Land Conservation Measures Win in Florida
Tallahassee, FL–As they went to the polls yesterday, voters in five counties across Florida faced a tough choice, and it wasn’t only who to elect as the next President of the United States or junior Senator from Florida. They also had to decide whether it was worth raising their own town taxes to preserve local open space. With the votes counted, it is clear that voters in these Florida counties saw protecting open space as a good investment. All six measures (two in Volusia) passed by large, and in some cases, overwhelming margins.
In Broward County, voters overwhelming approved raising their taxes for a bond measure that will generate $400 million in new funding for land conservation and parks improvements. County residents apparently decided that saving the last slivers of natural lands from was a good idea, even if it meant that the owner of a $100,000 home would pay an additional $38 a year in property taxes. With the vote count complete, the Broward bond passed with a 73 percent yes vote.
The land conservation measure was promoted heavily in the final weeks before Election Day. The Trust for Public Land, working closely with local advocates, helped guide the efforts of a coalition of environmentalists and public. “I think that the people recognized the importance of this for their future quality of life,” said the Trust or Public Land’s Brenda Marshal, who coordinated the Broward campaign. “That’s why we had community support for this all along.”
In Leon County, voters approved a $543 million fifteen-year extension of the one-cent local option sales tax to implement the community’s “Blueprint 2000” plan by a margin of 60 percent to 40 percent. The Trust for Public Land worked with citizen groups and city and county officials to get the sales tax extension on the ballot and passed by voters. TPL conducted a public opinion poll, helped develop educational and advocacy materials, spoke in support of the measures at public hearings, and provided ongoing advice and assistance to local committee working on the measure.
“The win in Leon County is especially gratifying,” said Kathy Baughman, the Trust for Public Land’s government affairs representative, “because this measure combined quality-of-life issues, like protecting open space and lake and drinking water quality, with funds for infrastructure to direct new growth and economic development to the right places.”
In Volusia County, voters were faced with two conservation measures, one for acquisition of environmentally sensitive lands and water resource protection (Volusia Forever) and one for restoration and improvement of cultural, historic, and outdoor recreation facilities (Volusia ECHO). Both measures, which authorized a property tax increase, were approved. The victory margin for Volusia Forever was 61 percent and Volusia ECHO passed by 57 percent. Together, the measures will generate approximately $80 million for open space land acquisition and historic preservation and improvements over the next twenty years.
The Alachua Forever measure, the first successful bond measure in the County in over ten years, will finance $29 in bond issue to acquire, improve, and manage environmentally significant lands. Voters there approved the measure by 61 to 39 percent. The Seminole County measure, which was approved by 61 percent, will provide $25 million primarily to improve trails and greenways and manage environmental lands purchased by the County under a previous bond measure.
“Yesterday, voters across Florida showed once again that they care enough about protecting the natural resources that make their community’s special to vote to raise taxes,” said Will Abberger, Director of Programs in the Trust for Public Land’s Florida Office. “These votes should send strong message to our elected officials that Floridians care more than ever about managing growth and protecting the environment.”
The Trust for Public Land’s Public Finance Program has helped states, counties and municipalities secure approximately $21 billion in new funding for parks and land conservation since 1994. During yesterday’s election, voters across the country voted on ballot initiatives totaling more than $4 billion for land conservation. Of the 54 measures the Trust for Public Land participated in across the country on November 7, forty were approved by the voters, providing $3.2 billion for land conservation. For up to date results for open space referenda nationwide, visit www.tpl.org/LandVote2000.