The Chamber was first accredited by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 1968, and has successfully achieved its accreditation every five years since then. 

03Nov/09

Lakeland InTown Bypass Ribbon Cutting Is Finally Here

Downtown ByPass Ribbon cutting

WHAT:  Ribbon Cutting/Road Opening Ceremony for Phase II of the Lakeland In-town Bypass

WHERE:  Kathleen Road – George Jenkins Road Intersection

WHEN: Friday, November 6th at 3 p.m.

They will drive a Citrus Connection bus through the ribbon to officially open the roadway. 

Speakers include Senator Paula Dockery, Lakeland Mayor Buddy Fletcher and Edward Gonzalez, FDOT District One Director of Transportation Operations.

28Oct/09

CRITICAL CITY ELECTION ON NOVEMBER 3, 2009 – VOTE!

Next Tuesday, November 3, Lakeland residents will elect four members to serve on the City Commission and a new Mayor.  This election will play a critically important role in shaping Lakeland’s future.  

Business Voice is pleased to confirm the following Lakeland Mayoral and City Commission candidates who have been endorsed by our organization: 

Gow Fields, Mayor

Edie Yates, SE District

Phillip Walker, NW District

Howard Wiggs, At Large

BusinessVoice met with Michael Dunn and Don Selvage, candidates running for the Lakeland City Commission, SW District seat.  Mr. Selvage withdrew himself from endorsement consideration due to his prior involvement as a BusinessVoice member; no endorsement was made in this race.

BusinessVoice is a political action committee (CCE & PC) created in 2000 as an organization to support pro-business candidates and to promote issues which impact the business community. BusinessVoice, the political arm of the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce, works to ensure the election of business-minded candidates who are committed to creating a healthy business climate that leads to job creation and higher paying jobs. 

 As part of its interview process, BusinessVoice asked candidates to respond to a ten-page questionnaire designed to demonstrate the candidate’s knowledge of issues facing our City.   All candidate questionnaires have been posted on our Web site, www.businessvoiceinc.com.   Chamber members are encouraged to visit the Web site to learn more about each of the candidates. 

If you are a resident of the City of Lakeland, we encourage you to exercise your opportunity to vote on Tuesday, November 3.

Tim Rice

Chairman, BusinessVoice of Greater Lakeland

Pd.pol.adv. Paid for and approved by BusinessVoice, Inc.