Scott Powers, Author at Florida Politics - Page 7 of 183

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at

Defense budget bill includes much for Florida, Cape Canaveral, Bill Nelson says

The U.S. Senate’s $692.2 billion defense budget includes includes provisions that would allow far more frequent private rocket launches from Cape Canaveral and other provisions that should help Florida, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson declared.

The bill, approved by the U.S. Senate late Thursday and by the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday, includes provisions to upgrade the launch infrastructure at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, which could lead to as many as two launches a day from the Cape, a boon to the rapidly-growing commercial space industry, Nelson, a senior member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, stated in a news release. The bill heads for President Donald Trump‘s desk.

The bill also includes funding to support automated launch safety systems and reusable launch vehicles.

The bill also includes $299 million for improvements to Florida’s military bases, including a special operations simulation center at Elgin Air Force Base near Pensacola, a special operations simulator and fuselage training center at Hurlburt Field, also near Pensacola, a fire station at  Tyndall Air Force Base near Panama City, a “Guardian Angel” facility at Patrick Air Force Base near Cape Canaveral, and a wastewater treatment plant at Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville.

It also includes improvements to testing and training ranges, including at the Eastern Gulf Test and Training Range off Elgin AFB.

There also is a provision that should make Mayport a more desirable port for the Navy. A news release from Nelson’s office said a provision would require the Navy to consider a port’s ability to mitigate risks associated with natural disasters and improve fleet response times when deciding where to homeport future ships. These considerations, the release offered, would help make Mayport a natural choice for future home-porting of a nuclear aircraft carrier and additional amphibious ships.

All Aboard Florida wins again in water district dispute: permit cleared

All Aboard Florida’s efforts to clear a needed environmental permit from challenges won another victory Thursday as the South Florida Water Management District rejected final challenges brought by the private passenger train developer’s critics along the Treasure Coast.

The water district denied 17 exceptions filed by Martin and St. Lucie counties and entered a final order to issue an environmental resource permit to Brightline, All Aboard Florida’s train system.

The district also adopted the recommended order of a Florida administrative law judge which earlier had denied the counties’ initial challenge to the permit.

That clears the final legal challenges pending for All Aboard Florida, though appeals are always a prospect.

All Aboard Florida intends to open private passenger train service within a few months connecting West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami. That project was not an issue.

The company also wants to open service connecting West Palm Beach and Orlando with trains running up the east coast and then turning at Cocoa to head to the Orlando International Airport, now targeting service by late 2020. Critics, led by Martin, Indian River, and St. Lucie counties and the Citizens Against Rail Expansion in Florida organization, have fought against that phase arguing the trains would cause safety and environmental concerns with up to 32 trains a day crossing more than 100 at-grade street and road crossings and numerous canals and rivers at high speeds.

The battle at the water district, which has involved past board decisions and court cases won by All Aboard Florida, centered on the company’s plans for how it would traverse the rivers and canals along the Treasure Coast. There also have been challenges elsewhere and over other issues, including the financing plan developed by Florida East Coast Railway, which owns the tracks – all won by the train companies. With Thursday’s rejection of the counties’ exceptions to the previous decisions, All Aboard Florida is clear to get its permit, pending appeal.

The company said there are no other outstanding legal challenges.

It was not initially clear if Martin and St. Lucie counties would pursue an appeal.

“Yet again, the Treasure Coast communities have been unsuccessful in their challenge to our permits, and now their fourth consecutive permit challenge has been dismissed,” Myles Tobin, general counsel for Brightline, stated in a news release issued by All Aboard Florida. “The perpetuation of misinformation needs to stop. The ongoing litigation has cost taxpayers more than $7 million, and each time the counties have lost. The permitting agencies have recognized that Brightline is acting properly, and in accordance with all applicable law. Consequently, the counties’ repeated challenges have been denied.”

The counties and CARE Florida also are pushing for legislation to bring state rules and restrictions to the train, which will run at speeds up to 79 mph in South Florida, 110 mph along the Treasure Coast, and 125 mph between Cocoa and Orlando. A bill sponsored by state Sen. Debbie Mayfield, a Rockledge Republican, was approved unanimously by the Senate Transportation Committee on Tuesday, though several of the committee members said they support the train system and would reexamine the bill at later steps.


Teresa Jacobs not done with I-Drive, convention center plans

Don’t count Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs out quite yet, she told the International Drive Resort Area Chamber of Commerce Thursday, pledging to push ahead in her last year on long-term planning for the district and support for Orange County Convention Center expansion.

Jacobs, whose term limits expire at the end of 2018, was honored Thursday as “Visionary of the Year by the chamber at its 30th-anniversary celebratory luncheon at the convention center. The award came for her push, during her eight years, for a plan begun by her predecessor Mayor Rich Crotty to turn the I-Drive district into a second downtown area, and turned it into a plan focusing on the year 2040, with full sidewalks, street life and residences in addition to the towering hotels, attractions, restaurants and shops that cater to tourists.

“I’m not done yet by the way,” she said. “I have just over twelve months left to do and we’re going to get back to work in a minute.”

That may start with a push for the next major expansion of the convention center, already the second-largest in the country. The I-Drive chamber, the convention center board and others have pushed for a $500 million, 800,000-square-foot expansion that likely will be the next big controversy in Orange County politics.

“The convention center has been such an important priority. We have too many jobs, we have too much economic impact relying upon our convention center, and you have invested too much in I-Drive,” Jacobs said. “And the convention center is really the heart of this area.”

She did not explicitly commit to the expansion, but added that in the next 12 months there was a lot of work to be done.

Chamber President Maria Triscari and Chairman John Stine described dramatic growth and change in the 11-mile corridor that started as a hotel and restaurant strip between SeaWorld and Universal Orlando and then grew into a tourism destination area all its own. Today it has 125 hotels and 4,500 hotel rooms, 40 percent of the rooms in the Orlando market, 350 restaurants, and 900 retail outlets, and 23 attractions of its own, from the Fun Spot America amusement park to the Coca-Cola Orlando Eye 400-foot-tall ferris wheel.

“The transformation of I-Drive in the last few years has made our destination fresh and exciting,” Triscari said. “It’s official, the International Drive resort area is a destination. And we’ve only just begun.”

Jacobs’ I-Drive 2040 Strategic Vision plan would build around the convention center, convention hotels, attractions and restaurants already there, with layers of commerce, retail, and housing.

It calls for more complex street grid systems with alleys, access streets, back streets and scores more intersections, urban plazas, public squares, and other downtown features to make it a more walkable community. Public transit also is emphasized.

The proposal covers 5.5 square miles, 3,500 acres, stretching southward from Carrier Drive, following International Drive to Central Florida Parkway, and Universal Boulevard to State Road 528.


New Orlando airport garage opens, first anchor to future terminal

A new parking garage with 1,600 spaces opens just after midnight early Friday morning at the Orlando International Airport, offering immediate relief for the airport’s parking crunch but also a glimpse of the future authorities hope will glisten starting in 2020.

The south parking garage and an automated people mover tram connecting it with the airport’s main terminal are the first anchors for the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority’s $2 billion south terminal project they hope will mix planes, trains, trams, buses and automobiles in three or four years.

For now the garage sits 1.5 miles south of the airport’s terminal offering relief for parking garages at the terminal that fill to near capacity almost every day and reach capacity and have to be closed a couple times or more every week.

With the people mover, which reaches 42 mph, it’s only three minutes away, possibly less time than it takes to walk into the Orlando terminal from the existing parking garages. The new south garage also comes with remote baggage check-in working much like curbside baggage check counters at the main terminal. And the daily rate at the south garage is $15, two dollars less than the main garages at the terminal.

It comes just in time for the 2017 Thanksgiving traffic, followed quickly by the Christmas season, when Orlando International Airport pushes capacity on a daily basis and parking has often become a nightmare.

This year holiday traffic is running 9 percent ahead of last year, said Executive Director Phil Brown.

“We’ll have a busy season so we’ve tried to get prepared. We’re opening up tomorrow morning at 12:01 a.m.,” Brown said. “We’re happy about the garage because we know people suffering from lack of parking. That’s what we wanted to do was get this open. And it’s a pretty nice facility.”

The facility is more than a parking garage. The garage is linked to a large atrium area connecting the people mover stop, the planned south air terminal, and a massive “intermodal transportation facility:” a train station planned to be the Orlando stop for the All Aboard Florida trains being planned to link Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Orlando.

The garage and people mover station, with the atrium, cost $426 million, which were bonded out and will be paid down with a combination of parking fees and airline passenger facility charges that show up on tickets as local surcharges. The train station cost $211 million, paid in part by state and federal dollars, had initially been envisioned to take three different trains, including an extension of Orlando’s SunRail commuter train and a light rail. But now only the All Aboard Florida train is expected. The south terminal, which will primarily handle international flights, is estimated to cost $2.2 billion.

The terminal is scheduled to be finished by the end of 2020.


John Morgan: Set your watch to first quarter of 2018

Orlando celebrity attorney John Morgan is always upfront about things he loves and hates, and the “loves” column includes the tease, while the “hates” column includes long campaigns, so it’s no surprise that Morgan’s been teasing a Democratic run for governor for a year, while making no commitments.

Watchers have been wondering as Morgan has toured the state speaking to Tiger Bay Clubs and elsewhere about his Democratic vision for Florida, and the state’s Democratic field has expanded with candidates not quite raising excitement: how long will this go on?

“I will decide in the first Q,” Morgan replied by email to such a question from FloridaPolitics.

That was a follow-up to a post he put on Facebook Wednesday, in which he set six months of campaigning as the optimum. The Democratic primary, featuring former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and Winter Park businessman Chris King is Aug. 28, 2018. Six months earlier would be Feb. 28, 2018.

“Sometimes less is more. People are sick of campaigns that go on forever with endless money grubbing,” Morgan posted. “Why do in 2 years what you can do in 6 months? The road goes on forever but the party never ends.”

Mike Carroll calls child protective investigators ‘heroes,’ calls for more funding

Calling child protective investigators “absolute heroes” who are overworked and under-appreciated, the head of Florida’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) pitched a House of Representatives committee for money to hire more.

DCF Secretary Mike Carroll told the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee Wednesday that his department struggles to keep enough investigators on staff because their workloads can be overwhelming in addition to being thankless as they seek to determine if children are living in horrible situations, and to do something about it.

The committee members responded with support but also with concerns that they want to know more about what DCF is, and how they can minimize turnovers, a rate that’s now about 45 percent. The lawmakers also wondered whether DCF has fully thought through the prospects of bringing on retired law enforcement officers, teachers, veterans and others as part-timers to ease the workload, or whether pay levels are an issue.

Carroll replied that all of that has only limited opportunity to help, but that some of it was being done, and promised follow-up information. But he also made it clear, as he had done in a Florida Senate committee meeting two weeks ago, that the investigators’ jobs are tough, and that the workloads and the nature of the job — being on call to work nights, weekends, holidays, whenever a child needs help — simply burns people out.

The only times they ever get public attention is when there is a tragedy and media focuses on the investigator involved, never focusing on the countless successful cases where children were saved from horrible situations, he said.

“One of the things that makes this a high burnout job as it’s pretty thankless,” Carroll said. “One of the things that angers me the most is when I read in the press they characterize our folks as bureaucrats. Far from it. These people do not make a lot of money. These people work unbelievable hours. Their job is unpredictable. They do not work an eight to five job. They’re often working on holidays and overtime. They’re on call on weekends. They don’t have any free time They do the best they can.”

His ask was for $4.4 million more from the state, which could bring a $3.6 million federal match to hire 69 more investigators and others. That’s in addition to 61 new investigator slots he intends to create by transferring positions from other functions. The department currently has 1,064 child protective investigators, 215 senior child protective investigators, 26 field supervisors and 230 supervisors. He plans to add 80 new investigators, 30 new supervisors, and 20 criminal intelligence specialists.

“To me, the folks that do this job are absolute heroes. Absolute heroes. They’re not treated that way by folks. They’re first responders, but they’re not treated that way,” Carroll added.

Carroll’s appearance was only a briefing; there was no immediate legislation for the panel to consider. But several members expressed strong support for offering what it could.

“I think everybody understands that if the role of government is to protect the most vulnerable, these are the folks who do that,” said Chairman Jason Brodeur, a Sanford Republican.

Victory Fund endorses Lauren Baer, David Richardson in CD 18, 27

Democrats Lauren Baer and David Richardson have received endorsements from the Victory Fund gay rights advocacy group in their quests to be elected to Congress in Florida’s  18th and 27th Congressional Districts.

Baer and Richardson are both openly gay, marking the second consecutive congressional election cycle in which Floridians have been presented with two opportunities to elect the state’s first openly-gay member of Congress. As in the 2016 campaign, both face tough Democratic primary challenges first. Last year Bob Poe and Valleri Crabtree both lost in their primaries, in Florida’s 10th and 9th Congressional Districts.

Baer, of Palm Beach Gardens, aims to re-flip the seat won last year by Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Mast in CD 18. She is a foreign policy expert who previously served in the Obama Administration as an official at the State Department. She faces labor lawyer Pam Keith in the quest for the 2018 Democratic primary nomination.

Richardson, of Miami Beach, is in the race to succeed outgoing Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a retiring Republican who comfortably held CD 27 for decades, though the district now has more Democratic voters. He is  the first-elected openly gay state legislator in the history of Florida. He is in a crowded 2018 primary battle with Matt Haggman, state Sen. José Javier Rodríguez, Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, Michael Hepburn, and Mark Anthony Person.

Baer and Richardson are two of five congressional candidates nationally to earn the Victory Funds’ support in this first round of early endorsements. The organization backs its endorsed candidates with cash and in-kind campaign support.

Victory Fund President Aisha Moodie-Mills praised Baer’s record of public service and her commitment to Victory Fund’s principles and goals, stating, in a press release issued by Baer’s campaign, “Lauren’s dedication to the values we share as Americans, first with the State Department and then at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, speaks volumes about the kind of representative we know she’ll be when she wins on Election Day. Chief among those values are acceptance and inclusion, two ideals especially important to us here at Victory Fund. We’re excited about Lauren’s candidacy and the opportunities we will have to collaborate with her campaign over the course of the next year – and beyond!”

Another press release, issued by Richardson’s campaign, cited the Victory Fund for praising Richardson’s efforts in the Florida Legislature to to remove a forty-year-old ban on gay adoption from Florida statute; secure Florida’s first-ever budget appropriation specifically earmarked to benefit the LGBT community; lead the effort to have administrative rules adopted to protect LGBT youth in the state’s foster care and Guardian ad Litem programs; pass the first ever pro-LGBT policy bill out of a legislative committee; push the state to permit the names of same-sex parents on the birth certificates of their children; and dispose of discriminatory “bathroom bills” similar to the legislation which made national headlines last year in North Carolina.

The Victory Fund has previously endorsed Richardson in his Florida House races.

“Victory Fund is excited to throw the full weight of our national grassroots network behind David’s candidacy,” Moodie-Mills stated in the release. “He has been a trailblazer on issues pertaining to LGBTQ equality in Tallahassee and now we have the chance to send him to Washington, DC. We’ll be doing everything in our power to ensure he has the resources to succeed.”


Orange County approves medical marijuana dispensaries

Medical marijuana dispensaries will be allowed anywhere in unincorporated Orange County that pharmacies might go, thanks to a unanimous vote Tuesday evening by the Orange County Commission.

After hearing scores of people testify in favor of allowing the dispensaries Tuesday and at a previous commission public hearing on Oct. 31, the board of commissioners decided that the 73 percent of Orange County voters who approved the statewide medical marijuana initiative last year can’t be wrong.

The vote came in part out of frustration as Mayor Teresa Jacobs and several of the six commissioners bemoaned the directive given them by the Florida Legislature last spring that they could either approve them without restrictions or ban them entirely. And they weren’t interested in banning them entirely, not after hearing from veterans suffering from PTSD, caregivers telling of loved ones needing something other than opioids, and assurances that the dispensaries look more like doctor’s offices than California pot shops.

Still, many of them said they must urge the Florida Legislature to give them more authority to limit where they might go. Currently, they can go in anywhere a pharmacy can be located, which includes all commercial districts, a few industrial districts, and a handful of planned developments. Jacobs suggested that the bans might wind up being ruled unconstitutional anyway, and said she wants the issue put on the county’s legislative to-do list for this Legislative Session.

With Tuesday’s approval, Orange County becomes the first in the immediate Central Florida area to allow the dispensaries. Lake County has banned them. Seminole and Osceola counties have temporary moratoriums and will take up the prospect of ban or allow later. And in Orange County, the cities of Winter Garden, Winter Park, Apopka, Windermere, Ocoee, and Oakland have banned dispensaries, while Edgewood, Maitland, Eatonville, and Belle Isle have moratoriums. Orlando has not, and it hosts the county’s first dispensary, located just north of downtown.

“There are very compelling reasons to do this,” said Commissioner Pete Clarke, who made the motion to allow them. “One is, it’s the law of the land, it’s the law of the state of Florida.”

He and the other commissioners had listened to several hours of testimony and almost all of it came from proponents. Much of the pro-effort had been organized by state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, an Orlando Democrat, who spoke at the Oct. 31 hearing, but was in Tallahassee for the Tuesday’s hearing and so sent an envoy with additional testimony.

“This is a major victory for cannabis patients in Orange County,” Smith said in a written statement afterwards. “As cities and counties across Florida are moving to ban dispensaries in their area, it’s good to see that our local efforts to mobilize cannabis patients and advocates actually made a difference. The public spoke out, and Orange County officials listened.”

Perhaps the most compelling argument for allowing the dispensaries came from Commissioner Jennifer Thompson, who said two years ago she watched her step-father go through fatal stage 4 colon cancer, and then her [now ex-] husband suffer a heart attack, on top of PTSD symptoms. Both of them would have benefitted from medical marijuana, she said, but instead her father-in-law went on opioids to control his end-of-life pain, while her husband went on a long list of drugs.

“I made up my mind on this two years ago,” Thompson said.

Even with the approval, there were concerns, mainly about the on/off choice the commissioners were forced to make. Commissioner Betsy VanderLey raised images of dispensaries popping up in Orlando’s tourist district, saying she had real concerns about “what that does to the family-friendly brand. There has to be some discussion about our ability to limit where it can be located.”

Clarke noted he grew up in the 1960s and ’70s and knew plenty of people who used marijuana, and said it destroyed some lives. But he said the only people he heard from who were opposed were hiding behind the Internet.

Commissioner Victoria Siplin said that for her it came down to numbers: those who voted in favor of Amendment 2 last year. She checked the vote in the precincts in her district.

“About 78 percent of my voters voted for the medical marijuana amendment,” she said. “I had one district that voted 100 percent for it. What the Legislature handed to us, it has issues. But besides that, I have to look at the numbers.”

Bill to tighten All Aboard Florida rules gets approval – but so does train

A bill that would set tougher rules and safety requirements on the All Aboard Florida Brightline passenger rail train being developed along the East Coast got approval from the Florida Senate Transportation Committee Tuesday.

Yet members of that committee sounded as if they’ll be ready to derail the bill later, if they eventually conclude it’s going to be any kind of major impediment to a train set to start passenger service in south Florida in a few months and eventually extend, at speeds up to 125 mph, up the coast and over to Orlando.

Most of them sounded like they like the train, or think it is inevitable, or needed for Florida’s future transportation.

Still, the committee voted unanimously to support Senate Bill 572, which would require All Aboard Florida and the track owners, the Florida East Coast Railway, to adhere to state inspections, upgrade and maintain crossings, install security fencing and other restrictions that the railroads argue are covered by, and pre-empted by, federal law.

The votes almost all came with assurances that the bill needs more discussion and more consideration, and that should happen down the line. Its next stops are at the Community Affairs and Appropriations committees.

Sponsor state Sen. Debbie Mayfield, a Rockledge Republican, pushed the the Florida High Speed Passenger Rail Safety Act, similar to one she authored last year, as a means for Florida to ensure that Floridians along the line are protected both for public safety and for tax dollars as the private companies seek to open the first new private passenger service in decades.

“People keep wanting to bring this around, saying we want to target one particular high-speed rail. There’s only one here,” Mayfield said. “That’s not what this bill is about. This bill is about ensuring that whatever additional costs are associated with a private company putting a private passenger rail in, that cost is not transferred to local taxpayers.”

Yet committee member after committee member told Chairman George Gainer, a co-introducer of the bill, that they would show respect for Mayfield and her concerns now, but they really want the train, and after further discussion down the line, they’ll see where where the bill goes.

So both the companies behind the train and the determined opponents, centered in the Treasure Coast counties that will be ride-over counties in the second phase, declared some sort of victory coming out of the committee meeting.

“Today, every senator expressed significant concern over the bill and suggested more conversation is needed,” Rusty Roberts, vice president of government affairs for Brightline, stated in a release from the company.

“Brightline welcomes additional discussion and will continue educating members of the Florida Legislature on the unconstitutionality of the proposed legislation. Safety regulations for railroads are pre-empted by federal law and using the Legislature to impair contracts is against the U.S. Constitution,” Roberts continued. “We have been and are happy to continue working with the Treasure Coast communities to address remaining concerns as we progress on the billion-dollar investment we are making in the state. However, the Legislature is not the proper forum to settle these local concerns.”

“Today’s vote by the Senate Transportation Committee demonstrates the commitment our elected leaders have to the safety and well-being of Florida residents and to the taxpayers,” Brent Hanlon, chairman of Citizens Against Rail Expansion in Florida, stated.

“Residents of the Treasure Coast region have repeatedly expressed concerns about the ill-conceived All Aboard Florida rail project that will allow 32 trains to crisscross through pedestrian communities at high rates of speed. How can we expect school children, pedestrians, motorists and first responders to navigate through all this additional high-speed rail traffic? he continued. “Sen. Mayfield’s proposal is desperately needed because AAF and its leaders have fought the residents of our community every step of the way by not only rejecting our safety concerns and repeated requests for the implementation of safety measures, but by also shifting the costs of any necessary safety upgrades to the taxpayers.”

The key issue, besides the companies objections to seeing the state take on a safety regulatory role reserved for the federal government, is whether cities and counties along the way would pay for continued maintenance where their streets and roads cross the railroad tracks. All Aboard Florida said it has paid for all upgrades in the initial three counties of the project, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, and has no intention of billing the local communities for those improvements, and will do the same for all upgrades in Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River, Brevard and Orange counties. But after that, the grade separations belongs to the local communities to maintain.

Afterwards, Gainer, a Republican from Panama City, declared it “a work in progress.”

“It’s going ot happen one day,” he said. “I think we want it to see it done right.”

Kamia Brown calls for ‘redoubled’ mental health efforts after school suicide

State Rep. Kamia Brown of Ocoee called Tuesday for the state to redouble efforts to provide mental health services for students after the apparent suicide of a student at Minneola High School in Lake County Tuesday morning.

The Orlando Sentinel is reporting that a 17-year-old student named Seth Sutherland shot and killed himself in the school’s bus loop out front of the school during a fire drill. The paper quoted school officials as saying the boy was alone and the shooting was not witnessed.

“I want to extend my deepest condolences to the friends and family of Seth Sutherland, who we so tragically lost this morning. Our hearts are with you as we all mourn a life lost far too soon,” Brown stated in a release issued Tuesday afternoon.

Brown serves on the House Education Committee and the PreK-12 Appropriations and Quality subcommittees.

“As we learn more about the causes behind today’s incident, what is clear is that we must redouble our efforts to improve mental healthcare for students throughout Florida,” she added. “When we look at ways to improve our public school system, a renewed focus on providing the types of wrap-around services that could potentially prevent these types of tragedies is key. With teen suicide rates on the rise for the first time in two decades, there’s no time to waste in making the critical investments in our children they deserve.”


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