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New Ideas Conference Comes to SPC Seminole to Talk Policy

News & Politics

St. Petersburg College Seminole felt the surge of politics as national, local, and statewide politicians, experts, and leaders met for a debate dubbed, “The New Ideas Conference.”

The day started off sunny with a light breeze. A certain buzz of activity in the UP building lobby gave the impression of a church gathering: suits, ties, handshakes, and hellos. Many people gathered in the Digitorium for the New Ideas Conference, a get together of some of the finest thinkers and leaders Florida had to offer. David Jolly, Pinellas County (District 13) U.S Representative, moderated the event which involved different panelists for topics such as: education, budgeting, energy, and transportation.

As the day began, the Digitorium, lit in a blue haze of neon lights, filled up quick. The 250 seat limit went fast, just as the word spread on this iconic event. Reporters from all over flocked for a chance to see the action as well as to live broadcast the debates.

First, the Admiral Farragut Academy Drill Team displayed the American flag as the National Anthem was sung and the Pledge of Allegiance honored.

Then came opening words, greetings, and congratulations by Dr. Law and Dr. Oliver (Provost). After the courtesies, Jolly took the stand to applause and opened with a defining statement, “Lets focus on policy, not politics.” Jolly had a vision for this event, one where great minds came together unencumbered by political bashing to talk on the real issues. Keeping it civil marked this conference a success.

Second, came the talk on education featuring panelists Michael Grego, Sen. John Legg, and Tonette Salazar, all respected names in the realm of learning. The topics included Title 1 funds, internet learning, teacher evaluations, and Common Core. Split on some issues, the panelists remained civil when it came to Common Core, the most heated topic.

“Statewide standards is not new,” Tonette Salazar said in regards to Common Core, “it just has been reinvigorated with Common Core.”

All panelists agreed that Common Core meant different things to different people, and they worked hard to address each issue fairly.

After education came the dreaded budget discussion featuring Joshua Gordon, Jim Davis (former Congressman), and Douglas Holtz-Eakin. Jolly led the charge by defining what mandatory and discretionary spending means, followed by an in-depth analysis of the countries budget by Gordon. Though divided on many issues, all panelists agreed that there needs to be change.

“Every other country in the developed world pays less per person for health care which shows our inefficiency,” Gordon said while discussing the health care budget, “We can make better plans through the ballot box,” Holtz-Eakin chimed in.

The conference recessed after the budget discussion to enjoy a lovely meal of salad, chicken, and cheese cake. During the festivities, Jolly gave a short speech introducing Rear Admiral Kirby, a St. Peterburg born and raised success, and key note speaker for the event. Kirby shared stories of his time in the service as well as advice on decision making.

“NDBIT,” Kirby said to a bewildered audience, unsure what a NDBIT is, “no decision before its time,” he concluded to applauds.

The event ended with discussions on energy and transportation. Big names such as Dwight Dudley, Jim Boxold, and Sen. Jeff Brandes. Energy and transportation, both, require certain limitations, the panelists agreed.

“We can’t control other countries, like China, in terms of energy,” Buck Martinez said as the conference came slowly to a close, “but we have to set a stage for leadership.”

All photos are property of Chris Demmons, all rights reserved. 

Read more from Fred Arnold, click here.​

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