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The political issues that consumed in the days of Ventura

A decade ago, Gov. Jesse Ventura’s staff received an email every week, subject: “Top Ten Reasons Citizens Contacted the Governor the Week Of…” Here’s a fascinating time-machine experience: What were the issues?

Jesse Ventura
REUTERS/Eric Miller
Jesse Ventura

The recount, a mind-boggling deficit, and a monumental power shift — if you care at all about Minnesota politics, you probably grind your teeth a little bit in your sleep (no matter which political party those teeth belong to).

How about this for medicine: a look at the political quagmires and quibbles of another time — a decade ago. In those days, Gov. Jesse Ventura’s staff received an email every week, subject: “Top Ten Reasons Citizens Contacted the Governor the Week Of…” These messages, on file at the Minnesota History Center library, make for a fascinating (and at times frustrating) time-machine experience.

Every call, letter, email and petition was tallied and topics were ranked. I pulled 16 of these weekly reports, from November 2000-February 2001. You know what that means? Recount — the big one. Florida. In late November 2000, 19 callers bumped their pet issue into the top 10 twice: “Fix the election problems in Florida.”

Had enough of recounts? For nine of the 16 weeks I looked at, the issue of whether or not Ventura should be announcing for the XFL football league made the list. All told, there were 296 calls of support and just 42 calls of protest.

Nearly 2,500 people contacted the governor’s office to express concern over the showing of the documentaries “It’s Elementary: Talking About Gay Issues in School” and “That’s a Family.”

Support for giving domestic partner benefits to state employees was high, with 214 people reaching out. Those opposed numbered just four.

Then there was that surplus (remember the surplus?). What should be done with all of that money? Minnesotans weighed in for weeks. Funneling the money into affordable housing and health care came up 51 times. Sending the surplus money back to Minnesota taxpayers came up 80 times. Using the money for education came up 22 times.

There were a few outliers. There was the micro-movement of 14 people who sent postcards asking the Ventura to bring the death penalty to Minnesota. And 10 people called to register their position against a light rail system.

Have a look at the reports for yourself. What memories or issues they conjure up for you?

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Ventura Top Ten Lists 2000-2001