Archive for the ‘Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions’ Category

With a record field of Republican candidates and a seemingly endless series of debates, the 2016 Presidential Primary Season is about to enter a new and decisive phase: actual voting.

The first-in-the-nation Iowa Caucuses are set for Feb. 1, and a nation saturated in primary coverage for the past six months eagerly awaits outcomes that have more validity than poll results or pundits’ tea leaves. So who are the most likely winners? Who will be finished before Super Tuesday? Perhaps more importantly for voters who may be experiencing primary fatigue: Is this the best we can do? Is there a better way to choose a presidential nominee?

Some answers will be provided as St. Petersburg College debuts its Distinguished Speaker Series from 7-8:30 p.m. on Jan. 28 at the Palladium Theater, 253 Fifth Ave. N, St. Petersburg. Michael Steele, former Republican National Committee chairman and respected political commentator on cable and network TV, headlines an evening of discussion about the primaries just four days before the Iowa Caucuses.

The forum, titled “Battle for the White House: A Primary Primer,” is sponsored by SPC’s Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions. Media co-sponsors are the Tampa Bay Times, WEDU-TV, and WUSF Public Media. The event is free and open to the public, but advance registration is requested.

Joining Steele in this assessment of the primaries will be Jim Davis, former Congressman from Tampa and the Democratic candidate for governor in 2006. The moderator will be Amy Hollyfield, deputy managing editor of politics and business for the Tampa Bay Times.

Eight months ago, the buzz about the Republican primaries was all about the showdown between Florida superstars Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. So sure were pundits that Florida’s favorite GOP sons would dominate the Republican field that they coined a twitter-like brand for the race: Jebio.

How long ago and far away those days seem. After a tumultuous summer and fall of debates, shifting polls and agenda-shattering world events, the early assumptions about the GOP presidential field were gone with the political winds. Near the dawn of actual voting, the race is still wide open, with a stageful of candidates still hoping that a strong showing in Iowa and New Hampshire will vault them into the lead.

On the Democratic side, a much smaller field challenging the taken-for-granted nomination of Hillary Clinton has the same hope.

In addition to assessing the horse race aspect of the primaries, the panel will discuss the disproportionate influence of small-state primaries like Iowa and New Hampshire on the nomination process, the influence of SuperPacs on the campaign, and the challenge of campaigning for Super Tuesday, when at least 11 states hold their primaries.

Advance registration is requested at http://solutions.spcollege.edu. For more information, call 727-394-6942.

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During 2014-15, Florida’s prison system has been rocked by a series of stories in state newspapers exposing a pattern of brutality, corruption and cover-ups in Florida prisons. The stories detailed gruesome incidents of prisoner abuse and deaths at the hands of correctional officers in an agency experiencing multiple years of high turnover, chronic understaffing, and budget woes.

prison-reformGov. Rick Scott named a new Secretary of the Department of Corrections in late 2014 – the fourth DOC secretary in four years – to clean up what was described as “a culture of corruption” in the prison system.

Now, a year later, what progress has Corrections Secretary Julie Jones made in the way of prison reform? What efforts are underway to advance public safety and improve the conditions of confinement in Florida’s prisons? What more needs to be done?

A panel of experts will seek answers to those questions at a dinner forum sponsored by the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at St. Petersburg College on Dec. 1. The forum, titled Florida’s Prisons: How Goes Reform?, will be from 6 to 8:15 p.m. at the Seminole Campus Conference Center, 9200 113th St. N. it is co-sponsored by the Tampa Bay Times and WEDU Television. Advance registration is required.

The panel will include Stacy Arias, Chief of Staff of the Department of Corrections; Julie Brown, the Miami Herald investigative reporter whose articles broke open the prison scandal, and former Florida Attorney General Richard Doran, who serves as Executive Committee Chairman for the Project on Accountable Justice (PAJ).

The forum represents the culmination of work done by PAJ to address prison reform over the last three years. A collaboration of St. Petersburg College, Florida State University, Baylor University and Tallahassee Community College, the project’s researchers analyzed the Florida system’s performance data and comparative analysis of best practices in other states. SPC’s Strategic Policy Institute also conducted three public forums in St. Petersburg and Tallahassee to gather input from experts.

Last spring, the project made five reform recommendations aimed at reducing recidivism, cutting prison costs, increasing professional standards, improving employee morale and creating independent oversight of prison operations – lack of which was cited as a contributing factor to inmate abuse, corruption, and systemic weaknesses. Legislation incorporating some of those recommendations was left in limbo when the House adjourned three days early, without voting on the prison reform legislation.

Tickets for the dinner and program are $25 for the general public, $20 for students and educators. Advance registration is required at http://solutions.spcollege.edu. For further information, call 727-394-6942.

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Across the nation today, Sept. 22, volunteers are joining together to celebrate National Voter Registration Day. St. Petersburg College, along with colleges and universities across the state, are promoting civic engagement and encouraging students to register to vote with the help of TurboVote.

TurboVote is a non-partisan, non-profit online tool that makes voter registration easy, especially for students with no previous voting experience and little knowledge of civic affairs. TurboVote makes sure that students have all the materials and information they need in order to vote in every election. With the free online tool, students can:

  • Register to vote
  • Get reminders of upcoming local, state and national elections
  • Easily update their address or other voter information
  • Request absentee ballots

For every election, TurboVote sends a text message and email reminder to all users with important election information, dates and deadlines, to ensure that they never miss another election.

“I encourage you to register to vote and participate in a process that is integral to our democracy and to our nation as a whole,” said SPC President Bill Law in a recent email to SPC students. “I care a great deal that students participate and educate themselves on key issues. We don’t endorse any candidates but we strongly endorse participation in the process.”

The partnership with TurboVote is funded by the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions (ISPS) at St. Petersburg College and the Knight Foundation. It was the first system-wide project of the Florida College System’s Civic Literacy Initiative, launched by ISPS in 2013 to make civic engagement a part of the student experience for every student in the FCS system.

To register for TurboVote, visit: spcollege.turbovote.org.

Register to vote in honor of a veteran

Also in honor of National Voter Registration Day, Pinellas County elections officials are spending the day helping veterans register to vote or update their voter registration information at events across the county. They are also encouraging people to register to vote in honor of a vet.

“On National Voter Registration Day, we are reminded of our veterans’ sacrifices to preserve our freedom as Americans, including the right to vote,” said Deborah Clark, Supervisor of elections in a recent press release. “We hope our efforts to assist our veterans will encourage the citizens of Pinellas County to take time on September 22 to either register to vote or update their own voter registration information in honor of these brave men and women.”

Read the full press release on our Veterans Services blog.

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All over the country, relations between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve are on edge, strained by the deaths of African American youths and men during confrontations with officers. So far, Pinellas County and its cities have remained calm. Could Pinellas County be the next Ferguson, Cleveland, Baltimore or Staten Island?

A distinguished panel of community and law enforcement leaders will discuss the status of police/community relations in Pinellas County at a forum on Sept. 17 sponsored by the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at St. Petersburg College, and co-sponsored by the Tampa Bay Times and WEDU. The forum, titled A Community Conversation: Police and Citizens Seeking Common Ground, will be held from 6-8 p.m. at SPC’s Allstate Center, 3200 34th Street S. Free pizza and soda will be served to those registered in advance.

The prospect of a Ferguson-like police confrontation is a distressing thought for Pinellas County residents. But St. Petersburg experienced a similar event in 1996, when a white police officer shot and killed an African American teenager during a traffic stop.  A night of rioting followed, and was renewed a few weeks later after the officer was exonerated by a grand jury. How are police/community relations different today than they were in 1996? What policies are in place to deal with such an event if it occurred?

The panel will explore these questions, as well as actions that can be taken to strengthen relations between police and the community. The panel includes:

  • Anthony Holloway, Chief, St. Petersburg Police Department
  • Bob Gualtieri, Sheriff, Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office
  • Bernie McCabe, State Attorney, Sixth Judicial Circuit Court
  • Dr. Bill Law, President, St. Petersburg College
  • The Rev. Clarence Williams, Pastor, Greater Mt. Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church
  • Moderated by Al Ruechel, Senior Anchor, Bay News 9

Advance reservations are required at http://solutions.spcollege.edu.

The Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at St. Petersburg is a resource for academic enrichment, a non-partisan venue for civil, objective debate of topical public issues, a center to promote better government, and a resource for sustainable economic development. Its mission is to support a broad array of research, training, educational and policy analysis and support activities at the local, state, regional and national levels.

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Three internationally recognized scientists will address ocean-related impacts of climate change at a two-day conference at St. Petersburg College in October.

water-rising-2Presenting papers and debating their assertions with a panel of local experts at the Oct. 2-3 conference, titled “Sea Level Rise: What’s Our Next Move?” will be:

  • Harold Wanless, a University of Miami researcher who has studied the last 8,000 years of coastal environment evolution and has done extensive research into coastal geology
  • Andrew Keeler, whose Coastal Studies Institute at the University of North Carolina has delved into the economic aspects of coastal adaptation to rising seas.
  • John Englander, oceanographic consultant to government and industry who addresses large-scale financial and societal impacts of climate change.

The conference will focus on linking scientifically credible information to the formulation and implementation of sound, effective public and private-sector policies. It is being convened by the Institute on Science for Global Policy (ISGP), in coordination with the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at St. Petersburg College (ISPS), and a local committee of interested citizens. It will be held at the Seminole Campus, 9200 113th St. N. The public is invited, but advance registration is required.

The local event is one of a series of similar ISGP-sponsored conferences held around the country during 2015 aimed at engaging local communities in useful debates and caucus discussions concerning various aspects of climate issues. The goal is to reach consensus on practical options for mitigating and adapting to anticipated changes in the climate, all of which seek to define a sustainable future.

Dr. Wanless, Professor and Chair of the Department of Geological Sciences at U-M, advises policy makers at the local, state and federal levels. He was among five of Florida’s top climate scientists to brief Gov. Rick Scott on climate change in early 2015. His work includes documenting the geologic and historical evolution of coastal and shallow marine environments, and influences of sea level rise and anthropogenic stresses.

Dr. Keeler served on White House climate change policy teams under both President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush. He was Senior Staff Economist for Environment at the President’s Council of Economic Advisers in 2000-2001, where he was a member of the U.S. negotiating team for climate change. His research is on adaptation to environmental change, hazard insurance, ecosystem service assessment, integrated modeling of coastal real estate markets with environmental risk, ocean energy policy, climate change mitigation, and incentive-based policy design and implementation.

Englander, whose broad marine science background coupled with degrees in geology and economics allows him to see the big picture on climate, has served as CEO for such organizations as The Cousteau Society and The International Sea Keepers Society. His best-selling book, “High Tide On Main Street: Rising Sea Level and the Coming Coastal Crisis,” explains the science behind sea level rise.

The “Sea Level Rise: What’s Our Next Move?” conference emphasizes critical deliberation and extended caucus discussions among the scientists, policymakers, students, and the public. On the first day, the examination of concise policy position papers prepared by the three scientists seeks to clarify the scientific and technical understanding of climate issues for non-specialists.

The caucuses that will convene on the second day will provide all participants and subject-matter experts with opportunities to candidly identify both areas of consensus and the corresponding actionable next steps relevant to climate issues in St. Petersburg and Pinellas County. Together, the deliberations and caucuses will provide a unique forum in which the climate issues observed worldwide can be viewed through the personal life choices and community-wide decisions facing the Tampa Bay region. The conference also confronts the often-challenging tasks required to formulate and implement effective policies related to scientific and technological understanding, especially when broad community support is required.

The debate/caucus format pioneered by the ISGP has been successfully used to examine a wide range of contemporaneously critical issues related to science and technology, including Emerging and Persistent Infectious Diseases and Food Safety, Security, and Defense.

The ISGP and St. Petersburg/Pinellas County Working Group are committed to ensuring that those participating are representative of the communities in Pinellas County, especially with respect to the diverse views and perspectives concerning climate issues.

Due to limited space availability and high interest in the topic, participants must attend both days of the conference.

The public may register for “Sea Level Rise: What’s Our Next Move?” at www.scienceforglobalpolicy.org or at solutions.spcollege.edu. For additional information, call the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at 727-394-6942.

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With the recent move by President Obama to normalize relations with Cuba, a door to economic opportunity has been opened to Tampa Bay business, cultural and educational interests. The Obama initiative has been praised by those who feel the embargo has been ineffective in advancing human rights for Cubans and, after 50 years, it’s time to try a new strategy. But others oppose any relaxation of the embargo until the Cuban government commits to human rights reform.

The implications of this policy will be debated by a panel of prominent local leaders at a forum sponsored by the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at St. Petersburg College and the Global Action Coalition. The forum, titled Cuba: Embargo or Not?, will be from 6-8 p.m. June 30 at the Poynter Institute, 801 Third St. S., St. Petersburg. Admission is free, but advance registration is requested.

Debating the pros and cons of easing the trade embargo will be:

  • Janet Long, Pinellas County Commissioner who led a local delegation on a good-will visit to Cuba last fall
  • Patrick Monteiga, Editor and Publisher of La Gaceta weekly newspaper in Tampa and frequent traveler to Cuba
  • Col. E.J. Otero, (U.S. Air Force, ret.) former senior officer at Central Command and Special Operations Command, MacDill Air Force Base
  • John Wilson, former anchor, Fox Channel 13, will serve as moderator.

Relaxing of the trade embargo offers a special opportunity for the Tampa Bay region, which has a rich history of relations with Cuba as well as airports and deep-water ports capable of handling increased trade with the island nation. Miami, which might be considered the natural hub for such commerce, is home to 850,000 Cuban exiles, many of whom strongly oppose easing of the embargo until political prisoners are released from Cuban jails and reparations for confiscated property are made.

For further information, call 727-394-6942.

The Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at St. Petersburg College is a resource for academic enrichment, a non-partisan venue for civil, objective debate of topical public issues, and a center to promote better government. Its mission is to support a broad array of research, training, educational and policy analysis and support activities at the local, state, regional and national levels.

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A broad cross-section of community leaders, including St. Petersburg College President Bill Law and Downtown/Midtown Provost Kevin Gordon, will take questions from citizens when the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions continues a unique design for civic dialog at its second Speed Date Your Local Leaders program April 22.


The event, which includes free pizza and soft drinks, will be from 6-8 p.m. at the Museum of Fine Arts, 235 Beach Drive NE., St. Petersburg.

ISPS is dedicated to elevating civic engagement through public forums that offer in-depth exploration of today’s critical issues. The Speed Date format gives community members a special way to connect with community leaders in an informal setting.

At its debut of this new concept in civic engagement held at SPC’s Clearwater campus last December for north county residents, almost 100 attendees took advantage of the opportunity to meet face to face with representatives from government, business, not-for-profit and education arenas. The leaders rotated from table to table every seven minutes, offering each group of participants an opportunity to ask questions or offer ideas that might never have prompted a phone call, email or public testimony.

Sixteen local leaders, mostly representing St. Petersburg or south county constituencies, have committed to participating this time. They are:

  • Bridgette Bello, Publisher, Tampa Bay Business Journal
  • Dr. Marcie Biddleman, Executive Director, Juvenile Welfare Board of Pinellas County
  • David Downing, Executive Director, Visit St. Petersburg-Clearwater
  • Kathryn Gillette, CEO, Bayfront Health St. Petersburg
  • Dr. Kevin Gordon, Provost, St. Petersburg College Downtown & Midtown Centers
  • Watson L. Haynes II, President & CEO, Pinellas County Urban League
  • Anthony Holloway, Chief of Police, City of St. Petersburg
  • Jeff Johnson, State Director, AARP Florida
  • Rick Kriseman, Mayor, City of St. Petersburg
  • Dr. Bill Law, President, St. Petersburg College
  • Dr. Kent Lydecker, Director, Museum of Fine Arts
  • Tim Nickens, Editor of Editorials, Tampa Bay Times
  • Chris Steinocher, President & CEO, St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Dr. Kanika Tomalin, Deputy Mayor, City of St. Petersburg
  • Dr. Sophia Wisniewska, Chancellor, USF St. Petersburg
  • Ken Welch, Pinellas County Commissioner

Speed Date Your Local Leaders is modeled after a program by the same name offered by the Institute’s partner organization, The Village Square Tallahassee.

The event is free and open to the public, but participants are required to register in advance through the Institute’s website: solutions.spcollege.edu

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