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participants' responses to this discussion.
of Meeting on Civic Caucus strategic plan
8301 Creekside Circle,
Bloomington, MN 55437
Friday, May 22,
Johnson, chair; Marianne Curry, Bill Frenzel (by phone), Paul Gilje, Jim
Hetland (by phone), Jan Hively, Dan Loritz, Joe Mansky, John Mooty, and
Wayne Popham (by phone)
Context of the meeting--Today's
meeting is a review of where the Civic Caucus has been and a preliminary
look at the future, as part of a process to update the Civic Caucus
During the meeting the following points were raised:
1. Preliminary summer schedule--The
group began by reviewing a preliminary summer schedule prepared by Verne
planning to hold internal discussion meetings on our strategic plan every
other week, beginning Friday, June 12. On alternate weeks we'll continue
to conduct our typical interviews with knowledgeable individuals on public
affairs. We intend that some interviews will provide background for our
internal discussion meetings. Tentatively, we're thinking about a
schedule like this:
June 12--Key issues facing the state of Minnesota.
June 26--The media future
July 3--The Civic Caucus process, including its information/involvement
July 17--Succession planning; financing the Civic Caucus; our relationship
to the Citizens League and other community organizations
July 31--Communicating the story/message of the Civic Caucus in writing
to audiences within and beyond Minnesota
August 14--Consider first draft of new strategic plan
August 28--Adopt strategic plan
2. Discussion of
civic, political and governmental health--A
working memo from Verne and Paul highlights that the state is losing its
reputation as a state that demonstrates the best in representative
very moment of greatest urgency many public leaders appear oblivious to
the problem or are paralyzed to do much about it. But our civic,
political, and governmental systems are at risk of decay, threatening our
quality of life. Indicators of decay:
--Unrealistic expectations that government can solve all public problems.
influence of public officials representing extreme views on the political
influence of interest groups over the general public.
of endorsing and nominating candidates for public office that grant
extraordinary advantage to some candidates over others.
cynicism about the political process.
--Excessive number and overlapping levels of local government.
--Uncertainty about whom to hold responsible
creative ideas in addressing public issues.
removal of elected officials' authority.
3. Concentrating on structure and process--During
discussion the Civic Caucus emphasis on structure and process, a member
suggested that perhaps we're using words that don't attract a great deal
of interest. Instead maybe we should use the term "reform". Another
member suggested there's a risk of over-reacting to current concerns about
the state's leadership being in jeopardy. There's an ebb and flow in our
leadership. This member noted that divisions between the executive and
legislative branches might not be as strident in another few years.
4. Possible constitutional challenge of
Governor's un-allotment actions--At this point the group
wondered whether a constitutional challenge might be brought against the
Governor's use of un-allotment to balance the budget.
outcome might be that the Legislature would propose a constitutional
amendment to voters (an action that can occur without approval by the
Governor) allowing the Legislature to call itself into session.
5. Growing trend toward more extremist
positions and single-issue voting--A member suggested that the
current structure for endorsement, nomination, and election doesn't seem
to be fair to individuals at all points on the political spectrum. A more
favored position today seems to be on either extreme. Thus, consensus is
more difficult to realize.
6. Developments since last strategic plan was
adopted in November 2007--Referring to the working memo
prepared for the meeting, several developments since our last strategic
plan was adopted were highlighted:
--Our process continues to work very well and,
based on our surveys of participants, clearly valued by them. Key parts
of the process:
(a) identifying key issues,
(b) selecting informed individuals to
(c) conducting sharply focused
interviews with these individuals,
(d) respecting the importance of
circulating individuals' viewpoints accurately,
(e) guaranteeing that a wide variety
of viewpoints are covered,
(f) preparing summaries of these
interviews, organized for fast, focused reading,
(g) making sure all interviewees can
make corrections before summaries are circulated
(h) circulating summaries via the
(i) inviting responses to specific
questions about the summaries,
(j) assembling and distributing these
responses for everyone's benefit, and
(k) permanently placing these
summaries on our website for ready access by anyone.
--In total more than 150 interviews have been
conducted, almost one a week.
--Early in 2008 we significantly expanded our
system of receiving input, by seeking responses to specific questions, in
addition to inviting general comments. All responses are tabulated and
reported on our website. We consistently receive six or more pages of
comments each week.
--Since November 2007 we have issued several
position papers: redistricting, judicial selection, constitutional
amendments, and transportation, all dealing with structure and process.
However, we've had very little publicity and impact because of these
--We've almost doubled our number of participants,
from 600 to more than 1,100.
--Our website was set up in January 2008, http://civiccaucus.org,
and contains all interviews (organized by interviewee and by subject
matter) , all comments, tabulation of all questions, all position papers,
and information about the Civic Caucus. We've experienced steady growth
website users, but we still average only about 300 different individuals
turning to the website at least once a month.
--We've added several persons to the Civic Caucus
core: David Broden, Jan Hively, Dan Loritz, Marina Lyon, Joe Mansky, and
Tim McDonald. Marianne Curry was added, and still is active in our
strategic planning, but job pressures have precluded her remaining an
official member of the core.
--We've continued our close relationship with the
Citizens League. Leaders of the two organizations meet periodically to
discuss common interests. The executive director of the Citizens League is
treated as a core participant, receiving all materials.
7. Remaining agenda items--We
highlighted other areas where changes have yet to be made:
--Consider whether a special role might be
developed for the most respected civic and governmental leaders in
past and present.
--Raise additional funds.
--Consider a significant expansion of the Civic
Caucus' ability to gather, organize and disseminate information.
--Broaden the understanding of the Civic
Caucus as a prototype by inviting a foundation to take on a task of
financing and writing a manual on the Civic Caucus thereby making details
of our process accessible to any organization anywhere.
--Evaluate a succession plan for Civic Caucus
leadership, including the question of whether the Civic Caucus should be
absorbed by another organization or continue its independent existence.
8. Transportation report still timely--Our
call for a comprehensive transportation budget, operating and capital,
combining rail, bus, and roads, is still timely, it was noted. It is
possible that such a proposal will be considered by the Legislature in
2010. As a non-profit, 501(c)3 organization, the Civic Caucus doesn't
engage in lobbying, so much follow-up would need to be carried out by
help a great deal, a member said, if recognized veteran political and
governmental leaders from both major parties would take leadership on
implementation, a member suggested. Another member noted that many such
individuals signed on in support of our transport report.
9. Whether the Civic Caucus process might serve
as a model for others--The Civic Caucus is undertaking several
steps that aren't widely used by others and might be most beneficial, a
member suggested. For example, participants don't need to attend
meetings, other than those few who conduct our interviews. We invite a
wide assortment of points of view. We encourage readership by inviting
participants to respond to questions each week and by summary headlines at
the beginning of a set of paragraphs. We circulate responses widely.
When we take positions, we invite suggestions from participants and,
ultimately, invite them to sign on in support. All business is conducted
by email, and all materials are placed on our website.
10. Relating the work of the Civic Caucus to an
improved communications environment in
group discussed first the uncertain future faced by traditional news
media, a topic that the Civic Caucus probably will address in future
meetings. A member noted that today's StarTribune contains an article on
possible changes in law and regulation that might be necessary for major
newspapers to survive.
went on to discuss a small, but possibly pioneering, role that the Civic
Caucus itself is playing in a vastly larger environment of gathering,
organizing, distributing and responding to public affairs information.
The Civic Caucus makes not attempt to cover news. Very selectively the
Caucus promotes intelligent interchange of ideas in the structures and
process of state and local government. With our own limitations of time
and resources we are able to deal with only a very few select issues. And
we are able to distribute our information only to a small segment of the
potential public affairs audience in the state. It was suggested that
perhaps some organization might see an opportunity to apply the Civic
Caucus approach across a whole spectrum of issues to a vastly larger
audience. The Civic Caucus conceivably could be melded into such an
11. Possible input from the Citizens League--As
the Civic Caucus looks at its strategic plan this summer, it would be very
helpful, members suggested, if we could invite Sean Kershaw of the
Citizens League to meet with us.
Discussion of other matters--The group briefly discussed several other
1. Approval of bill for new schools within school districts--Members
noted that the Legislature approved, and the Governor signed, a bill that
allows school districts to establish their own charter-type schools, if
approved by the School Board and teachers. This little-noticed law could
have far reaching implications for stimulating innovation that would occur
within the framework of existing school districts.
2. New candidates for the Civic Caucus Board of
Directors--The Civic Caucus functions mainly informally through
its weekly meetings of what is known as the "Civic Caucus core". To
fulfill technical legal requirements, the Civic Caucus has an official
five-person Board of Directors for conducting business as legally
required. The Board meets very infrequently and only for a short time.
The Board has included Verne Johnson, chair; Charles Clay (now deceased)
Jim Hetland, John Mooty, and Jim Olson.
that Jim Olson is retiring from the Board, although he will remain a
member of the Civic Caucus core.
is being proposed to replace Charles Clay, and serve as
secretary-treasurer of the board. Dan Loritz is being proposed to
replace Jim Olson. Other board members are proposed for re-election.
Caucus Board will hold its annual business meeting on Friday, June 12,
immediately preceding or following the regular meeting of the Civic Caucus