Community Voices features opinion pieces from a wide variety of authors and perspectives. (Submission Guidelines)

Pros and cons of Minnesota’s caucus system and views on transportation, Kosovo and stadium funding

The pros and cons of Minnesota’s caucus system — along with issues such as transportation, Kosovo and stadium funding — prompted a slew of recent comments from MinnPost readers. Here’s a sampling of what folks have been talking about.

* * * *

Arvonne Fraser’s Tuesday Community Voices essay, “Politics: A serious game, not a spectator sport,” encouraging participation in Minnesota’s caucuses, drew this view from John Farrell:

A few days after the caucuses I had a surprising conversation with someone who had been a reporter and editor at some of the most important newspapers in the area. This person had only recently become politically active, feeling it inappropriate to participate in party politics while working in news reporting. Although nearing retirement age, this person was really a political “newbie” and regarded the caucus process as a form of disenfranchisement. When such people — who may reasonably be expected to be better informed than the average person — come to regard party activists as a privileged few who are depriving others of the right to their opinions there is indeed cause for despair.

Deborah Morse-Kahn also weighed in:

I absolutely hate going toe to toe with one of family’s most beloved friends. Alas, we do disagree. … I think of the word “participatory” as critical semantics here. If I thought the system viable, open to all, working well, and making sense in the long run, I’d be there. I find it nonviable, hugely disenfranchising, grossly inefficient in use of time and energy, and subject to strong cliques and manipulation by aggressive insiders. Welcome to high school in the DFL. Been there, done that. Give me a primary every time.

Steve Marchese wrote:

Although I have the utmost respect for Arvonne Fraser and her husband, I think she misses one point of the criticism of the caucus system. Caucuses are predicated on the notion that anyone can participate — as long as you are willing to invest the time and effort to participate. However, the reality is that there are significant barriers to participation for many people and these barriers are not solely ones based upon convenience, ease or social pressure. If you are disabled and can’t get a ride to the caucus site during the caucus time, you are disenfranchised. If you are a single parent and can’t find child care, you are disenfranchised. If you have a family with two parents and both want to participate and you can’t find or afford child care, you are disenfranchised. If you work late into the evening because your job requires it, you are disenfranchised. If you are the primary caregiver to someone and can’t locate temporary assistance, you are disenfranchised. … For the educated, affluent, and resourced, it might be about choice. For many, many others, that is not so.

Andrea Jackley offered her firsthand viewpoint:

As a DFL intern dealing with questions and complaints from this year’s caucus-goers each day, this commentary touched a special place in my heart. While I completely understand the notion of “disenfranchisement” being expressed because of the (admittedly) large amount of chaos in the state of Minnesota on the eve of Feb. 5, as a participant I have to pose several rhetorical questions in response: 1. Aren’t the caucuses completely dependent on volunteer organization on the district level, and the availability of local spaces? (answer: yes) 2. Wasn’t this year’s turnout the largest ever — in terms of sheer numbers and percentage of eligible voters? (answer: yes) 3. Weren’t quite a few of the people participating brand new to the notion of “caucusing”? (answer: yes) The simple fact is that resources were overwhelmed. The DFL estimated, on the high end, that around 100,000 people would show up to caucuses — the last count was around 213,000. …

Everyone needs to chill out a little bit and take a long, rational look at our system. I think perhaps a solution most befitting will involve a combination of an open primary, with evening caucusing for those who want to be more involved. …

Lyn Crosby agreed with Fraser:

You go g’rl! I don’t feel it necessary to dissect every point, but the one I most like and most agree with is: If you don’t like the process or think it could be better, GET INVOLVED! We need volunteers! I was personally confronted with complaints by several people about why didn’t we do this or that — but thankfully many more people recognized that this was way bigger and thus way more chaotic than we had ever dealt with!

And an excerpt from Mike Haubrich’s comments:

This is an important item to understand about the caucuses. They provide a real opportunity to be active in the party at a grassroots level. The comments that refer to “disenfranchisement” are missing the point completely. People that have difficulty attending should contact their local senate district party organization. Most have volunteers to provide rides, and the caucuses are held in accessible locations. … Getting rid of the caucuses would only serve to further disenfranchise activists who don’t have pre-existing connections. …

* * * *

On transportation issues, Matty Lang appreciated Britt Robson’s Tuesday post, “Legislative audit finds financial pothole in funding roads and bridges”:

Thanks for the great article, Britt. It’s good to see that there’s finally a non-partisan source of research that is exposing the void behind the Pawlenty/Molnau transportation curtain.

While having no apparent grasp of what a high quality multi-modal transportation system means to the economy of Minnesota Team Pawlenty has employed its Grover Norquist designed “no taxes/kill government by budget cuts” philosophy nearly without discrimination to MnDOT. They’ve thrown a few shiny bones to the outer suburbs in the form of expanded freeways that have already or will quickly clog up with congestion like the rest of the system.

We obviously need a new model to fund our transportation system that includes high quality transit to lessen the demand on existing roads.

* * * *

On the same topic, G.R. Anderson Jr.’s Wednesday post, “Audit from heaven: Report gives DFLers fuel they need for transportation bill,” brought this response from Al Johnson:

It’s hard not to notice that the timeframe noted is the No-New-Tax era of the Pawlenty years. I guess [Legislative auditor James] Nobles is following the non-partisan techniques of Mark Ritchie.

John Olson added:

It all comes down to one very simple question: Are there at least five Republicans in the Minnesota House of Representatives with the courage to vote with (presumably) all of the House DFLers to override the gubernatorial veto that is coming?

* * * *

John E. Iacono commented on Eric Black’s Wednesday post, “Kosovo and an eight-syllable word”:

It has often puzzled me that so many of the “new” nations have been formed from disparate groups with disparate, even clashing, cultures.

I haven’t linked it to the Treaty of Versailles, for some reason. But I have noted that our friends the Brits seem to have had a penchant for doing this when leaving a chunk of their empire (Iraq, India-Pakistan, Palestine). I have speculated that they perhaps wanted to be appreciated for the steadying influence they had.

But then again, perhaps it’s just a variation on the old lawyer’s adage: “Always leave something for the next guy.”

* * * *

James Nordgaard opined on Wednesday’s Community Voices piece, ” ‘Too many tiny towns’? ‘Buy out residents’? Whoa!” by Dana Yost, the editor of the Marshall Independent. The article critiqued “Landscapes,” a book written by two geography professors at the University of Minnesota:

The authors may have been harsh and untactful, but they have a valid point. I grew up and live in the city and suburbs, and have been wanting to escape them all my life, and so far have been unsuccessful; the primary reason? Economic. Perhaps I’ll succeed when I retire. … The authors were probably thinking mainly in terms of public policy, and there I think they are wrong. People should be free to decide where they live. Public policy should not promote the exodus from these small towns, nor try to keep them viable. People will decide, and so will (perhaps unfortunately) economic realities.

* * * *

Myles Spicer added this to Kevin Featherly’s Tuesday story, “NWA-Delta merger means a triple whammy for state”:

Of all the disconcerting points made in this well done piece, the worst is “Tim Pawlenty is open to renegotiating the contract(s) with NWA.”

There can be no worse official to protect consumer rights in this situation than Gov. Pawlenty, who has proven he tilts towards corporate actions. Additionally, I see no reason way there should be ANY negotiation with NWA — they have shown they do not keep their promises, or their contracts, and this time the state HAS to keep their feet to the fire! Nothing less will do. …

* * * *

Daniel Hoisington commented on Brian Voerding’s Tuesday post, Today’s conundrum: How local is ‘local’ for locally produced food?”

It seems like looking for an absolute definition of “local” is like looking for an absolute definition of “good.” Isn’t it a scale? The tomatoes you grow in your backyard are more local than the ones at the farmers’ market. The farmers’ market tomatoes tend to be more local than to co-op. The co-op is more local than the chain grocery store. I think the goal of a locavore is just to eat as local as possible for their area.

* * * *

Jerry Brill had this to say about Craig Bowron’s Monday post, “Dr. Jarvik isn’t the best prescription for Lipitor ads”:

The more important issue about this type of advertising is: Why doesn’t the medical profession speak up loud and clear about the ethics of advertising proprietary drugs? What doctor is interested in having his patients tell him what drug the patient thinks is good for the patient’s particular malady? If the drug companies didn’t spend the billions (yes, BILLIONS!!!), of dollars they spend on marketing their drugs to the general public, they would have that much more available for the research and development they say they spend ….

* * * *

John Finn was moved to comment on Eric Black’s Monday post, “How did veep talk go so far without Pawlenty’s pledge coming up?” referring to the governor’s statement that he was committed to serving out a 4-year term:

That type of pledge is sort of like proclaiming a self-imposed term limit. Just something you say, nothing more. I might be OK with him running for VP if he had to quit the governorship to do so without first knowing if his party would prevail. Would the Lt. Governor move up then? Much to ponder here.

David Gardner added:

It’s amazing to me that this pledge is expendable, but his pledge to the PAC Taxpayers League is carved in stone. Actually, I wouldn’t care too much about Pawlenty stepping down because he has been a mediocre governor at best. However, with Carol Molnau waiting in the wings to step in, that makes me hope that he doesn’t.

* * * *

Jeff Urbanek had this opinion on Jay Weiner’s Feb. 12 post, “State’s infrastructure debate includes Target Center and the X, too”:

You talk about the needs of these buildings as if they were human. How about the needs of our schoolchildren? They are increasingly crammed into inadequate facilities, some without air-conditioning. Bridges are falling down. Health care is inadequate. Vouchers and HSAs will NOT solve these problems.

First things first. You don’t buy season tickets to the opera before you pay the rent or mortgage. You don’t buy a big screen TV if you can’t afford the groceries. Let’s get our priorities straight.

Maybe the Xcel Energy Center and Target Center should look into merging operations. Why suddenly do we need to support individual arenas for basketball, hockey, and football, as well as for college sports? I suppose we will have to soon build A stadium for the Arena football league too.

Tony Spadafora added:

Jay, You wrote … “As has been written here and elsewhere, most revenues generated by sports and entertainment facilities accrue to the state as sales and income taxes.” That’s the argument to justify state funding of a new Vikings stadium? Why didn’t that argument apply to the Twins stadium?


Want to add your voice?

If you’re interested in joining the discussion by writing a Community Voices article, email Susan Albright at salbright [at] minnpost [dot] com.

Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Loretta Holscher on 03/13/2008 - 01:28 pm.

    I’m new to MinnPost.com, and I apologize for not being timely. I have been active in politics in the past and have found the caucus system unappealing and unfair.

    At the time of the precinct caucus, I had planned a vacation and was not able to attend. I called in to see if I could send a proxy in for a vote for Barack Obama for President. I was told I could not. I could however support a Senate candidate and go on to the next level of the convention. Excuse me, but I thought the idea was to include persons in nominating the next President? No soup for me!

Leave a Reply