If every legislator and candidate for governor were to get a weekly e-mail from some of Minnesota's veteran public policy thinkers, describing possibilities for making government work better at lower cost, would better government result?

Yes, believe leaders of the Minnesota Civic Caucus, a 1,400-member e-network this page once described as "senior policy wonks." The little public affairs discussion group with a mighty e-mail list has announced that it plans a sustained topical focus in 2010 on what it calls "government redesign."

The caucus isn't endorsing a particular scheme for altering the way public work gets done, explained caucus board member Dan Loritz, whose day job is as a development director and professor at Hamline University. Rather, Loritz said, the group wants to create a climate in state government that's more open and welcoming of new ideas for greater cost-effectiveness.

That's something that's been lacking -- or so say some 100 prominent Minnesotans who have endorsed the Civic Caucus' statement announcing its topical emphasis. Among them are leading lights of yesteryear in both parties -- for example, former Republican Gov. Al Quie and former DFL Senate leader Roger Moe.

Too often in recent years, they say, new ideas have been shunted aside, often by politicians loyal to interest groups that benefit from the status quo.

Nearly a decade of chronic state budget trouble, with no end of red ink in sight, already ought to be loosening elected officials' ties to the old way of delivering state services. Persistent e-nudges from the Civic Caucus might well open political minds to new possibilities. The caucus is making a timely and praiseworthy push -- and along the way, demonstrating that the obligations of engaged citizenship know no age limit. To learn more about the Civic Caucus, see www.civiccaucus.org.

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