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These comments are responses to the Civic Caucus interview with

Former Minnesota Governor Arne Carlson
December 1, 2017

System cries out for courage


Minnesota's political system cries out for courage, especially from the next governor, according to former Minnesota Governor Arne Carlson, who served from 1991 to 1999. He says instead of showing courage, candidates today are constantly running polls and being told what to say and what not to say. The result is that all the candidates look alike and none has put forth an exciting agenda for tomorrow. Carlson says we must get back to a system that de-emphasizes politics and emphasizes public policy.

Carlson believes the next governor should start out by convening a major commission on the future that could plan the state's financial future, bringing in all the various sectors that form Minnesota's economy. The commission should be independent of the governor, but should have input into how the state agencies are governed. He also believes we should re-establish the State Planning Agency, which was formed in 1965 and abolished in 2009.

Carlson recommends five fundamental reforms: (1) Put together a quality sunshine law, so taxpayers know how their money is being spent; (2) Bring back the Minnesota News Council; (3) Deal with conflicts of interest in the public and private sector with disclosure of those conflicts; (4) Bring in talented, well-meaning people from all the various sectors to figure out how we can create a better system of government; and (5) Move the party primaries to June to allow the public to choose the candidates and to weaken the caucus system.

He also says we should cut back on the number of staff at the Legislature, forcing legislators to do their own research, so they know what they're talking about. And he's open to the idea of using ranked-choice voting in the gubernatorial selection process. He says the Metropolitan Council should remain an appointed body.

For the complete interview summary see: Arne Carlson interview

Individual Responses:

Mark Ritchie

great interview - thank you

Melanie Cole

I agree with Governor Carlson's perspective. I am thankful for this man that has not left his investment in our state behind. His wisdom is grounded and salient.

I left State government employment after vocalizing the drift from our purpose... which obviously meant I was unable to complete my daily tasks. And so the harassment ensued and I left an untenable work environment. After this week's revelation about the Sexual Harassment claims in State government it will surprise no one that I had been working for the Department of Corrections. The commitment to quelling the issue rather than resolving it make me a fuller critic of the management mindset. The Commissioner of that department is an example of the lack of courage in government inserts layers and fails to focus. He is a good cheerleader, but not a leader.

I am engaged in the school board work and grapple to understand the dynamics at that level of government management. Standing on that platform illuminates the necessity for practical, non-partisan decision making and planning for our future. I am hopeful this message resonates with a groundswell and we begin to implement some of these corrective actions.

John Adams

I thought that Arne Carlson's presentation was one of the very best in
recent memory.

Lyall Schwarzkopf

I think Gov. Carlson's suggestion for the next Governor to establish a Commission to look at the future of Minnesota is very important.  When government tinkers with the status quo, not much gets done.  When government moves ahead with a solid plan for the future, things get better for all Minnesotans.  I also like his idea of bringing back the State Planning Commission.  The Planning Commission can augment the work of the Commission on the future of Minnesota.  Gov. Carlson's  ideas on holding higher education more accountable for its cost is very important to students who borrow to pay for their education.  His suggestion for more opportunities for vocational training and working with businesses who need well trained vocational workers is very important.  Finally when I was in the Legislature in the 1960s we were partisan, but we all knew that our job was to govern well for the people of the state.  Each party had different ideas on how to implement governance, but we all wanted to govern well for all people.  


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The Civic Caucus   is a nonpartisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Interview Group  includes persons of varying political persuasions,
reflecting years of leadership in politics, public policy,
business, nonprofits and government.   Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

  John S. Adams, David Broden, Audrey Clay, Janis Clay (executive director), Pat Davies, Paul Gilje, Rob Jacobs, Dwight Johnson, Randy Johnson, Sallie Kemper, Ted Kolderie,
 Dan Loritz, Marina Lyon, Tim McDonald, Bruce Mooty, Jim Olson, Paul Ostrow (chair), Wayne Popham, Dana Schroeder, Clarence Shallbetter, and Fred Zimmerman



The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
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