Two Gigabites of reading

I haven’t looked at blog stats for ages. Its gratifying to see that this blog (which is the only All Red Plan All the Time Blog) is being noticed.

Month -Unique visitors-# of visits -Pages– Hits– Bandwidth
Jan 08—- 618——————- 1636——– 6286— 7664— 88.24 MB
Feb 08—- 1034—————— 1716——- 4325— 5141— 83.97 MB
Mar 08—- 1024—————— 1745——- 8519— 9791— 133.68 MB
Apr 08—- 720——————– 1935——- 8237— 13115– 180.02 MB
May 08—- 679——————– 2178—— 10496– 16521– 207.58 MB
Jun 08—– 769——————– 2170—— 11205– 16128– 197.46 MB
Jul 08—— 805——————– 2240——- 8739—- 14150— 221.46 MB
Aug 08—- 810——————– 2477—— 10433– 16644– 224.20 MB
Sep 08—- 741——————– 2477—— 10662– 16851– 234.71 MB
Oct 08—- 740——————– 2532——- 7615— 14017– 214.04 MB
Nov 08—- 608——————– 2216 —– 5659— 10393– 154.85 MB
Dec 08—- 719——————– 2692 —– 7774— 13396– 220.48 MB
Total——– 9267—————– 26014—- 99950– 153811- 2.11 GB

Marshall School’s fifth grade

One of the airy rationales for proceeding with the Red Plan has been turned on its head – the hope to lure students back to the Duluth Public Schools. The growing exodus of students to other schools has been mentioned here before and to that list we must add the private Marshall School. I just heard today at the Supermarket that it has just added the fifth grade back to its offerings. I’d be interested in hearing how the parochial schools and the Christian academy are doing. Edison (still a public school) is receiving lots of inquiries. I could make some calls but that’s the sort of thing a newspaper ought to cover. Maybe with McLister gone the paper will finally start digging seriously for this kind of information.

When I was on the Duluth School Board we were given WADA (Weighted Average Daily Attendance) reports monthly. They would help us see where our students were going. That’s probably not something the Dixon administration is eager to share with the School Board not that this school board would notice anyway.

Note – Since posting this I’ve been told that Marshall has never dropped its fifth grade but that this school year there was enough demand for another fifth grade class to be added.

Red Plan has few defenders

I’ve checked out the latest round of expletives on the Trib’s most recent Red Plan discussion board. Few will speak up for it these days although one criticism of the Ordean opponents does come through on this forum. Ordean residents are called NIMBY’s. Name calling isn’t all that helpful although it can be enjoyable. One of my favorites for Red Plan supporters is “tyrants” although the more obstacles they put in the path of compromise makes the pejorative “fascists” comes to mind.

A more appropriate name for the Red Planners might be con artist. The folks around Ordean weren’t appraised by the School District of the possible future they faced. There was no talk of eminent domain until after the Nov 2007 school board elections. Some of the Ordean homeowners came back to Duluth from vacations in January of 08 to find letters waiting for them explaining that the District needed their homes. That might have been nice to know before the election. This administration is good at slipping in nasty little Red Plan surprises unannounced.

Board Chair Nilsen keeps telling people that the plans that they are currently seeing aren’t carved in stone but they might as well be. Denying that the Ordean plan can be fixed to their liking is at best deception although in Chair Nilsen’s case it might simply be self delusion. Oh, and like George Bush on Iraq, Nancy keeps coming up with new reasons why the Red Plan must continue. For one thing she says its too late to quit. For another she says the Red Plan is economic development and putting people to work. Its the School District’s own little WPA or CCC.

Nancy will still be in town after the Red Plan is finally revealed to be the worst educational disaster for a community since a tornado hit St. Peter and blew half of Gustavus Adolphus College away. Keith Dixon will be long gone having retired with his third pension to his lake cabin. Maybe he can send us some wild rice to make us feel better.

About that Wheeler site

Of course the School board which pays no attention to details ignored this letter which was sent to them. Only those with a mind of their own would find it interesting. Here’s point one of five:

1. The site is solid gabro rock with only a shallow dirt covering. Rock can be viewed as one walks along the railroad tracks looking toward the school site to see how the railroad grade was cut into the existing rock. Johnson Control personnel should survey the entire site with sonar to determine the rock profile before proceeding. Getting utilities to the site may be very costly to the budget and require a great distance.

Seeing more red

Two more tough commentaries on the School Board in the Trib today.

In part from Don Kinsey:

“It’s clear to me the board lied to the public about its intent to use levy money for the red plan.

Weren’t similar financial tactics used by Enron, Bear Sterns, AIG, the auto companies and many Wall Street companies, sending this country into financial turmoil?

How can this School Board pay itself interest with its own money?”

and from Sherri Pihlaja in part:

“Never mind all that. Superintendent Keith Dixon’s pliant School Board can afford a surprise $6 million stadium. And what a surprise it is! There was no stadium in the red plan that I could recall. It was in the blue plan. What gives?”

When “civility” is chilling

READER’S VIEW in today’s Trib:

On Dec. 16, I attended the Duluth School Board meeting. I don’t live in Duluth, but I felt it was important as I heard it would focus on the seizure of citizens’ private property for the purpose of a new educational experiment: How to teach children they can have whatever they want, whenever they want it, through force, because their perceived wants are of the utmost importance – as are, apparently, those of the Duluth school district over the desire of the people.

The performances put in by the board members were chilling. They rarely even looked at the approximately 30 people who spoke. It was clear to me minds were made up beforehand and that the meeting was a formality. Without exception, all who spoke were against seizing property.

Because this board seems to be hell-bent on having its way (I am waiting for members to collectively stamp their feet), it will not listen to reason. Our community and country are in rough financial waters. Indeed, Superintendent Keith Dixon spent 10 minutes whining about how the state was anticipated to deal us deep cuts. An audience member asked if he was listening to himself – obviously, because if we are being cut and have so much financial trouble, how can we be expected to pay $257 million for a red plan in all its ever-changing glory? This woman was dismissed by being told that since the board practiced the “civility code” (more socialist social engineering to muzzle opposition), her point could not be addressed.

Apparently, we must be “civil” as our rights are being stolen by seven or eight people drunk with power calling each other “member.” I can only be reminded of Soviet Russians calling each other “comrade.”

In another time, “no taxation without representation” was the cry – perhaps it needs reviving.

Karen Young


Can’t say as I’ll miss him

Steve McLister, the Trib’s publisher is leaving. When I wrote a column talking about how the poobah’s at the Trib were fly by night residents Mr. McLister took umbrage and told me he planned to live in Duluth a long time.

A number of Red Plan critics met with him last summer. He reminded me of the tough talking, butch cut, cartoon editor of Peter Parker’s cartoon newspaper in the Spider Man comics. He told us he thought the Red Plan might end up being a “trainwreck” and how he wanted to put a televised forum of pro and con Red Plan spokesman on the tube. Nothing came of that. Now he’s leaving. Too late.

and eating it too

Rather than simply link to today’s letter-to-the-editor on the Red Plan I’m republishing the entire letter.

The most recent revelation in red plan is the construction of a $6 million stadium – once eminent domain removes families and clears land. The new eastern Duluth high school will have students driving, adding to congestion on London Road and Superior Street. Meanwhile, the existing 70-acre Central High School site, with a field in place and room for expansion, would have almost zero impact on its existing neighborhood.

Yet none of this seems pertinent to the imported school superintendant with no deep roots in this city or his bonus-awarding, deaf-eared board members unwilling to let the taxpaying citizens’ voices be heard by a vote in these troublesome economic times (with the exception of School Board member Gary Glass).

The new eastern high school would escape most of the city’s diversity with the 14th Avenue East split, despite this age of racial balance. Those of us who have lived our lives in Duluth know Lake Avenue is the town’s center, with 136 streets to the west and 85 to the east. Denfeld students would be drawn from 10 miles to the west and four miles to the east. East would draw from within four miles, both east and west.

This is only possible without a vote in a first-class city or in a city with a population exceeding 100,000. Duluth achieved this rating in 1970 when its population was 100,558. Language added to state law indicates that until a city loses 25 percent of its population it retains its rating.

So without a vote, and since Dixon came to Duluth and resides in its eastern end, it seems to many of us that if you live out east you can have your cake and eat it, too. Just don’t expect to buy a jug out there – that’s off limits.

Tim Kaspari


Swing time

Its a shame Virgil Swing isn’t still helping write the editorials at the Trib. Although, considering the drop in subscriptions. Maybe its better that he write for the Budgeteer now. They still go to everybody:

“The expensive and redundant stadium planned for the Ordean site is just the latest unneeded spending in the infamous Red Plan, but it is the most egregious example of wasting public money at a time the School District is pleading poverty about money for classrooms, where education takes place.

Only recently did the public learn that school officials plan to put an expansive and expensive football and track stadium on the Ordean site for a new high school. The theory is that western Duluth has one (Public Schools Stadium at Denfeld) so the east end should also.

Bad theory. Public Schools (note the plural) Stadium can serve the whole city. After all, this dysfunctional board plans to cut three high schools down to two. No new football stadium is needed, and the district already has nice tracks at PSS and Duluth Central — and access to the one at UMD.

Kerry Leider, school district facilities director, defended the second stadium by saying the community asked for one. What the community really asked for was a public vote on the Red Plan.

On a related note, the district says work at the existing Lowell Elementary School will cost $7.5 million even though the only real construction there is a new roof. Many systems will be replaced, but that seems like a lot of money to upgrade an existing building. Some Red Plan foes with an engineering background should examine those costs.

And guess who will provide program and construction managers for that and the even more costly work at Homecroft Elementary? That will be the folks from Johnson Controls, the same company that led the district down the expensive Red Plan path in the first place.”

Counting their chickens

Today’s story in the Trib has to do with renaming the high schools.

I’d heard that some East grads were already starting to lobby to keep that name for East. As for Denfeld my old friend Paul Lundgren is right. There would be a bruising and pointless battle if such a change was attempted. It was suggested and dropped in 1978 when Morgan Park students were sent to Denfeld.

I was substitute teaching the following year and the Morgan Park kids had fit in to Denfeld already.

The year before I was running for the legislature against Mike Jaros when the naming issue came up. I got a call from Mr. Denfeld’s son who balked at the renaming idea. As a legislator I would have had relatively little authority to do anything about it.

The online comment section is a little more circumspect. It begins: “If Duluth Central closes.”

Meanwhile back on Planet Earth – another thank you

Let Duluth Vote’s fundraising continues. After the short burst of contributions right after our small mailing two weeks ago we are still averaging better than a hundred dollars in donations a day. Many come with Thank you notes attached like this one.

A medical condition is draining away this family’s resources but they still sent us a small contribution. By the way, A Duluth Trib story, without meaning to contradict the School Board, just made it clear that the taxes on an average home because of the Red Plan will be three times higher than the School Board said.