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These comments are responses to the Civic Caucus interview with

Paul Gilje, Civic Caucus Executive Director
June 17, 2016

Minnesota needs more high quality, innovative public policy proposals


Innovative changes occur after specific, actionable proposals are advanced, according to Civic Caucus Executive Director Paul Gilje. Coming up with those proposals is where a good amount of the problem lies today, he says.

Gilje speaks to the Civic Caucus interview group as the Caucus begins work on a report with findings, conclusions and recommendations, based on its review over the past 10 months of the public-policy process in Minnesota. He encourages the group to concentrate during the following week's internal discussion on how to get more high-quality public-policy proposals initiated in the state-that is, how to make Minnesota a hothouse for innovative ideas. He outlines what makes a good proposal, what environment makes it more likely that good proposals will be advanced and what enhances prospects that good proposals will be debated and, hopefully, enacted.

Gilje urges the Civic Caucus to be bold and courageous as it writes its report, which it plans to issue publicly by Dec. 1, 2016. He says the Caucus has nothing to lose, so it doesn't have to compromise in the report, which will be a contribution to the community.

Gilje agrees with several members of the interview group that perhaps the report should focus on how the community can improve the proposals it advances to the Legislature. Several interviewers want the report also to address ways to improve the legislative process so the Legislature will be more receptive to good ideas from outside groups and organizations.

For the complete interview summary see: link to interview

Individual Responses:

Ralph Brauer
What has been missing from the analysis by the Caucus and was missing from the agenda for the forthcoming recommendations are two key factors:

1) A PROCESS to involve a wider group than the small group of insiders who seem to be setting the agenda for the Caucus. Such a process does exist: it is called Open Space Technology. It is the only process I know of that can bring a large group together to focus on an issue. However, in order to work well OST needs a very good facilitator and meticulous planning. You would have to bring in an outsider to do this—which is probably as it should be. One of the best in this region and in the world is Michael Herman of Chicago.

2) You need a SYSTEMIC PERSPECTIVE. For several years I have urged the Caucus to do this. Ted Kolderie brings a great deal to the Caucus and is one of the most important, influential and forward-thinking policy makers of the past few decades. However, Ted has not worked with system dynamics or systems modeling which are policy tools used by major corporations and government agencies. Nobody does this better than Peter Senge. If you could even get him for a day that would be great.

Best of luck in your work. However if ever there was a time to think outside the box this is it.

Vici Oshiro
Reminds me of Warren Preeshl's proposal on fiscal disparities.  Very few of us on that committee to hear his initial proposal - and look what happened!!  I await your report with interest.

Scott Halstead
Great session.

A few thoughts.  Consider a coalition of public policy groups each taking on a few key public policy issues.

Statewide communications of the findings with input from those interested.

Statewide support of the proposed public policy

Ensure the media is covering and reporting what the legislature is doing with the public policy and the public policy groups taking the appropriate action with the legislature, supporters and media.

Keep a legislative scorecard on the public policy issues for the voters.

Be aware of your foes including State Government leaders.

Paul Hauge
Hooray- Hopefully the 5,000 subscribers to CC will take your suggestions to heart and spread them statewide and to the members of the Legislature. Are there many legislators on the CC email list?

Very well done. Now the work begins.

Tom Abeles
1) Since the CC has a long, intertwined history with the Citizens League and the remarks in this posting were highly critical of the Met Council proposal I think that a joint examination of that proposal would be of significant benefit. This is particularly important because Ted basically organized and lead the effort of the CL.

2) There has been repeated emphasis by Dan and Paul that the CC's interviews, though picked because of potential public policy issues, were informational and not advocacy or policy focused/recommending. Thus, in many ways, as suggested here, the CC might be in violation of the ideas regarding good policy advocacy. And, in fact, the posting does question this "neutrality" in many of the principles and caveats it lists.

In fact the example of how the university operated in its quarterly meetings with legislature might point to a possible model.

3) The issue of Uber, mentioned here, is important because Uber and others know where the gaps exist in public policy and the law and shape their actions to go thru those gaps, be they operational or tax loopholes among others. The legislatures, globally, are now reactive.

4) As has been pointed out, strong political and civic leadership works to advocate for creative policy as we have seen in the past. They are much like Uber with a social consciousness. Things get done but there are problems here with regards to democratic participation. There is a balance here and Minnesota, at the moment is unbalanced as suggested in the posting.

Dennis Carlson
I appreciate the comprehensive interview and thoughtful discussion.  I would add the following (in bold) to the list of challenges:

  • Match job skill sets available to qualified, or under qualified, job seekers and communicate the skills that are needed to the educational institutions able to provide the needed training.
  • Review, understand and attack causes of poverty-level incomes.
  • Understand the root cause and remove educational achievement gaps among various groups.
  • Make college more relevant, affordable, and accessible.
  • Link high schools, colleges and universities with employers and the communities - as well as high schools.
  • Improve the process of identifying, endorsing, nominating, selecting, and training the state's elected and appointed officials.
  • In order to attract a larger number of potential citizens running for office consider doubling the pay for legislators.
  • Improve mental health services to school age youth.
  • Improve training practices among the police force working in diverse communities (The immediate use of extreme violence in "eliminating the threat" seems to be at the root of a serious community race issue).

I would add that the achievement gap is often looked at as a problem specific to public education institutions.  I would submit that the issue is much broader than that.  Living wage jobs, affordable housing, community resources and services, all contribute to the problem and hopefully the solution.  That involves Cities, Counties, the private sector, non-profits, etc. to do what they can to improve the environment these families and children come from.  I would add that teacher training, training our police force to work with diverse communities, and the training of sitting legislators all seem to be logical issues to pursue in an effort to improve these large public institutions.

I hope the civic caucus considers creating a bi-partisan group to address the challenges and solutions you come up with.  Many of the people you interviewed would be great on such a task force. For example, Steve Kelley from the Humphrey Institute and Charlie Weaver from the Minnesota Business Partnership would be excellent on such a group - although far apart on their political views.  I think such a group could be very productive with ideas and strategies for solutions that could be shared with multiple policy makers.

Douglas Hennes
Fred de Sam Lazaro, a native of India, has been a PBS NewsHour correspondent for 30 years, and over the last 15 years his work has included what he calls the Under-told Stories Project. He does 12-15 such stories a year, traveling round the world to highlight social justices and work done, mostly in third-world countries, to right wrongs and to push for sound public policy that creates better living and working conditions for the poor and underprivileged. A recent story focused on child labor in Nepal brick kilns.  He is a superb journalist and story-teller, with a clear sense 

During the Under-Told Stories project years, Fred, a St. Scholastica alumnus, has been based at a Catholic university — first St. John’s, then St. Mary’s and since Jan. 1, at St. Thomas. He will be a great fit here because we have a strong Communication and Journalism Department, and he plans to integrate his work into the curriculum plus involve faculty and students in his work.

So anyway, I’m "supervising" (a loose word) Fred and putting together a communications and public awareness plan that hopes to make him more of a household word in at least the Upper Midwest. One facet of the plan is to get him out on the hustings and give presentations to groups large and small — Chambers of Commerce and Rotary Clubs and the Citizens League . . . and the Civic Caucus? I have seen his presentations — they are excellent, full of insight and spiced with video clips of his stories, and he is loves to engage in Q&A.

I realize the Civic Caucus is mostly an online forum, but might it be time to step outside the box and do an "event." You could invite your many "members." We could host it at St. Thomas, charging a modest fee for snacks and hold a cash bar. It wouldn’t cost much to do and heck, people could put faces behind all of your interviewees.

Ken Peterson
Mr.  Gilje’s presentation, as reported,  doesn’t deal with the central public policy problem of our time---the great difficulty of winning approval for policy initiatives.

Like many of today’s activists on the left and right and center, he seems to assume if a proposal looks out for the good of society and is grounded in solid data and proper analysis, it should be adopted. Actually, there has always been a great gap between---quoting Ted Kolderie’s policy concept--- actionable proposals and resolution. Today for a variety of reasons, bridging that gap is harder than ever.

Doing so is both the challenge and responsibility for policy proponents whether the ultimate decision maker is a neighborhood council planning a picnic or the legislature confronting lack of transportation funding. The single most important consideration for any serious policy proposal is whether it can be enacted.

Most contemporary would-be change makers ignore that rule because they are so convinced of the rightness of their ideas. After they propose something, they see no need for negotiations and compromise. It is all or nothing and of course, over and over again, we get the latter. Consequently, the public square has a surfeit of good ideas but sees little resolution.

If you haven’t done so already, I recommend the Civic Caucus spend time considering ways to acknowledge honorable differences and then to facilitate agreements through compromise.


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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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