In this school of sorts, the coursework features walking tours of inner-city neighborhoods, exercises on how to balance a mock municipal budget — and a guest speaker who has pleaded guilty to charges of extortion, perjury and public-meetings violations.
Welcome to the Good Government Initiative, an effort to improve the quality of leadership in corruption-plagued South Florida.
At the heart of that lofty goal is this question: Can public officials be taught to avoid the mistakes of their ethics-challenged forbears — and to better serve their constituents in an often-toxic political climate?
“There’s an old saying that when the student is ready, the teacher appears,” said Katy Sorenson, the former Miami-Dade County commissioner who retired last year and founded the program. “And I think that people that are eager to learn seek that out and can learn lessons.”
The program’s inaugural class began meeting last week. The group comprises 19 state lawmakers, county commissioners, city council and school board members in their first term or first four years in elected office in Miami-Dade, Broward, Monroe and Palm Beach counties. In eight sessions between August and November, they will cover a syllabus ranging from land use regulations to dealing with the media.
Driving the program is the idea that elected officials — particularly rookies — can learn to ask more pointed questions, propose effective policies and work together at a regional level to tackle big problems. More here.