The majority of the votes in this state come from the elderly, so therefore most politicians cater to their wants and needs. Why should someone from my generation vote for you?
_ Kim Foley, 17, New Port Richey
BUSH: Kim, I'm running for governor because I see the future through the eyes of my own children _ and I don't like what I see. Like you, my daughter Noelle is 17, and for the first time, I'm scared that she won't have the same opportunities I've had to pursue her dreams in a society where government does not limit opportunity. I know the potential of Florida's youth, just as I respect the experience of Florida's seniors. Florida is strong because of its diversity, but we must act now to protect this diversity, before it's too late.
We can have a bright future for Florida's young people if we limit government's power over our lives, by limiting its ability to tax and spend, make public safety a priority, and assign responsibility to the right of public assistance.
CHILES: Lt. Gov. MacKay and I have worked very hard for the past four years to create a new system of government in Florida, a system that puts power in the hands of the people in communities all across this state. There are over 1,300 boards and commissions that I make appointments to as governor. These boards make recommendations and suggestions to legislators about the real needs of people at local levels. This style of government gets people actively involved in making their communities and the entire state a better place to live, work and raise families.
Young people should vote Chiles/MacKay because we trust people to make informed decisions.
How are you going to prevent danger at schools? Kids now can get guns and bring them to school. They put all the other kids in danger. How will you keep kids from getting dangerous weapons and bringing them to school?
_ Kassie Kilpatrick, seventh grade, Tarpon Springs Middle School
BUSH: Public safety will be my first priority as governor. You cannot learn if you don't feel safe.
Over 60,000 crimes occur on Florida's K-12 campuses each year. This must be stopped. We need stricter enforcement measures and penalties for kids who bring guns to school. And most importantly, we must send a signal that if you break the law, you will be punished. Under Gov. Chiles, we're not sending that signal.
CHILES: In the last legislative session, I initiated a program called "Safe Schools," designed to create and maintain safer school environments by focusing on prevention, intervention and punishment. Safe Schools includes: removing disruptive students and juvenile offenders from regular classrooms and placing them in alternative classrooms and schools; hiring more school resource officers; and purchasing additional school safety equipment, such as metal detectors, to provide increased security on school grounds. Also, we've provided $37-million in funds for after-school programs for up to 50 at-risk students at every middle school in Florida. This program keeps middle schools open at night and on weekends to give children a place to get hot meals and preventive medical care while taking part in sports, music and other activities.
You say we're the lost generation .
. all I hear about are bills for toughening up the criminal system. Why is there so little effort given to programs for helping teens and teen crime prevention? Seems like candidates have completely forgotten about teens. Are your policies for just toughening laws, or will you do something about preventing teen crimes and finding programs to help them?
_ Nakisha Evans, 16, Pinellas Park
BUSH: Nakisha, I'm glad you asked this very important question and have given me an opportunity to explain my position.
Of course, I support prevention programs. But unfortunately, until we send a signal to juvenile criminals that crime doesn't pay, prevention programs won't work.
If we punish youthful offenders when they commit their first crimes, rather than the 20th or 25th crimes, they'll learn that breaking the law is wrong, and there are consequences to our actions. Prevention on the front end, through increased education and early punishment, rather than the back end is critical to solving our juvenile criminal problem.
CHILES: There are hundreds of thousands of great kids all across this state who are working hard to make their neighborhoods and communities better. There are other kids who run into trouble and just need a helping hand to turn their lives around.
We've appointed local juvenile justice boards enabling citizens to adopt solutions for the problem of juvenile crime in their neighborhoods. We're taking young criminals off the street, teaching them the difference between right and wrong _ and returning them to society as productive citizens. I've also worked with young people in Teen Court, Anger Busters and Youth Crime Watch programs. These young adults are working to help other kids and reduce crime in our state.
Do you think that the welfare system in our state can be changed? Since there are so many young mothers on welfare, what are your plans to help them and their children? I think a program should be organized to get these people back in school, train them and then allow them to take care of themselves.
_ Jason Thomas, 11, sixth grade, Bay Point Middle School, St. Petersburg
BUSH: Absolutely, Jason, and my plans to redesign Florida's welfare delivery system would give economically disadvantaged individuals hope for the future, through job training in real jobs _ not government make-work jobs. I believe in giving people in need a hand up, not just a handout. That's what our welfare recipients want, and we'll do that through a program I call the Phoenix Project. Recipients would be limited to two years of benefits, and able-bodied recipients could work, or participate in job-training programs, while continuing to receive their benefits during this two-year period and continuing their education opportunities.
CHILES: We're in the process of changing the welfare system in the state of Florida. We have the two largest welfare reform programs in the nation going on in Alachua and Escambia counties. These programs provide incentives for people to work and save, rather than continue to stay on welfare. It limits benefits to 24 months, after which recipients must accept work or lose benefits. This program also assures child care, provides job training opportunities, allows recipients to keep more Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and eliminates penalties for two-parent families. The Family Transition Programs have been nationally recognized for their successful, aggressive reform.
What is your plan for helping the school system get better?
_ David Gordon, 15, Clearwater
BUSH: David, for years I've worked on ways to improve Florida's school system. Did you know we have one of the highest school dropout rates in the nation? And our students score at the bottom nationally on standardized tests? This personally disappoints me, with three school-age children. We must do better, and I believe we can, by injecting a little competition into our schools and eliminating many of the burdensome rules and regulations sent down by Tallahassee that make it hard for teachers to teach. My plan would begin in Florida's worst schools first.
CHILES: My plan to strengthen public schools in the state of Florida is called Blueprint 2000. It takes power away from bureaucrats in Tallahassee and gives it to parents, teachers and administrators to improve neighborhood schools. Under this program, we have:
Developed more than 400 full-service schools and 200 school health projects so students aren't sidetracked by health or family troubles.
Initiated a Safe Schools program.
Appointed more than 50,000 parents, teachers and administrators to school advisory councils.
Rewarded educational institutions that train students and direct them toward higher-wage jobs through the Jobs and Education Partnership.
What is your view on water conservation in Florida?
_ Mary Ottinger, 10, St. Pete Beach
BUSH: Conservation is critical to maintaining an adequate water supply in terms of both quantity and quality. I believe state and local government, in cooperation with individuals and businesses, should do everything possible to encourage conservation, including broadening education efforts and financial incentives such as cost differential for water use during peak and off-peak hours.
CHILES: Water conservation is critical for Florida's future. We have regional water management districts which monitor and make recommendations to clean up and preserve Florida's water supply. We've made a commitment to long-term preservation of Florida's environment and we've done it in several ways: We pushed for the Everglades Forever Act which stopped a federal lawsuit, clearing the way for effective clean-up to begin; we've supported a 100-mile buffer zone for offshore oil drilling to protect Florida's coastline, and we've protected sensitive lands by purchasing more than 180,000 acres through two programs called Preservation 2000 and Conservation and Recreational Lands (CARL). We buy environmentally sensitive lands from willing sellers and preserve them for everyone to enjoy for generations to come.
I would like to know if you really feel what you say you will do is true, or if you are only saying it to get elected. Will you really try to accomplish your promised goals?
_ Michael Goldstein, 17, Holiday
BUSH: I've made only one promise as a candidate for governor, and that is I won't abandon my principles. I'll fight for what I believe in. I won't blink. For a year and a half I've campaigned on the issues that are important to me, and many Floridians _ making public safety a priority, improving our very mediocre education system, and assigning responsibility to the right of public assistance, and limiting government's power to tax and spend. Not everyone agrees with me on these issues, but I'm willing to take a stance, and not necessarily do only what's popular or politically correct. Public service is too demanding on me personally and too tough on my family to be doing it just for an ego trip.
CHILES: Yes, I stand firmly behind my words and promises. I was born and raised in Florida _ and have dedicated my life to serving the people and working in the best interests of all Floridians. The lieutenant governor and I have made great strides in making real change in state government, and we believe that we can positively affect the lives of every Floridian and will continue to do our best if we're re-elected in November.