These days, Washington politicians seem more intent on waging constant partisan warfare than on developing real solutions to big problems.
It’s a shame.
But it doesn’t mean we’ve run out of solutions. I’ve spent more than enough time in both Washington and Tallahassee. However, I’ve never seen government work better—more pragmatically, with less partisanship—than at the local level. With distant capitals increasingly besieged by gridlock, local governments are becoming the true models for innovation and problem solving.
That’s the way it should be.
When it comes to tackling homelessness, we’ve learned that the biggest challenge isn’t the availability of support systems or transitional housing—it’s accessibility. One of the toughest problems was bureaucratic overlap; isolated agencies operating without coordination. As a result, we launched a locally grown, county-led initiative that has now successfully united multiple agencies under a single roof. It’s part of a 10-year plan to reduce homelessness and transition people into meaningful, self-sufficient work.
Just as importantly, it’s more efficient for taxpayers. And at the local level, that’s the business we’re in—efficiently deploying limited resources to solve big problems.
And speaking of big problems, increasingly, both Democrats and Republicans have decried the sorry state of our nation’s prison systems. Today’s prisons seem equally bad at punishing offenders and preventing repeat crimes. According to some studies, recidivism rates—the frequency of offenders committing crimes again—is as high 50 percent. That’s costly—for taxpayers and for society at-large.
Perhaps the biggest concern about our criminal justice system is that it transforms low-level offenders into hardened criminals. We’re tackling that head-on—and it’s working.
Spearheaded by our Public Defender, a new county-led initiative targets inmates in the first two years of leaving prison. Working with the Sheriff’s Office, ex-offenders are able to earn their GED, get a license and even start a job before their release, so they can effectively transition into productive work.
Criminal justice systems should be evaluated on the basis of their effectiveness and cost-efficiency for taxpayers. And so far, this program is all-Aces. After lowering recidivism in the adult system, it’s now being deployed in juvenile programs as well. Now, this three-year-old initiative has become a model for other states and communities across the country.
I’ve been as frustrated and disappointed with Washington as everyone else. However, it’s important that we not lose sight of the fact that the best conversations, the most vibrant debates and the most sensible solutions tend to emerge at the local level, where elected leaders are most accountable to the people.