Up Front - The Publisher's Column
In praise of government workers
Andy Corty, Publisher
These days it is fashionable to find fault with government workers. In an election year, the drumbeat of negativity grows even louder as candidates target government programs that they don't support.
"Taxes" have become an easy target. Candidates and the electorate seem to forget that a fair system of taxation and government services is responsible for creating a civilized society. Sure there's room for improvement, but do we need to slam the entire system?
So I was gratified earlier this year to be invited to join a panel of judges to select outstanding Florida government employees whose work serves the public, saves the state money and promotes innovation.
To recognize exemplary service among state employees, the Davis Productivity Awards were started 24 years ago with funding from J.E. Davis and A.D. Davis, co-founders of Winn-Dixie. Today the awards are backed by Prudential, supported by other corporate contributions and steered by Florida TaxWatch in cooperation with the Florida Council of 100 and the state itself.
The 2012 awards competition attracted 533 nominations with improvements worth $509 million in cost savings or increased revenue for our state government. The winners are individuals or work teams that clearly exceed expectations. They are awarded certificates, plaques or small cash prizes. To recognize the winners, luncheons were held in Tallahassee and six other cities.
Just who are the winners in 2012 and what did they achieve? Here's a sample:
» A team at the State Board of Administration reviewed 2,500 open claims stemming from the 2005 hurricane season, negotiated settlements and cut the state's reimbursement by $130 million.
» A Department of Transportation group adapted a design-build system to cut roadway construction time and save the state $7.2 million in the first year.
» Two workers at the Department of Highway Safety created a database to speed financial analysis and respond quickly to changing revenue forecasts.
» Staff at the Department of Environmental Protection developed a tool to evaluate federal air quality regulations for internal combustion engines, and the feds adapted the technique nationally.
» At the Department of Transportation, a five-member team transferred information management software to the central office with an immediate savings of $350,000 and potential annual savings of $3.5 million.
Cash awards ranged from $200 to $2,750 per team, certainly a fraction of the reward that would be bestowed by private enterprise for similar success. Marshall Criser III, chairman of TaxWatch and president of AT&T Florida, says, "The commitment of these state employees to Florida and its citizens is a true legacy."
The next time you find fault with government, please also remember the many talented folks who are trying their darndest to make Florida a great place to live at a reasonable price.
This month, we present Florida Trend's annual Legal Elite highlighting a distinguished list of attorneys practicing in Florida as chosen by their colleagues. Each member of the Florida Bar was invited to vote for the lawyers they hold in the highest regard or would recommend to others. The list of 1,348 attorneys represents fewer than 2% of the licensed practitioners in the state. Next year will be the 10th anniversary of this prestigious program.
Fitness report: Tennis elbow pushed me to the sidelines, but maybe that's good because I ate less. With six long walks and four semi-rigorous gym sessions, I was able to drop another 2 pounds for a net loss of 14 pounds year-to-date.
— Andy Corty