Category Archives: School Board 07

Go ask Alice

More folks are beginning to dig into Keith Dixon’s past. I’d heard a rumor that one of the reasons that the Minnesota Dept. of Education approved the Red Plan was because Dixon threatened to sue the poor bureaucrats if they didn’t. The MDE knew the plan’s magnitude, its fiscal arrangement and the non vote was unorthodox to say the least. They kept telling Let Duluth Vote to hire lawyers because they, the staff, wouldn’t offer opinions about the legality of the Red Plan. Oh, they did tell us that the District had very smart lawyers. Its obvious that they didn’t want to fight Dr. Dixon’s lawyers in court.

Certainly when the Red Plan was challenged by Rep. Mike Jaros in the legislature last spring JCI was quick to hire a big shot GOP lobbyist to win Governor Pawlenty over to help quash a referendum.

A Faribault school board member told me that they once observed the current MDE Commissioner Alice Seagren visibly recoiled when seeing Dr. Dixon. This Board member wondered what that was all about. It turns out that the smooth talking Dixon, called the “Silver Fox” in Faribault by his detractors, met Alice as early as June of 2000 when they along with former Governor Arne Carlson testified before a Congressional Hearing about “school choice.” Alice was a GOP member of the House Education Committee at the time. That’s the sort of contact a school superintendent would be eager to cultivate.

Exodus

The Red Plan turbulence is driving people out of the District to neighboring schools. I just got a call from Fox News and was asked if I could lead them to anyone trying to exit the Duluth Schools. I don’t know whether they will accept the offer to be interviewed but one of our new LDV members is already sending kids to Hermantown.

Fox called after hearing about the exodus at last night’s school board meeting. One of our members mentioned to another that the Hermantown Star reported that there were 61 Duluth applicants for Hermantown’s schools and it got mentioned last night. There is something of a backlash in Hermantown to this and Hermantown’s schools are considering closing the door to Duluth enrollees.

The Wrenshall and Proctor schools are also enjoying additional applications from the Duluth Schools. No doubt the Edison and Harbor View charter schools will also see more applications.

Prologue to the Red Plan Chronicles

My complete column from this week’s Reader Weekly:

Welty Loses Again

By Harry Welty

I lost the school board race. It’s nothing new. I’ve lost eleven out of 13 bids for public office. As the Duluth News Tribune editorialized I’m a “perennial candidate.” That’s shorthand for:” Don’t take him too seriously.” As I told the Reader Weekly’s Editor, Dennis Kempton, my eccentricities have finally caught up with me.

The $437 million Red Plan is all but a done deal. Derailing it required a change of votes on the Duluth School Board. I had to win to give the voters a referendum. It’s possible that my defeat means that Second District voters didn’t want a referendum but I find that hard to believe. I had a strong ally in the at-large race, Gary Glass. Gary’s landslide victory across Duluth, including my Second District, indicates that our message carried the day even while I lost.

I’m inclined to give Ralph Doty’s character assassination credit for my defeat even though it was billed as a warning to voters to guard against last minute dirty tricks. Ralph’s Budgeteer column was published three days before the election making it impossible for me to rebut. Ralph did the same thing to his brother Gary’s mortal enemy, Herb Bergson, just before the primary election. Ralph’s “truthy” column characterized me as an obscenity spewing, voodoo practicing liar. I may well be the former but the libels, Ralph accused me of, were all published by the risk averse Duluth News Tribune. The Trib would no sooner court a lawsuit by a Fortune 100 company than it would give its newspapers away for free.

The Budgeteer, however, is delivered to every household in town for free whether they are wanted or not. How seriously it is regarded can often be determined by the height of a moldering pile of them clumped together on the porch. Ralph’s column was delivered to perhaps 10,000 homes in my District alone. I lost by 670 votes. A switch of a mere 336 voters from my rival to me would have gotten me elected. Could Ralph’s column have caused 336 voters to switch their votes? I think so, and if my dire predictions come to pass then Ralph can claim some of the credit.

Duluth’s City Council has some big ticket problems. It must pay off a growing health care debt to its retirees. It must resume fixing its streets. It must repair some ancient sewer pipes which recently flooded dozens of homes with sewage. Police ranks must be beefed up and Library hours restored. With the School District hogging huge tax increases it will make it tough for the City to do to the same. Next year there will be a 56% increase in school district taxes because of the Red Plan. This will be easy to verify because St. Louis County will be mailing out tax estimates today or tomorrow. Anyone concerned by the District’s tax increases can register their opinion at the School Board’s Truth in Taxation hearing, Tuesday, December 4th at 6:30 PM.

I’m not so concerned about the City, however; I’m worried about the schools. I believe that resentful voters will kill the existing $5 million annual tax for our classrooms next November. This would mean teacher layoffs, larger classrooms, and shrunken course offerings. We will have new buildings in the works but our curriculum will become threadbare. Parents won’t stand for it and our schools will be plunged into chaos again.

I’m an amateur historian and there is no finer subject for a history than calamity. I propose to write a series of columns which will help explain how we got to this moment in time. I’ll begin right now with a little anecdote on the author of the column that laid my campaign low.

On election eve Ralph Doty told Dennis Anderson that he is a life long Duluth resident. How he managed this while being president of an Ohio community college I’m unclear but he was a State Senator here when I first moved to Duluth 33 years ago. Some of his legislative colleagues unkindly nicknamed Ralph the “Prancing Prince” for his natty attire and the platform shoes he wore while striding through Capitol hallways.

Before his death I was occasionally invited over to Willard Munger’s home along with his environmentalist buddies and my Republican pal Gerry Anderson who had become Willard’s campaign manager for his final campaigns. Over breakfast one morning Willard told a story about the long absent Doty.

It seems that the Duluth legislative delegation had a long standing agreement with Rep. Rod Searle of Waseca. The Duluth Delegation would protect Searle’s Waseca campus of the University of Minnesota if Searle would use his position on the House Higher Education Committee to do the same for UMD. One day a distraught Searle told the Duluth Delegation that Senator Doty had voted to close the Waseca campus in Committee. The Duluth delegation convened an emergency meeting and Willard let Ralph have it. “You GD, blankety-blank. The Duluth delegation keeps it promises!”

An ashen faced Doty sniffed, “Mr. Munger, where I come from we don’t use that kind of language,” to which Munger roared, “Well then Mr. Doty, you horse’s ass. The Duluth Delegation keeps its promises.”

Welty, a small time politician, will resume writing for the Reader Weekly every other week as he serializes the Red Plan Chronicles. Anyone wishing to help his pet cause can do so by visiting: letdulutvote.com.

Plan B revives

Eric sent me a kind post suggesting a reason for my loss. My reply offers a counter reason and an explanation of where I think Let Duluth Vote will go from here.

Eric Says:

November 7th, 2007 at 7:59 am e

Harry, As you know from my previous post that I opposed your election. I do however think you might have won if you had not made comments earlier that your goal was to confuse the voters. I think that really turned off voters.
Now that being said, I was one of the few (at least that I am aware of) that supported your belief that we needed to close one high school. So as much as I hoped you did not win, I do think you have good ideas and good intentions. To that end I hope you will continue to offer ideas and suggestions for bettering the Duluth school district.
Sometimes it is not that the message is bad or wrong it is how it is delivered.
Best of luck and please continue to help us do what’s best. I firmly believe that opposing opinions, while not always good, they always cause us to relook at our direction.

harrywelty Says:

November 7th, 2007 at 9:14 am e

Thanks Eric,

I agree that the issue of confusion did not help me but it was the News Tribune sowing the confusion not me. The headline writer, who I presume was Robin Washington, took the issue of confusion out of context and the headline made it sound as though we were attempting to confuse the public. That was not fair or accurate. The reporter, Sarah Horner, had the story right. We wanted to offer a plan B petition because it would have, and still could, force a referendum of a more manageable size. The two approved building plans, the Red Plan approved by the state, and the Plan B plan approved by Duluth’s voters in a referendum, would have forced the School Board to reconsider its options had a new majority taken control.

(We learned from our visit to the State that no petition would be necessary if both Gary and I won. The new majority could have changed the terms of the Red Plan at will)

The new majority will not take control but it is still possible to circulate a Plan B petition. It might be worthwhile to do this if the public has second thoughts about proceeding with the Red Plan. Gary Glass beat Bevan Schraw almost two to one throughout the entire school district. His election was as close to a referendum as there could be. The public has great misgivings about the Red Plan.

One more thing will happen this year which might make a difference. The Red Plan’s costs are already figured into next year’s tax estimates that will be sent out this November prior to December’s Truth in Taxation hearings. They will show a 56% increase in our School District’s taxes from this year to next year. If no one goes to the School Board meeting to protest that will auger well for the Red Plan. If there is serious protest a new school board might be advised to ratchet back the Red Plan and a plan B might be just the ticket.

I suspect I would have done almost as well as Gary in my District had the News Tribune not panned me in its endorsements and had not Ralph Doty smeared me so viciously three days before the election. I’m afraid we didn’t get the idea across that both Gary and I had to win to stop the Red Plan. With my credibility in tatters the “breath of fresh air” that the Trib said Judy offered was enough to blow me off course.

She’ll have a heck of a time in 2009 making 5 million in annual budget cuts if, as I’ve predicted, the public refuses to pass an operational levy in November of 2008.

seventeen minutes and counting

My head tells me I can’t lose. My heart has no idea what the outcome of the election will be. I passed out my literature until 5:30 PM last night. It was dark, cold and windy. I ended lit dropping everything but eight square blocks of my district. I had a little help but did most of the door to door by myself. I was pleased to have covered so much territory in three weeks.

Claudia read through a web page on the Trib today that had comments about me pro and con. By the time I heard about the site this afternoon it was no longer online. She told me the posts were polar opposites either depicting me as a rabble rouser or as a hero. No fence sitting for me.

I joked with the Trib’s Sarah Horner about her Editorial Board’s characterizing me as a “single issue” candidate. I found that very funny since I’ve been fighting those sorts in the Republican Party for the past thirty years. Oh well. The Editor is from Boston. He’s much more worldly and sophisticated about these sorts of things than m I am.

Sarah asked if she could send a photographer to my home tonight to take a picture if I won. I told her sure. If I lose there will be no pictures. I told her that for her sake that I hoped I won because without me on the School Board her job would be so dreary. She thought that was pretty funny. I guess I must be a rabble rouser. Without our kind there never would have been an American Revolution and we would still be singing Rule Britainia.

Five minutes left to vote.

Three days and counting

The story in the Trib today did just what I hoped. It quoted me thus:

Welty was not flustered by Seagren’s decision Friday night. He said the approval should not be viewed as a recommendation to proceed.

“This is just an acknowledgment that the district has followed the law,” he said.

Doty’s hatchet job and a good night’s sleep were all I needed to start putting up lawnsigns. I had help from Gary Glass in Lakeside and Mike Jaros in the Grant area while I put up seventy or eighty signs in the area between my house on 21st Ave. East and the western end of my District on 6th Ave. E. I only have about 30 Welty signs left to put up which means that there must be about 150 up. They are on some of the busiest streets in my district. They went up easily.

I even got home and passed out leaflets to a chunk of my district from 5:30 unitl 7PM. I had a few unhappy dogs bark at me but it felt good. Tomorrow I’ve got more help finishing up the signs and I’ll do some more leafleting. I’ll get darned near the whole district done by Monday.

The good vibes are coming back.

Tom’s Green Plan

Tom Boman a UMD Ed prof and a regular education writer for the Duluth News Tribune wrote a great column today. The “green plan” he described today would, he said, onlycost 10 % of what the Red Plan costs. I had a couple people ask me about it. I guarantee that twenty people will have read this for every single person who read Ralph Doty’s column in the Budgeteer. it fits nicely with the Let Duluth Vote folks.

A wounded man replies

I sent the Budgeteer the letter which follows. It’s also on Ralph’s feedback page. I rather like the feedback page. Quite a number of folks thought Ralph was just as bad as the dirty trickster another portion of his column criticized.

When Mr. Doty first hinted at his opposition to Let Duluth Vote six or seven weeks ago I offered to meet him for a cup of coffee. Doty declined my invitation. It’s a lot easier to assassinate someone’s character if you don’t know them.

Ralph was out of town the years I served on the School Board so I’m not surprised he has blown a trivial and humorous incident out of proportion. As for “obscenity laced?” One stray GD and it’s a lacing? I understand our current Superintendent laced at least one school board meeting himself in Faribault. It happens. I’ve always said that: “If you can’t be passionate about your children – what can you be passionate about?”

I’m a little surprised that Mr. Doty would wait until the last minute in a campaign to spring such a vicious smear. I’ve been open about my suspicions about Johnson Controls for well over a month now. Everything I’ve had to say about the company I’ve put in print or online on my blog. I’m more firmly convinced of their slipperiness with regard to the Red Plan than ever.

The outcome of the election will be known by the time this letter is published. What impact Mr. Doty’s vitriol played in the outcome will never be known.

Harry Welty

The Definition of Dotycide

And the definition is: a Duluth version of character assassination. This is rather like Ralph Doty’s tribute to Mayor Bergson which was presented days before the Primary election leaving no time for rebuttal.

Ralph Doty: Beware of dirty tricks during the campaign season
Ralph Doty Budgeteer News
Published Friday, November 02, 2007

School Board candidates Harry Welty, Gary Glass, Deb Anderson and incumbent Tim Grover are centering much of their election campaigns on their opposition to the Red Plan for long-range facilities planning.

The nastiest and most misleading campaigns are being led by Mr. Glass and Mr. Welty.

In addition to their bitter attacks on the Red Plan, Mr. Welty and Mr. Glass are viciously attacking Johnson Controls, the company hired by the school board to conduct exhaustive studies of every school building, and to organize hundreds of public community sessions to get input about their findings.

On June 17, 2007, at a meeting of the Duluth Heights Community Club, Mr. Glass criticized Johnson Controls for what he claimed would be a financial windfall (he called it a “plum”) for the company if it’s later hired to manage remodeling and construction of school buildings. Glass contended that Johnson Controls stood to get up to $33.4 million. The Duluth News Tribune reported on Mr. Glass’ comments the next morning.

But Mr. Glass was wrong. So, the following day, June 19, the News Tribune published a front-page story of clarification. It turns out that Johnson Controls got $250,000 for the study and follow-up activities, and could possibly earn another $4.5 million for managing projects. Undeterred by the fact he was $28.9 million off the mark, candidate Glass continues his reckless attacks on Johnson Controls.

For his part, Mr.Welty, a former school board member (1995-2004), authored an attack-filled op-ed piece in the News Tribune (Oct. 21), accusing Johnson Controls of treating voters like “that frog in a cooking pot that is slowly heated until it boils.” He also charged that the company found “loopholes that stripped us of our vote.” (Fact is it’s not a loophole, it’s a state law).

Mr. Welty also recklessly alleges that Johnson Controls will “squeeze profits out of any subcontractor who takes part [in the project], not to save money for the school district but to line their own pockets.”

I guess that’s what we might expect from a perennial candidate for many local, state and federal offices who, as a board member, in April 1998 publicly used a black needle to stab a voodoo doll to “exorcise the evil spirits” from the school board. (www.snowbizz.com).

Long-time board observers also remember Welty’s obscenity-laced diatribe at a board meeting at which he expressed anger on several issues. He later apologized. (www.lincolndemocrat.com).

A few days ago, I called the Ohio community college where I served as president for 13 years, and confirmed that Johnson Controls is currently working on a large project on my former campus. A long-time employee at the college told me, “The college chose Johnson Controls because of its reputation, as well as the fact that they are under an Inter-University Contract (IUC) with the State of Ohio.” The IUC designation makes Johnson Controls an approved vendor in the state’s higher education system, without requiring colleges and universities to go to bids.

Some folks think that Mr. Welty is walking on very thin ice. If I were the CEO at Johnson Controls -a company with 130,000 employees worldwide – I’d consider taking legal action against him for his libelous and slanderous remarks about the company. You see, during election campaigns, most attacks on political candidates are fair game even if they’re not true. But Johnson Controls isn’t running for elective office and should not be subjected to a candidate’s reckless allegations.

What the Duluth School Board needs in future years is responsible and reasonable board members who can make up their minds based on facts and not emotions. Duluth will not get that type of leadership if Gary Glass and Harry Welty are elected Tuesday.

Ralph Doty can be contacted at rdoty71963@aol.com.

Lost another DNT endorsement

The DNT Editorial Board evidently takes no stand on whether the Red Plan will be a disaster for Duluth or our salvation. That strikes me as dereliction of their journalistic duty. Certainly they have offered opinions on the smaller $309 million City Health Retiree Crises. Their quibble about whether $144 million of interest on the Red Plan should be included in the price tag seems silly. It will be assessed against our taxes and it will total $437 million dollars.

The Trib rightly criticizes me for my Harold Stassen like failure to attain public office despite many attempts at it. I never started out to be a Stassen. I had the misfortune of beginning my career as a Republican centrist in a stauncly Democratic district right after Watergate. How staunch was the district? Four years earlier it had voted 76% for McGovern during the Democrats most crushing electoral defeat for President in history.

Later, the centrist in me balked at the rightward shift in the GOP. How Rightward? At a district convention a few year’s back the new darling of the local party said that people like me were worse mass murderers than Hitler, Stalin and Mao tse Tung combined.

I could have been like Mitt Romney but instead I chose to squander my electability by campaigning on my principles. This campaign is no different.

11 x 12 x 20 =

After I passed out 6,000 of my fliers a potential constituent noticed a gross and elementary mathematical error I put on it. This is the letter he sent me.

Mr. Welty,

Before you leave flyers in people’s doors, perhaps you should (1) learn how to multiply and (2) learn how to read your own brochures.

First, $11 x 12 x 20 equals $2640, not your “$2240.” This would result in a total payment of $99,264,000 if I use your assumptions of 2.5 people per household and a population of 94,000. Of course, this is still WAY short of the $437 million figure you quote. But that is because you are assuming the tax payments don’t rise over the twenty year period but your own brochure says that they will by 5.5% per year did you not read this????

Because I sense you may be mathematically impaired, let me show you what the payments would look like given what your brochures say. In the first column on the next page I am taking the initial $132.00 payment and then simply multiplying by the stated increase of 5.5% each year. In the second column I am assuming what “real” payments (adjusted for inflation) would be doing. I am going to assume the current inflation rate of 2.50, so the change in real payments would be 3.0% each year (5.5 2.5).

Having done this, note that the total amount paid by each household would be $4,602.60 over the twenty year payment or a total of $423,644,400 very close the total your brochure says is required. In real terms the cost is actually less, $3,546.88 per household. These are the important numbers to be discussing.

Year Payment Real Payment
1 132.00 132.00
2 139.26 135.96
3 146.92 140.04
4 155.00 144.24
5 163.52 148.57
6 172.52 153.02
7 182.00 157.61
8 192.02 162.34
9 202.58 167.21
10 213.72 172.23
11 225.48 177.40
12 237.88 182.72
13 250.96 188.20
14 264.76 193.85
15 279.32 199.66
16 294.69 205.65
17 310.89 211.82
18 327.99 218.18
19 346.03 224.72
20 365.06 231.46
4602.60 3546.88

My point in sending you this is to point out that you are perhaps the “liar” you refer to in your statement. An initial payment of $132 per household IS ENOUGH to support this plan given the 5.5% increase. Further, since most of these payments are in the future, the real cost is actually less. Get your own facts (and math) straight before you blanket the city with misinformation.

A final point given the mathematical abilities demonstrated by both you and the school board, I would suggest an investment in our schools in access of the $437 million may well be warranted.

Sincerely,

CA

His letter demanded a reply and this is what I wrote CA.

Thank you Mr. A,

You are absolutely right. Your letter should have been in the Duluth News Tribune. Anyone who passes out fliers on something as important as the School District’s proposed building plan has an obligation to check their figures. I didn’t and now I have to live with the knowledge that 5,000 of my neighbors have been given evidence of my sloppiness. I immediately ceased passing out the flier upon receiving your letter.

You have missed my point, however, about the taxes being assessed to pay for the Red Plan. As you pointed out; even in your revised figures the amount of taxes being advertised is far short of the $417 million cost of the plan. That gap is made up because of the 5.5 % annual increases that are planned but which have not been advertised by the District.

I only found out about this wrinkle when I talked to the staff of the State Board of Education. I don’t think a local voter should have to go to the state to find out about the tax implications of local project. This annual increase which will ultimately triple the Red plan’s costs in its final year might not be a problem for young families whose peak earning years lie ahead of them but it will be a very different story for people on fixed incomes. Even in its first year, next year, the levy for the Duluth schools will increase by 56% over this year’s levy due to the Red Plan’s implementation.

I am enclosing my replacement flier. If you find any fault with it I’d appreciate hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Harry Welty

Halloween Robbery

As I headed to pick up some last minutes leaflets, late this afternoon I paused to mail a letter to a fellow who doesn’t plan to vote for me. He caught me in an elementary mistake which necessitated a change in my fliers. I also picked up some candy for trick or treaters at Jubliee in the Plaza. Just after dropping off a thank you letter to him for catching my mistake I drove off toward the Oriental Grocery on 1st St. and Eighth Ave. E. Out of the grocery flew a young man followed closely by the store’s clerk. I surmised that a robbery had just taken place and gave chase …for about fifteen seconds.

The villain ran between yards and crossed the alley and slipped between some apartments. I pulled into the alley behind the grocery and was caught short by a dog on a leash who was quite excited that a car was heading for him. I spared the dog and backed out to much barking. I circled the block but could not pick up the trail of the thief.

I went back to the store and entered it as the clerk was speaking on the telephone to, I presume, 911. Shortly thereafter a woman entered who had seen the same thing I did but who had kept traveling up 8th Avenue without turning into the alley that had boxed me in. She had seen the robber climb into his car on another street and had taken down his liscense plate number.

We stayed until the police came and each wrote down statements about what we’d seen. It made for a memorable All Hallows Eve.

The Reader endorsement

I called the Reader to put in an ad for Gary and me. When the publisher dropped by to pick up the check he began telling me about his candidate endorsing meeting. Before he got far I interrupted him and blurted out: “You blankety blank. You didn’t endorse me”. I think he was a bit caught off guard by my mirth. I’ve twice sat in on his endorsing meetings and know how eccentric it can be. All the other right candidates got endorsed for the school board but not me. We’ll see how bad that hurts my prospects.

On the bright side the Reader will put my last words on the Red Plan in their last issue before the election. I think it should more than make up for the endorsement.

I’ve had a hand in trying to pass a half dozen school referendums of one sort or another and I probably would have voted for the Red Plan if it had been put up for a vote. So, how could I have turned against the next best thing since sliced bread?

It began five months ago when I read that the School Board didn’t need a referendum on the Red Plan. Every time a school board member condescended to tell me that he or she was elected to make the decision my flesh crawled. That may be true for Minnesota’s city councils and county boards but it’s not been true of school boards. Then, after the Superintendent bragged that there was no way to stop the Red Plan, I began to realize that Johnson Controls lawyers may have found a way for Duluth to skip a referendum. I say, “May” because the state has delayed ruling on the loopholes JCI discovered.

Watching JCI’s sleight of hand prompted me to start asking questions. For instance: why were 1,700 high school students going to be placed on the same 27 acres that now house Ordean’s 300 junior high students? Why was there no consideration of the likelihood that angry voters would rebel next year and vote down a referendum for classroom expenses? There are no loopholes yet to deny citizens this vote. Why was there so little consideration for the health of central Duluth? And lastly, why was it necessary to tear so many schools down and build new? The average age of the schools targeted by the Red Plan is just 56 years. My house, at 93 years, is almost twice as old. One explanation for this is that the School District has neglected its schools. Hogwash!

The last time the School Board was accused of neglecting maintenance was in 1989 during the row over the defeated $55 million building referendum. When Mark Myles became Superintendent 15 years ago he instituted a ten year maintenance plan that poured roughly two million annually into the most pressing maintenance problems. We still have the ten-year plan and close to $30 million have been poured into our buildings because of it. Most of them are not new buildings but none of them are wrecks.

It’s also been argued that the Red Plan’s colossal $293 million expense is simply inflation over 1989’s failed $55 million plan. This too is nonsense. We haven’t suffered from 500% inflation over the last 18 years. If you used 2006 dollars on 1989’s $55 million plan it would only cost Duluth $90.3 million dollars today. That’s less than one third the cost of the Red Plan.

Ah, but Red Plan advocates tell us we are fools to turn down the $5 million in savings the Red Plan will give us. I don’t buy it. As a school board member for eight years I was the principal champion for closing a high school so that we could use the savings for richer programming. Never do I recall anyone suggesting that we could save much more than a million dollars annually by doing this. A million bucks is nothing to sneeze at – but one million dollars isn’t five million dollars.

Where do the Red Plan advocates get their five million dollars? Three million of it comes from cutting educational programs but we could do that without closing any buildings! One such cut of $400,000 comes from trimming elementary music, art and PE teachers. Ironically, these are positions that Duluth voters were promised when they voted for a classroom levy in 1997.

This question of savings is one of the reasons that Minnesota’s Department of Education has postponed an OK on the Red Plan. The state wanted more documentation. Gary Glass has also been agitating for more documentation for a month now. This week he was told that the savings information wasn’t available because it was in Johnson Control’s hands. I guess it’s pretty obvious who’s calling the shots in the Duluth Schools nowadays.

The Red Plan’s life began when a handful of JCI lawyers found a loophole. It developed as 34 citizens (about a third of which only showed up infrequently) studied the district and its demography. It was justified when 300 people were surveyed and asked whether they minded skipping a referendum. It was then carved into stone when a bare four-person majority of the school board decided to skip a referendum. The sixty-thousand of us who would pay the taxes were not to be consulted. Such is the loophole discovered by JCI’s lawyers.

Lawyers live on loopholes but a school board lives on the public’s trust.

Let Duluth Vote!

The DFL calling and a 56% tax hike

I was listening in on the Brad Bennet show this morning. Brad and I have had our ups and downs but we see eye to eye on the Red Plan. We both need a red filter. I was waiting for a chance to call him when I got a call first from the DFL.

“Hello, I’m Sumitra.” said the very Indian voice on the other end. We’re talking a Bangalore call center. “I’m calling to ask you to vote for Tony Cuneo and Dave Anderson for City Council they are good for unions and working families.” I put quotes on the speil but I don’t recall it exactly. Sumitra asked if I would vote for them and I was non commital. Nothing like having the local “living wage” folks outsorcing jobs to Asia to promote their politicians.

A moment later I was on the line with Brad who wanted to talk school issues. I had to begin by imitating the call I’d just gotten. Brad had already gotten such a call and later I got an email from one of the Let Duluth Voters saying he’d gotten the same call two hours after hearing me on Bennett’s show. If that doesn’t do in Cuneo and Anderson nothing will.

Before the end of the hour I managed to tell Brad that the Red Plan will bump the school portion of our property taxes next year by 56%. That’s a recent discovery. Funny how the District hasn’t managed to get that message across. Everyone will find out shortly after the election when they get their property tax notices from the County. The Red Plan has to be included even though it might not go into effect. (should Gary and I get elected) That could make for an interesting Truth in Taxation hearing for the School Board in December.

Inflation misinformation

This will be brief. I’ve got more of Lakeside to leaflet today. I’m about 75% done with the 2nd District.

I’ve heard it argued that because of the School Board’s neglect we now face this awesome need for $293 million in new buildings. I believe I’ve pointed out before that the argument that the Board has been neglecting buildings for the last fifteen years is nonsense. That may have been true in the 1970’s and 1980’s but starting with Mark Myles in the early 1990’s the School Board began putting roughly $2 million a year into long term maintenence. The ten year plan is still in effect. The District has spent about $30 million on maintenence and repair since the first ten year plan.

As for the idea that because we didn’t pass 1989’s $55 million building plan we now face the gruesome prospect of a $293 million plan because of inflation. That’s simply assinine. It presumes an astonishing 500% rate of inflation over the past 18 years. I found an online inflation calculator and although it only took me up to 2006 it showed that 1989’s $55 million dollars would be the equivelent of $90.3 million in 2006. That’s less than a third of the Red Plan’s cost.

Don’t blame neglect or inflation for the Red Plan’s extravagance. Blame foolishness. Blame greed. Blame inflated egos. The old school board did what it was supposed to.

More On JCI’s political largesse

This story makes it even clearer how much JCI ponied up to buy a Wisconsin Governor. They tried to buy two of them.

Key Quote:

“Johnson Controls already has ponied up more than $170,000 to the Republican Governors Association to help bankroll the effort to get Mark Green elected governor. The company is carefully hedging its bets, however, sending $90,000 so far to the Democratic Governors Association to help finance a shadow campaign – mostly waged by a front group called the Greater Wisconsin Committee – on behalf of Jim Doyle.”