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 Response Page - Civic Caucus Internal Discussion 08-08    

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

The Questions:

1._7.4 average___ On a scale of (0) strong disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) strong
agreement, should the Civic Caucus become a more permanent organization?

2._8.6 average___ On a scale of (0) strong disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) strong
agreement, is the Civic Caucus offering a unique service?

3.On a scale of (0) totally unimportant, to (5) neutral, to (10) most important,
please rate each of the following aspects of Civic Caucus activity:

a._8.9 average___ Continue as an on-line, "virtual" organization
b._8.6 average___ Continue weekly interviews, circulating summaries, inviting comment
c._9.3 average___ Issue occasional statements with recommendations
d._9.7 average___ Concentrate on issues, not candidates
e._9.8 average___ Be strictly non-partisan
f._9.2 average___ Help Minnesota regain its role as a leading-edge state on public policy development
g._7.4 average___ Focus on issues of government structure as distinct from operations
h._8.7 average___ Welcome participants of all ages and experience
i._7.9 average ___ Make a special effort to attract participants with long experience in
public policy
j._6.3 average___ Give opportunities for participants to communicate directly with one
k._5.3 average___ Place interviews on audio or video
l._7.1 average___ Continue to explore collaboration with other organizations

Mark Ritchie
What an excellent summary of issues, challenges and opportunities. From my perspective, you are extremely effective operating in the way that you do right now. Succession planning and a bit more stability in the fundraising are normal activities for any organization but that does not dictate a big shift in how the Civic Caucus functions or is structured. The Civic Caucus is unique, it should go on for many years, and it should remain lean and virtual, in my opinion. Thank you for what you do.

Glenn S. Dorfman
1. No. Minnesota already has too many organizations "thinking and talking about public policy. We need organizations of individuals willing to move an agenda forward "in the arena."

2. There is nothing particularly unique about the Civic Caucus.

Melenie Soucheray
I value this effort because I believe in diversity of information sources. I don't believe this service is unique. It does have the potential of offering more in depth information, much the way a Q and A sidebar to a news story provides a bit of depth and perspective to the reporting. I am a member of Citizens League and an avid consumer of many news sources and commentaries (e.g., Dave Durenberger's Commentary from NIHP, etc.). I'm gray haired. Is there a way to recruit young people to your effort?

Ed Dirkswager
A broader base of financial support is needed. Start with asking for donations with a specific overall goal which is stated. A succession plan is needed for Paul's role and the members of the core team. Fankly, using retired folks who will volunteer most of their time is a good idea. The model is a good one. You use the internet well. Perhaps video of the sessions would add to it. I don't perceive a need for communication beyond the essential communication of responding to your questions related to a given session and the occasional position paper. It is essential that the position papers be well documented and accurate. I am quite disappointed in the performance of the Citizens League and hope that it improves as Sean would like it to. Staying in touch with the CL is important but I see the organizations as having different missions and different approaches.

John Finnegan

I like the change to PDF file.

Chuck Slocum
The CC seems to know who it is; be who you are, you are providing a unique, worthy and cost effective service to many. Be professional and plan your work, then, work your plan--be intentional The notion of being nonpartisan is very important.

Focusing on a few of the most important ideas and sticking with them is worth considering. Reach the younger generations through internships, neighborhood, campus, etc. briefings and meetings on the BIG IDEAS, etc. This could be accomplished at little or no cost to CC.

Nothing prohibits the group from being statewide, national, etc. "without borders" as folks from all over have worthwhile ideas to share.

The idea of formally helping to frame and shape workable policies for our future is very positive.

The idea of more formally "mentoring" current and future community leaders is attractive and one which is consistent with the idea of assuring a prosperous, successful future

The idea of being a sounding board for future governors, planning an election or two ahead, intrigues me and builds on the "senior statesman" and "behind the scenes" nature of the CC inner group

Website meeting summaries do not include any reader comments, as far as I can tell.

Personally, I appreciate the straight forward written reports and would likely not watch web videos, etc. The extra cost for the "glitz" might even distract from the serious, bare bones nature of the CC.

Donna Schmitt
f._8_ Help Minnesota regain its role as a leading-edge state on public policy
That sounds good, but I am not sure how this group can restore that leading-edge that you are talking about. I do believe that this group helps in that process.)

g._5_ Focus on issues of government structure as distinct from operations
I am not sure what you are referring to in this question?

h._10_ Welcome participants of all ages and experience
I appreciate that finally, someone is allowing me to have a voice, even though I do not walk the halls of the state capitol except as an occasional visitor.

j._10_ Give opportunities for participants to communicate directly with one
This could be a great idea to annually have a get together. This could be your major fundraiser, especially if you only have a budget of $35,000! You could sponsor a speaker, open up a live forum for discussion of a particular hot topic and this would be a great way to get people actively involved.

k._10_ Place interviews on audio or video
This would be fairly easy to do with Youtube.

l.__5_ Continue to explore collaboration with other organizations.
I do like the independence of this group. I have appreciated its nonpartisan members, subjects and way that they do achieve this as well as possible. I would hate to lose this source now that I have found it. It has been a great way to find out what others are thinking on different subjects.

I also appreciate the fact that this group is very capable of getting out information without actually taking away time to meet together. I have a number of meetings that I attend weekly and to be able to pick up and discuss this topic at anytime, day or night is a pleasure. You had mentioned that you may only have 30 people respond to comments of the 1000 emails that you send out. I wouldn't worry about that because if you met in person there is no way that you would have time for even 30 people to respond to questions in an hour meeting.

Rod Tietz
I can help you explore video as an option. See our new website A friend of mine put this together.

I enjoy the Civic Caucus interviews. It's a great way to stay informed on issues.

Keep up the good work.

Marina Lyon
1._7__ On a scale of (0) strong disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) strong agreement, should the Civic Caucus become a more permanent organization?
I'm not clear on the implications of this.

Ann Berget
I would hate to see Civic Caucus become "just another" opinion group. I am particularly concerned about opening the group to too many folks without experience or expertise in gov't or in the content area being explored. The expertise of the interviewees and the interviewers sets CC apart from other similar groups. Strict non-partisanship is also of the utmost importance.

Beth Mercer-Taylor
The Civic Caucus email really is a unique contribution to the policy community and I would hate to lose the nuance or straightforward aspects of its current style. To be blunt, though, I don't think I would like to see stronger recommendations coming from what seems, at least now, like a closed core group. The Citizens League has an inside group, too, but is always open to new people who are not necessarily the thought leaders of today. I actually like the process and simple (no color!) style of the current emails. Thank you for your work.

Wayne Jennings
Civic Caucus provides a significant and unique service and is well organized and focused as is. I appreciate the opportunity to "sit in" on conversations with leaders, thus becoming better informed on issues. You operate with minimal cost and that's great as long as there are the public spirited volunteers such as yourselves. If CC became more complex, expenses and personnel costs would rise significantly and ultimately jeopardize the program.

Today's society causes all of us to be supremely busy, yet want to keep up and understand community needs and solutions. CC helps enormously with this. There may be enhancements you will make but none are needed for me. You could go to biweekly sessions to lessen the pressures on yourselves or simply skip weeks from time to time.

One area for growth involves outreach which you comment on appropriately. I say if we have 1,000 people following the discussion, that's quite good and can only grow through word of mouth. If there are alliances such as the Citizens League that offer additional exposure and sharing of our important conversations and findings, all the better so long as it doesn't take a lot of effort and expense.

Yes, I would be glad, as I'm sure others would, to contribute financially to help with costs. One advantage of the present arrangement is your independence of judgment which I would want to see continue.

My deepest thanks for your selfless community work!

Dane Smith
This 1-to-10 business leaves something to be desired and you desperately need to upgrade your format and the whole look of your process. But I think you are providing a very valuable service and I hope you thrive and survive. We at Growth & Justice have been participating in your discussion processes (wish we had time to weigh in more often) and we will continue to do so. We need more non-partisan, community-building, civic engagement groups, not fewer.

Bright Dornblaser
The survey findings represent very good guidance

Succession planning is critical. The service is too valuable to lose.

Three people should not need to carry the financial load. Voluntary contributions might help some.

While transferring leadership to the CL has some appeal, it has its funding and staffing problems and it could be difficult to assure the focus of talented leadership the Civic Caucus has enjoyed. Collaboration underway while useful does not assure needed succession planning. It does, however, provide a means for translating CC findings into state policy development.

A marketing study would be very useful, eg. to understand whether the legislators consider the information to be redundant to that received from the many other inputs they regularly receive.

Measurement of CC results for improving MN policy would be illuminating and potentially disquieting. One hopes and informed citizenry makes a difference. Would be interesting to learn if it is so and how, whether it is limited to certain types of issues or timing and for what groups, for example.

David Broden
A permanent organization which continues and expands the approach and size of the organization with focus on the work of the core group and use of website will continue to build on a unique organizational concept reaching individuals with public policy interest via web communication which is pertinent and has depth. This value suggests a permanent organization.

Definitely a unique approach which brings opportunity for participation to many who do not have the time etc. for extensive meeting etc. The depth reaches the fact that many organizations simply do not get to the point etc. email communication and dialogue is a very strong and effective tool.

Len Nadasdy
Hopefully, it doesn't become another think tank with director and staff seeking community financial assistance.

Carolyn Ring

"e" is extremely important to get your findings and message out.
John Nowicki
I do not feel that the Caucus is open enough. I get the impression that the interviewers are always the same and comprise a select few. This is the first time I have been aware of a schedule of events. Nowhere is there a time or place, It seems to me the Caucus is getting a very parochial view using the same interviewing staff and gives the impression of a closed society.

Scott Halstead
I think CL should utilize the CC interview/comment approach to get broader participation in development of policy issues and I have recommended it several times. It is wonderful educational approach for busy people that are unable to participate otherwise.

Donald H. Anderson
One difficulty in today's society is getting people to join organizations. The Caucus format provides the opportunity of getting messages across but at the same time allows a person the time to carry on other activities.

Bob Brown
My comments will be on the aspects I didn't rate a "10".

b. While I read the results of the weekly interviews, I wonder if this is too frequent for some very busy people and they will start looking at the Civic Caucus emails as spam and thus not read things as carefully as they might(or read them at all.)

g. It is easier to avoid being perceived as partisan when you focus on structure (a traditional "good government" approach), but the operations must also be addressed if we hope to best serve the needs of the people. The best structure can be like an empty building unless we deal with what is inside.

i. It makes sense to get the benefit of the experiences of old timers as long as it is balanced by people with fresh ideas and new approaches. And if you were to start this type of program 20 years from now would you think you would get a lot of benefit from the experience of those many narrow minded types in public office today who would be the "participants with long experience" in the future?
j. and k. I don't think I would probably take advantage of either of these ideas, but I am sure others might enjoy them. The electronic copies of the interviews might be good to be made available to educational institutions.

l. I think collaboration with a variety of organizations might be good, but I would hope you wouldn't consider merging or being absorbed into another organization - you would lose the uniqueness of this group which I believe is a benefit to the state. In order to maximize your impact (and as part of your marketing program to get the Civic Caucus better known)I would suggest you collaborate with different organizations on different topics. For example, I know that our Public Policy program here at St. Thomas would be willing to work with you - as would programs at other educational institutions and other NGOs interested in public policy in Minnesota.

Bob White
As my replies indicate, I think the caucus does invaluable work. It does need a longer-term succession and finance plan, and ways to measure participant interest, but should be wary of any ideas for sweeping change. The relatively small percent of participant response is, I suspect, more a sign of reluctance by individuals to take time for elaborate comment than lack of interest.

Also, beware of overload: Your inclination not to send more comprehensive information is in my view exactly right. The intensely curious folks can go to your web site.
And don't underestimate the caucus's value, even if it gets little attention from media. The value to its audience is great, and as the audience grows, so will its influence. In Madison last week I visited with a daughter who's a senior analyst at a think tank based at U of Wisconsin (Center on Wisconsin Strategy has the world's best acronym -- COWS). She is mightily impressed with the caucus's nonpartisan work. So would the UW's ex-chancellor, who recently resigned with an article in Madison Magazine blasting that state's polarized politics, which he views as much worse than MN's.

John Adams
It's worked well to date, but it has been a labor of love a few who have been willing to make the time and talent investment. I don't think that it can succeed without that kind of continued commitment of the few.

Vici Oshiro
a.____ Continue as an on-line, "virtual" organization
- mostly, but maybe not entirely virtual

b.____ Continue weekly interviews, circulating summaries, inviting comment
at least for now

d.____ Concentrate on issues, not candidates

e.____ Be strictly non-partisan

f.____ Help Minnesota regain its role as a leading-edge state on public policy
yes, IF we can

g.____ Focus on issues of government structure as distinct from operations
structure and policy

h.____ Welcome participants of all ages and experience

i.____ Make a special effort to attract participants with long experience in
public policy
and help "season" those with less experience

j.____ Give opportunities for participants to communicate directly with one
Yes, I'm thinking about ways to do this.

k.____ Place interviews on audio or video
Use video only if it adds important information (e.g., charts). Video of people talking not worth it.

l.____ Continue to explore collaboration with other organizations
No opinion. Depends on what you are trying to accomplish.

Glad to see that you added Marianne Curry and Carolyn Ring to group. Hope they continue to be part of the core group.

Thoughts on succession: Verne and Paul could each have an alternate who can take over at least temporarily if either should become unavailable. Alternate (and perhaps others) should have copies of important records (e.g., correspondence granting 501 (c) 3 status, any filings with Secretary of State or other official bodies) and database updated at least monthly and maybe more often. These alternates can keep the operation going until more permanent arrangements can be agreed upon.

Thoughts on virtual only: Have you every polled the group to see if they would like to meet occasionally for a program addressing some of the issues considered in weekly interviews? Another group I'm involved with had several programs at Ukrainian Hall on Main Street on Sunday afternoons. Very friendly venue, simple refreshments - beverages and cookies - round tables for 8-10. My guess is some would enjoy once or twice a year - spring and/or fall. Skip winter and summer when some of the natives escape and some of those who remain want to stay inside and not venture forth.

Making weekly emails more appealing: OK, but please don't make them very busy. Most in your audience are used to dealing with information presented in straightforward manner.

"Civic Caucus is playing a very significant role in keeping government structure....high on its priority list." Please elaborate - not on issue but on role of CC.

MN only: Hope you interpret this very broadly. What we do in MN very much intertwined with US and world and I believe more recognition and discussion of this would be valuable.

Appreciated list of upcoming meetings.

State Sen. Sandy Rummel
Maybe instead of weekly interviews, do monthly... Gets to be overkill

Bill Frenzel
3 a. - This one way to continue, but it may not be the only way.
3 b. - Same thing. This is one useful M.O., but CC may find others, too.
3 c. - Key word here is occasional. CC need not comment on everything.
3 d, e, f, g. - For me these make up the fundamental description of CC.
3 h, i. Both of these are not fundamental, but very important.
3 j. Seems reasonable, but I'm electronically challenged.
3 i. I'm still challenged. Sounds expensive.
3 l. I'm for collaboration wherever it helps, but I remain suspicious of integration.
Special comment on 3 f.: For me, help is the key word. CC's job is to help make all decisions informed decisions. Thereafter, the good burghers of Minnesota can decide
for themselves whether they want MN to be "leading edge" or a slow follower.

John Rollwagen
I put a "10" on everything but "k". Recordings might be OK for archival purposes, but Paul's summaries are a critical value-add for non-core participants like myself.

Al Quie
The reason I disagree with making the organization permanent is that after a period of time, protecting, defending and enhancing the organization itself becomes important, competing with the actual mission of Civic Caucus. It is the kind of people that lead and guide Civic Caucus that make it so worth while. People like you organize and operate in whatever way makes you most effective and integrity is built into your souls through decades of decisions.

Tim Olson
I can tell you I've very much enjoyed Civic Caucus! Keep it going.

Dan Loritz
I think the CC should remain as it is. That said, it seems like some succession planning is the order of the day.

Mary Tambornino
I do not like PDF files; I cannot copy them and do not like reading things of this caliber on the computer because it is easier to go back and read them again. I was so glad to run into Paul Gilje at a recent meeting. Got my name added because I can make up my own mind but having analysis from different points of view and facts stated with differing emphasis is not only helpful but imperative.

Tim McDonald
Minnesota must regain its position as a leading hot bed of state-based policy innovation. This should be a clear, distinct pillar of the Caucus's mission.

I had a meeting this morning with Sean Kershaw at their offices; I will be working with the League increasingly so: either by assuming a position on the board, or as an associate with the board.

A critical piece to both the League's work and the Caucus is figuring out how to move ideas once they become identified and developed. Both groups help to build a 'civic capacity,' especially the Caucus with its impressive work. But there needs to be tangible action to raise money, garner media attention, and achieve the Caucus's aims at furthering good governance.

I think the Caucus should raise money; you guys shouldn't have to cover costs yourself.

Media is not picking up the Caucus's signed letters. Partnering with MinnPost can help here. But, there's something more fundamental: the ideas need to be brought to bear. The Caucus has such powerful membership; the true organizational challenge will be figuring out how to leverage this behind ideas in order to 'do' things.

Here the League is making progress: they are looking to use the Internet to help local groups of people identify and respond to issues of concern. The League will provide the conceptual framework for articulating concerns, and provide the tools to help frame solutions, to set a plan, etc. It is a way to empower smaller groups; to decentralize without needing to include everybody in a directly-democratic vein. Figure that one in ten makes it from an idea to a small group with a 'plan.' Suppose one in four of these cohorts does something good. Not bad. Sounds like a decent program of innovation for any corporation. Costs nothing, really.

As a friend and colleague with the tech guy who is putting this program together, I am helping advise in this program's development. This may or may not be instructive to the Caucus' work.

You probably don't need to do weekly interviews: bi-weekly or even tri-weekly would be sufficient—if the freed energies could then go toward pragmatics.

On being welcoming to all ages and experiences: I think it is best you leave the masses to the Citizen's League. They are better suited for it; I strongly believe the Caucus is best served by having competent leadership (unrestricted regarding age and background), backed by powerful, influential, and/or change agents of the region. I think that while the group should not be elitist, it should be filled with the elite. This will compliment the Citizen's League's approach to mass involvement, especially among youth, in their projects and activities.

I represent a generation removed two- or even three-times from those of you running the Caucus. One of the great challenges for a group like yours when trying to include younger folks is in identifying those of us who are emerging as leaders with capacity to share the baton. Education|Evolving has found a few of us, and guys like Kolderie, Graba, Curt Johnson, John Boland, Ed Dirkswager, Dan Loritz, and others have had no trouble bringing us on board; sharing responsibilities.

I suggest you look to bring some younger folk into the fold, in some capacity, especially those (I would include myself) who are deep, serious thinkers and who have already shown competence at high levels and with complex issues of public importance. You don't want just any kid—nor would I in your shoes.

Kolderie articulated well in your most recent interview with him that the civic powerhouses of the 20th century are no longer. Here young folks can help figure out how to build and leverage a new civic capacity. That said, the same skills are required today for public policy analysis and development than the 1960's. Young people must assume the humility to understand this. You, the veterans, will need to mentor the coming generations in these skills.
Become 'permanent,' but not heavy. Stay nimble, with a small group of leadership. With staff comes an office. Watch out for this. I do think E|E has come up with a very useful model, arranging a partnership to move away from reliance too much so on Ted and Joe. They're getting up there, too. The partners of E|E are complimented by associates and advisors, two other categories we have created. We have a desk in someone else's office, but not our own office. We are a virtual group.

Somehow the Caucus will need to come up with its own system. If two of you decided tomorrow you had to set the Caucus aside—health, family—what would happen to it? Would its mission be passed on?

I don't think the League and Caucus need to merge at any point—probably shouldn't—but they can partner formally and informally. Eg: as the League's technology strategy develops, it may be instructive.

At some point in the future, I s'pose, it would be good to sit down and hash some of this out further. Thanks for all the work you do.



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;  Lee Canning,  Charles Clay, Bill Frenzel, 
Paul Gilje,  Jim Hetland,  John Mooty,  Jim Olson,  Wayne Popham  and  John Rollwagen.  

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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