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Summary of Meeting with Chuck Slocum
Civic Caucus - 8301
Creekside Circle, Bloomington, MN 55437
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Johnson, chair; Chuck Clay, Paul Gilje, Jim Hetland Dennis Johnson, Jim
Olson (by phone)
Slocum, consultant, former chair, Minnesota Independent-Republican Party
Context of the meeting
meeting is one of several the Civic Caucus is conducting with thought
leaders on the subject of possible changes in the state's elections
process that might help restore the state its previous leadership role and
help preserve representative democracy.
Introduction of the speaker
introduced Chuck Slocum, who since 1990 has been president of the
Williston Group, a firm that provides business development services for
companies, non-profit organizations and government agencies. He served
as state chair of Minnesota Republicans from 1975-1977. He has held
executive positions at Dayton Hudson (Target) Corporation and Honeywell.
Among other positions he has held are executive director of the Minnesota
Business Partnership, president of the Minnesota Arthritis Foundation, and
general manager and president of Single House Minnesota, a group that
worked for a unicameral legislature.
Comments and discussion
Slocum's comments and in discussion with the Civic Caucus, the following
points were raised:
1. Wrap-up of the current
legislative session --Slocum believes the Legislature will
finish its work without a special session, because the Governor and House
have lots of motivation to get the job done. Budget challenges facing
lawmakers are incredible, primarily because of growing health care
expenses he said. Property taxes, while important, aren't as serious a
problem as in the 1970s, when the state had taxpayer rebellions.
2. Goals of Democrats and
Republicans --Slocum looks beyond the conventional wisdom that
Democrats love tax increases and Republicans love tax cuts. Democrats
believe that government is a tool to make things better, but they should
focus on how to improve services, not just increase state government
spending. Republicans can't just talk about starving the beast but must
address--through public and private efforts--the wellbeing of those who
are unable to care for themselves. Both groups need to work on how they
can move together in a growing economy.
Later in the discussion Slocum agreed that it is critical for
Minnesota to work on changing systems to achieve better results. Asked
whether the business community could take the lead, he replied that
business often is conflicted because of tax and spend economic issues.
Citizens groups must also lead, he said.
3. Big problem of a work force
shortage --The state faces a great challenge in having an
adequate work force. About 30 percent of our youth are not prepared for
employment. We need to grow our work force from within, which means
providing effective training and education. If Minnesota doesn't succeed
in this effort, businesses that need employees will leave the state. We
have a tremendous challenge here, he said, particularly with all the
growing tech-related job areas. There's no question that employers will
move to where they will find employees.
4. Lack of action on early
childhood education --A founder of Minnesota Business for Early
Earning (MnBEL) Slocum said there will be some progress, but not nearly
enough, related to early childhood education. The movement to provide
all-day kindergarten statewide attracted more support than helping
younger, pre-kindergarten children be prepared for school. Working
parents must be a central part of the school readiness of their children.
has lost its position as a leader among states
--Slocum recalled that
Minnesota in the 1970s was the first state to enact a non-smokers rights
law, but it is 20th among the states in enacting, this year, a statewide
ban on indoor smoking. Minnesota
is no longer a "bellweather" leader, he said, because the techniques of
winning elections seem to have taken precedence over the visioning of what
government ought to be in the future. Political parties seem to be
neglecting two major responsibilities, the convening of like-minded
citizens to develop a public policy agenda for the future, and to recruit
the best and the brightest to run for office.
6. Support for multiple
endorsements --Slocum said he supports a bi-partisan effort,
the Council for Electoral Leadership, that is working for an earlier
primary date. Slocum also favors multiple endorsements by parties,
provided candidates receive a certain threshold of support, say 25-30
percent of delegate support. Slocum does not believe that precinct
caucuses, once a quality control mechanism for parties, serve that purpose
any longer, since they most often reflect the thinking of extreme
partisans on the right and left.
7. Curious about instant runoff
voting --Asked about instant runoff voting that recently has
been approved for Minneapolis city elections and is under consideration in St. Paul,
Slocum said he is curious about the idea but doesn't know enough yet to
have an opinion. The idea of the two top vote-getters as General Election
opponents is sound as is the idea of maintaining viable political parties
throughout the state.
8. Possibility of a unicameral Legislature
said he was active in a group that was supporting former Governor
Ventura's idea for a single house Legislature. In the end it was not
possible to place the unicameral amendment (which also reduced the size of
the legislature by one-third) on the ballot because the people most
inconvenienced by the action (existing legislators) are the same people
who decide whether to submit the question to the voters. We have a
bicameral system that was created in the 1800s, he said, but state
government needs updating and reform to be most effective in the 21st
9. Possibility of presidential preference primary in
not overly concerned that Minnesota
isn't part of the competition among states to hold early presidential
primary elections. He would support dividing the nation into several
regional primaries, one of which would include Minnesota, an idea that has
bipartisan support, he said.
10. Electoral college future?
--Slocum said he supports direct election of the president. He
said he is not well informed about a proposal to have state legislatures
instruct their electors to support the winner of the national popular
vote, an idea that would have the effect of making the Electoral College
irrelevant. It was noted that currently many citizens in
heavily-Democratic or heavily-Republican states don't bother to vote
because the outcome in their states is a foregone conclusion.
11. Role of the media
--Slocum doesn't blame the media for dysfunction in government. The
problem is that the public has so little interest in the subject and that
mainstream media is not influential among those under age 40. It was
noted in the discussion that many people who have met with the Civic
Caucus believe current media trends to cut back on public affairs coverage
12. Potential areas of focus
for the Civic Caucus --Slocum said the summaries provided by
the Civic Caucus are an important service to the community. He suggested
that perhaps the Civic Caucus ought to focus on a few high priority
items. He liked the way the Civic Caucus thoughtfully focused on the
question of legislative prerogative and unnecessary state constitutional
13. Need to train and nurture
future leaders --In addition to attention to Minnesota's future
workforce, Slocum suggested that the Civic Caucus might play a mentoring
role in training and nurturing people for future leadership. He said he
has spent much of his time in the past recruiting people for public
office. It's critical to encourage, affirm, and help leaders to
14. Thanks --Verne
thanked Slocum for meeting with us today, particularly in light of
Slocum's recent 15-foot fall from a ladder, injuring his head.
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.