All posts by harrywelty

Eye Roll Emoji

This was too good to pass up even though I have three previous posts sitting here with no text or explanation. I am very busy at my keyboard at the moment but don’t have time to work on them….yet.

But, I just got some texts about the School District and after reading them I asked if there was such a thing as an eye roll emoji.

It turns out there is.

It should save me a lot of time in the future.

The Kushy life

A New York Times editorial about a slum lord and his tenant and those awful “community organizers” like Barack Obama. A sample:

Community organizers could have helped Kushner tenants like Kamiia Warren of suburban Baltimore, who was sued for moving out of her apartment without giving two month’s notice despite having done so. Mr. Kushner’s company won an almost $5,000 judgment anyway, and garnished her wages as a home health worker, and her bank account.

Six times is more than enough times to put the hackneyed phrase…

“chopped liver” in the title of one of my posts. So I just put it <--- here instead.

I was not the only absentee school board member at the Teacher’s and Staff retirement party. Annie and Rosie were also missing. It was announced that they had previous engagements and would be unable to attend. Art had been there earlier but also had to leave before the proceedings began. Chair Kirby and the Superintendent mentioned the reason for Annie and Rosie’s absence but did not introduce Alanna, who was present, to the audience.

I thought I’d make sure Alanna got a mention.

“I’m good.”

Romance was thick in the Welty household yesterday. I had to call Alanna and Art and let them know that I would miss the 709 Teacher’s and staff retirement party. This was because it was the third wedding anniversary of our daughter. I found myself unexpectedly taking care of our grandsons.

The same night we got a call from our son’s significant other. She told us that the two of them were engaged. After Claudia handed the phone to me I told my soon-to-be daughter-in-law that my cheeks were cramping up because of smiling.

Our future DIL was worried about letting us know before she posted the happy news on Facebook lest we find out second hand. Our son, you see, is the master of nonchalance. When his intended asked if she should call his Mother and tell her his response was “Why would you do that?”

After hearing the news and our our son’s studied indifference Claudia texted him with the question: “Do you have anything to tell us?”

His reply: “I’m cool.”

We’ve raised another Calvin Coolidge.

I’m not surprised. In 2017 his old classmate, Annie Harala, told me her second grader’s recollection of a story that our family dusts off regularly. Coincidentally, I saw Annie and Robb’s old second grade teacher, Mrs. Lemon, at the grocery story the other day and mentioned the incident to her. Mrs. Lemon brought a bucket of lamb eyeballs to class for the children to dissect. Robb took one look at the contents and passed out. As Annie remembered it, all the kids raised their hand to tell Mrs. Lemon that Robb was on out cold on the floor.

“Oh I was trying to remember which student that was,” Mrs. Lemon replied.

I suspect that when Robb woke up, he acted as though he had intended to pass out. He is a cat person and cats are always cool.

Replying to yesterday’s…

post on the first negotiation session.

Here’s the email I got and by the way I doubt that XXXXX would mind my using his/her name. I’m just being overly delicate:

From: XXXXX
To: “Harry Welty”
Cc:
Sent: 24-May-2017 19:02:05 +0000
Subject: “Confidential” public meetings?

Hi Harry,

Nothing said in a public meeting is “confidential.” You can repeat it, report it, spread it around the world as you please. I really wish somebody would come up to me at some meeting and warn me not to report on something. That would be great.

By the way–you should get a digital recorder. They’re not that expensive. Mine cost $80 two years ago and it works great. You can store 44 hours of recording on it, which you can easily transfer to your computer hard drive. That way if people get on your case about things you can find a nice juicy quote from them on the recorder and put it out for all to see. Just a thought.

XXXXX

And my reply to XXXXX:

Thanks XXXXX,

My blog has several audiences:

1. the public, 2. the teachers, 3. my fellow board members and 4. my conscience…

… as well as several conflicting personal goals:

1. Getting the finances to overcome the chains the Red Plan put on the District, 2. Having amicable contract talks, 3. restoring public trust, 4. transparency and last and least, 5. getting reelected to keep working on all of the above for the next four years.

My sense is that this was a public meeting that does not require a public announcement perhaps only because of precedence. I doubt that our negotiation’s meetings have been announced in the past. I only found about the meeting myself the night before so I didn’t have time to research its statutory requirements. I only knew that by showing up I could cause consternation and might end up being abused for exercising my right and responsibility as an elected member of the Duluth School Board. I know that sounds crazy but I’ve witnessed two years of crazy while back on the school board. All the warnings I got when I did show up only reinforced my sense that many folks were prepared to tar and feather me for what turned out to be a pretty benign meeting.

The only meeting to date that I have bothered to record was the kangaroo court the previous Board called to rake Art Johnston over the coals with the shyster lawyer the District paid $40 grand to sully Art’s reputation. I had a friend video record that one. Its too painful to watch in part because I ended up looking like a fool among the kangaroos, many of which have since escaped the zoo.

Since that time Art, Alanna and I have succeeded in persuading the School Board to put committee meetings on you-tube which was long overdue. My paper and computer files are already too gigantic for me to add a lot more digital info so I don’t plan to start recording more…..but I do take notes as a way to help me recall what took place.

After a night wrestling with the fear that simply telling the public that the negotiations had begun my instinct for transparency overcame the fear so I blogged about it. We will see what happens and, by the way, I do keep some confidences to myself to avoid betraying frightened sources just as a good journalist would. That’s a small price to pay to get access to the truth. Deep Throat remained anonymous for 45 years.

And your first sentence is absolutely correct: “Nothing said in a public meeting is ‘confidential.’ You can repeat it, report it, spread it around the world as you please.”

Ditto my blog.

Harry

—————————————–

40 years ago today

From the DNT “Bygones” for May 25, 1977

A grim picture of budget year 1977-78 was presented to the Duluth School Board yesterday. School administrators told the committee of the whole the district will have about $350,000 less to work with next school year than was originally anticipated.

And ever shall it be.

1977 was my third year in Duluth and I’ve been reading the desperate headlines about the School Board’s finances every other year or more from that time to the present. Its no different this year. The challenge is always to make-do to the best of the District’s ability and remember that we have one top priority – our children.

I have argued since the advent of the Red Plan that the tilting of our the finances so radically to buildings has made the people end our our schools more perilous. I stick by that statement and no amount of happy talk will improve the situation. However, hard work, creativity and a big dollop of honesty to reinforce public trust can improve things given time.

…………………………WeltyforSchoolBoard.com

2,590 May readers to disappoint

As of ten seconds ago 2,590 people have visited my blog so far in May. Its not as impressive a number as it my seem.

I check my blog’s stats daily and they have changed glacially over the last ten years since Lincolndemocrat’s birth. But they have changed. In all of my first full year of blogging (2007) I had 9,937 “unique visitors.” So far in the first half of 2017 I’ve had 19,794 such visitors. At year’s end I should have a four fold increase in unique visitors over my first year.

But that statistic is very misleading. Most of my “visitors” just take a quick 30 second peek in to look before flitting off to more interesting websites. My hard core readers (all of them anonymous to me) are the ones who read for an hour-long stretch or more. For years those readers have numbered 100 each month. So far in May there have been 110 hour-plus readers. I call them my “eight loyal readers.”

100 hour-plus readers, multiplied by the last 48 months would represent 4,800 “unique visitors” over 4 years. But it stands to reason many of these folk only visited once and a smaller percentage, maybe 30%, come back semi-regularly. Still, that would be 1,600 return visitors.

The point I want to make is this: I have a lot of people looking over my shoulders. In ten years I’ve heard the occasional whisper that my blog is not fair but I’ve only had a very few public attacks on the contents of my blog. When I took the School District and the Goliath Johnson Controls to court the lawyers printed out a hundred pages of my blog to submit to the court to demonstrate my unworthiness. I presume the deep pocketed legal firms defending the half billion building plan set three or four newbie attorneys to pour through my commentary for anything that would discredit me. The court wasn’t impressed so Johnston Controls’ PR man handed the printouts to a local “liberal” Rush Limbaugh who took a couple passages out of hundreds to his readers that I once said I didn’t use the “B word” and that I had the audacity to mention that our judge was an elected official.

A more serious complaint was about an unnamed friend who told me that one Red Plan school board supporter said such foolish things that they ought to be “bricked” (have some sense knocked into their head). It was suggested that this was a threat. I think I heeded that criticism and withdrew the quote but I’ve been unable to locate the offending post. It’s one of the few instances in which I made a serious change to a post.

In the last year I can’t count the number of times someone has told me either, “that’s not bloggable,” or “Don’t blog that.” Every so often someone will request that I remove something that could be traced back to them or told me that they will simply have to stop being forthcoming with me. That includes Claudia Welty, my wife. She told me years ago that I was not to blog about her and as my “eight loyal readers” can attest -I keep mentioning her.

This is a long prologue for a tiny tidbit. Despite two warnings yesterday not to blog about the teachers negotiation I’m going to mention it here. After many old posts complaining about my ill treatment three years ago during contract negotiations I sat through the first meeting of this year’s negotiations. No blood was spilled.

I had informed the Board by email that I was inviting myself to attend. No objections were sent back to me. Once there an administrator told that if I said so much as a single word at the meeting the teachers would all walk out instantly. I considered this hyperbole to drive home home the sensitivity of the meeting. Nevertheless, I abided by the injunction and said nothing although I did take copious notes. (Not good notes, just copious notes) Six hours later one of our administrators told me that the teacher negotiators told him to pass on to me that they didn’t want to see any mention of the negotiations in my blog.

Well, I’ve just mentioned it. Big deal! It was a public meeting.

I’ll risk thinner ice. After watching our top three administrators negotiate, including the Superintendent, I told them I was very satisfied with the process I’d witnessed. (read into that what you’d like) I added that unlike my previous experience, of being frozen out, this experience had put to rest the paranoia which accompanies being denied access. Let me add that I was elected to be a part of this critical process and that I have no desire to betray any confidentiality while the talks continue. I’ll also add that it is critical that the school board be represented at the negotiations and that state statute makes the Board responsible for them.

This is all very shocking, I know.

The elephant in the DFL screening room

I had a jolly good time at the screening committee. I knew several of the screeners some of whom may have been surprised to see me turn up. It was that way at my first DFL Precinct caucus which I think was 2006.

At that first caucus I joined about 30 folks in a classroom at Woodland Middle School. Eyebrows were raised there as well as DFLers know their Republicans. It was odd but comforting as well as for the first time in twenty years I actually voted in a majority on a great many issues which had become verboten for Republicans. I attended about four election cycles of DFL caucuses and the 2008 caucus was probably the highlight of my political life with its huge Barack Obama turnout. It was a heady experience being in a majority at the following District convention when Obama won handily.

Readers of my Blog know that while I rant and rave about Republicans I have fond recollections of the party of my youth. I liked Ike, a fellow Kansan. I loved National Parks so, of course, I liked Teddy, and agnostic old Abe is my all time hero. Long after Lincoln Dinners were abandoned by Dixie-saturated Republicans I was charmed to hear a DFL gathering speak of Abraham with something approaching reverence.

But it was Harry Welty, not Abraham Lincoln, who crashed the screening committee. I joked with the folks I knew and with the people I didn’t. I blamed the Republicans for electing Donald Trump. I told them I would be honored to be an endorsed Democrat on the Duluth School Board even while adding I still didn’t think endorsements for non-partisan races was necessarily the best idea.

I told the screeners that I wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea but that I didn’t believe in conducting myself by (and here I licked my finger and stuck it up in the air) testing the wind. I told those new to me that I hid nothing and that everything I stood for I had put into this blog.

I also was asked to explain my ambiguous sounding answer to Question #12: Will you abide by the endorsement of the convention and cease your campaign if someone else is endorsed?

My answer: “I will follow the honorable example of DFL Governors Rolvaag, Perpich and Dayton.”

The explanation I gave to the screener was this: All three of these DFL Governors ran for the state’s highest office without the endorsement of the DFL state convention.

Of course, none of these candidates had ever been affiliated with the Republican Party. Elephants are no more useful to the DFL than they are to Ringling Brother’s, Barnum and Bailey Circus these days.

Of course, Ronald Reagan didn’t mind adding lots of jackasses to the GOP when he was President and they proved pretty useful: From Wikipedia: Continue reading

Why #1 is #1

I will post the DFL screening committee’s 14 questions to me and my replies later. I’ll start with the most important one which asks me to list my three top priorities. My two two top priorities are almost inseparable – like asking which came first – the chicken or the egg. Still, when I was asked to explain what my top priority was at the actual screening I stuck with number 1 – More money! It killed me not to address my second priority equity between east and west.

There is a straightforward reason. Without more money directed at the classroom it will be a challenge to address the issue of equity. Yesterday’s excellent story on absenteeism and today’s follow-up story by Jana Hollingworth reinforced this conviction. They are about the high incidence of kids skipping school in Duluth. The fewer staff we have to greet and teach these students and the more remote our schools seem from their needs the less able we will be to help them succeed. On the other hand – we have many students for whom equity is far less important because of the kinder, gentler circumstances of their lives. More money can help us help the kids in greater need. That why my #1 priority is #1.

DFL question 4. What do you consider the top three priorities for the Duluth Schools right now? Please place in
order of priority and state your plan to work on them.

MY ANSWERS:

1.Hiring more teachers to reduce class size.
HOW: Keep our expenses low. Win back the trust of voters and use that trust to pass an increased operational levy referendum. Renegotiate the Red Plan Bonds which are taking an unconscionable $3.4 million out of our classrooms annually.

2. Make sure that our schools with large “free and reduced lunch” populations are treated fairly and equitably.
HOW:
Begin by making sure Compensatory Ed funds follow the children for whom they are meant into their schools. Make sure that the course offerings at all secondary schools are equally attractive and lure open enrolled students back into our schools.

3. Treat our staff and public responsibly, with respect and expect the best from everyone connected to our schools.
HOW:
By setting such an example myself.

Preview or excuse not to blog……you decide

Saturday’s past, So much to blog about including:

My Saturday pitch to a DFL screening committee, friendly firing line, Party politics, three governor’s example, Being corrected, choosing a top priority, Dark Money, Trumbo, SNL, Dark Money again……….a big DNT article on Absenteeism which I have yet to read, my priority, $ or Equity or both? And, oh yes, the 25th Amendment and the imminent speech to the Saudis by President Trump, his reset, First lady uncovered hair, Islam hates us, Transactions guns to kill Shiites, Iran Nuclear Deal, Do what I do not what I say.

but I have to leave for church in five minutes and its being Sunday I will spend it with family trying not to think of …ah President Trump is being introduced by the Saudis so he can begin to speak………gotta go. Choir calls.

“No news” for me isn’t “good news” although I was hoping it would be

I’ve reading the news since waking this Saturday while also listening to NPR’s Saturday new program. Before the November election I had anticipated being able to ratchet back my fifty year old preoccupation with the news so as to spend more time researching and writing some books. But something happened on the way to the Library’s Foyer. Donald Trump!

I was worried all last year that his infantile demagoguery would get the best of America’s voters since our political system is so broken. And yet, I kept putting my faith in the prognosticators who had little doubt that Hillary Clinton would win. With my fingers crossed that she might put an end to a thirty-year RINO purging juggernaut I hoped that I could tune out the news in 2017. No such luck. Now it occupies even more of my attention especially with my new subscription to the New York Times – the best source on Donald Trump’s history imaginable. I’m even staying up past my bedtime to watch Late night television hosts skewer the Trumpsters although this doesn’t guarantee me a full night’s sleep.

And so, its been three hours of news on what should have been a sleepy Saturday morning. In two-and-a-half hours I will be interviewed by a DFL screening committee to see if I can muster their recommendation that I be considered endorsement as a DFL School Board candidate at the June 3rd convention. The first question on their 14 item questionnaire is: “why are you seeking the DFL endorsement?” My answer: “I wish to serve my fourth term on the Duluth School Board as a Democrat.”

My eight loyal readers can guess that there is a very long post hiding behind that short reply but newbies to this blog aren’t going to get it here. Its buried in posts in categories like “Republican Dogma,” “My GOP Defection,” “Lincoln,” “God’s Own Party,”
Crime and Punishment,” “Civil Rights” and many others on the list to this post’s right.

The School Board is a non-partisan office and I’ve never been a fan of politicizing it but today it seems useful for me to dive into the blender. I already have plenty of experience with a frog puree.

There are two stories from today’s reading I’d like to recommend. The first is Denfeld Graduate, Judge Mark Munger’s reminiscence about the Duluth Schools written in response to a recommendation that we saddle Denfeld students with a blue collar curriculum.

The second come’s from the NY Times, The Collapse of American Identity, which had this arresting illustration:

I highly recommend reading some of the 1200 replies to this op ed.

Lifehouse CHUMS and their alter egocentrics

I gave up trying to fall back asleep at 3 and padded downstairs to read the third chapter of Dark Money. The first two chapters gave me the background of the 800 pound gorillas of the big money movement to turn us back to the Middle Ages. They covered the Kochs and Richard Mellon Scaife. The third covered both the Olin Foundation and Milwaukee’s Bradley Foundation. This book is reminding me of forty years worth of sporadic reports and tying them into a comprehensible bow. I certainly believed there was something behind Hillary Clinton’s “vast right wing conspiracy” and this book lifts the veil. The “conspiracy” is all perfectly legal or at least legalish and court rulings like Citizens’s United have vastly if I dare use that adverb, enhanced the power of the big spenders.

I dimly recalled a news story about about some rich guy, (it was Richard Mellon Scaife) putting up a sign in his neighborhood announcing the loss of his dog and wife and offering a reward for the dog. But now I know more about this bonvivant. His rich and conservative Grandfather, Andrew Mellon, was the Secretary of the Treasury for all three Republican Presidents of the 1920’s. He also was a prolific tax cheat and his grandson took up his motto, “Give tax breaks to large corporations, so that money can trickle down to the general public, in the form of extra jobs.”

This philosophy makes for an interesting contrast to last night’s fundraiser for Life House which takes care of discarded young people. Scaife and his silky ilk generally decry coddling the weak putting a much higher premium on protecting the assets of America’s aristocrats. The hundred’s of million Scaife donated to “charity” largely went to maintain his and other rich folks wealth not to the needy.

Claudia and I sat down with some of the people she has been working with at the CHUM homeless Center. Spending the last few months checking people in has been eye opening for her. Seeing someone released from a hospital near death’s door looking for a place to sleep on the floor has a way of impressing itself on the imagination. A young couple sitting next to us volunteer at Life House as I did three years ago. We were a jolly crowd. Our speaker Famous Dave of Rib fame gave a rousing talk and I learned he was half Choctaw, a much larger percentage of that tribe’s heritage than my grandson has but enough for me to some kinship with the Rib Master.

I suspect the billionaires club would consider the Rib magnate an exception to their rule. Milwaukee’s Bradley Foundation financed the infamous 1994 book the “Bell Curve” which posited that blacks were intellectually inferior to white folk. Indians probably didn’t fare much better in the analysis.

There is no end to the unpleasantness emanating from Milwaukee. Its not just my old nemesis Johnson Controls, its Governor Tommy Thompson’s call to make poor people work for their welfare while Republicans happily outsourced decent factory jobs overseas. (Bill “Triangulation” Clinton latched onto both of these planks for his Presidency.) Its also the Milwaukee County Executive, Scott Walker, union buster extraordinaire and Koch Brother favorite. Its also a dreamscape for Secretary of Education Besty DeVos’s world of public education vouchers. I wonder where Billionaires fit on the Bell curve?

Famous Dave, who is a generous contributor to the needy, showed us pictures of his vast and messy library. He told us he reads for hours every day and gives his faithful reading credit for the half-billion-a-year enterprise he built off of a $10,000 business loan. That’s quite a contrast with our current President who can barely squeak through a teleprompter but then again, Trump inherited his start in life. I’m afraid Trump gives billionaires a bad name but the Koch’s are stoked. It was reported today that they are following up their $800 million investment in the 2016 election with a $300 million push to pass Trump’s tax decreases on the wealthy and ending the estate tax before Trump’s impeachment after which the GOP might be hard pressed to help the filthy rich.

My email exchange on “equity”

From: “T F”
To: “Harry Welty”
Cc:
Sent: 17-May-2017 14:14:55 +0000
Subject: Equity

Harry,

I read with interest your post about the Denfeld Equity Question, and the 4 recommendations put forth by the Equity Group.

First off, I’ll be the first to admit I have no great ideas to solve the very real problem.

I have concerns about the first recommendation, regarding the mandatory offering of 2 sections of any advanced class at Denfeld and replacing 1 “in-person” class at East with a telepresence class, with the teacher in Denfeld. I assume this means the Honors, CITS and AP classes.

To be up front, I have a [child] in many of those classes at East, but she only has one year left, so any changes will likely not impact her much. Even so, I don’t see how the logistics of this plan would work. It may be helpful if enrollment numbers/projections are available. Does the district provide the Board with enrollment numbers such as “how many denfeld students signed up for these advance classes?”

As near as I can tell based upon my [child]’s estimate of class sizes, there are currently 2 sections of AP World History at East, each with about 40 students. If we assume there are 40 Denfeld kids who wish to register for that class (here’s where the hard numbers of registered students would come in handy), Denfeld would have 2 sections of 20 kids, both with an in-person instructor. East would still have 2 sections, but one would be a class of 40 led by a Denfeld teacher who already has 20 kids of her own to teach, essentially making it a 60 student class of AP World History. That doesn’t seem workable. It also removes the opportunity to get extra help during WIN (of which I’m not a real big fan anyway) for the students in these advanced classes. Someone from administration might know more about what an optimal class size is for telepresence, but 40 seems like a lot. Even the “advanced classes kids” probably need close supervision than that.

The Equity Group also implies that removing an in-person teacher for the advanced classes at east “does no harm”, but I don’t think that’s the case with the science/math classes. Unless someone has an idea for how to teach CITS chemistry (with lab) by telepresence, East will need just as many teachers on-site for the advanced science (and probably) math classes.

More likely, if 709 does direct the Comp Ed money back to Denfeld, that may allow Denfeld to offer second sections of the advanced classes, but any notion of savings at East as a result probably wouldn’t come to fruition. If the East students are left with 40 students in a telepresence AP class, you would probably just as likely see more East kids trekking up to UMD for the classes (an option available only to those with transportation).

If the Comp Ed distribution is changed (which it probably should be) and less money is available to East, they may very well have to cut some of the advanced classes at East, and they may choose to do so. I just don’t see the telepresence scenario as a “no harm to East” solution.

Again, I have no magical solution, but unless there’s data that shows that such telepresence classes can be handled effectively, this solution might do more to lower East’s accomplishments than raise up Denfeld’s.

Just my two cents.

Sorry this went so long, but thanks again for your time and your efforts in trying to tackle messy problem.

T F

My reply:

Thanks for your thoughts T,

There are no easy answers to your concerns or to the Denfeld group’s concerns. The one small bit of bedrock I stand upon is this: East High with its better-off student body is getting additional funding that is meant to be spent on Denfeld’s less-well-off student body.

I agree that taking AP classes from any school will only prompt a small stampede to PSEO classes at colleges which will further reduce aid from the state of Minnesota to ISD 709.

I agree that ITV classes may be avoided if other more attractive alternatives are available.

I agree that just as East families have a hard time picturing the problems at Denfeld this group of Denfeld parents may fail to see the consequences of taking things away from East.

I sympathize with this Denfeld group and do not dismiss any of the alternatives they have proposed. I will add another consideration that I find distressing. I don’t think the Denfeld group imagines that many of their recommendations will bear fruit any time soon. Like you, many of these Denfeld parents have children who will soon graduate so that their current advocacy is likely to come to a precipitous conclusion after this year. This has been Denfeld’s plight for the past six years. Its best and most savvy advocates have abandoned Denfeld for greener pastures and taken their advocacy with them. Perhaps the only thing they may get will be a fairer distribution of the Compensatory Aid they are (by virtue of the spirit if not the letter of the law) entitled to. At least until next January they have me, a former East parent, on their side to push for better treatment as an “at-large” member of the school board. I sense some folks eager to see me disappear from the scene as little more than a long time trouble maker. We will find out how that turns out next November. I can only hope that if I am replaced it will be with an equally firm advocate for our poorer western schools.

And Denfeld needs advocacy. Our Administration seems comfortable deferring any tough decisions which might help Denfeld until a thorough review….a year-long review…which suggests nothing will change for Denfeld until 2018 unless the School Board demands change. A request by the Denfeld group to meet with the School Board seems to be targeted at July after the Board finalizes its budget for next year at a June meeting.

Harry

…………………………WeltyforSchoolBoard.com

The present and the past of ISD 709

Loren Martell describes last week’s Business Committee meeting which led to this week’s School Board meeting. Its much easier to read his synopsis than watch the video of the meeting, which in any event, was rendered mootish by our actual meetings discussion and decisions.

Loren notes some evolving by Board members and does a pretty good job explaining the issues. He once again rails against the DFL cabal which he argues controls the Board and which I may join should the DFL endorse me at its June 3rd convention. My only promise to the DFL, should I be asked to make one, will be to remain true to what I believe is best for the ISD 709 schools.

I also enjoyed Loren’s summary of how our District got into its current fix. I know we are constantly asked not to look back but I’m a follower of Santayana. “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”:

How in the world did our school board screw up so badly?

I can actually answer that question: a bad process. The public was denied a vote and the microphone was turned off in the boardroom. Agenda meetings were held in secret. Board members who wouldn’t cooperate with the swimming pool stampede were censured and ganged up on.

Furthermore, the power players controlling the Board gullibly believed all the carnival barking from an “expert” corporate hustler. They actually swallowed all the hyperbolic bunk about a long-range facilities plan—“already half paid for!”—that would “lay out what’s occurring in the district for years into the future. (A plan) that will right-size the district’s square footage to what is needed for planned enrollment (and) help those who maintain facilities use district resources wisely.”

Further still, they hired someone who’d gotten a 2% favorable leadership rating from the public in his previous job, someone who’d received a 66% vote of no-confidence from the teachers’ union, someone the Board of Education of another bitterly divided town was considering paying off, just to get rid of. They gave this serial consolidator carte blanche power to storm in here, run up a bill of half a billion dollars based on one mediocre demographics study, and storm out again.

92 pages into Dark Money and a change of scenery

I am reading Jane Mayer’s book Dark Money. It is an intensely serious exploration of the unscrupulous but entirely legal attempt to subvert any trace of socialism that has accumulated in the United States over the last century. To call the billionaires who are bringing this about anarchists comes close to their objective – the rule of wealth.

This was an unplanned excursion into modern American politics because I have been busying myself reading up on the politics of my Grandfather’s youth and young adulthood. Karl Rove’s book about the McKinley/Bryan election was in the batters box. I’m sure I find it even more interesting after finishing Dark Money. One selling point for the Rove book is that the 1896 election is something of a model for 2016’s carnival. Like our most recent election 1896 was the first mega bucks presidential race. It pitted a free silver radical, Bryan, against Millionaires who thought he would bleed them dry with cheap money. This was Mark Twain’s “Gilded Age” when the gulf between rich and poor was vast as it has once again become. Since 1970 a collection of billionaires who have put their financial muscle behind a genetic re-engineering the Republican Party away from John Maynard Keynes and allied it with the ghosts of our unsavory past.

I checked the index of Dark Money to see how often Karl Rove was mentioned in it – 9 times and then took a second look at Rove’s dust jacket. It wasn’t only conservative pundits that praised his book. So did Jon Meacham author of a biography of Andrew Jackson and Doris Kearns Goodwin who has written some of my favorite books about Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and FDR. The Billionaires would love to erase all memory of the latter two presidents.

The Koch Brothers (2 of the 4) put almost a billion dollars into the 2016 election and tag teamed with Vladimir Putin to change our political landscape. Mayer says of them that they want to roll back not only Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society but FDR’s New Deal and even Teddy Roosevelt’s “Square Deal.” It was teddy who called the rich of his Era the “malefactors of wealth.” Mark Hanna, the Charles Koch of his Era and the man who elected McKinley, grimly said of Teddy after he succeeded the assassinated McKinley “Now that damned cowboy is in the White House”. Hanna’s modern day successors feel the same about the “trust buster.”

When Glenn Beck made his first appearance in the book (8 mentions) I was reminded of hearing Beck express great reservations years ago about Teddy for steering America wrong. Who the heck today doesn’t like TR? Well the Billionaires don’t and it seems Beck was one of the regulars at the secret gatherings at the Koch home. No doubt he drank deeply of the Koch’s antediluvian thinking.

BTW. Beck has been on something of a repentance tour. I was astonished to see him on Samantha Bee and even more surprised last Sunday to catch him in his confessions on Public Radio’s On Being.

I’ve run as a Republican several times although the last time in 2002 I had to beat the endorsed candidate in a primary. I think so. I can’t quite remember. Its a long time ago. Starting in 2006 I went to my first DFL precinct caucus and felt like a fish out of water although it was more tepid than the GOP waters I had been roiling in previously. That’s when I named the blog.

I was also delighted to hear Abraham Lincoln lauded at a DFL gathering. The GOP has been embarrassed by him ever since Ronald Reagan was elected President. And one of my one of my favorite political memories was attending the 2008 Seventh District convention and seeing so many other Obama supporters. I haven’t attended a DFL precinct caucus for a couple of elections. Its tough on my gills so, at best I’m a compromised Democrat but I am about to attend this weekend’s screening committee to ask Duluth DFLer’s to endorse me for the School Board race. I’ve left a message asking where and when to appear to have my credentials validated.

…………………………WeltyforSchoolBoard.com

Good runners can complete a marathon in under three hours.

It took the Duluth School Board four hours to complete the May, 2017 meeting.

For those of you who can’t wait for the Reader’s Loren Martel to unpack yesterday’s meeting in next week’s Reader I’ll mention a couple details.

It was a four hour marathon but a productive one. I counted 35 people in the audience at the midway point but noticed that six were looking at their cell phones. I highly recommend this distraction to help future audience members pass the time when I’m engaged in a sonorous monologue.

SPEECH TRYOUTS

A half hour demonstration was scheduled before the meeting began to give High School speech competitors a chance to strut their stuff to the school board and early audience members. Their coach, Jill Lofald, is rumored to be contemplating a run for the School Board.

THE DEPLORABLES

During the public comment time at the beginning of the meeting my friend, Henry Banks, took our Chair, Dr. Kirby, to task for an impolitic moment at a recent meeting with minorities. He addressed the people at the meeting with a “You people…….”

The good doctor is a fairly blunt spoken physician, something I much approve of when consulting doctors. But a poorly thought out “you people” can be a big turn off to people who resent being lumped together and stripped of their individuality. Presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, learned this painful lesson when she put all her detractors in the “Deplorables” basket. It became a badge of honor for Trump supporters even those the Secretary of State had no wish to offend.

Henry spoke sternly but at one moment he seemed to be taking on a tone that challenged our “civility” code and Supt. Gronseth jotted down a question for me on a note pad. “Personal attack?” Although it was open season on anything we Board members had said publicly I was moved to fight my disengaged microphone to get the attention of the target of the “attack” Chair Kirby.

While the mikes were fiddled with Henry stood down and waited patiently until I was on air. I commended Chair Kirby for his restraint while facing criticism and noted that we might be heading into personal attack territory. I didn’t express myself with David Gergen’s concision when he said that the nation might be heading into “impeachment territory.”

Henry put up with my interruption and then resumed his objections which in my opinion did not too far breach the attack mode. He got a little round of applause from the audience.

BOUNDARIES

while mulch took center stage it was not the only spending item we palavered over. We had a lenghty discussion about allowing the demographers RSP to finish its analysis and help the district draw new school boundaries. I was gratified when the vote swung my way with a little more room than I had anticipated. It was a 5-2 “no” vote. This seemed to be a harbinger of a kinder gentler school board.

There was one important decision left undecided after we had consumed four hours – whether and when to hold a meeting on equity as requested by the Denfeld parents. It appeared that such a meeting might be set to take place in July after our June budget setting meeting. July would be too late to easily re-adjust our spending to follow “free and reduced lunch” populations into the schools they attended. Art Johnston explained to the lone remaining Denfeld Equity champion after our meeting that Chair Kirby had promised we would hold a meeting with the Denfeld contingent. Three of us would call a special meeting if necessary. For my part I want the compensatory ed money distributed more closely to the spirit of the law and follow these children into their schools.

…………………………WeltyforSchoolBoard.com

Hup – two – three – mulch. Hup – two – three – mulch.

The Trib reports that the Duluth School Board is giving playground mulch replacement new life and maybe a little quicker and cheaper:

The board was unanimous in its decision to rebid the playground project and change it to leave playground equipment in place, using cheaper safety measures to ensure kids aren’t hurt by that change. It is hoped that would save $300,000. District officials said the goal would be to have all 10 playgrounds finished by Oct. 1.