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.
The 2013 Legislature has been on hiatus for more than five weeks -- so it's time for an organized call for a special session. That chorus rose at the Capitol Thursday from a half-dozed House minority Republicans and several business folk adversely affected by the Legislature's extension of the sales tax to warehousing services, effective next April 1.
That's an ill-conceived tax, as the Star Tribune explained shortly after this year's regular session ended. It hammers an industry that's quite prone to relocating to avoid the tax, taking thousands of jobs with it. The warehousing sales tax is ripe for repeal whenever the Legislature is back in business, either next Feb. 25, as currently scheduled, or earlier via special session.
Stephen Lawrence of Lawrence Transportation Services, with four locations in southeastern Minnesota that sit very close to Wisconsin, pleaded for elimination of the tax threat before next February. As long as it's on the books, he'll consider relocating. "We don't know what to do next," he said.
The chief spokesman for the special session appeal was GOP Rep. Tim Kelly of Red Wing, where Red Wing Shoes has said it will put on hold planning for a new $20 million distribution center in Minnesota. That facility would add 80 jobs and store 600,000 pairs of shoes, said company warehouse manager John Sachen, a recent unsuccessful mayoral candidate in Red Wing.
Their appeals for an early remedy reminded me of others I've heard in other years. Invariably, unintended consequences appear after omnibus bills go into the books. Hastily hatched bills turn out to contain unpleasant surprises or just plain mistakes. And most years, summer brings unforeseen events that call for a response from state government. Minnesota has seen plenty of natural disaster-related special sessions in the past decade.
Gov. Mark Dayton has taken to calling the regular legislative assemblage in 2014 the "unsession," devoted at least in part to the repeal of outdated laws. How about an "oops" session? It would be a week or two in the fall of odd-numbered (non-election) years, devoted to correcting legislative goofs, responding to summer events, disastrous and otherwise, and getting a jump on committee work for the coming year. It would not be dependent on a gubernatorial call to function, but would be time-limited, to prevent malingering at taxpayer expense.
Minnesota's legislative calendar was last altered 42 years ago with a switch to annual rather than biennial sessions. But the calendar otherwise reflects the 19th century notion that state government needs only a few months of legislative branch activity each year. Minnesota has gained nearly 2 million people and a good deal more complexity since 1971. A new look at the old calendar seems in order.
Every recap of the wild stormy ride Nature gave the Twin Cities this weekend must start with gladness that no human lives were lost.
But oh, the trees.
The urban forest in the heart of the metro area, Minneapolis, took a beating Friday night that left residents of many blocks to cope with the loss of one or more leafy giants.
Trees are among the most beloved of plants. They're part of the architecture of a street and a neighborhood. They are sources of welcome additions to urban life -- shade, color, sound, the animation of birds and squirrels. Yes, they can also drip sap on cars and sprinkle sticks on sidewalks and seeds on flowerbeds. But those are minor irritations, especially from giants as grand and elderly as many Minneapolis trees have become.
Elderly -- and frail, city dwellers learned as they looked closely at the fallen ones. In many cases, when giant trunks broke, disease was revealed inside. A strong wind was all it took to snap them.
Quickly and unceremoniously -- too much so, some might say -- these old friends are being dispatched with power saws, to then be sawn into firewood and chipped into mulch, their last gifts to humankind. Minneapolis residents will debate how best to replace them and shore up the urban forest's defenses against disease as well as storms.
This year's city election campaign has gained a new topic, and an entire region has gained new appreciation of the value of trees. That, too, is the fallen trees' gift.
There was plenty of talk about breathing easier and the end of a long fiscal storm among the eight mayors who joined state Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans Wednesday to hail the 2013 Legislature's big boost in state aid to cities, through a revamped Local Government Aid (LGA) program.
The $80 million increase over three years is the first substantial boost cities have seen since the program was slashed in 2002-03. As Mayor Dave Smiglewski of Granite Falls explained, the increase will mean that in 2014, his city will receive about as much in state aid as it did 12 years ago.
Of course, there's been a dozen years of inflation since then. Total LGA funding in 2014 will still lag the 2002 level by $60 million, not counting inflation.
Nevertheless, the mayors were all smiles, particularly as they described the enhanced predictability the new formula promises. Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede said that the old formula's wild variability and the willingness of politicians to put LGA on the chopping block were almost as irritating as the LGA cuts themselves.
This year's boost will stil only get Rochester's LGA allotment back to about 60 percent of its 2002 level, Brede said. But the new formula caps how much variation in allotment any given city can experience in one year. That will be a big asset to city budgeteers, he said.
Yet that formula improvement can only go so far to shield cities from future cuts occasioned by a change in either economic or political winds. The two Twin Cities mayors, R.T. Rybak of Minneapolis and Chris Coleman of St. Paul, both said cities should both step up their search for more operational efficiency and catch up on deferred maintenance now.
If anything, the last 12 years should have convinced the stewards of Minnesota governments at all levels that uncertainty is the only certainty. Many city leaders have told me in recent years that they no longer count on LGA for ongoing expenses. They use it instead for one-time projects, particularly ones that lead to more efficient services. That might be the best way for cities to think about the LGA increase that's coming in 2014.
While being treated for brain cancer in 2009, my friend Jackie and her family were well served by the Richard M. Schulze American Cancer Society Hope Lodge. It's a well-appointed, comforting home away from home for cancer patients at University of Minnesota Medical Center/Fairview.
That personal connection with the generosity of Best Buy's founder gave me reason to cheer Monday's news that there will soon be more where that came from. The decision of Dick and Maureen Schulze to donate roughly half of their personal fortune to the foundation bearing their name is very good news. Proceeds from the foundation's investments will be put to use for learning and healing, much of it in connection with medical research at the University of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic.
Though -- regrettably -- the Schulzes now consider themselves Floridians, their soon-to-be $1 billion foundation is Minnesota grown. And it will be led by a very able Minnesotan, Mark Dienhart. He's been a standout as executive vice president and chief operating officer of the University of St. Thomas, where his work has included oversight of a $515 million capital campaign. Among that campaign's leading donors were Richard and Maureen Schulze.
The Schulzes' announcement about their philanthropic intentions ranks them in good Minnesota company, regardless of their current address. From the 19th century forward, successful entrepreneurs named Pillsbury, Crosby, Cargill, Dayton, McKnight, Bush and more have diverted sizeable shares of their personal fortunes to the public good. Those gifts have given Minnesota an advantage over many other states in a variety of ways that add up to better quality of life.
Minnesotans have come to expect robust philanthropy of those who succeed here. But such giving ought never be taken for granted. The Schulzes are owed this state's thanks.
Two-term Secretary of State Mark Ritchie won't make it three. DFLer Ritchie, the state's chief elections administrator, announced Tuesday that his name won't appear on the 2014 ballot.
He likely would have been in for tough contest had he chosen otherwise. Ritchie won his office in 2006 by defeating incumbent Republican Mary Kiffmeyer, now a state senator. That was the first of his several sins in the eyes of GOP partisans, who likely would have gone to unusual lengths to put up roadblocks to his reelection next year.
As chief administrator of two statewide recounts, Coleman-Franken in 2008 and Dayton-Emmer in 2010, Ritchie served fairly and well -- except in the eyes of Republicans who still maintain that the victory of DFLers in both of those close contests was evidence of something amiss.
In 2012, Ritchie made no secret of his antipathy for the GOP-backed constitutional amendment that would have required voters to present valid government-issued photo ID cards in order to receive a ballot.
He tried to change the GOP Legislature's wording of the ballot question, something a 1919 state statute appeared to permit. The state Supreme Court told him otherwise. But by trying, Ritchie served notice to Minnesotans that they should be wary of potentially misleading wording. He planted doubts that led to more, and ultimately to the defeat of the constitutional change.
When I asked Ritchie in 2012 whether he was concerned about the perception among Republicans that he was too partisan for the office he held, he brushed my question aside. He was concerned about preserving the openness, fairness, efficiency and reliability of an election system that had been produced the highest electoral turnouts in the country for nearly 40 years.
That was what mattered, not his political future, he said. That response is a fine legacy.