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Who? That writer from the Strib? The columnist who used to write for the Pioneer Press?
No. That Nick Coleman is the son of the Nicholas David Coleman who left a significant mark on Minnesota’s political landscape for well over 30 years and would likely have kept it up for another 20 or 30 had he survived the leukemia that killed him in January of 1981.
Like Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale, Don Fraser, Rudy Perpich, Wendy Anderson, Al Quie and Elmer Andersen and probably about two dozen other truly prominent political movers and shakers from the 1960s onward, Nick Coleman was, for his time in Minnesota’s recent history (that being the last 50-75 years) a rock-solid political animal and a flawed personality who charmed the hell out of friends and enemies alike.
Nick served as the Minnesota Senate’s Majority Leader for a major part of his political life – almost 20 years. He presided over Senate passage of the original Minnesota Miracle which marked the shift in education financing from the very regressive property tax to the very progressive (and most say fairer) income tax.
It says something about the state of the state’s slide toward a much more conservative tenor and rancorous political climate that the Minnesota Miracle eroded before our very eyes to where we once again fork over more in property taxes to fund education than we do in fairer income taxes. People bitch a lot more over property taxes than the small slices they pay in income taxes, so conservatives (of both parties) have successfully shifted the burden to a tax that knows no downward income limits: it penalizes the poorest of us and forces school districts to run a-begging to residents who have watched their property taxes rise either by rate increases or based on rising property values.
Nick didn’t hang around long enough to see this erosion and the decided disappearance in political civility that has accompanied the emergence of a wholly radical right wing in Minnesota.
Still, Nick’s was a life of color, of ups and downs, of marriage, divorce, remarrying and the raising of yet another generation of five men and a woman, most of whom have made their marks in subtle and not-so-subtle ways on the Twin Cities’ and Minnesota’s political and cultural scene. Nick Coleman, the Younger, made his mark as a wry observer of the passing scene in sports, culture and politics. Brother Patrick is a steward of the state’s historical collections, the younger Chris Coleman has risen to be a two-term mayor of St. Paul, the one to truly follow in his father’s footsteps.
It took another former state Senator, John Watson Milton, a former colleague of Nick’s, six years to research the nooks and crannies of Nick’s life and history.For the Good of the Order: Nick Coleman and the High Tide of Liberal Politics in Minnesota, 1971-1981(Ramsey County Historical Press, 2012) is Milton’s lengthy tome in which junkies like yours truly can really become immersed, but it’s also a completely thorough historical treatise on Coleman’s Irish roots in an Irish town like St. Paul became while tracing Nick’s fascinating life as a human and political animal.
TTT’s ANDY DRISCOLL and MICHELLE ALIMORADI will talk with the author and a couple of those closest to Coleman throughout his life.
We’ll also chat for a time with Brian Kaller, who’s back in the Cities to talk about his new homeland – Ireland – and its survival in the face of austerity. Brian’s writing for several blogs – his own and other publications about his observations of Irish culture and economies.