January Meeting Review
By George Kane
Our first public meeting of the decade got off to a rocky start as members and interested newcomers arrived at the Ridgedale Library. The meeting room there, it turned out, was booked for a local Democratic Party meeting. A phone call over to the Southdale Library discovered that we were, in fact, booked there instead. The group was forced to move the presentation by State Representative Phyllis Kahn to the Southdale Library, but first Chair Jack Caravela convened a business meeting, in the hall outside the Ridgedale meeting room. There we conducted the nomination of officers for the coming year, as required by our constitution. The candidates’ campaign biography statements appear beginning on page four.
After a caravan to Southdale, our educational meeting began a half hour late. The confusion over meeting sites had surely hurt attendance, which was about 30. Jack Caravela announced upcoming events, and August Berkshire introduced the speaker, his state representative and long-time friend, Phyllis Kahn. She is serving her 19th term at the Minnesota House of Representatives, where she has earned a reputation for being colorful, iconoclastic, and for thinking outside-the box.
Berkshire noted in his introduction that Representative Kahn was trying to get an invitation for him to give the invocation to open an Assembly session. Kahn stated that because of the volume of contentious political issues on this year’s docket, the invitation was unlikely to come in 2010. It would be more likely to come, she averred, next year.
Kahn said that there is no important church/state separation issue coming up in the current term. She stated that she would like to have the allocation to Teen Challenge examined by the Minnesota State Auditor, but that a court ruling that reimbursing religious schools is constitutional would not be rescinded by any legislative action.
A question from the audience brought up taxpayer support of religious education in the state’s charter school program. Kahn responded that she thinks that it is important to recognize what works, and that charter schools effectively remedy the educational achievement gap between rich and poor. She also favors continuing funding for TiZA, the Arabic language immersion school that was the target of a recent suit by the ACLU, because its opposition to discrimination against girls is a positive influence in the Muslim community.
To be an issue advocate, Kahn advised that you should write not just to your own legislators, but also to anyone you know who is working on the bills. She advised not to send more information than can fit on an 8-1/2” by 11” sheet. Constituents, she encouraged, have a leg up on any lobbyists.
Kahn concluded by noting that state legislators are more accessible and responsive to their constituents than any other level of government. She advised those who have strong ideas on issues to attend the February 2 caucuses, to become delegates and to get on the party mailing lists.