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These comments are responses to the Civic Caucus interview with

Larry Pogemiller, Senate Majority Leader
February 12, 2010



Today's summary covers a Civic Caucus meeting with State Sen. Larry Pogemiller, Minneapolis, Senate Majority Leader.  Pogemiller points out difficulties in accomplishing redesign of services while personally taking a strong position in favor of change in education. 

Please read the summary first. After you've read the summary, here are questions for you.  We try to relate the questions to comments by the speaker.

On a scale of (0) most disagreement , to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, what is your view on the following:

1.  _7.9 average response_____  Potential redesign of services will likely assume low priority for the Governor and Legislature in 2010.      

2. _6.1 average response_____ Higher education will need to move even further toward a high-tuition-high student aid model.

3.  _7.8 average response_____  K-12 education must be more open and responsive to student and societal needs, which means it must be consumer-driven, with more choice.

4. _8.6 average response_____  The fiscal and structural relationships between the state and its local governments  (cities, counties, townships) needs to be re-thought. 

Kent Eklund (9) (9) (9) (9)
The entire fiscal model of the state must be as substantially reconfigured as the Minnesota Miracle redesign of the 70's.

Dewayne Dill (10) (10) (6) (3)
K-12 reform is less about school choice and more about redesign of the K-12 school to support individualized learning.  The notion of grade and class size need to be eliminated as every student is in multiple grades by subject and class size is only at one point during the day but is constantly fluctuating.

Al Quie (10) (10) (10) (10)
Interesting that he and I are on the same wave length. Other than saving LGA, I agree with what Pogemiller said. 

David Allan Pundt (8) (0) (10) (10)
Question 1: Sounds that way if you can listen between Pogemiller's lines. I think there is some appetite for serious reform in the state but Pogemiller and his party have too many high-paid interest groups to support with our tax money. His 'getting elected' speech should be required reading in every pol sci class in the land. Classic stuff.

Question 2: Higher ed could move to a consumer model, let the market set tuition rates, get unions and lobbyists out of the mix. But too many six-figure salaries depend on the status quo. Sorry incoming freshmen; you'll dig even deeper to pay for your two years of remedial classes.

Question 3: I'm supportive but skeptical. Pogemiller has teacher's unions to protect and early childhood ed is a good place to start. When we get competition in k-12 ed, we'll get better results. Strange; football coaches seem to understand this but superintendents and shop stewards don't.

Question 4:   Too many Minnesotans are completely in the dark about the 'Miracle' and its tax shift to take from some areas and give to others. Why not make it voluntary? If you live in Minneapolis and want Pillager to have a new police car, send in a dollar or two. LGA is a scheme Bernie Madoff would be proud of.

Question 5: Keep up the good work. And get Pogemiller to sponsor legislation to require these conversations be used in every civics classroom in the state. The best disinfectant is sunlight.

Clarence Shallbetter (9) (8) (6) (4)
Time is running out for this session. The chief priority of this session. and maybe the next, will be the budget. Re-design proposals that will clearly result in reducing expenditures in the short run may get considered. However, we are only at the early stages of devising the actual content of re-design proposals in most large areas to the point where they can be advanced in bill form for discussion, amendment and movement through committees. Not sure what is the better way of getting hard proposals except for those interested in these issues to continue working on them and to either advance proposals through other venues such as local units or put the effort into develop them for the next session.

Babak Armajani (9) (10) (10) (10)
We should stop expecting our legislators to lead or champion redesign and reform efforts.  The founders created legislative bodies as a check and balance, not to lead.  In addition our legislature is even more under the control of special interest groups than the Executive.  The best we can do is find individuals in the legislature who will help champion reform if it ever comes out of the executive.  And these individuals are less likely to be people who hold leadership positions in the legislatureóas such they are beholden to the majority of their caucus (which, in turn is highly invested in the status quo.)

Bright Dornblaser (10) (10) (10) (10)

Chris Stedman (5) (5) (8) (10)

Wayne Jennings (8) (2) (10) (10)

Jan Hively (8) (8) (8) (6)

Glenn Dorfman (10) (10) (5) (10)
Question 3: Or there should be less choice and more stringent academic requirements/standards with much less emphasis on "responsiveness to students" and more on "responsiveness of students.  Without hesitation, there needs to be greater emphasis on the academic excellence of teachers and improved pedagogy. The best and brightest need to be attracted to k-12 education with higher pay, based upon performance not breathing on a mirror and the taking of mickey-mouse courses (steps and lanes).

Question 5: The state should pay 100% for k-12 and all other local units of government should be on their own with total local control of the property tax. "If the local citizens want services, facilities, etc., they should pay for it directly." 

Bev Bales (10) (10) (5) (10)

Charles Lutz (8) (8) (7) (9)

Peter Hennessey
I am having difficulty is seeing how most of these questions arise from the topics in the Summary. 

I am also having difficulty with calling education an "industry," and with wonky terms such as structural imbalance, re-engineering government, appetite for reform. 

But it is interesting that a DFL politician would mention "consumer-driven education," but I am also suspicious of what he means by that. It is refreshing that a DFL politician would even mention consumption-based taxes, but again I am suspicious that he is actually thinking of that infernal value-added tax, not the sales tax. 

On the other hand, it is not surprising at all that he cites a need to raise revenue to balance the budget; what else would you expect from the DFL. What is wrong with that proposed constitutional amendment? What is wrong with common sense? It is constantly surprising to me that a nation composed of individuals and enterprises routinely striving (struggling) to live within their means, would all of a sudden be clueless as to how to apply the same principles and procedures to government -- that you can't spend money you don't have, or can't afford to borrow and repay, no matter what the need or how noble the cause.

At some point politicians have to answer a few fundamental questions: what happens when government borrowing sops up all available credit? what happens when taxes rise to 100% of all income? what happens when 100% of the government's revenue goes to servicing debt?

Gary Hendrickx (8) (5) (8) (9)

Arvonne Fraser (8) (2) (5) (6)
I agree with your comment that Pogemiller is candid and thoughtful.  As a constituent I can say his town hall meetings are like seminars in public policy.

Tom Swain (10) (8) (10) (10)

Ellen Brown
You all seem to have quit asking about electoral reform issues like ranked choice voting this year. Yet, with the multi-multi candidate governor race, it is more pertinent than ever. How about getting this back on the radar screen in interviews with folks like Pogemiller?

William Opsahl
Ask leader Pogemiller if his Harvard classes included at least one in Mathematics. Actually, Arithmetic.

My observation over the past 20+ years in state government is that the usual DFL majorities are devoted to spending and refuse to do the math to determine if the State's population and business bases can afford these expenditures. With only around 5,000,000 residents and a continually declining share of major USA businesses, there is not sufficient money available in Minnesota to meet these political goals.

Robert Lambert (9) (8) (7) (10)
Thank you for the opportunity to respond. I was impressed with Senator Pogemiller's frank responses to those questions.

The major concern I have with more "choice" for K - 12 is to require charter schools to provide the same "unfunded mandates" as public schools, otherwise it is not a level playing field. If this is the only way to break the teachers union that requires districts to keep poor teachers, then I support it. I am a strong proponent in the public school system, but until the State requires a review of tenure every five years, we will not be able to make significant improvement in the quality of public education.

 Regarding a different tax system, I would support a simpler tax system such as a 10% flat tax for everyone, with no loopholes. I would also support the proposed RACINO. I don't believe that is "expansion" of gambling for anyone who doesn't already have access. It would only mean that a few very wealthy Native Americans would only be millionaires rather than multi-millionaires.

Chris Brazelton (6)(_) (7)(6)
Question1: Not because it's not important, but because there will be too much wrangling and posturing over the budget issues to spend time on the long term solutions.

Question 2: Not enough information presented here to reach a thoughtful conclusion.
Question 3: Another area that could use some major overhauls, and another area where short term budget constraints will win out over much needed long term solutions.
Question 4: We spend an awful lot of time and energy on emotional, knee-jerk reactions of uneducated citizens and politicians who always have another election just around the corner, and
not enough on thoughtful research-driven solutions.  While we are fortunate to have several outside groups studying the issues, their reports and conclusions are not disseminated
widely enough to reach critical mass.  They can't get past the noise of partisan talk-radio and cable t.v. talk-at-you shows.

Dan McElroy (3) (7) (9) (9)
A reform proposal on how hearings for civil commitments are heard was first considered in 2003 and is likely to become law this year, transferring jurisdiction from the district courts to administrative law judges.  Change takes time - perhaps a little less time when budgets are tight.

David Sorensen (10) (5) (5) (10)

Bill Hamm (9) (9) (5) (2)
Question 1: Rightfully so as the mood of the public is not in favor of more Socialist games. It's time to apply the same sound economic design we all have to use to balance our personal checkbooks. It's hard to justify further taxing the underemployed, a concept "Pogey" has a better concept of than you. The Armani suit with no taxes was a stupid try at justifying adding sales taxes to clothing. The truth is that the person at the $25,000 income spends a higher percentage of his or her income on clothes, they need, than the rich spend on Armani so they really get screwed. All this just so you can do something that feels good, but it doesn't really affect the rich guy you claimed to be after in the first place. A little redesign in your thinking would help here a lot.

Question 2: That is exactly what reality is looking like. Looks like a really good time to begin a drive for some Corporate contributions here. You have a lot of overly rich mega millionaires down in that Metro area, time to start laying the world's biggest guilt trip on them instead of targeting us 62% for the bite.

Question 3: Much like "Pogey" you miss the boat again on this issue. We want an education that is Student Based, Knowledge Based, and locally controlled. Yes, it is time to scrap the Socialist "Minnesota Miracle" and its lies.

Question 4: It's been re-thought enough, you should have listened to "Pogey" on this one. As I have repeatedly told you, if it comes from you metro mega minds it's dead on arrival in outstate.

You are having a difficult time pushing your progressive agenda even to one of the state's leading progressives, perhaps that will give you a few moments of inward contemplation.

Rodney Bounds (6) (5) (7) (5)

Vici Oshiro (10) (_) (_) (10)
Question 4: Rethink yes;  but don't assume change.  Rethinking should include possibility that little change is needed.

John S. Adams (9) (_) (8) (10)
Question 2: Higher Ed will try, but there will be significant resistance.  Too much higher ed resource is being devoted to "developmental/remedial" effort for huge numbers of unprepared students, and colleges and universities are inefficiently run for a variety of reasons, among them weak leadership and inept management.

Bob White (2) (7) (9) (10)

John Milton (_) (5) (7) (10)
For the past 8 years with Pawlenty, MN has been unraveling its partnership between state and local government.  For 30+ years after MN Miracle, property taxes -- the most regressive -- were under control, rising only at the rate of inflation.  Under Pawlenty, property taxes have increased nearly 50%.  For the average Minnesotan, the last eight years have been horrible.  Worse yet, he's intimidated the DFLers who don't even want to talk about taxes.  Minnesota was blessed to have political leaders like Elmer L, Wendy, Arne Carlson, Nick Coleman, Holmquist, Popham, Al Quie, but that was then.  I doubt we'll ever get back there, or find the kind of leaders who get elected to help people who can't do any more for themselves.

Mike Hanson (3) (5) (5) (3)

Paul Hauge (8) (8) (8) (8)

David Broden (5) (4) (8) (10)
Question 1: It will be low priority only if the legislature continues to be self protective and proceed with business as usual. Someone will need to have a very strong leadership impact and at this time this is very doubtful.     

Question 2: There is no need to rush to this assumption--this is clearly one option but not a done deal.  

Question 3: This needs to be the direction for those who can work the decision path.

Question 4: This is a positive step but should only proceed with some strong guidelines for what needs to be uniform etc.

Kevin Edberg (7) (_) (_) (8)
I don't understand the value proposition in Q3, and I say that after spending 20 years as a school board member.  Does the question refer to the ability of the state to dictate a common curriculum (because the state pays for a majority of K-12 costs and the state represents the highest common expression of "the people"), or does it mean that we have (go back to?) high levels of local autonomy in the development and adoption of curriculum (because at the local level , school boards and supts and teachers "know best" what our community needs and are the closest level of government to hear and act on those needs), or that we entirely discard the notion of education as a "public good" and place all schools in a position of pure consumer markets with parents holding vouchers (because "parents know our children best"), or...or..or...? 

I think the way Civic Caucus phrased this issue was notably less coherent than your work in so many other areas. Maybe I'm just dumb.  Here are things I'm pretty sure I believe: 

1) MN out-performed other economies in the US in the latter 20th century because we invested in human capacity (i.e. K-12-post 12 education); we also invested in human capacity when we invested in tolerance (educating women particularly and supporting them in fully joining the work force). Both resulted in high levels of work force readiness and entrepreneurial creativity that resulted in higher median family income than should otherwise have been predicted by a cold northern state distant from markets and previously highly dependent on farming, forestry and mining. Both of those investments carry a high characteristic of public investment in a "public good" synonymous with "the public good".  Things have changed, but a key to the conversation, for me, keeps coming back to the articulation of "common wealth" and "the commonwealth".    

2) The human brain is a highly complex organism, and we human beings are only beginning to understand how complex that is. Each person has an individual dominant learning style; most teachers have a dominant teaching style. This is why two students can sit in the exact same class and say teacher X was "the best teacher in the school" and another say "the worst". and both could be right.  A trick in the application of educational pedagogy is to try to teach in multiple learning styles and thus customize at the point of delivery a teaching style to match each student's learning style. This capacity is not likely to be routinized in technology anytime soon, and thus the best education experience will come from having well trained, motivated masters leading the class room.  There is a place for technology, but there are limits too. 

3) The dynamics of the classroom are different today. We are more heterogeneous than 30 years ago, and that brings both challenges and opportunities. We also do not have a common societal view of education as the way up and out.  This lack of common view manifests itself in underachievement, class room behavior issues, and a host of other things. I don't know what we do about that.  In a sense, we as a society are too rich, and not hungry enough to improve ourselves. Perhaps that is the curse of the American empire: we have succeeded beyond our ability to sustain investment in our individual and shared achievement.

Carolyn Ring (8) (8) (8) (8)
I find it unfortunate, but probably true that redesign of services will be a low priority, but that could be crucial to financial problems

Bert Press (10) (0) (0) (10)

David Dillon (10) (0) (10) (5)
Question 1: How depressing to agree with such a prediction.  One would hope for more from our leadership than this negative predictions.  Still, as Sen. Pogemiller has a lot to say about the future of such creative thinking.......if he doesn't believe in could it happen.  Yuck.  Too bad.

Question 2: Right, let unions and the education bureaucracy continue to drive up costs and then just make the tax payers cover the cost.  Now I understand why he takes such a dim view of creative thinking.  

Question 4: These sound like code words.  Why not just say what you think should happen?       

John Rollwagen (9) (10) (10) (10)
Looks like you had an excellent meeting with Larry Pogemiller.  I seem to agree with everything he had to say.  I guess you can talk sense when youíre not really running for something.  But Iím really troubled by the sad state of affairs we seem to be sinking into.  

Even on a national level, I am very disappointed with Obamaís inability to capitalize on his political capital.  Personally I think both the economic crisis and the health care situation have presented amazing opportunities for meaningful and positive change which we just donít seem able to grasp politically.

Ray Ayotte (8) (5) (10) (8)

George Pillsbury (5) (8) (10) (10)
Will be surprised if anything major happens in this legislature.

Bill Kuisle (1) (1) (10) (10)

Donald H. Anderson (10) (5) (5) (10)
I'm afraid there is too much polarization for this Governor and Legislature to ever come to a worthwhile agreement on what is best for the state.

Michael Martens (10) (_) (8) (8) 
LGA is broken. I have yet to find an LGA supporter who can explain why some cities get $zero/ resident, some get $200/ resident and some cities get $400/resident.

Roy Thompson (3) (3) (4) (8)
Teachers are important but parents must instill the need for education.  Education at all levels will remain as the engine for development. Jobs are important but education at all levels is essential for long range development. Look at the effect  of education following WWII.  Meaningful education can provide jobs for both students and mentors or teachers. It will be expensive but  in the long run the only answer.  

Terry Stone (10) (5) (10) (10)
Mr. Pogemiller says that if he "has one dollar (heíd) like to see it go to early childhood because research shows thatís where itís at." Iíd like to think that he would be spending that precious dollar on his own children; but liberals want to use it assure that government is raising other peopleís children.

Joe Mansky (10) (4) (10) (10)
On question #2: before going farther down the road of a "high-tuition, high student aid" model of higher education, perhaps it would be more productive to determine how to reduce the costs of a college education for the students and taxpayers. For example, is it necessary for the University of Minnesota to offer any freshman-sophomore level courses, or would it make more sense for students to take elementary math, English, science courses at a lower cost community college and devote the Uís resources strictly to upper division undergraduates and graduate students?

Chuck Slocum (5) (8) (10) (10)
Letís hope that redesign is on the governor and legislatorís agenda in numerous ways.   Much to think through and much progress can be made under the current circumstances.

Robert J. Brown (8) (10) (10) (10)
Question 1: It should receive a higher priority, but the current elected officials arenít ready for significant change.

Question 2: The Brandl-Weber proposal developed for Gov. Carlson was excellent on this matter, but there was no follow up.

Scott Halstead (10) (0) (10) (10)
We need to start with reducing the size of the legislature by a minimum of 50% and get the legislature out of the redistricting  process.  There is a lot of excessive local government and corresponding duplication of services.  A smaller legislature should be able to function more efficiently.  We need some term limits and legislative report cards made public.

Lyall Schwarzkopf (9) (7) (7) (9)

Dick Angevine (9) (6) (8) (10)


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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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