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These comments are responses to the

Civic Caucus Internal Discussion - Civic Process 2
September 18, 2015

Reassessment of Minnesota's civic process is overdue

Overview

The Civic Caucus should undertake an objective assessment of Minnesota's civic process, both past and present, to determine what improvements might be needed in that process today. The need for a civic environment that encourages public and private civic groups to initiate strong proposals for public-policy change is as critical today as in previous years, if not more so. However, instead of yearning for the "good old days", civic-minded Minnesotans should recognize the changed circumstances of today's civic life, including the evolution of social media, mass media, population diversity, political polarization, and attitudes towards civic participation. Any analysis of the adequacy of today's civic process must address these significant changes in the civic landscape.

Nevertheless, the critical need for creative, actionable proposals remains central to the success of civic problem-solving. Strengths and weaknesses of civic groups should be as openly identified and as subject to analysis as the issues these groups themselves have identified and analyzed. As an example, civic groups and others proposing change should examine whether they turn too often to the federal level for solutions instead of employing the ready assets of public and nonpublic institutions at the state and local level.

Background.  This is the second of three internal discussions on the feasibility of a Civic Caucus study of the past, current and future quality of Minnesota's civic process and the role of the Caucus in that process. 

For the complete discussion summary see: notes of September 18 discussion

Response Summary: Readers rated these statements about the topic and about points discussed during the meeting, on a scale of 0 (strongly disagree) to 5 (neutral) to 10 (strongly agree): 

1. Topic is of value. (7.7 average response) The discussion summarized today provides valuable information or insight.

2. Further study warranted. (8.7 average response) It would be helpful to schedule additional interviews on this topic.

3. Review of civic process worthwhile. (8.9 average response) A review of the effectiveness of Minnesota's civic process is a timely and worthwhile endeavor.

4. Need for proposals by civic groups critical. (8.7 average response) The need for civic groups to initiate creative, actionable proposals for change is as critical today as in previous years if not more so.

5. Recognize effects of societal changes. (9.0 average response) Instead of yearning for the "good old days," civic-minded people of the state should recognize significantly changed circumstances in today's civic life, including the evolution of social media, mass media, diversity of the population, political polarization, and attitudes towards participation.

6. Civic groups should be scrutinized. (8.3 average response) Strengths and weaknesses of civic groups should be as openly identified and as subject to analysis as the issues these groups themselves have identified and analyzed.

7. Groups too quick to seek Federal solution. (7.0 average response) Civic groups and others proposing solutions turn far too often to the federal level for solutions instead of employing the assets of public and nonpublic institutions at the state and local level.

Response Distribution:

Strongly disagree

Moderately disagree

Neutral

Moderately agree

Strongly agree

Total Responses

1. Topic is of value.

14%

0%

7%

21%

57%

14

2. Further study warranted.

0%

7%

7%

21%

64%

14

3. Review of civic process worthwhile.

0%

0%

14%

21%

64%

14

4. Need for proposals by civic groups critical.

0%

0%

7%

43%

50%

14

5. Recognize effects of societal changes.

0%

7%

0%

29%

64%

14

6. Civic groups should be scrutinized.

0%

0%

14%

43%

43%

14

7. Groups too quick to seek Federal solution.

0%

14%

21%

43%

21%

14


Individual Responses:

Kevin Edberg (10) (10) (10) (7.5) (10) (7.5) (7.5)
4. Need for proposals by civic groups critical. I'm not sure. In concept, I agree with the comment. On the other hand, what is the relative value of proposals from civic groups vis-a-vis proposals from think tanks funded by billionaires who also fund campaigns of decision-makers? It only makes sense for civic organizations to advance ideas if there is a belief/trust/faith that independent action on the part of legislators and decision makers is available. Is that true today?

5. Recognize effects of societal changes. There is a piece of the dialog reported here that strikes me as Pollyanna-ish. A hard-nosed assessment of the process by which decisions get made today is essential. Why is it that virtually the same policy approaches are being surfaced in legislatures across the country (in my view, mostly by politically conservative groups, but not exclusively so)? Is it because civic groups are independently coming to the same conclusions in numerous different places? Or is something else at work, and if so, what is the competitive advantage that can be owned by civic groups? Yes, let us draw upon the best of what has worked for us in the past; in it there is much to be learned. Yes, recognize and analyze the changed circumstances of today. What are the necessary assumptions required to believe that a modern version of yesteryear can be successful?

6. Civic groups should be scrutinized. Included in this assessment of Civic Caucus is the organization's own opacity about leadership; how does one "get in" to the organization? Get access to deeper levels of engagement? Who are the (self-appointed?) leaders who make decisions and toward what end are those decisions made? Clarity of self-identity and communication of that identity would be welcome.

Bruce Lundeen (0) (2.5) (5) (7.5) (10) (5) (5)
5. Recognize effects of societal changes. Economic conditions are changing, and diminishing jobs for Americans threaten social stability.

7. Groups too quick to seek Federal solution. Does the Federal government act on an absence of coherent solutions.

Further general comments: Perhaps an analysis of what the Minneapolis "Work Rule" plans will do to the economy would be interesting. Or, whether or not the influx of immigrants is beginning to erode the opportunities for American citizens.

Paul Gilje (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10)

King Banaian (10) (10) (10) (7.5) (7.5) (10) (10)
1. Topic is of value. I think this topic is of critical importance. Our organization works to help train civic leaders and we see a process for civic engagement and understanding that seems to be two people talking past each other wearing earmuffs. Conversations seem to bog down quickly into finger-pointing rather than seeking solutions.

3. Review of civic process worthwhile. See #1.

7. Groups too quick to seek Federal solution. Minnesota has been a laboratory that has produced models for state action in areas such as health care and education. We have excellent outcomes, even while we struggle to find improvements. Let's embrace the model of federalism and the principle of subsidiarity — as expressed in the Constitution — to drive solutions down to lower and more responsive organizations, both governmental and non-governmental.

Bright Dornblaser (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (7.5)

Lynn Gitelis (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (2.5)
4. Need for proposals by civic groups critical. There are proposal from civic groups now. But it all gets mixed in with proposals, counterproposals, arguments from other groups (business, opponents of the cause, etc.).

5. Recognize effects of societal changes. And then there is the reality that younger generations get their "news" from the Daily Show. No, really, they do. Many are turned off by traditional politics (the whole political system is now run by political consultants who are always angling for positioning of their candidate or cause) and most simply don't have time/energy for the long time it takes to craft effective policy. There is an entire section of the population that is essentially committed to blowing up the political process precisely because it requires compromise, which they regard as a sabotaging of their principles and beliefs. There are now close to 2 generations who genuinely believe that, if they don't like a policy or law, they have the individual right to disregard it or not pay taxes for it. Part of the reason for the breakdown in the civic process is that the concept of the primacy of the individual has taken precedence over the "common good", so if your proposal doesn't serve the needs of a specific person or like-minded group, they are not going to support it. There is no "ROI" for the "common good", and that drives the "what's in it for me" perspective of both individuals and organizations.

7. Groups too quick to seek Federal solution. Reality [is that], given the global economy and reach of Internet, most issues that used to be local can now easily be seen as falling under the Commerce Clause in some way. Major issues are rarely confined within state borders now.

Scott Halstead (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (7.5) (7.5)
4. Need for proposals by civic groups critical. Good proposals need to be brought to the legislature and Governor. What has the Citizen's League brought to them? Are any of the Civic Caucus reports and recommendations brought to them? If they were provided to the legislature, would they act? Unfortunately, most of our elected leaders are beholden to big $ for election and not to their constituents and good public policy. We need a large coalition of partners that strategically reforms redistricting, lengths of terms, maximum terms, number of legislators, considers improvements to the legislative process and reports each legislator’s voting record. There has to be broad support to enact such changes.

5. Recognize effects of societal changes. The various media need to be utilized to reach citizens and gain their support.

7. Groups too quick to seek Federal solution. Everybody wants that free $ from Washington. Minnesota has a large number of organizations doing great work. They often lack staying power. We also are suffering because many individuals don't wish to participate in any civic capacity.

Further general comments: I think that the Civic Caucus discussions should be brought to statewide public television broadcasts and surveying statewide, public reporting of the surveys and reports with a legislative element to bring forth the proposals.

Anonymous (0) (10) (10) (7.5) (2.5) (5) (7.5)
1. Topic is of value. I'd love to see all of Kolderie's speech.

2. Further study warranted. "This topic" could be civic institutions/life and/or human capital. I see a void in civic institutions and would prefer more time spent on this topic.

3. Review of civic process worthwhile. [I] agree with comments that this is a crowded field of lobbyists/special interests; that the demographics of the community are very different now; and for the need to help leaders — of all types — understand that there are macro issues that need to be addressed by folks willing to spend the time to study and discuss them, with the goal of finding and sharing recommendations/ideas that can result in positive change.

4. Need for proposals by civic groups critical. Depends on how you define "civic group." Today, my definition includes these components [to warrant] the interest [of] and ability to have participants: 1. Commit to put aside any positions on the issue needing attention,

2. Demonstrate their ability to listen and ask questions, 3. Agree that facts will be the basis for any decisions, and 4. Work together on the issue with only the greater good as its goal (while acknowledging the sacrifices that may be required by some—people or institutions)

Tom Spitznagle (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na)I strongly recommend that you invite Devin Foley of Intellectual Takeout to meet with you to discuss how the culture of the millennial generation is so at odds with the culture that baby boomers grew up in and how this dramatic shift is significantly impacting civic engagement, especially on social matters. You won’t regret learning from a millennial about what drives millennials – the baby boomer’s replacements. I’ve heard Devin speak a couple of times recently and his message is highly relevant to those concerned about the well being of American culture.

Chuck Lutz (8) (9) (9) (9) (8) (7) (8)

Sheldon Clay (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10)I think you might hit some pretty rich pay dirt by looking at both together. One could argue that there's been a virtuous cycle between the quality of our civic discussion and the quality of our human capital. We've enjoyed each because we had the other. Conversely, if we lose one, we lose the other.

Wayne Jennings (6) (7) (9) (10) (9) (7) (4)

Very important to take measures of our effectiveness. I think actions have to be with the Legislature by meeting with committee chairs and others about specific proposals. Also this requires meeting with relevant agency heads about a proposal. Otherwise our reports gather dust. Our purpose says to take one issue for action. We have enough grey beards to follow up on legislative bills but it takes a specific course of action and teamwork for prepping legislative members and agency heads.

Shari Prest (5) (5) (5) (5) (10) (8) (5)
This piece refers to the "interviewer" but it seems the statements would only be appropriate for "interviewees" Can you clarify this?

Mina Harrigan (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (5)A sound proposal is only helpful if there is a system for the proposal to get acted upon. This community used to have that—not any more. And politics are so polarized today that elected officials are often not even interested in sound proposals that run contrary to their positions. So the first priority needs to be to determine how to get action on sound proposals. Without a workable answer to that, any sound proposal is just a theoretical exercise.

Lyall Schwarzkopf (9) (8) (7) (8) (9) (9) (8)I believe for nearly every issue, there is a group organized to push the issue and a group organized to oppose the issue. That makes it very hard for a legislator to come up with a positive solution on the issue. One of today's problems with civic organizations is that they, like people in the U.S., become polarized around their answer on how to solve an issue. I believe the continuation of forming a group to push that group’s solution to an issue will be the downfall of the United States.

That is why I like the Civic Caucus. It provides many people's opinions on an issue and it usually does not take a stand on an issue. Providing information from many viewpoints is helpful to a legislator looking for new ideas on issues.

 

To receive these interview summaries as they occur, email civiccaucus@comcast.net         Follow us on Twitter

 

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

  John S. Adams, David Broden, Audrey Clay, Janis Clay, Pat Davies, Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje (Executive Director), Randy Johnson, Sallie Kemper, Ted Kolderie,
Dan Loritz (Chair), Tim McDonald, Bruce Mooty, John Mooty, Jim Olson, Paul Ostrow, Wayne Popham, Dana Schroeder, Clarence Shallbetter, and Fred Zimmerman

 

 

 


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The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
2104 Girard Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55405.  civiccaucus@comcast.net
Dan Loritz, chair, 612-791-1919   ~   Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.
 

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