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Sayfie Summit leaders develop list of goals but challenge is turning them into policy

As Florida soon becomes the nation’s third-largest state, its future should include citizens who are the healthiest in the nation, consume water at half the rate of today, rely on alternative vehicles for transportation, power their lives with alternative energy generated by unregulated producers and give their children the kind of education that has all third graders reading at grade level.

Those are some of the more than two dozen “big hairy audacious goals” developed by a bi-partisan group of 300 business, government, union and non-profit leaders at the Sayfie Review Florida Leaders Summit in Orlando on Friday. About 30 legislators attended the two-day summit, tasked with considering the theme of "Disruption" as technology, growth and changing consumer demands reshape Florida. 

The list of 26 goals, generated during a series of round-table discussions, will next be posted on the Sayfie Review, the news aggregation site run by the conference organizer Justin Sayfie. Readers will be asked to vote on which ideas they want Florida leaders to pursue.

His site attracts 25,000 unique visitors a month and he has a 5,000-person email distribution list that he has identified as the state’s “thought leaders.” Sayfie said he hopes to harness that distribution network to generate feedback on the ideas.

“People are more likely to champion ideas if they feel they are part of the process,’’ Sayfie said.

Sayfie declared the high-minded exercise in futuristic thinking a success as the two-day conference wrapped up. But, he acknowledged, the next challenge will be translating propositions to policy in state and local government.

“I am not going to say these are going to magically become law but, hopefully, the ideas are so inspiring that people will take ownership of them’’ Sayfie said.

So how does Florida translate good ideas into action? 

Susan McManus, a University of South Florida political science professor who led one of the goal-setting discussions, said that may take time.

“It is interesting to me that we’ve had few people even mention government as part of the solution,’’ she said. “That’s because people have given up on government as being an innovator. Innovation takes a while and somebody has to take a risk to make it happen. Government historically doesn’t take risks as much as the private sector.”

Nathaniel Reed, considered one of Florida’s foremost environmental crusaders, urged the group to keep the dialogue about the state’s water policy going, warning that if changes are not made soon to improve the state’s water quality and quantity issues all other goals could be imperiled.

“We ought to have the Collins Center and the Graham Center call us together and really sit down and face the crisis that is facing our state,’’ he said. “The future of our state relies on the quality and the quantity of our water…There are no silver bullets but there is also is ample evidence we know what to do.”

Mike Hightower, a long-time lobbyist for Florida Blue, said he wants to see an organized effort to educate legislative staff, which has lost much of the institutional knowledge of previous generations, so they can write the legislation needed to put ideas into policy.

“If we don’t start trying to mentor some of these staff folks, we’re going to repeat the same mistakes we’ve made before and we don’t have the luxury of time for that if we are going to be the third largest state,” he said.

Eric Eikenburg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation, said that translating ideas to policy is “easier than it sounds”  as long as the conference resulted in more action than words.

“This is a jump start,’’ he said. “But if we don’t leave Orlando and continue this discussion, we’re making a mistake. The current generation is fixing the sins of the previous generation and it’s up to use to do this for the next generation.”

Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, who is chairman of the House education budget committee said he has heard many of the ideas before but sorting through the details of how to implement them, is always the challenge.

“They’ll be taken into consideration,’’ he said. “I can’t insure that we’ll have the healthiest state by 2025. But most of the things that were discussed at the 50,000-foot view will be the target of legislation we work on.”

Here is the list of top ideas, as voted on by discussion groups:

K-12 Education:

  1. Every child is reading at grade level by 3rd grade with the goal of 100% graduation with a high school diploma, industry certification or GED
  2. Florida can consolidate the necessary resources to provide a high quality education for all its children even if it requires more time in school, better teachers, tutors, and instructional innovations all of which cost money. We would not just talk the talk but actually walk the walk.
  3. Every Floridian is actively engaged in ensuring that 100% of Florida students complete high school, prepared for college, career and life

Higher Education: (No recorded votes)

  1. Invest in our strengths in specific growth Industries to develop corridors of excellence using lead public and private universities as catalysts for economic development and education growth, leveraging the diversity of Florida's assets
  2. Florida will be the leader for entrepreneurship, increasing accountability, graduating more students, maximizing utilization a of facilities, savings to the State, savings to students, and developing the workforce
  3. Florida should commit resources necessary to have preeminent universities and other universities and colleges in the highest quartile
  4. Leadership in lifetime learning
  5. To attract students and job creators by being the best higher education system in the country, focused on entrepreneurship and innovation, and measured by new large and small companies in 10 years
  6. Florida will be the world leader in healthcare and biotech science education as measured by peer review funded research, number of National Academy of Science scientists, number of employees in the field, gross revenue, and patents created
  7. Florida will leverage higher education to become the top state in basic and applied research, entrepreneurship, and innovation as measured by new companies created, venture capital raised, jobs created, and talent retained by 2020
  8. Invest in strength


  1. First state in nation to have full statewide public access to alt vehicles infrastructure by 2025  
  2. Establish a renewable portfolio standard of 10% by 2020 and a distributive grid that promotes free market and deregulation allowing providers not to necessarily be utilities  
  3. We should attract the most residents, businesses and visitors to Florida by having an energy portfolio that will achieve an optimal balance of cost, reliability, safety and diversity with as few tax payer subsidies as possible 


  1. To be the undisputed number 1 tourist destination in the world with sustained growth reaching 150 million by 2020 - increasing economic impact to $100 billion & International tourism to 25%.
  2. Strive for 200 million visitors 2023 with investment in public infrastructure
  3. Develop a transportation system that allows tourists to see more numerous entertainment markets in one week


  1. To be the undisputed healthiest state in the nation with clear emphasis on wellness, prevention, innovation, and accountability by 2020
  2. To be the healthiest state in the nation by 2016 through expansion of coverage, all Floridians will have access to affordable, quality healthcare with a focus on community investment in wellness and Florida will be the healthiest state in the nation by ensuring that everyone has access to affordable high quality healthcare, focusing on prevention, wellness, and personal responsibilities
  3. Public money in healthcare follows the patient though a voucher program to help make Florida the healthiest state in the nation by 2023


  1. Make Florida's transportation system the best by allocating 2and1/2% of the transportation budget on research and development for incentivizing private sector investment in transportation technologies. Make Florida's transportation system the best by creating an environment through market forces for residents, business, and visitors to rely less on traditional modes of transportation.
  2. Make Florida's transportation system the best by becoming the first to implement 100% user fee base transportation funding system and make Florida the most cost effective producer by lane mile by 2025.

Water: (no recorded votes)

  1. In order to ensure an abundant supply of clean water, we will capture 90% of storm water currently lost and reintroduce it to the natural system throughout the state
  2. Ensure the quality and quantity of Florida's water supply to meet the state's needs for the next 100 years by identifying measurable goals and objectives that will provide accountability (evaluated at a minimum of every 10yrs) and result in national and global changes
  3. Develop a series of regional consensus building boards- a la MPOs with local elective officials to develop and implant funding infrastructure solutions that addresses quality with a focus in reducing portable water consumption
  4. Reduce portable water consumption by 50% by 2030 while increasing water supply by 25% through natural resources and alternative water opportunities saving Florida's water supply for generations to come