here for PDF format
here for participants' responses to this interview.
of Discussion with Lori Sturdevant
Civic Caucus, 8301
Creekside Circle, Bloomington, MN 55437
Friday, June 5,
Dan Loritz (Chair); David Broden, Marianne Curry, Paul Gilje, Jan Hively
(phone), Verne Johnson (phone), Tim McDonald, John Mooty, Wayne Popham
(phone), Chuck Slocum
Context of the meeting—This
summer the Civic Caucus will begin a process of planning for its future,
discussing the condition of Minnesota and the state’s future concurrently
with what role the Civic Caucus might play. Today’s guest, Star Tribune
columnist Lori Sturdevant, has been invited to share her thoughts on the
future of Minnesota: its challenges and opportunities.
Welcome and introductions--Lori Sturdevant,
editorial writer and columnist, with the Star Tribune, was born in South
Dakota and has spent most of her life in Minnesota and with the Star
Tribune. She is widely respected for her objective reporting on politics
and public affairs. She also has edited two biographies, on Elmer L.
Andersen and W. Harry Davis. She currently is working on a history of the
Pillsbury families in Minnesota, from 1855 to the present. “The
capitalists that came from New England and built this state were in
pursuit of money, but that was a means to an end. They were also
politically and socially-minded,” Sturdevant said of the Pillsbury book.
Comments and discussion—During
comments by Sturdevant and in discussion with the Civic Caucus, the
following points were raised:
1. "Bullish on Minnesota"--“Coming
from the Dakotas, (Former Governor) Elmer Andersen was an adult convert to
Minnesota, and so am I.” Sturdevant proclaimed herself an optimist by
nature, and “bullish on Minnesota.”
A running thought of
hers for a decade now, she said, has been this: Can a state that was
reliant on natural resources at its founding, and human capital in recent
years, still compete? Our position as an exceptional state is sliding.
Yes, she determines, but not without renewed vision and energy.
2. Changing demographics--The
population is aging, with a large and well-educated work force being
replaced by a group that is smaller and less-educated, with a larger
proportion of minorities that are not doing well in school.
An aging population is
a benefit, she said. We need to tap the human capital of retiring adults
for purposes of volunteering. And it's not good enough for us to say,
‘Just read a book to a child’…we now know there is a right way to
read a book to a child, so that it has the best results. There should be
sound programs of training for volunteers, too.
3. Federal government to solve health care
expense problem?--The rising
costs of health care are pressing the budgets of business, and the state.
It looks like the federal government may solve the problem, Sturdevant
said. “The Reagan notion that government is the problem, not the solution,
4. Governor’s race providing rare opportunity
for a 2009-2010 on state issues--This
week Governor Pawlenty announced he would not be seeking a third term,
opening the Republican field to a rapidly-expanding list of possible
“This will be the
first time,” Sturdevant observed, “since 1914 that we have had a
governor’s race stand on its own; without a U. S. Senate race, without a
Presidential race, and without an incumbent Governor.” It provides a
remarkable opportunity for Minnesotans to focus on the position of the
state, and to think on competing messages for its future. Again she
emphasized: “We need to get past the notion that government is the
problem, and get good, efficient government.”
As an “insider,” a
member asked; as someone who has followed politics at the capitol for many
years, what qualities do you look for in a governor?
The guest responded
that she seeks a visionary who can speak to the people of Minnesota
frankly about the state’s challenges, and then be flexible about tactics
to go about addressing them. Governor Pawlenty has taken no-taxes to the
level a holy principle, which, she said, is not good for the state.
5. Media role diminishing in campaigns--A
question: What is the role of the media in describing qualities in a
candidate? Media are changing, Sturdevant said, and their role is
diminishing. Leaders now more than ever need to be their own
communicators. Social media will be important; having a social network.
How would you design a campaign? Like Obama did, she said, with heavy
emphasis on the Internet. How do you communicate challenging ideas
through social media, which has at its essence short bursts of
communication? Repetition, iteration, and constant communication, she
6. Urgency of adding jobs to the state's
economy--On the economy, a
member noted that the coming budget gap in 2011 is estimated at $6.5
billion, up about $2 billion from this biennium. Cutting and taxing will
not be enough. How badly do we need to add more jobs to the state, to
We have to
be picking up job growth, Sturdevant insisted. Minnesota has always been
sluggish here, though she noted that while other states were roaring with
the housing bubble Minnesota held back—and our unemployment crash has been
less severe. But we need more jobs.
Governor Perpich we had one model of an activist-governor with a bag of
tricks that he used to attract employers. Under the current administration
things are too laissez-fair. We need probably to have something
somewhere in the middle.
7. Importance of bio-tech developments--“The
bio-tech investments at the University of Minnesota will be remembered as
the greatest thing of this decade,” Sturdevant said. The Governor’s
unallotment may put pressure on the project. With higher education one of
the Governor’s target areas to balance the budget, it could be difficult
to provide funding for the project. It was suggested the Civic Caucus
might plan a session specifically on the bio-tech development
8. Decline of corporate leadership--A
member asked about the decline of corporate leadership in the civic
affairs of the state, from the encouragement of employee volunteerism to
sitting on boards and donating money.
to be very local, Sturdevant observed, but now are essentially franchises.
But the problem is not insurmountable. We still have institutions:
foundations, universities, faith-based organizations. What used to be done
in a room at the Minneapolis Club is now done more democratically, and
that’s a good thing.
We have a
marketing problem, a member said; we are apologetic more than we are
leading. “That’s our culture,” Sturdevant agreed.
9, Need for widespread use of volunteers--It’s
not only about money, said a member, but about people-power. Of the 1
million kids in the state 400,000 don’t have someone looking out for their
development in the way they need to become successful. We have many times
that number in retirees. A $35 billion state budget can't solve all
problems, Sturdevant asserted. A caucus member suggested an idea for the
new Governor might be an office of volunteerism/mentorship. Another
member said that some governmental units in Minnesota have not welcomed
10. Broader political participation needed to
address extreme partisanship?--A
member asked how Sturdevant feels about the extreme partisanship in the
state. Does she have a theory as to the cause, or how to change it? Is it
the caucus system for endorsing candidates?
There is a lot that
can be done with what we have got, she replied. Caucuses, for example,
need broader participation. She would like to see the changes suggested by
the Growe Commission, 1995, http://archive.leg.state.mn.us/docs/2005/other/050564.pdf,
but doesn’t think that will happen. “We need to swamp caucuses with
“It is tempting to
paint Republicans and Democrats with a broad brush,” Sturdevent warned,
“but Democrats have come a long way. They have evolved because they want
to win. Democrats can put forth a moderate candidate; not so sure about
11. Future of Ranked Choice Voting(Instant
Runoff Voting)--What does the
guest think about Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) ? We have—the Star Tribune
has—wanted to see a test of IRV, she said. This is a difficult election to
do so, with the Parks Board in Minneapolis uniquely challenging to execute
with an instant runoff process.
12. Role of the Civic Caucus?--In
closing, a member asked Sturdevant to lend her wisdom, briefly, to the
role of the Civic Caucus going forward. “I would encourage the Civic
Caucus to speak out more. You are the Citizens League of the earlier
generation,” both literally (in the core group), and through its
processes. “You are still pitching ideas, which is very important. Do more
idea-generating, and advertise that you do this…Serious people take the
Civic Caucus seriously.”
behalf of the Civic Caucus, Loritz and others thanked Sturdevant for
meeting with us today.