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Sunday, December 02, 2007

Representative Knuth: Promising New Leader?

If you received the recent Sun Focus, you’ll notice on page 2 that our State Representative Kate Knuth has received an award from the Leadership Awards Program. It’s co-sponsored by the Democratic Woman Leadership Coalition and the DFL Feminist Caucus.

I don’t want to begrudge Representative Knuth the award but I do find it odd why these two DFL women’s groups gave it to her: “… given to a woman know to have promising qualities of civic leadership vision, inspiration and fearlessness, as characterized by her ability to motivate others to action”. In other words, we’re giving her an award because we believe she will do great things for us, not for having done great things yet.

In my word view, this seems a little backwards. I think of giving awards to people that have accomplished something first like bestowing sainthood on someone for what they during their life; giving trophies to people/teams after winning the game; getting bonuses or pay raisings after doing a good job; receiving quarters from my Grandmother for every A on my report card after she saw it. Where else in life do people receive awards for what they might accomplish in the future?

Although I disagree with Knuth’s political ideology, she has yet to prove that she is a leader in the DFL caucus. If they’re honest, I think DFL and Knuth supporters would agree with me on this point: time will only tell if she really develops into the kind of leader that the DFL caucus hopes for.

Call me cynical, but it’s this really just another effort by the DFL caucus to create a leadership reputation for Representative Knuth? If you doubt that is was politically motivated, consider this: this is the first annual award of the Leadership Awards Program. I wonder who next year’s recipient will be.

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7 Comments:

Blogger Right Hook said...

None other than Hanoi Jane Fonda was the featured speaker at the event...so much for leadership by example.

12/02/2007 8:37 PM  
Blogger Force50 said...

Two things stand out for Kate Knuth's first year. Her first action was to give herself a 50% per diem pay raise before she worked a lick. Next was co-sponsorship of the Freedom to Poop Act (aka Restroom Access Act). I guess that passes as visionary in some circles.

12/03/2007 10:15 AM  
Blogger Daria said...

Frake's post hits it spot on. This is nothing but a manufactured resume builder to create the illusion of leadership potential where none exists. If anything Knuth has shown herself to be a textbook follower in that she has followed the DFL line no matter how lacking in common sense it may be. A young, hardcore hack with the potential of holding the office for a long time is just what the DFL leadership is looking for.

An anonymous commenter to Right Hook's post on Kate's signature legislation put it well: Sounds like Kate Knuth is a young women who really has her sh|t together!

12/03/2007 11:26 AM  
Blogger Frake said...

I find myself in the unenviable position of defending Representative Knuth. I don’t want to degrade this blog by being accusing of taking cheap shots, so let me clarify.

Firstly, I would agree with the Leadership Awards Program definition of leadership: someone with vision, inspiration and fearlessness, as characterized by an ability to motivate others to action. Politically left or right, this is a good definition of leadership.

Secondly, leadership and political ideology are two different things. I never agreed with former Senate majority leader Dean Johnson (DFL) on his stance on DOMA (Defense Of Marriage Amendment). He was opposed to it. But in the face of wide public support for DOMA, and support for it within his own party, he managed to keep it from becoming the “law of the land” in Minnesota while other more liberal states like Washington and Oregon passed it. On the political right, former Speaker of the House Steve Sviggum (GOP) held the line on “no new taxes” during the Governor Jesse Venture days when both the governor and the DFL-controlled Senate were pressing the House to raise taxes. Both of these men displayed qualities of leadership as defined above, but only one of them do I agree with politically (I’ll give you one guess which one).

I would not go so far as to say that Representative Knuth is not a leader; she may become a leader in the DFL caucus. At this time, she has not had the opportunity to prove that she has this leadership quality. But, opportunities in the future may prove that she is a leader. My point is that leadership must be proven.

Finally, the target of my post is not Kate Knuth per se, it is the DFL caucus. They are attempting to manufacture a reputation of leadership in Knuth before she has had the opportunity to prove that she has this quality. In other words, to short-cut what only time will reveal. So, in that respect, this “award” is nothing but political.

Regardless of politics, I truly feel embarrassed for Kate Knuth because her own party is not rewarding her with recognition for any outstanding work – they are using her.

12/03/2007 9:25 PM  
Blogger Force50 said...

Frakes' comments are well-taken. He is right. The DFL caucus is using her. That said, I hope my earlier comments are not taken as cheap shots. I don't see it that way. The 50% pay raise without a strong protest from Knuth is a serious issue that matters greatly to me as a taxpayer. The Restroom Access Act is no joke either. It means she is willing to impose onerous regulations on all business for the benefit of a tiny segment of the population.

12/04/2007 12:42 PM  
Blogger Frake said...

I didn’t mean to imply that anyone’s comments were cheap shots – I apologize for the confusion. I was afraid the focus of the discussion had shifted to Knuth instead of the DFL caucus. Given our past disagreements with Representative Knuth, I was concerned that it would degrade into a discussion about her leadership qualities which, as I maintain, have yet to be proven.

To respond to Force50 latest comment:
With regards to the 50% pay raise, I think you bring up a good point. She had been in the job less than a year and she is giving herself a raise. I think an argument could be made that our State Representatives are underpaid – I think they make around $30K/year. But, Representative Knuth never made this argument. Instead, she went with the crowd.

With regards to the Restroom Access Act, I agree with your statement “It means she is willing to impose onerous regulations on all business for the benefit of a tiny segment of the population.” But, the DFL party is all about expanding the role of government in our lives and, in this particular case, justifying it as being compassionate to a minority of the population. So, in this case, one could argue that she has shown leadership within her caucus.

Let’s be honest: if Knuth remains within the DFL party, we will probably disagree with her most of the time but just because we disagree with her doesn’t mean she can’t develop the quality of leadership within her caucus. It will be the Dean Johnson kind of leadership where he held his party together but was criticized by us conservatives.

As a footnote, I tend to doubt that co-sponsoring the Restroom Access Act was Knuth’s idea – it may have been but I doubt it. When a freshman politician wins in a contested area, it’s a common political strategy to assign them to a seat in an important/highly visible committee or to co-sponsor legislation. It helps to build their resume for the next election cycle. For the record, both parties do this.

Given that, I wrote this post to highlight what I think is the lamest resume-building strategy that I’ve ever seen – to give an “award” for leadership potential.

Note to DFL caucus: don’t be soooo obvious next time. :-)

12/04/2007 4:50 PM  
Blogger Force50 said...

This is a self-correcting blog site. In a comment above regarding Kate Knuth I said she gave herself a 50% per diem pay raise. Not quite true. Apparently the state house pay raise went from $66 to $77, an increase of nearly 17%. It was the state senate that voted themselves an increase from $66 to $96 per day, more than 45%. Still it angers me that politicians can be so brazen when the typical productive worker must be content with 3% or less for an annual pay increase. I know this is just the per diem and not their base salary but it still rankles. This is supposed to be a part time job by citizen representatives who are otherwise employed or have resources and are willing to sacrifice.

12/20/2007 5:01 PM  

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