Republicans for Putin

I had heard the last of Robert Reich’s seven points but not the first six. The sixth is interesting because the GOP platform means nothing to Trump. After the conventioneers wrote in a plank wishing gay familial rights they cheered him when he wished them away in his windy convention speech. He was so surprised he thanked them. Their plank was one he had intended to ignore anyway and it turned out not to mean that much to the conventioneers either. However, Trump did weigh in on the platform to back away from defending the Ukraine against Russian military operations. I find it surreal that the GOP – the party of Joe McCarthy – is letting down its guard against a guy straight out of the Manchurian Candidate.

Here are the last two of Reich’s list of Russian/Trump entanglements:

6. The Trump Camp was totally indifferent to the Republican Party platform, with one exception: They changed the party platform to eliminate assistance to Ukraine against Russian military operations in eastern Ukraine. Not incidentally, this is the single most important issue to Putin.
7. Trump is also suggesting the US and thus NATO might not come to the defense of NATO member states in the Baltics in the case of a Russian invasion — another important issue to Putin.

I presume that the Clintonistas know all this and are sure it will turn voters away from Trump even while Putin (may have)
sicced Russia’s cyber security onto the Democratic Party to reveal the unsurprising information that its insiders were greasing the wheels for Hillary to thwart Bernie. Good thing this may have been Putin’s work. If an American President had authorized such an operation he/she might have been impeached and removed. Its much safer to get the intel from a source like the KGB or whatever Russia now calls it.

Here is the rest of Reich’s list not that it will dissuade Republicans tribally inclined to vote for their party’s candidate even if he has little but contempt for the religious convictions so many of them place above loyalty to nation.

Martell on Martin-Romme

Loren Martell also appreciated the Zenith City Weekly’s column and said so in his spot on the Duluth Reader. Its a nice complement to Jennifer Martin-Romme’s story: Loren begins:

One lesson I’ve learned from my experiences in this town is the importance of having an alternative media, locally owned and free from outside, corporate bosses. I assume Art Johnston understands (and appreciates) just how much the alternative media of Duluth, especially the Reader, saved his reputation. As far as the mainstream media was concerned, Mr. Johnston was a reprobate who had committed dastardly deeds. In their eyes, he was already tried and convicted and suitable as a cellmate for former head shop owner, Jim Carlson.

Survivor’s guilt

We took some refrigerator items from a friend whose electicity is still out and made space in ours until they get their juice back. We’ve also gotten our AC up and running. The pile of fallen limbs after the blow was small potatoes compared to the damage many suffered night before last.

The old salt revealed – what was behind that beard of mine?

I’ve got ten minutes to blog before I head off to tonight’s school board meeting. I have shed my beard much to the amazement of my grandsons one of whom has never seen me shorn. Here’s my current face:

Oops I haven’t uploaded it to Flikr yet. You will have to wait.

OK I’ve had a storm to pick up after, visiting grandsons and a power outage as well as a Republican convention to sit through slack jawed. Now I have that pic. I’m preparing for a theatrical role so Its a little animated:

And that raised eye of mine reminded me of a picture I took from my sundeck a couple days before. Talk about an evil eye:


Of more consequence I forgot that Jennifer Martin-Romme editor of the Zenith Weekly would quote me at my most revealing when she called to ask me about our budget. The result is my being quoted talking about “shit creek” and “mealy mouthed crap.” Oh well, Its one of the most enlightening discussions about our fiscal woes and the Red Plan’s impact any Duluth School Board nerd could hope to read. You may have to wait to see what lay under my salt and pepper beard but this column is salty enough to compensate.

Here it is in all my glory.

Some of what’s on my mind and that will stay there for a little while longer

Wendell Anderson RIP, the book I didn’t write. Doing no harm, blog posts I did write. Presidential Politics, Munch’s Scream anyone? Is it really 1968 all over again? I don’t think so. We are just re-terraforming the Earth to handle fewer species. A local tabloid just skunked my school board ally. Shaving my chinny chin chin in what will likely be a vain bid to shine a light on a grim local story. So much to blog about but…….

…….I woke up late, read an accumulation of newspapers until late. Its now almost eleven AM. ALREADY! Gosh, its beautiful outside. I’ve got a lawn to mow and gutters, at my daughter’s house, to clean out and debris to haul to the Materials Recovery Center (the old land fill).

What did I just say? Oh yeah! Its beautiful outside. So that’s where I’m headed. Dirty fingernails, here I come!

Forgetting Orlando…… antidote……Blackish

Ditto re: the opening of the last post. Damiano comes first.

This morning as I listened to the gruesome details of the rampaging truck in Nice, France on NPR a commentator mentioned its similarity to events in Orlando. For the life of me I couldn’t put my finger on just what tragedy had happened there but I knew there had been one and that it had been bad. Instead I remembered that my grandsons had just returned from Orlando a week before to visit Universal Studios.

Claudia reminded me about the dance club massacre and I decided that we had had so many recent horrors that they had crowded out the Pulse Nightclub. It has been a summer of ugly headlines.

I found an antidote to some of this summer’s ghastly events last night. Claudia and I have been trying out various television series for the past few years. Some have proven sufficiently binge worthy to watch and even to pay for. Last night it occurred to me to watch “Blackish.”

I’d first heard the program mentioned a couple years ago before it was anything more than some short “teasers” which had been put on you-tube to generate investor interest. Somehow after all the black white conflict it seemed I should be watching it. I had heard a few weeks ago that they had set comedy aside to portray how a prosperous black family would explain the events of Ferguson, Missouri to their children. On Netflix this was the latest episode that we could have watched without charge. But I wanted to meet the family first and catch up with it from the beginning of its 2014 season. We watched six in a row and the first three in particular had both Claudia and I roaring with laughter.

Its full of self deprecation by blacks about black life. As a white guy I couldn’t have pulled it off. As my Mother told me years ago as a Kansas girl she loved to make fun of Kansas but she hated it when outsiders did the same. In this case I’m grateful to the creators of “Blackish” for sharing their humor about their situation with me. I don’t know if I’ll watch the rest of the season but I will make a point of watching the recent Ferguson episode.

Bob Mars, a cow, and a change in the sequence of events

I’ll write this sometime after I return from serving lunch at the Damiano Soup Kitchen.

OK. I’m back.

Shortly after finishing my post on the late Bob Mars I realized it likely would leave the wrong impression with readers. It might make them think I didn’t much care for Bob. The word I meant to write was “wary.” I was wary of Bob. He was influential and I took that into consideration.

On Wednesday morning I attended our church’s mens group where our guest was Sherry Rodriguez who works for St. Louis County advising Veterans about their state and federal benefits. Sherry asked the group to go around and describe their past military connections. Of 15 of us I was one of only two who had not been in the military. For a rare moment I felt out of touch. We had a couple of vets from the second world war several from Korea and more from Vietnam. I simply mentioned my father and grandfather’s service and explained that during the Vietnam war I had a 2-S deferment – to attend college.

At 65 I’m a few years younger than most of our group and that made a difference. By the time I graduated from high school the war was something to avoid as it had grown unpopular. The 2-S gave a lot of us cover and by the time I graduated I was no longer needed for call up. The fellows in our men’s group were either from the so called “greatest generation” or its younger siblings. Not me.

Bob Mars was of this Era. In one of our conversations he told me how he’d been assigned to fight in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands which the Japanese had occupied. That alone would have guaranteed a certain level of serious mindedness. And yet Bob must have harbored a sense of humor which he didn’t often display to a pup like me. But I do remember one tale he told me that hints of it.

In his college days, possibly at Carleton, he and some buddies had led a cow up the staircase of their dormitory to the roof. The Bob Mars I knew would have been a tough man to face had I done such a thing. It gave me some comfort to know that Bob hadn’t completely lost touch with his youthful escapades. In my presence he was mostly spit and polish. In fact, Tim Grover once told me with a grin how Bob had told him something to the effect that Bob judged men by whether they had polished their shoes or not. Its no wonder Bob didn’t take me all that seriously.

Now a correction:

I met Bob 40 years ago but I began serving on the school board with him 20 years ago. A lot has happened since then and I realized this morning I’d made a mistake with my chronology. He didn’t step down for health reason in 1999. He did that in 1997 two years after I was elected. I helped talk him into running a write-in campaign when it became apparent that the Teacher’s Union President planned to take over the Board and he damned near did it. In my previous post I wrote that this took place in 2001.

And an addendum:

In 1993, one of the three years I unsuccessfully ran for the school board, I asked Bob to support what was then Duluth’s first attempt to pass a “operating levy referendum.” There is a long story to this which I’ve probably written in the past but maybe not. (I thought I’d written the cow story in the blog but couldn’t find it). Bob was reluctant at first because it wasn’t fashionable to support tax increases in the Ninety’s. Still, Bob did it when he realized our local referendum money would be matched two-state dollars for every one-dollar our voters voted to approve. That was just too tempting for a good businessman to pass on. We campaigned to use all this money to pay off what was then a five million debt and build a $10 million reserve fund. That’s what I wrote in that controversial letter in 2001 when Bob I succeeded in getting Bob elected to the Board again. It was true.

Bent Elbows

Claudia and I decided to have lunch together this afternoon. We called our daughter to invite her. As a teacher she has her summer off. She thanked us but she had just baked a quiche which she was about to take to our son-in-law for his lunch. Our son-in-law has recently become addicted to Pokemon Go. This is a new phenomenon which I only discovered on Sunday when he took our grandsons on a walk to capture Pokemons.

Today, Claudia, who has read more stories about it than me, told me that it is an overnight $9 billion Internet wunderkind. No kidding!

We drove over to the new Canal Park restaurant the Cider House in the old Endion Station. We ordered a salad a pizza and beer. I got a Bent Paddle Lollygagger. We parked ourselves at a counter that gave us a perfect view of the Lake Walk. All through lunch we saw ample evidence of the impact of this flash in the pan – bent elbows.

We figured that about half of the folks walking, bicycling, surf boarding or even walking the dog must be looking for pokemons along their path. Just before we left I took a couple minutes to record this phenomenon with my cell. So, if you start noticing folks looking down at their cell phones instead of holding them to their ear you will have a pretty good idea what they are up to. Evidently there are a lot of Pokemons in Duluth. Our son-in-law even found one in our church’s sactuary.

While just walking:

In pairs:

While surf boarding:

While avoiding traffic:

While walking the dog:

Bob Mars Jr.

Bob Mars Jr. died yesterday.

I served with Bob for six years on the Duluth School Board. I first met him forty years ago when it was suggested I introduce myself to him for my first legislative campaign in 1976. I left that meeting at his offices in W. P. & R.S. Mars Co with a one hundred dollar check for my campaign. Bob surely knew I couldn’t beat Mike Jaros but for him it was almost certainly an investment. Who knew what the bright, political naif might become in the future. For a man like Bob, who had his fingers in every political corner of Duluth, it was a pittance. For me that hundred dollar check was an eye opener. I don’t recall getting any other check that size from an individual in that campaign.

I was on my best behavior back then. I had just lost my teaching job in Proctor and that campaign, lost though it was from the beginning, revived my spirits. I would come to understand that Bob Mars Jr. was the leading fixer in Duluth but more in terms of civic than political fixing. Oh he was a businessman and that inclined him towards the Republicans of that era than Democrats but he was a pragmatist and party affiliation for him was only nominal.

I doubt that Bob gave me much thought until I began running for the school board in the early 1990’s. By my third defeat (fifth counting legislative runs) he no doubt had lost all interest in me. When I finally won on my fourth attempt he was sitting on the Board of Directors of Minnesota Power where my wife Claudia was employed. And Bob Mars was also sitting on the Duluth School Board when I finally got elected. By that time I was well aware that Claudia was as vulnerable as me to any political missteps I might make. An influential and no nonsense Bob Mars might suggest that the wife of a troublesome School Board member might be given the heave ho should an annoying colleague on the school board with him begin misbehaving. Bob told me that a troublesome member of the Duluth School board was removed twenty years earlier when the School Board offered the troublemaker’s precinct, holding Duluth’s Bayview Elementary School, to the Proctor Schools. I don’t think Bob was hinting but then again.

Desperate to prove I was more than just a lucky perennial candidate for office I set out to redeem my reputation by being a sober-minded school board member. That worked for me for two years and four months. Then it didn’t.

In 1999 Bob decided not to run for the School Board for medical reasons. It was in this election that DFT President Frank Wanner intended to have me defeated. My old pal and ally Tim Grover made a decision not to run without telling anyone about it leaving no time to recruit a sympathizer. It was apparent that Frank Wanner would take control over the School Board so I kicked myself into high gear and talked Bob into letting me run a write-in campaign for him. He assented and folks came out of the woodwork to put up his lawnsigns. But it was a write in campaign. He did well but not well enough to win.

Two years later I turned things around. Bob ran again and I copied the campaign that first got him elected in the sixties. I put up lawnsigns echoing the campaign that first got him and two other candidates elected whose names began with the letter M. “Mars, Mundt and McKeon.” This 1999 campaign supported two incumbent School Board members whose names began with Mary and I put up lawnsigns that read: Mary, Mary Mars. It caught flak for a tough but honest letter I had sent out spelling out what was at stake.

Only Mary Glass got reelected. Bob would run again in 2001 along with Mary Cameron and both would find vindication for their losses in 99.

Bob fell afoul of East Hockey fraternity in 2003 and told me he planned to run a campaign against me but changes his mind when the hockey crowd fielded a candidate to run against me. It was a pretty stark vote of no confidence in me and put me in a short lived mood of defiance. I hadn’t planned to run for a third term until then but that put me into a month long jag to prevent the Hockey crowd from forcing me out. A few weeks after it was too late for me to pull out of the race I thought better of it and told the Trib and others that my opponent, Tom Hustad, was a good guy and because I only disagreed with him about the East High Hockey program I would end my campaign. I stopped campaigning although still on the ballot. Both Bob and I lost.

Bob had shot himself in the foot twice before that election. First he let a tiff with the East High coach over whether to play the Marshall School Hockey team get out of hand when he was later asked to uphold the decision not to rehire the coach. Second he was too candid when he told Denfeld high school supporters that he might very well vote to close their school in west Duluth if he was asked to reduce our facilites from three high schools to two. The furor this caused out west helps explain Bob’s plan to run against me in my eastern district where Denfeld parents could not weigh in.

I have only mentioned Bob a few times in my blog. We were mostly allies but not birds of a feather. I bumped into Bob a few times since getting reelected. One of the last times was not long after my ridiculous, but intense, attempt to expose the Kangaroo Court convened to remove Art Johnston. Bob smiled at me and shook his head not quite able to believe that I was still practicing my own special brand of voodoo.

Making out tedious SB meetings available to all

There have been a few news articles about public education over the past couple of weeks in the Trib that I’ve not been inclined to remark on while focused on painting. This is not new news. It was reported on MPR last March.

This was one of the reasons a teacher who had fallen afoul of the Administration found themselves outside of our schools last year. I will remain oblique on this point lest I get another complaint from the Teacher’s Union but I should note the teacher’s union only saw fit to complain about me and not challenge the state’s mishandling of the aggrieved teacher. Talk about looking through a backwards binocular.

Ah, but yesterday we finally had a committee meeting again. I couldn’t paint. My garden rain gauge filled up with just shy of three inches of precipitation and I spent a dreary day doing laundry and reading science news stories on my cell phone. The meeting (meetings) were a three hour marathon. Our Human Resources and Business meetings were back to back. HR is always scheduled to conclude in fifteen minutes. That’s about how long they lasted years ago when I was on the School Board but since I returned they have often been longer, much longer. This one took over an hour with a long discussions having to do with our imminent superintendent evaluation. (This is the annual evaluation by the School Board) We also had a long chat about compensation for our lowly paid hourly workers. There was some feeling that these workers deserved more than the minimum wage.

The Business Committee meeting took closer to two hours. We heard about the small savings we will get if we renegotiate our insurance packages at next week’s board meeting. That will be a slam dunk. We also met our “new” Transporation Director, Mike Johnson, who has been on the job for a year. He has an impressive resume. I had commented last month that I’d like to have the managers of our various departments come and talk with us and this was the fruit of that request.

The last long discussion concerned a long standing request by Art and me to video record our committee meetings. The previous school board was not disposed to permit this but Alanna Oswald brought this up at our last meeting and at her request the Administration did a little research an concluded doing this would cost us only about $1,800.00 annually. Cost had been held up before this as the prohibitive factor but the discussion yesterday centered around transparency and logistics (which side of the room could our stationary cameras video) No one could come up with any deal breaker arguments against spending this nominal amount but its safe to say the only enthusiasm for the change came from Alanna, Art and me. None of us think many people will watch the meetings but that’s probably not the point. Making our actions viewable for public inspection if and when the need arises is the point.

My Chum’s chum

It’s been a sobering week in the news. During our church service today our old pastor read St. Francis of Assisi’s famous prayer.

Like many others I watched the Facebook video of the aftermath of four bullets pumped into a St. Paul man because of a frightened Minnesota policeman. I feel as helpless as the little girl in the back seat of that car trying to comfort her Mother. And yet this was not Memphis in 1968. This was not Detroit in 67. It wasn’t even Rodney King. Not even close. Not even in Dallas. Racial progress might be as Malcolm X described it: the slow pulling of a knife out of the back of black America, but it is coming out.

Yesterday I got a call back from the folks putting a teaser together in hopes of getting some interest in Hollywood to produce the screenplay about the infamous 1920 lynching in Duluth. One of its heroes is going to be a cop just as it was in fact. In my audition I read for the part of a cook behind a cafe counter. I’ll go back for another follow up audition. If the movie is ever made I won’t be in it. The teaser will be filmed but anyone producing the film will want real actors if the screenplay is actually optioned. Call this my small answer to bringing about racial concord. I’m not a fan of rose tinted glasses.

Lots of tongues have been clicking since recent events. My Buddy sent me a blog post suggesting that Obama failed to heal America’s racial divide. I think his Presidency has actually vastly improved race relations. For one thing large numbers of black Americans are feeling like they are seeing some success in the economy. Many of them don’t give Obama credit for this but he is seen as having been a “credit to the race” to use an old fashioned turn of phrase. I was actually more annoyed with the many comments snearing at Obama that followed this post. Enough so that I sent in my own comment:

A friend sent me this Althouse Post. Its nitpicking of an NY Times writer for failing to knock Obama for bringing racial healing to America thus leaving it to an incompetent Trump and HC to do what he failed to to annoys me because it puts all the blame on Obama for the failure. He should have walked on water because his critics, like Herod in the musical Jesus Christ Superstar, all sneered that he was the new Messiah. Well, If the old Messiah, son of God, couldn’t make us play nicely, it seems unfair to demand that the black son of a white Kansas mother put an end to a 300-year history of race problems without any help from the other side of the political aisle.

That other side?

At his first address to Congress he was interrupted with a cry of “liar.” The Senate’s GOP leader said his party’s first job would be to unseat Obama in 2008 after a honeymoon that ended with Obama’s taking the oath of office. To that end the blue states all enacted identification requirements assuring that poor and minority voters would have a harder time casting future ballots. But racial disharmony is all the President’s fault.

My Mother always told me it takes two to have a fight. The readers of this blog remind me of the circle of kids you always find at a fight in a playground and they are pretty much on the same side. They are big on catcalls but not so big on reflection. Althouse, What are you doing to help fix America’s sorry racial history besides tossing out chum?

I sort of thought about going to a worship service at Duluth’s St. Mark’s AME church this afternoon to pray for the fallen. Instead I wrote this post and will now climb my scaffolding to scrape and paint my house. I have rented the scaffolding for another five days. You can only make progress when you have something to stand on. The Republicans used to have Lincoln to stand on. As I wrote when I first started this blog: I took Lincoln with me.

Loren Martell’s Time Machine

Watching our June 21st school board meeting in full on youtube will take you three hours and 18 minutes. That’s a big reason to be grateful to Loren Martell who continues to sit through our meetings to capture our escapades in his Duluth Reader column. It only took me three or four paragraphs into his latest contribution for me to find a good chuckle. That had to do with the unwillingness of our current leadership to speed up one item for consideration thus forcing an eager group of parents to endure three hours of drudgery till we got to the consideration of rubber tire mulch. Poor Jana Hollingsworth, our intrepid DNT Education reporter, had to leave the meeting before we got to it in order to meet her deadline. (She must have stayed tune from afar because she got that tidbit in her story the next day)

I also appreciated the Duluth Reader’s editors capturing one of my questions of our financial advisers for special attention by placing it at the top of the story. No where else in Duluth, other than this blog, can a casual school board observer get a gander at what our school board is up to. This particular Martell column might challenge readers with elderly eyes. I noticed some of the smallest type I’ve ever seen in the Reader to put the entire column on just two pages. Yes, the Red Plan’s impact on the school gets yet another mention. Still, I found it an agreeable column.

I’ve got another couple of wonderful weather days to paint so I’m sitting on the many unwritten posts keeping me awake at night. When they keep me awake I turn on the light and continue reading the Old Testament. I’m almost though Second Chronicles. Each chapter is like a rerun of today’s headlines. Like today the freighted word “Israel” suggests a lost cause. I’ve been surprised how the Bible’s historians used it as almost as a word of opprobrium. This was not because it wasn’t a holy place. It certainly was. It is because after Solomon’s rule it became a place of such disappointment for God. But I only have so much energy. I’ll leave it to Loren Martell to get my readers past the holiday weekend.

Painting early

Blogging, School Boarding, and History Reading are all taking a momentary backseat to summer homework as in painting my home’s trim. I have probably spent thirty hours on ladders scraping and painting so far and am probably about 40% done. I don’t plan to do it all this summer. I got the front and back done a few years ago so I’m mostly working on the sides of the house where old paint had/has begun to flake off. I’ve also put in ten hours painting our church’s parlor. My plan is to get these tedious tasks out of the way in this cooler part of the summer so I can attend to the other stuff as things heat up.

I also have a way of adding interesting projects to my to do list. Yesterday I read the Trib’s account of an author trying to tempt Hollywood into producing a movie based on his screenplay of Duluth’s infamous Lynching. Its a subject I’ve commented on previously. Today he plans to have folks audition for a “teaser” movie of a pivotal scene to take to potential investors. I gave him a call and plan on heading over to read for a part. I’d take a non speaking role gladly. I’ll have to start painting soon before the sun gets too high to finish today’s portion. It may rain tomorrow so I want to cover bare wood with a first coat while it is clement.

I have put a stub of a blog post preceding this one. (I do that when time is short to force myself to write about stuff. It doesn’t always work. I did it a couple weeks ago and still haven’t returned to four such stubs. If I ever get them finished I’ll make a note of it in future posts with links to the finished product.) “Ouropia” will include two emails taking issue with me when I say the Red Plan didn’t cause all our problems. I don’t view the replies as a contradiction so much as part of a more nuanced picture of where ISD 709 stands. I’d hate to have us elect a Donald Trump-like school board based on nonsense much as Britain has voted itself out of the European Union based on pie in the sky promises which are all being retracted now after the damage has been done. No one has a monopoly on the Truth. I noticed the “cogent” letter written by Greg Sandbulte and commented on by me was challenged by a Mr. Jim Lyttle. I do agree with one line from Mr. Lyttle when he says:

“When the teachers’ union stops being defensive and starts to understand the real answers to that question, all of the children of Duluth will benefit.”

I would enlarge the circle to say that the defensiveness can be found in the School Board, some elements of our school administration, and some folks who have been embarrassed that the Red Plan has proven not to be a panacea for all our District’s ills.

Yesterday a little bit of my Israel trip came back to me which a quick review of my blog’s search engine revealed I had not mentioned previously. That was my obligatory visit to Yad Vashem, Israel’s holocaust memorial. I bought three books after touring the memorial. They were all published by Yad Vashem and are not generally available outside of its premises or website. One was a book written by Otto Weiss, And God Saw That It Was Bad. I’m a sucker for books that seem to be aimed at children by authors and illustrators who endured terrible historic events. This book was written in the concentration camp at the Terezin Ghetto. It was used by the Nazi’s as a Potemkin Village to fool the world into thinking Jews were treated humanely. The book makes clear it was hardly that. Weiss wrote the book as a gift to his wife and its story was illustrated by his daughter another guest of the Nazis. As the Title makes clear it was bad at Terezin when God pays it a visit.

I didn’t bring the book back with me because one of our peacemakers on the tour had lost family members at Terezin. After I read it I gave it to her as a remembrance before returning to Minnesota. A couple weeks ago I went online and ordered anothe copy. It has joined the books Maus 1 and 2.


I’m not the only person in Duluth finding it hard to get past the Red Plan.

I got two emails about it from supporters of mine who were not satisfied with Jennifer’s analysis that we have other problems in River City besides the Red Plan. Still, I have to agree with Jennifer that it is a great oversimplification on my part to blame all our problems on the Red Plan.

Jennifer went on to say this:

“Personally, I was really affected by what Brandon Clokey had to say. People of color have been made to feel like outsiders here for generations.”

Yesterday, Tuesday June 28th, I auditioned for a part in a “teaser” about the infamous 1920 lynching in Duluth. Heck, I may get to play an incorrigible racist. I’ve learned a few things about the consequences of that event over the years. A lynching taking place so far north of the Mason-Dixon line helped drive then U of M student Roy Wilkins to the NAACP where he became one of the major architechs of the legal challenges to Jim Crow which also led to my being in a sixth grade classroom which had as many black kids in it as white kids in the newly integrated Topeka, Kansas schools.

The other thing worth remembering is that that lynching chased African Americans out of Duluth. In other small industrial towns to our east in Wisconsin like Racine there was a significant black population but not in Duluth. Most blacks packed up and left and they didn’t come back in any serious numbers until the Cold War led to the build up of the Air Force in Duluth. That brought black military families to Duluth but they departed again when the Air Base was ratcheted back shortly after I moved to Duluth in the 1970’s. The first house my wife and I bought in the Lincoln Park neighborhood had been owned by a black military family who had left in the retreat.

I wrote the text on the Snowbizz webpage back in about 2000, sixteen years ago, and mentioned then that Duluth’s black population was creeping back up. Today it is reflected in our schools and stands at about 8% of our total student population. That’s almost the national percentage of African-Americans. And yet, as Jennifer’s Zenith story noted, we have done an absolutely execrable job hiring minority teachers. I’m aware of one particularly embarrassing instance when a gifted black administrator was chased out of our schools at the behest of some of our most beloved community leaders. That was just as I was taking up office as a returned school board member.

So, is that the Red Plan’s fault. Nope.

But as I said, it is an aggravating factor. Sadly, we are not yet a colorblind world and suspensions and dropping out has taken a much greater toll on minority children.

Here are two of the emails that Jennifer’s email provoked. I don’t think they undermine Jennifer’s observations but they are both valid critiques of the Red Plan whose aftermath we have yet to get past.

First came this under the subject heading “Respectfully disagree:”

The Red Plan is the root of all things evil!
The board is stuck repairing the devastation left in the wake of JCI’s extreme makeover. And where is JCI now?

Well, their profits are so large they are in Ireland to escape taxes.

Just think of all the time and energy spent trying to stay above water, deciding what to cut. And just imagine if a more moderate proposal as suggested by LDV had been chosen? Updated buildings as well as time and money for forward looking educational programming.

Positive energy and focus[?] Just can’t happen when Duluth is strapped by the terrible mistake of the past, the Red Plan.

And there was this which is directed at how a non minority child was affected by the Red Plan’s turmoil and staff distraction:

Hi Harry,

The only issue I have with the writer from the Zenith is, bullying was rampant due to the Red Plan. The year Woodland and Ordean kids were housed at Woodland is the year that my friend’s son Gregg Nugent , then in the 6th grade, sustained a concussion and was brought by ambulance to the hospital after being smashed up against a set of lockers. Off and on until his sophomore he was bullied due to the district inability to control this issue. On September 24th of his sophomore year he was bullied again, came home and took his life. I blame the Red Plan , large class sizes, not enough counselors for the number of students and the district for not doing enough to solve this problem. Gregg’s death is a direct cause of the Red Plan fiasco.

The Board has to own this.

And, by the way:

The issue of student suicides has been close to the students at East high since Gregg’s death. That was clear at a recent School Board meeting. As for the unwillingness of some School Board members “to own this” I mentioned this anecdote in the referenced post:

“At the end of the meeting one Board member interrupted a conversation that Mr. Frederickson, Alanna Oswald and I were having and told Spencer with dismissive authority that school’s were not responsible for children’s suicides.”

My Red Plan myopia

From today’s email inbox:

From: “Zenith City Weekly”
To: “Harrywelty”
Sent: Sat, 25 Jun 2016 02:50:48 +0000 (UTC)
Subject: Thanks for the plug!

So, would ISD 709 still have the highest racial disparity in graduation rates in the country if it weren’t for the Red Plan? Honestly, I think that’s a big oversimplification.

The Red Plan isn’t responsible for why our teachers are 96% white. The Red Plan isn’t responsible for why black and Indian students are getting a disproportionate amount of the discipline. The Red Plan isn’t responsible for racial bullying that student after student after student reports is rampant, but ignored by staff. The Red Plan isn’t responsible for why other cultures are not taught by people who have lived that culture, or for why a family of color may not feel exactly safe showing up to a Think Kids meeting and saying things that white people don’t want to hear.

I think the Red Plan is as much an excuse as the state’s party line that the achievement gap is caused by high curriculum standards (which (a) is kinda racist when you think about it, and (b) was reported by MPR, not by us—

I’m not claiming I have the answers. (I wish I did!) But Brenna found a good variety of sources who suggested a whole variety of ways to initiate some change. Personally, I was really affected by what Brandon Clokey had to say. People of color have been made to feel like outsiders here for generations.

I’m one of those people who grew up here. Would you believe (and this is embarrassing to admit) I didn’t know Indians were REAL when I was being educated in the Duluth schools? We live in ceded territory, but in my young mind, they were as mythical as unicorns. In second grade, I remember coloring a picture of the “first Thanksgiving”—or, at least, white people’s fictional version thereof—and the teacher telling me to “color the Indians with the red crayon.” They looked like they’d had an unfortunate encounter with a vat of Christmas icing. And this wasn’t all that long ago. I was in second grade in 1978.

No, the Red Plan is just an excuse. You know how Alcoholics Anonymous talks about a “searching and fearless moral inventory”? Well, we need to do some searching and fearless moral inventory of the ways in which Duluth is a hostile, unwelcoming place for a whole lot of people. The achievement gap is just the tip of a big, ugly iceberg.

Jennifer Martin-Romme

To which I replied:

You are right Jennifer”

My blaming the Red Plan for the learning gap is a great oversimplification. On the other hand, to the extent that we have put more children in classrooms it makes it that much easier not to pay them as much attention as they may need. Call it an aggravating factor.

I will post this as a little corrective to my Red Plan myopia and make sure my readers know it was the article’s editor, not its author, that did the correcting.


Will 709 still be able to refinance our Bonds and get a 3% savings?

Loren Martell’s column written before yesterday’s stunning Brexit vote noted that our Bond Advisers warned us that the economy was fickle. Today the stock markets are about to take a steep plunge. What will this mean for the municipal bond market? It couldn’t get much lower than it currently is which makes a reduction in interest rates possible. If it begins to rise I think ISD 709 will find refinancing our bonds untenable. If stocks become less attractive investors may want to hedge their bets by moving to municipal bonds or avoid them all together. The switch could be almost immediate and I can’t predict the consequences.

In addition to soiling our own community the World is busy turning upside down while Donald Trump cheers it on from his Scottish Castle. (Vultures always live it up when an elephant dies) My Buddy sent me this cheering email:

For those of you who are looking for a tall building from which to jump.

While the majority of forecasters see less impact in the U.S. than in Europe, the consequences for American investors could be severe, as Brexit’s passage joins a host of other threats that have weighed on equities. Profits are falling, valuations are the highest in a decade and the U.S. just reported the worst hiring since September 2010.

More on Effluent Creek

Duluth’s Alternative Press keeps digging into ISD 709. This comes from this month’s Zenith:

“In Duluth, 87 percent of white students graduated in 2015 compared to 66 percent of Latino students, 62 percent of African–American students, and 52 percent of American Indian students—placing Duluth dead last in the state that’s already dead last in the nation. (There are some year–to–year variations in the data, with one ethnic group or another jumping a point or two above last place, but the overall trend is unmistakable.)”

One can’t help but wonder if we’d be dead last in the nation had we decided not to gamble $70 million general fund dollars on the Long Range Facilities Plan.

Without a paddle

Loren Martell describes our recent meeting with our bond advisers and explains the arcane rules which demonstrated that the past school boards have left us stranded up Effluent creek without any paddles. I know it was previous Boards because Loren caught Nora Sandstad’s declaration of same:

Art Johnston asked our financial advisers who put us in this position:

“Did you actually think we could affort $70 million out of the General Fund? Do you actually think any school district could afford to pay $70 million out of its General Fund?”

Said our Bond advisor:

“That’s not my call. I can’t answer that question.”

Retorted Art:

“Who’s call was it? Somebody did this.”

Loren continues:

Member Sandstad didn’t turn her microphone on, but correctly answered the question, loud enough for everyone to hear: “The Board.”

Oops! The Reader has yet to put Loren’s article on its webpage. Until they do you will have to pick up a paper copy.

Rosie’s Sharp Elbows

Rosie Loeffler-Kemp has been our Clerk for the past year- and-a-half meaning that she shares the private meetings with the Superintendent that determine our Board agendas which have been so controversial since I got elected in 2013. At our Tuesday meeting when three of us kvetched about not getting satisfactory information on the budget beforehand Rosie suggested that our many questions puzzled her because she had been given all the information she needed. Well, of course, some of my colleagues kvetched again after the meeting that Rosie is always cosseted with the powers-that-be getting all the questions she has answered before we meet in committee.

Shortly before the old School Board accused Art Johnston of assault on the Superintendent I had suggested to my new colleague Rosie that we ought to go out for coffee and talk and she was agreeable to this. Needless to say the horrors that followed over the next year put an end to such a meeting. Since Art routed the old Board in Court I’ve never brought the subject up with Rosie again.

Alanna Oswald who has pushed replacing the mulch from the very beginning of her service, even before she was seated, got a thank you note from one of the Lester Park parents who was quite aware that Alanna had spearheaded this soon to be implemented change. The writer asked Alanna to pass thanks onto Art and me as we were given similar credit even though we were more skeptical of the replacement at first. The writer was well aware that Alanna’s motion for the District to get cracking was replaced by a more vague motion written by Rosie. This replacement allowed Rosie to take credit for the change despite her previous deference to Administrative reluctance to make a change. From the thank you:

“I saw Rosie hijack your amendment and if anybody asks we will be certain they know who was really the one pushing this. It takes ALOT for any incumbent in any position to earn my vote for reelection especially this early in their term but you have done it.”

A month earlier after our May school board meeting I helped Marci Stromgren carry out the camera that she faithfully brings to record our meetings. She asked me to wait while she stepped outside the Board room to talk to an administrator in the hallway. She came back hot and bothered because Rosie elbowed her aside because she had a more pressing conversation to take up with the administrator. Marci, no shrinking violet, was taken aback. As she groused about her treatment my friend Tim joined us. I just laughed. All three of us have had Rosie elbow us aside. I told Marcie the story about Rosie’s treatment of Tim and then told her my elbow story. I had been to Homecroft school this spring to read. When I went to one of my rooms at the assigned time Rosie hurried up behind me, elbowed me aside telling me she had to read in the class as she hustled through the door past me. I was dumbstuck. I hung around Homecroft for another hour and read to the class after lunch hour.

Tuesday’s meeting was a long one. At one point Art was speaking at length about the budget and mentioning how his requests for budget information had not been provided to him. That was one of a number of reasons that three of us voted against the 2016-17 budget. He was a little long winded and one of the Board members growing tired of Art thrust her chin out and stared at the ceiling until Art was through.

Art is not the only long winded speaker. I get plenty of chances to pontificate myself. But for me the slowest part of the meeting was listening to Rosie give the report of the Education Committee that she chairs. I began marking every “uh” or “um” that Rosie uttered in groups of five. I didn’t start for a few minutes but before she was through I had marked just short of a hundred of them. I felt a little like a prisoner in solitary confinement marking time on the cell wall.

I wish Rosie had stuck around to hear me read my favorite read out loud book “Me First” about Pinkerton the Pig who always wanted to be first until he met a wise witch. The thank yous I get from school kids often picture her.

The official source for all the blather of the eccentric Harry Welty – Duluth School Board member, off and on, since 1995. He does his best to live up to Mark Twain's assessment: "First God created the idiot. That was for practice. Then he invented the School Board."