Since today is a lighter day on our blog, we put together a round-up of link recommendations from our staff here at MN2020. In the spirit of Pop Culture Happy Hour, we asked them, "What's making you happy this week?"
With New Agreement, N.Y.U. Would Again Recognize Graduate Assistants’ Union by Steven Greenhouse and Ariel Kaminer
Eight years ago around this time of year, I was one of the graduate student organizers working really hard on a campaign for union recognition at NYU, so it's especially satisfying to see the New York Times report a breakthrough in that campaign after all this time.
Changing My Mind on How to Teach Thinking Skills by Larry Cuban
A veteran educator, Cuban explores how he came to reconsider his approach to teaching critical thinking. It's a great reminder of what we want teachers to do as they improve.
For the inspiration of discipline and persistence required to preform live a cappella, the Home Free Vocal Band, a country-flavored a cappella group that will be competing on NBC’s The Sing-Off a cappella singing competition show. Somehow three Minnesotans, graduates of UMD, Gustavus and Mankato State, connected with two southern guys through music entertainment work on Royal Caribbean Lines, formed a band and decided not to play accompanying instruments but to just sing.
Criminal Injustice by Margot Patterson
This commentary deals with the nation's prison incarceration crisis from a moral perspective. It appeared in America, a weekly publication of the Jesuits of the United States.
Two things: both for inspiring great conversations about creativity & kids. Dinovember: A month-long imagination invasion -- the story of two parents & an army of plastic dinosaurs on a mission to inspire wonder. And, what I found to be an awesome ad for a mediocre toy -- GoldieBlox (this article on Slate) -- which I loved for the passionate discussions it inspired about girls, creativity, and the pink aisle.
More Arctic Methane Bubbles into Atmosphere
About methane being released as permafrost in the arctic melts. Even if we stop emitting global warming gasses today, temperature increases could release an unknown amount of methane - a gas with more warming potential than CO2 - into the atmosphere. It's something we need to be aware of!
It's been a busy week, so web comics have been about as much reading as I've been able to get into - this one from The Oatmeal is one of the best. (Note: rated PG13 for language).
Posted in News & Notes
Recently we have gone through a government shutdown, the result of a stalemate between the two parties over the National Debt and Obamacare. The shutdown along with the Sequester and its mandatory budget cuts, are just examples of our ineffective Congress, a Congress where many members are too busy trying to win political victories than solving the nation’s problems. After the shutdown it was common to hear people rage at Congress and threaten to throw one party or the other, or maybe everyone out at the next election.
It's easy to blame our elected leaders rather than place the blame where it really belongs on our shoulders.
I know none of us want to take the blame for these bad politicians, but look at the evidence. We complain about the members of Congress yet incumbents are successful 90% of the time. At almost all levels candidates that spend the most money win the election because too many voters make their voting decisions on campaign ads not facts.
Extremes of major parties have taken control because many of us are unwilling to turnout for primaries, caucuses, or work for candidates we support. We need to support good candidates with more than our vote. We need to be more than observers; we need to be participants.
Today members of the US House spend more of their time raising campaign money than on legislating. Many of us complain how money especially from big business and the wealthy are corrupting our electoral process then we need to support groups like League of Women Voters, or Common Cause that are working to fix our electoral system.
What are some changes that could be made to the electoral process to improve the results? We need Constitutional amendments to declare that corporations do not have the same rights as people, and to allow control of electoral contributions and spending by the federal and state governments. At the state level, we need to remove the ten-year redistricting process completely from partisan legislators. It should start, not just end up, in the hands of judiciary or non-partisan commissions. Finally we should consider ending the Electoral College, which inhibits the formation of more than two parties.
Have you heard the demand for term limits for our elected leaders? We can limit terms today, but it requires us the voter to unseat bad elected leaders. The ability to achieve good government rests in our hands, but we have to do a better job in the electoral process. Often we hear of the sacrifices that voters in new democracies make to vote. They will walk many miles to the polls, wait hours in line, and even risk their lives to cast their vote. All we have to do is study the issues, support good candidates, and vote for good candidates.
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Thank you for your generous contributions to Minnesota 2020 on Give to the Max Day. You’re moving Minnesota’s public policy debate forward, helping us to focus on what really matters: schools, healthcare and jobs.
We learned a couple of interesting lessons yesterday. First, Minnesotans are generous. We give our money, time and attention to organizations that work to improve Minnesota life. We’re humbled to be included in your faith in communities, infrastructure and people’s growth capacity. Second, growing dependency on online information exchange isn’t going to slow down. GiveMN’s tech partner, Razoo, was overwhelmed yesterday. Their site crashed, due to strong donor response, causing a lot of nonprofit organization anxiety.
There’s been a lot of that going around recently. The lesson for online giving and for healthcare insurance exchanges is to do what Minnesotans do best. We work problems, finding practical, efficient solutions that meet the policy goal without a lot of excessive drama. Online infrastructure requires robust systems, much like roads and bridges must be built to safely carry traffic loads. We know rush hour snarls all too well. We shouldn’t be surprised when the same thing happens online. We should take steps to improve systems and service delivery.
Infrastructure—physical, communications, education—is a tool to carry out family and community goals. Stronger schools, affordable healthcare, roads and bridges, and economic development support families, stabilize cities, and grow Minnesota. Let’s fix the short-term problems by improving the tool kit and let’s stay focused on improving outcomes. Sharing your money helps Minnesota 2020 help you. Thanks again.
Posted in News & Notes
We’ve had a great 2013. Governor Dayton cited Minnesota 2020 research in his annual State of the State address, advocating for increasing the tax rate on Minnesota’s highest income earners. We quantified the negative impact of ten years of declining state infrastructure investments due to conservative public policy. We’ve begun making the case for a state minimum hourly wage increase from $7.25 to $9.50.
It feels great, doing the right thing. But, it also takes your financial support.
Minnesota 2020’s research and writing is routinely published in daily and weekly newspapers. Our findings are covered by state-wide TV and radio stations. Minnesotans know what Minnesota 2020 is learning.
Sharing content, even as a nonprofit, still means that we have to pay the bills. Making the case for public policy change for stronger schools, affordable healthcare, robust transportation infrastructure and sustainable economic development is a shared fight. We’re doing our part. We need you to do yours.
Tomorrow is Give to the Max Day. Please make a generous, tax deductible contribution to Minnesota 2020. Every dollar that you contribute means that we’re one step closer to putting Minnesota back on a progressive policy path to growing community prosperity.
Your contributions extend our communications reach. They help Briana Johnson create engaging videos. They help Rachel Weeks expand our social media platform. They help Jeff Van Wychen crunch property and income tax data so that we know who’s paying how much and who’s not shouldering their fair share of the burden.
Every dollar helps.
Next door in Wisconsin, conservative public policy is making it harder for people to care for their families and to create a future for their kids. Minnesota tried that approach for ten years. Now, finally, we’re moving in a better, smarter policy direction. We have a lot to do to maintain and advance policy change momentum.
Minnesota 2020 is Minnesota’s progressive think tank. Your financial support makes our work possible. It keeps Minnesota moving forward. Please give generously and keep us on the front lines of policy research and communications. Go to Give to the Max and schedule your contribution today! You don’t have to wait until tomorrow.
Posted in News & Notes
Now that the Minneapolis election is done and over with, we’ve seen how ranked-choice voting (RCV) worked in its largest test yet for the city. However, the bigger story is probably the 35 mayoral candidates on the ballot. There appear to be several reasons why 35 people filed to run for mayor:
- A filing fee of just $20 led some people to run who wanted to raise visibility for a particular issue, but didn’t actually want to be mayor (said one of them, “I’m the 35th choice for myself.”).
- There was no mayoral incumbent for the first time in 12 years.
- RCV makes it easier for more candidates to be visible and win some votes even if they’re not within the major parties.
By most accounts, voters didn’t have many problems with RCV but were annoyed with how many candidates were on the ballot. The combination of those two factors meant that a winner wasn’t officially declared until Thursday night, a full day longer than originally anticipated (though 50 hours doesn’t feel long compared to some of Minnesota’s statewide recounts in recent memory).
If the general sentiment is that citizens don’t want 35 candidates on their ballot next time, it needs to be harder to get onto the ballot. The Minneapolis Charter Commission has proposed raising the filing fee to $500. Current mayor R.T. Rybak supports a $300 increase.
The problem I see with raising the fee is that it still doesn’t require anyone to actually start building a coalition of supporters who believe the candidate would be a good mayor. $500 may deter many not-so-serious people from running, but it doesn’t actually stop the frivolous candidates altogether. It just requires them to have deeper pockets.
I’m far more inclined to require that all candidates earn a minimum number of signatures on a petition. Candidates currently have the option to waive the filing fee by collecting 500 signatures, but as MPR notes, “with the current $20 filing fee, almost nobody takes that route. Out of the 108 people running for office in Minneapolis tomorrow, only one candidate, city council hopeful Kris Brogan, took the time to circulate a petition.”
Being a good city leader starts with being good at building coalitions and getting people to believe in your vision. I don’t really care whether or not my candidates have $500. I do care that they’ve actually taken time to talk with voters, develop a platform, and seek voter support. 500 signatures are a lot more significant to me than $500, and for many people are harder to acquire. It’s time to require that our candidates earn, not buy, their way onto our ballot.
Reliable local government services are the bread and butter of a well-functioning community. Far from Washington D.C. or even St. Paul, what happens in county courthouses, city halls, and school board offices has the most immediate impact on our lives. Think of the tremendous work from your own neighbors, like snow plow operators, ambulance drivers, firefighters, police officers, librarians and teachers.
In order to recognize the creative ways these counties, cities, and schools are making Minnesota better and doing things differently the Humphrey School of Public Affairs is proud to announce the seventh annual Local Government Innovation Awards. The Awards are sponsored in partnership between the Humphrey School’s Nonprofit Leadership Center, the League of Minnesota Cities, the Association of Minnesota Counties, and the Minnesota School Board Association, and are a public awards process open to any county, city or school that has been embracing innovation or service redesign over the last year.
In keeping with previous years, up to 18 local government entities will be recognized as award winners for their innovative work. The winner in each of the three categories will also receive a professional video highlighting their innovation work and a $10,000 grant from the Bush Foundation to continue local government innovation and redesign work!
Past award winners include Mounds View Public Schools’ program to offer early college classes in partnership with Anoka Ramsey Community College at Irondale High School; St. Paul’s EMS Academy, which offers at risk, minority and women students of the St. Paul area to pursue meaningful careers as emergency medical technicians; and Dakota County’s innovative Re-Entry Assistance Program that helps jail inmates with histories of multiple arrests minimize their number of returns to jail.
The Awards started accepting entries September 17, nominations will run through October 24. To learn more, to nominate a local government in your area or to begin preparing an entry visit lgia.umn.edu.
Over the past decade, local governments have adapted to workforce changes and community needs. They've also struggled with declining revenue caused by the economic downturn and state government cuts. This program is a great way to recognize their on-going efforts and success and foster ideas so that all local leaders can continue providing residents top-notch service.
John Anderson is an organizer currently working on the 7th annual Local Government Innovation Awards project sponsored by the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Other project partners include the Association of Minnesota Counties, the League of Minnesota Cities, and the Minnesota School Boards Association.
After the cold, dark winter that lasted more than two decades without a progressive Governor, the last legislative session felt like spring. And while last session was far from perfect, we accomplished something tremendous: our governor and legislature who worked together to build a more fair tax structure, increased aid to local governments while providing property tax relief for the middle-class, we passed all day kindergarten funding, and marriage equality.
We achieved exactly what we told voters we’d do during the 2012 election: we made our government work better for working people, we championed fairness, and fought for a better Minnesota. It was proof positive of what progressive change can mean if we work together, and it’s thanks in large part to Governor Dayton, his vision and his leadership.
And it’s why we should be disappointed in the Governor’s proposal for the 2014 session, or as he calls it the “unsession.” As Governor Dayton’s website describes it, “The Unsession is a first-of-its-kind effort to make government better, faster, simpler and more efficient for people. We want to improve service, shorten wait times, eliminate old and outdated rules, and undo anything else that makes government nearly impossible for people to understand.”
Here’s what I know for sure: progressives win tough elections when we run towards our values, when we are populist who believe in the power of collective action to make lives better. We lose when we act conservative-light. We win when we talk about what we can do, not about what we can’t.
I also know, from a policy standpoint, the 2014 session is full of potential: from raising the minimum wage, to supporting MNsure and statewide health care access, to lowering the cost of public higher education -- we have a lot left to do.
The 2014 session should be about what we can do together, not about what we can’t.
Look, I am all for making government work more efficiently, and I agree that we should make some minor tweaks that eliminate a few of the taxes that passed in 2013. But we have a tough election to look forward to in 2014, and more importantly we have the bold ability to make important progress on real challenges facing Minnesota.
Why on earth would we give up this opportunity to spend an entire legislative session working within the conservative frame about what government can’t do, why it doesn’t work well, how we should eliminate it?
I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for Governor Dayton. But he should undo the unsession. He’s making a bad choice. At his best, Governor Dayton is a champion for a fair economy, for working Minnesotans, and for progressive policy. I’d like to see Governor Dayton at his best in 2014.
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On the first day of school in Minneapolis, our optimism and excitement is tempered by sadness at the news of School Board Member Hussein Samatar’s untimely passing. He’ll be remembered as a trailblazer who became the first Somali-American elected to public office. He lived up to the great expectations placed on such a trailblazer, providing an effective and unique presence on the school board that genuinely shifted the conversation and increased attention on the ways the Minneapolis Public Schools needed to change in order to provide immigrant children and children of color with the educational opportunities they deserve.
His work on the school board and his work on the African Development Council both demonstrate his passion and talent for creating economic opportunity in under-resourced communities. In his role with the ADC, Hussein Samatar had a tangible, measurable economic impact on people’s lives. His legacy there is measurable in businesses launched, loans made to local enterpreneurs, and jobs created. He believed deeply in the power of local investment and locally-owned small business, and made real strides toward his vision of a more accessible and equitable Minnesota economy.
I first encountered Hussein when early in his tenure on the school board, the community asked the board to reconsider their decision to close North High School. Even though the district he was elected from sent few if any children to North, he invested serious time in listening to a wide range of community voices, and ultimately voted to transform, rather than close the school. I worked with him most closely when Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (where I worked) asked the school board to end their banking relationship with Wells Fargo. Early on, he expressed ambivalence about the tone and analysis of that campaign, but he still used his role on the finance committee to insist on an open, transparent process that enabled the campaign to be heard. In my experience, too few leaders invest energy and political capital to ensure a fair process for campaigns they may disagree with. We need more thoughtful, ethical leaders like Hussein Samatar.
Hussein leaves behind a wife and four children, a more vibrant small business community, a more inclusive and transparent school board, and a grateful city. We mourn the loss of a friend, and the loss of the transformational accomplishments we know he still had ahead of him.
Posted in News & Notes
Over the weekend hundreds of Minnesotans converged on North Minneapolis to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's march on Washington for jobs and justice. While progress has been made, we are still working toward many of the rights marchers originally fought for, education equity access to jobs, and economic opportunity.
Posted in News & Notes
Should Twin Citians be grateful for U.S. Bank CEO/President Richard K. Davis’ service on the Minnesota Orchestral Association (MOA) Board? I recently had the unexpected opportunity to debate this question with Minnesota businessman and former conservative political leader Ron Eibensteiner during the Young Musicians of Minnesota’s (YMM), flash mob performance in late July. The group held the impromptu concert in front of U.S. Bancorp headquarters on Nicollet Mall, protesting Mr. Davis’ key role in the now 10-month-old lockout of Minnesota Orchestra Musicians by the MOA.
Mr. Eibensteiner stopped to chat while I was handing out flyers. He said Davis is a friend who volunteers his time and money generously to the Minnesota Orchestra and that protestors were ungrateful. Furthermore, Eibensteiner said he told Davis and the rest of the MOA Board to resign because they are not appreciated!
What do you think? Should wealthy Board members be praised and given carte blanche for huge donations and service, even when they have apparently gone rogue?
Since, in fact, I have NOT been grateful for Mr. Davis’ work on the MOA Board, I informed Mr. Eibensteiner why. That despite Mr. Davis’ and the Board’s volunteerism and generous financial contributions, many of us in the public feel betrayed and angry by their actions, which among other things include:
- Planning as early as 2009 to misrepresent the MOA’s financial distress and hide efforts to diminish the orchestra while touting their success to unwary donors---in order to raise over $50 million for Hall renovations during the height of the recession.
- Removing the words ‘Minnesota Orchestra’ from the organization’s Mission Statement in 2011--- another intentional move to apparently marginalize the orchestra and protect the MOA for doing so.
- Locking out the orchestra for the entire 2012-13 season, resulting in, at least 25 musicians (1/4 of the roster) recently leaving or retiring, and esteemed conductor Osmo Vanska threatening to resign.
While the YMM played to a growing, enthusiastic crowd, Mr. Eibensteiner argued that hardly anyone likes classical music anymore. He claimed that when he attends Minnesota Orchestra concerts, they are only “half- full.” Since this has not been my experience, I disputed his assertion, but asked if it were true, whose fault, and consequently whose responsibility would it be to rectify the situation, especially with a world renowned orchestra in house---MOA management, perhaps?
Mr. Eibensteiner seemed rather unappreciative of my question. He then invoked the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, which was puzzling, since the DSO appears to have an endowment less than one-third of the MOA’s, and unlike here, the musicians went on strike but had negotiations with management before settling a contract in ‘only’ 6 months. Moreover, I asked, why not emulate the Cleveland Orchestra, one of many that are successful and relevant to young audiences?
At this point, Mr. Eibensteiner repeated his argument that Richard Davis should resign from the MOA Board. And for probably the very first time, I found myself enthusiastically agreeing with him.
Let’s have a substantive, inclusive discussion about the future of the 110 year-old Minnesota Orchestra, which belongs to all of us. In the meantime, both Ron Eibensteiner and I say to Richard Davis---RESIGN!
Maryann Goldstein is a patron and supporter of the arts in Minnesota.
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