Category Archives: Senator Amy Klobuchar

Minnesotans Roll Out the Red Carpet for Elected Officials from Around the Nation

This post was originally written for and published in Minnesota 2020 8-21-14

If the conversation on Nicollet Mall is politically charged this week, there’s good reason.   Gathered at the Convention Center are several hundred elected representatives from around the nation and the world. All week I have had the opportunity to marinade in the lively presence of attendees at the National Conference of State Legislatures – elected representatives and staff of the fifty states’ very diverse governmental entities as well as an impressive contingent of international visitors.

Though members of the Minnesota Legislature are everywhere, the local press seems to me to be conspicuous by their absence. They and their readers are missing a great story – some highlights:

Most notable, perhaps, is the fact that the gathering is remarkably civil. Elected officials with diametrically opposed political views are managing somehow to respect each others’ opinions, to listen, and to discuss with marked civility. I’ve observed discussions of everything from voter registration to health care to humane treatment of farm animals and found attendees willing, if not eager, to hear our their colleagues’ perspective.

One good example of collegiality happened on Tuesday when the members of NCSL conveyed special honors on former Congressman Martin Olav Sabo, recognized as a founding father of NCSL. Particular mention was made of the Congresman’s work on government transparency, specifically Minnesota’s Open Meeting Law. It was a privilege to hear Mr. Sabo accept the recognition and to commend and further inspire the collaborative approach of NCSL.

Minnesotans starred again on Wednesday when Senator Amy Klobuchar joined Cindy McCain (yes, wife of John McCain) to lay out the facts of sex trafficking in this nation. Mincing no words, they outlined the steps these elected officials might make in their own states, as legislators and as community leaders. Their frank and practical approach was clearly an eye-opener for many attendees.

Minnesota leaders, including Governor Dayton and Mayor Hodges as well as a number of legislators are involved as speakers and panelists throughout the conference. Senate President Sandy Pappas and Speaker Paul Thissen headed up the cadre of Minnesota legislators who.master-minded event planning. It was the legislators who arranged the feature of the conference that stands out in my mind as the crowning glory of the Summit – to wit:

Staffers of the Minnesota Legislature are the omnipresent guides that are making the Summit stress-free! Clad in bright blue shirts, volunteers are everywhere! They are smart, smiling, ready to go the extra mile to guide a lost legislator who may be reluctant to admit that she’s overwhelmed by the cavernous Convention Center. The guides don’t just answer but anticipate the visitor’s question. This congenial, informed squadron of local experts sets a high standard not just for Minnesota Nice but for Minnesota Informed!

 

 

MN Broadband Summit – An Eyewitness Account

The 2010 Minnesota Broadband Summit breathed life into the reality and the future of broadband, not as an end but as a means – a means to economic development, of course, but more important, as a means to creating a state in which a Minnesota resident can live a rich live in a community with the tools of access to health care, civic engagement, lifelong learning, arts and culture. As convener and host, Senator Amy Klobuchar outlined the complex issues inherent in assuring access to high-speed broadband for all Minnesotans.  Julius Genachowski, Chairman of the Federal Communications, the regulatory agency responsible for telecommunications development, outlined the challenges he and members of a divided Commission face.

The intent was for the decision-makers from inside the DC Beltway to join an energetic and committed audience in learning from a truly fine panel of informed Minnesota leaders with unique perspectives on and experience with broadband.  Emphasis was on Minnesotans who are out of the loop because of geography, awareness, digital literacy or cost.

My original intent was to summarize the summit.  Even as I sorted through my notes and my reflections those who are more nimble and better equipped accomplished just that.  TheUpTake posted the video of the full summit on their site.  Blandin Foundation, which has taken the broadband lead in Greater Minnesota, has posted a virtual transcript of the proceedings.

What remains is to internalize and reflect.  Some thoughts:

  • Seldom have I heard a panel provide as much relevant, targeted and specialized information – I doubt that I have ever heard this much data, personal experience and vision delivered within the strict time limits dictated by the venue.  To a person, the spokespersons were “way above average.
  • Attendees included access leaders and visionaries who have been tilling the telecommunications turf for decades. For many present there was an “it’s about time” response. This cohort shares an implicit sense that there is a role for government to regulate (as well as fund) broadband development.
  • Along these lines, the panel touched on social issues generally absent from today’s politics.  They described with clarity specific strategies to ease or eliminate barriers, beginning with but not limited to geographic realities
  • Bruce Kerfoot. President and owner of the Gunflint Lodge, spoke for panelists and audience alike when he reminded the Senator and FCC chair that “the people on the end of the wires aren’t stupid.  We’re ready to roll and we have folks who want to be online.  We just need to be unified in our efforts to get heard.”
  • A consistent theme was collaboration broadly defined.   Kerfoot emphasized that Minnesota communities “just need to be unified in our efforts to get heard.”  Pam Lehmann, Executive Director of the Lac qui Parle County Development Authority, described how collaboration paid off for people in her county to apply where a Computer Commuter mobile tech lab was launched the following day.  More information on a StarTribune piece is available on Lac qui Parle’s site here.
  • Richard (Dick) King, CEO at Thomson Reuters, stressed that “people need to visualize themselves using technology. Stressing the imperative of public-private collaboration, King ticked off the reasons Thomson Reuters cares about broadband:  “We care because of our employees – we’d like for them to be able to work from home.  We’d like to bring other tech companies into the area.  Business needs a continuity plan — if something happens in the office, we still need to be able to carry on.  We need competition and redundancy.”
  • Engagement of local elected officials and decision-makers is a must, according to the panelists. A unified approach demands that local leaders are both informed and involved.
  • Panelists stressed that collaboration means public-private partnerships that are both essential and slow to nurture.  Speakers described in concrete terms the ways that the private sector, whether Thomson Reuter or Gunflint Lodge, depends on access and on collaborative efforts to promote a broadly-defined vision. Pam Lehmann, ED of the Pac qui Parle County EDA, described her county’s collaborative efforts and her vision of the impact of resulting federal funds on her community – proudly reminding the audience that the next day would see the launch of the Computer Commuter tech lab to spread digital literacy throughout the region.
  • Though the front-burner issue of net neutrality received modest attention, the implication was that this had been well addressed in the recent Net Neutrality town hall meeting chaired by Senator Al Franken.
  • Throughout the discussion the reality of cost was implicit.  Still it neither dominated nor stymied discussion which remained more on shared vision and possibilities.  The clear focus was on what was repeatedly described as a “win-win” approach.

In his introductory remarks Chairman Genachowski reminded attendees that, urgent as the issue, it’s not priority #1 with most people or their elected representatives.  His words seemed to me a hint, if not a clarion call, to those assembled to roll up our virtual sleeves.

The awesome volunteers and staff at the UpTake recorded Senator Amy Klobuchar’s remarks.