Category Archives: Not Eudora

The first rough draft…..

of History.

It made it to this week’s Reader. It begins:

I stopped in a used bookstore in Bullhead City, Arizona, last week and found about 25,000 mostly paperback books. I asked for the nonfiction section and was directed to four shelves containing perhaps 100 books. If the lion’s share of romances, westerns and thrillers in that store reflect our psyches, perhaps it’s no wonder Donald Trump looked like a sure bet to a lot of voters. I removed 4 percent of the store’s history books at two bucks a pop and read half of one of one book, “Fierce Patriot,” on my overnight flights back to Duluth.

Duluth Reader Redux

The heading I proposed as the title for my column today in the Duluth Reader was “Not Eudora Redux”. The editors chose another for me: “Poor thinking a tough nut to crack”. Its not what I would have chosen but oh, how true it is.

I’ve been talking to Bob Boone off and on since after I took a photograph of a dead Palestinian during my Peace Studies Class in the Holy Land. I thought my post in Lincolndemocrat.com on this lesson in Peace might make a good column – maybe several. But Mr. Boone is a man with too many distractions, so nothing came of it although he did let on that it wasn’t a bad idea. Continue reading

Not Eudora Redux

I’ve been talking to Bob Boone off and on since after I took a photograph of a dead Palestinian …… Wait a minute. This would make a pretty good column. Sorry. You will have to wait to see if the Reader will print if first. If not. I’ll publish it here.

Flying Blind (with the brakes fixed) Read the previous couple of posts to get the inside joke

My Reader Column Published January 4, 2018

Word has it that the Duluth News Tribune will no longer have an education reporter starting this January. Jana Hollingsworth is to be retired because her aunt, Jill Lofald, is about to be seated on the School Board. The conflict of interest supposedly justifies the stepped-back coverage but I think it’s more a matter of economy. I remember the 20-page News section from 43 years ago densely packed as though white space was a crime. The Trib in the days of Watergate was where locals got their news. Today an entire Trib from sections A to D rarely exceeds 15 of their much smaller pages.
It was still that way when I was elected in 1995. The News Tribune had three education reporters and their editors gave them lots of scope to poke sticks at our board and superintendent. During Julio Almanza’s time at the helm, two of them sat in the superintendent’s office glowering for an hour until he grudgingly handed over a proposal to close five elementary schools.

For the past four years Jana has had to shoulder that responsibility alone. If a big story does pop up, someone is sure to attend a few meetings. I suspect that big story will be the district falling into bankruptcy or Statutory Operating Debt. I offered my condolences to the newly elected board members at my final meeting and suggested that they begin researching that law. It’s happened before.

I ran for the school board in 1989, 1991 and 1993, losing each time. During this period the district fell into SOD, which may help explain my winning in a fourth attempt. I came on board during Superintendent Mark Myles’ era when he was forced to make a great many unpopular budget cuts. That alone did not get us out of the frying pan.

In 1993 Minnesota passed a law to avoid being taken to court by poor school districts desperate for funding. The poor districts were angry that the Legislature was backing away from 1971’s “Minnesota Miracle.” I was in college when that school funding law was passed and wrote a paper on it for my State and Local Government class. It was passed by a long-extinct bipartisan legislature and poured state money into property-poor school districts. The miracle did not last.

Freed from raising local taxes, school boards were quick to raise their spending. Two fiercely competitive teachers’ unions, the AFT and the NEA, competed to see which of them could bring about the most local teachers’ strikes in a bid to gain new locals. I witnessed this in the mid ‘70s as a teacher in the Proctor Schools.

And the fiscal brakes had come off school boards. In the old days, local school boards were mostly composed of tax-averse businessmen and farmers. Once the state could be counted on to finance 70 percent of public education, school boards lost the appetite to fight off strikes. They knew that state taxpayers would pay the lion’s share of their costs.

There were other reasons for farmers and businessmen to avoid local office. Board member Dr. George Balach’s dental practice was boycotted (unofficially) by angry teachers and took a huge hit emotionally and financially. Who needs that?
Although I lost the 1993 election, I pulled off one success. I talked candidate Bob Mars into supporting an “excess levy.” The legislature had sweetened the pot and was willing to give Duluth $3 for every $1 Duluth voters approved. It was an easy sell, especially when Bob got all the other candidates to promise to spend all the new state dollars on building a reserve equal to 10 percent of our annual operating costs. It took about three years to go from a deficit to a $10 million reserve.

Anyone looking for a similar easy fix in 2018 will be disappointed. The state no longer matches our increased local taxes. Where did all those reserves go?
Starting in 2006, new Superintendent Keith Dixon charmed the pants off flinty, tight-fisted, Chamber of Commerce types to build schools we could be proud of. His astonishingly inexperienced school board caught the spirit of those heady days before the 2008 housing crash. Even as that crisis unfolded, Dixon’s school board increased the cost of the building plan by 25 percent against the loud protests of my organization, Let Duluth Vote.

The district was like a small child whose mouth was too big for its stomach. It spent down $30 million of reserves. It laid off teachers in the hundreds. It eliminated its vital Curriculum Department. It ended its generous busing. This would not have been necessary if the board had honestly raised the taxes to pay for the Red Plan’s full costs. However, in the face of criticism the board, perhaps cluelessly, chose instead to cannibalize its operating budget. Today only $2.5 million of the local levy goes into the classroom while $28.5 million pays for the Red Plan.

When the editors of the News Tribune interviewed me for a possible endorsement, I honestly acknowledged that I played a part in the resulting disaster. I’m not sure I made it clear to the editors that my only role was in frightening the school board away from raising taxes. Of course, the editors have never acknowledged that they failed to grasp, let alone report, the looming deficits. As we head, once again, into Statutory Operating Debt the reporterless News Tribune will be flying blind. It won’t be the first time.
By the way. My successors on the school board chose a new set of captains at tonight’s organizational meeting. Sadly, their most education savvy colleague, Alanna Oswald, was frozen out despite a lot of talk a lot about economizing.

Harry Welty is a local eccentric who also pontificates at www.lincolndemocrat.com.

Zero Hour’s beginnings twelve years ago

Tonight I decided to look through old scribblings of mine thinking that I might be able to cobble a book together for use in a possibly nefarious activity in the near future. I discovered a 2002 column I had written for the Duluth Reader during my four-year stint as a columnist. The column presaged the email I’ve been receiving for the past couple weeks from students and parents trying to save the zero hour.

In 2001 I labored long and hard to pass an operational levy. It was an uphill fight. I remember PTA President Judy Seliga-Punyko telling me that she wouldn’t vote for it. She was mad that the school board hadn’t acted on my idea to slim down from three high schools to two high schools. I thought her reasoning was nuts. The following year after the failure of the levy we put an end to the seven period day. Years later Judy’s memory of the loss of the seven periods involved my being on the School Board when it happened so that I could take the blame. She had no memory of voting against the referendum that would have allowed us to keep it.

Well, I’ve pasted the last half of the column below which deals with the Union’s crocodile tears about having lost the extra period. The column begins with my mulling over another run for the legislature in the 2002 election. I eventually did run and lost – one of my thirteen electoral defeats. I think its 13. Its hard to remember them all.

Here’s what I wrote about the “seven period day.” Or, if you’d like, you can read the whole original column:

Last week I bumped into my old nemesis Frank Wanner, the teachers’ union president, a fellow who helped put me in the minority. While my feud with Frank was put to bed two years ago my feud with the folks he helped elect lives on. Well, it’s true that one of them was defeated last year, but the three-high school supporters still have more votes. Frank was very cordial and suggested that we get together. I promised to call.

The next day I had to leave a message with him because he was holding a press conference about saving the seven-period day. I sure wish he’d done this before we finished registering students for a six-period day! When my wife saw him on the news she said, “No wonder Frank was so friendly!” The next day I left another message for Frank.

The weekend was blissfully free of politics (except for some email) until we joined friends for an Easter Dinner. Our friend’s son is interested in political science. He told me that Frank likes to bad mouth SUVs in class. Apparently my website gets discussed too. That explains some of my email.

Frank called me back on Monday and we agreed to meet at Bixby’s. I told Frank that I’d heard that he hated SUV’s. He smiled and asked where I’d heard this. I told him that I had my sources.

We talked about his seven-period day proposal which he assured me was not a negotiations ploy. I prefer to take him at his word. The DFT wants high school students to be able to take up to seven classes a day. Many students, teachers and parents are convinced that this is a key to getting into their preferred colleges. Whether it is or not the six-period day is our response to financial hard times. I told Frank what I keep telling the Board – if we had two high schools we could keep seven periods. Frank didn’t disagree. Ah! But I’m in the minority!

If I could just get elected to the legislature maybe I could do something about school finance. I’m sure not having much luck on the school board.

Well Shut Mah Mouth

Karl is right. I have a healthy Ego. Its an American birthright. Karl is also right that without some humility such an Ego can be a terrible thing.

This blog is my id. I don’t hold much back. That’s especially true when I wake up in the morning with an itch in my brain so big that I don’t have the energy to proof read and edit the thousands of words that spill out from my brain as a result of the itch. Think of these pieces as a long internal conversation. I’ve gotten a lot of fair grief for the recent Civil War Trilogy. They, were such an extended typing session.

I can, with careful editing, be fairly economical with my words. The post Karl refers to in which I beat the hell out of Art Johnston is such a piece. That took me better than four hours from about 2 AM until about 6:15 in the morning.

It appeared to me that Art had bad mouthed me to the editor of the Zenith Weekly and since he took the gloves off I took mine off as well. If you can’t tell I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’m not looking forward to serving with him on the School Board. It will be a test of his maturity to take my attack like a man instead of sulking about it. I expect him to sulk.

I did get a call on my answering machine subsequently from Art but before he read my post. He was looking for a peace deal without realizing it was too late. After he read the Zenith’s story he wanted me to know that he never took after me in the interview. That’s posible although with millions of words invested in this blog I don’t much like to have it dismissed as simply “bullshit.”

Its possible that the id from long distant posts criticizing Art, something I’ve only done rarely, had been read and remembered by Richard Thomas. He’s a long time reader of the blog. Its possible he took previous criticisms of Art from long ago and Art’s dismissal of my blog and my comment about Art’s irascibility, leaped to some conclusions and blew it up into a major war. If so, there is truth to it. Before Art won his seat in November 2008 I was so fed up with him that I sent him an email telling him I hoped he won just so he could endure the four years of frustration being on the School Board would give him. I got my wish.

I’m utterly baffled by Art’s determination to get our District’s Administrators to admit to stupidity and lying over the Red Plan as a quid pro quo to get his support to prevent our schools from sliding into damnation. I think that proposed trade off is the measure of a pretty small and selfish mind. Yes, they ought to own up to being fools and knaves. But most people don’t have the humility to own up to such crimes. So, Art will condemn our children to hellish schools until his unattainable demand for vindication is won. To Heck with Art.

Here’s my last Not Eudora column before the November election. It explains without so much Id and verbiage why I write. Well Shut Mah Mouth.

Not Eudora Again # 5

So far this year I’ve been pleasantly surprised how easy it has been for me to come up with Not Eudora columns. Perhaps its simply an explosion of ideas pent up for the six or so years since I last wrote for the Reader Weekly. Heck, by the time I’d hung up my byline I’d mostly descended into writing myopically about the Red Plan. I don’t mind writing about politics but for special writing like the Reader I’d like to play around a little.

I never reveal yet to be published material until the actual publishing date. I do fudge a little by making the first few lines available. I composed this in my head on Monday while I was painting. I never found the time to start writing it until this morning and in the intervening days I’d gotten concerned that the thread of my thought that had seemed indistructable five days earlier had grown feeble. I did write a 30 word outline on Monday so I wouldn’t forget the gist of what was in my head but over the week I never could conjur up those original thoughts.

I woke up last night and spent an hour and a half composing yet a new column for two weeks from now that peeled like a tangerine skin onto the page. Then having built up some rhythm and steam I turned to the problematic “The Devil’s Friend.” Like magic it reassembled itself. I even went back to bed confident that it could be polished off early the next morning. My confidence was rewarded. I sent it in to the Reader by 10:00 AM four hours before deadline.

Sadly, I did have to sacrifice a visit with my Mother today but I think I can manage that tomorrow depending on when my grandson’s big birthday party commences. If you want to take that peek The Devil’s Friend begins here. The two most startling events are based on reports I believe to be true or largely so.

Not Eudora and jumping ship

I just uploaded my fourth Not Eudora column to the Reader Weekly. So far its been easier for me to write them than I recall it being five years ago. Perhaps that’s because I’ve gotten so used to pounding the keys for my blog.

The Reader has made life a little tougher for me. I used to get the column in about three days before publication. Now its a full week. I’ve also had to be more succinct. That is a bigger challenge although I brought the next column in at just over 600 words. Years ago I pushed a thousand words regularly. I’m not sure that the “soul of wit” is yet mine.

All my new columns were begun a few days ahead of time and Friday was only needed for serious editing. When I come up blank some future Friday it will be a much bigger challenge to both compose and edit. I beat the deadline by about two hours so I have an afternoon to do some yard work and maybe even answer the questions the Trib’s education reporter sent me. I haven’t looked that them yet or even the deadline she gave me.

It was the reporter who warned me that I’d missed my meeting with the Editorial Board. The Editorial Board told me the Reporter thought she got along with me OK. Well, of course I do. I never blame the reporters for the blunders of the Editorial Board!

And that reminds me of one thing I found humorous when the Editors interviewed me. When I mentioned that Superintendent Dixon got the hell out of Duluth before “the shit hit the fan” they all, ALL, laughed. They are not twits.

But Chuck Frederick played devil’s advocate with me after my comment. He said some people had argued that if Dr. Dixon had only stayed in Duluth our District wouldn’t be in its present financial straights because Dixon would have straightened things out. That was so ridiculous that I’m surprised I didn’t laugh at it.

Not at all, I told Chuck. Dr. Dixon sewed the seeds of the disaster, himself, by rushing contract agreements that the District would not be able to sustain without major staff cuts. He did it to keep the staff quiet when the Red Plan was under the greatest assault and spun the settlement as proof of the good will between staff and administration. Besides, he kept adding more expensive baubles to the Red Plan like Judy Seliga-Punyko’s new one-million-a-lane swimming pools that would have to come out of future operation’s expenses. The pools sure looked like a reward to Judy for knocking me off in the 2007 election and giving Dixon a free hand with his adoring and compliant School Board.

Dixon knew when to jump ship alright. No captain he to go down with it. He was the first rat off.

The Democracy of Stupidity

I learned that my third Not Eudora(Again) column had appeared in the Reader Weekly when and old School Board member emailed me out of the blue. George told me he enjoyed it and mentioned that that he’d always gotten a kick out of them. He even missed my columns when I swore off them six or seven years ago. I considered that high praise for a no-nonsense guy like George. He even encouraged me to attend the next Free Thinkers meeting this Sunday to hear a talk about how thorium nuclear reactors can save the planet. I’d kind of like to but I’d miss singing in church.

There is no telling how long I’ll be permitted to keep submitting them since I am now a candidate for the School Board. I’ve already said I would keep away from topics concerning the race although, of course, my blog won’t. The tag at the end of the columns does however reference the blogs existence claiming that its author, moi, is a local crank. Hey. Its just truth in advertising.

My new campaign volunteer criticized this morning for a recent post of mine on the blog that he thought was a little tough on Christianity. I’m sure it was but Jesus himself was tough on his own religion. He set the example.

I told my new supporter who has already made 30 or 40 calls to people on my behalf that if I had to bite my tongue to get elected I had no desire to win a campaign for the School Board. Now that the latest column is in print I can safely link to it on the blog without hurting the Reader Weekly’s subscription base.

It’s here in full and begins thusly:

As I was mowing my lawn, which had grown shaggy during a vacation to the Black Hills, I heard the horn blasts that herald the Mexican anthem La Cucaracha ta da da daaaa daaaa – ta da da daaaa daaaa!

“How passe’,” I thought to myself as I prepared to see some retro Mexican’s low rider cruising by. Instead I found an ice cream truck pausing to sell a dreamsicle to a neighbor. “Cooool,” I thought to myself replacing one moment’s contempt for another person passe’ past with my nostalgic fondness for my own passe’.

About that Reader column

Its been three days since the last TMI post and I’ve been dreading that it was way too too much. Also I forgot what I’d written about. It wasn’t that bad.

The Reader Publisher got hold of me late in the day to say that I could submit the column to an alternative email address that was still working. I joked that with his recent declaration about having kicked my column off the Reader the last time I ran for public office he’d probably have to do it again. He said he probably would but that he was in no hurry. I told him I didn’t plan to write about the School District or Board politics until after the election but that I would understand if he froze me out. He said I was too valuable a property for him to kick me off indefinately but anyway he’d probably let me get another column in after this one before he got around to it.

As for my next column you can read the first couple sentences here. I won’t fully post it until it has appeared in the Reader’s print.

Getting the hang of Snowbizz again

In recent years I only rarely have gone back to my original website Snowbizz.com which I started back in 1999. I all but abandoned it after seven years in 2006 when I started this blog which I started to promote my quixotic race for Congress. I was already writing a column for the local Duluth tabloid the Duluth Reader and had just stepped of the Duluth School Board a few years before.

I’ve kept paying for the Snowbizz domain name as its an archive of many of my eccentric interests. It was built with Microsoft’s webpage software which has changed routinely. I didn’t often change with it. Even now I’m using a ten year old version of the software which I’ve hated from the beginning because it had changed from what I was familiar with. I’m still not used to it.

With my resumption of the Not Eudora column in the Reader it makes sense to me again to go back to puttering about with the webpage. I spent long hours a couple days in a row trying to remember how to add pages to Snowbizz and figure out the software I never got accustomed to.

Back in 1999 before the first blogs I wanted to be a blogger. I just didn’t have a term for it. I wrote entries about 20 times a month in a portion of the website called School Board Diary for a couple years to explain what I saw as a Duluth School Board member. They were meant to make the school board’s mysterious ways clear. It was, as is my blog, completely self serving. I share my opinions and viewpoint.

Somehow all those original diary entries have been lost at some point as I was wrestling with webpage maintenance. I think it happened when I finally knuckled under to the local newspaper’s insistence that I remove their stories about the Duluth School District. I ignored their request for several years until I was off the Board. I think in removing those stories I mistakenly removed the diary entries that I had linked to the stories.

It was a complicated excision because I had hundreds of pages to remove. I botched the operation but the Duluth News Trib’s attorneys no longer have just cause to sue me for copyright violations.

You can read my first return column for the Duluth Reader here. As I wrote earlier it has the six other paragraph breaks which I think are necessary to help the reader thread through my convoluted analysis.

Between the blog and Snowbizz.com any reader willing to spend years at it can roughly figure out my STATED motivations. Whether anyone sacrificing their life to figure me out believes any of my drivel is up to them.

Six Paragraphs

My return to the Reader Weekly, Duluth’s largest tabloid, was a little awkward. Although its publisher had kind words for me as he introduced five new columnists – “Harry is a terrific writer” – its hard not to wonder if that isn’t a promotion of the Reader rather than its returned writer.

My column was submitted and as far as I could tell languished unacknowledged for two weeks before publication. I got home late this afternoon and found that it was indeed in this week’s Reader if not in the Reader’s new website. A picture I’d submitted was not included. My dozen paragraphs were pared down to half that. To the extent that the breaks helped refocus my narative the elimination of them seemed to make it a little breathless. I suspect I’m in part to blame for the mis-communication about what I wanted published. I was on vacation and gloriously distracted until the last two days when I called and found out that another column was wanted forthwith. Yesterday I spent four hours in the car heading home and racing through North Dakota’s stretch of I-94 busily editing a rough draft down from 1100 words to 650 or so. when it shows up a week from now it will be titled “…illions.”

I’m exhausted from a long day and have valiently but incompetantly attempted to stick it into my old website. I’m too tired to correct the mistakes tonight. I need sleep. but for those of you who can’t wait here it is as I would have preferred it to have appeared in print. Tomorrow and henceforth I’ll put it in the proper place and this link will take you to the parent webpage.