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 Response Page - Sean Kershaw  Interview -      

These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Sean Kershaw Interview of

The Questions:

_8.8 average_____ 1.  On a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, what is your view on whether citizens by their own actions--not only government action--can make significant contributions toward solving public policy problems? 

_7.7 average_____ 2.  On a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, what is your view on whether citizens should take charge of their own learning on public issues, instead of relying so much on information from experts?

_7.0 average_____ 3.  On a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, what is your view on whether the Civic Caucus and the Citizens League should be linked organizationally?

__48.8 % yes; 52.2 % no 4. Are you a member of the Citizens League? 

Joe Nathan (8) (5) (5) (yes)

Question 2:  It is impossible for most of us to become experts on a variety of issues.
We can become knowledgeable about a handful of issues and then use a
variety of info sources, including a variety of publications and some
"experts" to help us understand many other issues.

It is not clear what the CL is accomplishing with young people, other than
have them speak out.

Harry Boyte and his colleagues have developed a process through Public
Achievement in which youth not only learn to speak, but to take constructive action. Boyte's idea (with which I agree) is that speaking is not enough - young people need to actually identify a problem that concerns them and work on it so that they actually help reduce or resolve it.

This goes back many years to what some of us called youth/service learning.  For example, I worked with

a. 5-8 year old youngsters to design and build a playground for a school
b. 12-18 year olds to solve consumer problems adults referred to us
c. 14-18 year olds to help reduce odor pollution in a particular

Does CL (Or Civic Caucus) envision actually helping youngsters identify and
then work on a real problem? I hope so but am not sure.

Donna Anderson (8) (9) (10) (yes)

Vici Oshiro (10) (10) (_) (no)

Question 1:  It is not easy and it is infrequent, but sometimes citizens can make significant contributions.

Question 2:  Question implies either/or.  Citizens should take charge of their own learning on public issues AND much of this learning is likely to be reading, hearing (and comparing and evaluating) information from experts.  We will sometimes have direct experience, but should not be limited to those areas.

Question 4:  Used to be a member.  Recent attempts at electronic participation have not proven fruitful.  Unfortunately, I don't know how to design them to be more rewarding.

Al Quie (10) (10) (5) (no)

Peter Hennessey (10) (10) (5) (no)

Question 1:  History has plenty of examples of a single citizen making a big difference. A particularly obscene example in modern times is George Soros who's spending his ill-gotten billions on worms who are trying to destroy the very civilization that made it possible for him to get rich. A hopeful example is Sarah Palin who started out with on the local school board. 

Question 2:   Whoever said "experts" actually know anything, or that their "expertise" necessarily represents knowledge superior to anything available to the common man?

Question 3: Except for personalities or office politics, how would that change anything? Is one organization more or less partisan, philosophically more or less traditional, than the other? Have access to more or less resources, important people, etc.?

Donald H. Anderson (10) (6) (5) (no)

Andy Driscoll (10) (8) (5) (no)

Question 4:  Former member.

Under Sean Kershaw, it's clear the Citizens League has made major strides in bringing issues into a wider arena with what is hoped to be a longer term goal of engaging, yes, but more empowering citizens to take charge of their governance and public destinies.

It remains in the realm and culture of government and corporate leadership to withhold that empowerment, despite attempts to placate serious dissent or truly solicit input from affected constituencies through phony advisory structures. Elected leadership, appointed leadership and bureaucrats/technocrats seem convinced that they know what is best for all of us and have devised deceitful structures that corral and keep at bay any serious doubts and ideas as to how systems should be developed and implemented. This falls more strongly among the arenas of land and water use, environmental impacts/pollution and transportation, but can be applied to all areas of regulation policy and governance.

It is to such organizations as the Citizens League, issues-based organizing groups, educational institutions, and media organizations that the responsibility increasingly falls to breach that divide between citizens and their public policy structures, between real knowledge and real involvement over the head-patting, distancing substructures of policy processes. Perfect and recent examples of this latter mindset has been the development of the Central Corridor Light Rail line and several out-of-place housing and commercial developments along sensitive river corridors, not to mention the more severe effects of energy utility expansion and waste disposal in communities already impacted by disproportionate numbers of pollution-generators among inner-city neighborhoods.

To the Citizens League, places like the Humphrey Institute, and others, like our media-focused civic engagement organization, CivicMedia/Minnesota, come opportunities to exploit our own public policy experiences separately and in partnership to educate, organize and empower citizens otherwise left out of the decisions that most affect them, and work to see that the ensuing knowledge will itself push them to engage and challenge the power structures. The role that the Civic Caucus plays must be determined by internal discussion, but its experience-rich membership could become among the more empowering of us all. Any effort to span the chasm of ignorance and effective public policy must engage everyone, sometimes with serious "affirmative action" among affected and underrepresented communities.

CivicMedia/Minnesota sees itself as the grassroots, independent media-focused civic engagement tool and public affairs educator, but also as a supplier of complementary media understanding and training for other organizations developing public and governance systems and issue positions.

Charles Lutz (10) (8) (10) (yes)

Lyall Schwarzkopf (5) (4) (5) (yes)

Bill Hamm (9) (10) (5) (no)

Very good exchange, thanks. I have recently taken the 8th CD Chairmanship of the Independence Party or as we are now calling it, the "Freedom Coalition" of the IP. Our WEB site will be up by Monday but still under construction. All contributions would be greatly appreciated, Take Care.

Question 1:  That might seem a strong answer from me but I have done it in unison with other free agents and on a rare occasion on my own. One of the hardest things for an activist to fight is the constant negativism you encounter from the beaten masses. If you can convince yourself or let others convince you that it is a truly unbeatable cause you've already lost. The other thing that is hard for many to accept is that personal credit isn't required to win.

Question 2: All so called experts are biased because all people are biased simple human nature. This knowledge should always temper ones acceptance of all opinionated parts of presentations or other material. The tricky part is separating truth from opinion, it doesn't happen if you're not trying.

Question 3:  I haven't heard enough details to comment on such a linkage, although I would tend to oppose on principle.

Question 4: Used to keep more track but not for some time.

Janna Caywood (9)(7) (9) (yes)

Question 1:  I would add, we need deeper public involvement processes & structures institutionalized, to make it easier for citizens to partner with government.

Question 2:  Would be nice if information on public issues were easier to find (and easier to judge as credible or not), but in this age of information overload and agenda spinning that is not so easy sometimes. Learning from experts has its place, and I wouldn't want to devalue specialized training and knowledge, but I agree citizens should define what our public values and priorities are not technocrats.

Ray Schmitz (10) (10) (8) (no)

Paul Hauge (8) (9) (7) (no)

Jan Hively (10) (10) (7) (yes)

Question 1:  Every citizen is capable of throwing a wrench into the works of social harmony -- from throwing trash out the car window to shooting down children in schools.   Our democratic society depends on the strength of our cultural ethic -- the golden rule, civic responsibility -- behavior that helps rather than hinders.  People learn by doing and by being reinforced for doing well and doing good.   Each of us must be taught that we can make a significant positive difference as a citizen.   How could we belong to a civic caucus and think otherwise?

Question 2:  The goal of education is to teach students how to take charge of their own learning.  For me, that implies teaching people how to think like researchers -- how to collect information, including information from experts, sort it out, make unbiased decisions, and follow through with actions.

Chuck Slocum (10) (7) (5) (yes)

Sean has had a fine run as ED, especially in reaching new and younger members and providing relevant social interaction.  His ideas for expansion to a “Citizens League Minnesota” organization with chapters in Greater MN are promising.

Question 1:   One-on-one mentoring with our most at risk young people is one such example.

Question 2:   Informed citizen engagement is essential; part of being informed requires learning from experts.

Question 3:   Make it a WIN-WIN; would like to know more here.

Wayne Jennings (8) (8) (9) (yes)

 Glad to see communication between the two organizations.

I think technology can be exploited for learning about civic issues: Internet, YouTube videos, Wikipedia, social networks, twitter. Consider the role of technology in the reactions to the elections in Iran. I'm amazed at the gigantic amounts of material available at a mouse click. We just have to learn how to do it for civic purposes.

Peter Heegaard (10) (10) (10) (yes) 

This one is a slam dunk!

Paul Magnuson (10) (6) (3) (no)

The work of the League and the Caucus is compatible, but can accomplish more working independently because they should reach different audiences.  Unity of purpose of the citizens of Minnesota should be a primary goal.  These two groups as nongovernmental groups can accomplish a great deal.  I am convinced that the solution to major social, economic and structural issues of the day cannot and will not be solved by government. This leaves the responsibility to organizations like the League and the Caucus.

Bright Dornblaser (8) (10) (10) (yes)

Question 1:  Conceptually a 10.  Effective implementation still to be determined.  More civic engagement by some citizens has been achieved.  More and newer means of engagement certainly are pluses.  Criteria for engagement success need wider understanding and acceptance, also data on how many have changed somehow as  result of participation in the process and then so what?  Continuous improvement needs the data and its evaluation.  Has the civic engagement process produced different policies than would have occurred w/out it?  If so, what part of the process was most influential?

Question 2:  To the extent the "experts" do not provide the information citizens want to know, certainly they should take the initiative of their own learning.  The issue is how to motivate.  CL engagement perhaps can help learn what citizen's want to know that is not being provided and help motivate the experts to provide it.   That process perhaps MAY be more doable financially now with CL access to new technologies.

Carolyn Ring (8) (6) (5) (no)

Question 2:  It is difficult to get the full story complex on difficult issues.  Too many people rely on the Newspaper and other media that often is not "expert" advice. 

Clarence Shallbetter (8) (3) (4) (yes)

Terry Stone (6) (8) (8) (no)

Bob White (10) (9) (6) (yes)

This was a splendid, productive meeting.  As I expected, Sean offered intriguing ideas, well thought out and clearly expressed.

Shirley Heaton (10) (10) (10) (no)

There are times when I get the feeling we're in a similar transitional stage which our forefathers found themselves when the automobile was introduced to replace the horse and buggy. The rapid advance of technology has put us in a spin disrupting our entire system of physical, social and economic relationships and from the looks of things it appears we're all 'doomed' to continue to play catch up. The caucus member was correct, in my view, of noting that all this new technology has generated the risk of losing the education necessary to bring us to 'a proper degree of competence on issues.'

And this business of bringing folks together to ask them "what do you want to know" would more than likely get the response: "What do you want to hear?" Look at us today -- community care, concern for others etc. has degenerated into fear of reprisals, maintaining self preservation and the like. And how can we trust corporations when the media continually touts misdeeds etc. from the board room on down?

But enuf of the above. We have to begin somewhere in getting things back on track and perhaps it'll take groups like the Caucus and Citizens League working together to point the way.

Bill Frenzel (7) (10) (10) (no)

Question 3:   Not certain whether to link formally or informally. You locals will have to figure that out.  But both organizations should keep in close contact with one another.

Question 4:  Ii joined 2 years ago, I expired, but they never asked me to re-up.

Fred Senn (10) (5) (10) (yes)

Richard McGuire (9) (5) (5) (no)

Paul Anton (7) (6) (10) (no)

Kent Eklund (9) (4) (10) (yes)

Robert A. Freeman (9) (8) (8) (yes)

Question 1:   As Margaret Mead said it is the only thing that has ever made a difference.

Question 2:   Should rely on wide range of expertise and opinions. 

Question 3:   Depends how.

Mary Tambornino (8) (9) (10) (yes)

Robert J. Brown (8) (8) (5) (no)

Question 1:   Citizens have the potential to make significant contributions, but they are not taught by our educational system how to analyze issues and how to take advantage of their rights as citizens.

Question 2:  I think people should take charge of their own learning, but unless the schools do a better job of teaching people to be discriminating in gathering information we are likely to continue to have not only an uninformed public, but one in which the various segments grow further apart as groups gravitate to those with whom they already agree. This is caused at least partly by the balkanization of the electronic media, the demise of the responsible print media , and the fact that conglomerates only concerned with profits have taken control of the media.

Question 3:  I think the organizations can complement each other as the Civic Caucus continues the role of the old Citizens League in that it involves people who are or were significant players in public policy (I used to refer to it as the formalized informal power structure of the Twin Cities area) while the new Citizens League appears to be more grass roots oriented. I think they might cooperate, but something could be lost if they merge.

Rick Bishop (8) (8) (10) (no)

John Cairns (10) (8) (5) (yes)

Ray Cox (10) (5) (10) (no)

David Alden (7) (9) (8) (yes)

David Broden (10) (10) (2) (no)

Question 1:  Citizen participation and action are fundamental to shaping the role and actions of government not the reverse. Only with an informed and active citizen community can we establish the support and actions needed to make changes and to achieve benefits for the public common good. Government change or actions by decree without citizen communication and shaping simply does not work and will not have the support to carry out the ideas or legislation.

Question 2:  Citizens have a responsibility to themselves and to society as a whole to be engaged in the government process. Engagement must be enabled by various elements of the process--the free press--whatever that is today and will evolve to in the future-- the role of political parties--local government and the election process. Government, civic affairs organizations, the press etc. must be effective in stimulating the debate so that citizens throughout the area will play their role.

Question 3:  Links between these two organizations should be implemented only if a real value added link for both is established. Linkage for the sake of links may only result in an eventual blending of both and the effect of each may be reduced. If linkage is determined to be valuable and beneficial in the future, it should be done with distinct purpose and role of each organization. Further the linkage must be "owned" not only but the operating organizations and staff but by the board of Directors and participants in each organization. This ownership view is the only way real leadership with have an impact in shaping and applying the actions of each organization.

Question 4:  No currently--have been in the past.

Pat Lowther (10) (10) (5) (no)

George Pillsbury (5) (10) (8) (yes)

Kathleen Anderson (10) (5) (5) (yes)

Sheila Kiscaden (10) (7) (9)

Ray Ayotte (9) (5) (10) (no)



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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