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 Response Page - Civic Caucus Discussion on Gubernatorial Campaign  -      

These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Civic Caucus Internal Discussion of

The Questions:

1.  _7.0 average_____On a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, what is your view on whether individuals pursuing a career in elected office are less open to ideas for change than those who seek elected office for only a limited time?

2. _7.0 average_____On a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, what is your view on whether a bipartisan group of veteran former political leaders should be invited to outline an agenda for Minnesota's future to help advance constructive debate in the 2010 elections?

3.  Any matters missing in this summary that you wish would have been addressed?

(see responses below)

Ted Kolderie

Begin right away embarassing candidates who simply proclaim goals. Viz, for example, Ms Kelliher this morning. The goals she proclaims are eminently worthy. But it will not do for her to describe them as her 'issues'. An issue exists where a disagreement exists. Who will disagree with anything on her goals-list? Someone might 'take issue' by saying that other goals are more important. But mainly issues are about 'how' . . . about methods for achieving goals. The discussion needs to push candidates to deal with the 'how'.

But, again: The candidates won't do this . . . aren't able to do this . . . unless the people who work mainly with policy do a better job than we have been doing lately of shaping the alternatives. If we do that, then the candidates can decide: "I prefer to go with A rather than with B". We all remember how this used to work.

Glenn Dorfman (5) (9)
Question 3:  Minnesota’s politics has become more like the rest of the nations and the odds of returning it or the country to the idyllic days of old when a bunch of white boys ran things are over. We collectively cooked this stew, which for the most part is more inclusive, and therefore more divisive. Like all complex human interactions/circumstances, there are trade-offs that must be made and we are currently experiencing the negative aspects of the trade-off.  Somehow we came to believe that every individual opinion, no matter how irrational or just plain stupid deserved consideration in public debate. No one was willing to say no to anything or anyone for fear that he/she would get upset. That foolish concern, part of “Minnesota nice”, has not helped Minnesota solve its compound, complex problems.

Spectacularly improved communication and access to knowledge has made control of message/agenda impossible. The 1960’s sowed the seeds of our current conundrum with rational idealism like “question authority” (which was smart since most authority lied during the Vietnam War) and “do it if it feels good.” My father taught his four children that we should suppress it if it felt good because self-control was, in his mind, paramount to a rational society. He was, once again, correct. However, despite the Great Generations sacrifices too many of them perpetuated bigotry and sexism. Once again, a trade-off of enormous consequence that was later changed and created its own set of trade-offs. So, we are back where we started and I have given you too much about how we arrived in this egocentric/individualistic/me- mess and why we are in decline.

Fred Zimmerman (8) (9)
Question 1:  Over the past few years, I have met with and/or interviewed several governors, senators, and other high-level appointed officials -- always on matters relating to manufacturing. While some of these people are likeable and seem sporadically dedicated, I cannot say that they seem open to either new ideas or supplemental information. Mostly what they seem to want is reinforcement of what they said in their last speech. A prominent friend from the University of Minnesota told me he had similar experiences discussing his specialty where he very well known -- health care.   Aristotle once said, "nothing enters the mind but through the senses." If many, not all, of our current politicians were trying to run a factory, they would fail because they would not spend enough time on the shop floor.  Some of our Minnesota politicians have a certain "mule-like" stubbornness which rarely serves the state well.

Question 3:  There may be others who could contribute in addition to former elected officials; academics, people who work in industry, welders, hairdressers, and barbers.

Wy Spano (0) (0)

Feels to me like money is at the root of the problem.  Ventura helped lead us into a disdain for public service, and began our commitment to giving the money back.  Since we don’t have money to deliver service well, we don’t do it.  There’s a positive correlation between the level of taxation and spending and the economic well being of states and nations—the higher the taxing and spending levels, the better the economic performance.  Most people believe that correlation is negative, but it’s not.  Look it up.  Now that we’ve gone from high tax, high service (and good results) we’ve moved to medium to low tax, medium to low service, and lousy results economically.  A microcosm of this whole trend:  I was talking to regents about the light rail/University controversy.  As one of them noted:  if we had a real governor, this problem would be solved.  Tim Pawlenty’s got the power to settle this and other issues, but his never spending money game means he won’t do it.  It’s not just about being distracted running for president.  It’s about the whole idea that having government accomplish anything is bad for us.

I’ve met a lot of politicians, but I never knew one, that I can remember, who knew whether or not he/she was in it for one term or 20.  (Oberstar might be an exception).  It’s hard to imagine us getting governance right when we’ve been denigrating it for so long now.


Political accomplishments are usually done by people with power.  Ex-public servants don’t have power.  Arne Carlson’s been trying to bring the Republican party into some semblance of positive accomplishment for the past dozen years but it hasn’t worked yet. 

Jim Keller (10) (10)

Question 3:  I believe the discussion of issues should be extended to the leadership of all 3 parties - full blown plans for the state, for which they would take ownership, rather than sitting back and sniping at each other.

Al Quie (5) (8)
You can see that I am unusually ambivalent. I have been bothered by the fact that our election system causes candidates to be less forthcoming than in the past. Single issue groups have again found a way to put undue pressure on candidates and elected office holders. The state budget which is the biggest issue, will be solved. The constitution requires it. The problem of K-12 educational achievement evidently need not be solved, evidenced by the fact that our system has been noticeably in decline for 40 years. The same must be true of our transportation infrastructure. With all the work being done, I have never seen as many highways with potholes not fixed by the month of August. The legislature itself needs fixing. They seem incapable of proactive solutions. It is not that the members individually lack competence. The system needs revamping.

Deborah Anderson (7) (5)

Chris Wright (10) (0)
Question 2:  Replace "bipartisan" with "non-partisan and include marginalized party leaders.

Vici Oshiro (0) (8)

Question 1:  I don't believe length of service is determining factor here.

Question 2:  This will have limited impact, but it's worth the attempt.  Be aware of what other groups are doing.  Growth & Justice having Mondale and Carlson address some future issues on 9/22.

Tim Olson (10) (5)

Question 3:  Had to comment on this discussion!   As long as one party continues to try to grow government and expand its power, and the other attempts to reduce it to the founders vision, the battle will rage on.  When you refer to years past...remember, Kennedy would have been a Republican by today's standards.

Chuck Slocum (5) (10)
Question 3:  Let’s get the car on the road; those seeking the governorship in 2010 are in need of substantive assistance that should include some one-on-one mentoring from Civic Caucus insiders.  Nothing is more important.

Alison Krueger (9) (5)

Donald H. Anderson (4) (7)

Question 3:  Has anyone discussed using term limits as a means to remove professional office holders especially at the legislative level?

Sharon Anderson (10) (5)

Bill Frenzel (8) (7)
Question 1:  In general I agree, but generalizations are dangerous. The political system now seems to me to be ideologically polarized, with all players resistant to any ideas advanced by the “other team”.

Question 2:  I wish there a better to advance constructive debate, but I can think of none.

David Broden (7) (6)

Question 1:  The trend to professional politicians in Minnesota would support the view of protect the status quo due to the special interest of each department or function that do the lobbying and provide the campaign funds. Circle the wagons and parochial views are easily the focal point and emphasis when the elected officials become professional. Changing fund raising rules or term limits will not change the environment for this situation. There needs to be more attention to real citizen participation and input into the process as well as citizen type legislative body. This is again a reason for my idea for a third body to the legislature that works as  state planning agency and meets only for a short time each year or every other year but must be citizens only to set some basic needs and objectives for the house and senate to work on. The need to bring in innovation, initiatives and experiments in government must again be in the Minnesota mainstream--the professional elected officials do not seem to be able to reach this position. 

Question 2:  The idea of the John Sampson proposal is good but should not be the only approach.  I strongly support the idea of the "veteran leaders" but am bothered by the lack of interest in seeking to find a group of the current respected leaders and stakeholders to make some strong statements. There must be link to the current citizens and the current problems of the citizens across the state. If such a group or groups are formed it must be representative of the statewide population and issues not metro focus. This too is frustrating and will not work with the outstate folks--why lead from an areas rather than from across the state.

Question 3:  The theme that needs to be developed must be positive statement and it must have content and value--not something that suggests Minnesota is failing and must be restored-- the message must say something about building Minnesota for the future.  I have suggested some themes so will not repeat again. Cliches like Great Society etc. will not do the job etc.

Kent Eklund (3) (3)

Question 3:  Whether there for the long term or sort term is a function of elections, so I think the personal view of the politician's career plans plays a relatively small role.  The recent decline by the governor to participate in the leadership Summit gives me pause as to the helpfulness or future of such a project. We may just have to wait for the 2010 election, participate as best we can and hope for changes in the governor's office.

Connie Morrison (5) (8)

Eric Schubert (10) (_)

Question 1:  Politics has become a "business" to advance oneself rather than "public service for the greater good." 

Question 2:  I'd simply invite "leaders," not limiting it to politics.  Who have been and are today collaborative changemakers in Minnesota for the common good?  That group will have a broader lens.  We have to stop thinking in "silos" and "personal interests."  Everything is interconnected.  Just to look at politics for "leadership" in Minnesota won't get us very far because there's very limited risk taking, collaboration and innovation there today.   There are a lot of Minnesotans outside of politics who are doing significant innovation.  They observe politics, but don't wade into it as active participants because they see it as a waste of energy and time and feel they can push the world farther, faster outside of the political sphere.

Bert Press (0) (10)

Clarence Shallbetter (8) (4)

It's not clear how gathering together a group of veteran political leaders to identify issues would be more effective than simply inviting them individually.  It's also challenging to figure out where wisdom for the future lies. Is it in past political leaders, CEO's, system thinkers, educators, community organizers, foundation staff or boards, professional associations, attorneys, advocacy groups, etc.? The way questions are framed will be at least as or more important than identifying issue areas. Witness the current debate about health care. 

Charles Lutz (5) (10)

John Adams

Our University Metropolitan Consortium is working with Peter Hutchinson
and the Bush Foundation on exactly the same issues that your recent CC
discussion addressed.

On the 2nd question, I support the effort, and suggest that it be
coordinated with our University/Bush effort.
Curt Johnson is at the center of our joint effort.

Steven Hardie (10) (7)

Malcolm McLean (5) (_)

Question 1:  I am waffling on this one.  I suppose that a person intending to have a long political career might not want too much rapid change, but that is only a hunch.  And a person who intends a short-term engagement may be more willing to bet the farm on big change.  But that, too, is just a hunch.  Incidentally, are there many who plan for only a short time as an elected official?  I had assumed that most if elected would continue to serve until they lose an election or get old.

Question 2:  I see benefit in this.  A sort of coalition of wise elders.  Would political parties welcome the formation of such a group or would they prefer a situation they are more familiar with?  Anyway, we need all the disinterested, experienced, wise voices we can summon up.  Go for it.

Bob White (8) (8)

David Dillon (10)(10)
No doubt about it.  You have hit on a set of issues central to good governance.  Good luck on setting up your group.

Kathleen Anderson (10) (10)

Marianne Curry (10) (0)
I strongly believe that strict two-term limits for all public office holders would go a long way toward encouraging broader civic involvement, less campaign finance abuse, and more creative thinking on public policy questions.  Professional politicians cannot sustain the Republic without resulting in the rise and fall of Rome.  Our Constitution was designed to be upheld by citizens with practical experience in the private sector, not policy wonks and life-time office holders, whose self-interests often checkmate the broader and moderate public interest.   
I believe that former office holders do not necessarily have the answers or even the right questions.  We must create a broader, intergenerational forum for public debate as an important part of citizen and stakeholder responsibility.  I also believe that candidates who survive the primary process should be entitled to free access to the public media through public service announcements.  After all, the public owns the airwaves.  This would greatly reduce the need to raise such large buckets of campaign money, since a majority of that money is spent on media ads.

Terry Stone (5) (8)
If the Civic Caucus commits to taking a leadership position in the shaping of the 2010 gubernatorial race, a veteran bipartisan political panel would provide a foundation for such an effort.  I can see a press release titled, What Media and the Voters Should be Asking their Next Governor --- the questions that will define our future.

Debbie Frenzel (8) (10)

Bright Dornblaser (10) (10)

Missing is acceptance by all stakeholders of a commitment, a real commitment, to the ideas of innovation and productivity as drivers of all our policies, plans and processes.  We are familiar with the barriers and many of the means.  What is missing is a commitment to a vision of being an innovation state, a productive state.  A top issue, therefore, is how to develop such commitments.
As I have talked with VCs they comment on MN being MN Nice, on having an image of meritocracy, not a driving commitment to excellence, innovation.  I do not recall their mentioning productivity but it seems to me that unless they drive decisions in and out of government, are a test of our decisions, we will not make the changes needed to be all that we need to be for our future.

Richard McGuire (5) (10)

Ina Erickson (10) (5)

Question 1:  I think those who plan to make a career of politics, think more about how to get re-elected and less about how they can best serve their constituents.

Question 2:  This is a really good idea. 

Robert J. Brown (10) (10)

Question 1:  While there are exceptions, those who seek careers in politics focus more on themselves and the next step up the ladder rather than on commitment to serve at the level they are now operating and they are less likely to generate new ideas because they don’t have another perspective from work in another field for part of their lives. Also, people with long tenure in public office get comfortable with the status quo because change is seen as threatening to their position.

The biggest mistakes we made in the 1970s was the creation of the “flexible sessions” in the state legislature. I hate to admit it, but I was intimately involved with the development of the idea working with Peter Seed and his Citizens League committee.  We thought we were creating an opportunity to deal with emergencies ,do minor adjustments in policy, and provide for some long range thinking  in the even numbered years, but others quickly pushed for and got annual sessions with many other meetings to increase their income with per diems thus creating a class of full time legislators and destroying our concept of a citizen legislature. Having these full time politicians has had two detrimental effects: the loss of people who have significant non-government experience to give them perspective, insights, and ideas  in their role as policymakers;  and having people in public office who will do whatever they can to stay in office because they need the job.

Question 2:   I would be happy to help make this happen. I have been supporting this type of idea for some time, but have been discouraged because some of the people who would be good at this are giving up on politics in Minnesota as they see the narrowness and nastiness of the current political climate.

It is not enough to get a small number of people together to plan an agenda. There must be a broad based effort involving many organizations and institutions to hold forums, distribute information, and generally raise public awareness and knowledge if there is to be any hope of making constructive change in the political climate and the development of reasonable and responsible public policy changes.

Question 3:   More than I can comment on at this time!

Donna Anderson

I would highly recommend any leadership Council have several ordinary citizens on it to add the voice and value of their perspectives and to engage the Citizens League and other citizen groups from the very beginning in visible, viable roles if and when such a council is organized.    It is elitist to do anything less.

Ray Ayotte (5) (9)

Norman Carpenter (6)(2)

Question 3:  We are losing our ability to assimilate minorities...which impacts the human services tax policies.

Paul Hauge (9) (10)

Question 3:  Have you asked the email participants if we agree that Minnesota is slipping in its leadership position in relation to other states and whether we agree with John Sampson's position on this issue?

Joe Mansky (7)(10)

Question 3:  Yes, how about improving the sense of collegiality among the members of the legislature?

Peter Hennessey (10) (5)

Question 1:  Now you really hit a nerve.... These people call themselves "servants" yet arrogate themselves perks that even medieval kings would not have dared dream of. First of all, there should be an absolute ban on a lifetime of "service." And if they really are "servants," then let them do their public duty without any pay and benefits. There is this nasty coincidence of poor public servants leaving public office and almost instantly becoming fabulously rich -- Nixon, Gore, Clinton, and an army of former prosecutors, regulators, etc., to cite a few examples just in my lifetime. At least Carter had the family peanut farm to go back to, and Reagan had his ranch, but he to was also showered with benefits from concerned friends. Sure. I am sick of Pelosi's Gulfstream jets, their private health care that the people can't share in, their retirement at full pay and benefits for life after just one or two terms, etc., all at government expense OK, that's at the federal level, but CA is much the same, and if you have a say in any of this in MN, don't let it happen.

Nobody who does not have a private career, nobody who looks to government employment as his career, should ever be elected to any office. People go into government not for money but for power, and power makes them drunk far worse than alcohol or riches. Nobody who has not had to meet a payroll should be given power to regulate business. Nobody who has no experience with how normal people live should be given power to regulate their lives. Nobody who does not understand the limits and distribution of power under our Constitution should be given power that they can so easily misuse to intrude on the most intimate details of our lives. The Founding Fathers saw public service as temporary, undertaken with a sense of patriotic duty. Do a job, then go home.

Question 2:  Oh, what the heck, their ideas may not all be tired and discredited except in the eyes of some rabid radicals. The great themes in politics and government have not really changed in the five to seven thousand years of recorded history. From Moses to the Greeks to Machiavelli to the Founding Fathers to the present, we are still struggling to find the right balance between individual rights and government power to do a select few necessary jobs that only government can and should do -- common defense, domestic tranquility, fair and equitable justice, and freedom to be all we want to be. Not much room for insane new ideas there, in 1776 or in 2010.



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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