The readers’ forum

Making government in South Florida better

 

Thanks to the Miami Herald for making the eradication of public corruption a 2014 priority ( Corruption interruptus, Jan. 5, Opinion). At the Good Government Initiative at the University of Miami, it’s our priority, too. We have completed our third successful year, and with the community’s support, this initiative will positively change government in South Florida.

Our most important achievement is completing Class III of our Leaders of Excellence program, a “boot camp” for state and local elected officials from Monroe to Palm Beach counties.

We provided intensive training in critical areas, including ethics, budget and finance, land use and natural resources, media relations, leading in a diverse community and economic development.

Our 45 presenters and instructors include UM faculty and other academics, current and former elected leaders such as Sen. Bob Graham and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Judge Rosemary Barkett and outside experts such as former airport director Jose Abreu.

Through this program, elected leaders are better prepared to make decisions and they gain a supportive cohort of smart, ethical, engaged colleagues. To date, 52 elected officials have completed our course, 48 of whom are still in office, using what they’ve learned to inform better policy-making.

Additionally, we offered two Thinking About Running? workshops for a total of 50 prospective candidates. They focused on testing the waters, examining the values of true public service and getting ready to launch. Our next workshop is March 21.

To foster citizen participation, we produced six Community Conversations to engage the community in discussions about government and public policy.

This year, we’re adding two pilot programs: a workshop to train campaign workers, which I am developing with Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez. Because of the unfortunate experience he had with untrained, ill-equipped campaign workers, his mayoral bid was derailed. He wants to use that experience to help develop a cadre of informed, ethical, competent campaign staff.

The second program we will pilot is a Citizens Academy to help citizens become more effective advocates, and more adept at interacting with elected officials and local and state governments.

Our country is deeply divided and in search of leadership focused on solving problems rather than on trashing the opposition. Locally, we’re weary of stories of mayors being led away in handcuffs.

The Good Government Initiative is a preemptive strike. We’re working in a bipartisan way to develop better leadership and foster an engaged citizenry to address our most pressing challenges.

This month we will begin seeking elected officials to apply to Class IV of our Leaders of Excellence program. I invite the community to make recommendations for potential class members. To learn more, visit www.goodgov.net.

Katy Sorenson, president and CEO,

Good Government Initiative,

University of Miami, Coral Gables

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