The 2005 city convention was a high point in Minneapolis civic participation, with almost 2000 city DFLers coming out (and staying out) to select the city candidates who deserve our party's recommendation. It was the first year that we used the municipal caucus system to select delegates in an odd-year election, and that system did show some great successes. It was good to have a pool of delegates who attended caucuses with city issues clearly in mind, and it resulted in a higher attendance percentage of any city convention in recent history.
With the intention of continuing that trend, the Constitution Commission made a recommendation at the December Central Committee meeting to change the manner in which we select our convention delegates. The idea was to elect city convention delegates separately, rather than simply adopting a pool of delegates who were busy campaigning for state, county, or legislative races. This would mean that our convention delegate pool would be composed of those most interested in the city races--in the case of 2006, those following the Minneapolis School Board races.
At the December Central Committee meeting, the Constitution Commission proposed that the separate delegate selection process provide for one delegate spot for each 100 DFL voters, rather than the traditional 25. The argument was that such a pool better fit the number we would actually expect to attend, and would better represent the DFL voters across the city. In 2004, for example, only 22% of the elected delegates and alternates actually attended the city convention—most of them had become delegates in order to participate in their senate district conventions, and some didn't even realize that they were becoming city convention delegates.
By separating the delegate pools between senate district conventions and the city convention, we can offer different opportunities to participate based on caucus attendees’ interests. If someone is primarily interested in the school board race, he or she could become a delegate to just the city convention, leaving a spot open for someone else to participate at the senate district level. If someone doesn't plan to attend the city convention, she or he can leave that spot open for someone else. This actually means that more people can participate as delegates to various conventions. This system is similar to the one we have always followed at the county level, but the number of delegates is higher (Hennepin County delegates are allocated at one for each 10 senate district delegates, or approximately one per 250 DFL voters). You can see the precise number of delegates allocated to each precinct on the Minneapolis DFL web page (www.mpls.dfl.org).
An auxiliary benefit of this system is that city convention delegates will be better informed in making their decisions about who to endorse for the Minneapolis School Board race. Because the potential delegate pool is smaller, each candidate will be able to reach out more effectively to those who will attend the endorsing convention. This will allow candidates to reach out on the basis of their ideals, rather than on a foundation of the campaign cash they can devote to postage. Candidates with less money but greater vision stand a better chance of being heard by the delegates to the 2006 city convention. With all of these potential benefits in mind, I hope that you will bear with us as we adapt to this new system, just as you were patient as we tried a new system during the 2005 city caucuses. Your precinct caucuses may have an additional task to accomplish over the course of the evening, but we hope that it results in better attendance, better information, and better democracy. Now, let us move forward to victory in 2006!
Chair, Minneapolis DFL