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These comments are responses to the

Civic Caucus Internal Discussion - Civic Process
September 11, 2015

Civic Caucus and other Minnesota civic groups must do better to revitalize the civic process.


Minnesota's comparative advantage among states because of its long-standing leadership on public policy action is at risk, according to Dan Loritz, chair, Civic Caucus, and Paul Gilje, executive director.


While the state can point to creative action on public finance, education, and government structure, the need for solutions to today's questions, including closing income and education gaps, never has been greater, they say.


This fall the Civic Caucus needs to use its own interview process to learn from people in and outside of Minnesota the status of the state's civic process and civic infrastructure, Loritz and Gilje say.  Are enough proposals for civic action being generated? If not, why not?


Interviewees would include groups that initiate proposals and people who need proposals coming to them, such as legislators, members of the media and Minnesota-based foundations. The Civic Caucus will work to develop recommendations on how the process could be strengthened.


For the complete interview summary see: internal discussion notes


Response Summary: Readers rated the following 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). Average response ratings shown below are simply the mean of all readers’ zero-to-ten responses to the ideas proposed and should not be considered an accurate reflection of a scientifically structured poll. 


1. Topic is of value. (7.9 average response) The discussion summarized today provides valuable information or insight.


2. Further study warranted. (7.3 average response) It would be helpful to schedule additional interviews on this topic.


3. Ability to devise solutions key. (9.5 average response) A vital part of a state's livability is the ability of its people to devise solutions to public problems.


4. Policy advantage at risk. (8.2 average response) However, Minnesota's comparative advantage

in public policy, built up over several decades, is at risk.


5. No resting on past successes. (9.4 average response) Given the gravity of today's problems, such as gaps in income and education, the state can't rest on past accomplishments.


6. New proposals required. (9.1 average response) New proposals addressing today's problems are needed.


7. Caucus should investigate civic process. (9.0 average response) The Civic Caucus should conduct interviews on the overall public policy development process: how civic and community institutions respond to events, analyze options, devise proposals, and take action.


Response Distribution:

Strongly disagree

Moderately disagree


Moderately agree

Strongly agree

Total Responses

1. Topic is of value.







2. Further study warranted.







3. Ability to devise solutions key.







4. Policy advantage at risk.







5. No resting on past successes.







6. New proposals required.







7. Caucus should investigate civic process.








Individual Responses:

Dave Thomas  (5)  (5)  (10)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (7.5)


Alan Shilepsky  (7.5)  (10)  (10)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (10)

1. Topic is of value. It suggests important insights, but it may have blind spots. For instance, a problem may be the loss of a belief in a "public interest," as opposed to many private, group or selfish interests.  The decline of engagement in the face of social media opining (I gave at my Twitter account) must be addressed beyond just identifying a new individualism. It tracks with hedonism and lack of commitment. Life is hard work.  


2. Further study warranted. If properly planned/solicited/channeled.    


3. Ability to devise solutions key. And to identify what is appropriate for public policy, and what must be addressed and improved through the visions and efforts of individuals and mediating institutions; we may suffer from an over-"caring" state.    


4. Policy advantage at risk. Hard to say, without knowing how well other State's are doing.  Personally, I suspect more people come here for jobs and the economy than for "enlightened" policy making.  


6. New proposals required. Government programs aren't always the solutions.  We seem to have more problems now than before we started having the "community" raise the children.  


Further General Comment: Definitely right about young people and their social media expertise.  Electronic communications may be causing lots of problems as well as be a potential solution source.  I am intrigued by the education and mobilization via gaming and social media.  It may help; or it may be a doorway into a new barbarism--with micro channeling, sound-bite level "debates" and lynch mob responses, with self-satisfied moral preening ("I got that bigot fired.")


Chuck Slocum  (7.5)  (5)  (10)  (7.5)  (10)  (10)  (10)

1. Topic is of value. I have urged that the Civic Caucus become more than a "nice" resource and work to make a few good ideas central to the debate...scattered become "essential" fodder for policymakers who will share the state's future.   


2. Further study warranted. Lots of good people in leadership who can pick brains...but time to focus on how to become essential to Minnesota's future. 


4. Policy advantage at risk. Still, Minnesota has great potential to be a leader...and the Civic Caucus can be helpful to public leaders in thinking things through and putting them on the public record.


7. Caucus should investigate civic process. Hopefully, this has been happening all along; I know that was Verne Johnson's initial notion. 


Further General Comment: I suggest an informal partnering relationship where knowledgeable Civic Caucus members work closely with selected people of all political stripes—future lawmakers and governors—especially concentrating on a responsible state perspective.

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


Robert Brown  (10)  (7.5)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)

4. Policy advantage at risk. Too few people with knowledge and experience are elected to office and too many elected officials are unwilling to compromise. 


Dennis Carlson  (7.5)  (7.5)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (7.5)

7. Caucus should investigate civic process. I think your interviews and discussions have been great and right on target.  The ultimate question then becomes, "Now what?"  Where do you take this valuable information and your collective insight and what do you do with it?  Possibilities are providing legislative testimony, contacting local media (MN Post might be receptive), holding conferences, or providing speakers for sessions with other institutions or organizations (U of M, MNSCU, MPR, TCPT, and Wilder come to mind).


Further General Comment: It seems like Civic Caucus could use a partnering outlet for public discourse on a larger level.  Steve Kelley at the U of M Humphrey School of Public Affairs might be a possibility.  I think you are exploring using the next Civic Caucus sessions to dive deeper on this topic.  I think that is a good next step.  Steve Kelley would be a good interview.  I think Beth Hawkins at MN Post would be a good interview on this topic as well. She clearly is interested in what happens with the World's Best Work Force initiative.  My fear is that we have become so polarized politically that the important discussions you are having get lost in the "sound bite of the day" and get little public attention and media interest.  Also, you are dealing with such a complex issue that few folks want to take the time or space needed for an in-depth look at it.  The NY Times is the only newspaper I know that consistently takes on complex issues like these.  We need some outlet like that locally - MN Post comes the closest but its public impact is still pretty limited.


Anonymous  (10)  (7.5)  (10)  (7.5)  (10)  (10)  (10)

7. Caucus should investigate civic process. Discussions should include average citizens, seniors, and not just so-called experts


Kevin Edberg  (7.5)  (7.5)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (7.5)  (10)

1. Topic is of value. Useful, but still incomplete.  Missing from the discussion is an analysis of the question of whether policy decisions are made today in the same way as they were 20-30 years ago.  In an age of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), partisan think tanks, and major donors influencing political agendas, do policy ideas still matter in the same way as they used to?  Have the points of leverage for policy recommendations changed and if so, how does Civic Caucus impact policy at those new points of leverage?


2. Further study warranted. I welcomed the interview and information about the history and current reach of Civic Caucus.  It's really the first time that I recall hearing information about the organization itself in a way that describes how the organization does its work.  To a reasonable extent, the organization is opaque about how to participate/join/influence/support the organization itself.  What are the points of entry to the organization, and how would one find them?


3. Ability to devise solutions key. A great assertion.  Quaint in a way, yet also fundamental.  When one thinks of "state", at what level does one address the solutions: statewide (i.e. Legislature), regional (Met Council as one example), or local?


6. New proposals required. Yes, but to what end, and with what partners/vehicles for translating policy ideas into policy in fact?


7. Caucus should investigate civic process. Have at it! But don't leave the human capital conversation without some surety that you (we?) have tapped the full depth of needed examination, and put a bowtie on the synthesis of what these interviews might mean, and how they should reinforce or change what we think about this critical aspect of our shared life in this state.


Laura Gilbert  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (7.5)  (10)

1. Topic is of value. Self-reflection is one of the many aspects that make Civic Caucus such a valuable organization.


4. Policy advantage at risk. I see more public policy being created and moved forward by well-focused non-profit organizations and forward-thinking businesses and schools than in government.


5. No resting on past successes. Yet the State system is internally locked in outdated systems and management methodologies. Challenges that require State agency or legislative involvement for resolution will continue to worsen until the system itself is addressed; or until an outside entity (non-profit, business, etc.) tackles the challenge head-on.


6. New proposals required. I believe there are many good proposals that are getting stuck in old thinking. I think the challenge is more about fully embracing new ideas.


Further General Comment: Thanks for existing and for all the good thinking you do.

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


Ellen Benavides  (5)  (5)  (10)  (5)  (10)  (10)  (10)

1. Topic is of value. I'm unclear what today's "topic" is that you're referring to.


2. Further study warranted. See above comment


6. New proposals required. New proposals, citizen input and methods of engaging policy makers to work with citizens would make a huge impact.


7. Caucus should investigate civic process. I think it would be great if the Civic Caucus devised a way to engage "ordinary" citizens in addition to "thought leaders."


Further General Comment:  I'm struck by the number of people I refer to the Civic Caucus who are not aware of your work.  Many are actively engaged in public policy work, former Citizens League study committee members and/or all around informed people, but have not heard of the Caucus.


Jane Vanderpoel   (7.5)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)

1. Topic is of value. I always learn something when I read through your discussion/interviews.  But I don't always have time to get all the way through them.  This is not a request to make them shorter - the value is in the detail and richness they offer. 


3. Ability to devise solutions key. I don't always get a sense from what I've read of Civic Caucus's work that there is a direct connection between the interviews you do and the next steps of identifying solutions and then working to make them happen. 


4. Policy advantage at risk. Younger generations don't sit and talk among themselves.  They communicate with photos posted on Instagram taken with a selfie stick, or on Facebook or via texting.  Their relationships, in general, and their knowledge of public policy in particular, seem very superficial to me. That’s what we're up against. 


7. Caucus should investigate civic process. It seems that the thornier the problem, unfortunately, the more we depend on the Legislature to solve it.  We need to find ways to get legislators to meet with people who aren't like them [and] don't share their viewpoints, to force them to acknowledge that their trite and impractical ideas do not have merit. I haven't worked there since 1998, but I was there for 12 years.  It was a much different place then.  It sickens me to see how quickly our public policy tradition is sinking into partisan divides that apparently cannot be bridged. 


Steve Dornfeld  (7.5)  (7.5)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)

4. Policy advantage at risk. Like that of the nation, Minnesota's political system has become highly partisan and polarized. In recent times, there has been little in the way of bipartisan cooperation that led to the passage of the "Minnesota Miracle," MinnesotaCare and other important legislation. Meanwhile, business leaders seem to have become much more bottom-line oriented, caring less about good public policy. And the ever-shrinking mainstream media have given much less attention to such issues.


7. Caucus should investigate civic process. The Civic Caucus has played an important role in stimulating public discussion of serious issues, and creatively using the Internet and email to engage civic-minded people in that discussion. It seems to have been less effective in developing and promoting solutions.


John Marty  (10)  (7.5)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (7.5)  (10)

6. New proposals required. I think there are some thoughtful solutions out there but not getting the attention they need in the current, divisive political climate.


Further general comments: Keep up your good work.  I don't get to read all of the interviews, but enjoy them when I get to do so.

Bruce Lundeen  (7.5)  (0)  (5)  (7.5)  (5)  (7.5)  (7.5)


Vici Oshiro  (10)  (10)  (10)  (7.5)  (10)  (10)  (10)

Further general comments:  These are my preliminary reactions.  I'll re-read the report at least once.  Am very interested, but in the same age group with most of you.  Also place more emphasis on international issues.


Tom Spitznagle  (7.5)  (7.5)  (10)  (5)  (10)  (10)  (5)

Further general comments:  The strong intolerance of bipartisan cooperation in the political world has frustrated many citizens and pushed them away from participating in public issues.    Way too much emphasis by non profits and government is placed on addressing the symptoms of problems instead of their causes such that the problems continue on endlessly.   The public observes considerable resources being spent with minimal improvements and concludes that it is unproductive to engage in public issues.  Instead, its much easier to spend ones time watching pro sports or some reality show.


Roger Johnson  (10)  (2.5)  (10)  (7.5)  (10)  (10)  (7.5)

1. Topic is of value. Group self-reflection is always an important characteristic of a good and useful group.  Just interviewing others, without having a plan to answer the fundamental question, "SO WHAT?" leaves an incomplete exercise.

3. Ability to devise solutions key. To talk about what ails Minnesota is always a good place to begin.  But if, out of all the talk, comes no action, the talk is fundamentally useless.  I have followed the talk for years now.  But I have always wondered when your group would begin strategizing for how it can put its findings into a comprehensive set of "discoveries" which can be transformed into actions on the legislative scale.


4. Policy advantage at risk. When our local Minnesota 'think tanks' all refuse to convert their thinking into public policy via the passage of public law, then they have failed achieve what the promise of a think tank holds.


7. Caucus should investigate civic process. If you don't know how to convert your discoveries into public policy, then, for heaven's sake, start having interviews with people who know how to do that.


Further general comments:  I have always wondered to what extent you have knowledge of just how many, if any, of the sitting, elected leaders in both the legislative branches and executive branches of our state government are followers of The Civic Caucus.  For somewhere in that list must be someone who has the connectedness to take what you have found and put it into legislation which becomes the sort of policies that take corrective action on the problems you have discovered.

Anonymous   (0)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)

1. Topic is of value. The questions asked are important and timely.  Better public policy is everything when it comes to better civic outcomes.  That said, the information provided underscores the importance of the issue but doesn't, I regret to say, provide insight as to the answer.


6. New proposals required. The great rule:  "What got you here won't get you there", applies to people, organizations and states.


7. Caucus should investigate civic process. The best ideas could be from the left or from the right.  How can the Civic Caucus sort among them?  Giving all sides a voice is hardly helpful; modern media does enough of that ([and] has given voice to Donald Trump). My hope is that the Civic Caucus can both find a way to engage the most accomplished leaders in our community and find a way to propagate their thinking.    Good luck with this important work.  


Ray Ayotte  (7.5)  (5)  (10)  (7.5)  (10)  (7.5)  (7.5)


Lyall Schwarzkopf  (6)  (5)  (8)  (5)  (8)  (8)  (6)


Julia Silvis  (na)  (na)  (na)  (na)  (na)  (na)  (na)

I was interested to read of this self-questioning, which is a very helpful exercise. I was surprised, however, to see no discussion of examining the make-up of the interview group. Do you think Civic Caucus would benefit from having more younger people, or people of color, or people from different sectors? There is likely not a clear answer at this point, but I was surprised not to see that as one of the questions to be considered as you think about the future of the Civic Caucus.


Terry Stone  (8)  (8)  (8)  (8)  (7)  (8)  (10)

Public policy in Minnesota is increasingly being developed by special interest groups. Perhaps this is the default situation for lack of civic engagement. It’s no secret that organized labor is dominating education and our industrial policy is being shaped by over 100 environmental organizations—some with national and international ties. This must be said out loud and confronted to restore public policy development.  Each special interest has its partisan echo in the legislature.


Mark Ritchie  (na)  (na)  (na)  (na)  (na)  (na)  (na)

A lot to think about in here.


Carol Woehrer  (8)  (8)  (8)  (3)  (10)  (8)  (8)

Wednesday, September 30, NEXUS is having a Pro Action Cafe on building civic engagement.  You or other Civic Caucus members might like to attend. Please find the invitation to the event below.  I think people are giving a great deal of thought to how to solve economic, education, and civil rights problems, but we need more people to be engaged in learning about issues, supporting organizations working on them, paying attention to where candidates stand, and voting.  I’m trying to learn how to combine civic engagement with education.


Carol Woehrer

Program Director

Think Again MN


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


Wayne Jennings  (10)  (10)  (10)  (8)  (10)  (10)  (9)

I’m glad to see this discussion as a step toward greater impact on public policy. Asking interviewees for proposals will focus potential action and follow up. People today are so busy and inundated with information that they need to hear what to do about specific problems before getting engaged. Certainly, modern media is a big part and we old people need to learn how to use it.

Dave Durenberger  (na)  (na)  (na)  (na)  (na)  (na)  (na)

Thanks for raising these concerns and possibilities. I feel responsible as one of the 4500 to take you up on the suggestion that I can help.  And I will.


Paul Hauge  (9)  (8)  (10)  (na)  (10)  (9)  (7)

 The Civic Caucus core group has worked tirelessly on each of the issues it has tackled, but if [it is] willing and funding allows, much can still be done in the area of public policy coordination and creation. Go for it.


Mina Harrigan  (5)  (5)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)


John Rollwagen  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)

 I really like the idea of using the Civiv Caucus interview process with the specific objective of finding an effective way of creating compelling policy proposals and getting them into the hands of leaders (not necessarily politicians — e.g. Art Rolnick) who can make them reality.  It’s been done before and can be done again.  And we need it now more than ever.


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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




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

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