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These comments are responses to the Civic Caucus interview with

Sean Kershaw, Executive Director of the Citizens League
June 3, 2016

Today’s political dynamic demands that more diverse interests
be represented on public policy study groups


Sean Kershaw, executive director of the Citizens League, explains the study of the Metropolitan Council undertaken by a Citizens League task force from September 2015 through March 2016. He describes the three recommendations made in the task force report: (1) adopt fixed, four-year, staggered terms for Metropolitan Council members, who would still be appointed by the governor; (2) strengthen the Metro Council selection process to include more input by citizens and local officials; and (3) fully deploy the Metro Council's current authority to reduce concentrations of poverty in the region.

Kershaw asserts that differences in the political environment today compared with the past require a different makeup of Citizens League study committees or task forces than in the past. A diverse group of interests by geography, ideology, sector, race/ethnicity and experience with the Met Council were represented on the 19 person committee, which was a critical part of coming up with recommendations that had credibility and would work for the long term. A group of generalist citizens alone, without any formal role for key stakeholders, may not be as effective as it was in the past.

Challenges like the aging of the Baby Boomers, and their impact on every institution in Minnesota, demand a rethinking of how we approach public policy development and implementation. The previous model that worked so well for the Citizens League in the past, will not be sufficient for these challenges. On an issue like aging, every institution becomes an ‘institution of public policy’, not just the legislature and executive bodies – or formal policy organizations like the Citizens League.

Sean also expressed concerns about metropolitan school districts, especially St. Paul, and the role of foundations in public policy.

For the complete interview summary see: link to interview

Individual Responses:

John Nowicki-- Question whether the Council is relevant. 

Bob Brown--I have never been a fan of the Met Council, but I strongly support the move back to fixed terms for council members, with some kind of staggered terms. I preferred the old Rosenmeier approach where the council was a planning and coordinating agency, not a super government with substantial  authority over major governmental functions in the seven county area. Having lost that battle, I would hope that the council should be something other than a plaything controlled by the Governor.

Why is our metropolitan area still seen as seven  counties? Initially it was seen as five counties - and in both cases it related to the feds definition of s Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area (SMSA, or later just SMA). Now that we have more counties (including St. Croix County Wisconsin) economically integrated into or metro area what does that do with governance issues?

Having worked my life in education I appreciate the concern expressed by Sean and others, but what entity (Besides Ted Kolderie) is doing anything about that?

Scott Halstead--I certainly didn't agree with the makeup of the study group.  The CL should have members qualified to perform this study and called upon others for input.

The Met. Council directly reflects the Governor.  I attended several council meetings during the Central Corridor design phase.  Unanimous votes were prevalent.  Council members do not coordinate with their districts.  A few County Commissioners are making the calls.  Taxation without representation.  More that 70% of the jobs and people live in the suburbs and we continue to design and build 13 -14 mph LRT that are very expensive to build, operate and maintain, mostly carry the same people that have various forms of bus transit, have significant choke points and have very limited capability to increase capacity.  We aren't building transit systems.  This is all about economic development of the central cities.

We need a Metropolitan Council responsive and serving the entire region.  We need operating units that function smoothly and keep and accurately report statistics positive and negative.  

The minority report would result in a much better Met. Council than what CL recommended.

Our entire public education system is in disarray.  According to State Demographer 2015 report, approx. 47 of H.S grads are attending higher education out of state and most don't return.  Whatever the problem, Minnesota employers and the state can't afford these losses.  Minnesota has a real problem with out-migration and unless numerous issues are successfully resolved, we will join several other eastern and northern states economically and loss of U. S. Representatives.  The CL should undertake a study of these issues, publish the report for the citizens, gain supporters and take it the legislature.

Dennis Carlson--Many good points were made and several very concerning statements as well.  The lack of long-term planning for our metro area and state is appalling.  It seems long-range planning has become synonymous with 4-year elected terms.  Unless people get more concerned about these big system issues (economy, a skilled work force, transportation, housing, etc.) then the next political run for office - the next campaign will always remain the highest priority.  The likelihood of our current legislature moving in a progressive manner to address any of these long term issues seems remote, as long as one party remains obstructionist in its actions.

I live in Blaine (in Anoka County since 1989).  I can't remember a time when I have heard any local official talk about the Met Council in a positive light.  I have only heard criticism in regard to water and sewer lines, subsidized housing, and transportation - often, outright anger occurs anytime the Met Council is mentioned.  They come off as heavy handed and unconcerned about local community consequences of their actions.  They have a lot of work to do if they want to earn credibility or develop some level of trust among elected officials within the 7 county metro area.  I will confess that most of the elected officials out here lean pretty far right, while my personal support for politicians leans much further left.

The criticism of St. Paul Public Schools seems unreasonably harsh and offers no hope of any system improvement.  Hearing an attitude of "giving up" from an executive of his stature is immensely disappointing.  The community environment in St. Paul - the local economy, family income, impacts of poverty, lack of affordable housing, social services and mental health support - all seem to me to play a critical role in the student learning (or lack of it) in St. Paul Public Schools.  All of those conditions are certainly within the purview of both the Citizens League and the Met Council.  To simply give up and send your child to a private or charter school without concern for the rest of the families who are trapped and can only attend their local public school is self-centered to say the least and hardly fitting for an executive with regional and/or state wide responsibility and influence.

There are many positive things that can be done to improve our urban schools - have affordable housing for families, have living wage jobs for parents (single or two parent families), and have mental health and social service support systems available in a timely manner for those in need.  As far as the urban school systems themselves, they need superintendents that stay for 5-10 years so they can make significant needed improvements, students need relevant curriculum for a changing world, they need unions that are willing to support teacher training and retention of highly skilled teachers, and they need a school board that thinks long term and makes decisions that will stand the test of time.

This was a disappointing read on many levels.

Michael Martens--1. The Citizens League completely ignored the issue of the Met Council being a staff driven organization The Met Council reacts to staff proposals.  Ex. Thrive 2014, which was presented to the MC as a completed document for its approval. The Met Council does not lead its staff in the directions it wants to go.

2. Having a completely un-elected group tax & spend over $ 1Billion. is taxation without representation.

3. In negotiations one starts by asking for more than one expects to get then negotiates down to something acceptable.  The CL starts with a very weak & timid proposal that is basically no change from the current system.

At least 60% of the Met council should be either elected by the people or appointed by the cities & counties.

If the there were open direct elections the press would cover these elections; which would raise the profile of the issues and policies the MC is involved in.    People would be become more interested & engaged in MC issues of  planning for transportation, housing density, sewer etc.


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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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