Florida leaders set big goals for state's future

Florida Gov. Rick Scott speaks at the 46th Annual Governor's Conference on Tourism, Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013, in Orlando, Fla. The Governor's Conference on Tourism is the premier conference for the Florida tourism industry and is coordinated by Visit Florida, the marketing corporation for the State of Florida.(AP Photo/John Raoux)

Florida Gov. Rick Scott speaks at the 46th Annual Governor's Conference on Tourism, Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013, in Orlando, Fla. The Governor's Conference on Tourism is the premier conference for the Florida tourism industry and is coordinated by Visit Florida, the marketing corporation for the State of Florida.(AP Photo/John Raoux)

— Florida should make alternative fuels available statewide by 2025, increase tourist visits from 91 million to 200 million a year, and become a national leader in transportation by spending more on research and development.

Those were some of the "big, hairy, audacious goals" a cross-section of state leaders came up with Friday during round-table discussions on education, energy, transportation, tourism, water supply and health. The idea was to think big and set high goals to strengthen the state in the long term.

The summit was organized by Justin Sayfie, a lawyer, lobbyist, and GOP fundraiser who runs a website that aggregates news about Florida politics and government. The event was invitation only. It included a bipartisan mix of local and state government officials, business and nonprofit leaders, education officials, lobbyists, the news media and others who have an interest in the state's future.

Among other suggestions:

— Reduce Florida's drinkable water consumption by 50 percent by 2030 while increasing water supply by 25 percent through natural and alternative sources.

— Develop a transportation system that allows tourists to see more of the state during a one-week visit.

— Find a way to capture 90 percent of storm water currently lost and reintroduce it to the natural system.

— Develop a 10 percent renewable-energy portfolio by 2020.

Sayfie plans to make the summit an annual event and to build on the ideas that come out of it. He was praised by many of the attendees for bringing different perspectives into the discussion on major issues.

"It's pulled together a diverse audience of statewide leaders from the public and private sector," said Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. "They've tackled difficult subjects and there's been wonderful dialogue. You have a lot of perspectives represented."

It also helped people who generally focus on one topic to weigh in on other issues facing the state, Putnam said.

"To have education leaders sitting in a water policy forum is not an opportunity they probably have very often and vice versa," he said. "This forces all of us to really look at the top-five list of what the biggest problems are facing Florida and become more familiar with the nuances of what it's going to take to solve those problems."

Democrats agreed the summit resulted in helpful discussions and that the atmosphere was more collegial than it is in Tallahassee, where policy tends to be dictated by the leadership.

"A lot of the ideas are things we've discussed, but now you hear it from more than just the politicians and I think that's what needs to be done," said Rep. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek. "Politicians need to hear what people out in the trenches really say — people who run businesses, people who run organizations."

And it should have an effect on what lawmakers consider when they begin their legislative session next year, said Rep. Joe Gibbons, D-Hallandale Beach.

"Any time you have 250 leaders from around the state, you better listen," Gibbons said. "This is nonpartisan — you have leaders from both parties and people from business and nonprofits. ... You're looking for trends coming out of this and this is a wonderful thing, especially right before session."

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