Category Archives: Blog

More Sex Education Urged at MeToo Forum

Comprehensive sex education starting at an early age is one way to curtail sexual harassment for future generations. That was one of the few points of consensus that emerged from a lively discussion of the MeToo movement at the Institute’s March Dinner series program titled #MeToo and Men: The Case for Due Process.

Dr. Jill McCracken, Associate Professor at USF St. Petersburg, said MeToo will have succeeded if its momentum leads to age-appropriate sex education that prepares young people to know and respect boundaries and understand the meaning of consent.

The MeToo movement, she said, “is an extension of the fight for gender equality, for bodily autonomy, subjectivity and choice.” After reviewing the history of the movement, she cited statistics on the rate of sexual assaults: One out of four girls and one out of four boys become victims by age 18, she said.

The MeToo movement “is a backlash against the status quo of men having power over women,” she said. “It creates a space for rage, discomfort and loss from which healing can begin.”

Arguing for due process, defense attorney Denis deVlaming said it is imperative that any charges of sexual misconduct be provably true, not just an accusation. “The greatest crime in the world is a failure of justice,” he said. “And justice in our system is a provable justice.” He questioned Dr. McCracken’s assertion that the rate of false sexual accusations is less than 2 percent, and cited a case in which an accuser ultimately admitted she faked an attempted rape to make her boyfriend jealous.

“If there’s evidence, DNA, witnesses, bring it on,” he said. “But how can there be a conviction without hard evidence?”

Dr. David Leibert, an SPC professor of Social and Behavioral Science, talked about unintended consequences of the MeToo movement. Since it went viral in 2017, 50 percent of men say they are reluctant to work with women, he said. Students are experiencing fewer opportunities for consensual romantic relationships. And the millennial generation is overcautious, fearful, and easily offended by any mention of sexual conduct.

To view a video recording of the forum, go to #MeToo and Men.


Climate Change Conference Enlightens and Inspires

The audience attending the Institute’s two-day conference on climate change in April left with a better understanding of the impending negative impacts of a warming climate, how they might mitigate some of those impacts, what economic opportunities might be created in the process, and how they might become advocates for sound public policy to create a resilient community.

Those were the primary themes of the keynote speakers and experts serving on panels at the conference, whose aim was to raise awareness of the challenges and opportunities of climate change, especially rising seas. Titled [Sea Level] Rise UP: Realities and Opportunities, the conference drew a cross-section of concerned citizens, scientists, elected officials, and business executives. A highlight was a presentation on the Fourth National Climate Assessment by Doug Marcy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who interpreted the findings from a local and regional perspective.

To view a video record of the conference, go to the conference webpage: [Sea Level] Rise UP: Realities and Opportunities

Lynching Documentary Leaves Big Question

Who killed Yvonne Armelia Holmes? That was the question on the minds of many attendees at the screening of Fair Game: A 1960 Georgia Lynching, a documentary film presented by the Institute in March with partners Eckerd College, Legacy-56 Inc. and the SPC Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

Yvonne was the 8-year-old victim of a brutal rape and murder in rural Blakely, Ga., in 1960. James Fair was the 24-year-old African American veteran who was falsely accused of the crime, tried without benefit of lawyer or jury, convicted and sentenced to the electric chair, all in three days. His mother’s two-year fight to free her son eventually resulted in his release.

That fight is the subject of the compelling documentary created by Clennon L. King, son of the lawyer who helped clear Fair. King’s film is a shocking chronicle of the lynching culture that prevailed in much of the South in the 1930s to 60s, especially in Early County, Ga., where this crime took place. Twenty-four black men were lynched there from 1881 to 1941.

So, if Fair didn’t kill the child, then who did? And why hasn’t anyone tried to find the real killer during all these years? Those questions were asked by Fair’s two sisters, Audrey Fair Porte and Diane Fair Odom, who joined King on stage for the post-screening conversation. They also talked about what the ordeal did to their brother, who had been honorably discharged from the Navy not long before he fell victim to Jim Crow justice on a road trip through the South. “He was never the same after that,” Ms. Odom said, and her sister agreed. Both expressed anger at what happened to their family 59 years ago – anger that many in the audience reflected in the question-and-answer segment.

King himself commented on the anomaly that the unsolved crime represents, observing how most black mothers fight fiercely to defend their children if threatened – as did James Fair’s mother. But, he said, it appears no one fought for Yvonne after the near-lynching of an innocent man. Why?

King invited audience members to write letters to the Governor of Georgia urging him to reopen the case.

Migrants Flee New Threat: Climate Change

“The challenges of agricultural life in Honduras have always been mighty, from poverty and a neglectful government to the swings of international commodity prices. But farmers, agricultural scientists and industry officials say a new threat has been ruining harvests, upending lives and adding to the surge of families migrating to the United States: climate change. . .

“The United States has allocated tens of millions of dollars in aid in recent years for farmers across Central America, including efforts to help them adapt to the changing climate. But President Trump has vowed to cut off all foreign aid to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador because of what he calls their failure to curb the flow of migrants north. Critics contend the punishment is misguided, though, because it could undermine efforts to address the very problems that are driving people to abandon their farms and head to the United States.”

See full story at

Lawsuits Accuse OxyContin Makers of Double-Dipping in Human Misery


Executive Director, Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions

The family that owns Purdue Pharma, the company that made billions from the highly addictive opioid drug OxyContin, sought to profit from marketing products to overcome overdoses and treat addictions caused by their drug, even as the company was paying millions in penalties for misrepresenting the addictive qualities of it.

That is the astounding assertion of lawsuits filed by the attorneys general of Massachusetts and New York in federal court against eight members of the Sackler family, according to an April 1 article by the New York Times.  ( The article cites company documents that say “Pain treatment and addiction are naturally linked,” and showed an illustration of a blue funnel with the wide end labeled “pain treatment” and the narrow end labeled “opioid addiction.”

If true, this means that Purdue and the Sacklers set out to profit grandly by creating addiction and then profit again by treating the addicts. Such a fiendishly evil plot would challenge the imagination of the most gifted crime novelist. And this, mind you, was allegedly perpetrated by a family of philanthropists who have given millions to the arts in New York, Paris, London and elsewhere, one of whom was knighted.

But, such unfettered greed is entirely consistent with the sordid history of the pain-killing drug market since its emergence in the 1990s. Purdue broke down doctors’ resistance to prescribe opioids for pain by paying front groups ”disguised as unbiased sources of cutting-edge medical research and information” to educate the public about chronic pain and opioids’ beneficial effects,” according to the Times article. It further states that Purdue paid doctors to act as consultants to promote its claims that opioids were safer than high doses of acetaminophen and other anti-inflammatory agents and that there was a tiny risk of addiction.

Sales representatives were incentivized with cash bonuses and free trips to exotic resorts for achieving sales goals, according to the article. They focused on doctors who prescribed high volumes of opioids as well as inexperienced doctors will little knowledge of pain management, urging them to prescribe higher and higher doses.

And when overdose deaths began to raise alarms, the Sacklers told Purdue officials to blame the patients, according to a document cited in the Massachusetts case. “We have to hammer home on abusers in every way possible. They are the culprits and the problem. They are the reckless criminals,” the Times quoted from the court filing.

Long before that, the company had been called to task for misrepresenting its products, in 2007 paying over $600 million in fines after pleading guilty to felony charges in federal court, according to the newspaper. Yet the Massachusetts case cites communications between one of the Sacklers and the company in 2009 demanding to know why opioid sales were not doing better, and in 2011 suggesting the company study patient data to find patterns that could help win new customers to OxyContin.

And the crowning level of crassness has to be the charges in the Massachusetts filing that say the family in 2016 pursued a plan to sell naloxone, the drug that is used by first-responders to reverse overdoses of opioids, and to buy a company that produces an implantable drug pump that treats addiction.

More than 200,000 Americans have died from overdoses since the FDA approved OxyContin in 1995. The cover-up of opioids’ highly addictive qualities ought to rate as one of the greatest medical scandals in American history. But too little has been done to prosecute those responsible for manufacturing drugs with such deadly flaws. Fines are mere slaps on the wrist to people worth $16 billion. Criminal prosecution and prison time upon conviction would be more appropriate.  Even if it didn’t stop companies from continuing to churn out the pills, it might at least prevent their owners from double-dipping in the creation of human misery.

To see video of the Institute’s September 2017 forum, The Drug Epidemic: How Opioids Became a Death Machine, click  here.


Can Technology Forestall Climate Change Doomsday?


Executive Director, Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions

Usually unspoken in the doomsday fretting over melting polar icecaps and drowning beach communities brought on by global warming is the possibility that somehow, somewhere, someone will invent a new technology that will come to the rescue.  Before the earth reaches the tipping point of a 2-degree-plus Celsius increase in average temperature that scientists say will make environmental collapse inevitable, the wishful-thinking is that science is going to figure out how to neutralize the blanket of greenhouse gases that is killing the climate.

Is there a realistic basis for such hope? A pilot project funded by three fossil fuel giants in an old industrial warehouse 30 miles north of Vancouver, British Columbia, provides a glimmer. Whether it is justified remains to be seen.

Information about this research was provided by Clifford Krauss in the April 7 edition of the New York Times.  (

Krauss reported that Chevron, Occidental Petroleum and BHP, an Australian mining corporation, have formed a company called Carbon Engineering that is designing a giant fan to suck large volumes of air into a scrubbing machine, where carbon dioxide would be extracted and then either buried deep underground or converted into a clean-burning fuel.

Sound like a pulp science fiction fantasy? Maybe. But maybe not. These three companies are investing millions — $68 million raised from investors in a recent offering, according to Krauss – to prove that it could work to clean up the atmosphere. It is, the author says, part of “an emerging effort by fossil-fuel industries to remain relevant and profitable in a warming world. With electric cars and solar and wind power becoming increasingly affordable, executives acknowledge that business as usual could put their companies at risk.”

It’s another indication that the fossil fuel industry’s united opposition to climate change science may be weakening. Facing increasing pressure from advocacy groups to embrace renewable energy technology, some utilities are investing heavily in solar and wind farms. In Florida, the state’s largest utility, Florida Power & Light, announced in January that it is “taking our long-standing clean-energy commitment to the next level” by installing more than 30 million solar panels around the state by 2030. This will make it a world leader in solar energy production. The “30-by-30” plan, would increase the company’s solar capacity from its current 950 megawatts to 11,000 megawatts.

A few companies, including Royal Dutch Shell and BP, are linking compensation to emissions reductions, said Krauss. Equinor, a Norwegian oil company, plans to increase spending on clean energy to 15 to 20 percent of its capital investment by 2030, up from 5 percent now.

Krauss quoted BHP’s Fiona Wild, vice president for sustainability and climate change, as saying of the carbon extraction experiment, “This is about recognizing that climate change poses significant risks to all economic sectors. Climate change is no longer seen as a fringe issue. It’s a business risk that requires a business response.”

That is precisely the point made by one of the keynote speakers at the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions’ recent conference, [Sea Level] Rise Up: Realities and Opportunities. Dr. Michael D. McDonald, who coordinates the Florida Disaster Resilience Initiative, spoke of a “blue-green economy” opportunity that awaits cities or regions that divert capital investment from petroleum-based industries into transformative climate resilience initiatives

How does carbon extraction work? According to Krauss’ article, the company would have banks of large fans, 33 feet in diameter, to collect air and run it through a complex chemical process. The process uses “direct-air-capture” technology to remove carbon dioxide from the air.

In one kind of plant the company hopes to build, Krauss said, the captured carbon dioxide could be injected underground, where it would be harmless unless some of it leaked back into the atmosphere. A company official said each such installation could eventually take as much carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere annually as 40 million trees.

“In another kind of facility, captured carbon dioxide would be combined with hydrogen extracted from water to make synthetic fuel that can be processed into gasoline, diesel or jet fuel. The energy needed to produce hydrogen would come from wind turbines and solar panels to limit emissions.”

The company’s synthetic fuel would cost about $4 a gallon to produce, Krauss reported. That might not be competitive in the U.S., where the average retail price for gas today is around $2.80 a gallon. But it might be attractive to countries that depend heavily on crude oil imports, like western Europe, India and Japan.


DeSantis Revives State Drug Control Agency to Fight Opioid Crisis


Executive Director, Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions

By executive order, Gov. Ron DeSantis has revived a state agency dedicated to battling Florida’s deadly opioid epidemic, which had been shut down by his predecessor Rick Scott when he became governor in 2011.

DeSantis, who has won bi-partisan support for his progressive policies in his first three months as governor, on April 1 re-established the Office of Drug Control and created a statewide task force charged with developing a plan for controlling the opioid crisis, which has heated up in recent months after leveling off last year.

(For background on the opioid crisis, see the Institute’s 2017 program, The Drug Epidemic: How Opioids Became a Death Machine, at link here)

The governor also named a new surgeon general and secretary of the Department of Health, an indication that he is devoting more resources to public health. In nominating Dr. Scott Rivkees, a University of Florida pediatrics professor, to head the state’s public health agency, DeSantis said he is a “very, very accomplished” leader and successful researcher.

According to an April 2 article in the Tampa Bay Times by Elizabeth Koh (, DeSantis’ selection to lead the state’s Department of Health — which oversees everything from county health departments to the implementation and regulation of medical marijuana — “had been several months in the making. One of the long delays in choosing a top physician for the state had been, some said, the governor’s insistence that they support his stance on smoking medical marijuana. The Legislature, at DeSantis’ urging, passed a bill last month, promptly signed into law, that would allow smokeable forms of the drug.”

Koh wrote that Rivkees referred to the lifting of the ban on smokeable medical marijuana and said the state needed to ensure “these legislative initiatives are implemented properly.” He also said he would focus on several other public health challenges facing the agency. This includes the opioid crisis.

DeSantis’ announcement was yet another way in which he has separated himself from his predecessor Scott, Koh wrote.

“Scott had made one of his first acts eliminating the Office of Drug Control in 2011 — at the time it was a four-person team with a measly $500,000 budget. It reported directly to the governor and had been critical to finding funding for Florida’s prescription drug monitoring program, but Scott said he got rid of the office to trim the state’s budget and that its functions were absorbed by other agencies.

“But his decision happened at the height of the pill mill crisis and the beginning of the heroin epidemic, depriving Florida of a point person to lead its fight against opioids.

“Bringing it back was the top recommendation in 2017 by Florida’s Drug Policy Advisory Council, made up of appointees from various state agencies. Other states that have been hit hard by the epidemic, such as Kentucky, have such offices. Scott declined to do so, despite a sharp increase in overdose deaths during his tenure.”

Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano, who was a state senator at the time the office was disbanded, was quoted by Koh as saying that Floridians might see “almost immediately” the effects of bringing the program back.

“To see the Office of Drug Control wiped from the map … almost stopped in its place the good work it was doing,” he said. “I think it set us back years … To hear [DeSantis] is putting it back in place lets me know that he’s going to focus on the problems we have in the state.”


Burnout Epidemic Triggers Public Health Crisis

“A common ailment is going around, and you probably know someone plagued by it. Caused in part by social media, the 24-hour news cycle and the pressure to check work email outside of office hours, it could hit you, too — especially if you don’t know how to nip it in the bud.

“Burnout is everywhere.

“Books are being published about it, high-powered medical groups are raising alarms and ordinary people are feeling it. A recent report from Harvard and Massachusetts medical organizations declared physician burnout a public health crisis. It pointed out the problem not only harms doctors but also patients. . .

“Ninety-five percent of human resource leaders say burnout is sabotaging workplace retention, often because of overly heavy workloads, one survey found. Poor management contributes to the burnout epidemic.”

For full article, go to:

SLR Conference Panelists & Moderators

Lorrie Belovich is Executive Director of the Sustany Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit that supports sustainable initiatives in the Tampa Bay area. The Sustany Foundation is home to the region’s Sustainable Business Coalition, hosts the annual Sustainable Business Awards and provides free resources to businesses interested in assessing or adopting sustainable practices. Previously, she served in director level roles at local, state and federal organizations, including as Director of International Business Development for the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp., Tampa Bay Regional Manager for Enterprise Florida, Private Sector Liaison for World Bank, and contractor for international development projects under USAID, World Learning, Department of Defense and Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Libby Carnahan (panel moderator) is the UF/IFAS Extension, Florida Sea Grant Agent in Pinellas County. Libby is playing a leading role in Tampa Bay in helping citizens, governments, and industry make well-informed choices in the face of a changing climate. She facilitates the Tampa Bay Climate Science Advisory Panel, is a member of the Gulf of Mexico Climate Outreach Community of Practice, and a leader of the UF/IFAS Florida Sea Grant Work Action Group. She holds a BS in Biology from Truman State University (1998) and an MS in Marine Science from the University of South Florida (2005).

 Denise Drews began her mortgage career in the 1980s in Minneapolis and relocated to Florida in 1990. She has worked in the Tampa Bay area for the past 28 years in virtually every area of the mortgage business, including processing, originating, underwriting and operations.  She has also been an instructor for Real Estate and Mortgage Broker Licensing courses for the Frank Cooke School of Real Estate.  She is the past treasurer of the Pinellas Independent Real Estate Professionals and former director and founding member of the Pinellas Realtor Organization Affiliates Business Partners. Denise is the current chapter president of the Tampa Bay Mortgage Bankers Association and a member of the Florida Association of Mortgage Professionals.

 Dr. William Fleming (facilitator) teaches economics at St. Petersburg College and serves as a Collegiate Model UN adviser to SPC students. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Morehouse College, a Master’s of Science Risk Management and Insurance from Georgia State University, and a Ph.D. in Consumer Economics from the University of Georgia. His teaching philosophy is that students need practice to master anything worthwhile (including economic concepts) and his role is to help students along the path of their own learning process.

 Whitney Fung is currently a third-year doctoral student at the University of South Florida in the College of Public Health. She graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor’s in Nutritional Sciences and Master’s in Family, Youth, and Community Sciences, with a concentration in Non-profit Organizational Leadership. Prior to USF, Ms. Fung worked for UF/IFAS Extension as a state program coordinator and county Extension Agent in Polk County. She is a community advocate and looks to promote community collaboration through community-based participatory research, civic engagement, and interdisciplinary, cross-sector initiatives to promote sustainable food systems. She will be sharing her experiences working for the Physicians for Social Responsibility Florida Chapter and their work in advocacy on climate change and impact on health.

 Erica Harris is a coastal and climate scientist providing technical expertise related to extreme hazard analysis, climate change resilience planning, and adaptation strategy development. Erica has provided a unique blend of science and engineering, policy, and visualization techniques on numerous collaborative and multi-agency projects spanning the municipal and industrial sectors. Her project experience focuses on providing locally relevant tools to help clients visualize, understand, and prepare for vulnerabilities to sea level rise and other climate stressors.

Jake Holehouse is president of HH Insurance in St. Petersburg.  He grew up in the insurance industry, working throughout high school for his father’s agency, Holehouse Insurance. After graduating from Florida State University, he worked for American Strategic Insurance as a national account manager. Following ASI, he joined his father again at Holehouse Insurance. After growing the agency, they sold it to Regions Insurance, and he worked at Heritage Insurance Holdings as an Executive Vice President of Business Development.  Seeing an opportunity, he opened HH Insurance with his father in June 2018. He earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Risk Management and Insurance at Florida State University.  Additionally, he also earned a Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU) designation.  He is an advisor to the risk management and insurance program at FSU, as well as multiple local community service positions.

Ernest Hooper (panel moderator) has served the Tampa Bay Times for more than 25 years in a variety of roles, and currently works as a metro columnist and an assistant sports editor. The dual role features two of his journalistic passions: representing the Tampa Bay community and reflecting the passion of its ardent sports fans. His news columns contain unique perspectives on politics, news events and life in an area he has grown to love since moving here in 1988. Hooper, who also hosts “That’s All I’m Saying,” a public affairs show on WEDU-PBS, often shines the spotlight on non-profits and other community contributors. He also represents the Times as an unofficial ambassador, frequently appearing as an emcee or keynote speaker at non-profit efforts. In addition, he’s the co-leader of the Write Field, a writing intensive program for marginalized middle school and high school boys at the Poynter Institute.

Al Johnson, mayor of St. Pete Beach, is a retired professional engineer who had a 35-year career with General Electric, serving in design engineering, project management, international sales and construction contraction negotiation and management. He received a BS Degree in Engineering from Lowell Technological Institute and did graduate studies at Union College.  An avid runner, he co-founded the St. Pete Beach Classic and St. Pete Road Runners, where he served as a board member. He is a USA Triathlon Level 1 Coach and member of the St. Pete Beach Mad Dogs Triathlon Club. Before being elected mayor in 2017, he served on the city’s Finance and Budget Review Committee five years, and was its chairman for three years. He also served on the city’s Recreation Advisory Committee.

Bill Jonson served 14 years as a Clearwater City Councilmember, first from 2001 to 2007 and again from 2010 to 2014.  He represented Clearwater on the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority and the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, and served on the board of the Florida League of Cities.  He is a member and chair of the Citizens Advisory Committee of TBARTA. Mr. Jonson was the founder (1988) and president of Citizens for a Better Clearwater, which successfully petitioned the City Commission to phase out billboard clutter on a portion of Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard. He is Founder and Chair of the Courtney Campbell Scenic Highway Advocacy Group, which successfully achieved designation as a Florida Scenic Byway resulting in the multi-use Trail across the Causeway today.

Kelli Hammer Levy is Division Director for Pinellas County Environmental Management, where her responsibilities include oversight of the environmental monitoring and assessment, coastal management, and environmental compliance and outreach programs. Kelli represents the county on the Tampa Bay Climate Science Advisory Panel, is Vice President of the Florida Stormwater Association, serves as the Vice-Chair of the TBEP Management Board, and co-chairs the TBEP Technical Advisory Committee and the Suncoast Sea Level Rise Collaborative at St. Petersburg College.  She received her B.S. in Marine Science from Eckerd College, her M.S. in Marine Science from the University of South Florida, and is pursuing her Master’s In Public Administration from Florida International University.

Rob Lorei is Managing Editor of Florida This Week on WEDU-TV (PBS) and a co-founder and News and Public Affairs Director of WMNF Radio. B born in Pennsylvania, he attended Antioch College (Yellow Springs, Ohio) where he received a BA in Journalism in 1977. He got his start in radio as a news reporter at his campus NPR station, WYSO-FM. He moved to Florida in 1978 to help start WMNF Radio. He took the moderator’s seat of WEDU’s Tampa Bay Week in 2001 and has piloted the program through its 2005 update to Florida This Week. He has covered West Central Florida politics for more than 20 years and moderated numerous televised political debates including the 2002 Attorney General’s race, the 2003 and 2011 Tampa Mayoral races, the 2004 U.S. Senate primaries, and the 2006 Gubernatorial Primaries. He has interviewed hundreds of authors, academics, politicians, musicians, artists and entertainers for his broadcasts.

Jessica Meszaros is a reporter and host of Morning Edition at WUSF Public Media. She has been a voice on public radio stations across Florida since 2012— in Miami, Fort Myers, and now Tampa. Her writing, reporting, and hosting have been recognized by the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA), the Florida Associated Press Broadcasters, the national Public Radio News Directors Inc. and the Society of Professional Journalists. In June 2018, she was named the recipient of RTDNA’s N.S. Bienstock Fellowship for promising minority journalists in radio. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from Florida International University.

The Rev. Dr. Russell L. Meyer is Executive Director of the Florida Council of Churches and a pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church & Faith Lutheran Church in Tampa. He is the convener of the Florida Interfaith Climate Action Network, now planning its sixth assembly for early 2020. He serves as community co-chair of the Suncoast Sea Level Rise Collaborative at St. Petersburg College with the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions. He serves as the fiscal sponsor for the Real Talk Coalition for Education Equity and is active in state and national climate and moral policy movements. His doctoral work is in applying social field theory to generate conversation among heterogeneous groups that leads to new collaborative action. He is ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and has served churches in New York, Maryland, South Carolina and Florida.

Robert Minning is the former Mayor of Treasure Island (9 years) and Commissioner (2 years).  He has also served as President of the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, the Agency on Bay Management, and the Barrier Island Government Council (BIG-C).  He is Co-chair of the Suncoast Sea Level Rise Collaborative of the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at St. Petersburg College, Chair of the Treasure Island Sustainability Committee and Chair of the Treasure Island/Madeira Beach Chamber of Commerce – EPIC (Environmental Preservations Initiative for our Communities) Committee.  Professionally, Mr. Minning is a Licensed Professional Geologist (Indiana and Wisconsin) specializing in hydrogeology and geophysics and has been providing consulting services for almost 50 years to private and public clients throughout the western hemisphere.

John Morales is Chief Meteorologist at WTVJ-TV NBC-6 in Miami. He is also founder and president of ClimaData Corp., a commercial weather firm providing specialized forecasts and meteorological consulting for government, industry and media. His 35-year career includes civil service, as a forecaster for NOAA’s National Weather Service, as well as decades of experience as a Certified Consulting and Certified Broadcast Meteorologist. He earned his undergraduate degree in Atmospheric Sciences from Cornell University and is a candidate for a Master’s Degree in Environmental Science and Policy at Johns Hopkins University. John is also an aviator with 1,500 hours as a private pilot with multiengine and instrument ratings. He has won four Emmy awards and was inducted into the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Silver Circle for 25 years of distinguished work in broadcasting. He is a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) and garnered the AMS Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Advance of Applied Meteorology.

Craig Pittman is an Environmental, Growth and Development reporter for the Tampa Bay Times. He is a native Floridian whose family arrived in 1850. He graduated from Troy State University in Alabama, where his muckraking for the student paper prompted an agitated dean to label him “the most destructive force on campus.” Since then he has covered a variety of beats and natural disasters, including hurricanes, wildfires and the Florida Legislature. His stories on environmental issues have won national awards, and The Daily Show once called him a “nerd” about Florida history. He has written four books, the most recent of which, Oh, Florida! How America’s Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country, is a New York Times bestseller and won a Florida Book Awards gold medal in 2017.

CJ Reynolds is Director of Resilience and Engagement at the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council and is the staff lead for the new Regional Resilience Coalition which includes 26 local governments. From 2011 to 2018, CJ was a research associate at the University of South Florida College of Marine Science, where she developed and coordinated stakeholder engagement research. CJ has more than 20 years of experience working with scientists, business executives, planners, associations, and state and federal agencies to address emerging risks through innovative education and public-private partnerships. Prior to moving to joining USF, CJ was the Director of Industry Education at Merieux NutriSciences, a global food testing and consulting company, and Director of Consumer Public Relations for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. CJ has a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism from Northern Illinois University.

Justin Smith, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP, is a Project Director and Airport Architect at Tampa International Airport (TPA) whose role includes Sustainability Program Manager for the built environment and other sustainable initiatives at TPA. Justin is currently overseeing TPA’s resiliency efforts, carbon accreditation program, and sustainability management plan analysis as well as one of TPA’s representatives in the Tampa Bay Regional Resiliency Coalition. He earned his Bachelor’s Degree from Davidson College, his Master of Architecture Degree from the University of Florida, and he is a licensed professional with over 15 years of experience. He has managed capital projects at TPA as well as the three General Aviation facilities managed by the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority.

The Hon. Mike Twitty, MAI, CFA, is Pinellas County Property Appraiser. Before assuming this office in 2017, he was a Senior Managing Director and Principal of Valbridge Property Advisors of Tampa Bay, a residential and commercial appraisal company. He has over 26 years of valuation experience, and has served as a key member of a national appraisal technology task force.  A life-long resident of Pinellas County, he is a director of the Gulf Coast Chapter of the Appraisal Institute, from which he holds the MAI designation. He is currently chairman of the Florida Flood Impact Committee with the Property Appraisers Association of Florida. He earned a Bachelor’s in Business Administration from the University of Florida, has a State-Certified General Real Estate Appraisal Certification, and is a licensed Real Estate Broker.

Lisa Vanover, an innovator, relationship builder, and advocate, works to accomplish social and environmental equity through strategic, systemic change. She grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and followed education and job opportunities around the country before settling in Pinellas County in 2004. With an M.Ed. in Counseling and Guidance from Texas State, she’s pursuing her MBA at USFSP. Her career has taken her from higher education administration to energy management. She is the Academic Services Administrator in the Graduate and Executive Education Office of the USFSP Kate Tiedemann College of Business. She serves on the board of Community Leveraged Learning and has volunteered for United Way, Pinellas Hope, and the Edible Peace Patch Project. Joining the LWVPSA in 2016, Lisa also serves as the Co-Chair of the Sustainability Action Team. She works to advance solar energy for people of all incomes to create environmental equity and reduce our footprint.

Jennifer Webb won election to represent Florida House District 69 seat last November. A Democrat, she serves on the House Commerce Committee, the Criminal Justice Subcommittee, the Gaming Control Subcommittee, and is the ranking member of the PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee. She earned a Master’s Degree in Anthropology from the University of South Florida. As Director of Community Partnerships for the Office of Community Engagement and Partnerships at USF, she built projects that bring together business, the university, non-profits, and residents to create stronger communities. Through these projects, she worked to reduce violence and increase employment, to eliminate hunger, to bring justice to victims of crime and abuse of power, to assist student veterans and military members, and to support high quality public schools.

Audience Likes Benefits of Social Democracy

A near-capacity crowd turned out to hear the case made for transitioning America’s capitalist, free-market system into a hybrid form of Social Democracy similar to that of the Nordic states of Europe.  The program featured Dr. Philip Kotler, Professor of International Marketing at Northwestern University, who advocated for tweaking America’s free-market system of capitalism to make life better for the 90 percent of the population that qualifies as middle class or poor. He proposed an expanded government that offers free college tuition, free health care, more social safety net features – and higher taxes to finance those features.

Though many consider such a system as radically liberal, the audience response to Dr. Kotler’s point of view was surprisingly positive. Offered a choice between Economic System 1, which listed the key points of capitalism, and System 2, which listed the key points of social democracy, the vast majority by a show of hands chose System 2. In a second audience poll conducted by Dr. Kotler, a large majority indicated they favor raising taxes on the wealthy to help pay for the benefits he outlined.

Eckerd College Economics Professor Jeff Felardo provided a counterpoint of view, arguing that big government is always less efficient than private enterprise, that Americans won’t tolerate significantly higher taxes, and that the country is doing fairly well under free-market capitalism.

For a video record of the forum, click here.