This afternoon Florida Governor Jeb Bush stopped by the Marriott Westside hotel. A luncheon was held there to celebrate the graduation of the first 6 communities from the Front Porch Florida program. WMNF’s Kimberley Farley reports:

The Front Porch Florida program began in 1999 as an effort to rejuvenate lower income neighborhoods. Communities from around the state write a proposal on how they can improve their neighborhood by bringing in business, building community centers, improving recreational parks, and curbing crime. If the proposal is accepted, state money is given in the form of business loans and grant money. Bush believes that this is the right way to fix problems within a neighborhood. (SB 4, OQ …actively engaged in it)

But the Front Porch Florida plan hasn’t been without opposition or problems. In the first two years little had been accomplished. All the communities which graduated today had to map out how they were going to institute the improvements, and the state rejected every proposal based on lack of evidence or not enough input from the community. There were also problems in training people, issues on how to spend the money, and misunderstandings over whether the state or local community had control over certain aspects. Bush stated that it’s natural for there to be setbacks with any new endeavor, but with hard work and determination things will work out.

While lauding the six communities, he made sure to note that it didn’t mean they no longer have problems. (SB 5; OQ …part of the solution)

The six communities to graduate were; St. Petersburg Greater South Central Neighborhood, Opa-Locka Front Porch Community, West Palm Beach Front Porch Community, Tallahassee’s Greater Frenchtown Front Porch Community, Fort Lauderdale’s Dorsey-Riverbend Neighborhood, and Greater Pensacola Front Porch Community.

Governor Bush also announced the Family Building Better Readers program to the Front Porch Communities. The program is currently limited to Front Porch Communities in Orange and Seminole counties. Parents receive a toolkit with books and guides on how to teach their children to read. He comments on why this is so important. (SB 6, OQ …despair rather than hope)

With these two programs, Bush says that it will lead to better education and a better chance for children to grow up and get high-wage jobs. Without high expectations, he says that children won’t have a chance for a good life. He likened these high expectations to the economy suggesting the reason that Florida is one of the leaders for job growth in that nation is based on expecting the economy to flourish. But he also notes that job growth isn’t enough. (SB 7; OQ …life in Florida)

During a question and answer session after the luncheon, Bush was asked whether he felt Tampa and St. Pete were doing everything they could do to solve the problems in their neighborhoods. (SB 8; OQ …stretch of the imagination.)

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