Archive for the ‘Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions’ Category

Congressman David Jolly (FL-13) launched the 2016 New Ideas Conference with a reminder of what the event is – and isn’t – about.

“This is to give voice to the community, and this is a forum to talk policy, not politics,” said Jolly as he spoke words that resonated the ideas of free speech.


The April 8 forum – now in its second year – featured local leaders and the community talking about critical issues. Jolly served as the event’s moderator.

Last year New Ideas jumped into discussions about budget, transportation, energy and education. This year featured three panels – Veterans’ Welfare, Government Reform and Emerging Threats of Terrorism.

Read tweets from and about the forum.

Veterans’ Welfare

“Our nations heroes deserve the very best we have to offer,” said Congressman Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) during the discussion about veterans. “Too often the VA has fallen short.”

The Veterans’ Welfare panel brought with it highly emotional responses. Johnny Jones, a retired Explosive Ordinance Disposal Technician who lost both of his legs in 2010 after he was deployed to Afghanistan, touched the audience with his inspiring words. He told the crowd that losing his best friend, another U.S. Marine, to suicide forced him to think about what causes someone to go that far. He spoke passionately about the misuse of medication to those with PTSD. His non-profit organization, the Boot Campaign, works to raise awareness for Veterans’ issues. It also provides assistance to military families.

“All Americans want this to change,” said Blaze Radio Network anchor Doc Thompson. “We have the right ideas, but it is not getting done.”

Government Reform

Continuing with the idea of not getting things done, the Government Reform panel talks addressed issues with government gridlock and corruption.

“Congress has gotten so dysfunctional that good candidates don’t want to do it anymore,” said Editor of Editorials for the Tampa Bay Times Tim Nickens. “They can never get anything done, and the problem is not the middle. It is the extremes on either side.”

The discussion addressed district gerrymandering, Congressional term limits, the use of filibustering and budget concerns. The workings of primary elections also came up.

“A lot of people feel disenfranchised due to closed primaries,” said former Congressman Jim Davis. “Open primaries give more control and more choice. Neither side will like it, but we need to do it.”

Emerging Threats of Terrorism

Discussion of the threat of cyberterrorism entered the picture last. The panel featured Katherine Bauer, senior fellow at the Washington Institute; Congresswoman Gwen Graham (FL-2) and Chief Operating Officer for the Florida Center for Cybersecurity Sri Sridharan.

“Our military is protecting and defending us. We are working hard every day providing security here in the U.S,” said Graham.

Attendees were looking for answers on conflicts involving Syria, ISIS and Iran. Intellectual property, proper “cyber hygiene” and blocking ISIS online were also discussed.

“Syria, it is a humanitarian crisis,” said Graham. “You can’t make sense of whose fighting who for what reason.”

People from around Pinellas County joined students and faculty within the crowd at the SPC Seminole Campus Digitorium.

“I really enjoyed the Veterans panel,” said SPC Biology student Torin Clark. “It was awesome to hear that they were truly trying to figure out ways to help veterans.”

Clark also got a lot out of the Government Reform panel talks. Not someone who has kept up-to-date with politics, he said he learned a lot from the panel.

Local business owner Bruce Elliot said “This event is awesome, but once it is over, we have to think, ‘Well, what’s next?’”

At the end of each panel, people were told how they could get in touch with the panelists as well as others who can push for change. Many in the audience left with new answers and new questions.

Missed the forum? See video from the event online.

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St. Petersburg College’s Institute of Strategic Policies hosts the New Ideas Conference – a forum to talk policy, not politics, on April 8 at the SPC Seminole Campus.


Congressman David Jolly will moderate the 2016 New Ideas Conference

“Bringing local leaders and the community together to talk about critical issues in a substantive way is what the conference is all about,” said Congressman David Jolly (FL-13), who will serve as the event’s moderator.

The conference features panelists discussing issues covering Emerging Threats of Terrorism, Veterans’ Welfare and Government Reform. Faces such as Tim Nickens, editor of editorials for the Tampa Bay Times, Medal of Honor Recipient Gary Litrell, and Sri Sridharan, chief operating officer of the Florida Center for Cybersecurity at University of South Florida, will be present.

“I think each of these issues are pressing and urgent conversations we need to be having,” said Jolly. “Consider the recent events in Brussels or the issues with Veteran health care. Government reform is very real. Passing budgets is very real.”

Jolly will be moderating the event – ensuring all sides have a chance to speak and keeping the discussion “calm and consistent.”

“This conference isn’t about me. It’s about the panel discussing and engaging with the community,” he said.


2015 New Ideas Conference panelists

Many people attended last year’s conference. They shared their questions and ideas, and panelists provided succinct and fact-filled answers.

“I implore students to participate and ask questions,” said Jolly.

Students may feel cut off from politics or overwhelmed by information spread via the Internet. The conference offers an alternative to hear from local, state and national leaders, according to organizers.

“Come prepared, know the topics and be ready for an opportunity to have your questions answered,” Jolly said.

Melinda Woods is a former business owner and a current senior in SPC’s Public Policy and Administration program. “We are inundated all day about politics, and being bipartisan is important. Let’s not talk politics.”

Woods cherishes her time at SPC. Her experiences with the various conferences she’s attended have been one of opportunity and enlightenment, she said.

“I’ve been to many conferences,” she said. “This one has good timing, the right people are going to be present and it’s a civic opportunity to become engaged in your local government.”

Woods is looking for New Ideas panelists to address some of her concerns involving terrorism and the welfare of Veterans. Involved in an initiative to increase biker friendliness within Pinellas County, she also is looking forward to the budget side of government reform talks.

“Each person who attends has an opportunity to be invested and have their opinions heard,” said Woods. “It is a place where people can be comfortable and new ideas can evolve.”

Join us at the New Ideas Conference April 8 and follow updates on Twitter at #SPCNewIdeas. Or watch a live stream of the event.

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What is it like to experience Alzheimer’s – a disease that affects more than 5 million Americans? Those attending the Second Annual Caregivers’ Conference at St. Petersburg College on April 1 will go inside the dementia experience in a session called “Entering Their World,” led by dementia patient advocate Peggy Macaluso, from both a professional and personal point of view.

The conference, with the theme “Getting Real About Reality,” will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, April 1, in the Conference Center of SPC’s Seminole Campus, 9200 113th St. N. The event, which includes a buffet lunch, is free, but advance registration is required. To register, email maria@mariacares.com, or call 727-393-7711.

11796362_1625827754368928_5545028781355990792_nThe conference is co-sponsored by the Florida Caregivers Network and the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at St. Petersburg College.

The “virtual” Alzheimer’s experience is just one of more than a half-dozen sessions on the agenda that will offer helpful advice and the latest information on dementia research to family caregivers, volunteers working with older adults, and professionals in aging and related services.

isps-bannerKeynote speaker will be the Hon. David Jolly, 13th District Congressman from St. Petersburg. Other speakers and panelists will include:

  • Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who will discuss his department’s Project Lifesaver, an electronic tracking device for dementia patients
  • Linda Burhans, author and nationally recognized expert on caregiver advocacy
  • Karen Truman, founder and president of Dementia Caregiver Resources Inc., cited by Assisted Living Today as one of the nation’s top memory care experts
  • Sunit Srivastava, managing member of the Legacy Health Medical Group, which specializes in the care of residents in nursing homes, and assisted and independent living facilities
  • Helen King, deputy director of the Pinellas-Pasco Area Agency on Aging

During breaks, conference attendees will be able to browse the booths of more than a dozen vendors offering products and services to assist caregivers. Door prizes, including a free beach resort weekend, will be awarded throughout the conference.

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Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, will join Rep. Gus Bilirakis of Palm Harbor on a panel exploring issues of concern to veterans at the second annual New Ideas Conference with Honorary Host Congressman David Jolly on April 8 at St. Petersburg College (SPC).

Joining the congressmen on the panel – entitled “Veterans’ Welfare: Why Can’t We get It Right? – will be Ret. U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Johnny Joey Jones, Chief Operating Officer of the national nonprofit organization Boot Campaign, and Ret. U.S. Army Command Sgt. Major Gary Littrell, Medal of Honor recipient.

The event will be held from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday, April 8, at SPC’s Seminole Campus, 9200 113th St. N, in the Digitorium, Room UP 160. The conference is presented by SPC’s Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions (ISPS), and sponsored by the Tampa Bay Times, Bright House Networks, Jabil, and Alakai Defense Systems. The event is open to the public and admission is free, but seating is limited. Registration is required at: http://solutions.spcollege.edu.

“This is a great opportunity for our community to come together with national, state and local leaders to discuss, in a non-political and non-partisan forum, some of the most pressing issues facing our country today,” said Congressman Jolly (FL-13). “It’s this type of open dialogue and consensus building that can lead to real solutions.”

Rep. Miller, who represents the First Congressional District in Florida’s Panhandle, and Rep. Bilirakis, who represents District 12 and serves as vice chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, are among a dozen national, state and local leaders who will discuss and offer innovative solutions to some of the most pressing policy issues facing the United States and Pinellas County. In addition to Veterans’ Affairs, the event will include panel discussions on the topics of Government Reform and Emerging Threats of Terrorism.

“We are honored to work with Congressman Jolly to address challenging problems in this non-partisan, non-rancorous format,” said David Klement, Executive Director of The Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at St. Petersburg College. “Seeking solutions through consensus-building is at the heart of our democratic system – and the goal of all of our civic-engagement efforts at SPC.”

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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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