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Ned Crosby and John Hottinger
– Minnesota Citizens’ Assembly
Civic Caucus, 8301
Creekside Circle #920, Bloomington, MN 55437
December 10, 2010
(Chair); David Broden, Janis Clay (phone), Paul Gilje, Christina
Gillette (Jefferson Center), Jim Hetland (phone), Scott Hvizdos (Jefferson
McDonald, Arason Parkman (Jefferson
Center), Wayne Popham (phone), Clarence Shallbetter, Bob White
Summary of Crosby and Hottinger comments:
Ned Crosby and John Hottinger propose a new citizen based organization be
created to help address Minnesota's structural problems with its state
budget. Crosby and Hottinger propose a randomly-selected, 1,000-person
Minnesota Citizens Assembly, carefully selected by age, education, gender,
geographic location, race and political attitudes. A citizens "jury" would
be selected from this pool to hold hearings, highlight budgetary issues
and propose solutions to the Governor, the Legislature, the Citizens
Assembly and to people throughout the state. Large financial contributions
would be sought for a statewide communications effort.
A. Welcome and
has pursued a career in public affairs, concentrating on democratic
reforms. He received a Ph.D. in political science from the University of
in 1973. In the process of writing his thesis, he invented the Citizens
Jury process, and in 1974 he founded the
Jefferson Center to research new
Crosby helped to create Operation De Novo
in Minneapolis, was president of the board of the Minneapolis Legal
Services in the early 1970s, was chair of the Carolyn Foundation in the
late 1990s and has worked on human rights issues in Africa and Central
America. He has worked both in civic affairs in Minnesota and with
organizations serving in the third world. He taught high school classes
in the early 1970s, a year at Augsburg College, a semester at Yale in 1994
and a graduate seminar at the University of
On August 1, 2010 Crosby delivered the
keynote address "Direct Democracy - and Authentic Voice of the People" at
the Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy in San Francisco.
is president of Hottinger Consulting LLC. An attorney and former state
senator in Minnesota, he served as assistant majority and majority leader,
and chaired health and human resources and early childhood subcommittees.
He is a former officer and chair of the Council of State Government.
Hottinger is the Chair of the Executive Committee of the Northstar Chapter
(Minnesota) of the Sierra Club and works with a number of other nonprofits
involved in poverty reduction, early childhood education and government
reform. In 2011 he will open a firm to provide mediation, arbitration and
policy development services.
B. Comments and discussion-During
Crosby and Hottinger's visit with the Civic Caucus, the following points
Dealing effectively with
long-term budget crisis
Crosby opened by highlighting the
importance of resolving Minnesota's long-term budget crisis. The Jefferson
Center believes there will not be a sound solution to the budget unless
there is an informed will of the people to back up any decisions made. "We
believe our Minnesota Citizens Assembly is the best way to do this. Too
much attention has been paid to suggestions about how to change the budget
itself and not enough to how to develop strong public support to back the
legislature in making the tough choices needed."
It will be increasingly difficult for a
majority of voters to understand the budget context. There have been
short-term solutions for decades, Hottinger said, "and I'm as guilty of
this approach as others."
A participant asked how to promote
long-term solutions. Hottinger observed that there are many groups out
there doing coordination and communications efforts with the public but it
has usually been the same group of people that show up.
Components of the Minnesota Citizens
The Minnesota Citizens Assembly (MnCA) is
a major new method designed to create an informed political will. Built
upon the model of the Citizens Jury process (invented in Minnesota and now
used around the world) and the Citizens' Assembly, introduced in
in 2004, the MnCA aims to build strong support among a majority of
Minnesota voters for major policy initiatives.
What makes the MnCA different is a very
large public relations budget to insure that the work done by a core group
of citizens is understood by the broader public.
The main steps of the MnCA are:
Gather a "jury pool" by randomly
selecting about 1,000 people, stratified to be a microcosm of Minnesota
in terms of age, education, gender, geographic location, race and
From this jury pool, select a core group
of 50 to 75 people who will attend hearings to look closely at the key
decisions needed in order to deal effectively with Minnesota's long-term
budget crisis. They will be paid $150 a day for their services to
insure that those accepting are not simply students, the retired and the
This core group will meet on three-day
weekends, with three or four weeks between each meeting. They will hear
from a variety of experts on key aspects of the programs such as health
care and education that make up the major part of Minnesota's budget.
Such hearings may take place over the better part of a year.
After each meeting there will be a major
public relations effort, using earned media, social networking and paid
TV ads to inform the rest of the state. Something like $500,000 should
be spent after each meeting on this effort.
As the project advances, the Legislature
will be asked to follow the same steps as the MnCA in dealing with
long-term budget problems.
The Legislature will be willing to
adopt this new approach only if a majority of the public clearly wants
A major political action committee
must be held in reserve to encourage legislative participation.
The MnCA can inform the Minnesota
The Jefferson Center, Hottinger said, is
devoted to advancing the informed will of the people. To resolve the
budget problems tough choices must be made. We are seeing this now with
Obama's compromise with the Congress on tax cuts. The goal is to find a
way to get a new understanding-core public support-of necessary actions
that is broad enough to 'give cover' to legislators. "The public doesn't
trust the media anymore and doesn't trust politicians anymore-but they may
pay attention to their peers."
Crosby pointed out, "After World War II,
Churchill always said that things were done too little, too late. We want
to avoid that. This is about citizen involvement and the understanding
that we cannot just push more and more money into the government to solve
all our problems,"
In the days of Minnesota as a 'state that
worked,' the voters could and would speak directly to the legislature.
More and more interest groups are participating now, making that more
difficult. To streamline that direct communication, the Citizens Assembly
would be created to represent a microcosm of the public, a 50- to
75-person sample selected from a larger pool of 1,000.
Aspects of the Citizens Jury model have
been used before
The Citizens Jury process has been used
over 30 times in the United States, most recently during the summer of
2009 in Minnesota, when Rep. Laura Brod and Secretary of State Mark
Ritchie sponsored a project on election recounts. The process has been
used over 300 times in Britain since 1996 and is now used in Australia.
Crosby conducted a demonstration of the Citizens Jury in 2005 at a
conference in Perth,
Australia, where it was voted the most effective deliberative method for
dealing with a variety of issues.
In 2009 the Oregon legislature passed a
bill authorizing up to three projects, modeled on the Citizens Jury
process, to evaluate Oregon ballot initiatives in November 2010. Two
projects were conducted in August 2010, and the results of each were
placed in the official voters' pamphlet sent out to all voters by the
Oregon Secretary of State.
In 1993 a Citizens Jury addressed the
Minnesota budget. Conducted in cooperation with Tom Stinson, the jury
exhibited quite extraordinary diversity, with Vin Weber bringing in
conservative witnesses and someone from the liberal side introducing
opposing ideas. "We assumed some of the folks around the table would
never interact," but they ended up having wonderful conversations. "It was
only on the fourth day that they really began to trust that we weren't
running some game on them." On the fifth day they voted overwhelmingly for
a tax hike to resolve the budget problem.
It was a bit too idealistic-not practical.
"That is why we need to have the 'outer' groups-to tone them down if they
get too extreme."
Hottinger described directing a citizens'
jury two years ago on election reform. The citizens' recommendations
included some things that were ultimately vetoed by the governor. Many of
the recommendations coming forth this year were developed by a citizens'
jury, but our speakers are not certain how direct the jury's impact was.
Beginning the process
A participant asked the speakers what is
stopping them from running the process now?
Crosby replied that this is going to cost as much as a major new public
building. "The first step with raising the money will be to have the
policy community on board. At that point we need to get the civic leaders
and philanthropists to recognize this 'in their head and their hearts.'"
The speakers noted that the 1,000-person
jury pool must be constantly renewed, and a political action committee
A member asked how they plan to publicize
replied, "We are still in the planning stages, butin the past we have gone
around the state using different methods. We will need to use a very
sophisticated strategy to maximize presence in the social, earned and
Having influence at the Legislature
In the meantime, interest groups will
continue to be active, a participant observed-they will continue to press
their agendas. Another asked the speakers how would they see the MnCA
having a comparable effect at the Legislature.
Hottinger replied he thinks it will take a
concerted effort of public outreach during the conduct of the MnCA. In the
rural areas the lobbyists have already formed outposts. "But the PAC will
need to act like a PAC. There is no mistake about that."
The speakers have a sense of urgency given
the seriousness of the state's situation and are concerned that we are
reaching a tipping point. However, The Jefferson Center has been at this
for 30 years, so they have a viable process already developed.
Crosby and Hottinger are aware that it
will be a significant challenge to raise funds for this effort. They
point out, however, that capital campaigns of $50 million or more are
common in Minnesota. Their challenge to Minnesota's civic leaders is:
What is more important to the
future of Minnesota than dealing effectively with our long-term budget
Can you think of any better way to
mobilize an informed political will to support the tough choices that the
legislature needs to make?
If a better method exists, use it.
If the MnCA proves to stand the best chance of creating the informed
political will needed, then fund it at the level of $20 to $30 million.
What makes the MnCA unique?
"It is not a town hall meeting," Hottinger
said. "I gave up on those as a legislator because they were futile
exercises. The same people would show up all the time, often recruited by
activists. It rarely reflected the views of the bulk of the community.
"This process is scientific: We assemble a
jury list of up to 1,000, weight it well, based upon a variety of factors,
and then select a citizen jury from that list. We're very proud of this.
People who have been skeptical at first have watched us operate the
selection process, and have become very convinced" of its quality.
Term limits affect institutional memory
A participant asked the speakers how they
feel about term limits and career legislators.
Hottinger replied that what seems to occur
when there are term limits is that you lose institutional memory, and thus
increase the power of lobbyists and staff. "I don't think (term limits)
play a significant role" at improving governance," he said.
The next step will be to gather an
advisory council in Minnesota to help building this effort. As the Gold
Medal Flour Company would say-you'll try their flour eventually, why not
now? So: "Why not now?"