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 Response Page - Crosby / Hottinger  Interview -      

These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Ned Crosby / John Hottinger Interview of


Ned Crosby and John Hottinger propose a new citizen based organization be created to help address Minnesota's structural problems with its state budget. Crosby and Hottinger propose a randomly selected, 1,000-person Minnesota Citizens Assembly, carefully selected by age, education, gender, geographic location, race and political attitudes. A citizensí "jury" would be selected from this pool to hold hearings, highlight budgetary issues and propose solutions to the Governor, the Legislature, the Citizens Assembly and to people throughout the state. Large financial contributions would be sought for a statewide communications effort.

For the complete interview summary see:

Response Summary:  Readers have been asked to rate, on a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, the following points discussed by Crosby and Hottinger. Average response ratings shown below are simply the mean of all readersí zero-to-ten responses to the ideas proposed and should not be considered an accurate reflection of a scientifically structured poll.

1.  Grassroots Lacking (4.3 average response)  The absence of credible grassroots proposals is a significant reason for Minnesota's failure to address long-term problems in its state budget.

2.  Citizen Assembly Needed (4.1 average response)  A Minnesota Citizen Assembly with 1,000 persons, randomly and demographically selected throughout the state, should be created to propose solutions.

3. Contributions Necessary (4.9 average response)  Private and philanthropic contributions in the millions of dollars will be needed by such an assembly to effectively communicate with the Governor, Legislature and the broader public.


Response Distribution:

Disagree Strongly

Disagree Moderately


Agree Moderately

Agree Strongly

Total Responses

1.  Grassroots Lacking







2.  Citizen Assembly Needed







3. Contributions Necessary







Individual Responses:

Dave Broden  (10)  (10)  (5)

1.  Grassroots Lacking.  The lack of "true citizen bottoms up" input and action to an approach is definitely a weakness in the civic involvement process in Minnesota and across the nation. It appears that far too many of the proposals and ideas come only from "experts" who are existing only for the purpose of studying issues and coming up with ideas and most likely have no real life interaction. This does not allow the citizen feedback or reaction to proposals to evolve effectively or build in ideas from the people. While this is a very prairie populist approach it has shown that it works because it connects people with the process. Currently proposals come primarily from the elected officials, their professional staff, study or foundation groups etc. The few that are from the citizens often get rolled over by the professionals. We should not have professionals defining the answers only tailoring the input and shaping the final content--citizen input will add a new and fresh direction. 

2.  Citizen Assembly Needed.  Some of the best ideas in Minnesota government evolved when Minnesota had what was described as a citizen legislature. This is not possible or even worth considering in the 21st century. There is a need to have a forum to capture the citizen input --the idea of a concept such as the citizen assembly is intriguing in that it provides a minimum structure on a statewide basis in which people can participate in the dialogue on key issues and there is a built in focus to the organization. 

3. Contributions Necessary.  The issue of how to form, evolve and maintain such an organization will require discussion, debate, and consideration of how to achieve the structure and capability to make such a group work effectively. Certainly funding will be needed but how much and how it will work and who will be involved must be addressed. I would not throw the concept away because funding cannot be found. Start small; use prototypes; connect with other specific groups; leverage other capabilities; use the social networks. All can be applied in some way.

Anonymous  (0)  (0)  (0)

Vici Oshiro  (2.5)  (5)  (10)

3. Contributions Necessary.  What we need (are) legislators with the wisdom to confront the problem honestly and the guts to advance a realistic budget.  Minnesota CA might help educate the public, but legislators and a governor can and should do that job.  This will be more effective if they manage to do it together.  That means compromise.

Michael Martens  (0)  (0)  (0)

1.  Grassroots Lacking.  This is a back-handed way of saying that the Civic Caucus has been wasting its time.  That some new group/body other that the Civic Caucus and groups like it needs to be formed to do the job that the Civic Caucus and groups like it are unable to do.   If existing groups cannot get the governor and legislature to make "hard choices" that need to be made; why will this new group be successful? 

2.  Citizen Assembly Needed.  Minnesota does not need another group. It has far too many groups already. It needs for about 25% to 50% of the existing groups to be disbanded or combined with other existing groups.     The problem is not knowing what to do. The problem is overcoming the lobbying of special interest groups and groups that want to keep the status quo.    Examples:  The Indian tribes spend lots of money on lobbying to prevent the expansion of non-Indian gaming.  Non-Indian gaming could raise "lots of money" that could be spent on early childhood education and repairing roads and bridges etc.  Private industry has eliminated defined benefit retirement plans. All public employee unions still have defined benefits retirements plans.  Defined benefits retirement plans should be eliminated for public employees, one can be sure that all public unions will very vigorously fight this. 

3. Contributions Necessary.  The governor and legislature should respond (to) private citizens asking for change if enough citizens ask for the same change.  Because the Governor and legislature know that they will not be re-elected if they ignore the will of the people

Bob White  (5)  (5)  (7.5)

Carl Scheider  (5)  (7.5)  (7.5)

2.  Citizen Assembly Needed.  It's a good idea, and excellent idea, but . . . it will cost way too much and the elected folks will likely ignore it. 

3. Contributions Necessary.  Yep - and it won't be worth it as the legislature will ignore it.  See M. Scott Peck, A Different Drum.  The real trick is to get the elected representatives to trust each other.  Peck found out that it takes at least 3 days of daily interaction before any trust develops.  Try that - put them all in a resort for 4 days, with workshops and ideas that would be done to the citizensí jury - and they will begin trusting - and they will have to do what they think they should do.  And I bet we can find people to contribute to that idea.

Don Anderson  (7.5)  (7.5)  (10)

2.  Citizen Assembly Needed.  It is worth a try. The present governmental setup doesn't look to realistic solutions, only what will bless the ones' who financed their campaigns. 

3. Contributions Necessary.  Is it possible to get contributions from the present campaign funders?

Peter Hennessey  (2.5)  (2.5)  (2.5)

1.  Grassroots Lacking.  The two qualifiers, "credible" and "grassroots" make this question meaningless. Let's say the "grassroots" still have some common sense and point out that the State simply must live within its means. That is, cut expenses back til they are covered by current tax receipts. That idea will be dismissed as not "credible" because the State has billions and billions in unfunded liabilities and contractual commitments for pensions, welfare, education, etc.    You can't escape the fact that good ideas come from good fundamental assumptions, good philosophies; and vice versa. 

2.  Citizen Assembly Needed.  So sorry, you lost me at "1000" and definitely at "randomly selected [pool], carefully selected by..." Whatever you are trying to do, your statistically valid population sample will get biased by one simple fact; the participants will have to want and be able to serve.   Are you proposing to dissolve the Legislature and replace it with this MCA? 

3. Contributions Necessary.  Says who? Are we to believe that a committee of this size could not make news, attract enough attention to get on the news and talk programs for free? That a governor and other politicians would ignore such an assembly?

Dennis L. Johnson  (0)  (0)  (0)

1.  Grassroots Lacking.  The unskilled, unprincipled, and inept people we elect (are) the reason for the failure to address long-term problems. They have no interest beyond the next election and act accordingly. 

2.  Citizen Assembly Needed.  Selected by who?  We already have a citizensí assembly - it is called "voting". 

3. Contributions Necessary.  These millions of dollars of contributions can better be used elsewhere - why do we need a parallel government with no legislative powers, when all we need to do is stop electing progressives who love to spend other people's money until it is all gone. The problem is not the lack of ideas, it is the lack of principles.

W. D. (Bill) Hamm  (0)  (0)  (0)

1.  Grassroots Lacking.  There are plenty of grass roots proposals now on the table but no one in power is listening. 

2.  Citizen Assembly Needed.  Just another group of Socialistic idiots trying to further empower their inner core. I most certainly would not trust these to lefties to select my demographically random representation. This is total political ignorance. 

3. Contributions Necessary.  With the present socialist bias built into the boards of so many of these foundations that you would be using to finance this, it undermines any ideal of evenhandedness.

Anonymous  (2.5)  (2.5)  (5)

John Sievert  (0)  (0)  (0)

1.  Grassroots Lacking.  It's not that we don't know what to do it's that our legislators and population lack the will to do it. 

2.  Citizen Assembly Needed.  We have an assembly to do this called the Legislature.  Why do we need yet another one but one of people uneducated in the problem? 

3. Contributions Necessary.  The whole thing is a bad idea.  In fact, it's a horrible idea.  We have an elected body that we have put in place to do the job.  They need to sit down and do it.  Yes, that takes courage and it's about time they showed some. This is the worst idea I've heard in a long, long, long time.

Bruce Lundeen  (7.5)  (7.5)  (7.5)

Anonymous  (0)  (0)  (0)

2.  Citizen Assembly Needed.  We already have such an assembly - the state legislature.  Creating a shadow legislature will not solve the problem and is a step toward initiative and referendum. 

3. Contributions Necessary.  I organized a national political initiative of 39,000 people online using free or low-cost tools.  Again, it seems a more cumbersome and larger recreation of an already existing structure.

Mina Harrigan  (6)  (3)  (5)

Plenty of groups (are) currently attempting to influence state government decision-making---we need to encourage/facilitate them working together--not just create a new one.

Tom Neuville  (1)  (4)  (9)

I don't think the assembly would aid the process any more than current polling and elections would.

Will Shapira  (na)  (na)  (na)

"From each according to his/her ability, to each according to his/her need." I am all for Dayton's "tax the rich proposals." The rich take the most out of this terribly imbalanced society so the rich should put the most back in. How about a wealth tax as they have in Norway and other countries; it is spelled out in Dec. 13. If it can work at a national level, it can work at a state level.  It's long past time for the rich to pay their fair share of the state's most pressing needs including dealing with the $6.2b shortfall. You see what eight years of neo-conservatism from the statehouse did to us; give Dayton's proposals a chance and urge him to extend them much farther ideologically. We have a great socialist tradition to draw upon. It's time to exhume it and breath new life into it!

Barbara Glaser  (na)  (na)  (na)

Couldn't the Citizens League take on this project?
It seems a shame to create and fundraise for yet another organization.

William Kuisle  (1)  (1)  (0)

This is a Republic where we elect folks to represent us. Not a citizen's jury.  The thought that a new PAC would start beating a drum and running ads scares me. Elections have become confusing enough.

Bill Jung  (4)  (3)  (5)

I have suspicions about what is proposed. I must ask, Who will choose the participants? Will the PAC be non-partisan? Will the proposed advertising turn out to be self serving and counter productive like that of Education Minnesota? Will those who give the largest donations end up having influence as to policy? History shows this to be true. Over all, I smell a fish. It has happened time and time again, the agenda with the most advertising
dollars tends to become accepted whether it is good or bad. How much education
can a voter get from a thirty second commercial? I say not much at all.

With the arrival of the Tea Party on the political scene, do we not have at
present, a groundswell of grassroots activism? Anyone who knows anything about
the design of our political system knows we are meant to be represented by a
citizen legislature. We do not need another layer added to it.

I agree that we need more citizens active in politics, but also believe we have
too many PAC's pushing narrow, self-serving agendas upon us and our legislators.
Educated voters are the key to success in Minnesota. Education in both our U.S.
and state constitutions, and the history and beliefs of our nationís Founding
Fathers is essential to an educated voter. This should be first and foremost in
any effort to build a better Minnesota. Beyond that, we as voters need to elect
candidates for office willing to view first and foremost, whether any proposed
piece of legislation conform to the Constitution for the betterment of society
as a whole.

Bert Press (5)  (5)  (0)

Roger A Wacek  (10)  (10)  (5)

Fred Senn  (5)  (3)  (10)

An interesting idea, but not one I would support. The concept of informed political will is important. We already have two great groups, Citizens League and your own Civic Caucus doing the homework.  Give them $500 million for communications and see what happens. The problem with this concept is that a randomly selected "jury" will not have the interest or background to get to a sound proposal quickly.

Robert J. Brown  (5)  (0)  (0)

This looks to me to be an effort to put a lot of money into this Citizens Jury program that still will not have any significant impact on the legislative process. What is needed is a serious multi-partisan effort to get citizens to participate in the political caucuses and primary elections. As long as the two major parties are getting narrower and narrower in selecting candidates and developing platforms these political science exercises will have no impact.

Chuck Lutz  (6)  (7)  (10)

John Milton  (10)  (10)  (10)

Leanne Kunze  (10)  (0)  (10)

On first glance, itís a great idea.  The Minnesota Legislature is supposed to be a Citizen Legislature...maybe we should fix that discrepancy first before spending additional public funds on something many would see as "growing government."  Campaign finance reform, reining in special interests and real consequences for violating public trust would allow for that cross-section of citizens to have faith in entering the race and serving in their Citizen Legislature.  As far as productive Public Service Announcements...if you get special interests out of media (including their corporate influence) then they will be trusted to provide real information from several perspectives and allow the average citizen to engage in thinking for themselves and the greater good.

Peter Heegaard  (10)  (10)  (10)

Itís a tall order but I think worth it, so I give it a 10 all the way.

CamA. Gordon  (2)  (7)  (7)

John Nowicki  (0)  (0)  (nc)

Sounds like another lobby group

Larry and Ann Schluter  (6)  (8)  (7)

Very interesting idea.  With such a large problem it would be interesting to see how this would work.

Scott Halstead  (2)  (2)  (2)

Establishment of a citizen assembly may not be very representative of the citizens of Minnesota.  It would take a lot of money and the sources of the funds (are) likely to create more problems.  I would prefer that a report card of the Governorís and legislatureís performance on the primary issues be established followed by communication through various media statewide.

Anonymous  (na)  (na)  (na)

Did anybody ask these guys (a) whether 'budget problems' means the coming biennium or the longer-term balancing of revenues and expenditure; and (b) whether their notion of "solving the problem" includes any other-ways-of-doing-things as well as just cutting-and-taxing?

In general this has the same problem as the current Citizens League efforts. It doesn't have a way to introduce any new thinking into the discussion. It's: Haul out all the known ideas; ask people which they prefer. The CL is doing this currently with transportation: "Do you favor more roads/cars or more LRT?"

An important question, I guess, is how to get any new ideas introduced into these public-discussions . . . since groups like MCA and the CL continue to promote this process.

Obvious the old CL process had a way, but staffing is hard to come by these days.

On the other hand, information is a lot more accessible these days: I'm not sure some work by volunteers couldn't see beyond the current/conventional opinion on a number of these questions.

At any rate: I do think these folks need to get challenged on this.

Chuck Slocum  (5)  (8)  (5)

1. Grassroots Lacking.  Very difficult to gain consensus here. The long-term difficulty of the problem and its complexity are also major factors. 

2. Citizen Assembly Needed.  Agreed; little to lose and lots to gain. 

3. Contributions Necessary.  No doubt, to implement this idea it will cost money but I need more information about how millions of dollars will be needed to make the exercise useful.

Thanks for this report. The Citizens Jury idea has real value and could be most helpful hereÖtoo late for 2011 session.  There are very tough choices that must be framedÖthe up front buy in of elected officials and the General Public is essential to have any kind of an impact.  Thinking through the next decade would be helpful in the 2013 and beyond sessions.

Al Quie  (0)  (0)  (0)

Rick Bishop  (7)  (5)  (7)

Might be a good idea, yet isn't that why we elect officials...politics aside?

Wayne Jennings  (8)  (9)  (5)

Fascinating idea. Give it a try. The present is not working now.

Terry Stone  (0)  (0)  (0)

Ideas, both good and bad are in surplus sitting on dusty academic shelves and policy analyst's file cabinets around the state. There are enough solid political ideas on the Civic Caucus website to run seven earth-sized planets with a balanced budget, a National Park and two wind turbines for each citizen and no poverty.
A citizen assembly cannot be selected both randomly and demographically. Would we also select them for problem-solving skills, the ability to read, leadership skills and a fundamental understanding of political science?
How can one select for race, but ignore religion and culture? Who will represent the apathetic?
Citizens cannot be screened and selected for political attitude because (among other reasons) it's a dynamic phenomenon that is perturbed by the very process in which the citizens are asked to participate. The citizenís jury that became disoriented and mentally compromised after five days, then decided to tax themselves to solve the budget deficit demonstrated this. Imagine if they had holed up for ten days. Clearly we would be talking cannibalism.
Let's just use the Tea Party as our Citizens Assembly; they seem to have randomly and demographically selected themselves and they seem to be having considerable success while making welcome waves.  They don't ask for grant money and they communicate fairly well; and they write well--I've seen their signs.

Bright Dornblaser  (2)  (1)  (1)

Tom Swain  (7)  (2)  (5)

Deficient problem and potential solutions are too complex in my judgment for this kind of undertaking.  Furthermore, special interest would torpedo the juryís recommendations.  What's needed is top business/public leadership for the cause.  Find a couple of Win Wallin, Chuck Denny, or Ken Dayton to take on the problem.

Carolyn Ring  (4)  (3)  (8)

We do have representative government.  Citizens should be encouraged to communicate with their representatives.  I am not convinced an assembly of 1,000 persons, structured as explained is a viable answer.

Shirley Heaton  (10)  (10)  (10)

I'm responding because I see the same situation here, in Florida. As for the concern that the same people participate in gatherings such as Town Hall Meetings, I wouldn't worry about that. My past experience in Community Relations proved that it is always the locality 'brokers' who influence the others so the 'trick' is to get them to promote the correct message. I'm certain I join others in watching this effort very closely.

Tom Spitznagle  (3)  (4)  (5)


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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