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OCT Hot Topics-OC Charter Amendments

 | Published on 10/14/2020

HOT TOPICS, 10/14/2020

Three of our own smart LWVOC aces took a look at the three Charter Review Commission proposals that appear on this year’s Orange County ballot. Rachel Deming, Angela Melvin and Kay Hudson discussed the two environmental issues and a third on citizen ballot initiatives at Wednesday’s virtual Hot Topics.

If you haven’t voted yet, listen up.

The Orange County Charter Review Commission meets every four years to see if changes need to be made. For the 2020 election, members came up with these three amendments:

No. 1 would prohibit pollution on the Wekiva and Econlockhatchee rivers and all other county waters. Melvin, who was a member of the CRC, said, “Everyone deserves the right to clean water, and the water deserves it, too,” adding that all of our ecosystems (trees, waters) have their rights.

Deming, a law professor at Orlando’s Barry University, explained that the amendment was needed “because what we have now isn’t working.” Our laws give government units the right to take care of our environment, but we can’t always depend on those agencies, she said.

This initiative is the first taken by a U.S. county, but it’s part of a global Rights of Nature movement to involve citizens to a greater degree.

No. 2 would protect the Split Oak Forest, which sprawls across parts of Orange and Osceola counties, by restricting the County Commission from tinkering with current regulations that designate the 1,800-acre forest as environmentally protected and conserved. At issue is a plan to build the Osceola Parkway Expansion through the area. Hudson said the road could be built without going through the forest land.

The amendment would prevent commissioners from giving over the land to other uses and would be a step toward protecting Split Oak in perpetuity.

No. 3 has to do with getting citizen initiatives on the ballot. Government bodies have periodically tried to make it more difficult for citizens to get proposals on ballots (see also No. 4 on a state constitution proposal). Amendment 3 would make it easier, for one by allowing more than 180 days to gather petition signatures.

The LWVOC recommends a yes vote on all three proposals. To read the amendments and the pros and cons for each, visit lwvoc.org and check out “amendments guide” in the Voting Info menu.