Gov. Jeb Bush brought his drug war to the Tampa Bay area Thursday night, holding a televised "town meeting" with community activists and police that was billed as a way to find solutions to the state's drug abuse problem.
Bush and Jim McDonough, director of the state Office of Drug Control Policy, told the crowd they hoped to cut illegal drug use by 50 percent and cut Florida's supply of illegal drugs by 30 percent by 2005.
The governor complained that fighting drugs had slipped "to the margins of public policy" before he was elected, and that he has made drugs and crime his No. 2 priority, after improving education.
But when members of the crowd suggested ways the state could add new programs or better fund existing ones, Bush frequently responded that he believes in less government, not more, and that communities must look inward.
Tough discipline, civic pride and more church-based programs are the real way to win, he said.
"If I had a magic wand, Mr. Davis, it wouldn't be to take more money out of your pocket," Bush told Al Davis of the Hillsborough County Anti-Drug Alliance.
"It would be to pray for wholesome, strong families where moms and dads say . . . the most important thing I can do is teach my children right from wrong."
Mattie Wright of St. Petersburg told Bush that community police officers had helped beat drug deals in her Center Plaza neighborhood, and she asked for state help in hiring more.
Bush told her community police officers are a fine idea, but didn't address her request. "Even better is when you have heroes like yourself who stand up and say, "Enough of this,' " he said.
Bush also praised new laws enacted by the past Legislature, including stiffer penalties for possession of some drugs, highway anti-drug teams and more funding for treatment, especially for juveniles.
Earlier, Bush was a guest at a graduation ceremony for people in Hillsborough County's Drug Court system. Bush said the emphasis on court-monitored treatment provided a "more compassionate and cost-effective" way for people to face their drug problems.