Category Archives: Duluth Schools

Its not surprising what caused me to go two steps backward…

…it was my planned post to offer a small correction to an Op Ed piece about Duluth School District finance. This one:

This is my basic quibble:

Mr. Skwira-Brown (a fighter for Western Duluth Schools who I have failed on an occasion or two to persuade to run for the school board) argues that the current School Board has abandoned its recent decision to let Compensatory Education dollars follow students to the schools where the funds are generated – where the highest rates of impoverished students go to school. NOPE.

That magnificent policy still stands. However, a loss of something like a million dollars in Comp Ed funding has meant drastic reductions to all schools that generate it including Eastern schools which also have such students, only in smaller numbers. Each school today still gets its appropriate cut of the dollars its students generate. Its just that they are all taking a hit.

If Mr. Skwira-Brown thinks even more of the District’s money (from the General Fund) should go to his hardscrabble western schools that’s a debate worth having. But that doesn’t negate the good policy the recent Board enacted regarding Comp Ed funding.



Bless the DFL’ers

I got a bit of cheerful news today. I learned that the DFL in Duluth decided not to endorse a candidate for the At Large School Board race. No one achieved the extra large majority demanded for endorsement. The candidate I thought had it made in the shade, the ex-Chair of the local DFL, was in Europe while delegates met. From that far reach he was not able to capitalize on his former ties. In fact, Alanna Oswald was just ahead of him in two votes. In each vote she bested him by two. I gather that she had some very enthusiastic supporters at the convention.

I take back a lot of my complaints about the local DFL from a few posts ago. Alanna is the best school board Rep this city has had over the last quarter century, bar none…….not even me. It would be a pleasure to serve with her for another four years. Look for her orange lawnsign in my yard soon.

Ah ha, I found a picture of one of them in a google search.

Today’s news requires me to lay out my first campaign plank/planks.

And these are no where near the top of my list in importance.

The Red Plan set aside about 18 million dollars to fix up Old Central High School. It was spent on other goodies instead. I can’t recall how much the cost of repairs had risen to when I was on the Board, perhaps ten million more. Today the Trib reports that the current estimated fix up costs are $48.5 million.

When I was on the Board in about 2002, Garry Krause asked me to second a motion to discuss selling Central despite its iconic and historic value. A buyer who has subsequently bought other abandoned Duluth Schools even came into the picture. But Old Central (also referred to as HOCH Historic Old Central High) remains.

Here’s my first campaign position. If we can sell it to someone who would abide by the National Historic Preservation guidelines I’d sell it in a heartbeat pending a vote of Duluth in a referendum to take place preferably in 2020 when the maximum voter turnout can be expected.

No Boards before the Red Plan or afterwards has been willing to raise taxes to bring it into full repair. It is a lovely symbol of our schools but a terrible drag on them as well. I personally don’t want to case a vote as one of seven school board members to sell it without public support and in this case I don’t think my election in 2019, should I succeed, ought to count.

On the other hand my view on New (but abandoned) New Central is simpler. I’d vote to spend the million or so needed to demolish it. I would do so for two reasons. It costs money to maintain. It will pull down the price we can claim for selling the land to a private developer. HOWEVER! I am in no hurry to sell the land unless we got an offer we couldn’t refuse. Today I’d say that price should be fifteen to twenty million dollars. Why see it so dear? Because our District has held empty land for years for future use. I think global warming, unless it can be reversed – and it probably can’t will make Duluth a prime location for coastal and sounthern people to move to. That could make a third high school necessary and there could be no better location for a third high school than in this central location. It would be Central risen as a phoenix from the ashes.

On my mark, Get set…….

I have a week to organize myself for my school board campaign. I’ll have two shots at a Reader column before its publisher cuts me off as a candidate. I sent one in today. It contains a cartoon I drew borrowing heavily from a children’s illustration. I figure that I’ve had a year to undo the damage Donald Trump inflicted on my school board campaign in 2017 by leaving Duluth’s outraged voters under the mistaken impression that by voting against me they were voting against Trump. Actually, I have enjoyed my vacation from the School Board and the Superintendent. Thank you Donald.

Here’s the cartoon. You will have to wait until the Reader comes out to see how its used.

Since the blog will be my daily contact with voters I’ve gotten interested in seeing how much attention it attracts by analyzing this year’s blog stats. Although less than half complete June is by far the most visited month for a long time, maybe ever. I’ve averaged 4,674 page views a day. And each “pageview” includes twenty posts.

In looking at my blog I checked out the very first post from March of 2006 where I declared my separation from the Republican Party. I also just discovered a post meant to be a quick reference to finding stuff on my first website:

What does 10,538 pageviews yesterday mean?

For those new readers joining my “eight loyal readers”……

I’m no Mark Twain. I’m no David Brooks. I’m not Sam Cook. (Duluth News Trib readers will know who he is…..although we’ve been confused for each other on occasion and we were both born in Kansas)

I’m a fellow who is addicted to knowledge (In high school I learned about Faust and his bargain with the devil to become omnipotent) At about the same time I clasped Socrates’s maxim to heart – “The unexamined life is not worth living.” I’m a politician, a teacher, and a writer and I won’t shut up in any of these endeavors. And furthermore, in all of these endeavors I’m guided by my addiction to knowledge and my daily fight against ignorance……especially willful ignorance….such as…..“I know you may be right but I find you so annoying that I’ll be damned if I’ll admit it” ignorance.

Its this last kind of ignorance that particularly troubles me. Its the sort of ignorance that leads to war and its bounty of death and destruction. Ironically, like a good fight sometimes war cleans the deck. But in today’s age on the verge of a Sixth Extinction or worse backing away from this kind of ignorance is particularly important.

In this I am right behind the next generation of young people abandoning the Republican Party. I have far more faith in them to protect my grandson’s future than the Alzheimers Network’s (Fox News) voters. The GOP’s favorite media lives by the same dim witted mantra as Donald Trump. “If Black Lung is good enough for West Virginia its good enough for America.”

Before I return to my message to new readers just let me mention one more Trump Era excrescence (that’s a fifty cent word for shit) Australia which is being hit harder by Global Warming than any other part of the Earth than the poles and killing off the extraordinary Great Barrier Reef just elected a Trumpian who wants to ignore the enviorment and sell more coal to China. How is China going to use this bounty. Its about to build 145 coal burning electrical generators in African and Asian nations even while China is shuttering its own coal-fired plants that made its capital the smog capitol of the world for the last twenty years. There are no words for such folly.

I write to be noticed. I write to win elections. I write to win hearts. I write to make people think and just maybe to show off 68 years of accumulated wisdom and knowledge. I try to write with some with and good cheer. The topics, being all to tangled with human ego, are not necessarily funny…….certainly not planetary extinction.

So, yesterday I had over 10,000 pageviews. I presume that’s largely because I put lots of links to previously well read posts. I’m adding more. The Trump ignoring editors of the Duluth News Tribune are a little sensitive about my criticism. I don’t know if they will be willing to endorse me. I don’t think its much of a problem if they don’t. BUT…..I have my work cut out for me this year. Two years ago I was not reelected to the Duluth School Board by a ton of anguished voters who thought by voting me off they were rescuing Duluth from Donald Trump. Ignorance is such a bummer. Curing it takes daily, hourly work.

And my beef isn’t with the Reporters of the Trib. Heck a couple days ago one of the reporters who covered me on the Duluth School Board gave me the friendliest call out as she drove by my front lawn. Nope. Its the poor editors under the thumb of a Koch-like media operation. They find me prickly.

10,538 pageviews means I’m not dependent upon the editors of the Duluth News Tribune to explain how crazy I am. I can do that myself just fine…..thank you very much!

If I have to lie to get elected I don’t want to be elected

And I do want to get elected:

I missed my deadline for the Reader. I haven’t done any serious recent blog postings but a few days ago I responded to a Facebook comment that every beginning teacher ought to be paid $60,000.

I took a little break after an hour’s French studies to clear my mind and I began thinking about that post and my reply which is copied below.

That $60,000 salary is bullshit. Its bullshit in the same way as some folks are saying the United States should pay full tuition for every college student. I called it Pie-in-the-sky in my reply which I think was thoughtful but America doesn’t need thinking on the left to be as addled as Trump’s tweets.

Here’s the facts. Public School Teachers make good livings. They are paid the same whether they are brilliant or mediocre. This offends some Republicans but who cares. Let them go into teaching. I’ve known dynamic teachers who petered out because of the demands of the job. Its called “burn out.” The challenge for any successful school is to prevent burn out. Using high pay to keep teachers motivated is a lost cause. It’s a lost cause that teacher’s unions chase after vigorously. They are as addicted to pushing up high wages as District Attorneys too often are by high conviction rates……whether the convicted are guilty or not. The rates become their bragging rights for reelection. Ditto teacher politicians in their unions. “We got you more pay and we poured out a lot of crocodile tears about all the other stuff like big classes. Keep us negotiating for more of the same.”

For instance, in Duluth our Teacher’s Union has made it damn near impossible to hire more teachers. Every scrap of money the state gives us goes into to paying existing teachers not hiring more to have smaller classes. When I asked Frank Wanner, then the DFT President, why his union would not support a levy referendum request in 1997 that the Board promised to use to hire additional specialist teachers his response to me was “What’s in it for us?” meaning the existing teachers. But the DFT got behind the Red Plan. They had to to stay in good stead with Duluth’s languishing construction unions and supported the ruinous Red Plan that diverted so much local levy into building bonds at the expense of a couple hundred existing teaching jobs. Ah, but after silencing teachers worried about the Red Plan, Frank did ridicule the School Board after the Red Plan’s damage was done – for not knowing better. Thanks a lot.

Some union leaders do see the forest for the trees. I once fell in love with the AFT’s (American Federation of Teachers) gnarly old President Al Shanker. As he aged he realized that public schools owed more to their students. Please read the link.

Here is a basic truth about teacher pay. Teachers, protected by tenure and unions, have it pretty good if they are reasonably good teachers. First, Its a secure job. Its protected during economic downturns because the public will continue to keep them employed. Second, Its a job with a summer vacation. I know. I know!!!!! Teachers hate it when this is thrown into their face but its undeniable. Three months of summer off to take more classes for a higher better paying degree, or to garden or to travel. Hell, I wanted to be a teacher for this reason. My father left a full time public job to become a college teacher who taught one summer session but discovered he could take his kids on six week camping trips to introduce them to America and Canada. Third, Its modest wages (which are looking better and better to a lot of low level service employees these days) are vastly supplemented by a generous public retirement plan… many states like Minnesota. My Dad’s TRA money covered half my Mother’s living expenses and housing needs until she died after six years in a dementia wing of a nursing home here in Duluth. Fortunately, she had some other income and savings for the other half thanks to prudent children who looked out after her interests.

What I wrote in my reply was this:

Harry Welty: Easy to say but a very tall order. How about guaranteeing all parents $40,000. How about guaranteeing no classroom has more than 25 kids. Both are worthwhile goals but pie in the sky. If Duluth was to implement this overnight on its property taxes I can’t calculate the cost but I can imagine it. $60,000 is probably the average pay without benefits for a Duluth teacher. Starting everyone at this salary might be like giving 500 teachers 10,000 each or $5 million. It won’t reduce class sizes. It won’t make kids learn more. Multiplied across America It will make Democrats very unpopular overnight.

A FRIEND’S REPLY: It is a commentary on our society that people would rebel against paying teachers a decent wage – commensurate with the importance of the job. But, people pay hundreds to see a professional sporting event, and the players are paid exorbitant salaries. We pay thousands for vehicles, and auto executives make millions. We pay for those salaries, and maybe we don’t like it, but we keep buying cars and trucks and we keep going to sporting events. But, we won’t pay what teachers are truly worth. It shows how little we truly value education.

Harry Welty: I can’t disagree with you. The challenge is addressing multiple priorities simultaneously. Gas taxes for infrastructure. Taxes for preschools. Taxes for conservation of federal lands and Health care The list is long and has been neglected for a long time while the Kochs and their ilk were spared. I take Bernie’s advocacy as a worthy goal but not as a practical one.

Shining Your Shoes – My latest Not Eudora Column

Robert Sumner Mars May 21, 1926 – July 10, 2016

It begins:

I’m the odd Republican on a largely Democrat Inspired Facebook page where I’ve been watching the intergenerational tug-o-war between Biden and Bernie supporters and everybody else. There’s nothing new in this. John Kennedy heralded a changing of the guard when he became the second youngest President in 1960 giving the parents of baby boomers their moon shot to remake America. Now in 2019 its the Baby Boomers turn to stand in the way.

I had my own tug-o-war with a representative of JFK’s generation. It came to an end when Bob Mars died in 2016.

Read on.

A failed teacher may take on a teacher of Principals

David Kirby announced recently that he will run for the School Board again to represent the 2nd School Board District. I once represented the 2nd District. I’d like to do it again especially because the next School Board will be choosing a new School Superintendent. David once told me that before he became a doctor he taught school principals how to be principals.
I rediscovered the story below today and thought it would offer an interesting contrast between us. But first:

I have always gotten along well with the reporters who covered the Duluth School Board. So, I was surprised last year when one of them, Tom Wilkowske, wrote something dismissive of me on Facebook related to my candidacy for the Duluth School Board. I suspect he found my handing him a letter that I sent Frank Wanner, the teacher’s union President, a tad inflammatory. It was. At the time the School Board was locked in a war with the Union which was hell bent on to forcing a teacher’s strike. My letter ended up being a banner headline in the Trib the next day. ( (Here’s more on the Union President’s long history of ridiculing the School Board.)

Or maybe Tom was troubled by my nationally publicized use of a voodoo doll to make a grand exit from my school board chairmanship. It could be many other things that soured Tom on me. My support of Edison – my dispute over the Red Plan – my defense of an ornery fellow school board member, Art Johnston. Maybe it was this.

I am coming closer to breaking my wife’s heart by filing yet again for the School Board this Fall. To prepare the voting public I’m sharing the story Mr. Wilkowske wrote about me after I was elected Chair of the Duluth School Board:


Duluth News Tribune (MN) (Published as Duluth News-Tribune (MN)) – January 25, 1998
· Author/Byline: Tom Wilkowske/News-Tribune staff writer
If failing as a junior high school teacher 10 years ago is among Harry Welty’s greatest disappointments, being elected Duluth SchoolBoard chairman this month may be among his sweetest victories. Continue reading

I owe Nora, Sally and Josh an apology – Here it is…

I don’t have it in me to watch Duluth School Board meetings so I relied on the story in the Duluth News Tribune to pontificate about the recent decision to keep $777,000 from the General Fund out of payments to Red Plan building bonds and keep it in the classroom:

Here is the pertinent part that I wrote in the Fulcrum post:

This [DNT] story explains how three school board members (who were playing Republicans) voted to turn their back on $700,000 annually for Duluth’s public school classrooms (7 teachers worth) to show off their fiscal conservatism. They didn’t want to raise taxes by a half million over the next fifteen years to put $700,000 a year into the classrooms.”

Because this was a DNT story and because the DNT’s coverage of the School Board is threadbare I didn’t want to mention the three school board members name in my blog piece. I left it to readers to find them in the Trib story I linked to. I would have been better off reading Loren Martell’s always longish reportage of this school board meeting. Martell makes clear that the cost to taxpayers is not a half million dollars but four point three million dollars.

I’ve also learned a couple other tidbits. The Administrators and the Finance experts, who are going to make a mint on the modest savings that their refinancing will produce, made it very hard to tell what the financial consequences of their refinancing was. It was Nora Sandstad and Sally Trnka who doggedly pulled this information out of the Board’s guests. Good for them. It is so typical of Superintendent Gronseth to withold any information that might damage his reputation. Check out this story in the Zenith News. Gronseth’s opacity cost the District to fork over $55,000 to Art Johnston to avoid a much worse fate in a court of law.

Perhaps it was because of the Superintendent’s sneakiness that he lost three votes to preserve that $700,000 per year for our classrooms. As I made clear in the Fulcrum post I understand how the Red Plan drained the classroom budget. I’d have been hard pressed not to accept the financing to let it go through even at a $4 plus million pricetag. BUT, it would have been easy me for to vote against it knowing I would lose the vote. Voting against is was a way to slap the Superintendent’s hand.

My post Red Plan mantra is: Punish the lunkheads who put the District behind the fiscal eight ball but not the children.

Old News – A blogging “agist” rattles the School Board

Any new readers to this column may not know that I was a sometimes controversial member of the Duluth Board for twelve of the last 24 years. Loren Martell, the Reader columnist who has doggedly replaced and excelled the News Tribune as the chronicler of the Board, took my advice from a year ago and listened in on the tapes of closed School Board meetings about the 2017 Contract negotiations. As he explains in this week’s column these are kept confidential until the negotiations for all our bargaining units are completed. Afterwards, they are available to the public. Until Loren the only people who ever listened to them were members of the various unions who wanted to get ideas for the next round of negotiations.

Loren summarized the three closed meetings we conducted my last year on the School Board. I was amused that he recorded the bickering between me and my fellow board member, Annie Harala, in the second meeting. She was probably in fifth grade during my most challenging contract negotiations which took place in 1997 when Duluth’s teachers were hellbent on a strike. Her mother, a former teacher’s union negotiator, likely shared her prejudices about me with her school board daughter. Here’s Loren quoting us verbatim:

Meeting two

The middle meeting, 5/31/17, was held so that Administration could get the go-ahead for negotiating four years (two, two-year) of contracts with teachers. Friction between some Board members grew fairly intense, when Superintendent Gronseth mentioned that teacher representatives had expressed concern about comments member Welty had posted on his blog about the negotiations.

Member Harala dressed Welty down with the most pointed ire: “We want our negotiations to go well, and we don’t want what happened, historically, the last time you were on the Board, when you had to quit being Chair and the voodoo doll and all of that stuff–we don’t need that! What we want to do is move forward and have healthy conversations with our staff…”

“I will operate the way I think makes the most sense for me.” Mr. Welty responded. “I’m quite familiar with what took place in the past and make no apologies for it. I probably prevented a strike.”
“That’s fine.” Harala shot back. “We’re not moving towards that (a strike.) You were the leader at that time; it didn’t work. And now you don’t have that leadership role on our Board.”
Mr. Welty fired back: “Well, you’re speaking as though you have a great deal of knowledge about what took place at those negotiations a long time ago, and you were in third grade at the time.”
“Excuse me! I would ask that you not use such age-ist comments!”
I’ll make an age-ist comment about this internecine squabbling. It’s probably getting pretty old, so I’ll move on.

Years ago I explained that dramatic negotiation in my old Website. I titled the lengthy story “Who do the Voodoo? I do.” It’s a fifteen minute read unless you follow all the links I embedded in it. (many of them may no longer work twenty years after I wrote this). Reading everything could take an afternoon.

I have church to go to. I’ll edit this later re: George Bush and other stuff

This Harry’s Diary post didn’t start out with a title drawing attention to my dawdling over posts. But its a good reminder to my eight loyal readers that I don’t always consider my posts finished even at first posting……and here’s a pic of the cookies we decorated for shut ins at Glen Avon Presbyterian last night.

I watched the funeral for President George H W Bush this afternoon. Last night I watched, for the first time, the two-hour American Experience program about George Bush. It is at least ten years old. I learned some new things most of which softened me up toward the man I wouldn’t vote for in 1992.

Although I voted for George and Ron in 1984 George lost my support initially when he joined the Reagan campaign as the VP candidate. In 1980 I couldn’t bring myself to vote for a Democrat so I voted for Independent candidate John Anderson.

My principle grievance is simple. As Reagan’s successors turned their back on Reagan’s “big tent,” George Bush could only succeed by being complicit in the new GOP regime’s marginalization of moderates like me and like George Bush had once been. Where has the party of Lincoln gone?

I was reminded of this during my ongoing process of reorganizing my office files today. In a folder labeled “Crazy Republicans” was this newspaper clipping: Reuter’s story. 30 percent of Republicans considered Obama a worse threat than Russia. Holy S’moley!!!!!!!

It has been reported that the Clintons and Trump did not shake hands when Donald made his sulky appearance at George Bush’s funeral. I don’t blame them. He led cheers of “Lock her up.” at his rallies. That’s close to the equivalent of saying “F*** America” considering that over half of the votes went for Hilary Clinton in 2016. Think of that – Trump’s “Republicans” wanted to jail the American that half of America voted for for President. Is it any wonder that Hillary’s supporters are licking their lips at the prospect that the President who led that cheer might himself face a life behind bars? Would Pence pardon him? I wonder. It cost Jerry Ford the Presidency in 1976.

Although winnowing my voluminous files has been my primary activity for the past few weeks I managed to crank out a new column for tomorrow’s Reader. Its called 100 pints of blood. I also applied to renew my substitute teaching license. Returning to the classroom, even as a sub, has intrigued me for the past twenty years. I chatted with 709’s Human Resource Director for a summary of how to go about doing it. It turned out to be pretty simple.

Among the items I reorganized yesterday were the documents from my legal challenge to the District in 2009 “Welty et al” vs. the Duluth School District and Johnson Controls. I rediscovered one of our attorney’s discoveries which greatly amused me.

The current School Board’s attorney, Kevin Rupp, had a hand in that case defending the Board against me and four other plaintiffs. In the Trib he claimed that a school district could not be sued for violating its own policies. Here’s what the plaintiffs attorney, Craig Hunter, discovered:

This only amplifies my frustration at not having been successful in severing our School board’s ties with Rupp’s firm when I served on the School Board. NOTE: Readers of this blog will find ample examples of my jaundiced view of Mr. Rupp’s legacy in this blog.

And while our lawsuit fell apart for reasons pinned to Mr. Hunter he had the District scared witless while single-handedly fighting off dozens of attorneys for three top legal firms. I found Craig a sensible and honorable man. I’d hire him in a flash if I needed legal help again.

Glad that’s over with…..OMG, there’s another election coming!!!!!

I’m too fatigued from worry to think much about the 2020 election but I’m sure it will be another doozy. I simply feel relief. A Reagan Era Republican and columnist Max Boot said it was a “rebuke” but not the “repudiation” he had hoped for. I am disappointed but not dissatisfied. I have one ultimate objective. I want the restoration of the Party of Lincoln. I don’t see how that can happen anytime soon if ever.

Under the best circumstances it will take a decade for voters to forget what Donald Trump said and did to shore up his base. As Republicans voters age and die and Democrats undo state-by-state the election law mischief of the last ten years they will deserve the Congressional level ignominy that they endured in the post world War II years. I was going to add “but didn’t deserve” but then I remembered Joe McCarthy, the Red Scare and the HUAC Investigations. But that all happened before I hit First grade. After that “Cloth coat” Republicans suffered a couple decades out of power. (It was forty-six years in the House of Representatives! From 1948 to 1994)

Here are a few of my takeaways: Continue reading

A tale of two Editorial Boards

These days I’m not cranking out five or ten daily posts as I have in the past. I’m being very selective. Even my eight loyal readers eyes must be burning out from gazing at their cell phones this election cycle. But before I attend to this post’s headline I have to follow up the powerful video I posted last night from Fox News’s, Shep Smith, on the real threat of the Migrant caravan, still one thousand miles from the border. Even if it doesn’t crumble under withering 105 degree temperatures it won’t even reach America at its current pace for 44 days – a full month after the election!

As this morning’s NPR interview with an economist makes clear keeping migrants out impoverishes all Americans. Our public schools and colleges don’t spend much time training American students to clean motel rooms, bus tables, or pick vegetables.

Now to this post’s headline.

I was taken aback by the DNT’s Editorial headline this morning – “Yes,” “no,” “no,” on School Questions concerning the School District three part ask for tax revenues. Continue reading

Politics at the DNT

The new more fair and balanced Duluth Trib that has apparently been endorsing a bunch of Republicans did them all a big favor a few years ago by dropping Gary Trudeau’s Doonesbury. If it hadn’t been for Facebook I would have missed this one. It gives me hope that despite my agnosticism the evangelical God will welcome me into heaven.

But not everything out of the Trib rings false. They did not endorse my 2013 school board opponent, Nancy Nilsen, for the County Auditor’s position. Instead they pointedly mentioned her role as a Duluth school board member helping give birth to the Red Plan.

Le quatrième jour

I summed up our fourth day of travels this way in my Facebook post:

“We left Paris – for now – well organized and ubered ourselves to the St. Lazare Gare and a smooth RxR ride to Rouan where for a couple of fraught hours we struggled with travel glitches due to an auto pick up and massive crowds at an unexpected Saturday side walk days sale.

But we are in full “glass half full” mode so I will leave you with images from the similarly unexpected light show we saw last night projected onto Rouen’s Cathedral. The Norman’s are proud of their ties with England and their Viking Heritage too. They also make good hard cider.”

I’ll just post 3 images of Joan of Arc’s city of execution, all of them of the Famous Rouen Cathedral.

It was the first stop for Paris bound American tourists in the early 18th Century and for the bumptious Americans the lofty ancient cathedral blew their minds. It was probably two or three times taller than any building in America at that time. It was meant to blow people’s minds like all the other Gothic cathedrals of Europe, imbuing them with the awe of God and beckoning them on pilgrimages for the local promoters, ateliers and religious functionaries.

Enthusiasts for the French tradition of impressionism will remember Claude Monet’s 30 or so paintings of the Cathedral in different light as part of his impressionistic experimentation. And thus the first image of one of his paintings that I took in Paris’s Orsay museum: Continue reading

Giving the Duluth School District short shrift

I presume that one hallmark of my eight loyal readers is their interest in following my observations about the Duluth School District. That’s understandable. I’ve been an integral part of the District for 12 years as a School Board member and many more as a curious and opinionated observer watching the District as an outsider. Well the past summer I’ve almost stopped posting about anything other than details related President Trump and my challenge of his new best buddy, Pete Stauber, and his congressional campaign. Well, that will change. Now I’m into France and back to my obligation to pontificate about the Duluth Schools.

To that end I commend the latest column by Loren Martell in the Reader. Loren’s most valuable gift to Duluth is taking down the actual recorded quotes of our elected representatives during the mostly unwatched Duluth School Board meetings. Its a dreadful responsibility that he’s taken on.

I will share one telling quote from the last meeting taken down by Loren with a few sharp observations but first you should know that I expect to diverge from Loren’s take on the biggest issue facing the District this November. That is the referendum for increasing local taxes to prop up the badly hobbled, Red Plan plagued District.

I will support all three levels of increased support that the District is asking for. I know, I know! Property taxes are the most “regressive” taxes. They lean heavily on the poor both homeowners and renters and landlords giving the rich Red Plan crazed enthusiasts a pass. I know, I know! Passing the levy will allow a Superintendent I have little confidence in a victory that may saddle the District with his presence far into the future. I know, I know! The residents of Duluth have been taken for a costly ride on the Red Plan with no stop at Go to collect $200.00. I’m sorry. Our kids are worth it.

Now, about that quote from Jill Lofald. When I first heard that Jill was planning to run for the school board I was enthusiastic. I thought she might run against Annie Harala and me. Then I discovered she was running against Art Johnston. My suspicion was that she had been recruited to become another cheerleader for Supt. Gronseth. I think I was right. Also, Jill struck me as yet another district insider, like her predecessors Mike Miernicki and Bill Westholm, who would never have the courage to make anyone mad by (gasp) taking a hard necessary stand. Loren makes it clear that that fear of mine has legitimate:

Here’s Jill’s quote related to the unwillingness of the Superintendent to pass on the financial details concerning the District to the elected members of the School Board: Continue reading

Here’s a cheap picture to keep you reading to the end of the post.

The DNT editors endorsed the candidate that strikes me as being the toughest challenger to Pete Stauber on the DFL side today. That’s Joe Radinovich. I can’t argue with their reasoning although its likely to make the supporters of the other four DFLer’s apoplectic. Let’s hope they don’t surrender to Pete Stauber in their disgust.

I discovered that an old acquaintance of mine, Tom West, who used to edit the DNT’s former Budgeteer has offered a brief analysis of all the Minnesota Congressional campaigns for the ECM newspapers. (East Central Minnesota papers) Tom called me a “gadfly” and I gratefully agree. Tom once offered me a job writing for the Budgeteer after reading my work in the Duluth Reader. I declined out of loyalty to Duluth’s now twenty year old tabloid.

With two weeks of campaign left before August 14th’s primary I have been shifting away from a campaign intended mostly as a symbolic stab at Donald Trump clones. My original thought that I might catch lightning in a bottle has not panned out and with two weeks left that is an all but impossible hope. Even Donald needed about half a year to dismantle the GOP Presidential contenders he faced. I am not one for irrational optimism. Back in 1982 I was a campaign manager for, Marnie Luce, a pro choice republican candidate running against the very Pro-life, Jim Oberstar, for Congress. I got in dutch with Marnie’s supporters when I told a reporter that I thought Marnie regarded the campaign as a “lark.” Sometimes one doesn’t need to tread all that heavily on the obvious.

I’ve been planting trees at our church and painting the bell tower recently. I have a second coat to apply today. Then I’ve got a weekend trip to Chicago with my family to see the musical Hamilton. My Grandson’s have come close to memorizing the lyrics and that, by itself, is worthy of a post sometime after we return. My oldest readers have noticed that for the last month or two I’ve held back writing about many of my usual subjects to focus on my “campaign” for Congress. That’s been part of my attempt to attract a lightning strike. The Duluth School Board doesn’t fit well into national politics or Donald Trump’s tweets.

But sometimes I have no choice. Today’s DNT put Art Johnston on the front page again. After eight frustrating years of trying to get the School District’s Red Plan addled administration to hand over public information about the Duluth Schools the state agency in charge of public data came down on Art’s side. Superintendent Bill Gronseth has been as stingy with this public data as Donald Trump has been of his tax records. I wonder why?

For the four years I’ve been on the school board and in my subsequent year of retirement I’ve been thinking about writing a book about how America got so dysfunctional these days. Of course, that implies some kind of Trumpian golden age. Well, there has never been such a thing. Donald Trump who dissed the loser John McCain for getting captured by the Vietnamese and who said that his personal Vietnam was avoiding venereal disease in the 1970’s might like to go back to this forgotten episode of America’s Twentieth Century history. Back in these golden days America knew which sex to put behind bars and it wasn’t the one with big hands.