Category Archives: Uncategorized

Douze (Twelve) Days

From my Facebook entry:

Today we traveled on the french rails and I snapped several pics of the countryside as we zipped along on our way to Bordeaux. It was only this morning that I realized Rick Steve’s completely left the city out of his 500 page guide to France. I wondered if our two day jaunt would be a waste. You be the judge.

It turned out to be one of the innumerable annual French Holiday weekends where everyone, not in the service industry, takes a 3 or 4 day weekend thus the crowds scenes. This one was Patrinomy Day. As a result lots of government agencies let the public in for a peek at their work at no charge. At the Customs House I took part in a vintage demonstration of hunting down smugglers with my keen smelling hound. At another I took a picture of the natural history staff carrying a properly anesthetized exhibit up a stairwell.

Of course, we had to tour the local gothic cathedral and were so moved (by hunger) that we ate a mouth watering meal in the bistro across the way. We were tempted by the item just above the children’s section of the menu but sadly it wasn’t being served on Sunday.

A few pics referenced above: Continue reading

Twelve Gallon Excuse…..for not blogging

I donated my 96th pint of blood at Memorial Blood Center Yesterday. That’s twelve gallons. I plan to write a Reader column about this aspect of my civic mindedness when I’ve hit the 100th donation. I still get twitchy feet doing it but I’ve greatly improved over the little boy who threw a fit the first time he was given a shot in the doctors office. Its not quite the fear of blood. I’ve been bloodied hundreds of times. Its needles going into my veins…..It will be worth an appeal to donate this year or next whenever I cross the century mark.

For the time being its just a good excuse not to have blogged yesterday. I am always warned not to do any heavy lifting after my draw.

I also gratefully finished reading the Greater Journey to Claudia yesterday. I know a lot more about the American Artists that began populating Paris after the American Revolution than I probably ever needed to know but I was pleased to read about Elihu Washington one of Abe Lincoln’s Illinois confederates (I’m being ironical)……a staunch union man who was our Ambassador to France during the German siege of Paris in 1870. That story is a nice lead up to my planned journey to France this September. Its also a bit of a preview of how the French felt as they were being invaded by Germans for the second time in 1914. By the way, I got my Grandfather’s dog tags back from Park College yesterday as well his son-in-law’s Second World War dog tag. His son-in-law was my dad Dan Welty. I lent them for an exhibit last year of Park Colleges contributions to the US military.

My Grandfather loved his years at Park. My Dad endured his V-12 officer’s training there with no special affection for the school. Their dog tags will once again be placed in my official family shrine.

I am irritated that my old 2003 Window’s Front Page software has gone bad and won’t let me update my Snowbizz website’ page on my lifetime reading. None of the three books I’ve completed in 2018 so far will show up when I try to update the page. I am not merely an old dog resistant to learning new tricks but I am resistant to restoring failing tech from the past. And yet I am duolinging myself through the French language. I got another near 20 hours in last week and I’ve got almost ten in for this week so far.

This entry is being cataloged to Harry’s Diary. Its public of course so it doesn’t disclose the dark details that can emerge from real diaries. Unless I’m feeling like an exhibitionist. At least I seem to have a lot less to hide than our exhibitionist Commander in Chief. There have been some very funny late night bits at his expense lately. And his positives have crept up to 42% from the mid thirties. I guess bad news really is better than no news.

Parting is such sweet sorrow

For the past several weeks Supt. Gronseth’s right and left arms have been negotiating contracts for their own superintencies. Amy Starzecki is headed to Superior, Wisconsin and Mike Cary will take over at Cloquet. These are two of the smartest administrators I’ve worked with and they are leaving at a time of financial penury for ISD 709.

Cloquet and Superior are lucky indeed.

Make of this what you will. The Trib will no doubt paper this over with cheerleading since they look on worryworts with such disdain.

News from Palm Beach

Attendance dropped as much as 90 percent at a gun show 52 miles and four days removed from Florida’s deadliest school shooting amid controversy over how prominent signs should be and whether the event should be held at all, the show’s promoter said Sunday. “It was very awkward timing,” said Kevin Neely of Brooklyn Firearms Co. “People are angry,” he said. “Do I blame them?…
http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news/attendance-signs-down-gardens-gun-show-faces-awkward-timing/4WH8qOeSITWpOFNLnus8GN/

Before the Black Panther

I am very pleased by the success of the new Black Panther movie.

My littlest grandson, as white as he can be, has been salivating to see this movie for a month. Maybe we will take him to see it while we are in Florida this week.

For struggling minority kids this will be even bigger. The Panther, not poor suicidal Tom from To Kill a Mockingbird, will give them a much bigger lift.

It reminds me of Shaft in the 1970’s who gave black Americans their first ever big bucks celluloid hero. That movie spawned the blaxploitation Era of movies with black supermen.

Shaft was the brainchild of Minnesota’s own Gordon Parks whose book a Choice of Weapons I suggested as an alternative to Mockingbird. After years of Step’n Fetchits in our movies Parks knew that Black America needed to see much stronger role models.

In the Era of Obama it’s not so critical but it’s still necessary.

I do not envy Congressman Nolan

This news story surprised me today. Annie Harala who is stepping down from the School Board; it has been rumored for health considerations; has been appointed as Congressman Rick Nolan’s campaign manager.

How being the campaign manager for the most imperiled Democrat in Congress, through what will be one of the most tumultuous campaigns in Northeastern Minnesota history will be an improvement over being on the Duluth School Board, I have no clue. Certainly my question will not be welcome by Annie but it is certain that it will be one of the mildest worries Annie will have to deal with.

My default attitude toward Annie was set at: “she’s the classmate of my son, what’s not to like?” One of the first things Annie told me when she began running for the school board four years ago was how my son, Robb, reacted when his teacher brought in a science lesson for the second graders to study. It was a bucket of lamb eyeballs from a family member’s farm. “[teacher], Robb’s on the floor.” That’s what the students told the teacher. One look at the bucket and my son was out like a light. Its one of the reasons I was skeptical when Robb suggested he might like to become a doctor in his early college years.

Other less enthusiastic comments about Annie’s four years serving with me can also be found on the blog. She was never able to rise very far above faction on the School Board but that is exactly what she will have to navigate as Rick Nolan’s campaign manager. Environmentalists vs. unions. Gun rights militants vs. gun control militants. Rural Trumpeteers vs. Urban look-down-their-nosers. And then there will be the money issue. Nolan is extremely reticent about becoming one of the Congressional money grubbers but he’s facing the most charming and alluring Republican candidate in the Eighth Congressional District who will have access to millions of Kochain money. All this while Nolan’s party is choked with dissension. Annie failed to win me over and I’m a cupcake. She’ll need to up her game.

Meanwhile, one of the DFL’s many factions, women still recoiling from Hillary Clinton’s loss in 2016, has waded into the local non-partisan City Council and School Board races. For the thinnest of reasons they are pushing three candidates one of whom is Annie’s close ally Rosie Loeffler-Kemp. But then again they aren’t endorsing anyone. (you could have fooled me) The Feminist Action recently published questionnaires they had given local candidates and I was one of four school board candidates who was listed as “Did not respond.” Its true. I didn’t. None of the feminists ever sent me or the other three school board candidates their questionnaire. I pointed this out and was sent one after-the-fact and filled it out with virtually no disagreement from the many positions they wanted their candidates to take. But, it was too late. I had already been blackballed when I tried to join their sorority.

I hope Annie can give Representative Nolan an admission pass to the group. He’ll need it because many of the people his shaky campaign needs seem hellbent on dividing up DFL votes to elect the Republican Stauber.

I AM DISAPPOINTED BUT NOT SURPRISED . . .Part 2

The justification from Editor, Chuck Frederick, for not accepting my reply:

Thank you for your submission. I’m sorry to inform you, however, that we have decided not to publish it at this time. Your Candidate’s View column was just published on Aug. 19, and, as you know we require at least 30 days between published submissions (with exceptions for syndicated and regular columnists, of course). We do consider exceptions to that rule to address particularly egregious or erroneous published submissions that demand immediate response. That doesn’t seem to apply here; your response doesn’t really specify or attempt to clarify or correct anything within Mr. Miernicki’s letter published today.

Despite your suggestion otherwise, we work very hard to publish elections letters by the Friday or Saturday prior to a vote rather than the Monday or Tuesday. That very intentionally allows time for necessary responses or corrections.

Please note that candidates will be offered another opportunity prior to the general election to submit a commentary for publication. Whether that’s this submission or something else will be left up to you.

I recognize that this isn’t the response you were hoping for. I do appreciate your respect for our decision, however. It was reached by our entire editorial board after a thoughtful exchange of viewpoints this morning.

With respect for your service to our community,
Chuck

My shorter reply:

I follow your reasoning Chuck. But your logic doesn’t consider the outsized credibility of a former colleague of mine who speaks with the authority of a past chairmanship. His was hardly a run of the mill opinion.

I will look forward to my next chance to share my views in the paper should I survive the primary. It will not be this one.

Thank you, and all the best to you.

Harry

NOTE: I made my point. Its not my paper. I believe in being personable more than I believe in being civil with that words frosty connotation. Besides, I like Chuck and this was a professional not a personal decision. And he was only one of six or seven votes on the Editorial Board.

Three days before the election!

Like I said in an earlier post. The Trib’s new motto could be “fair and balanced.”

Reader’s View: School Board election about moving forward together
By Mike Miernicki, Duluth on Sep 7, 2017 at 5:05 p.m.

The News Tribune’s brilliant political cartoonist Steve Lindstrom once published a cartoon about Duluth voters in the far future still being haunted by ghosts of the Red Plan. The message was prophetic. Duluth voters are faced with a choice to either move forward or continue the ugly battles of the past.

I commend the News Tribune’s Sept. 1 “Our View” editorial, “Voters can reject ugly battles of the past.” The endorsement illustrated how Duluth voters this fall have a choice between those School Board candidates who want to move forward (Josh Gorham, Bogdana Krivogorsky, and Sally Trnka) and those who seem to want to continue their tired battle against the Red Plan (Loren Martell and incumbents Harry Welty and Art Johnston).

The Red Plan is over a decade old. Superintendents Keith Dixon and I.V. Foster are gone. Superintendent Bill Gronseth had little to do with the passing of the Red Plan. None of the current School Board members were involved in passing the Red Plan. It is time to move on.

The editorial wisely stated that, “Voters can resist succumbing, once again, to the tired negativity, all the ugliness, and the mire of battles fought — and settled — long ago.” Let us move forward together.

Mike Miernicki

Duluth

The writer is a former chairman of the Duluth School Board.

I’ve sent in a reply, of course.

If the Trib doesn’t publish my retort by Monday there will be little doubt that the new motto, borrowed from Roger Ailes, will apply equally to the Tribune as well.

By the way, in that earlier post I commented that the Trib not only refused to endorse someone other than a demagogue for President but failed to defend the attempt to overturn Art Johnston’s election. However, I completely forgot to mention how the Trib failed to stick up for the right of Duluth voters to play a part in making the ruinous Red Plan decision. How Putinesque of them!

Three strikes?

I’m number two

I’ve been determined for a couple days to be the first to file for the Duluth School Board this year and today was the first day of filing. When I got to the Business Office at about six after 8AM I asked Jackie Dolentz if I was first and she told me I wasn’t. Art Johnston had beat me to the punch. He was already gone and it took me ten minutes to fill out all the paperwork so Art was most efficient.

When Jackie told me I was “number two” I caviled at that description. I explained how I’d just seen a trailer for the “Emoji Movie” while watching “Despicable Me III” with my fellow roof climbers (See previous post). One of the sad (yes there is some justification for that word) punch lines from Emojiville comes from Daddy poop emoji after he and his son exit a toilet stall. “We’re Number Two,” they chorus.

It was unnecessary to explain that imagery to Jackie who seemed to get my drift, quickly correcting herself, “You were second.” I thanked her for her delicacy then left Old Central putting way too much thought into what poop leaving a bathroom stall on foot indicated. Had they just flushed their creator down the drain?”

I also made our vacation number two. I made Claudia delay our trip to China until the searing month’s of July and August just so I could file for the School Board. No question about my priorities.

Correction for the preceding post

I indicated that Jill Lofald was recruited by Annie Harala to run for the School Board. What I now know is that other members of the community actively encouraged Jill to run and it was Jill’s sense that as a newcomer to politics she would be best served by running in a smaller district seat rather than at-large. I’m sure the Superintendent is delighted she will be a candidate but to my knowledge he played no part in her recruitment.

I got Waxed – Citizens United

Its hard to believe that its only been a couple days since I got waxed last Saturday. I’ve been in non stop school board related meetings since Monday and when I wasn’t doing that I was doing yard work and gardening in the sunshine. I generally woke up in the middle of each succeeding night thinking about all that was going on and that I was not blogging about. Maybe it was the glasses of wine I had while unwinding. Last night it was the latest episode of Genious where the self absorbed Einstein finally did something courageous and refused to sign on with other scientists to the support of the German war effort in World War I. His old friend perfected Chlorine gas that was unleashed at the Second Battle of the Ypres. And I have such mundane things to report of myself.

Anywho. About that convention and the DNT’s disapproval of political parties endorsing candidates in non partisan races…

I didn’t take it that the DFL (the Democrats) weren’t for me when I got my 34 votes compared to the 234 that a no show unknown candidate got. That was tribal and that was local. For starters I had three ex school board members who don’t much care for me sitting at different tables. One had grievances against me stemming from about 1990. Another I helped replace with Mary Cameron who she in turn got dumped two years earlier in the 1999 ans 2001 elections. And finally, there was Judy Seliga-Punyko whose effort to get an extra year on the School board without facing an election I helped thwart (among a great many other longstanding strains).

Mike Jaros, who was unable to attend the convention, called me afterward and reassured me that the DFL voters who were sitting at the Duluth Air Show instead of the convention would still vote for me. I hope he’s right. I also hope the Republicans in Duluth vote for me despite my rude treatment of the current President. I think they recognize that I still have some fiscal prudence.

Why is the endorsement small potatoes? Because it pales in comparison to Citizens United the Supreme Court Decision that helped open the floodgates to anonymous contributions from the super rich who want to hide their ties to the politicians whose palms they grease to stay the super rich. That decision came in no small part thanks to the Koch Brothers that I’ve been reading about in Dark Money. And thanks to the Republicans thwarting Barack Obama’s supreme court pick a full year before the election Donald Trump got to nominate a close ally of one of the Koch’s fellow billionaires Joseph Coors of the Colorado Brewing family. I think I read somewhere that they have summer homes in the Rockies a half mile from each other. Oops, wrong billionaire. Gorsuch has a vacation home next to Phillip Anschutz.

I’ve watched for forty years as the Republicans have out maneuvered the Democrats in campaign finance and in curtailing the once mighty union money machine. Wisconsin Governor’s Scott Walker’s actions were just the latest episode in the retreat of union power. Throw in voter suppression in locales where the poor and minorities live and Court approved gerrymandering, Tom Delay, irrational government and you get Donald Trump in the White House.

So, however ill disposed the local DFL club is to a burr like me under its saddle, I got elected to the Board three times while they supported other candidates. Their endorsement also serves as a red flag for those disinclined toward their politics. At least, unlike the Supreme Court approved Dark Money, they are out in the open about their candidates. However, it is too bad they don’t allow secret ballots and force delegates to sign them. Tsk, tsk, tsk. I know three exschool board members who would have cold shouldered anybody identified as voting for me.

Memorial Day Vets, and Sports

I put up my flag through the Memorial Day weekend and read several stories about the sacrifices of veterans and folks on the home front and was content with that. My Dad, a navy veteran of World War only II, only took me to one Memorial Day march when I was about seven that I can remember. But about an hour before Duluth’s march in Western Duluth I got an urgent reminder that one of the march’s organizers had told some school board members that he expected to see them honoring Duluth’s vets at the next march. The midtrovert in me struggled with this. So did the part of me that finds politicians sharing the limelight with the real honorees self serving. I never served in the military. Not quite sure what I would do went to a parade that organizers had feared would have too few “units” to justify. That turned out not to be a problem.

Still, I couldn’t bring myself to walk the line and hand out school district business cards. I watched the parade like everybody else along Grand and Central Avenues and took a couple pictures.

A couple items today related to Memorial Day caught my attention. First was the story of Denver Sports Columnist and historian Terry Frei who was fired for tweeting about being upset when a Japanese sports car driver won the Indianapolis 500 on the day we honor American veterans. He didn’t like the symbolism. You see, Mr. Frei wrote a book about the 1942 Wisconsin Badgers Football Team whose players went off to War II.

Mr. Frei has apologized for his tweet. (I know someone else who could benefit from his example.) But apologies are hard. I also read of how Koreans are dissatisfied about how Japan has dealt with the legacy of the war. It has been over three generations since that war ended and Japanese apologies have been grudging at best although today’s Japanese are remote from those days.

In their own way the Japanese have been marked by the war’s aftermath. Their birth rate is so low they are becoming a decrepit elderly population which was a result of a ferocious devotion to work that has starved family life which stems from the post-war drive to rebuild a shattered nation.

This was not the only sports related news story that caught my attention. NPR’s Sport’s commentator Frank Deford died just a week or two after retiring. I loved his commentaries even though I pay little attention to sports. DeFord was lauded in this remembrance and I particularly liked a portion of a speech he once gave talking about his most difficult challenge – facing people he had written unflattering things about. He described the time he was asked to leave a basketball court because Wilt Chamberlain, a man with some blemishes, told the staff he didn’t want to see Deford. I regularly face folks who might not like my reporting on the board. In fact, its because I have some observations to make about current school board members recruiting replacement candidates for themselves and others that I particularly appreciated Deford’s comments.

I won’t wait for three years! Part 1

In Chinese the character for “Crisis” is the combination of the symbols for “danger” & “opportunity.”

This was my third lousy night’s sleep in a row. Last night I was fretting about rubber tire mulch – and much else. It kept me awake with dark thoughts till past 3 AM. This could make a person crotchety or lead to premature dementia. Of course, being on the Duluth School Board my dementia is probably taken for granted by the people who elected me. Does that sound like any other election you’ve heard of?

The best bid for mulch replacement the School Board will be considering is a poison pill on two counts. First, its at least twice what we had anticipated at $1.2 million dollars. Second, and far worse, no contractors bid on fixing all the playgrounds in a single year. The best we got was a three year deal. I suspect that if we had started letting bids three or four months earlier those bids would have come in lower and with options to fix everything in a single year. I may be wrong but I’ll never know.

What I do know is that because I was not privy to info that had been circulating more broadly for a couple days I gave a parent a ridiculously optimistic assessment of a happy outcome. Some board members appear to have known about the bid before hand. Had I known I would have had a very different conversation with that parent who will no doubt remember my cluelessness come time to vote in November.

This is not all that I fretted about last night. I also learned – again belatedly – that the deal for the sale of Nettleton fell through. We may have lost a bird in the hand on that sale that was willing and eager to pay us more than the consortium that just flew the coup. I also learned that the bids for the fix-up of Rockridge are half a million higher than we estimated.

I have already survived three or four crises as a Board member. I don’t want or need another. I would like to consider the idea that was first floated over a year ago by parents. Let the parents remove the rubber tire mulch and replace it with wood chips. I would gladly make $250,000 of District money available to them if they can 1. find and schedule the volunteers, 2. find the trucks, 3. locate environmentally safe places to haul the rubber to, 4. find wood chips, 5. and get every playground fixed over the summer. Heck, I’d volunteer to push a wheel barrow all summer to get the job done. It would be a much more fun way to campaign for the school board than going door-to-door and it would actually accomplish something useful.

There would be concerns and objections, among them, District insurance covering volunteers, Not having some bonded contractor for much or most of the work, Not re-engineering the underlying surface of the playgrounds to insure good drainage and adequate depth of woodchip mulch for tumbles off of jungle gyms. If I was unexpectedly given an option for a $2 million one-year fix today I’d probably take it – but that’s not going to happen!

In a phone call with me this morning Superintendent Gronseth said that the District was going to recommend following the advice I was given by a downtown businessman to bond for Rockridge AND the playgrounds to spare any further drain from our general fund. I told him I was pleased to hear this. But we still are considering a three-year mulch replacement. That’s become a “no go” with me. Frankly. if we managed to replace the mulch for a fraction of that $1.2 million dollar bid I think that voters/taxpayers might begin to regain confidence in the Duluth School Board. What a happy anomaly that would be.

ABOUT THAT IMAGE ABOVE: I requested that one of Duluth’s preeminent artists, Cheng-Khee Chee, make the image for me during an even hotter controversy than we are are now facing over the rubber crumb tire mulch. I devoted a page to that unfolding 2001 crisis on my old website snowbizz.com. Sixteen years have taken a toll on that page. All of the links to News Trib stories on the possible closure of 5 elementary schools are dead because I took down the stories which I had placed on my webpage. I only removed them after a five-year delay long after the Trib’s publisher warned me that I was violating the Trib’s copyright. What remains on that page are only a few workable links and the chronological outline of the day by day progress of that controversy.

A critique of vouchers sent to me by an unexpected source

No matter how much I snarl and quibble with “My Buddy” my Buddy keeps supplying me with interesting material. Our correspondence predates blogs (ten years) and we have chewed over wars, civil rights, politics, gender related speculation and not least to me (big-shot-school-board-member that I am) – education.

One of our longest running disagreements has to do with school vouchers which Republicans especially have argued allow children in failing schools to escape to new more productive surroundings. I have not been insensible to this rationale and couldn’t have been after reading Johnathnn Kozol’s books (I was so angry I stopped reading Savage Inequalities and never finished it)

Of course, I had voted to support inviting a charter school into Duluth back in 1996 in what felt like minutes after being seated on the Duluth School Board. Public schools had been under attack since the Reagan years starting in the 1980’s prompted by the study and book “A Nation at Risk.”

Ironically, it was the President of the American Federation of Teachers, Al Shanker, who first promoted charter schools in reaction to the criticism of public schools. But the Duluth Teacher’s Union, indeed most teacher’s unions found Charters a threat once they were birthed, first in Minnesota, and then across the nation. During my first three years on the Duluth School Board I began a long correspondence with a Missouri educator who was lobbying that state’s legislature to adopt charter schools. I found documenting my experiences with the Charter beginnings in Duluth therapeutic, much as this blog and my first website proved to be. I shared that correspondence with Julio Almanza, the Superintendent who replaced Mark Myles, to give him some sense of the history that preceded his hiring. Julio never became a fan of Charters and was boxed in by two sides of a school board with wildly divergent views on the subject.

I’ve always told my Buddy that in the event of a truly failing public school system I could tolerate school vouchers. Of course, it can be argued that failing inner city schools were the product of chintzy spending by heavily rural state legislatures, however, that was not the case in Minnesota after 1971’s “Minnesota Miracle.” And I have one potent objection to vouchers – their use – diversion of public funding – to rich parents to send their kids to fancy private schools.

Well, my Buddy just sent me a thoughtful column by David Leonhardt which finds fault with vouchers and with the new Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos should she ignore the results of a study about the unimpressive results vouchers have wrought.

I doubt if this has convinced my Buddy to change his mind on vouchers but I’m gratified that he has alerted me to this voucher critique.