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Summary of Meeting with Peter Hutchinson
Civic Caucus, 8301 Creekside Circle
#920, Bloomington, MN 55437
Friday, Jan. 20th, 2006
Verne C. Johnson, chair, Chuck
Clay, Jim Hetland. Via phone , John Mooty, Jim Olson and John Sampson
Hutchinson, guest speaker
is Peter Hutchinson? The chair introduced Hutchinson, who is
the founder and President of Public Strategies Group. He graduated from
Dartmouth College, earned an MPA degree from Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson
School of Public and International Affairs, and completed the advanced
management program at Harvard Business School.
Hutchinson was the former Minnesota Commissioner of Finance under Gov.
Perpich and Deputy Mayor of Minneapolis under Mayor Don Fraser. In 1993
his firm took over management of the Minneapolis public school system, in
which he served as Superintendent. His firm has helped redesign public
systems in New York state, in the state of Washington and elsewhere.
2. Our system, both at the national and Minnesota
level, is not working well today -- Agrees with most of the
criticism others have voiced to date and with the symptoms listed by the
Civic Caucus. Can remember the days - the 1960’s and 70’s - when Minnesota
was thought of as the public policuy incumator for the nation. Ideas such
as the Metropolitan Council, tax-base-sharing,a strongt commitment to
education and to higher education. Today this is not the case. Minnesota
is no longer thought of as a leader in innovation - but we ought to be.
3. It is the nature of government not to change -
not to reform itself - but rather to protect its system and traditions --
This is instinctive with any organization, whether public or private.
4. The legislative bodies are today led by the
two extremes, making it exceedingly difficult to compromise --
Compromise is punished. Loyalty is rewarded. There is no incentive to
compromise as the individuals are then criticized for compromising on
principle. This has led to increasing polarization and paralysis of our
political decision process.
5. It is naive to believe that either of the two
political parties in Minnesota will reform themselves from within --
Reform must come from outside forces. It always has and always will.
6. The key is to make the political system
competitive. This is the way it has happened historically in
Minnesota -- This has in the past come from the formation of third parties
winning the governership. The result has not been permanent as this result
has reformed the two parties and the new party has tended to be integrated
into one or the other of the two major political parties.
7. Reforming the way in which redistricting is
accomplished is essential. Reform will not come from within.
Must be forced from outside. Likely will be forced by the court someday.g
Favor a nonpartisan commission appointed by the state supreme court.
8. In response to a question Hutchinson agreed
that the non-redistricted U.S. senate is not much less polarized --
Much of this results from the fact that most Senators previously served as
house members and became comfortable with the way the house process
worked. We need to find a way to lessen this likelihood.
9. Michigan has reformed its legislature by
establishing a maximum of three two year terms for house members --
Once having served the three two year terms, the individual is ineligible
to run again even later. Am not sure what the proper limit is but we need
some way to preclude long term legislative service.
Campaign financing remains essentially invisible, despite years of
purported financing reform -- David Schultz is an expert on
this issue. You must talk to him on campaign finance and ways to reform
it. Most contributions today are still undisclosed to the public.
11. We must make all campaign contributions and
spending reportable and open to the public -- Efforts to limit
the amounts contributed are less important than making the system
completely visible. The voters will punish excesses once they know about
12. Today we are engaged in the politics of fear
rather than hope. We must and can change this -- The purpose of
political ads nowadays is to produce fear in the voter. My plan is to test
the assumption that this is the most effective way to campaign. I will be
making a major announcement on Jan. 25th and my purpose will be to preach
hope for what Minnesota can be rather than attack the opposition to
13. The five G’s are dominating political
discussion today. This must be changed -- The five “G” include
Guns, gays, gambling, God and gynecology. This domination of the political
process with social issues is diverting attention from the real issues. We
must shift the focus from such wedge issues as gay marriage and abortion
to what he dalls “the main things” - education, health care,
transportation and the environment.
14. The Civic Caucus ought to meet with the 20/20
group in the Minnesota legislature. They are a very hopeful
15. In response to questions concerning his
advocacy of the multiparty system Hutchinson emphasized that this need not
be a permanent arrangement -- As in the past the third parties
have been introduced as a means of shaking up the entrenched two party
system and need not bed permanent. Without this neither of the two main
parties will reform themselves. Reform invariably comes from outside not
16. Today’s media are contributing to our
problems -- The intellectual horsepower of reporting is not
what it used to be. Staff reductions by newspapers has led to a lesser
depth of reporting, less experienced reporters, and a tendency to report
primarily attack statements issued by leaders in each of the two major
parties. Those in less than a leadership position are essentially ignored.
This will be a major challenge for a third party candidate. He feels sorry
for reporters who are too rushed today. He attributes the problem more to
this factor than to biased reporting..
response to a question concerning the challenge of a third party candidate
raising sufficient funds to get the message across, Hutchinson
responded with the statement that he had not found this to be a serious
problem thus far.
18. In today’s campaigning development of lists
for purposes of intensive communication during the campaign is
indispensable. The two parties have them in depth and he is
mindful of the importance of doing this as well.
Hutchinson stated that he is a true independent -- He has never
been an active participant in either major party. He went to one caucus
session years ago and was so turned off that he has never gone again.
20. One of the major issues which must be
resolved involves health care -- A recent statement issued by
an organization of Drs. was very promising for reform. This issue will be
a critical one in the next political campaign
response to a question involving the establishment of some form of
watchdog council of former political leaders, Hutchinson was
positive but emphasized endorsing a candidate as vital to the importance
to their impact.
22. The chair thanked Hutchinson for his perceptive and candid sharing
of thoughts. He was further urged to feel free to make
additional comments from time to time as we move ahead with additional
The Civic Caucus
is a non-partisan,
tax-exempt educational organization. Core participants
include persons of varying political persuasions, reflecting
years of leadership in politics and business.
A working group meets face-to-face to
provide leadership. They are Verne C. Johnson, chair; Lee
Canning, Charles Clay, Bill Frenzel,
Paul Gilje, Jim Hetland,
John Mooty, Jim Olson, Wayne Popham and John Rollwagen.
Click Here to
see a biographical statement of each.