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meeting with State Sen.
Civic Caucus, 8301
Creekside Circle, Bloomington, MN 55437
Friday, July 10, 2009
Johnson, chair; David Broden, Janis Clay, Marianne Curry, Diane Flynn,
Bill Frenzel (by phone), Paul Gilje, Jim Hetland (by phone), Dwight
Johnson, Tim McDonald, Dan Loritz (by phone), John Mooty, Wayne Popham,
Clarence Shallbetter, and Bob White
Context of the meeting:
The Civic Caucus scheduled today's meeting to discuss possible options for
the Civic Caucus work program during the 2010 state Governor-Legislature
campaign. In addition State Sen. Bonoff is present. Bonoff had been
scheduled to meet with the Civic Caucus a few months ago, but couldn't
participate at that time because of a family emergency.
Discussion of Civic Caucus work program--During
discussion of a memo outlining opportunities for the upcoming campaign for
Governor-Legislature, the following points were raised:
1. Don't lose sight of the
Legislature--Don't forget that 201 legislative races will be
occurring as well as the Governor's race, a member cautioned. Candidates
for Legislature need to be addressing the same kinds of questions as
candidates for Governor.
2. Recognize the role of
citizens and business and community organizations--Another
member noted that all kinds of organizations will be holding meetings with
candidates. We might be able to help by providing background information
and by urging that certain questions be addressed to candidates. Also we
need to be alert to helpful articles in the media, such as a three-part
MinnPost feature on the state's economy this past week.
3. Impact on counties, school districts, and cities--We
need to keep in mind the immense change that has occurred--because of
increased state support--in the relationship between units of local
government (counties, school districts and cities) and the state, a member
said. For years those units of government were related chiefly to their
local voters. But now, because of changes in funding, they're spending
all their time at the Legislature seeking money.
4. Greater influence from the
interest groups--In light of
the changes in state-local funding, State Sen. Bonoff noted that certain
interest groups are now experiencing greater influence, because they can
deal with one institution, the State Legislature, not with hundreds of
units of local government. These interest groups play a significant role
in making campaign contributions to candidates for the Legislature, she
Another member said that the area of health and human services
is rife with special interests confronting the Legislature. It's
astounding to see the parade, the member said, of all the organizations
that are seeking funds for their individual special needs.
5. Concentrate on major issues--The
Civic Caucus ought to concentrate on major issues and not so much on how
candidates might describe their leadership abilities, as outlined in the
memo this morning, a member advised.
6. Approaching issues relating to the state's economy--We
ought to be exploring more what might be done to encourage private
investment, such as streamlining red tape, than what government might do
directly with various financing schemes, a member suggested.
7. Don't expect too much from
interviews with candidates for Governor--We ought to recognize
that interviewing candidates might not elicit as much benefit as might be
hoped, a member said. Candidates have two major objectives, the member
said, (1) to raise campaign money and (2) to speak very cautiously on
issues, probably from carefully crafted scripts, to avoid alienating as
many potential supporters as possible.
Also, a member said, we need to remember that whatever
leadership qualities we might hope should be present in candidates for
Governor don't necessarily bear a relationship to what the political
parties will be seeking.
Bonoff, who after eight ballots had lost out on seeking DFL
endorsement for Congress in 2008, urged the Civic Caucus to take steps
that would help promote an enlightened, frank, statewide discussion of
issues in the campaign.
Another member said there is considerable merit in the Civic
Caucus interviewing candidates and distributing summaries of these
interviews widely, even though candidates might be overly cautious in
their responses to some questions.
8. More emphasis on where the
state is going?--Rather than
emphasizing so much an effort to interview candidates, maybe our role
should be directed more to stressing the fact that the state faces
innumerable challenges and that those challenges must be addressed in the
campaign, a member suggested. In effect, the question is whether we might
serve more as a resource to the candidates and the state.
9. Don't overlook the need for leadership on the civic
seem to be concentrating so much on the importance of political
leadership, a member said. However, we've also acknowledged that
community leaders are very important. Without respected spokespersons
from the private sector, we might not get great leadership in the public
Another member chimed in by reminding the group that we need
to educate the general public about civic responsibility. Some people
have sense it is their duty to be active in public affairs.
10. Is there widespread ignorance about how the American
the group discussed the incredible growth of social media, a member
inquired how use of social media might contribute to improving what might
be widespread ignorance of how state and federal governments are
structured and how the nation's economy works.
11. Be very strategic in whom we
talk with--A member advised that with one major meeting a week
the Civic Caucus needs to be very strategic in making sure we make
effective use of each meeting. Thus, we need to set priorities very
carefully in deciding whom to invite to meet with us as well as setting
priorities on what issues we focus on in each meeting.
Rather than just meeting with candidates, perhaps we ought to
consider meeting with knowledgeable people who could provide excellent
counsel to the candidates, a member said. Thereby the Civic Caucus would
be functioning more as a resource for candidates than serving as a place
for intensive questioning on their views.
12. Developments in "Teach for America"--Diane
Flynn, who lives in the Bay area of San Francisco, near Stanford
University, said that 40 percent of this spring's Stanford grads have no
jobs. She cited great job opportunity in "Teach for America". Teach for
America (http://www.teachforamerica.org/mission/index.htm) recruits
outstanding recent college graduates and working professionals from all
backgrounds and career interests to commit to teach for at least two years
in urban and rural public schools.
Conversation with Terri Bonoff--The
group moved on to discussion with State Sen. Terri Bonoff, Minnetonka.
Verne and Paul introduced Bonoff, Democrat, who was elected to the State
Senate in a special election in 2005. A resident of Minnetonka, and
graduate of Clark University, Bonoff formerly served on the Minnetonka
Planning Commission. She is a former marking executive with Navarre
Corporation. Bonoff had agreed to meet with the Civic Caucus to discuss
education during the 2009 legislative session, but a family emergency made
it necessary to postpone meeting with the Civic Caucus. During Bonoff's
comments and in discussion with the Civic Caucus the following points were
1. A disappointing end to the
2009 session --Bonoff noted her letter to the editor of the
Star Tribune on May 22, in which she stated that reaching consensus would
have been possible only if legislative leaders, including the Governor,
had been unequivocally committed to reaching consensus. As she put it, "I
can only hypothesize that they believe so strongly in the merits of their
viewpoints that compromise seemed worse for Minnesotans than deadlock. I
Improving education--Bonoff said
she carried a Teach for America bill, which passed the Senate but died in
the House. She blamed opposition from the teachers' union. Bonoff said
that the business side of school districts needs significant improvement.
You'd not see every Target store applying its own unique structure for
keeping track of revenues and expenditures, but something similar to that
prevails in schools, where school districts all have different
revenue-expenditure systems, Bonoff said.
3. Budget problem could have
been settled-- Bonoff said she promoted an alternative solution
which leaders wouldn't consider. Toward the end, she said, a $2.5 billion
problem remained. A combination of accounting shifts for education and a
tax on clothing would have settled the session, she said. Extending the
sales tax to clothing would have produced $750 million over two years,
with accounting shifts handling the balance. But her caucus would not
support this approach. Bonoff said she didn't agree with increasing the
state income tax on higher income individuals, although she voted for this
approach at the end of the day due to her belief that more revenue was
imperative and this was the only solution on the table.
During discussion it was noted that in 1967 a Citizens League
committee headed by David Graven, Democrat, and John Mooty, Republican,
proposed a state sales tax with broad coverage, including clothing,
combined with an income tax credit for lower income individuals.
Subsequently the Legislature in 1967 passed the first state sales tax but
exempted clothing from the tax.
A Civic Caucus member suggested that legislators ought to seek
agreement by asking themselves whether the objective--to produce a budget
agreement--is more important that negative side effects, such as, taxing
clothing, which isn't as acceptable to some legislators than an increase
in the state income tax.
Bill Frenzel, who served both in the State Legisature and in
Congress was asked what needs to be done to produce consensus. Frenzel
replied that the various parties are frozen in their positions and won't
move. He said people are failing to see the impact of inaction on their
children and grandchildren.
Perhaps, a member said, in light of strong, non-yielding
positions by elected officials of different parties, conditions in the
sate might actually get worse before they get better.
4. Refine questions and lists of invitees--Toward
the end of the meeting members suggested that we should look carefully at
who we'll be inviting to meet with us as well as refining a list of major
state issues. Such steps ought to take priority over starting any series
of meetings with candidates, a member said. Members were urging that we
ought to start by extending invitations to knowledgeable individuals
5. Thanks--On behalf
of the Civic Caucus Verne thanked Bonoff for meeting with us today.