Katy Sorenson, president, The Good Government Initiative, University of Miami

Last week: Organized librarians and Miami-Dade citizens convinced the County Commission to stop the ill-advised plan to gut the library system by cutting hours and librarians. Budget crisis averted, but [only] postponed. The fact is libraries are not just books on shelves. They’re community centers: children hearing stories, job-seekers using computers, latch-key kids chilling after school, seniors seeking companionship. Next year, the commission should start hearings on community priorities, so that citizens can begin to understand what’s at stake, and that public investments add to quality of life — our commonwealth. It’s not too early for advocates to organize for next year.

Looking ahead: Syria continues to be a complex, thorny issue, with no clear pathway forward. Although we can never fully trust Vladimir Putin — even when he speaks directly to us in an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times — there is a glimmer of hope for a non-military solution. Getting Syria to acknowledge even having chemical weapons was a first step. Now there will be negotiations between our State Department and the Russians to see if a dismantling of Syria’s chemical arsenal is possible. Cynics will balk, but we should be cautiously and skeptically optimistic that cool heads will prevail.

Sept. 8

Last week: Diana Nyad finally made it on her fifth try. She swam 110 miles from Cuba to Key West, the first person to succeed without benefit of a shark cage. Talk about the triumph of the human spirit! Lessons: you’re never too old (64 is the new 35); if at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try, try again; you can get it if you really want it; and women are mighty, tenacious and tough. Diana is a role model for anyone who strives to accomplish anything. Her feat is a metaphor for whatever it is we aim for.

Looking ahead: The President is right to consult Congress before embarking on the dangerous mission of trying to teach Syria a lesson by taking military action. The country is conflicted and gun shy. For good reason. We’re tired of Iraq and Afghanistan. We’re tired of our money being spent on fools’ errands rather than on education and infrastructure in our own country. But how can we ignore the plight of innocent children being exterminated in their homes? We need the world to join us in our outrage – and the president needs to step up his outreach efforts at home and abroad.

Sept. 1

Last week: Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez, a candidate for mayor, did something highly unusual and refreshing in today's politics. He took responsibility. He took responsibility for his mayoral campaign's mistakes, which included his campaign workers’ inappropriate handling of absentee ballots. He acknowledged them, he put his priorities in order and he withdrew from the campaign. He did all of this with honesty, humility and integrity. With his intelligence, heart and willingness to learn, Francis Suarez has a bright future. The community can look forward to his continued leadership and seasoning as a commissioner — and to his future in public service.

Looking ahead: Another mayor down in Miami-Dade. This one, Steve Bateman, hails from Homestead and he’s been charged with unlawful compensation for shaking down a healthcare provider for “consulting fees” while he should have been advocating for them as mayor. Will the mounting cases of corruption and political malpractice usher in a new era of responsible, responsive government? At the Good Government Initiative, we have just started Class III, a program of 18 state and local elected officials to learn about serving their communities with competence and integrity. There was great energy and passion at our opening retreat, and I’m hopeful.

Aug. 25

Last week: Twenty Florida children died by beatings, torture, neglect and unspeakable abuse.  Thanks to Florida Sen. Eleanor Sobel for convening a town hall meeting to draw attention to the need for serious reform by the Department of Children and Families.  Interim secretary Esther Jacobo is on the right track by investigating the fatalities.  But there are some obvious wrongs that must be made right.  Unqualified, underpaid workers should not be in charge of vulnerable children.  Social work is a profession.  Only trained, qualified and adequately compensated social workers should be given the responsibility of assessing children’s needs and acting on their behalf.

Next week: The extermination of Syrian citizens, including innocent children, by chemical means – as though they were vermin – should bring a new level of outrage from the international community. As elusive as the facts are, they must be found. And there has to be a unified international response. To do nothing is to tolerate the intolerable.

Aug. 18

Last week: The FBI reports on the arrests of a pair of mayors and a pair of lobbyists in Miami-Dade County read like a Carl Hiaasen novel — without the humor. It's always astonishing that people will risk their careers and their reputations for next to nothing — not principle, not the common good, just a few bucks. The public trust is fragile and the venality of a few makes it difficult for those hard-working public servants who do their best every day on behalf of their constituents.

Looking ahead: As school starts, there will be more discussion about accountability and how to measure it.  Isn't it time that we recognize the obvious?  Affluent kids do better in school than children who are impoverished. Once we start working on income inequality, education quality will follow.

Aug. 11

Last week: The State of Baseball in the Summer of 2013, 125 years after “Casey at the Bat” was written (with apologies to the author):

Somewhere men are laughing (all the way to the bank?)

And somewhere children shout (“Shame!”)

But there is no joy in Mudville

Mighty A-Rod has struck out