With a new year comes new opportunities to tackle big issues. Florida and Tampa Bay have more than their share. Here are six resolutions our elected leaders should embrace in 2010.
1 Fix the tax system. The property tax system remains unfair and needs an overhaul. At least extend the sales tax to all goods Floridians buy on the Internet. And eliminate sales tax exemptions on such things as stadium skybox tickets and bottled water.
2 Embrace mass transit. Hope for federal money for high-speed rail to link Tampa and Orlando and eventually Miami. Orlando is moving forward with light rail, and so should Hillsborough with a referendum in November. Pinellas should not be far behind.
3 Reform education. The best strategy yet is emerging in Hillsborough County, where a $100 million grant from the Gates Foundation will dramatically improve teacher training and develop an evaluation model that more closely ties student performance with teacher salaries. Other districts and the Legislature should take note.
4 Manage growth. Gov. Charlie Crist and the Legislature gutted growth management last year. Now they need to fix it before traffic jams and urban sprawl get any worse. Some day the economy will rebound, and new developments should not come without improved roads.
5 Create jobs. We won't recover without more jobs. Tampa Bay's unemployment rate is an abysmal 12.3 percent, nearly a point above the statewide rate of 11.5 percent. Key legislators are hosting a statewide job summit later this month in Orlando, and incoming St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster is planning on doing the same locally. That's a start, but where is the urgency?
6 Campaign on issues. A U.S. Senate seat, the governor's office and all three Cabinet positions are on the November ballot. So are all 120 state House seats and half the 40 Senate seats as well as county and school board seats. Voters need serious solutions for tough challenges, not slogans and mudslinging.