A Civic Caucus Discussion:
Unified strategy needed for action on redesign proposals
2104 Girard Ave.S.,
Minneapolis, MN 55405
October 19, 2012
Notes of the Discussion
Verne Johnson, chair; David Broden, Audrey
Clay, Janis Clay, Pat Davies (phone), Rick Dornfeld, Paul Gilje, Sallie
Kemper, Dan Loritz, vice chair; Tim McDonald (phone), Jim Olson (phone),
Wayne Popham (phone), John Rollwagen (phone), Dana Schroeder, and Clarence
The reason for today's meeting:
Today's internal discussion was prompted by
the need for the Governor and Legislature to take creative action in 2013
on issues vital to the future of the state.
Summary of Discussion:
Positive action on redesign proposals will be
vastly enhanced if non-governmental organizations of varied persuasions
demonstrate unified agreement on a limited number of issues. We believe
the informal Discussion Group on Redesign (DGR), which includes
representatives from a broad spectrum of organizations and which
explicitly concentrates on innovation, is the logical body to (1) assemble
a list of existing redesign ideas, (2) rate their level of consensus, (3)
select a manageable number of those ideas and (4) enlist the aid of the
groups who proposed the selected ideas in coalescing support around those
ideas and developing proposed legislation to implement them.
Traditional ways of solving public problems by
either (a) increasing taxes or (b) cutting services are not sufficient.
Minnesotans face tight state
budget conditions for the foreseeable future, based on economists' and
demographers' projections, irrespective of political control of the
Governor and Legislature.Moreover, the public's call for greater quality
in education, health care, human services, transportation and other public
services is growing.
Early projections of the state's budget for the
biennium beginning July 1, 2013, reveal a shortfall of a minimum of $1
billion, to over $4 billion.
Traditional approaches to close a budget gap by
tax increases and/or cuts in spending won't be adequate for the task of
bringing revenues and expenditures into line. And doubtless such solutions
don't address the problem of quality.
Services must be redesigned to maintain and
improve quality in light of perennial budget constraints.
essential part of redesign, according to Ted Kolderie, is to create
incentives that cause operating organizations to look for efficiency gains
and quality improvements on their own initiative, in their own interest
and from their own resources.
The Civic Caucus outlined the importance of
redesign in its report, "Different Choices: Redesigning Public Services",
. During the meeting the
following points were raised:
A pessimistic outlook was expressed by many
A member observed thatinterviewees in Civic Caucus meetings have doubted
that fundamental changes would be possible in 2013 because of strongly
opposing, intransigent, views of legislators and of interest groups.
More potential consensus might be present than
. Meanwhile, this member said, many organizations in
the state seem comparatively close in their assessment of the problems
facing the state. However, they don't seem to be talking with one another
and, therefore, are missing an opportunity to capitalize on the degree of
agreement that already is present. Differences are inevitable, the member
said, but those differences shouldn't overshadow the specific, perhaps
narrower, areas where consensus exists.
Another member cited conversation just the other
day with a member of the news media. The two of them agreed that
significant redesign-improving services with very limited finances-is
essential in the big-spending areas of health and human services,
education, and transportation. The two also agreed that electoral reform
is essential-changing the system by which candidates for elective office
are endorsed, nominated and elected.
It is absolutely necessary for proposals to be
. Some persons reminded the group that much of the
reason for inaction rests upon the non-governmental sector for failure to
present specific, actionable proposals, not just because of highly
politically partisan differences among legislators. Legislators always are
looking for ideas that are "bill-ready", that is, the advocates have
specified all aspects of their proposals so details can be immediately
handed to a person to draft a specific bill.
Leadership could be provided by an
inter-organization group already in existence
suggested that a lead role in this effort could be taken by the Discussion
Group on Redesign(DGR). DGR has met since December 2009, with no website,
no minutes, no officers, no budget, but only some 30 individuals who meet
one evening a month to compare notes on their respective organizations'
activities. The DGR includes a wide assortment of groups across political,
economic, and social spectrums.
The DGR was created in the wake of a 2009 report
by Minnesota foundations titled Minnesota's Bottom Line (
The DGR has issued one public statement, a
letter to the Governor and Legislature in 2011, expressing support for
specific redesign initiatives in health, human services, and education.
Current leadership recognizes the importance of
. Members noted that the
Governor has promised to work with the Legislature in establishing a
Minnesota health exchange. A significant redesign concept-helping base
choice of health care providers on cost and quality-is under serious
It is vitally important for realizing change to
involve redesign, not just cut services or raise taxes
. It is
more likely real change will occur based on initiatives that originate in
the non-governmental sector, a member said. But proposals cannot be just
vague expressions of hope, another member said. Proposals must be specific
and address details that require in-depth understanding of the issue or
Is the non-governmental sector today failing to
initiate detailed proposals for change as compared to 20-40 years ago?
Some persons wondered whether less innovation is evident today because
non-governmental organizations are not coming forth with creative
proposals, as was the case in the past. If that is true, a member said,
the reason for the state's failure to come to grips with critical
long-term problems might be more a fault of the non-governmental sector
than of the Governor and Legislature.
Members noted that former Governor Elmer L.
Andersen is quoted in the above-mentioned Civic Caucus report, "Different
Choices", responding to a question about who would be a good governor:
"I don't think that's very important right
now.When the public is clear about what it wants, elected officials are
important. They get it done. But in a time like this, when the answers are
not clear, politicians hesitate. The leaders are those who generate the
Identify sub-components of major issues where
consensus appears possible.
Do important sub-components in
contentious areas such as education and health care lend themselves to
consensus among individuals and groups who otherwise see themselves at
loggerheads, a member inquired? If so, concentrating first on areas of
potential agreement might substantially improve prospects for action by
the Governor and Legislature in 2013. Several persons replied that, yes,
it should be possible to identify such components, and that the work of
the above-mentioned DGR is a good example.
Past calls for redesign are recalled
Illustrating that past Minnesota leaders have recognized the importance of
redesign, a member recalled a statement some 30 years ago by then-Governor
"The leadership of Minnesota must and will find
new solutions to public problems, and expanded alternatives to the
strategies of cut and tax. Long-term solutions involve raising revenues
through expanded economic activity, and redesigning government. We need to
reconsider and restructure the way we provide state services. The answers
will not come easily. But if we bring our will and wit to bear on the
problem, solutions will come from the informed pragmatism of many
Minnesotans determined to create new alternatives."
Clear expressions of the problem to be solved
. It's one thing to present a new idea, with
details, but it is quite another to be very explicit about the problem to
be solved, a member said. Thus, the member suggested, that proposals are
much more likely to succeed when accompanied by a clear description of
what the problem is and how it will be resolved. That comment prompted
memory of a quote attributed to now-deceased David Graven, when asked to
evaluate a new idea: "If that is the answer, what is the question?"
Encourage the Discussion Group on Redesign (DGR)
to take the lead in promoting selective proposals for redesign.
Given the DGR's previous work-along with its success in bringing together
groups with supposedly different outlooks and agendas-members suggested
that the DGR is a good place to start. The DGR is the logical body to (1)
assemble a list of existing redesign ideas, (2) rate their level of
consensus, (3) select a manageable handful of those ideas and (4) enlist
the aid of the groups who proposed them in coalescing support around them
and developing proposed legislation to implement them.
Much more must occur than simply identifying
proposals with consensus.
Obviously, such statements of agreement
as the DGR could initiate offer no guarantee of success, given its
experience with its own proposals in 2011, members noted. An individual
organization already strongly advocating for a given change could
highlight DGR support. Members of the mass media will likely cover DGR
recommendations. A few media representatives already are showing great
interest. One possibility is that the DGR might give wide circulation to a
report prior to approval, possibly inviting signatures of support.
The Civic Caucus can continue to play its role
by interviewing persons about the DGR report circulating information about
those interviews among 3,500 participants, inviting their response. The
Civic Caucus also could invite its participants for signatures of support.
New ideas, even those that seem most laudable,
inevitably encounter opposition
. We shouldn't kid ourselves about
the difficulties to be encountered, a member said. This member noted that
high-power, bi-partisan support has been present for the last two or three
legislative sessions for vastly expanding opportunities for early
childhood education, which clearly represents a program of redesign.
Nevertheless, little action has occurred to date.
The Civic Caucus
is a non-partisan,
tax-exempt educational organization. The Core participants
include persons of varying political persuasions, reflecting years of leadership in politics and
business. Click here
to see a short personal background of each.
Verne C. Johnson, chair; David Broden,
Paul Gilje, Jim Hetland, Marina Lyon,
Joe Mansky, John Mooty, Jim Olson,
and Wayne Popham