The Civic Caucus should
include an examination of Minnesota's civic process in its upcoming
On September 11, 2015, the Civic Caucus held an
internal discussion on
the current quality of Minnesota's civic process and the role of the
Caucus in that process. Based on that discussion, Civic Caucus
Executive Director Paul Gilje proposed in a follow-up session that the
group focus its upcoming interviews on two areas:
1. An analysis of the
comparative advantage of Minnesota's civic process now and in the
exploration of the human talent issue in Minnesota.
said, Minnesota has had a competitive advantage in public policy,
because it has been able to produce better vision and better public
action than other states. People have different feelings about how
that process is working today. "Where are the strengths and weaknesses
in the state's civic process today?" he asked.
Gilje said that he and
Civic Caucus Chair Dan Loritz suggest that the Caucus have detailed
interviews in coming weeks regarding the advantage Minnesota might
have had in public policy and whether that still exists today.
Possible interviewees could include business leaders, elected
officials looking for good policy ideas, leaders of organizations
involved in public policy, media representatives, editorial writers
The second part of the
suggestion, Gilje said, is that the Caucus not ignore its continuing
focus on human capital in Minnesota.
He believes the Caucus
shouldn't just abandon the topic of human capital, after spending so
much time examining it. But he suggested the group might want to be
thinking about what a wrap-up of the topic might involve. He noted
that several interviews on human capital are already on the schedule
in upcoming weeks. He said he and Loritz would like the flexibility to
be able to mix in interviews on the two topics on the upcoming meeting
Gilje noted that the
Caucus has already issued two statements on the topic:
one in September 2014
laying out the human-capital challenges facing the state today and in
coming years and
a follow-up paper in January 2015
offering recommendations for maintaining a high-quality workforce in
An interviewer commented
that addressing the issue of human capital should also include
tackling the problems of African American poverty in Minnesota and of
the "horrendous" learning gap in the state's schools for students of
commented that in our exploration of human capital and human talent,
we haven't looked enough at the question of economic growth. We don't
know yet what the jobs of the future are for which people must be
trained, he said.
Exploring the state of
Minnesota's civic life involves looking at two questions: (1) How did
we get to where we are today? (2) What can we do to move forward from
interviewer stated that there are three parts to answering the first
1. Minnesota inherited a
business culture from New England, "Yankee-dom," from those who
settled here early on and started businesses. They had certain ideas
about business and civic life. Business leaders and civic leaders were
the same people. The area also had a very communitarian
outlook. Middle-of-the-roaders dominated business life in Minnesota
until very recently.
2. The state lacked
cultural challenges in its business and community life. This was a
homogeneous area, mostly northern Europeans, and people behaved with
each other as if they were all part of the same majority culture.
3. There were successful
local companies, partly because Minnesota is located on the edge of
the northeastern manufacturing belt. There's little competition
between here and the West Coast, so there were no serious competitors
for lumber businesses, grain processing and milling businesses, and
manufacturing businesses based on agriculture. "Wealth piled up here,"
the interviewer said. "We did business out to western Montana without
The people who founded
the Citizens League were all drawn from those traditions, the
interviewer continued. "Those three things made the difference." But,
he said, those three things started to dissipate in the 1960s. The
area's population began to diversify, the Yankee-dom culture began to
dissipate and the national economy became internationalized, meaning
every metro area began competing with the world.
The interviewer said we
must acknowledge "that it ain't what it used to be."
The Civic Caucus is a
learning organization that shares its findings, not a teaching
Gilje said the area has
a system of civic life and the Caucus needs to learn more about how
that system is working and share those findings. The group must decide
whom to interview to learn more about that system. And, he added,
there is still more we need to know about the human capital topic.
He and Loritz are
proposing that the Caucus look both at the civic system and at human
capital. "I'm not sure we'll be transitioning from human capital to
looking at the civic system," Gilje said. "Looking at the civic system
is not the same as exploring the human capital topic. I think we'll
transition from human capital to something else we haven't determined
Another interviewer said
the Caucus must look at what the state's public-policy mechanism
should be today and in the future, especially in a time when people
aren't inclined to join groups.
The area must restore
its historic comparative advantage in collective action.
Loritz read the last
paragraph from a speech entitled "Cold Sunbelt" that Civic Caucus
member and former Citizens League executive director Ted Kolderie gave
to the Skylight Club in January 2006:
"It is no way ordained
that the 15th-largest metropolitan area be located where the Minnesota
River flows into the Mississippi. If we are to succeed, we will have
to work to maintain those elements of 'livability' that attract people
to come here and to stay here. And to do that, we will have to restore
our historic comparative advantage in collective action. This is
created by community institutions that can see ahead, that know how to
get to the causes of things, that can explain to the public the
choices it faces and that can act with vision and with courage. And we
will have to do this in a metropolitan region and in a time
dramatically different from the one that existed here from 1938 to
Loritz said that when he
worked in government, there were a number of policy proposals put
forward by organizations. "We had ideas to look at." When he worked
for Gov. Rudy Perpich, Loritz said, the governor prodded his staff to
find ideas and proposals. "How does government get proposals now?'"
An interviewer commented
that in trying to find entities that propose good ideas, the Caucus
must learn how the public sector has also changed in the last 50
years. Today, lots of people get together to make their pitch to
government bodies, he said. "And a lot of this energy is driven to the
federal government these days. The number of lobbyists has grown
exponentially in Washington. People believe Washington is the place
where things happen in terms of policy."
"There are a lot of
groups and organizations, all of which are making proposals," he
continued. "I don't think the Legislature or the mayor or the city
council are lacking in proposals, petitions, draft legislation; they
get it all."
disagreed. She said most advocacy groups and lobbyists today are
acting defensively. "They want to stop things from happening and to
stop any cuts in spending to their area. The lobbyists are not
bringing in thoughtful, new, creative proposals."
"Can't somebody do
that?" asked Loritz. "Ultimately, do we have any mechanism left to
deal with the most difficult issues we face? We must maintain or
rebuild our historic comparative advantage. Can we do that?"
Gilje suggested that the
Caucus note that the area once had a comparative advantage in
collective action and then ask, "Do we still have that comparative
An interviewer asked how
the Civic Caucus could influence other civic organizations and
potentially affiliate with them.