Mayor Carter welcomed the group and thanked them for participating. He shared that the City is looking for critical recommendations, and he acknowledged each person at the table is representing many people behind them. He wants to move forward together. Having the Citizens League study committee on board helps get the discussion out of an insular environment. He pledged to help every way he can, and also to get out of the way and let the process take its course.
Councilmember Chris Tolbert also welcomed the committee to Ward 3 and thanked them for their participation. He shared that the Saint Paul City Council specifically voted on a resolution in support of the committee and is financially invested in the process. He expects the committee to have a good debate, to find nuances and point out things to consider as the discussion moves forward.
The individual members of the committee introduced themselves and shared why they were there. In some groups you’re asked to leave your bias at the door, but Citizens League committees embrace those perspectives. The participants were asked to bring those biases with them and lay them out on the table. The different perspectives will all serve as both information opportunities and guidelines around the work.
Pahoua Hoffman, Executive Director of Citizens League, spoke about the history of the Citizens League and some housekeeping issues. Participants are expected to attend every meeting since the only homework they will have is to engage in conversations with people they are there to represent, to bring their leadership and those networks to the table.
Pahoua read the Operating Guidelines.
“We are unique in our ability to address how policy happens. We do this by:
Bringing diverse perspectives and people together. We serve as a rare neutral convener – true “common ground for the common good” – in a fractured political and policy landscape.
Advancing policy solutions in collaboration with a broad base of support. Engaging diverse stakeholders creates the breadth of resources necessary to impact policy.
Reframing the conversation. People look to the Citizens League for objectivity: weighing short-term self-interests of all parties involved and long-term needs of Minnesota. We work with all types of Minnesotans to understand important public policy issues and the role citizens can play in contributing to solutions.
Considering political pragmatism along with policy idealism. The goal is not just to promote a set of ideas or proposals, but to have a real and sustained impact on the policies and systems that impact the quality of life and economic health of Minnesotans.
The Committee heard a presentation from and asked questions of Thomas Durfee, a PhD candidate in Economics at the University of Minnesota. Thomas is tasked with bringing data and answering questions from the committee over the course of the study period. The powerpoint of his presentation can be found here.
“You can’t defend your own thinking and learn at the same time”
The Committee members were asked to suspend judgment and to expect the first several weeks of the committee meetings were going to be spent in learning mode. B reminded the group to “relax and learn about the topic and each other.” The more informed they all are, the better position the committee will be in to make good recommendations.
The Committee ended their first meeting by acknowledging there are many questions to be answered, an ordinance is a tactical approach to achieving a goal, there doesn’t seem to be consensus on what goal is being addressed, and if this debate is a reflection of community values then we haven’t yet agreed on values. Pahoua reassured the group they are in an ok place, they will have time to address those questions, and the process will get messy before it gets clear. She, the co-chairs and the staff will strive to make sure the Committee members have a good experience, believe the process is fair, their opinions are heard, and their time, expertise, and participation is valued.
The next meeting will be held on Thursday, May 17, 2018.
About this blog series: SPACC public affairs staff will be attending each of the study committee meetings and writing a recap blog after each meeting in order to keep our members informed of the process. (Since President/CEO B Kyle is the co-chair and an active member of the committee her perspective will be included just like the other participants, but the blog should not be considered to be her opinion personally or a direct reflection of just her role on the committee.) Since the Citizens League will be publishing exhaustive minutes of the meetings, our blog is not meant to be a complete record, but instead will provide an overview of the high points of the meetings and the content. When appropriate, we will also provide analysis of what committee recommendations could mean for our members. If you have a question about the committee please connect with Shannon.