“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.”
— John F. Kennedy, January 20, 1961
Service to the Community is to be valued, not denigrated
At some point in our history, it became popular to denigrate those who serve in our communities. Military volunteers have been referred to by a privileged few as “surplus labor who could not get a job in their local community” and military service was for those who did not have “better things to do.” Teachers were insulted with phrases like, “those who cannot do, teach.” Our police and firefighters were insulted for being, “in-servitude to the powerful at the expense of the community,” and our community administrators and staff became referred to as “lazy bureaucrats.“
At worst, these are cynical views to those who choose to serve their country and communities – because most public servants are responding to a personal calling that allows them to serve something bigger. At best, these are distrustful attempts to de-legitimize the public service sector so that these duties can be privatized and the missions can be converted to achieve private ends: they are either pursuing a for profit-motive edge or they are an attempt to consolidate power.
Security, Education, and Safety are critical components of a good society and their preservation are inherently governmental functions. The managers who oversee these functions should always be accountable to leaders that are responsible to the community through democratic governance and accountable representative-institutions.
Public service is a noble calling and our public servants are essential to our preserving a civil society and our moving forward as a community with common bonds and a common destiny
We can no longer pit our public servants against the communities that they serve (or against one another) and we will no longer allow for the undermining of these public institutions in the eyes of our community. No individual is perfect. No organization is perfect, and no institution is perfect just for the sake of its existence. Mistakes will happen and malfeasance, when found, will be pursued and options for accountability will be guided transparently. The legislature will oversee the executive branch and help steer strategy. As your state senator, I will work to make sure the state supports local communities and citizens as needed, or mandated by state law.
Our public servants and our institutions serve our community and they deserve both good leadership and to be held accountable where and when they may fall short of their mission and mandate. However, undermining or abolishing legitimate public missions in an emotional out-lash, or given an ulterior motive, not only counters our ability to pursue opportunities or address the challenges that we face together, but they also undermine the intent for which these organizations were founded.
Our public servants are not only our neighbors, but they are also our heroes
Our military and intelligence professionals keep our nation secure from threats abroad and they keep our leaders informed of events and threats that may be manifesting in dark corners of the world or they help keep fear from overpowering our reason when knowledge gaps exist and cloud our understanding of events.
Our first responders keep our streets safe and respond to dangers when we need help. They protect and serve and they respond with whatever it takes to save lives or property.
Our teachers educate our children so they can be ready to pursue their dreams when we invite them into the community as adults, and they steward and mentor our children so they can join-in and weave themselves into the fabric of our society. There is nothing more critical to our future than our education system and those that underpin it.
Our administrators and public service professionals are key to making sure that the public interest is served and that we keep our communities well served. Denigrating our local or national public missions undermines our communities. Specifically, the VA, EPA, IRS, and ICE, while national missions, were built to serve our collective public ends in local communities throughout the nation. We are a nation of laws and we will faithfully execute the laws as written to the best of our abilities, in accordance with our values, and while balancing our resources to meet the best of their intent. Where local, state, or national laws, regulations, or practices need to be changed, we will work with our local leaders or delegations to change them.
Locally, our schools, police departments, administrative professionals, and even our pool of elected officials may have individuals within them that fall short of our high standards, some even to the point of being in violation the trust we give them by neglecting their duties or abusing their power, but we will not denigrate the service of all for the shortcomings of a few. Accountability for failures always exists somewhere and no one is beyond the rule of law, and that is why we have separate powers within our varying levels of government. Honest mistakes do happen and true malfeasance is rare, which is why oversight and stewardship require persistence by leaders and citizens.
The majority of those who teach our children, protect our streets, respond to our most pressing emergencies, or serve our communities are also our neighbors and they deserve our respect and loyalty. We owe them good leadership, focused managers with an expectation of accountability, and clear and relevant standards to meet as they perform their duties. They deserve the resources necessary to live good lives and serve our community with honor.
We will not privatize core functions that require sustained services and public accountability
We should draw a line between public services and private support that can enable the accomplishment of our inherently governmental missions. Our established public schools, community police departments, state prisons, and critical infrastructure missions will be met by public servants that are accountable to leaders who report to the public – as elected leaders or duly appointed officials.
There is nothing that comes easily or free to our community. We cannot expect the best schools, safest communities, fairest processes, or best public outcomes when we undermine the institutions and people that keep our community strong, safe, and sustainable.
Policy Ideas that make a difference
Military and Intelligence Professionals
Establish Hand-up Incentives for those transitioning from federal military or intelligence service
- Set-aside education grants in the annual budget for both the professional and their immediate dependents
- Provide small business grants for transitioning members to support initial capitalization
- Provide in-state tuition for the professional and their family (whether local or taking classes online)
- Provide six-months of transition pay (to match grade of pay at time of retirement from service) to support relocation and settlement into a Florida community after retirement from federal service (to be used within five years, in-lieu of unemployment compensation)
- Provide incentives to companies providing internships through the DOD Skillbridge Program or signing one-year employment contracts with transitioning veterans prior to their discharge from active duty
- Provide incentives to Unions enrolling veterans and leveraging their professional training to acquire civilian certificates or achieve recognition as Apprentices, Journeyman, or Masters in a trade, and then helping them attain employment
- Provide incentives for support to public-private-venture partnerships (PPVs) with apartment complexes, or rental agencies, that set-aside year-long leases for transitioning military personnel at 75% of market value
First Responders and Teachers
Pursue Community-Bonding incentives for first responders, teachers, and public administrators
- Implement competitive pay tables for recruiting and retaining first responders, teachers, and public administration staff, where entry level pay will be commensurate with other professional fields requiring a college education or specialized training
- Provide our teachers and police officers the appropriate supporting staff (enablers) to meet their mission so they can focus on teaching in the classroom, or patrolling and investigating
- Incentivize personal and professional development programming that encourage retention and continued growth
- Set-aside education grants in the annual budget for first responders, teachers, and professional staff (to include their immediate dependents)
- Provide tax incentives, or subsidies, to communities that enable their public servants to live in the communities they serve and support public-private-venture partnerships (PPVs) with apartment complexes, or rental agencies, that set-aside leases for first responders, teachers, and their administrative staff at 75% of market value.
- Engage with union leaders and professional associations to help develop and support the integration and growth of technicians and working professionals through development pipelines (apprentice, journeyman, master, and mentor programs) to ensure workforce readiness, economic integration, and mitigation of administrative requirements.