A woman 20th-century Minnesotans knew as Mrs. Walter Judd, the Minneapolis congressman's wife, emerges in a revealing new book as Miriam Barber Judd, a person of talent, faith, passion and the unfulfilled potential that was once the customary consignment of wives of famous men.
The book is "Miriam's Words: The Personal Price of a Public Life," and the author is Miriam herself, in letters compiled by her eldest daughter, Mary Lou Judd Carpenter of Minneapolis.
Carpenter deserves credit for an honest compilation that includes the lows as well as the highs in her parents' lives. The book will nicely contribute to history's understanding of Walter Judd's public career, including his service in the U.S. House from 1942 to 1962. But I believe the book's greater value lies in the vivid, at times painful picture it paints of restrictive mid-20th century gender roles and expectations of political wives.
Miriam Judd dutifully but not always joyfully followed her husband as his career as a medical missionary-cum-politician took her first to China, then Minneapolis and finally Washington D.C. She struggled to cope with his long absenses and inattention. She found an outlet for her own abilities in church and volunteer work, including a number of leadership posts in the YWCA.
One cannot read her letters without admiring her resilience and goodness -- and without wondering what heights Miriam Barber Judd might have climbed if she had been born 50 years later.
Babak Armajani, whom everybody called Armi, had big ideas about what government could do. The former Minnsota revenue official and government consultant died unexpectedly on June 3, at age 67. Missing him was all the more reason to go forward with one of his big ideas, reasoned his colleagues at St. Paul-based Public Strategies Group (PSG), which he co-founded.
Armi wanted PSG to initiate an international awards program for government efforts to solve big, seemingly intractable problems. The winners would receive a free week of intensive PSG consulting services, which otherwise might cost upwards of $100,000.
The result is an award called "Catapult!" The first three winners were announced this week. The big thinking they entail would be right up Armi's alley. They aim to:
"We got a great response," said PSG chief operating officer Jeff Zlonis. "Armi's idea was to encourage people to do really innovative, public-purpose change initiatives that produce measurably better outcomes and that improve people's lives. It couldn't be small stuff."
I asked whether Catapult! received any proposals from Minnesota. No, Zlonis said. About that, I think Armi would shrug in disappointment, and I'd console him with the biblical line about prophets lacking honor in their own country.
Minneapolis is so DFL-dominated that it’s often called a one-party town. That fact made curious Wednesday morning’s assemblage on City Hall’s south side, under the stony smile of DFL founder Hubert Humphrey’s statue. DFL officials gathered with four of their party’s officially anointed candidates for City Council to tout them and trumpet the value of DFL endorsement.
One might conclude that the 1,000-pound gorilla in Minneapolis politics is a nervous beast this year.
Three of the four candidates in attendance – Jacob Frey in Ward 3, Abdi Warsame in Ward 6, and Lisa Peterson Bender in Ward 10 -- are challenging sitting incumbents who failed to win their party’s blessing for another term. Also present were Alondra Cano, one of six candidates for an open seat in Ward 9, and a relative representing Ward 13 candidate Linea Palmisano, who has four rivals for another open seat.
They all praised the advantages that DFL endorsement will bring them in volunteers, money and mention on the legendary DFL sample ballot. But I doubt they would not have summoned reporters to City Hall on the day after the candidate filing period closed if they thought those advantages were sufficient to assure victory on Nov. 5.
A major challenge for Minneapolis candidates this year will be name recognition. Ranked choice voting worked as its advocates predicted, attracting the “vitality” of dozens of new candidates. Thirty-five names stood on the mayoral list alone on Wednesday morning.
Discerning who’s who will be a challenge for voters. Asking the DFL endorsees Wednesday for help in seeing the differences that separate them from their competition did not elicit sharp contrasts. They spoke of “new blood” and “honoring the endorsement process,” and said they support more diversity and population density in the city. To some degree, so do their major rivals. Voters – and journalists – will need to press for more specificity to better understand the choices this election presents.
If you can accrue sick leave at work and you work in Minnesota, your opportunity to care for an ailing relative just improved. A new law went into effect on Aug. 1 that says that sick leave from work at Minnesota employers of 20 or more can be used to care for the needs of a child of any age or a spouse, sibling, parent, grandparent or stepparent.
Previously, the law said accrued or earned sick leave could be used for an employee's own medical needs or that of a dependent child, but no one else.
This change was strongly backed by the seniors advocates at AARP for good reason: Much of the care of frail elderly people in this country is provided on a voluntary basis by their younger relatives, most of whom are also employed. A new AARP study found that nearly half of the nation's employees who took time off from work to care for an elderly relative lost income in doing so.
Nearly two-thirds of workers between ages 45 and 74 have caregiving responsibilities for an adult relative, the same study said.
Accommodating those caregiving needs with the use of accrued sick time makes good sense for families and for society -- including employers who want to keep taxes in check. Taxpayers benefit if families are able to provide adequate eldercare voluntarily, at their own expense. Baby boomers tend to be caregivers for their parents now, but in the flash of a decade or two, boomers will be the ones needing care. Their numbers will strain public long-term care resources unless younger family members can afford to be caregivers.
Feminists claim, with ample justification, that the American workplace has not yet adjusted to the implications for society of having two-thirds of the female population over age 16 at work outside their homes. Unlike other industrialized nations, the U.S. does not require employers to provide job-protected paid-maternity leave, paid vacation time, paid sick time or caregiving leave for family members.
The new state law doesn't require more employers to offer paid sick leave. It only expands how it can be used. That's a small change, but for some families, it will make a big difference.
The U.S. Senate's filibuster flap this week was about confirmation of appointees to the federal executive branch, not the judicial one. The nation's federal judges would be justified in feeling slighted. Their branch of government is as vital to the country as the others, and it has been just as ill-served by Senate gridlock.
That’s my take from a report issued earlier this month by New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice that decried the uptick in vacancies in U.S. district courts, the first rung in the three-tier federal court system.
Vacancies among the nation’s 677 judicial positions in U.S. district courts are running at about 10 percent this year, as they have every year since President Barack Obama took office. That’s a significantly higher vacancy rate than in any other recent president’s term, and it’s causing what the Brennan Center report termed “a crisis” that “limits the capacity of district courts to dispense justice.”
The result has been a spike in the average number of pending cases before each judge from around 400 from 1992 to 2008 to about 500 since then. With that increased workload have come delay and greater reliance on “senior status” judges, who come out of retirement to ease the burden on younger judges.
Senate confirmation delays are a key reason cited for the high number of vacancies; 23 nominees were waiting for Senate confirmation as of July 1. But minority senators can gum up the works at the appointment stage too. Senators customarily offer the president the names of candidates for judicial spots in their home states. The report found vacancies particularly prevalent in states represented by two Republican senators, suggesting that they have been slow to submit names to the Democratic president.
Minnesota’s U.S. District Court has been spared the vacancy problem – for now. But its seven judges and three active senior status judges are struggling with big case loads, Chief Judge Michael Davis said this week. The local federal court is in line for additional judges – one permanent, one temporary – if Congress agrees to add more judges to the federal district roster.
After enlarging the federal bench every six to eight years since 1960, Congress has not authorized any new federal judgeships since 2003, the Brennan report said. There’s more evidence that the legislative branch is neglecting the judicial one.
When the five Minneapolis department-store Dayton brothers decided in late 1960 to dabble in discount retailing, they assigned the youngest, Douglas, to take the lead. He was just 36 years old.
The spectacular success of the result -- Target Corp. – shows that he was more than up to the task. Long before Douglas Dayton died Friday at age 88, he had the satisfaction of seeing the little enterprise he ran during first eight formative years subsume its parent and become the nation’s second-largest discount retailer.
“He masterminded its take-off, more than any other individual,” his nephew, Gov. Mark Dayton, said Monday. “He recognized Target’s potential before anyone did.”
The transformation of Dayton’s into Target has been praised by business analysts for the willingness of the parent company to give the offspring free rein. As Bruce Dayton – the only surviving brother – described in a privately published memoir in 2008, Doug’s new company would “operate entirely separately from the Dayton’s stores,” free to make its own choices and mistakes.
But while separate in a business sense, Target was tethered to Dayton’s in a familial sense. For many years, the five brothers met every Saturday to plot strategy. No matter how disparate the Dayton businesses appeared on paper, the close-knit brothers were a team from 1950, when their father died, until Bruce and Kenneth Dayton stepped down in 1983 as the last Daytons on the Dayton-Hudson corporate board.
By the time the Dayton name gave way to Target on the corporate letterhead in 2000, Douglas Dayton was well into a low-profile second career as a venture capitalist and philanthropist.
“Doug would quietly get things done. He understood the reciprocal relationship between the family and the community,” the governor said of his uncle. “We depended on the community for our livelihood.” In Doug Dayton's view, his gifts of time and treasure to organizations including the YMCA, the Nature Conservancy, the Urban League and Urban Coalition were “both a moral imperative and a business strategy.”
That notion of business-community reciprocity, exhibited by the Daytons and other local business titans, did much good for Minnesota. Doug Dayton was an unassuming man who disliked drawing attention to himself. But if the tributes to him in death highlight the value of that idea, I doubt he’d mind.