Date: April 15, 2004
Subject: Let the governor choose his team

Pioneer Press, Posted on Thu, Apr. 15, 2004

STATE CABINET CONFIRMATIONS: Let the governor choose his team

Note to the Minnesota Senate: Knock it off. It's time you confirmed Gov. Tim Pawlenty's choices to head the education and transportation departments.

We believe quite strongly that a governor should be able to populate his cabinet with the commissioners of his choice, provided they are qualified, ethical and have a clean legal record.

Minnesota is ill-served by a confirmation process that threatens to descend into Washington-like partisan warfare. Such a system can only serve to convince good people that public service is a bad career choice. Such a system can only result in further partisan gamesmanship. Such a system is a prescription for gridlock at a time when Minnesota state government desperately needs collaboration, cooperation and a shared sense of purpose and the common good.

While Education Commissioner Cheri Pierson Yecke and Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau, the governor's nominee to head the DOT, might fairly be characterized as more conservative than the Minnesota mainstream, there has been no hint that either is guilty of misfeasance or malfeasance, no indication that either is incapable of running her department.

True, Yecke has not helped her cause with ill-advised comments about Columbus and the labeling of those Minnesotans who opposed her first draft of new social studies standards as the "hate America" crowd. But her experience in the classroom, as well as her leadership roles in the Virginia and U.S. education departments clearly give her the experience necessary to run this state's education agency. She has also shown a willingness to listen to the public — most notably during consideration of the new science and social studies standards — and to make the changes necessary to win broader support for her agenda. Not unanimity, certainly, but wider acceptance.

Molnau, it appears, is too highway-focused for Senate Democrats. She hasn't been a big supporter of rail transit. She has supported the governor's no-new-taxes pledge, which has kept transportation budgets tight. But those are hardly reasons to reject her nomination, as a Senate committee recommended earlier this month along party lines. By all accounts Molnau is a capable manager. She knows transportation. There appears to be no reason — beyond political disagreement — to reject her nomination.

The Senate should move quickly to confirm Yecke and Molnau (and Rich Stanek at Public Safety and Pawlenty's remaining upper management choices, for that matter). Let the governor govern with the management team of his choice.

Ultimately, Gov. Pawlenty — and his cabinet — will answer to the voters for those choices. That's as it has always been. And as it should be.