Counting on leadership for problem solving

As individuals and as a country, we are counting on those in national/state/local government positions to be making informed and proactive decisions to address the financial crisis. But we need to remind ourselves that often these same people were part of what got us into trouble in the first place. Yes, we have newly elected officials in some cases, but they are often limited by the organizational process itself.

Florida is in a financial crisis.

  • Florida is one of the state most hard hit by the collapse of the housing market.
  • Florida doesn’t have a state income tax. So much of the state’s economy is tied to tourism, with higher gas taxes, sales tax and taxes on hotels and entertainment.
  • Tourism is down. Not only are families not taking Florida vacations, but some businesses have canceled conventions in Orlando. According to those who are investigating the convention decrease, in these days of concern about business excesses, Orlando is seen as too much of a fun place for serious business to get done.

I try to listen to “Capital Report” to hear the update on what is going on in Tallahassee as the legislature meets. The program provides much more information — about more of the issues and with more comments from those on each side of the issue — than TV or newspaper coverage.

But it’s hard to drive while listening to some of the stories.

The state is paying millions of dollars to give the FCAT — money that is going out of state for test developers and test scorers. But to cut the education budget, the state is considering a 25 percent cut in instructional materials (i.e., textbooks). So better to have the tests than the books that help teachers teach and students learn — which we can hope is tied to what is included in the FCAT. But the FCAT test will be less extensive as a part of saving money. The writing section is being cut.

A key funding source for education is going to be increasing gambling on Indian reservations in Florida. The debate I heard was not about whether or not Florida should be promoting more gambling but what kinds of gambling to allow — slots, poker, etc.

Maybe I’d better pull to the side of the road as I listen.

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