Category Archives: Duluth

Candidate Welty’s view

It’s Online here with the headline: Incumbent’s View: Red Plan fight isn’t over; funds needed for classrooms.

This is my text in full:

I have much to be modest about when asking Duluth voters for a fourth term on the Duluth School Board. My determination to bring about equity, my candor, and my experience are, however, something I value deeply and which I think recommend my continuing service.

I ran four years ago determined to make the Red Plan a thing of the past. To my shock, my inquiries for public data, to lay old questions to rest, were met with fury, stonewalling, and, finally, hysteria. And the Red Plan was never dead. For 10 years, Duluth School Board majorities refused to acknowledge that their financing of the Red Plan would loot locally levied property taxes from the classroom for decades to come.

Twenty years ago, in 1997, my second year as a School Board member, Duluth school property taxes were $23 million; $9 million of this was for debt servicing, and $14 million went to the classroom. Today, local school property taxes are $31 million. But this year’s Red Plan debt servicing takes $28.7 million, leaving only $2.5 million for the classroom. That is $11.5 million less for our classrooms despite an $8 million property tax increase.

If you care to do the math, our average teacher costs $90,000 per year. I will leave it to others to explain the insistence of some that the Red Plan is over.

What is not over is the loss of $11.5 million for the classrooms each year at a time when our district is expected to meet the needs of a growing poor and minority student population desperate for teacher contact time in order to bridge an infamous learning gap.

Like it or not, Duluth now has a nearly half billion-dollar investment in new schools to protect. Our board has refused good offers to sell derelict buildings, even though such sales were made a critical part of the Red Plan’s financing.

I will do what I deem necessary to raise the funds we need to educate our children. I will, to the best of my ability, hold true to my conviction that voters should be offered referendums to raise the necessary funds. However, if given no alternative, voters must know that I may decide to vote to raise additional taxes even if the public has soured on providing them.

I can hardly blame the public. Ten years ago, district residents were denied a referendum on the Red Plan, and this was just after our state Legislature placed a heavier property tax burden on more modest homes than on those of the more affluent.

Not every child can do what Abraham Lincoln did: educate themselves beyond a meager few years of an elementary education to the law, to Congress, to the presidency, and to the rescue of the American nation. What Lincoln would have given to have been educated in the Duluth public schools!

We owe it to our children to remember President Lincoln’s words: “with malice toward none.”

Let’s give our children an education we can be proud of.

Harry Welty is a candidate for an At Large seat on the Duluth School Board.

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.

The ISD 709 demographics meeting

I just listened to the meeting yesterday about Demographics. I have some catching up to do because I missed the first half hour. These are dry meetings but already on youtube there have been 45 viewings. Praise be to Art Johnston for pushing the school board to video these meetings to make them available to the public.

Rob S. Schwarz, AICP, of RSP is quizzed about the plans he might help Duluth’s schools design after their demographic study. Mr. Schwarz begins by talking about the Cedar Rapids, IA, experience and urges us to google RSP’s work there while warning us about “fake news.” He proceeds to say that RSP would never encourage a city to do anything as preposterous as build 13 new schools in a five year time period.

I was among those who let loose an involuntary chuckle because that’s just what Duluth did with the Red Plan. Too bad we didn’t have RSP advising us.

Robert Rowe Gilruth – Duluth Central Grad 1931

Kevin Costner plays a “composite” of the technicians in charge of America’s Space Race in his portrayal of the mythical “Al Harrison” in the Movie Hidden Figures. The principal he was playing was Duluth’s Robert Gilruth who led the American Space Race the same way that Robert Openheimer supervised the design and building of the Atom Bomb. Gilruth’s work was aided by a great many women just like the British women mathematicians, who broke Nazi Germany’s Enigma Codes during World War II. Gilruth’s “computers” were black women who like Britain’s Bletchley Circle women (in one of the best PBS Mystery series) who got John Glen into orbit and brought him back without burning up on reentry.

From the Duluth News Tribune:

First flight to the moon started here
Duluth News Tribune (MN) – July 19, 2008
Author/Byline: Chuck Frederick Duluth News Tribune

While taking in the spectacle of the Blue Angels and the high-flying thrills and roars of this weekend’s airshow, a group dedicated to preserving and celebrating Duluth’s aviation history wants you to remember a name: Robert Gilruth.

Why Robert Gilruth? Because the 1931 Duluth Central graduate ” the “father of human spaceflight” and the “godfather to the astronauts,” as he came to be known ” led our nation’s race to the moon. And because this weekend marks the 39th anniversary of the first lunar landing under his leadership.

Let me put that another way: The man responsible for Neil Armstrong’s “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” on July 20, 1969, grew up in Duluth.

In a frame and stucco corner house in Chester Park, to be precise.

“He made a tremendous contribution to our nation, and it’s amazing to think that we here in Duluth nurtured that young man,” said Sandra Ettestad, president of the nonprofit Duluth Aviation Institute. “He changed the world’s vision of the Earth and the possibilities of mankind. [He] achieved his youthful dreams.”

Meaning any of us can, right?

Duluth’s nurturing of Gilruth started in 1923 when he was 9 years old and his family moved here from Hancock, Mich. They had moved there from Nashwauk. His father was a superintendent of schools in both cities. In Duluth, his father landed a job teaching chemistry, physics and math at Morgan Park High School, where he later was principal. His mother taught math and home economics.

Gilruth, the second of two children, grew up at 701 N. 20th Ave. E. surrounded by family. His grandfather, a mining captain, grandmother, aunt and uncle lived two blocks away. He spent boyhood days playing with crystal-set radios and building intricate model airplanes. He and his father were very close.

“I started building model airplanes before the age of balsa wood and piano wire,” he recalled in a 1986 interview with NASA. “When the American Boy magazine came out with those things, that was a revolution, but I learned about that technology from the Duluth News Tribune. [The newspaper] had imported a man from Chicago who was a model airplane builder [and] champion. [He taught] a class of Duluth boys who might want to attend. This is how I got sort of a giant step into that business.”

Gilruth breezed through Duluth’s East Junior High School and Central High School. He earned straight As in aeronautics, chemistry and math at Duluth Junior College, which was on the top floor of Denfeld High School. He graduated in 1933. Three years after that, he added a masters degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Minnesota to his rapidly growing resume.

While at the university, he married Jean Barnhill, a fellow aeronautical engineering student and a pilot who flew cross-country races, who was a friend to Amelia Earhart and who founded a women’s pilots association.

Before he even finished graduate school, Gilruth was recruited to work for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, or NACA, the predecessor of NASA. The job took him to Langley Air Force Base in Virginia where he and his wife had a daughter, Barbara. He was a flying quality expert at Langley and in 1945 was placed in charge of developing a guided-missile research station. In 1952, he was named assistant base director.

But he was dreaming bigger. “There are a lot of things you can do with men up in orbit,” he recalled thinking to himself in the interview with NASA.

On Aug. 1, 1958, Gilruth pitched to Congress the idea of creating a manned space program. The politicians were impressed, and Gilruth was pegged to lead the Space Task Group. In short order, NASA was formed and Project Mercury, the nation’s first human spaceflight program, was created. Gilruth handpicked the first astronauts and hired the nation’s brightest engineers. Capsules were designed and rockets tested.

But not quite fast enough. On April 12, 1961, the Soviets beat the U.S. into space. President John F. Kennedy took it as a challenge.

“This nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth,” the president announced. “In a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the moon ” it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there.”

Gilruth was chosen to lead the human spaceflight program, known as the Apollo Program. Its goal was landing a man on the moon. And Gilruth promised just that in the fall of 1962 when he returned to Duluth and was welcomed back as a hero. Mayor George D. Johnson proclaimed it Bob Gilruth Day, and the auditorium at Central High School filled to the rafters with Duluthians eager to hear him speak. A giant banner hung from the balcony, declaring Gilruth the “pride of Central.”

Moved by his hometown’s tribute and welcome, Gilruth paused for a long moment. Then, in a soft voice brimming with emotion, he urged young Duluthians to prepare so they, too, could help their nation as it moved into the space age.

“I have received many honors, but I have never felt quite as humble as I do at this moment,” he said. “I feel quite confident that we will make manned landings on the moon within this decade. In fact, I am not only confident of this, I firmly believe we’ll be on the moon in less than 10 years.”

Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon less than seven years later. In Houston, Gilruth cheered with a nation.

“He was not an easy boy to get to know,” the News Tribune wrote of Gilruth, days before his triumphant return in October 1962. (He died Aug. 17, 2000, at age 87.) “He was neither a hellion nor an introvert. He was neither average nor did he display to those of his own age signs of unusual brilliance. … He was a boy of hobbies and strong purpose, yet beset by deep self doubts.”

In other words, he was a typical Duluth kid. Who achieved greatness. Meaning any of us can, right? Chuck Frederick is the News Tribune’s deputy editorial page editor. He can be reached at 723-5316 or cfrederick@duluth news.com.

Taking cuts in the lunch line…..

….to make sure the kid behind you doesn’t take too much food.

That seems to be the case in the Duluth City Council as Noah Hobbs is angling for the rotating Council Presidency to make sure that Councilor Sipress doesn’t take advantage of the position he’s scheduled to assume to push causes that could help him get reelected this year.

The Trib doesn’t pay as much mind to the Chairmanship tussles on the Duluth School Board. The candidate I nominated lost on a 3 to 4 vote but I was quick to shake the hand of the victor, Dr. David Kirby, as he took over the center chair on the School Board Dais.

BTW – David just gave me a quick cordial call after I emailed a complaint about our agenda setting. That was a refreshing change for our Board’s leadership which had not previously shown any alacrity in addressing similar concerns raised in the past.

Bob Mars Jr.

Bob Mars Jr. died yesterday.

I served with Bob for six years on the Duluth School Board. I first met him forty years ago when it was suggested I introduce myself to him for my first legislative campaign in 1976. I left that meeting at his offices in W. P. & R.S. Mars Co with a one hundred dollar check for my campaign. Bob surely knew I couldn’t beat Mike Jaros but for him it was almost certainly an investment. Who knew what the bright, political naif might become in the future. For a man like Bob, who had his fingers in every political corner of Duluth, it was a pittance. For me that hundred dollar check was an eye opener. I don’t recall getting any other check that size from an individual in that campaign.

I was on my best behavior back then. I had just lost my teaching job in Proctor and that campaign, lost though it was from the beginning, revived my spirits. I would come to understand that Bob Mars Jr. was the leading fixer in Duluth but more in terms of civic than political fixing. Oh he was a businessman and that inclined him towards the Republicans of that era than Democrats but he was a pragmatist and party affiliation for him was only nominal.

I doubt that Bob gave me much thought until I began running for the school board in the early 1990’s. By my third defeat (fifth counting legislative runs) he no doubt had lost all interest in me. When I finally won on my fourth attempt he was sitting on the Board of Directors of Minnesota Power where my wife Claudia was employed. And Bob Mars was also sitting on the Duluth School Board when I finally got elected. By that time I was well aware that Claudia was as vulnerable as me to any political missteps I might make. An influential and no nonsense Bob Mars might suggest that the wife of a troublesome School Board member might be given the heave ho should an annoying colleague on the school board with him begin misbehaving. Bob told me that a troublesome member of the Duluth School board was removed twenty years earlier when the School Board offered the troublemaker’s precinct, holding Duluth’s Bayview Elementary School, to the Proctor Schools. I don’t think Bob was hinting but then again.

Desperate to prove I was more than just a lucky perennial candidate for office I set out to redeem my reputation by being a sober-minded school board member. That worked for me for two years and four months. Then it didn’t.

In 1999 Bob decided not to run for the School Board for medical reasons. It was in this election that DFT President Frank Wanner intended to have me defeated. My old pal and ally Tim Grover made a decision not to run without telling anyone about it leaving no time to recruit a sympathizer. It was apparent that Frank Wanner would take control over the School Board so I kicked myself into high gear and talked Bob into letting me run a write-in campaign for him. He assented and folks came out of the woodwork to put up his lawnsigns. But it was a write in campaign. He did well but not well enough to win.

Two years later I turned things around. Bob ran again and I copied the campaign that first got him elected in the sixties. I put up lawnsigns echoing the campaign that first got him and two other candidates elected whose names began with the letter M. “Mars, Mundt and McKeon.” This 1999 campaign supported two incumbent School Board members whose names began with Mary and I put up lawnsigns that read: Mary, Mary Mars. It caught flak for a tough but honest letter I had sent out spelling out what was at stake.

Only Mary Glass got reelected. Bob would run again in 2001 along with Mary Cameron and both would find vindication for their losses in 99.

Bob fell afoul of East Hockey fraternity in 2003 and told me he planned to run a campaign against me but changes his mind when the hockey crowd fielded a candidate to run against me. It was a pretty stark vote of no confidence in me and put me in a short lived mood of defiance. I hadn’t planned to run for a third term until then but that put me into a month long jag to prevent the Hockey crowd from forcing me out. A few weeks after it was too late for me to pull out of the race I thought better of it and told the Trib and others that my opponent, Tom Hustad, was a good guy and because I only disagreed with him about the East High Hockey program I would end my campaign. I stopped campaigning although still on the ballot. Both Bob and I lost.

Bob had shot himself in the foot twice before that election. First he let a tiff with the East High coach over whether to play the Marshall School Hockey team get out of hand when he was later asked to uphold the decision not to rehire the coach. Second he was too candid when he told Denfeld high school supporters that he might very well vote to close their school in west Duluth if he was asked to reduce our facilites from three high schools to two. The furor this caused out west helps explain Bob’s plan to run against me in my eastern district where Denfeld parents could not weigh in.

I have only mentioned Bob a few times in my blog. We were mostly allies but not birds of a feather. I bumped into Bob a few times since getting reelected. One of the last times was not long after my ridiculous, but intense, attempt to expose the Kangaroo Court convened to remove Art Johnston. Bob smiled at me and shook his head not quite able to believe that I was still practicing my own special brand of voodoo.

Everyone is saying the Planning Dept.’s decision to scuttle the DPSA High School has nothing to do with politics.

I find that very hard to believe:

Hamre said that if Edison had pushed forward with those requests, and the city planning commission followed the recommendation of planning staff — which was that they reject the applications — the developer’s only recourse would have been to appeal the decision to the Duluth City Council. If the council chose to uphold rather than overturn the planning commission decision, no further requests from the applicant would be eligible for consideration until a year had passed.

Such an outcome would have forced Edison to push back its plans to open the new school, serving grades 8 through 12, in the fall of 2017.

Repurposing old schools

A friend emailed me an interesting web page concerning repurposed schools in Duluth. The Zenith City crew put this up a couple years ago. It shows most if not all old ISD 709 schools some Catholic Schools and some old Duluth Normal School buildings and explains how they are used today.

At the end it does make one mistake writing that:

“At this writing, Nettleton Elementary School, Chester Park Elementary School, Morgan Park High School, and the 1971 Duluth Central High School sit unused. Lakeview Christian Academy, which is currently housed in the former Lowell Elementary School, has offered to purchase the 1971 high school, but so far Duluth’s school board has said no, in part because it says it does not want to sell to a “competing” school. The adapted reuse of Cobb, Lakeside, Lowell, and Washburn Elementary Schools indicates that “competing school” policy applies only to the Central High facility,which sit on a very valuable piece of real estate looking out over Lake Superior and the St. Louis Bay.”

In fact the schools mentioned above were sold before a clause was added to ISD 709 school board policy forbidding sales of schools to “competitors.”

ALSO ANOTHER FRIEND NOTED THAT AT THIS WEBSITE’S POSTING CHESTER PARK WAS OWNED BY UMD.

Its worth noting that the buyers of these schools represented lots of taxpayers who helped support the Duluth Public Schools even though they sent their children to Parochial or other schools.

Gambling on Central

I will have a busy morning of blogging once again based on stories in today’s Trib. But first an old story from 2012 sent to me once again by my old Let Duluth Vote ally. Its part of the continuing story related to decisions made by the City of Duluth for development of the Central location. I found this sentence near the end particularly interesting as it ties in with one of today’s Trib stories related to the threat of the Fon du Lac Reservation becoming a tax free cancer inside Duluth:

“One resident brought up a popular rumor about the site, that it could become home to a casino. Hamre said the business park classification would not allow for such a use. It’s a protection city planners were careful with after public discussions last year, Hamre said.”

NOTE: This 2012 article begins at the end of this post and is posted in full.

I am troubled that the Feds are allowing Fon du Lac the power to buy up downtown Duluth and make it soverign reservation land free from Duluth’s taxes or regulation. Of course, on the one hand I think to myself of the poetic justice this inflicts on the larger europeanized culture that “stole” the land from native Americans but on the other I can see a devastating threat that such a tax loophole would pose. It would advantage all manner of developers who the Casino might bring in to build in what may become a prime tourist area in the years ahead. Under this Federal restriction, the City would be powerless to prevent Fon du Lac from waging a potent economic war against the City and non Reservation businesses.

I’ll be the first to admit that the original agreement thirty years ago to let the Casino be set up in Duluth’s downtown was not an act of charity on the City’s part. I will also acknowledge that some of our politicians of that Era may have been condescending towards their Fon du Lac partners. But that hardly excuses the Reservation being granted the power to be equally contemptuous of the needs of Duluth. I’m not sure our new Mayor Emily Larson has what it takes to defend the City’s rights in court where the fight against this threat should be made. BTW. I’m pretty sure that Wally Dupuis, who took over from Karen Diver used to be a student of mine in the Proctor Schools.

Not that losing tax base is all that big a deal. Central is likely to be sold to someone as a TIF District which could exempt it from paying property taxes for up to a quarter century or more. And today another story demonstrates how eager Rep. Simonson is to give the site away to a developer by excusing them from paying sales taxes on any construction they undertake on the site.

I see that Chair Harala accompanied Supt. Gronseth to St. Paul to defend the deferred sales tax. She’s a busy person having also stayed with the rest of the Board through over three hours of testimony last night on the possible threat of rubber mulch on our playgrounds.

I could thoroughly understand her lack of enthusiasm when I handed her the prospective call from three minority members for another long meeting next Monday night over a renewed discussion of our policy forbidding a sale of Central to a competing school. Unlike one of the Board members who breezed into last night’s meeting fifteen minutes late and left a little over half way through the meeting Chair Harala doggedly sat through the entire discussion with the rest of us sans Alanna Oswald. Alanna drove down to St. Louis to watch the Denfeld Robotic’s team on which her son is a member and which she helps coach. Here’s today’s Trib story on that.

Ms. Oswald will not be the only local in the cheering section. Rep. Simonson is flying down today NOTE CORRECTION with Principal Sconiers to witness the achievement and competition. I guess Erik is now the official savior of Denfeld although I don’t know how preventing an agreement with the DPSA Charter Board to put a cap on its future enrollment gives Denfeld any long term protection. My email Buddy sent me an email with a link to this story in the Trib asking me if this wasn’t some sort of “shell game” over taxes. I told him I didn’t thing shell game was the most apt description. The glorious Central site is fast becoming the School District’s white elephant. The original “white elephants” were sacred elephants that the Siamese King gave to his rivals in the Kingdon knowing that their upkeep would bankrupt them.

Here’s that story from the

DNT, April 27, 2012

Duluth school district officials say they’re encouraged by revisions to the city’s plan for redeveloping the former Central High School site after an early plan left them concerned the site would be hard to sell. Continue reading

Swords/Plowshares 27 – News Tribune View: “Waive policies, negotiate sale”

Disclaimer
Despite spirited arguments offered to the DNT’s Editorial Board against selling Central by Superintendent Gronseth and Board Chair Harala yesterday the verdict of a thoughtful Editorial by the DNT is: “Waive policies, negotiate sale.”

The School Board has only heard about a proposal to date. We haven’t seen it. What’s more there are several negotiating points that have not been, well, negotiated – like for instance, whether it is all 77 acres or not or if it would include the new STC building that once housed a very popular vocational ed program that drew in students from surrounding schools. And of course, there has been no discussion, that this Board member has heard about, of a protective “enrollment cap.” that could be very important to ISD 709’s future.

It strikes me as premature to consider a change in our policy unless and until we also authorize negotiations to cover all of these and other points. I will be profoundly disappointed if the Board refuses to explore the most generous offer we are likely to see any time soon. Passing up new money will incline me not to vote for any budgets offered for our consideration as we chop away at our exiting program.

Sword/Plowshares 22 – When blindness is preferred

Disclaimer

I’m fearful that DPSA’s generous and life saving proposal to buy Central High School will fail because of our four union-endorsed School Board member’s stong affiliation with the protectionist Unions. These unions oppose selling Central to the DPSA. In this the unions are like Iranian mullahs refusing American aid to help them dig buried Iranians out of the rubble of an earthquake. Better that Iranians should die than accept help from the “Great Satan!” So too ISD 709’s children.

Bonnie Jorgenson sent an offer to all our school board members to give them a tour of the DPSA schools or as its enemies prefer to refer to it “the competition.”

Although Nora Sandstead has visited Edison on a previous occasion the other union blessed Duluth School Board members have not yet made a pilgrimage to see what our Charter Schools look like on the people side, the inside, of their schools.

I understand. The less you know about the people you want to distrust the harder it is to see them as people just like you and the easier it is to vilify them. Just what we need. A little more Washington DC right here in Duluth.

Tony Stauber

I was surprised and saddened today to learn that one of my School Board predecessors, Tony Stauber, died.

Tony was part of a big clan including son, Jim Stauber, a long time Duluth City Councilor. Tony, whose life is chronicled in part by today’s obituary was the Director of Duluth’s votech program for years before becoming a school board member. He wrote many columns after he stepped off the board about the need for job training education in our schools.

I’ve mentioned Tony many times in my own posts. He will be missed.

Transparency Lessons

A year ago Ann Redelfs who lives a few blocks away tried to enlist my help to save the trees along fourth Street from the bulldozer. She helped start a campaign to protect them from next year’s massive street and sewer repair. I offered her some advice but not much else as I was sucked into the School Board’s self immolation.

Ann persevered quite handily, if not successfully, without me and figured out how to get public data from the City something Art Johnston has largely been unable to get from the Duluth School District despite serving on the Board. She has turned that experience into the second such lesson on the data access laws. She will be teaching what she has learned since attending a similar session last spring, once again at the public library.

John Ramos who has been exposing the follies of the new library project in the Reader spoke glowingly of the seminar to me. The first session was led by data access guru Rich Neumeister who was impressed that Duluth had a large attendance last year of sixty folks. No doubt the Red Plan has helped infuse in local citizens the sense that government is often too secretive in its dealings. The Freedom of Information act and Minnesota Government Data Practices Act are meant to be an antidote to that willful lack of transparency.

Art Johnston to the rescue

I’ve been impatiently waiting for today’s John Ramos story in the Reader. He’s been covering the saga of the proposed $35 million library for a couple months. Art Johnston told me the kicker long ago and its a kicker all right.

The proposal was based on the dreadful information that it took $75,000 a month to heat or cool the building each year. That sounded ridiculous to me months ago when the idea first was proposed. After all $75,000 over 20 years is a million and a half bucks. Taxpayers would be well advised to compare paying $75,000 for energy per year to, oh say, $2,500,000 a year for library bond repayments before rushing forward. The bond repayments would be much more than the $35 million. It would be closer to $50 million by the time you added interest payments. That’s where I get the $2,500,000 comparison figure.

Then Art told me what Mr. Ramos spills in today’s column. The puny $75,000 energy costs are nonsense. That’s because Art discovered, after handing the City some public data requests, that this is the cost of flooding the library with nearly 30 million gallons of city drinking water to cool or warm the building every year. After using all this treated water the pipes flush it back into Lake Superior. Its a problem with a simple fix called insulation.

Simple as it is it took an engineer like Art to figure out what was going on. The City paid some consultants $65,000 to analyze the problem and they never figured out the basic problem and instead suggested building a new library…….because that’s what their clients the City wanted to hear. Hell, $65 thousand is about what poor old Art will have to pay for the attorneys that kept him from being kicked off the Duluth School board by the Tribune’s editorial board and the School Board majority. Art has just possibly saved Duluth taxpayers from paying an unnecessary two-and-a-half million in unnecessary bond payments.

Here’s how John concludes his column:

The Reader owes a debt of gratitude to Art Johnston, who took it upon himself to file data requests with the city that unearthed much of the information in this article.

This leaves me with one simple question. How come the Duluth School Administration won’t honor the data requests of a sitting school board member but the City of Duluth will honor the requests of an ordinary citizen?

Denfeld Trigonometry students know their times tables

I owe Duluth Denfeld a profound apology for defaming them two posts ago. I wrote that one of the teachers who spoke to the Duluth school board Wednesday night said that some trig students came in not knowing their multiplication tables. I was sent an email by this teacher which I will post in full later. He said my comment smacked of politics and he was right. It was and my claim was bull. Its one of the things I recalled but I knew even as I typed it that it simply could not be true and yet I typed it anyway. So much for fact checking. So much for my honesty.

Denfeld has problems it doesn’t need one angry school board member to heap unwarranted abuse on a school that so many revere. I was mad. I was mad at the treatment of these teachers who have gotten the strong hint that just maybe they should find hushed and circumspect ways of registering their concerns. So I managed to prove that the fears were justified and compound Denfeld’s difficulties.

A little over a thousand people have read that post by now. I’ll leave this one as my last post for a few days so that when they return they can learn for themselves that I’ve been an ass and report my foolishness to those who may only have heard my incendiary accusation in rumors.

I feel a novella coming on

After today I feel like I have a novella’s worth of blogging in me. The only thing that would scotch it is an outbreak of sanity by our school board majority. What are the chances of that? I’d say, there’s a fat (in the fire) chance of that.

I’ll leave you with one tiny tidbit of thinking from a legislator I encountered today that I can’t get out of my head so I will leave it to you my faithful readers. If Edison builds a high school taking 700 more ISD 709 kids and (let’s just say) they all came from Denfeld; the 200 remaining kids there would not justify keeping that high school open.

I wonder what we could get for Denfeld but I’d best not speculate. I might get censured.

Oh, and I shook the hand of a fellow censured school board member today. He has quite the story.

Rosie’s Criminal Background Check…

…of Art Johnston.

“The investigation was brought forward because of Art Johnston’s violent abusive and harassing and threatening behaviors,” School Board Member Rosie Loeffler-Kemp

I wonder if Duluth School Board Clerk Rosie Loeffler-Kemp thought Art Johnston was abusive on the several occasions he urged her to run for the Duluth School Board. It’s funny how people can turn on you.

Rosie wasn’t even a full witness to the alleged “shove” that I’ve always thought was more likely to have resulted from the Superintendent jumping out of his skin and Art’s testosterone induced physicality (tap on the shoulder). But that didn’t stop her from claiming Art was violent. Had Art not been an elected official that would have been grounds for slander.

At no point did Mary Rice, Kevin Rupp’s hire to investigate Art, say she saw anything violent in the many youtubed videos of Art. She did find his comments derogatory toward the Board. I think that it is this, more than anything Rosie witnessed, which explains her sour summation of Art’s contributions to our school board. Rosie has labored for better than a decade to get herself elected and I don’t think she is eager to have anyone take the shine of her new apple – worms and all.

I wonder if Rosie has ever been put in a position to have a criminal background check performed on her. I under went one last year when I volunteered at Duluth’s Lifehouse but its not a requirement for running for the School Board. Maybe it should be. Art has passed two such checks. He passed with flying colors recently when he and his “friend” Jane applied to become foster parents. He also passed the much more stringent national security background checks relating to terrorism. That’s good because even while our school board is busy trying to remove him, rabid foam flecked fangs and all, he’s busy doing a hydro-logical study for the Federal Government on the replacement of a damn along the Mississippi River.

I guess he’s not considered a bomb thrower by the President. That’s just one more reason to impeach Obama!

EGO 2

One of two letters criticizing Art and me in today’s tribune.

The recent behavior of Duluth School Board members Art Johnston and Harry Welty defies description. Outrageous, ridiculous, childish and appalling are words that come to mind, but even they don’t or can’t express the frustration and dismay some of us feel.

It has become increasingly clear that their real motivations for serving on the board were to disrupt, bully and grandstand in order feed their egos and pursue their personal grievances. Disagreement and opposing viewpoints are important, and the School Board needs to hear from all constituents. However, the approach that Johnston and Welty have taken isn’t helping anyone. Instead, they attack, manipulate and gum up the works. Johnston, and now Welty, acts as if it’s OK to violate ethical guidelines, to expose confidential information and even to risk the sale of the Central High School property, all because they have cast themselves as “victims” and therefore rules don’t apply to them.

Meanwhile, the real work of the School Board is sidelined, including working on solutions to address inequality, poverty, performance and other serious issues. Now we face more dreary months of recriminations, all because Johnston refuses to take a look at his own behavior, admit he stepped over the line and bow out. And after his performance at the Dec. 2 School Board meeting, Welty seems to be begging that he, too, be censured or removed.

Gail Trowbridge

KBJR amends the errors of their text

Rather than dwell on the situation in our schools I’ve been compelled to follow the ins and outs of the ludicrous investigation of Art Johnston. I’m rather sorry I did not print out the text of KBJR’s story on Art Johnston which concluded that every allegation against him had been verified by Attorney Mary Rice. I called the station and made a pointed critique of the story on my blog. That’s because KBJR made significant changes to the brief story perhaps in response to my complaints. I can’t fault it so much as it now reads.

The court of public opinion can be a sewer of misinformation. I’m glad KBJR saw fit to correct its story even though it only notes that the story was “updated.” Mea Culpas aren’t easy for some folks to cough up.