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Chiles' commission is short on specifics

Gov. Lawton Chiles' commission on "reinventing" state government came to St. Petersburg on Wednesday and acted a lot like the old government. It produced a fat notebook with sweeping ideas about improving things, but few specifics. Nevertheless, members of the "Government by the People Commission" declared they are making progress. The commission's five subcommittee heads met Wednesday to ratify draft reports on ways to improve social services, public safety, education, growth policy and government generally.

Chiles, who dropped in for an hour to listen to the discussion, said he got the feeling the commission has not quite solidified its proposal.

"It may be it's not quite time to put the cork on this bottle of wine," said Chiles. "The most exciting thing I hear is you're seeing how it's all dovetailing together."

Indeed, the committees for education, public safety and social services agreed to put their ideas together rather than take different paths to reach the same goals.

Orlando Mayor Bill Frederick, chairman of the commission, said members envision realigning state services to better serve people. He said some commission ideas, such as education accountability and budget reforms, already have been enacted by the Legislature.

"Will this (report) just be another doorstop? I don't think so, because you can see it's dipped in the mainstream of political thought today," Frederick said.

The interim reports say human services should be decentralized and community-based and recommends more preventive programs. Police agencies should better coordinate programs, the report says, noting there are "too many turf battles" among 350 police forces and 67 sheriff's offices. Schools ought to have greater local control to overcome the state's high dropout rate.

"The commission agrees with Gov. Chiles that bigger programs and agencies in Tallahassee are not the answer," the report said. "People no longer believe in the ability of large public bureaucracies to understand their needs and deliver solutions at a reasonable cost."

The commission's work was paid for originally with leftover campaign funds from Chiles' election and then from contributions by Florida foundations. When that didn't raise enough money, Chiles launched a new money-raising drive to get money from businesses, said press secretary Julie Anbender. No state money is used, she said.