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 Response Page - O'Keefe  Interview -      

These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Michael O'Keefe Interview of

The Questions:
On a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, please indicate how you rate the following points discussed by O'Keefe:

1. (6.8 average response) Local governments.  Because most state revenue is ultimately spent at the local level, most restructuring of services needs to apply to school districts, cities, and counties.

2. (6.9 average response) Health care.  Because interest groups are powerful enough to stop meaningful change, significant restructuring of health care won't occur without a major crisis.

3. (7.1 average response) Informal care.  More public money should pay for informal care in private homes, with less devoted to nursing homes.

4. (6.0 average response) Higher education.  Minnesota's two public post-secondary systems, the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system (MNSCU), should be merged.

Individual responses:

Ray Ayotte   (7.5)  (5)  (10)  (10)

Dave Broden   (2.5)  (0)  (7.5)  (0)

1.  Local governments.  This is an interesting thought. Look at the response this way--while the spending is biased to schools, cities, and counties the state bureaucracy is growing in all departments and employment keeps growing. Redesign must address the total government structure without setting some aside only for budget percentages. Further much of the growth is due to special interest lobbying/influence and those areas are not only in the schools, cities, and counties. Attaching the needed change on spending only is not looking at the real issue and that is government as structured. Design for the 21st century. Letís have a big Minnesota view or we will only rub the edges of change needed.

2.  Health care.  To think that meaningful change can only occur when there is crisis is again part of the problem. Too many people simply say wait for the crisis and then solve the problem with a series of bandaids rather than addressing the issue before a crisis and finding common ground in a positive way.  Some may say this is impossible-- I only think that those that take that view should pass on participation. There are real problem solvers in Minnesota -just give them a chance, not a negative crisis issue situation.

3.  Informal care.  This is a positive statement with much potential for good of the individual needing care and for the state. Addressing this approach with good oversight and incentives to families and attention to quality of life and care can be very beneficial.

4.  Higher education.  Starting with the assumption that merger is the answer to quality and more efficient cost of operation is an easy and frequent error in restructuring anything. Letís start by asking what is the role of each organization, how do they add value to education, what can be shared, what is duplicated, which serves who and how. After a good functional and capability assessment then it is appropriate to ask how do we govern the system in the best way-- should  the systems be combined or separate--this follows clearly from what needs to be done --the approach suggested by the question is backwards and leads to conflict in many ways.

Bob White   (7.5)  (0)  (10)  (7.5)

Pat Barnum   (2.5)  (0)  (2.5)  (0)

1.  Local governments.  I agree that services need restructuring, and that means local restructuring. But O'Keefe seems to want to centralize everything, taking away our founding father's vision of local control and decisions and funding. If you don't like the way your school district is going, you can move to another. What happens when all control is by the state? Will you have to quit your job and move to another state to find a school system you trust? I would rather see legislation aimed at REDUCING the hoops state and federal government places on local units - good example? PELRA

2.  Health care.  By meaningful change O'Keefe seems to mean government take over. Guess what? That ship has sailed, and it has a destination that most Americans do not see yet. They won't like where we end up but it will be too late to change course by the time they see it.

3.  Informal care.  It is not the state's responsibility (read: individual tax payersí responsibility) to provide senior care to the population. A safety net for the most severely in need. But it's come to be expected. I've watched family after family "get rid of" any assets their aging parents have, so they can qualify for "free" care. Ridiculous.

4.  Higher education.  The result will be a system of state colleges that are as expensive, poorly run, and fraught with over-paid and under-performing professors and administration as the U of MN system. Let's just get the state OUT of higher education altogether. Reduced taxes will allow more people to be able to afford continuing education on their own, and the cost will come down.

Judy Corrigan   (7.5)  (5)  (7.5)  (10)

3.  Informal care.  A continuum of affordable care from private homes to assisted living to nursing homes should be investigated with an emphasis on keeping people in their homes (or a relative's home.)

 Jack Evert   (7.5)  (10)  (5)  (10)

2.  Health care.  This is unfortunately true about everything, not just health care.  The corrosive effect of money in our political system insures that many decisions are being made for the wrong reason, that being the organization that can produce the most money wins.  It is bribery, and the only way I can see for it to stop is to publically fund elections and outlaw donations to candidates or PACs.  But for this to happen, we would have to get the support of the organizations with the money, which we won't get.  So the beat goes on and on and on. Pretty dismal, really.

3.  Informal care.  I get the concept, but with the inability of the government (e.g., Medicare fraud) to effectively manage such programs, I think this one will be filled with fraud.

4.  Higher education.  I don't understand the issues of so doing, but I understand that the cost of higher education can't continue as it has.  This may be one way of reining in the costs and therefore the tuition.

John W Sievert   (0)  (0)  (2.5)  (2.5)

Eugene Piccolo   (7.5)  (10)  (7.5)  (0)

4.  Higher education.  Question - did the merger of the community college, vocational colleges and four-year universities into MNSCU lead to less a leaner administrative structure or more effective administrative structure or a better education for students?    Statement - the merger of these two systems would likely be a failure as the corporate cultures of MNSCU and UM are very different - this merger would fail like most corporate mergers fail  -  besides bigger is not more efficient or more important or more effective as we have "learned from banks to big to fail."

Dennis L. Johnson   (5)  (0)  (7.5)  (5)

1.  Local governments.  Just cut the budget across the board and let each recipient deal with it as required.

2.  Health care.  Effective leadership can do the job. Keep watching Gov. Christie in New Jersey.

3.  Informal care.  Just cut their budgets and let them deal with it.

4.  Higher education.  Just cut their budgets and let them deal with it. Otherwise you get involved in trying to micromanage a system that is too complex for most to understand.

Peter Hennessey   (10)  (7.5)  (2.5)  (0)

1.  Local governments.  If the underlying facts are true, then maybe all this state revenue should be local revenue to meet local needs. Why not just limit the functions of the state government to the few concerns that are truly state-wide in scope (look to the Constitution for guidance), and reduce the state revenue accordingly, and let local governments determine and finance their own specific needs?   Sure we all have the same kinds of needs, but we differ in the size of our problems and the amount of resources we can or must devote to them. But that does not justify letting the State government get involved in everything, or to kick the problem upstairs both in terms of resources and decision making.

2.  Health care.  We never fix anything until it is broken beyond repair.   But again, the fundamental problem is the assertion that health care is a government problem. No, it is a private individual and family problem. The only responsibility government has is, as in every other business, to ensure that crooks are caught and punished. If you let the private free market work, then workable, affordable solutions will emerge, as they always do. The more the government gets involved, the more the whole system works like a monopoly and the worse the problem gets, especially for the doctors and the patients, because a monopoly has no competition to keep it honest and has every incentive to maximize its self-serving bureaucracy. Let doctors compete for patients. Let patients choose both their doctors and how they want to pay for health services. Don't let a government bureaucracy or an insurance company bureaucracy get between a patient and his doctor.

3.  Informal care.  You can't make a decision like this at the state level!  This is a decision to be made by a doctor, based on the individual patient's condition. Then it is first and foremost the responsibility of the patient and his family to face up to the specific needs and costs involved.

4.  Higher education.  What is to be gained by merging two huge bureaucracies into one huge monopoly? That will increase competition? On what planet?  Most States had a "U of (state)" private college for the "rich" and a State-funded "(state) U" for the "people." I'll bet you that once upon a time the U of M was also a private system, which, like others in other states, threw in the towel one day and slipped its head under the government yoke when they saw that the State funds are a bottomless well.  The problem with college costs is not that they rise according to their customer's ability or willingness to pay, the problem is that the costs are rising to the limit of the governmentís willingness to allocate funds to them. And why not? The politicians are paying for and getting a service that ensures the indoctrination of a new generation of voters who will keep them and their rapacious ideology in power.   It is downright laughable how a fundamental principle of the free market (prices rise to level of the customer's willingness to pay, which is another way of saying, don't leave money on the table) finds an expression even in an environment of a government-created and supported monopoly... Some fundamental laws of nature just cannot be violated.

Debby Frenzel   (7.5)  (10)  (0)  (7.5)

Anonymous   (0)  (7.5)  (5)  (10)

1.  Local governments.  Because most of the programs local governments provide are mandated by State and federal government, you would need to reduce these mandates first then (reduce) the funding.

Robert Freeman   (7.5)  (7.5)  (5)  (2.5)

2.  Health care.  Dramatic change is already coming from federal health care reform but is unlikely to reduce the cost of health care, which will precipitate a major crisis.  Wait until the first few large employers jettison employee insurance.

3.  Informal care.  This makes sense as long as the care in private homes is demonstrably keeping people out of nursing homes.  We should ensure the amount we spend is not out of line with out neighboring states.

Carol Becker   (5)  (10)  (10)  (10)

1.  Local governments.  Because most cities have been facing budget cuts for the last ten years, there already has been substantial restructuring.  The amount you can get out of restructuring is limited.  At some point, you do less with less.

4.  Higher education.  Until there is a move to rationalize the Minnesota higher education system, to close campuses and to focus programs so there are locuses of expertise rather than every school for itself, merging will not do anything. You need a base closing approach that requires a fiscal crisis coupled with the will to do the wholesale change like Wisconsin did before merging will create any meaningful change.

Dave Christianson   (8)  (4)  (7)  (9)

David Pundt   (8)  (10)  (5)  (10)

3. Informal care. My parents did it the old-fashioned way; they paid for it themselves. Where in the constitution does it say that some taxpayers will pay for the caretaking of others' aging parents? The discussion about 'what we want from state government' should be held, and constantly, perhaps in the framework of the 10 Commandments. If you take something from me, itís called stealing and itís wrong. Let's begin the long, slow march back to a society of virtue. It hasn't been that long.

Wayne Jennings   (8)  (10)  (10)  (5)

Thoughtful comments about engaging the community into deciding what services it wants and then generating agreement about how to pay for them. Iím convinced also that many of our services need redesign but that the status quo will continue without something like a super commission to jump-start the change process. Pilot programs could be employed as a change strategy in various sectors.

Carolyn Ring   (9)  (4)  (6)  (4)

Arvonne Fraser    (9)  (5)  (8)  (8)

William Opsahl   (10)  (10)  (0)  (10)

W. D. Hamm   (10)  (10)  (10)  (5)

While I have generally shifted to the Survey Monkey system, occasionally an issue like this comes along where the Civic Caucus fails to ask the questions it should have or so words the questions as to steer the answers in the direction that supports their position. Both are true in this interview.

1. Local governments. While I mark this as a 10 my direction is 180 degrees different than O'Keefe's While I agree that restructuring must take place I do not support his push toward a more Socialist central control model, because the more we have moved in this direction the more dysfunctional the systems have become. Local control must be wrestled from the legislature and returned to these programs. The biggest change we need is to back up about 50 years and take a look at the locally controlled system we shifted away from. In that system, before we had teachers unions, we had local control of a very competitive education system with the ability and support of the people to raise the funds needed. Under this system we had far more School Districts than we have now that had survived under economic hard times equal or worse than they are now. We didn't have to deal with teachers unions putting their needs ahead of our children's, and we didn't have to waste large amounts of time and money begging and lobbying the legislature for funds. We raised them locally. State bureaucracy can never compete with local common sense.

2. Health care. On this issue I support Mr. O'Keefe's conclusions 100%. The existing system will not be fixed because internal complexities make that impossible. 1. We the people want a system that puts out health care needs first. 2. Doctors, nurses, and other health care workers want a system that is fair to them. Right now the Drug companies and Unions undermine both these efforts. Yes the system must be rebuilt from the bottom up, and yes there is a model out there that does this. The model I speak of is a Cooperative structure used by the Industrial Coop's of the Basque people of Spain. While the Basque Industrial Coop's are described as the ultimate way to bring capitalism to the worker, their medical system accomplishes both the necessary goals I outlined above and provides the most comprehensive medical coverage on the planet for less than 1 dollar in 6 that we are wasting. The only thing I am lacking to bring this system to Minnesota is a half dozen Board Members to file under Minnesota's existing Coop laws.

3. Informal care. The present nursing home issue is plagued from two directions. First, the for-profit structures have extremely hard times maintaining quality help due to obnoxiously low wages. Second, the Unionized public nursing homes are plagued again by the same problem as our schools.  Union workersí needs are in direct conflict with patient needs and competing for the same monies. Keeping us seniors in our homes as long as possible is far cheaper and simpler than fixing either of the problems listed above.

4. Higher education.  While I somewhat agree with this concept, I would argue that the rolling into our Community College system of Vocational Education has only undermined Vocational Ed. by bringing the Union conflict to it. Instead of quality teaches who had once worked in these areas, it is now more important for Union protection that the teacher has the proper degree than any real experience. This shortchanges our children and grandchildren.

Question 5 should have been: Should we examine Minnesota's prison costs and look at how we can go about reducing those costs? My answer would have been 10. While Mr. O'Keefe looked only at sex offenders and he was right, we have a much bigger failure within that system that is costing us far more. By legalizing both the medicinal and recreational use of the nonlethal herb Marijuana, we cut State, County, and City budgets by far more than several billion dollars a year. By regulating cocaine use we gain more than a Billion more in savings. The present "Drug Wars" strategies are an utter failure that are costing us all far more than we see. Imprisonment, forced treatment, drug court, everything about this undermines fiscal stability for no positive gain. This doesn't even get to the racial inequities of the system and how this last vestige of "Jim Crowe" is being used to undermine communities of color and the societal costs of that stupidity.

Alan Miller   (9)  (9)  (8)  (9)

George Crolick   (6)  (3)  (8)  (5)

4. Higher education. It should not be too hard to survey other states and emulate "best practices" for public higher education.

Richard McGuire   (5)  (10)  (10)  (10)

Paul and Ruth Hauge   (8)  (8)  (9)  (9)

Clearly experienced and knowledgeable in many aspects of government funding and operations.

Chuck Lutz   (9)  (7)  (9)  (9)

Phyllis Kahn   (8)  (5)  (10)  (0)

Joseph Mansky   (5)  (3)  (10)  (10)

4. Higher education.  The question is: would the legislature be willing to turn over the entire state higher education system to an institution over which it does not have complete authority? Would it be prudent for them to do so? Would the U be required to surrender some of its autonomy as part of such an arrangement?

Robert J. Brown   (8)  (10)  (10)  (10)

1. Local governments.  There is some need for restructuring at the state level, too.

2. Health care. Government never makes significant changes unless there is a crisis (real or perceived.) 

4. Higher education.  11 or 12!  It is only the ego and power needs of the University of Minnesota that prevents this. We are way behind other state in consolidating the public higher education systems.

Bright Dornblaser   (3)  (10)  (5)  (1)

2.  Health care.  We have the crises.  Reform has started and will continue.

3. Informal care.  Nice idea but needs fiscally workable plan.

4. Higher education.  Reorganization (is) not practically feasible.  Financial incentives to force coordination?

DonaldH. Anderson   (7)  (6)  (5)  (8)

Al Quie   (0)  (10)  (10)  (0)

I have a zero in #1 because "most restructuring of services needs to apply 'in' not 'to' school districts.

Tom Swain   (7)  (9)  (9)  (7)

David Dillon   (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)

David Detert   (8)  (10)  (6)  (6)

William Kuisle   (10)  (10)  (5)  (2)

2.  Health care.  Are we not in that crisis now? 

3.  Informal care. careful. Every time we do this it ends up costing more. We have done programs like this before and end up with more programs and more costs. 

4.  Higher education.  Taking two giant out-of-control systems and making one massive out-of-control system does not make sense. Where are the efficiencies that were suppose to happen when we combined vo-techs and state colleges? Be careful of the big dragon you create with this combination. 

I'm sorry, but Mr. O'Keffe offers the same old solutions that won't work. Grow government and take more of my money.

Jim Keller   (10)  (10)  (10)  (0)


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
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Verne C. Johnson, chair, 952-835-4549,       Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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