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 Response Page - Mary Brainerd  Interview -      

These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Mary Brainerd Interview of

The Questions:

1.  __Average response 8.0____On a scale of (1) strongly disagree, (5) neutral, to (10) strongly agree, does the governance structure of a large struggling school district like Minneapolis need to change in order for it to make significant improvement? 

2.  __Average response 5.0______On a scale of (1) strongly disagree, (5) neutral, to (10) strongly agree, would you be willing to slow down the health care reform in Washington to ensure local exceptionalities in practice are accounted for, and protected?

3,  __Average response 6.6_____On a scale of (1) strongly disagree, (5) neutral, to (10) strongly agree, should a group of business leaders like Itasca be a principal champion for reforms in public affairs?

Vici Oshiro (5) (1) (10)

Question 1: Perhaps. But please don't extrapolate Minneapolis experience to other districts. Minneapolis has some constraints that other districts do not have e.g., the much-blamed "bumping" system. Even St. Paul has modified that. 

Question 2: We don't need to slow down to get it right. Both problems and possibilities are very well understood although some refuse to acknowledge this. Delay is not caused by lack of knowledge but by the need to negotiate. 

Question 3: Their contributions have been very valuable. More people, especially governors and legislators, need to pay attention to their recommendations. But not only officials because those elected need to feel they have the support of their constituents.

Dave Durenberger (10) (10) (5)

Question 1: Governance is THE problem - in corporations of all kinds and in public institutions...laugh, but too many institutions are being "run by the inmates." When Larry Jacobs took over UMN's H3 public affairs I suggested he make this a H3 focus. Instead he's focusing on Larry and building audience. Elections no longer assure us representative democracy. Health Partners is a co-op and I think it shows in how well it performs in a tough profit-driven market.

Question 2: She/I would start with a Medicare program that was run differently in the "practice-distinct" regions of the country.

Question 3: Reflects my ambivalence...I've seen no evidence that any "business leaders" entity in MN/MSP lately makes any difference at all.  As Mary said, talk/consensus works until we get to politics.

Deborah Anderson (10) (1) (2)

Question 2: We need healthcare reform so everyone has insurance and preexisting conditions do not prevent coverage. 

Question 3: Not really sure but we certainly need more principal champions for reforms in public affairs and to get Minnesota moving again... I see it as slipping too.

John Cairns (10) (7) (8)

Question 1: The disconnect between Board actions and student success is wider than ever. The teachers' union seems completely uninvolved in improving the system and student outcomes. The new "plan" to reorganize programs, etc., will add to the chaos. Bill Green's time as Superintendent has added little.

Question 2: Wish I understood more about the options.

Question 3: if the agenda could be more specific. Reforming public affairs does not tell me much about what is intended.

Al Quie (10) (1) (5)

Question 1: Start with values. Evidently enabling children to develop emotionally and socially (building character) is not a high value or there would not be so many damaged kids. The same is true for reading proficiently and graduating with the capability to pursue post-secondary education and training. Not a high enough value. What are the three agreed on highest values for Minneapolis children? The three above are mine. Next, what are the barriers or are the logs that jam the natural development of motivated children and prevent Minneapolis children from achieving the three agreed on values? Lastly, find agreement on the way to overcome those barriers. Dealing with structure is a waste of effort till the values and the barriers are agreed on. If the highest the barriers to my three values were found in the families, communities and the individual schools, then the governance structure could be changed to enable the families, communities and schools to achieve their value goals.

Question 2: We know enough now to make wise changes. There are two. Cure the problems of Medicare so it will not bankrupt the nation. Don't cover it up by other controversial changes. Secondly, help all who want health insurance and can't afford it to get insurance. The two extremes need to pull back. Single payer public system on one side and do nothing on the other.

Question 3: Business leaders should help, but remember that government is different from business and and the three branches of government are different from each other. And then we have the employees’ unions and organized citizens. All are torn between selfish interests and good governance.

David Broden (  ) (8) (10)

Question 1:  Large struggling districts need change in effective leadership and management that provides commitment at levels and focuses on prioritized results not working to improve the soft topic of process. While these types of changes should be possible without a redesign of the organization or a new approach to the selection of leaders—the reality may be that a completely new structure including how leadership positions are selected may be needed. In either case however we the critics often forget that you can change the organization an infinite number of ways but if the people in place to lead do not make the difference the change will not occur. So the answer to this question is clearly address the structure and how it operates will help but selecting people who lead, who are accountable, and who take responsibility, and most importantly who will gain respect and trust of the student, the parents, and the community and can get beyond the special interest pressures is what will always make the defense. Lets not fool ourselves—structure and approach will not fix the issue alone.

Question 2: There is a need to address the bottom end of health care and to bring the lower end up but this must be done without impact to the quality and performance of the superior capability we have in Minnesota and some other states.  As responsible citizens we need to recognize that the health care issue is a National Issue but we must do so with intense attention to the quality and availability that we have in MN. As a result plans that would lower our capability for health care in MN should be delayed until there is appropriate clarity of how we maintain our programs. 

Question 3: The need for business leaders to present solutions in a very positive way must be priority. While I like the thrust of Itasca as explained I am bothered by the lack of statewide attention by this group and by other groups. Without making the group focus statewide the ability to sell the idea continues to widen the gap between metro and state. This fact is getting way out of control and seems to mean nothing. I would challenge the business community to stand up and make a point that they are seek solutions for all of MN in terms of jobs, health care, education, etc. If this broader thrust does not happen their statements are like all others "one more series of think tank wise folks telling people how to resolve issues" but not connecting with the real folks. Sounds like populist MN history but think a bit about what works in Minnesota over time--populism themes win and take roots—lets encourage more roots to be planted. 

Rick Bishop (10 (1) (1)

Question 1: As an educator, I believe that there are many things that need to be changed with regard to governance of education. And it is with the entire system, not just large entities like Minneapolis. For a start see anything by John Taylor Gatto. 

Question 2: No slow down. Reform is reform, for the right reasons not to allow the entities that have corrupted it to continue to find ways to continue the corruption.

Question 3: Are you kidding? Business has many more issues to contend with than becoming involved in public affairs. See corruption, greed, mismanagement, unethical power, etc.

Sue St. Germain (8) (10) (8)

Question 2: This rush makes no sense. Change needs to happen but let's get it right or we'll end up with a bigger mess.

Question 3: I would think the makeup of the group would/should make a big difference but being sure it's not political with their own political agendas.

Dane Smith (5) (2) (9)

Question 1: If governance structure is such an important factor, why are not other school districts with nearly identical government structures and demographics also struggling, or at least not struggling so much?

Question 2: Slower is most definitely not the answer. This is a 30-year-old problem, at least. Teddy Roosevelt and Truman wanted a public option, our uniquely private control, profit-driven control  of the system results in the largest cost and the worst overall health indicators of the wealthy democratic peers.  

Question 3: Business absolutely must be involved constructively in all manner of public affairs and solution-finding, the more the better.

Chuck Lutz (5) (7) (8)

Bob Brown (8) (10) (8)

Question 1: Minneapolis (and St. Paul) school districts functioned reasonably well when the school board members were elected because of their interest in education and their experience in leading in their various occupations and community activities. Once the districts started to have partisan endorsement for school board members there was a rapid decline in the quality of board membership as people got elected who were not as well experienced in policy roles and who were using this position for a political stepping-stone rather than for public service. Many other cities have turned more power over to the mayors to control the school systems, but that has not always led to improvement so I am not unsure what structure would be better. Possibly it might help to break up the districts into small entities so that the individual parent, taxpayer, etc would feel that they have a real opportunity to be heard. Anyway, to me the bottom line is not the structure, but the quality of the individuals in leadership positions that makes the difference.

Question 3: I think they should be involved, but not to the exclusion of others. It is important to have all elements of the community represented in reforming our systems.

Bill Hamm (10) (2) (1)

Don Anderson (8) (7) (5)

Question 1: As is the case with other governance structures.

Question 2: We need a program that allows states with good plans to be protected, and not be penalized for their efforts.

Question 3: They should be co-champions for reforms in public affairs with civic groups, labor groups and others sharing ideas.

Steven Hardie (10) (1) (7.5)

Question 3: Business leaders, while very important stakeholders are only a few of many stakeholders and even then, they are not a homogeneous block.

John Milton (10) (1) (5)

Question 2: We've slowed it down and killed it since the days of Harry Truman. How long will the health insurance industry continue to be as sacred as the Statue of Liberty?

Question 3: But not if the only point to their involvement is to save their world of offshore tax havens, a fleet of Lexus’ in the garage, and the lowest taxes paid by any corporate executive anywhere on earth.

Scott Halstead (5) (  ) (5)

Question 2: We need personal accountability for healthy living in health insurance provided by the government.  Individuals that choose unhealthy practices would pay higher premiums and Medicare withholding. A large portion of the cigarette taxes would go to and be credited to government provided health care. Additional taxes would be placed upon food that is unhealthy and the funds raised dedicated to government provided health care and community health programs that document healthy results.

Yes, we should slow down and get health reform right. While Minnesota's health care may better than most states, it still has a lot of room for improvement. We need to emphasize teach and promote healthy living and charge the producers of unhealthy products and the consumers for not providing and consuming. Employers and the government need surcharges for employees/families on their portions of the health premiums. Medical Practitioners and health insurance providers need to provide health care that is in the best interests of the health and well being of the customer. We need major changes in the marketing, testing, approval and pricing of medical devices and pharmaceuticals. We need better and safer vaccines. We need more effective, less invasive and lower cost health screening. We need payment based upon good health and successful outcomes. We need better medical education including continuing education, effective quality control, recording outcomes, regular review by medical boards when outcomes are not successful based upon the projection, medical malpractice reform, standard fees and payment for the same services with a cost of health care adjustment system similar to other local/regional cost systems.

Question 3: It needs to be a coalition of business leaders, labor, organizations and individuals for reforming the states public affairs. 

Kent Eklund (5) (3) (8)

Question 1: There may be some seeds of reform occurring internally. They have just started a division of new schools within the district and have several proposals for essentially charter schools within the district. It will be fascinating to see how this plays out—maybe change from within may be possible.

Question 2: The problem is that with the single funding of Medicare and the joint funding of Medicaid, Washington is the largest buyer of health care today. They have to be in the lead.

Question 3: They are one of the leaders. We have worried about the loss of locally owned companies. The more we can get them into leadership positions, the better we will be.

Pat Lowther (6) (1) (10)

Question 1: That is an interesting question. I think I would slightly agree with this – maybe 6 or 7 – but not strongly. I think it would be less the literal governance structure but more the perspective of the governing – so maybe the values of the governance structure. Less politicking, more putting education first and getting work done. And also just developing a more clearly-outlined decision structure at the leadership level - so that might be a governance change

Question 2: Strongly disagree. The plan should include the ability to apply for local needs. Any delay feeds the opponents of reform.

Question 3: Strongly agree. What’s the point in studying if no action is contemplated?

Peter Heegaard (8) (10) (10)

Alan Miller (5) (1) (10)

Question 2: Absolutely not; we should be able to move forward and take care of local exceptions at the same time.  However, with this Congress, it's doubtful that anything meaningful will happen.

Clarence Shallbetter (10) (10) (7)

Question 1: Yes- but it requires more than changes to the governance structure. It requires changes in the way school board members are endorsed and elected as well as changes in the employment structure. Someone should look at what might happen if the district was divided into three or four pieces that are then attached to adjoining suburban districts or are constituted as separate districts whose members are partially elected and partially appointed by the Mayor.

Question 2: I was hoping to hear more about what might be done to effectively contain the escalation of the cost of health care. Prevention, according to the President will be a good but small contributor, bigger than automating medical records but still not significant. Maybe what we need are some regional models that are rewarded for demonstrating how they effectively contain the escalating cost of health care and increase the percentage of the population that regularly receives health care. Mayo is often used as a model of quality care. My experience is that it does a great job with diagnosis and even treatment with its group consensus model. However, it's very pricy- beyond the means of most wage earners and not covered by many medical plans, like Medica, because of its cost.

Question 3: Yes it would be good if they were a visible champion of reform. I just haven't seen much of them. Do they have some studies that gather facts, reach conclusions and make recommendations? What topics are they and their consultant currently working on? What work are they currently doing that focuses on the disparity of wealth and incomes that the speaker indicated were one of her chief concerns?

Ray Ayotte (10) (10) (10)

Question 2: I agree with Mary that there needs to be a personal responsibility component to the national health insurance/care strategy which rewards those who make good health maintenance choices.  

Bob White (10) (8) (8)

Question 1: But what that structure should be and how to build it are questions I can't answer.

Question 3: But emphasis on A champion; i.e., one among many.  

Shari Prest (6) (4) (1)

Question 1:  They are changing and impetus and support should be given. More mandates or interest group or partisan drives have not proved to work in the past nor will they in the future. Rather an inspired and cohesive vision for our state and public education will result in progress as they have historically. The problems have always been associated with uninformed power-plays.  

Question 2: Years have been invested in health care reform and the situation has not improved because change has been derailed by politics and fear. There is no reason to slow down. We have been driven by worst possible outcomes to such a degree that we are assuring worst possible outcomes have happened. We are so far behind the world on this topic. We have had friends in Scotland, acquaintances in England and stories from Canada. They all generally feel they are far ahead of us and collectively far more fortunate and secure. There are and always be horror stories of individual circumstances but our system has assured we have more than our share. Yet the wealthy and powerful insist they hang on to their advantage regardless of the cost to the rest of society.

Question 3: Absolutely not. They represent one area of expertise but lack in others. They should be at the table, not be the whole show. No sector has let us down or demonstrated its vulnerability to the degree business has in the past few years. Nor has any one sector demonstrated greed to the degree business has. I admire and support the work related to early childhood education that the Itasca group has done. It should be a contribution, not a drive to control or dictate.   

Ward Ring (8) (10) (10)

Question 1: Too many personal and group agendas thwart good long range planning.

Question 2: Lets not throw out the good.

Question 3: Ultimately, they are the ones who create and retain employment. They have a vital interest in the education and health of the people.

Bert Press (10) (10) (10)

Bright Dornblaser (10) (1) (8)

Useful, important, as a principal champion, one of others such as the CL.


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, Charles Clay, Marianne Curry, Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje,  Jim Hetland,  Marina Lyon, Joe Mansky, John Mooty,  Jim Olson,  and Wayne Popham 

The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
8301 Creekside Circle #920,   Bloomington, MN 55437.
Verne C. Johnson, chair, 952-835-4549,       Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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