The following report from the Leadership Florida Conference last month was provided by David Klement, Executive Director of the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at SPC’s Seminole Campus.
The annual meeting of Leadership Florida included SPC President Bill Law as a featured panelist. Held at the Yacht Club & Beach Club Resort at Walt Disney World from June 27-30, the meeting of Florida’s premiere leadership organization brought together some 450 Leadership Florida alums from across the state to hear interesting speakers, including Florida Gov. Rick Scott.
Dr. Law, a Leadership Florida alum, was part of a panel on higher education and pointed out that the Florida College System is “the envy of America in the way students can move through the system.”
Law said a particular strength of FCS is the attention paid to helping students prepare to enter the workforce, especially in the health care sector. In response to a question about trends in higher education, Law said Florida is fortunate to have a public and private sector that works “hand in hand” to provide a variety of choices for students. He identified a gradual shift in higher education in Florida. “As our colleges mature, the universities are moving to more research and we (the State College System) are sharing the undergraduate burden more evenly,” he said.
Another featured presentation was by Dr. Beth Stevens, senior vice president for corporate citizenship, environment and conservation for the Walt Disney Co. She focused on the importance of preserving Florida’s natural resources for future generations and the growing disconnect between children and nature. Today kids spend on average just 1 percent of their time doing things in nature and 27 percent of their time using electronic devices, she said. Yet a connection with nature is extremely important in childhood development.
Disney is in Year 5 of a proactive program to promote conservation of natural resources and to provide visitors with connections to nature. It has created a 12,000-acre wilderness preserve in Kissimmee with the Florida Nature Conservancy and partners with 350 non-profits worldwide dedicated to nature conservation.
Scott focused on economic issues, especially his job-creation efforts. “No state in the U.S. should be in a better position economically than Florida,” he said. Its low tax burden, geographic proximity to the Panama Canal, resurgence in tourism and expansion of many of its ports all contribute to “a dramatic turnaround” in the Florida economy in his 2½ years in office, he said.
In response to questions, the governor dashed hopes that he might call a special session of the Legislature to reconsider joining the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid plan. “I can’t do anything,” he said, because the Legislature has spoken by rejecting the plan and it is unlikely he could compel legislators to reconsider that decision.
Another speaker, Peter Kageyama of St. Petersburg, offered ideas on how to make our cities more safe, functional and fun. Especially fun. In a fast-paced presentation, he showed dozens of examples of what cities have done to add life to the streets and boost municipal morale. For example, spray-painting weeds in a vacant lot and labeling it a “weed garden” or turning that lot into a “barking lot” mini-dog park. One city created an inexpensive water park with a garden hose. Another urged citizens to attach post-it notes to derelict or under-used buildings. The notes bear the title “I wish this was. . .,” and people write in their idea for improving the structure. One city turned the problem of gum litter into an attraction by declaring a vacant stone wall the “bubble-gum wall.” Instead of tossing gum on the grass or walks, citizens are encouraged to stick their used bubble gum wads on the wall. Somewhat gross but also interesting.
Kageyma’s message: “Play is central to our relationships with other people.” It’s a good takeaway for our community.
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