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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.


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,

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.


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


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.

Paranoia Pt 2 (The Deep shit state)

What is prompting this thread is the book I opened again in the middle of last night when I couldn’t sleep “1920, The year of…”

I read a passage that presumed to explain a long standing mystery…..What were Sacco and Vanzetti guilty of if anything. I’ll get to that in later posts. But it reminded me of a series of email I exchanged with my Buddy yesterday on the subject of Obama’s alledged wire tapping and JFK’s assassination:

Here are a couple of them:


Unfortunately, the labyrinthine world of the covert intelligence agencies is too complex to be analyzed in one brief newspaper column, but suffice it to say that Kennedy was leery of the CIA from day one of his administration, and by the time of the Bay of Pigs, he had come to the conclusion that he could not trust the agency. Thus, his famous proclamation that he would “splinter the CIA in a thousand pieces,” as reported by the New York Times in 1966, three years after Kennedy’s assassination.

What is fascinating to anyone concerned about the power of what is now being called the “Deep State” is that there are CIA fingerprints all over the Kennedy assassination as well as Watergate. Allen Dulles, the CIA director fired by President Kennedy, was appointed by President Johnson to serve on the Warren Commission that investigated the murder of JFK. Yet neither Dulles nor his successor John McCone revealed to the Warren Commission that the CIA had engaged in assassination attempts against Castro, despite the immediate relevance of this information to the investigation. Remember that Lee Harvey Oswald, the president’s accused assassin, had public ties to Castro and Cuba. Since it was known that Castro was aware of the CIA plot against him, it gave him a motive to kill Kennedy in revenge. Moreover, both the CIA and the FBI covered up their own involvement with Oswald, a former defector to the Soviet Union.

What would Professor Fetzer say about this?

[Your Buddy]

To which I responded:

What does [My Buddy] have to say about it?

To which my Buddy at first replied:

Nothing. I seem to be inclined towards agnosticism.

[Your Buddy]

Then my Buddy contacted Duluth’s conspiracy champion, James Fetzer, for his take on the “Deep State” stuff that has recently captivated Breitbartarians all over the Internet. This is Professor Fetzer’s zesty reply which my Buddy shared with me:

Good stuff here: Obama was spying not only on Trump but major players on the international scene and many reporters right here in the USA. Check out: Why would anyone think that he (Obama) would not be spying on Trump? He was spying on EVERYONE!

We are told that it is ridiculous that Obama would wiretap Trump, and that the intelligence agencies would admit it publicly if it had happened. But as President Trump reminded everyone Friday, according to documents leaked by Edward Snowden, Obama ordered the wiretapping of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone in 2010. The German government entered into an extensive investigation of these allegations but, according to the Guardian newspaper, finally gave up because they could not penetrate the secrecy of the spy agencies. As reported by The Guardian, “The federal prosecutor’s office received virtually no cooperation in its investigation from either the NSA or Germany’s equivalent, the BND.”

Yet we expect the National Security Agency or the CIA or the FBI to gladly cooperate with congressional investigators, or even more absurdly the media, and admit to carrying out a political vendetta against Trump? That is what is truly ridiculous.

Trump, like Kennedy, is intent on effecting change across a wide swath of the government. The entrenched bureaucrats known as the “Deep State” resented both Kennedy and Trump. Kennedy fought back hard against the CIA and against J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI. Whether that cost him his life, we may never know, but history does teach us that conspiracies exist. Unfortunately, anyone who blindly accepts the word of either the mainstream media or their “sources” (bosses?) in the intelligence community simply doesn’t understand history.

I’ve followed my old neighbor Fetzer ever since I offered him a book to help him in a “debate” to defend Darwin from Creationists. Here’s what I wrote about Fetzer 14 years ago. I followed it up the next week with this addendum.

Julius H. Barnes

Last night when I woke up in the middle of the night I picked up the book 1920 – The Year of the Six Presidents. Its an engaging book and so far most of the chapters have been excellent summaries of these past and yet-to-be Presidents. A long look at the bibliography and chapter notes assured me that the author had been thorough and I trust his judgments.

There was a one sentence in the seventh chapter about Julius H. Barnes having been President Herbert Hoover’s “Colonel House.” That’s all it said and I did not find Mr. Barnes name in the Book’s index. He is, however, amply referred to in a number of online links.

Julius was a famous Duluthian and his name graced the old Barnes-Ames Building that housed several of our School District’s miscellaneous educational programs. The building sits just below Old Central across from second street and I went there many times to volunteer teach at the ESL (English as a Second Language) classes. It also housed our Alternative Learning program. When I was volunteering a group of scientists were using its old empty swimming pool to study neutrino’s or something like that. It may once have been the old YMCA which was a recipient of Barnes’s largess.

Among other vapors of his life in Duluth is the Lark O’ the Lake Restaurant on Superior Street with wonderful sandwiches and malts. The Lark was an early water landing aircraft that Barnes commissioned.

As for the Colonel House reference, I found that doubly interesting. House was the right-hand man for Woodrow Wilson up to and through World War I after which Wilson’s towering ego and paranoia shunted House off to the sidelines much to the detriment of Wilson’s legacy.

Barnes was one of Herbert Hoover’s young aides during Hoover’s good works in Europe through the “Great War” and later became the Nation’s President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce which I suspect is the reason he made it to this Time Magazine cover from May of 1930 while Hoover’s legacy was itself about to go kaput.

Barnes survived the Depression and returned to Duluth where he fell on hard times in his later years and died “penniless” in 1959. I’ll bet my Grandfather George Robb could have given me a good history of Julius. Its because my Grandfather would become an active Republican in the Jazz Age that I’m eager to read this particular history. He was still recovering from his war wounds and catching the notice of Kansas’s Republican establishment in 1920. Later Barnes’s old boss would reappoint George Robb postmaster of Salina, Kansas.

BTW – Here’s how this old certificate begins:

“Know ye, That, reposing special trust and confidence in the intelligence, diligence and discretion of -George S. Robb -; I have nominated and, by and with, the advice and consent of the Senate, do appoint him Postmaster at – Salina , in the County of – Saline -, State of Kansas……”

Muhammed Ali – a Remembrance

To write this post I googled a timeline of Muhammed Ali’s life. For the purpose of this post I’m only interested in my own impressionalbe years from my age 9 until age 23′

I discovered that my Dad was a sport’s enthusiast of the barkalounger type early on. Just before I hit my teenage years I remember my Dad reciting the list of Heavyweight Boxing champions from the great John L. Sullivan to Cassius Clay. The modern era of champions started with Jack Dempsey just before my Dad’s birth and I am sure he was as well aware of Max Baer who was the undisputed champion when he was as I was of Floyd Patterson at the same age. Incidentally, when I was following Patterson’s career I was watching the Beverly Hillbillies staring Max Baer’s son as Jethro Bodine. I’m sure his depiction of a hillbilly transplanted to Hollywood explains why my Mother-in-law began explaining that her North Carolina origins (transplanted to Iowa) made her a “Mountain William.”

Even as Clay shucked off his “slave name” to announce he was a Muslim outraging much of white America I was mesmerized by him and followed his career avidly through the Supreme Court’s decision exhonorating him for his refusal to sign up for the Selective Serice – the draft – while the Vietnam War was raging. Here is a thumbnail of what I was up to through his early professional life.

Clay wins the light-heavyweight gold medal at the Summer Olympics in Rome and returns to his native Louisville, Clay finds he’s not immune to the racism that is so prevalent in the U.S. After being refused service by a waitress at a “whites-only” restaurant, a disgusted Clay throws his gold medal into the Ohio River. He turns professional and wins the first two fights of his career.

I spend the summer arguing with my next door neighbor that year telling her that Republican Richard Nixon will be elected President. To my chagrin JFK is elected.

Despite an unblemished 19–0 record, Clay is a heavy underdog in his championship bout with Sonny Liston. But you wouldn’t know it by listening to him. He brashly and colorfully predicts victory, and teases the champ by calling him, among other things, an “ugly, old bear.” When Liston refuses to leave his corner for the start of the seventh, the fight ends and Clay becomes heavyweight champion of the world. After the fight, Clay announces he has become a Black Muslim and has changed his name to Muhammad Ali.

I was enduring my first year in Minnesota being called a “Reb” because of my accent in the all white North Mankato Junior High. The previous year in Topeka, Kansas, half of my classmates were black. A Mad Magazine I’d been reading at a Boy Scout camp had cartoon of gorillas running over a field of mason jars poking fun at headlines as children saw them about the Vietnam War “Guerillas Advance on Plain of Jars.” Within a year I’d hear my Dad cursing at LBJ for sending more troops to SE Asia.

In April, Ali refuses induction into the U.S. Army due to his religious convictions. He angers many Americans after claiming, “I ain’t got no quarrel with those Vietcong.” He is subsequently stripped of his WBA title and his license to fight. In June, a court finds him guilty of draft evasion, fines him $10,000, and sentences him to five years in prison. He remains free, pending numerous appeals, but is still barred from fighting.

A year later my family will agree to host a foreign exchange student regardless of his origin. He will be a Muslim from Ethiopia and integrate Mankato High School probably for its first time.

Due to a loophole (there was no state boxing commission in Georgia), Ali returns to the ring in Atlanta and knocks out Jerry Quarry in three rounds.

The year before I witnessed a draft card burning in my first month of college. I disapproved. I would also soon attend an Anti-Vietman protest that blocked up the main intersection in downtown Mankato. I later decided that was counter productive.

In March, he fights heavyweight champ Joe Frazier in Madison Square Garden. A left hook by Frazier knocks Ali down in the 15th round. Frazier wins by unanimous decision. Three months later, the Supreme Court rules in his favor, reversing the 1967 draft-evasion conviction.

I will spend the summer of 1971 as an intern in Republican Congressman Ancher Nelson’s Washington D.C. Office. I have to go through metal detectors which have just been installed for the first time because the Weather Underground blew up a bomb in the Capitol Building.

In January, he gains a measure of revenge from Frazier, besting the former champ in 12 rounds. Regains the heavyweight title in the “Rumble in the Jungle” on Oct. 30 in Kinshasa, Zaire after knocking out champion George Foreman in the eighth round. He successfully uses his “rope-a-dope” strategy—Ali allowed Foreman to get him against the ropes and swing away until he tired himself out. Then Ali attacked.

I am married in 1974. Watergate is in the back pages of newspapers. The War in Vietnam is still winding down – disastrously – my college 2-S deferment has kept me out of the war that began when I was in seventh grade. I will begin teaching in the Fall of the year in Proctor, Minnesota. I am still a fan of Ali.

“Herd up”

From my Buddy:

See, which includes this interesting language:
For all the talk of Republicans who won’t vote for Trump, it’s quite likely that more than 90 percent will herd up.


The identification with political parties is a psychological attachment that often forms in childhood. We are not handcuffed to our party but the tie is tight and has become more so.
A Stanford research team studied the reaction of Republicans and Democrats to the prospect that their child might marry someone from the other political party. In 1960 — no problem. Only 5 percent (or less) reported being upset by the idea. Our new hyperpartisan world has introduced a very different reaction by 2010. Nearly a third of Democrats were irked and almost half of Republicans were unhappy.

“herd up”? We are ostensibly farther out of the jungle since 1960, but we are increasingly tribal?

It was funny when I was a kid in the 60″s watching Candid Camera. Its not so funny now:

A much wiser and more knowledgeble voice schools me on Reservation land

Your blog post yesterday about Fond du Lac is based on quite a bit of misinformation. If I may, I’d like to provide some information that might hopefully help clear things up.

The feds aren’t “allowing” the tribe to buy anything. The tribe is free to buy any property it wants to, just like anyone else. Case in point, they had already purchased the Carter Hotel quite some time ago without any approval required from anybody. They purchased the Sears building that now houses the casino in the same way. (A common misconception is that the city was involved with that sale, but it wasn’t. That was a private sale.)

In most cases, such off-reservation acquisitions are “fee land” (i.e., the tribe is the owner and they pay taxes on it). Fond du Lac owns fee land scattered throughout the region (much of it is actually undeveloped land that they purchased to preserve habitat). What the feds did, first with the Sears building and now with the Carter Hotel, was place the land into tribal trust. Fee-to-trust transfers are done at the sole discretion of the Department of the Interior. So, you’re correct when you say the city wasn’t engaging in charity by “letting” the tribe open a casino—but only because the city had absolutely no authority in the matter. City officials get very testy when this is pointed out, but it’s nonetheless true. I got confirmation of it straight from the Department of the Interior: Local governments, including Duluth, have never had any say whatsoever in tribal trust decisions.

On its face, that might not seem fair, but there are two important points to understanding what tribal trust is all about:
(1) Tribes don’t own trust land, including their reservation land. The federal government owns it and holds it in trust on behalf of the tribe. This is why tribes don’t pay taxes on trust land—because it’s owned by the feds, not by the tribe.

(2) Fee-to-trust transfers are mostly used Continue reading


Read the screed Here.

• Fiscally, a better option would be to get one-time money from a non-competitor that will maintain permanent property tax income for the district.

Well Duh! Doesn’t Ed Mn know that Central has sat empty sucking up $170,000 every year in heating and maintenance for six years? We had one buyer who chickened out at the last minute and they only offered us 70% of what we were offered by Tischer Creek Building Corp.

As for the over-hyped permanent property tax income for the district of a modest development of $40 million it would amount to significantly less than 100 grand per year and that’s if the City didn’t grant a TIF District to a developer. In that case we would have to wait 20 years to see a cent from the developed property.

Does Ed Minn offer this kind of boneheaded financial advice to all of its affiliates?

Lets Get Real #4 – “Another value of belonging” to the teacher’s union

Until the President of the Teacher’s Union mass emailed this to her teachers the email coming in to the School Board was running over 85% in support of a sale. After this email went out prompting some teachers to write to us the support for a sale went down to a still overwhelming 70%. This letter only prompted about 40 of ISD 709’s teachers to write in to oppose the sale. That’s out of perhaps 600 teachers or less than ten percent. Not very impressive. Perhaps the other teachers were wondering which of several dozen teachers were about to be laid off due to next year’s budget cuts.

I will leave this “talking points” as it was sent out in this post. In the next post I will pick it apart.

As has been evident in so many Presidential campaigns fear mongering has proven a useful political tool.

BTW – I am pleased Bernie told her members to read this during their off duty hours.


From: Bernadette Burnham [DFT President]

To: Teachers Unit

Subject: Read during off duty hours~Fwd: for members and community – messaging about fiscal impact
If you have not yet written to the board, here are a few more talking points provided by our ED MN staff, sure appreciate all they have done for us the last couple days!

Another Value of Belonging

Begin forwarded message:

Subject: for members and community – messaging about fiscal impact
Date: March 30, 2016 at 4:45:09 PM CDT
To: [Bernadette Burnham]

Here are some new talking points for your members and community supporters:

• Edison charter school’s growth ambitions will cost Duluth’s public schools at least $4 million to $5 million by 2020. Competitive advantages gained by operating Edison’s high school at the Central site mean that future Duluth school board members could be grappling with a loss exceeding $7 million by 2020.

• If the district sells Central High to Tischer Creek, the $14.2 million in one-time money from the sale will be gone in eight to 10 years.

• Based on a conservative estimate projecting a loss of 700 students to the charter by 2021-22, Duluth school board members should prepare for larger class sizes, catastrophic cuts and additional school closings in those years.

• Fiscally, a better option would be to get one-time money from a non-competitor that will maintain permanent property tax income for the district.

• Enrollment losses will be a harsh reality for Duluth if the school board does not swiftly and boldly refocus its work on bringing parents, students, educators and the community together in the work of strengthening Duluth’s public schools.

• Let’s reject false choices and short-sighted promises and move toward uniting the community behind real and sustainable improvements, like creating more full-service community schools. The success of this model has shown that by working together, diverse stakeholders can reinvigorate Duluth’s schools from the bottom up. Through community engagement and participatory school improvement, Duluth can retain and attract new students and families for generations to come.

The reality: Money from Central sale will disappear within a decade
Edison charter school’s growth ambitions will cost Duluth’s public schools at least $4 million to $5 million by 2020. And if the district sells Central High to Tischer Creek, the $14.2 million in one-time money from the sale will be gone in eight to 10 years.
Based on a conservative estimate projecting a loss of 700 students to the charter by 2021-22, Duluth school board members should prepare for larger class sizes, catastrophic cuts and additional school closings in those years.
Using the Minnesota Department of Education’s interactive revenue projection model in their website’s data center, the math is simple and clear. The sale of the Central High School site to Tischer Creek will not pay off.
Edison charter school’s stated goal for new enrollment is 660 students. If they acquire Central, a cheaper and more centrally located site, the school will grow faster and have more flexibility to spend money on programs and services to compete with Duluth’s public schools. These advantages mean that future Duluth school board members could be grappling with a loss exceeding $7 million by 2020.
School board members should vote to maintain the current policy prohibiting the sale of the Central High site to a competitor. Fiscally, a better option would be to get one-time money from a non-competitor that will, at a minimum, maintain permanent property tax income for the district.
Children are not commodities. Competition in education is not equivalent to competition in the private sector. Charter school competition has accelerated public school closings around the state and the country, creating winners and losers.
Enrollment losses will be a harsh reality for Duluth if the school board does not swiftly and boldly refocus its work on bringing parents, students, educators and the community together in the work of strengthening Duluth’s public schools. Let’s reject false choices and short-sighted promises and move toward uniting the community behind real and sustainable improvements, like creating more full-service community schools. The success of this model has shown that by working together, diverse stakeholders can reinvigorate Duluth’s schools from the bottom up.

Let’s get real #1 – Has that ship sailed?

This is a sort of a morning-after-the-crisis post. It will be the first of several more posts to come examining the recent nonsense manufactured by people with hidden agendas or smothered in cluelessness.

All of these posts will have at their heart (my heart) the question above: Has the DPSA ship truly sailed off to Snowflake?

The answer is Probably. I resent how quickly our school board and the Edison critics smashed their bottles of champagne on its hull. The hasty decision denied our community the three or four weeks available to think this important issue through. Instead, the insiders of ISD 709 rushed to kill the project, albeit with a brief episode of transparancy, to push the Central offer’s head back in the Jack-in-the-box.

My proposal that we enter negotiations Thursday night was meant to keep everybody’s options open. The four Board members who voted to prevent negotiations had their minds made up in advance to shut down any further discussion. I’d like to bring the subject up again and state law gives three board members the right to call a meeting. I just don’t know if the DPSA Board could stand any more public brow beating. It would be much simpler for them to quietly build their new high school at Snowflake and be done with ISD 709. I view that as a lost opportunity for Duluth to ends its public schools civil wars.

Furthermore, we not only have turned down a shot in the arm that would have served us well for several years we, the ISD 709 School Board are taking a great gamble. We need to find a buyer in the next year. If we don’t find one I will personally remind voters in the 2018 election who killed the goose who offered us a golden egg and allowed us to sink deep into a financial black hole.

First I need to make one things clear. Today’s Duluth School Board is fantastic compared to the one recently retired.

I called Chair Harala this week and asked her to meet with me. This was something that was no longer possible in the last year of the old school board. Annie agreed as I expected she would. Annie is the first Chair since before the Keith Dixon Era to pay the slightest attention to fairness in Board discussions. Annie and I had a good discussion although not without some tension. We bit our lips and stuck to business. She told me I had a good heart and I probably assured her that she did too. I left assured that we would have an open discussion that evening. Annie more than made good on her promise to keep it open.

Annie let me know that such discussions would end if I shot my mouth (or blog) off about them. I don’t blame her. I will push that button a little by noting she thought I was guilty of “ageism.”

I don’t deny it exactly but I would put it another way. I am guilty of experiencism. I do think my experience counts for something although I hope I’m not too condescending about it. If its true that we learn from our mistakes I must be one of the smartest people in Minnesota.

I have more experience with ISD 709 than the rest of our Board. Alanna Oswald, David Kirby and Nora Sandstad have to serve nine more months before they have a single year’s worth of experience on our Board. Annie and Rosie Loeffler-Kemp have 4 combined years on our school board. Art Johnston has served 6 years. I have served ten years so that its my ten years to the rest of the Board’s ten years. It goes deeper than that. David, Nora, Alanna and I have teaching degrees. Alanna has a masters degree to my bachelor’s Degree but she was my student when she was in “Junior High.” I first began running for the School Board when Annie was a second grader in my son’s class. David Kirby has a PhD in Education and, as he told me, “taught principals how to be principals.” But he has not been an Educator since he became a family practice doctor. He arrived in Duluth twenty years ago to my 42 years in the city. I was voting to allow the Edison schools to set up shop back then before his children were born let alone enrolled in Duluth’s schools. Nora Sandstad also left teaching to earn a law degree.

As for knowing Duluth I’ve got by far the longest residency. I began knocking on doors when I ran for public office in 1976. There is not a part of town or the school district I haven’t door knocked many times. Furthermore, if anyone wants to access ISD 709’s history they have the public library’s online newspaper database and my blog, slanted though it may be.

I will freely admit to suffering from “experiencism” and maybe even being insufferable in the process. I hope, however, that most visitors to my blog have concluded that my main purpose in writing it is to keep the dealings of the Duluth Schools transparent and understandable.

Now on to Representative Simonson’s efforts to clip the wings of the Duluth Public School Academy.

Swords/Plowshares 30 – How did the DPSA get here in the first place?


The letter sent to the Duluth School Board today by the Superintendent of Schools back in 1996:

School Board Members,

I would like to first thank you for your work on the board, it is too often thankless. Lost in the discussion regarding Central High School is the reason Edison is here in the first place. In 1996 Minnesota first tested eighth graders in reading and math. Duluth didn’t do so well. In fact, 2/3 of the state’s 300 plus school districts outperformed Duluth in basic reading and 3/4 outperformed Duluth in basic math. In light of those results and a 25% dropout rate plus the
achievement gaps between white, minority, higher and lower income students, the nine member school board unanimously decided to try and do something about it. Minnesota charter school legislation had recently been enacted and the school board had turned down two weak proposals. Inevitably there would be a charter school but rather than weak proposals they proactively sought the best research based charter school focused on Duluth’s needs. They went nationwide requesting proposals for a research, results, accountability based charter school. Local teachers were asked to submit a proposal, they chose not to. Edison was selected from all applicants. Edison introduced to Duluth a longer school day, a longer school year, all day every day kindergarten, before and after school child care, current technology, and well researched curricula and instruction. The Duluth Edison public charter school has operated successfully for 19 years with waiting lists in most grades. The for profit argument is mute in that the Northstar and Raleigh Academies are now independent of Edison. The school board policy in question was enacted specifically to block Edison’s purchase of school buildings. Prior to Edison the school board had no such policy and willingly sold Lowell school to the Christian Academy and Lakeside to the St. Michael’s school.

Mark Myles