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of Civic Caucus discussion on major Minnesota Issues
Civic Caucus, 8301
Creekside Circle, Bloomington, MN 55437
Friday, June 12,
C. Johnson, chair; David Broden, Janis Clay, David Durenberger (by phone),
Paul Gilje, Jim Hetland (by phone), Jan Hively (by phone), Dan Loritz (by
phone), Tim McDonald, John Mooty, and Bob White
Clay was introduced as secretary-treasurer of the Civic Caucus Board of
Update on Citizens League meeting--Jan
Hively, Tim McDonald, and Paul Gilje reported on their attendance at a
breakfast meeting yesterday when Stacy Becker outlined a new civic
engagement strategy of the Citizens League. A key part of that strategy
makes citizens important policy makers in their own right.
Discussion of key issues facing Minnesota--Verne
explained that the Civic Caucus this summer will hold discussions on its
strategic plan, with today one of the first such discussions. We're
concentrating today on key issues facing the state, with no consideration
today of whether the Civic Caucus would be involved in any issue. The
group began by evaluating whether elected leaders are offering innovative
ideas for addressing state issues. During comments the following points
1. An eye-opener for a new resident--A
member said that a respected health care leader from another state came to
Minnesota several years ago thinking that the state had adequate
leadership to implement creative ideas. But, the individual was sad to
see that Minnesota's leaders--unlike previous reputations--were not open
to innovative change as the individual had expected. The referred to
health care leader is a risk taker who believes that government can be
accountable and leadership can be responsible.
Looking for hope elsewhere--Another
member noted that we're seeing leadership in less bureaucratic areas, such
as individuals cited by Peter Heegaard in his book, "Heroes
Among Us: Social Entrepreneurs Strengthening Families and Building
Communities". The individual also said that in years past business
leaders were more convinced that they would succeed if their community
were active and progressive. He doesn't find many business leaders with
such thoughts today.
of emphasis on the state itself--Another
factor, a member said, is that there is greater consideration of issues
globally, nationally and regionally today. We don't think as much about
issues only a state basis.
Absence of innovation--To
be a noteworthy state requires that the state be doing noteworthy things,
a member said. Where are things happening that are noteworthy?
Leadership in non-political communities--A
member observed that while political leadership might be lacking, we
certainly can see that Minnesota's arts and sports institutions are far
stronger they were 30 years ago.
Impact of federal involvement--A
member wondered whether growing federal involvement might be a strong
indicator of a shift in leadership from the state to the federal level.
Major public investments today usually have a strong federal component.
Moreover, it will be very likely that the main impetus for many
investments has come chiefly from federal officials.
Diminishing leadership in community organizations?--A
member asked whether we no longer are seeing as many creative ideas
bubbling up in the private and non-profit sector; instead there seems to
be a feeling that governments are both initiating and deciding. Another
member noted that our state Legislature--with (a) its frequent sessions,
(b) more members who regard the Legislature as their full-time
employment, and (c) more professional legislative staffing--might be less
oriented to considering proposals from the outside.
leaders abandoned Minnesota for the Sunbelt?--Minnesota
formerly was regarded as a place to which workers wanted to come, despite
the state's climate, a member said. But today it seems as if we're losing
people to the Sunbelt, particularly those who find it advantageous from a
tax standpoint to maintain a Sunbelt residence at least six months and one
day each year. Minnesotans, the member said, need to find a way to
reverse the move of economic and political to other locations. In
further discussions, a member said that so long as people felt they were
getting better services for the money, they were willing to pay higher
taxes in Minnesota. But there's been a change in attitude about whether,
for example, we're getting more for our investment in education.
requirements coming for elected officials--Members
referred to a column by David Brooks in the New York Times
Brooks' message is that politicians will have to persuade voters "to
postpone gratification for the sake of rebuilding the country."
10. Defining problems as well as proposing
solutions--In many cases, it was suggested, there's not been
enough attention to defining problems before solutions are advanced. The
greatest contribution some groups might make is to concentrate first on
stating the problem clearly, rather than carrying around a solution in
search of a problem.
11. A polarized political atmosphere doesn't
help--We're hobbled here, too, a member said, by strong
partisan divisions that make consensus-building and finding agreement on
innovative solutions much more difficult. Moreover, a caucus/convention
system that all but precludes an open primary for candidates tends to
produce legislators more oriented to partisan divisions.
12. An opportunity in the current campaign for Governor?--It
was noted that the 2009-2010 campaign for Governor represents an ideal
time for intelligent discussions about leadership and the key issues
facing Minnesota. There'll be no incumbent; there are host of candidates
and potential candidates from the parties; there's no Presidential or U.S.
Senate race, so the focus can be on Minnesota issues only. Perhaps we
should consider outlining central questions that need to be addressed by
13. Will precinct caucuses have a chilling
effect on frank discussion of issues?--Over
the next several months candidates for Governor will be working hard to
get commitments from citizens who will be attending precinct caucuses.
They'll know that without precinct caucus support, a candidate won't have
the necessary party support, with financing. Thus, a member suggested, we
might find candidates will be extremely reluctant to take strong positions
on tough issues, fearing loss of caucus supporters.
Or, the positions they
take might more reflect the views of single purpose or extreme interests
who are most highly motivated to attend the caucuses.
14. Whether new and traditional media will
carry information on issues--At least two major problems seem
present in whether citizens can rely on new and traditional media as
sources of information, a member said. One problem is a tendency to
report the campaign essentially as a horse race--who's ahead, who's
behind, how far--rather than explaining for voters the substance of
various issues being discussed. Another problem is how millions or
billions of short messages shared among individuals around the state will
somehow help inform themselves about any given issue.
15. Potential of respected organizations--Think
about the highly-regarded Humphrey Institute at the University of
Minnesota, a member said. That group holds in-depth discussions with
public figures and could be a leader in articulating central issues that
candidates for Governor ought to be addressing.
16. What does it mean to be Governor?--It's
important, a member said, to make sure candidates do more than simply
comment on issues. Candidates need to be asked broader questions about
the nature of the office, such as "What does it mean to be Governor".
Such questions would help bring the matter of leadership to the
17. What kind of organization might have real
credibility to 'hold candidates' feet to the fire'?--Toward
the end of the meeting, the group discussed possibilities for what kind of
organization, led by what kind of individuals, might have the most
credibility in bringing the matter of leadership, along with intelligent
discussion of issues, to the forefront in the campaign for Governor.
Existing organizations were mentioned, along with the possibility of some
new movement, perhaps led by individuals with great credibility in the