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Baitball Blogger

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Current location: Seminole County, Florida
Member since: Sun Mar 18, 2012, 10:16 PM
Number of posts: 35,644

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Here is what may have happened with the Crist selection.

We have a good ole boy network in Central Florida that crosses party lines. Many of the convoluted decisions that cities have made in this past that involved land development were based on questionable legal opinions from city attorneys. i.e. these were activist attorneys who were pushing the envelope on sovereignty issues. Some were even involved in pushing a "novel" approach that would have changed land development law, giving cities the power to make decisions over land zoning changes, which at that time was considered quasi-judicial, instead of legislative. These lawyers believed they had immunity, which must have emboldened them. In other words, these lawyers believed that they would not be held legally accountable for their involvement in a land development issue. They were wrong.

It all backfired when a developer who felt targeted by them hired a smart lawyer who not only challenged their immunity claim (and won), but was able to explain, in plain language (so that people assembled at a city meeting could understand) that the city was not following State law. <Footnote 1>

Unfortunately, this developer was not liked by a coterie of ordinary people who had elevated this land zoning issue into a personal fight. Not surprisingly, they assumed the developer was the bad guy and never took the time to understand land zoning laws well enough to A) negotiate better deals and B) understand and accept their legal limitations. In all fairness, the lawyers in the area were not much help. Hard to say whose side they were on, even now.

In the end, the developer prevailed and there was a Mexican stand-off between the corrupt public attorneys and the coterie of people who had turned this whole mess into a personal grudge. They were partly composed of gullible, misled individuals; Republicans/Libertarians who were mentally wired to hate government and just wanted the city to give them what they wanted; and a contingency of thirdway style democrats-neoliberals who forgot that Democrats are supposed to respect government process. <Footnote 2>

The dispute with the developer was resolved with a settlement agreement that gave him two million dollars to go away. The same agreement also contained a confidentiality clause, that I believe became a détente between the attorneys and the community leaders who were most involved in this fracas. These groups, who ordinarily did not like each other, were now bonded to one another because of the need to keep the information tapped down. (Because there were other victims that were not included in the lawsuit.)

Essentially, that confidentiality clause gave the lawyers and the community leaders a chance to start all over. It allowed them to set-up a status quo that was committed to perpetuating a cover-up. This mission has created a surreal situation that rewards people who will take up the mantle to continue a story that at its foundation, is false. You can't do this without the cooperation of several lawyers to back up that "story."

So, enter Charlie Crist. If he had succeeded in becoming our next governor, the people involved with this scandal would have felt reasonably confident that they would not have to worry about legal ramifications. Not that Crist had any role to play in the original antics, but it's the environment of our political system that would have made him rely on the people involved in the fracas because a few of them are rainmakers. To this day they manage to hold onto power because the money they are able to pour into political campaigns provides them with influence.

I am not in anyway saying that this particular local scandal had anything to do with Democrats being turned off by Crist, but I suspect that it is many such governmental collapses that finally wore everybody down.

To get the high ground, Florida Democrats not only have to redefine themselves as the party of reason and fairness, but also have to explain in very simple terms that small government is a cardboard cut-out that people shouldn't fall for. Behind the label, small government is just the same ole backroom cronyistic system that we have all come to associate with good ole boys.

Since people only tend to pay attention when they have something to fear, here is what should concern them: There are people in their communities who are intentionally spreading lies and misinformation. It is this intentional attempt to keep people from learning the truth that is creating a very hostile environment where people feel like they have to form alliances in order to create some semblance of a social life.

I hate to say it, but when I dissect these alliances to determine what binds people together around here, nobody seems to be getting it right.

- - - - -

Footnote 1: Actually, it was the combination of the explanation from the city's special counselor and the developer's lawyer that painted a curious picture. For background: the city, which appealed to small government types and property rights supporters, were playing out their own sovereign rule experiment, practicing government without an established constitution. <The city never filed a Comprehensive Plan and a couple of its early ex-city attorneys became staunch property rights supporters and welded influence in the community afterwards>. For most of the early decades, the city resolved land development disputes in court and relied on settlement agreements to determine zoning changes. Such was the case with the developer who sued the city and prevailed. Their disagreement cropped out of an early settlement agreement. When the developer submitted conceptual plans for his proposed developments, there were slight adjustments that incensed the community and this opened an opportunity for a coterie of people to organize an attempt to stop his developments.

It marked a change in the city's evolution when the city joined forces with this group of residents who had, in the past, organized efforts to stop city projects. This change would be most noticeable in the way the city argued its case. They hired a special counselor, who after months of research, presented state law requirements that she felt were needed before the city could approve rezonings of the developer's property (even though these rezonings had already been approved through the settlement agreement signed a few years before.) The irony here, is that the special counselor introduced the same legal state requirements that the city had been circumventing for years due to their sovereignty efforts.

When the developer's lawyer's turn came up in that city meeting, he essentially explained that the settlement agreement that they had entered into with the city was, essentially a contract. And in the contract it stated that the city was required to file any necessary paperwork to permit the construction. The claim they would present in court involved estoppel. They would argue that because of this early agreement they had with the city, the city could not now erect road blocks to prevent the construction.

I would have given anything to be in City Hall that day when Republicans in the room must have suddenly understood why it was so important for local government to follow due process. The smart ones would have realized that if the city had properly followed state law there would have been properly noticed meetings for the rezonings where members of the public might have stood a chance to listen to the details in time to develop legal strategies, or attempt better negotiations. Instead, they were always going to be behind the eight ball because many of the city meetings were just set up to approve settlement agreements, where the details had already been hashed out by a select handful of people. This style of select committee groups is how the city still operates to this day.

Footnote 2: Among the people who were most opposed to the developer were individuals who the developer claimed in his complaint, were involved in a conspiracy to interfere with his business. <tortious business interference.> Indeed, there are strong indications that a few were not operating in an unselfish manner. In other words, they stood to benefit from the developer's downfall.
Posted by Baitball Blogger | Fri Nov 7, 2014, 06:55 PM (1 replies)
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