Itasca Project

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mister.shoes
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Itasca Project

Postby mister.shoes » December 29th, 2015, 12:45 pm

From the NYT, In the Twin Cities, Local Leaders Wield Influence Behind the Scenes
MINNEAPOLIS — A nondescript conference room on the 38th floor of Minneapolis’s tallest skyscraper bears little resemblance to the brick clubhouse a few blocks away where members of the local elite have gathered for more than a century.

But swap out the Oriental rugs and dark wood for a granite table and Aeron-style chairs, and it serves much the same function as the Minneapolis Club once did.

Every Friday morning, 14 men and women who oversee some of the biggest companies, philanthropies and other institutions in Minneapolis, St. Paul and the surrounding area gather here over breakfast to quietly shape the region’s economic agenda.
The problem with being an introvert online is that no one knows you're just hanging out and listening.

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Anondson
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Re: Itasca Project

Postby Anondson » December 29th, 2015, 1:54 pm

Reading it last night my brain kept thinking, "THERE IS A CONSORTIUM!"

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MN Fats
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Re: Itasca Project

Postby MN Fats » December 29th, 2015, 1:57 pm

Anondson wrote:Reading it last night my brain kept thinking, "THERE IS A CONSORTIUM!"
Created by a retired banker no less.

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Re: Itasca Project

Postby Silophant » December 29th, 2015, 2:33 pm

Someone should sneak in to the next meeting and suggest a 60-story economy hotel at 5th and Hennepin.

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Tiller
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Re: Itasca Project

Postby Tiller » December 29th, 2015, 7:31 pm

So when a proposal to raise the gasoline tax in 2008 to help rebuild roads and transit systems was vetoed by the Republican governor at the time, Tim Pawlenty, phone calls from Itasca’s business leaders helped persuade enough Republican legislators to cross the aisle and override the veto.
Reminds me of this editorial:
http://m.startribune.com/metro-transit- ... 362992711/
But more than tacit backing will be needed from the Twin Cities business community to secure the state funding in 2016 that the next links in a regional rapid transit network require. To sell transit skeptics among House Republicans, the business community will have to engage in some noisy advocacy.

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Re: Itasca Project

Postby EOst » December 29th, 2015, 8:38 pm

It got a mention on Gawker: http://gawker.com/in-cabal-of-powerful- ... 1750159113

"In Cabal of Powerful Elites, Newspaper Sees Valid Alternative to Traditional Democratic Institutions"

"It is an eternal wish of the elite political press that a group of terribly smart “non-partisan” people with solid credentials and good intentions will just step in, take charge, and fix all our problems, partisanship and politicians be damned. This is a profoundly anti-democratic impulse, but because the sorts of elites we’re talking about consider themselves beyond and above ideology, they don’t generally understand that they’re expressing an ideological preference for oligarchy."

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Re: Itasca Project

Postby nate » December 30th, 2015, 8:48 am

Yes, this is a fluffy article that focuses on (self-described) benevolent public spirit of the group while not addressing any awkward questions. Here's two off the top of my head:

- Businesses apparently saw the need to override Pawlenty's veto of the transportation tax, but they did not advocate for higher taxes on business to fund critical infrastructure (as far as I'm aware). Instead regressive sales and gas tax increases were passed. It's easy to support tax increases that mostly impact other people.

- The Vikings stadium had an uncertain future in the summer of 2012, when the political will materialized at the Capitol to fund the project with State and Minneapolis money. The president of this group runs Mortenson construction, which lo and behold, is now building the stadium. Besides the Vikings themselves, Mortenson Construction has probably benefited more than any other entity from the stadium bill. I am sure it is unimaginable that any influence was peddled in this situation.

Anyways, our system has always favored the wealthy and politically-connected, and I'm not aware of any alternate political system that in practice works differently. So if this group truly does have the public good in mind, and are truly willing to use their influence to help tackle difficult questions that are avoided by a polarized government, then that's certainly better than a group that has only selfish motives. But the Times article acts as though this group can't have a dark side, which is untrue.

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Re: Itasca Project

Postby Wedgeguy » December 30th, 2015, 9:10 am

For good or for bad, I'm glad to hear that we have a group of people that take making this city and state a place you want to live and show off. We have had this type of leaders over the past century, It is how we got our MIA, Walker Center, the Guthrie Theater, Ordway Center, and many other civic jewels. Our last group of true leaders are now all gone, the Curt Carlson's, the Dayton Brothers, many from the Cargill family, and many others that gave a lot to support many of our prized institutions. For the last decade we have lack leaders with civic pride that were willing to put their money out there for the betterment of the community at large. I hope we see a new push to get better buildings, better amenities, and help those that need help to make it thru life a bit better.

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Anondson
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Re: Itasca Project

Postby Anondson » December 30th, 2015, 9:38 am

The article seemed to imply their advocacy is data driven, lending an air of "above it all". I'd like the data put out publicly if they're going to lobby elected representatives.

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Re: Itasca Project

Postby xandrex » December 30th, 2015, 10:33 am

The group largely seems to get “fluff” from the New York Times because it’s business leaders who check a number of progressive boxes: They lobby for additional government spending, they talk about racial inequality (or at least pay lip service), etc. It might not get the same treatment if its politics were a bit different.

At the same time, a number of people have been raising a stink about the group’s secrecy or how it is “anti-democratic.” But other than the fact that they got covered in the New York Times, I don’t see why people are raising those concerns. We don’t typically fret about a Chamber of Commerce or protest group being “anti-democratic.” It seems to be more of a knee-jerk reaction to the fact that these people are generally wealthy and well connected (they certainly wouldn’t need the Itasca Project to get together to scheme…they’re all already in the Twin Cities’ cocktail party scene). Given that, the fact that their goals generally seem pretty amenable, I’m not exactly shaking in my boots at their might.

trigonalmayhem

Re: Itasca Project

Postby trigonalmayhem » December 30th, 2015, 4:06 pm

Nice of the NYT to wank off a bunch of privileged rich folk who figured that elections are for commoners and they know best. The reporter bent over pretty far to ingratiate themselves with this group--I wonder if it was a paid ego-masturbatory aid or if this reporter wants a favor from one of them?

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Re: Itasca Project

Postby QuietBlue » December 30th, 2015, 5:12 pm

xandrex wrote:At the same time, a number of people have been raising a stink about the group’s secrecy or how it is “anti-democratic.” But other than the fact that they got covered in the New York Times, I don’t see why people are raising those concerns. We don’t typically fret about a Chamber of Commerce or protest group being “anti-democratic.” It seems to be more of a knee-jerk reaction to the fact that these people are generally wealthy and well connected (they certainly wouldn’t need the Itasca Project to get together to scheme…they’re all already in the Twin Cities’ cocktail party scene). Given that, the fact that their goals generally seem pretty amenable, I’m not exactly shaking in my boots at their might.
People frequently criticize the lobbying done by Chambers of Commerce. As for protest groups, they generally represent people without power and influence who aren't part of the establishment, so they're not analogous to this organization.

Yes, their goals are amenable and they're getting things done, but a benevolent oligarchy is still an oligarchy. Maybe it's the way the system works in practice, but it's not the way it is supposed to work, and that's what has people concerned. I suppose how one views this depends on what side of the pragmatism vs. idealism and elitism vs. populism scales they fall on.

I also think Minnesotans are particularly primed to be skeptical of a group like this, since we like to think of our state as being above this sort of thing (even if the reality has always been different). Rich and powerful movers and shakers making deals and influencing behind the scenes might be how they do things in corrupt places like Chicago or NYC, but not here in wholesome, honest Minnesota, or so the thinking goes.

Ultimately, though, the way I see it is that if there's going to be lobbyist groups, organizations like the Itasca Project are good counterweights against ones like ALEC with much worse goals.

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Nick
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Re: Itasca Project

Postby Nick » December 30th, 2015, 5:18 pm

I don't really care thaaaaaat much, but because I am terrible and like to disagree with Twitter consensuses, is this not basically what the Citizens League was several decades ago? Didn't we get a lot of good things out of that on balance? There have been regular news stories about the existence of this group for years, it's not like it's the Springfield Republican Party.

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Re: Itasca Project

Postby QuietBlue » December 30th, 2015, 5:38 pm

Pretty much, yes. The Citizen's League is still around, FWIW, though they don't seem to be as active as they once were. One difference, though, is that the CL has always been pretty open and visible, while the IP seems to be trying to keep a lower profile.

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Re: Itasca Project

Postby WHS » December 31st, 2015, 12:24 am

I think people here are assuming the Itasca Project is fairly benevolent because the gas tax was the example used by the NY Times, but it's in really education where they've played a much larger and more insidious role. The members of the group collectively have massive influence over ed policy and, at least in my view, many of the changes they've sought would be (and have previously been) very destructive.

One of the sides in the ed reform debate really is driven by a small cluster of influential and wealthy individuals, and it's not a coincidence that plenty of those very same people are directly involved in Itasca.

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Re: Itasca Project

Postby xandrex » December 31st, 2015, 9:58 am

QuietBlue wrote:I also think Minnesotans are particularly primed to be skeptical of a group like this, since we like to think of our state as being above this sort of thing (even if the reality has always been different). Rich and powerful movers and shakers making deals and influencing behind the scenes might be how they do things in corrupt places like Chicago or NYC, but not here in wholesome, honest Minnesota, or so the thinking goes.
We're a region built by big industry and similarly big names: Pillsbury, Dayton, Hill, etc. A descendent of one of them is currently our governor. Big names have shaped our history. If anything, Minnesotans are pretty comfortable with corporate elites calling the shots as long as they’re fairly progressive and display some noblesse oblige.

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Re: Itasca Project

Postby mplsjaromir » December 31st, 2015, 10:00 am

WHS wrote:I think people here are assuming the Itasca Project is fairly benevolent because the gas tax was the example used by the NY Times, but it's in really education where they've played a much larger and more insidious role. The members of the group collectively have massive influence over ed policy and, at least in my view, many of the changes they've sought would be (and have previously been) very destructive.

One of the sides in the ed reform debate really is driven by a small cluster of influential and wealthy individuals, and it's not a coincidence that plenty of those very same people are directly involved in Itasca.
-1

ed reformers are the most noxious people

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Re: Itasca Project

Postby Sacrelicio » December 31st, 2015, 12:37 pm

WHS wrote:I think people here are assuming the Itasca Project is fairly benevolent because the gas tax was the example used by the NY Times, but it's in really education where they've played a much larger and more insidious role. The members of the group collectively have massive influence over ed policy and, at least in my view, many of the changes they've sought would be (and have previously been) very destructive.

One of the sides in the ed reform debate really is driven by a small cluster of influential and wealthy individuals, and it's not a coincidence that plenty of those very same people are directly involved in Itasca.
Examples of reforms that they have pushed?

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Re: Itasca Project

Postby WHS » December 31st, 2015, 1:29 pm

For example: https://www.theitascaproject.com/Minnes ... 20Jobs.pdf
Further compounding the State’s challenge in attracting high-performing candidates are the limited points of entry into education. In fact, there exists really only one viable pathway - 99% of Minnesota’s teachers come through traditional preparation programs. The workforce is increasingly mobile. People entering the workforce today will change careers about even times in their lives, according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics. Traditional teaching programs, however, create signifi cant barriers to entering the teaching profession for mid-career professionals or even recent college graduates who majored outside of education.

Alternative pathways such as Teach for America and those developed by The New Teacher Project, which currently have little traction in Minnesota but have demonstrated success in other states, are examples of programs that are better suited to these types of candidates and have the added benefi t of targeting high-needs students. In partnership with such programs, leading cities and states are attracting meaningful quantities (10–50%) of their teachers through alternative paths.
It's more than just the reports, though. Itasca works with and includes individuals who are influential with McKnight, the Bush Foundation, and other groups which help bankroll ed reform organizations. These in turn bolster the role of charter schools, work to deregulate teaching and schools, and generally promote what I would consider a badly flawed system of choice-based, market-like K-12 education. Like Itasca itself, these groups see themselves as benevolent technocrats, floating above ideology, but to me what they're doing looks deeply ideological.

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Re: Itasca Project

Postby Anondson » December 31st, 2015, 1:34 pm

The NYTimes article is getting some analysis all over the place.

http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.co ... e.html?m=1


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