Excerpts from recent Minnesota editorials

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Star Tribune, March 4

Target's pain before gain

A recent Star Tribune story on new Target Corp. CEO Brian Cornell described the first outsider to take the company's helm as a more externally focused, faster-moving executive than his ousted predecessor.

Cornell and his management team will certainly need to be customer-centric in the months ahead, but the internal disruption caused by Tuesday's news that the retailer would cut several thousand jobs from its downtown Minneapolis headquarters over the next two years will require careful tending as well.

The layoffs, along with other cost-cutting, are expected to save the company $2 billion annually. Cornell said the restructuring will make Target a "more agile, effective organization" better able to react to the changing retail landscape in its stores and online. Minnesotans should hope the former PepsiCo and Sam's Club executive is right.

In the short term, Minneapolis will suffer the loss of hundreds of good-paying corporate jobs. Target is downtown's biggest employer, with 10,000 headquarters workers on Nicollet Mall. Those employees who lose out in the cost-cutting will be looking for work in a regional economy that is among the strongest in the nation, but even temporary job loss takes an unfortunate toll.

That's not to say the cuts weren't necessary. From all accounts, the country's fourth-largest retailer had become siloed and stagnant. Cornell, now in his seventh month on the job, showed that a new era was at hand in January when he took the company's failed experiment in Canada off life support. More cuts were expected, although not necessarily to the extent announced Tuesday.

Despite the Target news, downtown is showing "lots of resiliency and many positive things," Steve Cramer, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council, told an editorial writer. The company remains committed to Minneapolis and should be better positioned for future growth after the restructuring, he said.

Let's hope that's the case — for the company, its 350,000 employees worldwide and the thousands of Minnesotans who have a stake in its success.


St. Paul Pioneer Press, March 4

'Charting the Future' resumes. Good

This week's truce between MnSCU administrators and faculty unions is good news. It means the "Charting the Future" strategy led by Chancellor Steven Rosenstone will continue.

Faculty unions have agreed to rejoin the discussion about how to create effective collaboration among the many colleges and universities the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system comprises. The faculty unions should never have left the discussion. To the extent that Gov. Mark Dayton's budget pressure on MnSCU helped produce clarity on that, it was useful.

In January, Dayton recommended no new funding unless faculty and administration resolved a simmering dispute over the Charting the Future strategy to change the sprawling system. The parties came together, this week announcing a plan that would appear to give faculty, students and staff more voice in the initiative.

The agreement matters for Minnesota. Charting the Future has won support on these pages as we look for efforts by public bodies to work smarter to deal with tightening resources and changing demographics.

From the beginning, we considered the effort a move in the right direction — toward increased collaboration among MnSCU's 31 colleges and universities on 54 campuses in 47 communities.

What matters now is execution, and the governor and lawmakers should be looking to the various campuses and constituencies for assurances that go beyond go-along-to-get-the-cash posturing.

What's more, the clock on the effort already has been running for two years; it's time to pick up the pace.

The Inter Faculty Organization (representing those at the seven state universities) and Minnesota State College Faculty (representing those at technical and community colleges) withdrew from the process last fall. In a joint statement with MnSCU administration, the parties now commit to "move forward cooperatively and collaboratively to secure the future of our 410,000 students and for the state of Minnesota."

Issues in the rift included concerns about the top-down nature of implementation and fears the process would diminish the liberal arts in favor of more focus on career preparation.

The resolution "acknowledges and respects" the work many individuals have contributed so far, and sees Charting the Future transitioning to a "campus-based, regional process."

The approach is generally in the spirit of the shared-governance model of higher education, Larry Pogemiller, the state's higher education commissioner, told us.

Without involvement at the campus level, he said, it's unlikely "that you'd be able to make the kind of changes that are necessary."

In reaching agreement, Pogemiller says the parties "clearly have taken the situation very seriously and are figuring out a way to reconstitute productive working relationships."

But it's what's next that counts: We should be watching over the next four or five months for "some productive steps forward in terms of implementation," he suggests.

"It's a good sign that there's a general understanding that they are working together around Charting the Future," Pogemiller said. "Now they just need to put some meat on that bone."

The parties, the agreement further notes, are committed to working in good faith and respectfully to resolve any future differences.

Good faith and respect would be a vast improvement over the campaign — "vendetta" is not too strong a word — against Rosenstone that has characterized resistence to Charting the Future to this point. The unions' return to the process appears to be a good sign. We hope it is.


The Free Press of Mankato, March 5, 2015

GOP got what it bargained for

When the lengthy showdown between President Obama and congressional Republicans over Obama's immigration orders ended this week, the Republicans got what they bargained for: nothing.

It cannot be said the House GOP bargained at all, for that would imply an offer. All they had was "no," and without enough votes to get "no" though the Senate — never mind to override a veto — "no" was never going to be enough.

On Tuesday House Speaker John Boehner gave up the futile battle and allowed a "clean" funding bill, shorn of the immigration rollbacks, for the Department of Homeland Security to come to a vote. It passed with heavy Democratic support and just enough Republican votes.

This approach is anathema to House speakers, whose power comes from leading the majority. Relying on votes from the minority party is seen as a demonstration of political weakness and avoided. But time and again, the hardliners in Boehner's caucus give him no choice.

This unnecessary dance with the shutdown of the Homeland Security department could be beneficial — if it prompted the Republicans to recalibrate their thinking, recognize the limitations of even majorities in both Houses, and turn their control of Congress from confrontation to governance.

That, unfortunately for the nation, seems unlikely. Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell may wish otherwise, but their respective caucuses contain enough scorched-earth opponents of the president that getting even the most basic legislation passed will be a challenge.

And, again, part of the problem is baked into the system. Most congressional districts are now so gerrymandered they are essentially safe seats for one of the two parties. The only real threat to the bulk of House members is a primary, and to avert that risk the Republicans move right and the Democrats move left, which widens the gap between the two.

So we can expect more of this in the coming year. There will be future flashpoints, and there will continue to be enough Republicans unwilling (or even afraid) to be perceived as agreeing with Obama on anything to make resolution nearly impossible.

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