Miami opens academy for political candidates: Integrity 101?

The Candidates Academy aims to identify six future political leaders and train them for the job. The program offers a six-month intensive fellowship in good, honest government.

By , Associated Press

Miami Dade College professors are sick of corrupt politicians.

So, they've decided to do something to help. Started March 29, the school will be offering a six-month intensive fellowship called "Candidates Academy."

"We deserve better candidates than we have," Mark Richard, president of the United Faculty of Miami Dade College union told The Miami Herald. "And yes, polling shows and anecdotal evidence shows that Americans aren't quite sure we have the best politicians."

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The creation of the academy follows a bleak year for public integrity in Miami-Dade County where three sitting mayors were indicted in state and federal corruption schemes. A former congressional candidate was also indicted and a top political strategist was jailed.

The program will seek to identify future political leaders and train them for the job. A free half-day seminar is planned for March 29. Guest speakers will include the leaders of the Democratic and Republican parties, Republican School Board member Raquel Regalado, Republican state Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla and Democratic state Sen. Dwight Bullard.

Ads are already running on English, Spanish and Creole radio stations. Richard said voters are also receiving robo-calls to raise awareness.

After the seminar, at least six applicants will be selected for the nonpartisan course.

It complements work done by another group, the University of Miami's Good Government Initiative, which was founded in 2011 by former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Katy Sorenson. That initiative focuses more on elected officials, who are educated about everything from land-use regulations to dealing with the news media.

"This is a great complement to that effort," Sorenson said. She added that Bullard and Regalado are alums of the inaugural leaders of excellence program.

Joe Centorino, executive director and general counsel of the county's commission on ethics, is one of the lecturers at the Good Government program. A former prosecutor, he guides the politicians on the ins and outs of campaign finance, law and ethics.

He welcomes the Candidates Academy.

"I would encourage any civic group to get involved in this area," he said. "It's something lacking in this county."

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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