Hann Interview Please take one minute to evaluate our website. Click here to take the survey.
Not every problem needs a legislative solution, Minnesota State Senator David Hann, minority leader of the State Senate asserts. The Legislature, he says, should not be involved in trying to resolve every problem in the state. He advises that in putting together good proposals for solving public problems, people of goodwill should devise solutions that don't involve government.
He decries the growing trend of diminishing the role of local government officials, who now feel many decisions belong to a higher level of government, whether state or federal. He is also distressed by the Federal Government preempting the role of state government, especially in the areas of health care and education. Hann believes some of these federal intrusions are unconstitutional, since the federal role should be restricted to those areas mentioned in the U.S. Constitution. He points out that neither education nor health care is mentioned there.
Hann addresses issues in education, special education and transportation, examining who the policymakers should be in those areas and what the proper role is for the Legislature.
He asserts that the political divide in the country is as serious as the divide before the Civil War. He claims that Democrats and Republicans have very different views on the fundamental issues raised in the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence and says those are at the root of the parties' inability to find common ground on a number of issues.
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I did think the "Mexit" comment regarding the Met Council was clever but that was about it.
His opposition to government's role in education, health care, light rail, etc. is based on a viewpoint that seems to favor a white, middle to upper class attitude of privilege. I wonder what would happen to students in a free public education if there were no protective Federal laws for students who need Special Education services, civil rights for people of color, and students that are gay or transgender. I tend to think that those people would not be well served in some parts of the country and some states. Hence - a significant government role is needed at the Federal and State level to ensure safety, an education, and equal rights.
I also find it interesting that he brings up
the Civil War analogy. He seems to want the losing side to prevail
and grant state's rights in all of the areas he mentions. His
thoughts below I find odd rather than insightful.
"Our goal is to make sure there is equal
opportunity for all. But some people have more talents than others; some
are more motivated to achieve. This means people will make different
choices and obtain different results. The fact that people are not the
same is a great gift to society. I don't think the purpose of our
government is to make people the same."
He seems to be saying that if you have talent, motivation, and make good choices you will do just fine. That thinking ignores kids in special education, kids of color, kids in poverty, and LGBTQ kids. That is convenient thinking if you believe there is no role for Federal/State government.
I think celebration of diversity and a recognition of talents in everyone is the goal - not that everyone should be the same. Who would propose that? Why would that be governments role? Odd thinking to me.
Many people sense that something bad is coming - like animals do before a big storm. The evidence is all around us that things are going out of control. Mr Hann cited just a few examples.
I place the blame on political leaders that believe that the system of government that has worked very well (not perfect) since the country's founding needs to be torn down and replaced. They have been destroying the many positive aspects of American culture one by one with their ideological central government programs and rules.
Destructive elements within our society are now celebrated by many government leaders while the traditional cultural and religious values are practically scorned. Much of this is politically motivated to gain more power and is deviously misrepresented as concern for the well being of various groups.
Dishonesty in politics is completely out of control. Leaders consistently make public statements on critical issues that are intentionally misleading or just plain stupid.
I could go on but I'll leave it at that. I wonder if there is a positive role for the Civic Caucus in all of this other than to simply watch and document the crisis.
Robert J. Brown
I have had the pleasure of serving in the legislature (and on the education committee) and later on the State Board of Education. In those days the legislature set broad policy and allowed the State Board and the Commissioner to implement the policies in cooperation with the local school districts. The Commissioner was appointed by the State Board on a nonpartisan basis similar to the way school boards picked superintendents based on training and experience as educational executives. State Board members were appointed by the Governor to limited staggered terms so that no Governor could appoint the whole board. Those appointments were traditionally made on the basis of previous education policy, not as political cronies of the Governor. (When I served on the State Board I didn't even know the political affiliation of several of my colleagues).
Finally some school districts ( Minneapolis and St. Paul and possibly a few others) decided to have partisan endorsement for school board candidates. Before that the school board members were outstanding citizens not beholden to party machines. All of these changes made it more difficult to appoint knowledgeable educational leaders interested in the education of children. Thanks to the bipartisan support for the development of choice options (post secondary options, open enrollment, and charter schools) some young people are getting opportunities they might not have had, but others are struggling in a system that is too partisan and less professional than it should be.
I believe you can state as fact that the city regions with which the Twin Cities City Region is locked in competition for future business investment and activity are outbuilding and outspending us on public transportation, including light rail.
Sen. Hann should be probed on his self-declared pet peeve on light rail, with questions like: Are you saying that these other city regions are all making a big mistake and that the Twin Cities will gain in private investment and private sector jobs as a result of their mistaken strategy of providing additional public transit? Do you think it possible that these other city regions have a sensible strategy and that the Twin Cities will pay an economic penalty in diminished private sector investment and employment as a result of failure to embrace public transit? What do you think about the role of public transit, including light rail, in building a foundation for future private sector investment, jobs and general economic prosperity?
And he should also be probed on how we can appropriately pay for whatever investment, if any, in public transit is appropriate to our future economic health. E.g: Would you find it acceptable to allow cities to be served by a light rail line to have referenda on using property taxes to fund public investment in public transit? How about counties? How about regional sales tax? Would it not be better to allow citizens who live and, in many cases, own property in areas to be served? Would it also be proper to allow such local governments to have a larger role in such funding, thereby giving business leaders with businesses and property in those areas an opportunity to be heard on whether to tax themselves? Would such approaches as these be preferable to making such go or no go decisions in the state legislature, which includes many legislators whose districts would not directly benefit from more public transit?
Our continuing inability to act rationally to bring our state-local fiscal system into the 21st century is highly disconcerting to me. I had hoped that the transportation funding crisis might be a spur toward doing that, but I'm not seeing any hopeful signs of that.
It also occurs to me that perhaps public transit funding could be tied into an elected Met Council, or a Met Council including some elected officials as opposed to all being gubernatorial appointees. So if you can follow up, I would also get into that arena.
We really seem to be stuck and it is a pity,
if not a tragedy.
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© The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
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