Category Archives: elections

Irony watch

I am a connoisseur of all things ironic and recent stories, that have been a surprise to me and everyone I know, may have an incredibly ironic connection.

I blame one administration suck up for bringing down a ton of bricks on my colleague Art Johnston three years ago. Long time readers may know to whom I’m referring although I’ve never quite been enough of a “provocateur” to use such incendiary language before to describe her. I can’t help but wonder if the recent news about Art’s challenger wasn’t brought about by the very same person, thirteen unlucky years ago, sowing time bombs and mayhem wherever she went.

I highlighted the word provocateur because I described myself as such to Jana Hollingsworth for today’s story about the At-large school board candidates.

I was thinking historically. More examples of my kind of provocateur: Sam Adams, Thomas Paine, Martin Luther, Frederick Douglas, Jesus of Nazareth.

Can Duluth voters take an endorsement seriously from editors who did not notice that Donald Trump was an ignorant demagogue,…

…a liar and a seven-year-old sexoholic?

Well maybe, but I’m still profoundly disappointed in their at-large school board endorsements. They only grudgingly endorsed me four years ago and they have badly confused my principled fight to protect Art Johnston as something ugly when in fact, the only thing ugly about it was the Tribune’s siding with the School Board members who pushed lies to remove Art. As I wrote a couple year”s ago:

Art and I did have a chance to voice our displeasure with the attorney for the District Kevin Rupp. The allegation I leveled against Rupp for pushing the Board to throw Racism on the barn wall last June to see if it would stick comes from an unimpeachable source. I would be amazed if any Board member denied it. This was only the most disagreeable reason I cited for replacing Rupp.

It was chair Mike Miernicki who was sickened by our attorney Kevin Rupp’s recommendation to charge Art Johnston with saying racist things. But Miernicki took the vile advice and it was the Duluth News Tribune who trumpeted the baseless allegation over and over for a year. The Presidential candidate that the editors did not oppose calls this Fake News. Now he wants to undermine the First Amendment. Good work Editors!

In fact, for ten years the editorial board has played the prostitute to school administrations of dubious character. They jumped on board with Keith Dixon, who I’ve always suspected was a charming sociopath. When Gary Glass correctly pointed out that Johnston Controls would earn $30 million from the Red Plan the newspaper quickly countered Glass with Dixon’s lie that the program managers would only earn $4.5 million. After that their columnist at the Budgeteer used this gross misinformation to write a column calling Gary Glass the liar.

Time and again the Trib backed the wrong end of the horse. The Red Plan would not segregate Duluth. The Red Plan would only cost half of its real cost. The new buildings would save a great deal of energy. The old buildings were far too large for Duluth’s needs. The old buildings would be sold and help retire the bonding debt. Interest payments were not part of the cost of the Red Plan. Now the editor’s mantra is “Don’t cry over spilled milk.” The real crime of the incumbent, Harry Welty, is that he is one of the few people who spoke up as the disaster unfolded. That merits the Trib’s dismissal: “Voters can thank Welty for his service — and then jump at the chance for the change that’s needed to finally solve those problems…” The problems the Trib’s editors were to blind to anticipate and too vain to acknowledge

One of the candidates the Trib heartily endorsed showed up for only the second school board meeting tonight since she announced her candidacy five months ago.
I’ve never seen a candidate campaign so little in all the years I’ve been watching the school board. I guess the Trib finds her ignorance as blissful as their own.

Meanwhile the hardest working new candidate Dana Krivogorsky got the Trib’s try-again-at-the-next-election schtick. Alanna Oswald offered a far more cogent testimonial. I wonder if the editors can relate to anyone who understands our schools and takes the time to study them. Krivogorsky’s only crime is guilt by association – with me.

And there may be another reason the Trib acts as it does. Thin skin. I have twitted the Trib time and time again on the blog in posts like this one where I engaged the Editor. And there was the time the editor accused me of defaming the Trib which resulted in this post on his “big boy pants.”

I’ve been to 10,000 doors all across Duluth this summer. I am not sure who the editors think their audience is but I doubt that they understand them very well. The Trib is in an echo chamber populated with poobahs who don’t want to be reminded how wrong they were about the Red Plan.
Now the Trib’s editors are promoting the Superintendent’s “dream team” so we will never have to worry about him jumping ship again.

I write this not in anger but with resignation. The last “fresh face” the Trib endorsed over me in 2007 prevented Duluth from reevaluating the Red Plan before Duluth took the plunge. Had the Trib endorsed me instead of helping elect a pretty young pet of Dr. Dixon’s our schools would not have been ripped asunder. There are solutions to our problems, painful solutions, but I’ll guarantee the fresh faces the Trib is endorsing this election are no improvement on the Fresh Face who cemented the Red Plan into place with the Trib’s help.

Lawnsign Maintenance

One of my least favorite political chores is picking up and replacing damaged and lost lawn signs. But at five bucks a pop and with a limited supply I knew I had to put some back up on 21st Ave east when I saw them badly abused along with their lawnsign partners, the Dana Krivogorsky signs. At the bottom of the hill I discovered that one midnight author had decided to amend my sign to, I guess, humiliate me.

I am indebted to the anonymous vandal who thinks a man should not stoop to “woman’s work.” I’ve put it in my front yard and from now on will put any other signs of mine which are defaced right next to it. As for being a dreaded house husband, its true that baby boom boys were raised to be “bread winners” but a couple bad breaks put me in the position to test whether I could walk the talk. The “talk” was my 45-year conviction that women and men are equals. Being an equal meant valuing the work of women with the respect it deserved and not looking down on traditional roles. I was at home most of the time that our children grew up and they didn’t turn out so badly – a daughter with a masters in Education and a son a year away from completing a Chemistry/Physics doctorate at one of the nation’s top 20 universities in the field of science.

Besides, had I not been a “house husband” I would never have begun the hobby that makes all Duluth smile every winter- snow sculpting. While I have not bragged about being a house husband I’ve not shied away from the label. The following admission is taken from a post last year.

“Hillary’s sins were often petty as for instance when she told reporters that she wanted to do more than bake cookies. As a house husband myself when she said this I was mortally wounded but I got over it.”

I owe a debt of gratitude to the anti-feminist ridicule bestowed on me. That sign will help me win a much larger share of the house husband vote and, with the shaky economy of recent years, its probably enough to assure my reelection.

I’ve now relocated the sign to my front yard. 40,000 drivers and passengers who pass by will see it every day until the election on November 7th.

I just can’t help myself

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

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

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

thanks,
Chuck

And my reply:

To: Chuck Frederick
Subject: RE: party endorsement comment

Hi Chuck,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harry

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

Patience and Impatience

I have yet to go through the four paper copies of the Tribunes that were delivered to my door while I was away in Florida. I believe only one of them, last week’s Thursday edition mentioned the Duluth Schools and that only to inform the public which of the incumbents were planning on running for reelection. The news must have been in the Friday paper copy because I my quote was given to reporter Hollingsworth Thursday morning while Airport announcements were being made in the background.

I had to repeat myself to Jana because I whipped my answer out pretty fast. I said,

“I don’t think there is anybody better prepared to deal with the challenges of the Duluth school district than somebody with my long experience, my patience and my impatience.”

Jana, didn’t add the bolding to that last bit about my impatience but I think she chuckled a bit under her breath when I repeated it. Its been a long three plus years with two of them wasted on a futile and destructive attempt to undue the 2013 election. Four of the board members who brought that about are now off or soon to retire leaving only Rosie Loeffler-Kemp to defend her pro-removal record and Art Johnston and me on the other side of that catastrophe to seek public vindication. Its that waste of two years which prompted my reference to both patience and impatience. It could hardly be otherwise.

The last year has seen some recovery from the first two dark years which imitated in microcosm the trials and tribulations of Washington D.C. Let’s hope that the tweet machine, Donald Trump, isn’t elected to the Duluth School Board this fall to fix everything.

My visit to Florida over the weekend brought home the division across the land as I listened to FOX News and visited with in-laws with very different opinions on the state of America. Hand me the sutures, Nurse, and some cotton for a little mopping up.

Oh, and this New York Times piece over the weekend on the same set of issues caught my attention: How the Left learned to Hate like the Right.

Keeping one’s perspective while confronting local and national crisis

Tonight I plan to attend a fun event at Denfeld, its annual Speech “Concert.” This will be easier for me because Claudia will be home late tonight after returning from her Seminary classes in the Twin Cities. I figure this will help remind me that I have some responsibilities here in Duluth and can’t spend all my time dismayed by National events. Likewise on Saturday I plan to attend the second annual Bringthesing event up at St. Scholastica. I had a great time singing there last year.

Its not as though I can escape, or want to escape, my concerns as a school board member. Yesterday I had two long conversations regarding the District’s future, upcoming elections, and the issue I raised at the end of the last school Board meeting – how we might face the possibility of searching out new leadership should that be our lot. Its just that I feel at times like a soldier in a trench with an oncoming tank to the front and an airplane strafing the trench coming from the side. Somehow I have to prepare for both simultaneously.

(please excuse this pause – my hungry yellow cat Moloch just jumped on my desk to let me know he’s hungry. I’ll have to give him false hope that I will feed him by rushing downstairs and then shutting the door on him when he follows me out. Otherwise he’ll bop my hand for the next hour until I’m ready to oblige him)

Sorry Moloch.

I’d like to pontificate about this NY Times column by Nicholas Kristoff: “There is a Smell of Treason in the Air”

In one of my conversations an old timer said the times we are living in are just like the 1960’s. Well, my truncated Paranoia series had that idea in mind and raised that thought but compared today’s headlines with the 1920’s. Or maybe we are revising the 1940’s movie Casablanca . Remember when Rick (Humphrey Bogart) said: “…I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.”? Well, my hill of beans is the Duluth Schools and it does count.

BTW I found the quote in this site devoted to the best lines of dialogue in the movie. This is one of Hollywood’s greatest movies. I recently read that during the Movie’s flashback scene of the Germans marching into Paris one of the cast members, who was there when it really happened, burst out in uncontrollable sobs at the memory during the shoot. Also, evil Major Strasser in the movie was Conrad Veidt who in real life had escaped Nazi Germany before taking on the role. There were many other refugees from Europe on the set as actors and extras adding gravitas to the movie’s completion.

As for the nefarious treason that columnist Kristof writes about; he take his readers back to 1968 when friends of the Nixon campaign lobbied to delay a peace settlement in Vietnam. Kristof notes that it has been confirmed in the last month that Richard Nixon ordered the attempt. There have been no smoking guns until now. I agree that this was far more heinous than the Watergate Break-in that cost Nixon the Presidency. I feel obligated to pursue the Trump/Putin inquiries with a vengeance and thank God for Trump’s “loser” Senator John McCain for arguing that Congress isn’t fit/suited to conduct such an inquiry. To paraphrase Heraclitus, “the only thing that doesn’t change is change.”

Oh my head is full….ouch, ouch, ouch.

Time for me to go back to 1920 where a crowded field of Republican Presidential candidates (Just as in 2016) is about to give way to a second rater, albeit a “kind” man – Warren G. Harding.

Oh, and there’s this from the Trib today on Denfeld High School. Its an initiative I support but without the additional financing that I want the school to have. I’m still working on that.

And I just remembered one more item that has me thinking. Its one more bit of evidence that helps explain the Trump vote. Its about the reversal of the long time trend toward longer lives. White people seem to be dying of despair. They aren’t dying in socialized Europe. Maybe we can thank the Republican nanny state fighters.

Americapocalypse

I love my blog’s search function. It always surprises me what it can reveal in and about my ten years of blogging. Apparently, not counting this post I have mentioned “paranoia” in 47 previous posts. Its easy to count as the search function shows me 20 posts per page and there were three pages with 20 + 20 + 7 such posts. A couple even had the word “Paranoia” in the Title. Now that’s a small fraction of my total 19442 posts (not counting this one). I think that shows some restraint on my part as it means I’ve only mentioned it in .0049724926 percent of my total posts. (You gotta love calculators)

It’s on my mind now despite living a pretty mundane life. Last night my very interesting evening with the School Board (beginning with our hush hush closed meeting to discuss……….) Shhhhhh!

As I was saying – after my night of school board meetings I had eight minutes to drive up to my heart-dappled Glen Avon Presbyterian Church to practice with our choir. This will be difficult for me to continue thru June because Claudia is now working Wednesday evenings helping register homeless folks in at CHUM. Until June I’ll be skipping choir practice to take care of our grandsons. I’m looking forward to these evenings but since I can’t really read music I’ll be missing my only chance to practice our music by ear. I don’t mind looking foolish at a School Board meeting (that’s a lie) but I hate the thought of coughing out an unplanned solo or hitting a false note in church.

Ah, but a sick grandchild and my rare Wednesday board meeting left me free for the night and I hurriedly parked on the south side of Lewis street as I have for twenty years. Thank goodness I got the music. It is tricky and syncopated. When I left the practice feeling relieved I opened my car door and saw a parking ticket fall to the street. Twenty-four bucks! I guess I should thank my lucky stars I got away with that for the past two decades. It was bound to catch up with me sometime.

So this morning I awoke in our guest room bed alone. I moved there after waking up and fretting for a couple hours that would have been better spent sleeping. I have all day to fret. Last night however, I decided the deep well that I have put in my mattress may explain the sore shoulder muscles I’ve endured for the past week after shoveling snow. If so, maybe its not simply the Americapocolypse that has me up at nights. I’m going to lobby for a new mattress.

Claudia, it turns out, had to leave early for her Twin Cities Seminary classes this morning. She left me a pot of coffee and two sleeping cats which she had fed. Nice. Then, I read the 25th day straight of unsettling news about our new Command-her and Chief. Then, I thought about the likely imminent departure of our Superintendent. Then, I thought about how unless we can find alternative funding the School District may have to pull money out of the classroom to pay for replacement of tire mulch. Then, I thought about how to lobby the Minnesota Dept of Education to take money out of our Capital funds instead. Then, I saw my parking ticket on the dining room table. Phooey!

The ticket explained that I could pay easily over the phone and easy sounded, well, easy. But when a cheery voice announced I could do it easily for an extra $3 charge for phone processing I hung up and wrote a check instead. I’ll pay 54 cents for Post Office processing instead, thank you very much.

And behind all this personal minutiae lies a fearful political collapse of the Republic. The press won’t cut Trump any slack as he blunders his way proving that he can make the national political transition of government as chaotic as last year’s election. He has read his political mandate about as well as he can read. The saving grace is that in a pinch the Republican’s in Congress will likely not give him authoritarian powers lest he do to the Republicans what Kim Jong-un did to his half brother a couple days ago. They still need a powerful enough justification to impeach Trump so as to shield themselves from their fire-breathing Limbaugh and Rapture-ridden Christian base.

I take little comfort when I read an old testament Christian’s explanation that God chose lots of evil men to work his will in Old Testament times and that’s why they voted for Trump. Trump is our Nebuchadnezzar. An illiterate, pussy grabber is God’s judgement on America. Maybe that explains Trumps stunning retreat from his last thank you to the RNC convention for cutting Gays some slack. Then he backed off and threw a bone to the fundamentalists scrapping the Johnson Amendment.

I’ve often joked that “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean someone isn’t out to get you.” Looking at my Facebook feed which keeps growing exponentially as I add new friends I see how the folks on my side of the political divide are rallying. I only get short glimpses of the pro-Trump side as they typically eschew the Fake News I rely on. They probably feel paranoid about my jokes about the impeachment of Trump. That may be cause for alarm. At choir practice last night a friend told me of a retired school superintendent he knows (and that I know too) who is out buying all the ammunition he can.

I really need a good mattress.

Cyrillic messaging

I just found a reminder email to myself as I cleaned old emails out to unfreeze my mailing system. It reminded me to tell my eight loyal readers about the cleverest sign I saw when I marched down the Skywalk with Claudia and friends for Duluth’s Woman’s March. The march was a lot of fun and it was gratifying to know it was being replicated all accross the world. When I visited Denver I learned that my cousin marched through Denver the same day while she was visiting her Father, my Uncle Frank.

The email concerned the funniest sign being waved in the Duluth march by a friend of mine who keeps advocating for “civility” in the Community and who for long years has despaired over the Duluth School Board. The sign she held was in the Russian language’s cyrilic script.

Having collected lots of Russian stamps in my youth I asked my friend if it was a message for Russia. She told me that it was. What did it say? It said:

What does it mean?

It means: “Thanks for nothing.”

BTW – This was not my first foray into this demographic. I put this sign up in October but it was stolen from my yard the same night.

Then after Breitbart began spewing out fake news from Russia I put this one up. Continue reading

Thank you Dr. Conniff…

…for reading my blog. Thank you also for taking part in an important public conversation……..

I have submitted this piece in its entirety to the Tribune and will withhold it until such time as the Tribune prints it.

This is what I originally posted except that when I saved it the five or so hyperlinks I placed in it were lost. Frankly I’m too busy to replace them. As you can see there is very little change:


Thank you Dr. Conniff for reading my blog. Thank you also for taking part in an important public conversation. Your contribution begins:
“I had to read to the end of the well-reported Nov. 15 article, “District responds to hate speech in Duluth high schools,” to find School Board Member Harry Welty’s recommendation against ‘having a dire punishment for kids abusing their free-speech rights.’
In disbelief, I turned to Welty’s blog”

When the Tribune’s education reporter, Jana Hollingsworth, called me I kept her on the phone for forty minutes as I expanded on my thoughts on this sensitive subject. Due to the Duluth News Tribune’s understandable limitations of time, newsprint, and ink, only two sentences of mine were included in the article to explain my still evolving thinking on this episode.
In the meantime I must insist on an uncomfortable truth: In the United States free speech does include hate speech however much we may be appalled by it. Fortunately it does not include shouting “fire” in a dark theater nor does it include threats or incitement to riot.

My job as a member of the school board is to think my way through what has been happening over the last year and how to deal with its consequences over the next four and possibly, God forbid, eight years. Making martyrs out of Duluth students for parroting the hateful things they hear on the Internet and no doubt in their homes and on the nightly news is not the best or most thoughtful response. That would be fighting fire with grease which would only make the conflagration more intense.
Duluth has undergone two recent changes which exacerbate the negativity of 2016 election. 1. It divided its school district into rich/poor and black/white schools at the same time as 2. Its African-American community has begun to expand significantly leading to a white flight from our schools of perhaps 15% of the student population. There has been one heartening development over these recent years. Our children have assumed a generous and open attitude toward their superficial differences. The reaction of students in both East High and Denfeld have been remarkable rebukes to the politics that seem to have generated the “hate speech.” I take great comfort in that.

These generous reactions must be supported by the School Board not undermined by meting out “dire punishments” prompted by shock at the outcome of the recent election. We need to follow our better angels. That’s what Martin Luther King Jr. did. His legacy, the “Southern Christian Leadership Conference” has continued for fifty years to keep a watchful eye out for the vestiges of hate and racism that King gave his life to make part of our nation’s past. I do not believe King would have encouraged us to force it underground but would have advised us to keep it in full view where it could be exposed for what it is – a grievous assault on the spirit of justice and equality that our nation was founded upon.

PIG’S BLOOD

My Buddy sent me Andrew Sullivan’s long piece in the New York Magazine which mentioned this fascist libel on General Pershing which I found in a British newspaper’s webpage on You Tube.

I grew up with close family friends from the Philippines. I had a Muslim roommate in High School. Having seen this video I can state unequivocally that anyone who sees this and votes for Donald Trump for President of the United States is a traitor to everything the nation’s founders hoped for the United States.

If that means you………YOUR FIRED! Emigrate to Russia where you can have a leader who joins you in your admiration of this pig blood drenched huckster.

I had a few choice thoughts on Trump in a temporary blog I set up in January when this one went Kaflooey including my snow sculpture tribute to Ms. South Carolina.

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.

Misc thoughts about political manipulation

A. I just read a worrisome story on my cell phone from Politico about Google’s potential to determine the winners of elections. Reassuringly I found it easily just now on Google itself. It was the first thing that came up in my search results.

B. I’ve been skeptical but neutral on the current enthusiasm for Ranked Choice voting. I can’t argue that our current politics isn’t a bit broken. I hate the current ability for the super rich to funnel their money secretly into political campaigns but event that is nothing compared to what Google could do if it were so inclined.

I view Ranked Choice proposals in much the same way as campaigns for civility. It could end up being a wolf dressed up in a sheep’s clothing.

C. There was a Zenith story on ranked choice voting which made a claim I’ve not heard before about the proponents of the system. The Zenith described one such group as being a Scientology-like organization which excelled at harassing critics of Ranked Choice Voting into silence. I’m a skeptic of both panaceas and harassment.

D. There is one local issue of small importance except to Duluth’s Lakeside neighborhood. At the moment owing to some antique decision from eighty or ninety years ago there are no liquor sales permitted in that neighborhood. It strikes me that the City Council is attempting to justify a change to allow liquor sales but doing so in a spineless manipulative way. Its offering a non biding vote on the subject for all of Duluth to weigh in on and not just the Lakesiders. Should it pass I can imagine the Councilors proclaiming that this city-wide vote is good enough for them no matter what the Lakesiders think.

MSBA Notes 3 – The right to remain stupid

I had a good long drive down to the MSBA convention on Wednesday and plenty of time to catch up after my week out of town. Art’s ongoing legal work was topic one.

Not to give away Art’s defense his attorney’s are focusing like a laser beam on his first amendment rights which came under assault in Mary Rice’s testimony. Rice claimed that half a dozen statements made by Art and directed at the School Board were derogatory toward the Board. Trust me when I tell you that all of them would have made a Congressman laugh out loud.

It was ironic then when I attended Tuesday’s session on Minnesota’s Labor Law PELRA (Public Employees Labor Relations Act) to hear the legal architect for Art’s removal, Kevin Rupp, giving a spirited defense of the Constitution. One of Art’s attorney’s was a long time attorney for the Minneapolis School District. He shared with Art a couple tricks of the trade which he said he never had to employ. Much of an ambitious Education attorney’s shtick is to scare the bejesus out of School Boards to make them feel naked without legal counsel. I picked up on that big time as I listened to Mr. Rupp waxing eloquent about PELRA.

I’ve written about the Minnesota Miracle often. I wrote a paper on it for my State and Local Government class when it was being debated and passed by the 1971 Minnesota legislature. It was the bipartisan law which took over the lion’s share of spending for K-12 education and put it in the hands of the state instead of local school districts. What I didn’t realize until the MSBA convention was that PELRA went into effect the same year. In other words the legislature decided to pay for most of public education removing the burden from school boards and under PELRA handed Teacher’s unions the right to strike for what had become 70 percent state money. How did this work out?

I was a teacher by 1974 and I remember reading in fascination about all the teacher’s strikes that were mushrooming around the state. The two Teacher’s unions that of that time were feuding to expand their membership at the other’s expense. It was amusement to hear the hardened AFT point its finger at the formerly goody-goody MEA and howl that they were striking too often. After all, it was the AFT (American Federation of Teachers) that belonged to the AFL-CIO. The Minnesota Education Association was practically the Chamber of Commerce.

In short order the legislature realized that it had opened up Pandora’s Box and that they were getting the blame for state tax increases while the innocent little school board’s were happy to give away the state’s money rather than have school close for a strike.

It only took nineteen years from 1971 to 1990 for public education spending to get out of hand. Coincidentally the DNT reprinted a great St. Paul Press story about state’s finances yesterday. Public Education and Health costs have pushed all other spending aside:

In 1990, health care and K-12 education ate up 44 percent of Minnesota’s general fund. But this year, that had soared to 66% – $2 out of every $3. “The story adds that in 1990 “adjusting for inflation, the 1990 budget spent just less than $4 billion on K-12 education.” Today it gets $8.1 billion.

The primary change to the PELRA last year was the creation of a Board to hear ULP’s – Unfair Labor Practice complaints. Apparently only three other state’s have failed to set up such a board and it means that suddenly it won’t be that expensive to file a ULP. The worrying part of Mr. Rupp’s presentation was that school district’s may suddenly become inundated with unfair labor suits which, of course, Mr. Rupp would be happy to defend districts from. Cue the ghost noises.

Our other presenter, Mr. Tolson head of the Bureau of Mediation Services did pour some water on the fire by telling us that where management and labor work amicably such suits are unlikely to proliferate. Whew!

I surely wouldn’t want interfere with Mr. Rupp’s sales pitch to new clients but I did find it ironic that he spent so much time warning school board members that employees have First Amendment rights. He told us that PELRA not only extends to our employee’s the right of free expression but that alarmingly it is also protected by the United State’s Constitution. How ironic it is that this is exactly what Mr. Rupp is helping our School Board deprive Art Johnston of.

Art told me that his attorneys have already sent Mr. Rupp their strong warnings against attempting to abridge Art Johnston’s right of free speech. I hope Mr. Rupp sees fit to pass their warning on to the School Board because our Board does not as yet realize the financial implications.

Art would not be the first elected official to be penalized for speaking his mind. Previous Federal cases have not gone well for the public bodies that tried to shut up one of their own. In fact, in federal court where Art’s case is heading, such deprivation of free speech has come back to haunt the censors. Several times court costs have been awarded to the target of the censorship to the tune of a million dollars and more.

Heck, a million dollars is better than ten teachers. That’s a helluva price to pay for peeing on the Constitution. But don’t worry. Kevin Rupp will make money no matter how the case goes. That’s all that counts.

Nightmare economics

Chocolate is good for the brain and memory. I don’t know how much that is hype but I welcomed hearing that on last night’s news. Maybe my consumption of the stuff will counteract the short night sleeps I often get when I’m trying to solve the world’s problems. Its just after 2 AM and after close to four hour’s sleep (not bad for me) I woke up agonizing about how the Republican Party has reinvigorated some long discredited notions about economics. Its made for good electioneering but that’s only if you take short term election success as your measure. This could be the last election cycle it works for the GOP in this mid term election before the old white majority of voters begins to peter out.

I won’t go into any depth…..in fact I’m out of my depth on this but I’ll put down some bullet points before retreating to proofing and editing the three recent “tenterhooks” posts that by now are already old news.

Government spending and borrowing have been doe see doeing forever. Time and again great nations have been brought to their knees by taxing themselves to death for great egos and warfare. Israel’s King Herod, Robin Hood’s King John and a great many other’s lost favor by being accused of overtaxing the nation to build Temple and other public amenities or financing great wars like the Crusades, in John’s case for his vainglorious brother Richard the Lion Hearted. And yet such public spending can take an economy and help it break from the doldrums. The North’s Civil War spending, despite the debt, pushed its economy into the stratosphere that kept up despite a couple of recessions until the Depression. FDR’s modest domestic spending during that time edged the nation away from recession but it was finally conquered by the massive military spending unleashed by Pearl Harbor. Hitler had taken Germany out of its Depression even earlier by building up his military and even avoided blame for too much taxation by simply stealing the wealth of the Jews to help finance his world take over.

The argument between guns and butter continues to this day. Not making a choice between them is what tarnished LBJ’s Presidency. He wanted both when the GOP only wanted the war spending because it suited their appeal to patriotism. Actually this is not quite true. In my youth the GOP had pretty much conceded the point that John Maynard Keynes was right about government spending’s power to get an economy moving. They had been saddled with Herbert Hoover’s fabled inaction for forty years by the time I became politically active. They were all Keynsians according to an economic mantra of the sixties and seventies. But they would soon abandon Keynes when they resorted to their “Southern Strategy” to win elections. The South had benefited greatly by FDR’s spending but had been very stingy doing its level best to make sure black southerners got nothing. The traitor LBJ began throwing money at poor blacks in the South’s estimation and this after enforcing their Constitutional right to vote in 1964 by trampling all over the South’s much cherished Jim Crow State’s Rights.

Suddenly all the Republican Keynesians were on the run and replaced by small government Southerns who only wanted to spend money on Defense, being the great patriots they were. George Herbert Walker Bush from that old discredited pre-southern GOP jabbed at the ascendant Southern appealing Ronald Reagan by calling his Defense spending plans “Voodoo Economics.” He shut up about that to become Vice President and then watched as Reagan borrowed like crazy to pay for Star Wars which did indeed help bring the Soviet Union to its knees at the cost of a massive Federal Debt. It was the debt that the old GOP found disagreeable but not the new GOP. It discovered that it could go into debt and then let Democrats take over and beat them up for the Debt by reducing federal Domestic spending for things like the War on Poverty.

The old Democratic accusation that Republicans were all about “trickle down” economics lost all its sting in the age of a thousand billionaires and the biggest prison population in world history.

So this is what woke me early this morning. Its why I didn’t vote in the primary election for the first time in my life and while I will barely give a damn when I vote in the general election next week. Our politics today is mentally stunted. We need more minorities to wrest the economy from the old white folks who were given so many economic protections during LBJ’s Great Society that today they live well and long while one-in-five American children go to bed in need.

Now on to that unpleasant editing I promised myself I’d get to.

Election Ennui

I must admit I am right where the majority of Americans seem to be regarding our elected government. I’m bummed out. I’ll also confess that in the recent primary election I was guilty of a first. I didn’t vote. I always vote but didn’t this time.

I’ll vote in the general election but with little enthusiasm. Today’s newspaper had its fill of last minute stories about the looming November election including letters to the editor. There was only one that caught my interest. It was from a woman thanking the Trib for its recent story about the massive inequity in Duluth’s angry Red Planet.

The writer wants the School Board to be reshuffled. I have little doubt that she will get her wish but it won’t be until next year that the Duluth School Board seats will be up for grabs. It will only be three of the seven as the other four were up for the ballot last year.

I’m grateful to the letter writer for this observation:

I hope voters interpret this into voting every member out at the first opportunity. The taxpayers can all shout, “We told you so!” even though that doesn’t get us out of the mess we are in.

I think a change of Congress would be far more likely to improve the climate in America today than a change on the School Board will clean up the Red Plan mess. We have close to twenty years of debt we most likely can’t be excused from paying off and that is a longer stretch of time than I have the heart to serve on this board. Still, a new board might pick up a mop and pail and get started. The current one has locked all the broom closets.

“Gangrene” spreads to social media

I got a call just now 45 minutes into today’s election. Apparently my comments about gangrene spreading from western Duluth to eastern Duluth is now part of a Facebook campaign to discredit my candidacy. I’m not suprised. I told a friend who asked me about some of my recent actions it was the only one I regarded as a mistep. Using a baseball analogy I called it an “unforced error.” Its not that I disavow it its more that I didn’t do a good enough job explaining what I meant.

The Red Plan has led to a gross under staffing of our classrooms and families fleeing our new schools. Its worst out West where children are being bused from Duluth to Proctor. Test results are dire. I used gangrene to describe what’s happening because its famous for spreading. If the first levy referendum question fails we will be forced to cut another two and a half million dollars from the District’s budget. Is that a knock on West Duluth or is ignoring the calamity a worse knock on Western Duluth?

One of the people who brought this all about, Nancy Nilsen, is the person who stands to benefit from this last minute social media campaign. In her comeback attempt she has been aided by Judy Seliga-Punyko who endorsed her with very little commentary in a letter to the Editor recently. She has also been aided by her other confederates on the old School Board Tom Hustad and Ann Wasson who object to my constant reminders of the consequences of the dictatorially imposed Red Plan. They made much of the gangrene comment too in their recent letter to the editor.

I don’t know how long the social media campaign has been bubbling along. This is my first whiff of it. Its not the first whiff I have had of a character assassination campaign. I put the strange ad in the Reader to fight off the guilt by association campaign some unpleasant person is trying to spread.

I’ve always asked, “if you can’t be passionate about your children what can you be passionate about?” I stand by that today. I also stand by my observation that so far western Duluth has been most savaged by the Red Plan’s unintended consequences. I think passionate parents ought to consider that if they wish to make things better for their children. Killing the messenger has never solved anything. Electing someone too blind to see carnage when it lies at their feet is no better.

Hermantown’s Referendum

I have a couple posts worth of thoughts about yesterday’s longish DNT story on the Hermantown building levy.

I’m not inclined to start typing now but the posts would cover.

A. The justification. I think its justified.

B. Its contamination by Johnson Controls. This was a stupid and foreseeable impediment to its passing.

C. The cottage industry spawned by Tea Party government haters to derail school levie across the nation.

Its this last issue I’ll probably write about. A and B don’t really need much elaboration.

Howie

I went to some song and dance meeting at 8AM this morning to talk about healthy schools. I probably scared the bejesus out of attendees (who were outnumbered by candidates for public office) because candidates for public office aren’t supposed to speak as though they were John the Baptist. That only gets your head served up on a platter.

It was productive in several ways relating to the School Board that had nothing to do with the topic. Instead it was because of the interactions I had with other school board candidates. That will lead in short order to some new posts which I have decided to call “What Would You Do?”

That will come later as I have lawnsigns to put up if the rain holds off a little longer. But that does leave me with one anecdote.

Long time followers will know that I once beat up the current City Council candidate Howie Hanson on the blog over the Red Plan. I won’t link to the post but industrius readers can always plug the name into the search engine to see what I wrote. In substance I criticized the School District for giving Howie a nice payment for advertising school activities on the Internet. I claimed at the time it was Superintendent Dixon’s way of bribing potential critics into zipping their lip about the Red Plan.

Well I saw Howie as I headed into the health forum. When I saw him I joked that it appeared his election to the City Council had become a foregone conclusion. He said he knew and sort of apologized explaining that he felt really bad about it. I just laughed and joked I was jealous. (His opponent Gary Krause, formerly of the School Board, has announced he will not remain on the City Council although his name is still on the ballot.)

Howie made a point to tell me that I had been right. He said that he had figured out after the fact that buying off critics is exactly what Dr. Dixon had been doing. He felt bad about that too.

Good for Howie. I give credit to anyone who owns up to embarrassing details like this. That bodes well for the City should non-candidate Gary Krause fail to pull off an upset.

Candidate’s view: Vote for Martell and for the levy referendums in Duluth

Today, Thursday, the DNT published my opinion piece. I’m quite pleased with it:

On Aug. 19 I read the two most intelligent things about the Duluth schools that I’ve seen in the News Tribune in recent years.

This was from At Large School Board candidate Loren Martell’s commentary on the Opinion page: “We have to rein in spending now. We have to get to some truth about the financial arrangement we’ve gotten into with the Red Plan. We have to make a sober and accurate assessment and start reprioritizing. Any pennies we can spare have to be directed to the classroom. We have to refocus on the core of education curricula, teachers and teacher development. We have to quit blowing millions on everything else under the sun. We have a half-billion-dollar investment hanging out there. It was a reckless investment, but we’d better roll up our sleeves and make it work.”

Then there was the front-page story Continue reading