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These comments are responses to the Civic Caucus interview with

Ted Kolderie of Education/Evolving
January 22, 2016

More thinking, less premature action for better community problem solving


Higher quality actions on community problems are more likely if decision makers avoid short cuts to action and give more attention to analysis, clarification, and optional solutions, according to Ted Kolderie.

Kolderie criticized leaders who, anxious to move quickly, dismiss more discussion as unnecessary. "Thinking is good," he said. 

Among his other thoughts on producing better action:

  • Individuals and groups whose income and job security is dependent upon the outcome shouldn't have a dominant position in developing proposals. 
  • The media should cover more of the substance of community problems than their politics. 
  • Foundations should commission studies that address causes of problems, not just symptoms. 
  • Private and governmental sectors should encourage innovation by giving employees freedom to try new things on their own.

For the complete interview summary see: Kolderie interview

Individual Responses:

Todd Graham
Thanks for sharing this. Itís an interesting strategy thatís discussed here. The claim of a 100,000 workers shortage of talent is an annoying exaggeration Ė but the qualitative description of the workforce shortage issue is good.

Vici Oshiro
Generally agree with overall ideas, but have plenty of problems with the specifics. Main proposals need more attention to unintended consequences.

John James
Excellent, thoughtful comments from Ted, as one would expect.

Picking up on this and my recent email on the new study from the AEI/Brookings Working Group on Poverty and Opportunity, here's a wild idea for you.

Maybe the Civic Caucus could convene a public study effort, or perhaps a series of such efforts, that takes off from their recommendations. Consider inviting CAE and G&J to participate. In other words, challenge the leading Minnesota policy organizations of right and left to seek common ground. Consider inviting the Citizens League to convene a study group, if they still do that sort of thing, or at least do something to invite their presumably fairly broad membership into the discussion. Consider asking a foundation or foundations to fund the effort.

I freely admit I have put the cart before the horse here in the sense of not having reviewed the specifics of the study; e.g., some of it may apply only at the federal level. But I find that hard to believe. I do believe that you have access to people far more expert than I on the challenges dealt with by the report, and I encourage you to take a swing at doing something.

Tom Spitznagle
Excellent interview on several key observations. I especially agree with Mr. Kolderie that too many foundations, non-profits and government agencies focus on treating symptoms instead of root problems. It is so obvious in some cases that it must be intentional. Is it because it's too politically risky to talk about the personal behavior that is problematic as Mitch Pearlstein suggested in an earlier interview? Regardless of the reason, a great amount of resources are wasted chasing the symptoms of real problems. The "system" is perpetuated at the expense of society. How can anybody feel good about working in an organization like this that claims to be helping people?

Scott Halstead
The public policy debate at the Capital has been cutoff by big money and the influence of lobbyists that are supported by big money. The politicians and their parties have received boatloads of money to support their election campaigns. Those same deep pockets then hire lobbyists to carry their policy objectives. Quite often, the lobbyists just happen to be former legislators who just happen to have a policy document available and access to the legislators to carry out their objectives.

The legislators hide behind closed doors in their caucus groups. Much of the legislation is wrapped into a Omnibus bill that is negotiated in secret by a few ranking members and then voted on at the last minute after the legislators have had 15 minutes to review 500 pages. Real, nonbiased media coverage is nonexistent.

The legislators introduce legislation of interest, take testimony, make sure they have media coverage, [and] pass it on to another committee, but it dies in secrecy along with the other 98% of the bills. There isn't a legislative scorecard for the public to see.

At least at the national level, there are organizations that keep a scorecard on issues important to them and are published for their members.

We have a problem. Suggestion: Civic Caucus, select one of your policy papers and try to go through the legislative process.

Thank you Ted for your public policy insight.

I suggest that the Civic Caucus spend a day at the Capital and work on steps 1 and 2.

Paul Hauge
Ted is his normal incisive self. Here we have a very concise review of some of the big issues of the past 50 some years, many of which [issues] the Citizens League authored or promoted. Legislators would do well to read what Ted recommends and make use of his suggestions during their rash decision-making.

Dennis Carlson
Ted, as usual, makes great points on the effectiveness of public policy development (or

lack of it) and the changes that have occurred in the media. Having just seen the movie "Spotlight" I really question if any major newspaper now would have that quality of reporters that the Boston Globe once had, and then take the time and effort to shed light on the decades-long issue of priest abuse of children and larger cover-up by the Catholic church leadership.

Ted's points on education also ring true. There has been a rush to action (with a profound lack of research and judgment) in some states focusing on urban school districts. The New York Times yesterday wrote about the state takeover of some urban school districts around the US. In some cases the takeover was done in secret without any public policy discussion at all. I wonder, if some politicians have their way, will that happen to the Minneapolis and St. Paul school districts? The NY Times writer's analysis of those State takeovers was that those districts (and students) are now in worse shape than they were before.

The rush to take political action without due process and public engagement seems to me to be getting worse. The majority of Presidential candidates seems to ignore pollution, climate change, the high cost of medical care, and less complex issues like gun control, and seem to focus only on budget cutting, eliminating big government, name calling, and other personal attacks. The solution by some is to build up our military, bomb the enemies, and arm everyone, including teachers. This is the quality of the debate on choosing our next President? What if one of them actually wins? Heaven help us.

To listen to a thoughtful, well-read, educated person like Ted is just such a contrast to our current state of public discourse. We are getting lost in the quick, sound bite environment where Twitter and YouTube seem to dominate the airwaves. If that is where voters get their information and where public opinion is ultimately developed - our American democracy is in some serious trouble. We should have more TED talks.

Many of our decisions are being made by "quick-fix politicians" rather than the informed, educated, researched-based experts in the field. How can we get those two entities together as these important issues are dealt with and then how can we get quality reporters to get those proposals in front of the voting public? Thanks to the Civic Caucus for having this discussion and trying to make a difference in the world.

Robert J. Brown
First I have to say I prefer your previous method of replying, when you gave specific topics on which one could make quick comments, which was easier to do without writing a dissertation. Now, with a lengthy and thoughtful discussion such as this one by Ted Kolderie it is too hard for my old brain to develop a detailed and useful response.

Now just a few unorganized comments on Ted's discussion:

1. The fact is that the extremists have taken over many of the caucuses in both political parties make it more difficult to resolve policy issues.

2. The schools are not doing a very good job of preparing students to understand history and the nature of current policy issues and how to study them

3. Too many people are getting their ideas of policy issues from narrowly focused media which allows many to make up their minds without even attempting to see more that one side of an issue. The so-called mainstream media are not much help since they have fewer reporters, rarely do in-depth stories that would help people understand issues, and the editorial pages have very little discussion of local issues since they predominantly run columns by nationally syndicated columnists.

4. In many cases it appears that foundations seem to focus on the topic of the day rather than look for long-term goals and projects.

5. I couldn't agree more with Ted on the fact the media emphasis is on winning and losing rather than the substance of the policy issues. Even worse, the media focus on personalities (noisy people like the Donald) so that many responsible, competent candidates who can speak on substantive issues never get a chance to be heard.

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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
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Dan Loritz, chair, 612-791-1919   ~   Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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