Page 2 of 2 Previous
Two years ago I had the editorial writers' recount watchwords down pat: Close elections are inevitable in democracies. Orderly processes for confirming vote tallies and convincing the loser that he lost are time-consuming but essential. Let the process run its course.
Those words are harder to type this time.
This was going to be an advice column for the new governor, urging him to get cracking on all the statecraft that Minnesota needs in the next two months. Time's a-wasting; a good transition is key to success; clever moves now will ease the way and all that.
Instead, though DFLer Mark Dayton leads by more than 8,000 votes in the still-changing unofficial count, he has been forced into possible-recount limbo. Same goes for Republican Tom Emmer. He can't move on from this election until he's sure he won't be moving to Summit Avenue.
Minnesota is stalled, too -- on a railroad track with a freight train bearing down. It needs someone to get behind the wheel and drive, soon.
I asked an ex-driver what he would recommend.
"Both Dayton and Emmer should quietly get ready to govern," said former Gov. Arne Carlson. "Prepare shadow governments now."
That might sound vaguely sinister or presumptuous. But consider the challenge of assembling a highly detailed $30-plus billion budget proposal in a matter of weeks. The paper version of these things are "four inches thick in two volumes -- they're mammoth undertakings," Carlson recalled.
"Don't wait for a hand recount to be finished," he advised. "Pick a high-powered, credible person to head your transition team and another, or the same one, to be your chief of staff. Bring in the budget experts [he mentioned several former state finance commissioners] to frame your options for the budget. Get that process going."
Both Dayton and Emmer should start preparing detailed budgets? Yes, Carlson said -- and senior legislators in each of the four caucuses should, too. So should Gov. Tim Pawlenty, he added. Depending on the progress of a recount and subsequent legal proceedings, Pawlenty may still be in office in January. Besides, Carlson noted, Pawlenty has yet to live up to the letter of a 2009 law that he signed, requiring the governor to propose to the Legislature a budget that's balanced for the next four years. Pawlenty's 2012-13 budget is 20 months overdue.
"Everybody should write budgets," said Carlson. "Everybody's ideas should be out there for discussion." It's not fair for a new governor's proposal to sit alone on the figurative table, while others who should come to the party stand aside and find fault. (Carlson obviously remembers 1991.)
Charlie Weaver of the Minnesota Business Partnership, who headed Gov. Tim Pawlenty's transition team in 2002, agreed about making haste.
"Go full speed ahead," Weaver urged. "We've got too much at stake in this state" to wait for a slow recount.
He wouldn't go so far as to announce the hiring of any commissioners before a signed election certificate is in hand. "But you can define the principles you stand for. You can announce your advisory teams -- recruitment, budget, legal. You can announce the appointment of task forces."
Task forces can be very important to a gubernatorial transition. They underscore the administration's top priorities. They involve key stakeholders and their organizations in forming new policies. They tap talent when it's most willing to contribute.
Ordinarily, they buy a new governor a lot of goodwill at little or no political cost. Would they even if the guy appointing them isn't officially the governor-elect?
At least two possible advisory task forces could do a lot of good if set in motion now. One would explore and recommend government efficiency measures; the other would outline a new public-private partnership strategy for job creation. In other words, one would look for the smartest ways to cut government spending, the other for the smartest way to increase government revenue.
My guess: If the guy who appoints those task forces is ahead in the count when the Canvassing Board meets on Nov. 23, people will overlook the little matter of the lack of an election certificate and let his teams get busy while a recount proceeds.
Lori Sturdevant is a Star Tribune editorial writer and columnist. She is at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.