Category Archives: 2017 Sch. B. election

Say “simple summary sans soliloquys” ten times fast

That happy little alteration comes courtesy of the last post. Its as good a title to introduce my thoughts on yesterday’s very pregnant school board meeting. The forgone conclusions to approve our teacher contract and our budget and our Superintendent’s right to reassign principals were all fraught with anguished explanations and symbolic votes. Here’s my brief take on our deliberations.

Jana said of my symbolic vote against the teacher’s contract I helped negotiate:

Welty, who sat in on negotiations, said he had intended to vote for the contracts, but decided against it considering the teachers union’s stated goals during those negotiations of wanting to work to better meet the mental and emotional needs of kids.

“It is my sense that the finances of our district are such that (the contract increases) will make doing student-centered advocacy more difficult,” he said.

I was the lone vote against a contract that in essence required give and take by both sides. Even so, most board members trembled at the second contract we approved for 3 and 4 years out. A long hard conversation with Loren Martell a day earlier made me reconsider my vote to support the contract. Nora Sandstad was right to be put off by my change of heart because I did not express the same reservations when we were in closed session that I did publicly last night.

At the one hour 50 minute point in the meeting

I read the introductory language offered us by the teachers at the outset of the negotiations. This language emphasized the teacher’s determination that we help the whole student including social and emotional needs. I went on to explain with some passion, if not much eloquence, why my lone symbolic vote against the contract was intended to show Duluth that our schools would continue to come up short in the coming years in meeting those needs. We need more staff and these contracts do not give us room to hire more staff.

By the same token Alanna Oswald cast a lone vote against our budget later during our discussion of the Business Committee meeting.

Art Johnston offered an amendment that demanded that we look at a transition over the coming years to make sure that we spend an ever increasing percentage of Compensatory Education revenue on the schools that generate the funds with their larger “free and reduced” student populations. Still, the resolution deferred that decision till after next year.

By the same token there was a lot of temporizing about bending to the will of parents where the reassignment of principals was concerned. But again the Board did not intrude on the Superintendent’s authority. I did point out that while I was sure “educational” concerns were the primary motivation behind these decisions they might very well have political consequences. While parents in Rosie Loeffler-Kemp’s end of town were placated Laura Mac has a lot of unhappy parents.

Shakespeare could have been summing up this meeting when he wrote about “sound and fury signifying nothing.” In five months time we will discover if the voters signify nothing.

Did you catch my simple math error?

A friend texted me this morning pointing out that 18% of 2000 Proctor students is 360. I immediately knew what she meant.

From the previous post on our sending busses into neighboring School Districts to entice open enrollment students I wrote this:

“A hasty check of Wikipedia shows that Proctor has about 2000 students and Jana’s story reports that 18% of them come from Duluth. That would be another 180 lost Duluth students to add to the chart above.” As I lamely replied sometimes my brain doesn’t work but that doesnt stop my busy fingers.

The additional 180 students brings the number of our students lost to neighboring districts (not counting charter, parochial or private schools) to close to 1000 students. More of the Red Plan’s legacy not counting the ongoing $3.4 million annual transfer out of our general fund to pay off the damned Red Plan bonds that costs us 36 teachers each year.

Yesterday’s four hour school board meeting was full and Jana did a nice simple summary sans soliloquys by anguished Board members like me. More on mine in the next post.

Martel on Maintenance

I’m not sure how many of Loren’s recent columns I have failed to mention. They seem to have been coming out weekly just as I began digging in to do some serious gardening and yard work. The latest begins by quoting my poor pun at the last meeting about our being between a “Rockridge and a hard place” and then veers into the land of the worst case scenario with regard to twenty plus million in building and maintenance costs we are faced with but for which there are no current resources to address.

Loren is right and he has yet to talk about the two contracts with teachers we are likely to approve tonight and which I finally got a chance to play a small part in helping to negotiate.

If the maintenance costs are driving Loren to despair he will likely be positively apoplectic about the contract settlement. Can’t say as I blame him.

Please note the correction from two posts ago

I unfairly slammed my school board colleague Rosie Loeffler-Kemp two posts ago. Please note the correction. I apologize to my readers. I ought to apologize to Rosie. She reminds me of this at every school board meeting when she reads our prescribed tools of civility which have also been adopted by the Duluth City Council. “Apologies” are called for in “tool” number 7 of 9.

I take no satisfaction from acting like an elementary school child but I’ve never believed that forcing anyone to apologize when they don’t feel like it is honest or useful.

Why don’t I feel like acting the part of a grownup? Rosie is busy organizing the next five months of school board campaigning with an eye to removing those of us who did not support extending a full three-year contract to the Superintendent. She has me in her sights and, truth be told, I have her in my sights.

Rosie hammered me during our closed teacher contract negotiations, as she regularly does, because she does not like what I blog about. I’m not a team player which means, I guess, that I don’t speak for her majority. I did not speak for the majority when Rosie called my colleague Art Johnston “violent” on television something for which Rosie herself has never apologized. Rosie’s majority was the prime mover behind a two-year attempt to remove Art Johnston from the Board thus reversing the people’s decision in an election. This in turn put the entire school board under the dark cloud of public ridicule from which it is only now slowly reemerging. Should Rosie survive the November election she will, in fact, be the only remaining member of the five-member majority which brought the school board into such ill repute.

I prefer honesty to apologies although I do recognize the decency of the latter even when I can not bring myself to fully embrace it.

Keen on Kuehn


Photo by: Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com

I was pleased to see this picture on the anniversary of Duluth’s infamous lynching because one of the new school board candidates is pictured in it, Kurt Kuehn (pronounced KEEN). The caption below had his comments on the grim history, to wit:

“It’s always inspirational,” said Kurt Kuehn of Duluth, about the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial. “We’ve still got a lot of work to do.” Kuehn attended the memorial event Thursday honoring the three black men who were lynched in 1920 after being falsely accused of rape.

Kurt is running in District One currently represented by Rosie Loeffler-Kemp.

Although I have often written about the Clayton Jackson McGhie lynching I did not attend this particular event. Art Johnston and Alanna Oswald and Rosie Loeffler-Kemp represented the School District.

CORRECTION: When I posted this yesterday I incorrectly said that Board member Rosie Loeffler-Kemp was forty minutes late. That was wrong. Rosie was present shortly after the presentation began. As I said I was not in attendance. It was Jill Lofald, Art Johnston’s 4th District challenger who was late.

Having mis-remembered what I had been told about the order of appearance of Board members at the Lynching memorial I was a little too eager to link to an unflattering anecdote about Rosie that did not put her in a good light. After having served on the Duluth School Board with Rosie for the past three years I am still inclined to link to those unflattering 2015 posts heret and here.

I have to be careful that when I replant the rhubarb today…

…my head doesn’t fall off into the hole with the manure.

I have good reason to worry about this because, as I just told an unhappy ISD 709 parent who reads my blog, “I have so much in my head to blog about that right now its lying on my floor and if I move to fast it will snap off.

On the other hand, I have five months before the November election to get things off my chest on Lincolndemocrat so maybe I don’t have to do five months worth of blog posts in the next five days. I can probably spread them out.

Trifecta Schmrifecta

Posts that began in my head over a week before but which become placeholders for me to finish are a pain. Life goes on and so does my attention. I am not only watching the developments in the School District campaign ahead but in China and in the ongoing Trumpaloonia. And the books that I’ve been digging into to provide me context on my grandfather’s life for a book that I would like to write – Well, they are on hold too. I’d love to get the book finished by the time the 100th anniversary of his being awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor takes place. But I’ve got a darned school board race to run and China to study before my summer travels.

So, about the Trifecta. Supt. Gronseth had a very good couple of days. Candidates that he can count on to support him no matter what won all the DFL endorsements. That was his first success – trifecta part one, although it’s no guarantee that these candidates will win in the Fall, five months from now. Not having the endorsement hasn’t stopped me from getting elected to the Board 3 times. However, its always nice to have the entire city leafleted with your propaganda a week or two before the election and I expect the Democrats to be energized after last year’s debacle. I began writing about this as part one of the “Trifecta’s” but I’ve lost interest and my reporting some of the details might make people unnecessarily mad at me. I am a politician and making people mad by being “impolitic” has its costs.

Trifecta Part two was the conclusion of the teacher contract negotiations. Once again it was/is an interesting story with details that might make people unnecessarily wary of me. I had people nervous even hinting at things that took place during the Board’s closed meetings. Perhaps that quality helped us reach a contract that gave the teachers less than two successive years of 2% pay increases which is what the State Legislature embedded into the Education bill. The wiggle room we achieved has just allowed the Superintendent to come up with new spending that will soothe some savage breasts. There has been a simmering anger over moving some principals to new schools. One particular hot bed was in Rosie Loeffler-Kemp’s 1st District. Now those reassignments are kaput which puts out the fire and last night the Superintendent gave all the credit to Rosie for having made the parents happy. No such thing occurred but Rosie is his gal. He has also credited her with being the force behind replacing the rubber playground mulch even though Rosie came a year late to the party. Rosie was one of the two Board members who jumped down my throat in closed meeting to discuss our teacher contract negotiations. Ironically, the agreement we got has allowed the Superintendent to placate her first District voters.

Trifecta Part three was the unexpected news at the beginning of last week that the Edison schools have, at least for the time being, given up on building a new high school. This is a subject that put the Superintendent’s majority at some risk because it entailed turning down $14 million badly needed dollars and left continuing to take $3.3 million out of the general fund for Red Plan bond repayments. I talked with the Superintendent about this briefly a couple days ago and he restated his position, that has some merit. Mr. Gronseth argues that the loss of 400 or more high school students to an Edison High would damage our District in the long run – even close Denfeld. On the other hand, turning our back on “competitors” cost us even more than $14 million. By the time you consider the Many Rivers Montessori offers and the rehabbing of Rockridge you could argue that the District lost twenty million. If that loss damages our credibility with angry voters when we next offer an operational levy referendum that would add millions more to the loss. It dwarfs the teacher contract settlement savings we just negotiated. We let a couple birds in the hand fly off. Now only time will tell whether these building non-sales will haunt us. For once I am inclined to believe in ghosts.

There was much more to these trifecti for me to tell than I’ve shared here. Maybe I’ll dredge some of the gritty details out in the future. But for now that’s it. I’m headed to China for my next post.

The Superintendent’s trifecta

I called the Trib’s education reporter Jana Hollingsworth on Tuesday and told her about the tentative settlement of the teachers contract. When she picked up the phone I asked if I’d reached the “Hollingsworth News Tribune.” Her stories that day (four of them) covered the front page. She laughed.

Sorry, I’ve got more gardening to do. I just put this here to force myself to write this post which should have been posted on Wednesday)

***

Ah, now I’m back. It’s 2:15 AM Saturday. This not my preferred time to blog, but what can you do when the cares of the day invade the night?

So Saturday last, the Superintendent enjoyed the first of three remarkable bits of good news which would continue through Tuesday. On this day the Duluth DFL would emerge from its slumbers much like the United States did after the attack on Pearl Harbor. For the Democrats the alarm was spread not on December 7th, 1941, but on November 8th, 2016, the day of Donald Trump’s election. Almost 300 delegates would be seated to endorse candidates for municipal offices for the first Duluth election following that earthquake.

A SHORT PROLOGUE

I had only attended one other DFL endorsing convention and it was quite a contrast. It was 1999 and I was still a nominal Republican. But my good friend Mary Cameron hoped to earn the DFL endorsement and asked me, her de facto if not official campaign manager, to give her moral support at that year’s endorsing convention. I agreed and sat somewhat awkwardly in a small room at the YWCA.

If there were forty people in the room I’d be surprised. It was all the DFL regulars, AFSCME leaders, the candidates, the new school board members elected in 1997 that dearly wanted to take control of the Board, and me, a lone Republican, sitting beside Mary. She didn’t stand a chance. Neither did she stand a chance in her reelection campaign. She was smeared for deciding to stay on the Board while commuting to Syracuse, NY to earn her Masters Degree. It was a campaign organized by fellow school board members who wanted to improve their 4-5 minority status by removing our only real “minority” member and me. I got re-elected despite being “targeted” by the DFT President and May won vindication after completing her Master’s and ended up ousting the Board member who had ousted her in 1999.

(I was able to confirm my memories of this thanks to the “Wayback Machine” which has been capturing websites and recording them for the past two decades. I found several news stories I captured of that Era. Pouring through it is a great time waster.)

TRIFECTA PART ONE: ENDORSEMENTS

TRIFECTA PART TWO: THE CONTRACT

TRIFECTA PART THREE: THE COMPETITION

Sorry, Anybody who thinks writing is a breeze I’ve been at this for two hours – mostly researching. I’ll post this prologue and work on the Trifecta parts later after I make another go at getting some shut eye. Hope I can sleep through the thunder storm that’s just started.

More old news stories from snowbizz.com

https://web.archive.org/web/20010228073446/http://snowbizz.com:80/EdNews1999/4-99Edu/FIGHT4-8.htm

https://web.archive.org/web/20050223091937/http://www.snowbizz.com:80/EdNews1999/8-99Edu/sboarden.htm

https://web.archive.org/web/20010228074520/http://snowbizz.com:80/EdNews1999/4-99Edu/ReplytoGeorge.htm

Settling the Contract –

I may have missed a story about the Teacher contract negotiations but they are likely over as we, Management, and Teachers, shook hands on Tuesday two days ago. The DFT has to take the proposal to the teachers for a vote and then it will come back to the School Board for the final OK – probably at a special meeting next week. To punctuate the conclusions of the negotiations the Superintendent led all concerned on a tour of Old Central’s Clock tower which I haven’t seen in better than a decade. Here are a couple of my pics of that celebration:

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I don’t think I am obligated to mention the details of the contract but I did call both the Trib’s education reporter and Loren Martell to tell them it was over. According to Jana Hollingsworth once something is on paper it is public data. That sounds right but I have no idea if “the paper” been made available to her or Loren.

When it comes time to vote on this I will offer what I consider some sobering insights on the District’s financial future. That said, the State legislature offered up education funding increases that amounted to a 2% increase in each of the next two school years and our teachers, for an important and uncertain consideration, accepted less for these two years. That will give ISD 709 a tiny improvement in its fiscal situation for the next two years.

What will happen in the second consecutive approved contract (the third and fourth years) could be a disaster or a success for the District. Time will tell. Loren was aghast that we did not win concessions on our health care. It wasn’t going to happen with this board and could have caused a protracted year of more of bad feelings while we wrangled over an unsettled contract.

I have no idea if I will be on the Board in four years but I am I will want to have a long public study of the District’s finances to prepare the District for talks in the fifth and sixth years.

During one of the school board’s closed door talks it was suggested that the meager insights I put on the blog could get me censured again for not being a team player. That led to a testy 45 second discussion before we agreed to new parameters which were undoubtedly necessary for the quick end-of-year settlement we seem to have achieved. I hope the Union finds them entertaining when they become public.

I got waxed continued – the DNT > DFL editorial slam

After Claudia got home from a wedding shower and I joked how I’d been waxed she asked if I’d read the DNT editorial lambasting the DFL for endorsing candidates for “non partisan” offices. I hadn’t. Just read it. I disagree although I am sympathetic with the editorial and that’s not because I only got about 10 percent of the delegates vote. But – I have to get ready for church. I have a long summer to upend the DFL endorsees running for the School Board. Its not because they are bad people. Its because they now represent a kind of insular “group think” that is out of step with the people I talk to throughout Duluth on the issue of public education.

Mercifully, now that I am not endorsed I no longer have to abide by my promise not to speak ill of the short comings of the DFL endorsees. Maybe that’s the “ugly” campaign the Superintendent warned one of the non endorsed candidates about.

I got waxed – I like my chances

Of four candidates for the two at-large positions I came in fourth. I got 34 votes the two winners got 234 and 244 votes. There were about 300 delegates with votes.

And yet after my many political scrapes today’s convention was painless for me. It was like staying awake for an open heart surgery with a mirror on the ceiling but with powerful anti-pain medications to completely neutralize the pain. I was able to study the process academically.

There were several factors going against me which other people had sensed a week out.

1st: the forces arrayed against the outsiders on the Board were significant: I haven’t been to the DFL conventions since a little after Obama’s first win but I saw a couple dozen folks with whom I tangled in the past – past board members, union leaders, Democrats. Spread through-out the 40 Precincts or townships they would have had significant influence with the people in their precincts. If the 24 anti-Harry people I counted influenced half a dozen people each I was in rough waters. Furthermore, Rosie Loeffler-Kemp and Annie Harala recruited all the candidates that won. The DFL screening committee recommended everyone of them to the Convention beforehand. Even the candidate who didn’t show up to speak to the convention (usually a big No No) barely lost out of first place voting. I’ve never heard of her and I doubt many of the people voting for her had either.

2nd: It was a pretty gray-haired group. The Bernie Sanders supporters who were out-maneuvered in Hillary-centric Districts last year never got to be delegates plus; because so many of those who did become delegates were college students they had almost no interest in municipal elections if they were even still in town.

3rd: It was a spectacularly well attended off-year endorsement convention. Those 300 delegates brought all the loyal DFLers from years past out. In 1999 I went with Mary Cameron to another off year endorsement convention and only about 30 attended. It was been the Trump victory that energized the Martin Luther King, women and science marches. The old timers made for very Harry skeptical crowd.

4th: In my letter mailed to all delegates didn’t shy away from hinting around about some controversial stands I’ve taken like the refusal to let voters have a say on the Red Plan. By being critical of a project dear to many in the convention I was inviting antagonism. The Red Plan is supposed to be over by now……even if it still pulls $3.4 million a year out of the classroom for bond repayments and makes voters reluctant to pass vital operations levies. People don’t like having their scabs picked off.

5th: It was announced before voting that the Duluth DFL did not permit secret ballots. Delegates would have their votes thrown out if they did not write their names down on the back of the ballots they cast. That’s a heckuva way to enforce group think.

6th: My one secret weapon was utterly traduced – my thoughts and my voice. As Loren Martel, who stood in the back of the hall as I spoke told me – the sound system wasn’t kind to me. Fully half the people sitting in the back couldn’t hear me and many sitting in the front half of the acoustically challenged hall could only hear half of what I said. I had been made aware that I would be hard for people to hear me but this was especially true of men with resonant deep voices like mine. It caused so much feedback that it forced me to back off so that for most of the audience I was silent. Even so, because there were amplifiers nearby, I thought I was blasting out the audience. My only hope of getting people to vote for me was to wow them. I did waw them – in the manner of the teacher in a Charlie Brown specials….”waw Waw, waw Waw, waw Waw, waw Waw.” The only votes I got were from people who liked what I stood for in advance or who felt sorry for me.

This last was the great disappointment of the day. I’m so chagrined by it that I will probably film myself giving it and posting it to you-tube. As it is, I will post the verbiage below for my eight loyal readers to peruse. It took four and a half minutes to deliver but I kept having my microphone messed with by officials to improve the sound quality and the time they futzed around was deducted from my five minutes.

I joked with the new DFT President, Bernie Burnham, afterwords and told her I suddenly had some sympathy with Donald Trump and his alleged microphone tampering during one of his debates with Hillary. Here’s the speech sans my sonorous voice:

I’m Harry Welty. Continue reading

Welcome DFL delegate to today’s endorsing Convention

It will be a long and fascinating day. I’ll keep lots of mental notes. I would also like to provide you with some time fillers during slow periods during the convention that are – blush – (dare I admit it?) a little self serving.

Yes, I live at that house and have for thirty-plus years of snow sculpting.

There are dozens of other examples here.

To the horror of local Republicans I sculpted Bill Clinton in 1992. Check out the Clinton Video and Barack Obama.

This is George Seanor Robb (Grandfather of Harry Robb Welty) shaking hands with JFK at a gathering to celebrate servicemen awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. There is a much more about my Grandfather here and on my blog.

I won’t post the startling photograph of the reenactment of Mankato’s infamous hanging that circulated after news of a Minneapolis Sculpture Garden tribute went awry and made the headlines. I wrote about this dreadful history in the Duluth Reader 15 years ago. My hero Lincoln reduced the number to be hanged from over 300 to the still alarming 38. There was another war going on at the time which took his attention away from a fuller clemency that I’d like to have think he would have preferred.

I wrote over 100 columns for the Reader and have them on my old Website.

You may wish to compare the speech Harry will give today with this one. Harry delivered it on Veterans Day in Topeka, Kansas a few days after Donald Trump was elected. If you start it at 11:30 minutes in it begins with a description of the unusual outfit that My Grandfather served with in World War I. My tribute starts after that.

Finally, I approve of Bernie Sanders campaigning for a pro-life Mayoral candidate of Omaha, Nebraska. If the Republicans have repudiated Ronald Reagan’s “Big Tent” the Democrats better follow Bernie’s example. By the way – I’m pro choice and have made that clear on a number of occasions, for instance here and here (when I first broke with the GOP)

With each passing year it becomes more evident that the Republican Party cares deeply about fetuses up until the moment of their birth. Then Its OK if the world they enter turns Dickensian. It will give them character and if we don’t like it we can just throw them in prison.

Dear DFL Delegate

I’ve missed two great days to garden working on my election and School Board business. There have been lots of email and letters-to-the-editor to consider. Oh, there have been the regular reminders of the new Trump Dystopia we have brought down on ourselves. – Ivanka’s Chinese shoe manufacture having investigators imprisoned for recording the maltreatment of workers who were helping Ivanka’s bottom line. – President Trump catering to the Koch Brother’s desire to pollute without restriction by canceling an international climate control agreement. He says he did it for Pittsburgh not Paris. Pittsburgh’s City Council has rejected the help.

More importantly I sat in on a second round of teacher contract negotiations…………..Argggggerrrrregggggg*******!

Pardon my strangled words. At a closed meeting Tuesday I was sternly instructed by Rosie Loeffler-Kemp not to mention that they were happening on the blog. She has a firm grip on my throat. I was glad that Chair David Kirby joined me at the negotiations. Nothing explosive seemed to have happened as a result of our presence.

I’ve got another busy day planned that will put the gardening off – Drat! And tomorrow I will attend the Duluth DFL endorsing convention seeking Democratic support for my reelection campaign.

This is the letter I sent to about 800 eligible delegates two days ago. I’m guessing only one in ten will actually show up although Trump is probably keeping most of them every bit as on edge as he’s keeping me. Maybe a lot more will show up to convince themselves that can really turn the world back right-side-up:

Dear DFL delegate, Continue reading

And while I’m speaking truth to power…

…These are the 14 Questions from the DFL screening committee and my answers to them:

2017 Screening Committee Questions, City of Duluth DFL

In this questionnaire, we are asking the same questions of all candidates for a given office. When we
conduct the follow-up, in-person screening, questions can, of course, depend on a candidate’s initial
answers on this questionnaire.

SCHOOL BOARD (indicate office you are seeking): At-Large____X____ 2 nd _______ 3 rd________

1.Why are you seeking the DFL endorsement?

I wish to serve my fourth term on the Duluth School Board as a Democrat.

2. Have you been endorsed, or screened for endorsement for any other political parties, groups, or
organizations? If so, who?

I was endorsed by Republicans for the legislature in 1976, 1978 and ran against the endorsed Republican for the legislature in 2002. I parted company with the GOP when I began my blog www.lincolndemocrat.com in 2006.

3. Will you commit to using union materials and services for your campaign when possible? (Will
you support union represented members of staff in the Duluth public schools and work with
them to enhance our public education?)

I like union bugs. And yes, I will continue to work cooperatively with school district staff as I always have for the betterment of our schools.

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. Continue reading

I just can’t help myself

This was intended as a “confidential” email but I am quite content to let the general public see it:

To me from Chuck Frederick, Editorial Page Editor of the Duluth News Tribune:

Hey Harry. I was told you posted on your blog that you were against political parties endorsing in nonpartisan races like those for School Board. Yet you were begrudgingly planning to seek the DFL endorsement this Saturday. First, why do you feel that parties should stay out of nonpartisan races? And if you feel they should why are you pursuing the party nod this Saturday? I’d appreciate your comments. Please feel free to reply. I’d appreciate it. And don’t worry, not planning on being critical of you in an editorial if we choose to do one.

thanks,
Chuck

And my reply:

To: Chuck Frederick
Subject: RE: party endorsement comment

Hi Chuck,

At the DFL screening I told them I wasn’t a fan of partisan endorsements for a non-partisan race. That’s true enough.

But I can’t deny the practical side. This is a traditional tool of Democrats to recruit candidates who can then have a jumping off pad for higher office. The Republicans who sniff at this in Duluth can be sure that Republicans do the same thing in Republican areas. Look at the damned races for judges.

I said I begrudgingly did something but that was at our special school board meeting. That was about spending money on fixing up Rockridge or spending general fund money on bonds. About the DFL I am being pragmatic.

I have a couple overlapping motives. The first I tell you in confidence. I don’t want a couple of my DFL board adversaries to get the 60 percent votes for endorsement that will assure them tons of Party help in the late fall. 2nd, I would like an easy election for a change. I have never had any good endorsements other than the Trib’s in 1999 and 2013.

Finally, I have had it up to here with no nothings. I have never reviled democrats. I like the idea of wrapping a perfectly respectable party around myself at this time of foolish, ignorant, hyper-partisanship. I detest Trump and blame the GOP for his destructive success. I want the Democrats to bring the blue collar voters back for a healthier nation.

And there is something else I would rather do this summer than knock on doors. I want to begin writing a book about my Grandfather. He was a rock-ribbed, Kansas Republican who wasn’t paranoid about Democrats. An easy campaign will give me freedom to pursue this.

Harry

For the record I don’t think publishing this before Saturday will make it any easier for me to win the nomination but I don’t care. If I have to campaign like hell I’ll do it. We have some extremely myopic school board members and we need some fresh blood. I don’t think mine is past the sell by date.

Between a Rockridge and a hard place

That was my groaner at last night’s special meeting of the Duluth School Board. It was so inspired I used it twice and so bad that the second time I said it Nora Sandstad thought I owed the Board an apology.

We had three “facilities” issues on our plate last night A. approval of changes in our ten year building maintenance plan made necessary by putting two new projects on it (the Rockridge makeover and playground mulching) B. OK’ing a contract for the Stowe Playground renovation C. Approving a five year bond to pay for these projects. Somewhere in all of this was a new roof for Lakewood Elementary. Jana Hollingsworth explains it all in the DNT today.

I went along with the Board majority on all of this pleasantly but grudgingly. The Board majority painted us into a corner by its refusal to consider selling our buildings to “competitors.” When other deals fell through we had no back-ups to sell the costly white elephants to. This undermined a primary element of the original Red Plan financing scheme that promised we could help finance the mega-plan by selling off our unneeded facilities for $29 million. That would have helped us retire some of the bonds which we are now being forced to repay annually from our General Fund to the tune of $3.4 million (34 teachers worth).

I couldn’t blame Art and Alanna for symbolic votes against some of our decisions but having been painted into a corner I saw little else we could do but walk away across the freshly painted surface. I have spent the last year objecting to being put in that corner but once there I was stuck an no symbolic vote was going to undo the damage.

The chief drivers of our decision making have softened up a bit. After the last election it was the Superintendent and Chair Harala and Clerk Rosie Loeffler-Kemp who were in the driver’s seat. Fighting our “competitors” off tooth and nail was the order of the day and in the first year they were allied with this year’s Chairman Dr. David Kirby and Nora Sandstad. There is obviously some history between some of these folks. During the 2013 election Annie posted wedding photo’s on Facebook which showed Rosie, Nora and another candidate for the Board that year, Renee Van Nett, together with the wedding party. Renee is now a leader in the DFL so I’ll probably see her at Saturday’s endorsing convention. She will also be a candidate for the City Council this year.

David has proven to be the best and fairest Chairman of the School Board of the four I’ve served with in this term and Nora has grown comfortable charting her own course. But Annie and Rosie have Continue reading

Art Johnston digs into East Central Denfeld enrollment numbers

They are alarming:

Notes:
1. When Denfeld students went to Central HS in 2010, the combined student enrollment dropped 355 students from the previous year. And East gained 172 students.

2. When Central and Denfeld students went back to Denfeld (after Central closed) in 2011, the combined student enrollment dropped another 216. And East gained another 100.

3. In the seven years from 2009 to 2016, Denfeld/Central has dropped 867 students or a 46% drop. And East has increased 177 students or a 14% gain.

4. It is clear from this data that the boundaries between Denfeld and East have not been enforced, and that many students from Denfeld or Central enrolled in East.

5. This data is similar in trend to Denfeld vs. East graduation numbers.

Misc on Memorial Day

Family and Memorial Day activities pulled me away from the blog again but on Sunday my mind was on overdrive thinking about starting a week-long series on the Fourth District campaign that is shaping up. That’s the far western Duluth District. It was on my mind in my post about condescension.

This is in response to someone I’d rather not name who reportedly predicted that this year’s school board race was going to get ugly. Hell, it couldn’t come close to getting as ugly as the entire first two years I spent back on the school Board. The two remaining board members who brought about two censures and tried to get rid of a fellow board member based on vile and unsupported accusations have been recruiting candidates. Let’s hope the campaign is spirited and centered around the serious subjects of equity and raising the money we need to hire more teachers.

As for me, I’m for burying hatchets. On that note I was invited by my old friend, Mary Cameron, to attend her Friday retirement reception at UMD. She remained on the Board that Keith Dixon took over after my retirement in 2004 and our subsequent disagreement over the Red Plan threatened to break our ten-year long friendship. We have kissed and made up but I’m chagrined to report I just discovered I missed that reception. I have never been good at coordinating my calendars. I had a paper calendar covered with papers that reminded me of the date but did not have it in my cell phone calendar that I have only begun using.

I may have taken a break from politics this weekend but but that’s not true of everyone. As I tended a patch of stonecrop on 21st Avenue I greeted City Councilor Joel Sipress who was walking past my house. We chatted a bit and he told me he was calling on delegates for next week’s DFL convention lining up support for an endorsement for his District seat. I have not done this to any degree myself yet. I certainly won’t be going door to door because I am running across the whole city and the 700 or so delegates are far beyond my ability to call on in a week’s time. I will begin contacting them tomorrow by phone.

Joel is a bit of a model for me. Until recently he was affiliated with the Green Party as I was once affiliated with the GOP. If the Democrats are to rise like a Phoenix they had better prepare to be welcoming – “Big tent” style. Bernie Sanders had that idea when he recently went to Omaha, Nebraska, to campaign for a Democratic Mayoral candidate. He was roundly criticized for this by a faction of women in the party who were angry that the Democratic mayoral candidate was pro-life. That’s no way to win back the White House or Congress or the State legislatures and Governorships that have come under Republican control.

And a sad note:

The Superintendent just texted all the School Board members about an accident involving our students. There is no respite for a school superintendent.

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.