Cursing Gary

At last night’s special meeting of the Duluth School Board its attorney Ms. Torgerson handed over a resolution vowing to boil any school board member in oil who talked to a taxpayer that was suing the School District. After passing her resolution the Board’s majority danced around a model of the Red Plan while sprinkling the eye of a newt, an orangutan’s toenail, scales from the wing of a dragon and the ashes of a burned US Constitution over it, all the while chanting that they would impose this punishment on any Board member who violated their curse.

Shame on me

I was calling one of Tim Grover’s constituents the other day who commented that he had written Tim off after voting for him in the early 1990’s because he ran for the School Board to save Central High. A few months after his election Tim voted to close it.

The constituent told me that he’d forgiven Tim so that when Tim campaigned for reelection in 2007 to keep Central open he cast a second vote for Tim. When Tim, who explains that he was simply being pragmatic because he couldn’t change the majority, voted to close Central again the constituent has found himself muttering to himself: “Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me.”

A fool for a client

While the taxpayers are without an attorney at the moment they still have legal work which needs to be pursued. While we are interviewing potential legal representation to take over the taxpayer’s case we will have to represent ourselves. In law this is called being an attorney pro se. That’s Latin for “we’re on our own.” My Dad, who was also an attorney, would have put it a little differently. He always quoted the old saw: “A lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.” Somehow, saying we’re “dumb like a fox” sounds a lot better.

One consideration is the still unanswered request for the public data we presented to the District. We saw the jaws of several attorneys drop when they learned that no discovery had been provided. We may be heading into contempt of court territory.

Having been too busy to look through the earlier discovery demands made by our attorney (now retired) or the Defendant’s replies I just opened them up. I had the Court recorder print out a copy of the Judge’s directions to our attorney at our May hearing to read through and have contacted an expert with a flash drive to download email.

Next week I’ll present the judge’s comments to the District and start exploring the files at the Central Administration Building. This will be a bit of a pain because my Father-in-law will be visiting from Florida next week and I don’t want to be an absent host. Its what I’ve come to expect from the District – massive inconvenience.

I hope the District is reading this (Silly thought) so that they can check with Attorney Torgerson to see how they can further delay the discovery.

NOTE: I’ve corrected a few typos in this entry because I linked to it in a later blog post and because, By golly, apparently the defense attorneys are reading my posts to bone up on their duties.

My Reply to Ralph Doty is in

You can read it on the Budgeteer online or here:

Debunking claims should be more important than perusing e-mails
Let Duluth Vote’s Harry Welty responds to last week’s column by Ralph Doty, which was pro-Red Plan.
By: Guest Columnist Harry Welty, Budgeteer News

Budgeteer columnist Ralph Doty quoted my e-mails extensively and out of context in last week’s column (see attached link). He had 1,288 of them to choose from. I had no obligation to turn most of my private correspondence over to the Sixth District Court but did so voluntarily in hopes that it would prompt Johnson Controls and school administration to turn over their e-mails, which are public data.

What dirt did Doty uncover?

1. My observation that Judge Eric Hylden faces re-election. Gasp!

2. That I’m feeling peevish about the Duluth News Tribune’s education reporter. Doty didn’t explain why. It’s because, in my opinion, she has demonstrated a reporter’s greatest sin: favoritism. She has done so by soft pedaling or ignoring stories that might damage the Duluth School Board’s reputation. For example, I’ve goaded her for almost a year to write about an exodus of students from the Duluth schools, which I estimate costs the district nearly $7 million a year. If she or her editors have hushed this up to shore up support for the Red Plan, everyone in Duluth should feel peevish.

Curiously the quotes Doty offered gave scant evidence of his claim that I am often profane. When I wrote that I didn’t use the “B word” it’s because I was chiding others who do. I dislike the word so much that I only typed the “B.” I did use the word “pissed” to describe Art Johnston’s irritation with me because after two, long, hard years, my allies are getting tired and cranky. I thought it was important to make this point candidly.

I’m thrilled and delighted that Art Johnston is running to replace a Red Plan supporter.

The day I told Gary Glass that Art was “pissed” at me I e-mailed this to Art: “I told Gary this morning in reply to an e-mail he sent me that you are politically inexperienced. I added that despite this you had something far superior: innate honesty. I’d take that over the shrewdest Machiavellian any time.”

I assume Doty was provided a copy of my e-mails by Steve Greenfield, a public relations consultant for Johnson Controls who is handing my e-mail out like Christmas candy to anyone who might take offense by what I’ve written in private. Both men are probably extremely disappointed to have found so little of the profanity and infighting that Doty grandly implies he read.

If I had access to a thousand of Doty’s private e-mails, what might I find? The half dozen or so that he has sent me – or that irritated readers have forwarded to me, such as this message from last week: “Clearly, you don’t have enough things to do to keep you busy. Thanks for writing.” suggest a closed mind that doesn’t wish to be confused with the facts. Are these few e-mails representative?

Doty, who originally advocated for a one-high-school plan over the Red Plan, heaps abuse on those of us who have continued to voice our opposition. He has every right to do so.

I wish, however, that when we complain of duplicity and lies, he would debunk our claims rather than question our motivation.

I wish that when we point out the devastation the Red Plan will cause neighborhoods like Morgan Park, Ordean, Lincoln Park, Piedmont and Central Hillside, he would explain how the greater good outweighs the harm.

I wish that when the Sixth District Court acknowledges the merit of the taxpayers’ suit by allowing it to go to trial, Doty would concede this point rather than claim that JCI couldn’t possibly have a rotten apple in the barrel because he knows upstanding Johnson Controls Inc. employees.

I wish that when we point out that no other Minnesota school board has ever authorized such a massive project without voter approval, making the Red Plan an aberration, that Doty would not shrug off the loopholes that made this lawful rather than a crying shame.

I am reasonable to fret over the exodus of Duluth students from our schools, the oppressive environment that keeps our teachers silent and the political muscle which protects the greedy, vainglorious and anti-democratic champions of the Red Plan.

Doty urges voters to re-elect the School Board. I urge them to vote for Art Johnston and other non incumbents.

Writer Harry Welty served on the Duluth School Board from 1996 to 2004 and was a founder of the Let Duluth Vote group.

Dr. Dixon probably knows

The last two months that the School District’s lawyers have tied Let Duluth Vote up in knots raising money, converting it to bonds and dismissing our attorney while pouring out a torrent of disingenuous propaganda has come to an end. It began about the time that Dr. Dixon was perusing bids on a survey of public attitudes toward the Red Plan. My guess is that Dr. Dixon saw the survey results and realized he had to get busy discrediting the only honest folks left in town.

I don’t blame him. When the Business Community in Faribault conducted a survey and made public Dr. Dixon’s scant 37% approvals the Business Community created a little group to sell Dr. Dixon to another community. Why would Dr. Dixon want a similar survey to be released in Duluth?

For two years a few tinny voices have praised our mute school board members for their bravery, courageousness and decisiveness and proclaimed that the community stands behind them. Is that what the survey showed? Did Dr. Dixon, who was looking over the bids for the survey a couple months ago, share the results with the Board members who have followed his every dictate confident of their popularity?

Why would he bother? They’re mute after all. Oh, they can read questions out loud when the questions are written out for them. But they sure haven’t been able to ask a single serious question about the Red Plan since it was handed to them to rubber stamp. Ignorance is bliss.

Read this sentence

The Trib’s story today on the current situation in the taxpayer’s lawsuit against the District and JCI concludes with this critical observation from the U of M Law School teacher Brad Clary:

“But no one should read too much or too little into that. This is simply a preliminary ruling on what is currently before the court. The court has not made up its mind on the ultimate merits of the argument.”

The taxpayers have not received discovery. Now that the motion to dismiss the taxpayer’s attorney is out of the way the two month dawdling delay by JCI and ISD 709 in providing the public data which has been demanded since the case was brought to the Sixth District Court must be honored. The plaintiffs have provided far more than the law would have required in discovery to the District as an act of good faith. Now its their turn.

We want to see what is in the public record. Considering that the District lied to the public from the beginning about the compensation for their little sweetheart deal with Johnson Controls – It was only 4.5% then 13% and now 18% not counting guaranteed sales of multimillion dollar chillers and generous long term maintenance contracts – I don’t blame the District for hiding behind its lawyers. We will have a field day when this public date is finally provided to us so long as there is no unfortunate accidental loss of data because a JCI techie spilt coffee on a hard drive.

There will be an army of people curious to see what’s in the public record. The District opened my email records inside out so that they could see every jot and tittle I’d written in regards to our cause and this is the best they could come up with. Look for my full reply in the Saturday Budgeteer.

The old records fall

As I was pulling together a little history for the book I paused to check my blog stats. Thank you all for visiting. I’ve had over 1000 visitors this month for the first time ever and I still have a day and a half to go. I hope you are not all lawyers looking for information to justify a libel suit.

While I was at it I copied all the July posts together and put them on a word document for future reference and to keep my chronologies straight. While I may be a little less communicative about behind the scenes goings on for a couple months my book, when published, will be right up to the minute. According to my word counter I’m only 209 words shy of 50,000 for the month. Throw in my rebuttal of Dr. Doty and I’m half way to a hundred grand. That’s better than half a book by itself.

I just got the word that all our attorney’s materials are ready for me to pick up to hand over to a new attorney. Several are clamoring to have a look at them. Mr. Hunter, bless his soul, has spent a couple days scrupulously excising anything from them that came from School Board member Gary Glass per Judge Hylden’s instructions. Of course, there was nothing in those communications that the Judge took to be of a confidential or privileged nature but excise them Mr. Hunter did.

Our brief conversation, consisting mostly of apologies on Mr. Hunter’s part, made it plain that until this case is settled we probably won’t so much as wave hello to each other if we pass on the street. The School District’s attorney Ms. Torgerson helpfully explained to the Trib’s Education reporter for her story yesterday that if she waved at me a lighting bolt would issue forth from the US Supreme Court’s statue of the Contemplation of Justice and strike her dead.

It must be true because when I saw her huddled with all the other School Board members at a previous hearing and asked if Member Glass ought not be included I thought her head might pop off. That’s justice for you.

She’s pretty ferocious looking. Don’t you agree?

Oldies but Goodies

If I’m going to have to ease back on my posts restricting them to the safest and most predictable things while I save all the good stuff for my book I might as well stick some “oldies but goodies” in here. I just found one.

My surprising penchant for making some people very angry is not new. While I was looking for some old material to put the book in context I ran across this long forgotten page on my terribly neglected old Snowbizz website with its many defunct hyperlinks. Enjoy it or get angry, whichever you suits you better.

Last *******

***** *** **** **** **** and it was strongly suggested that I pour more of my efforts into writing that scandalous book that Dr. Doty is sure will be nothing but a whole lot of character assassination (something Ralph’s pretty good at himself) I chalk that up to professional jealousy. As a matter of fact, ***** ******* ** ***** *****!!!!!

Well, OK, I told my friends but if ****** ***** ****** **** then **** ****** *******. “They” seemed to understand but made it clear that ******* ******* *******.

So, you’ll probably be seeing more of ****** ****** ******** and you will just have to wait till the book comes out before ****** ****** **********.

I’ll figure out how to get order forms out there. My allies think it will be a smash hit. I hope they’re right.

A new mug shot

Yesterday after I sent in my rejoinder to Dr. Doty the Budgeteer’s editor Jana Peterson mentioned that if I had a different portrait shot I could send it to her otherwise they could use the one they have on record for me. I wrote back that I’d been advised that their current mug shot made me look villainous.

Jana kindly replied that she thought that was an overstatement but admitted it did make me look like I had a little “attitude.” She offered to take a new picture of me but when I called her office I was told she and her photographer had just rushed out the door when a report cam in that the Hells Angles were mixing it up at the Casino a few blocks to the east. I joked with the secretary that I hoped Jana was wearing a flack jacket. I added that Jana could call me on my cell if she returned soon because I was headed out to buy some remedies at the pharmacy for my poor ailing Tan Man. I got the call back from Jana while I was looking for acidophilus pills and promptly zipped over to get a new face.

When I got downtown Jana told me that the report was a bust. A bicyclist had been hit by a car and by the time she was there everything had settled down. The report of the streets being blocked had put some-one’s imagination into overdrive because of all the hyping the Hell’s Angles big party has gotten lately. I got a laugh out of her when I said I was a little surprised to hear that the Angels had been mixing it up with the Casino’s senior clientele.

Jana is a pretty sober person and I think its fair to say she initially regarded Red Plan opponents as bitter enders. “Those ink wells were good enough for me and besides I liked dipping girls pig tails into them.” Over time I’ve come to value her fair mindedness as much as I’ve come to disdain one of her columnists self righteous petty mindedness. She joked that she thought my old mug shot made me look like a tough minded professor. Yeah, the sort who would give a student a failing grade for turning in a paper with a missing punctuation mark.

she took a couple quick informal pictures out on the street. They weren’t great but at least I was smiling. That’s much more consonant with how I feel at the moment. I may be in the trenches but I’ve got a lot of good George M. Cohen tunes to sing. I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy!

The Economy

I’ve been forced into an (for me) unnatural tunnel vision for the past year. The Tunnel is the Red Plan and like a soldier in the trenches my chief preoccupation has been ducking my head when I hear Whiz bangs and occasionally raising my head over the trench to take a pot shot at the enemy which is doing the same thing as me. Living this metaphor has made my old familiar civilian life next to impossible to live. Yesterday I began toting up the things I’ve given up. Occasional afternoons walking the beach picking up agates to clear my mind, Reading the several periodicals I subscribe to, reading books period. Until I picked up Bryson’s book (which has been a hoot) I’d let three years go without reading a new book. I stopped my mile-long lap swims about seven months ago. Keeping up with home maintenance and gardening have been very difficult.

But every now and again mail call comes round and I find out what’s going on back home. Vic just sent me this link to Robert Reich’s economic blog. I found that interesting because Vic has sent me so many arch conservative commentators material that getting this arch liberals take on our current economic woes seemed out of character.

I’m every bit as agnostic about the best economic policy as I am about the existence of God. I tend to see merit in a great many economic points of view. When I get links like this I often get as much from reading through the many posted reactions which follow and the debate that follows.

In this case one of the responses was from a person who recalled how his Father lost his home in the Depression at age ten and was scarred ever afterwards by it till his death at age 73. He lived a frugal life. My parents did not have it as bad but both recalled their parents difficulties. My Mother remembered her Father, who had lost his postmaster’s position after FDR was elected being lost to a Democrat lying in bed often with migraine headaches worried sick about his future. My Father recalled going with his Father, an ace salesman who lost his job, to farm houses where in his new job required him to deliver the news that the bank was foreclosing and the family would have to leave.

As the oldest child these stories and my parents thrifty ways had an impact on me. My wife and I are savers which has allowed me to gradually put more and more money into my fight against the Red Plan. I’m about at my limit. Actually I’ve passed my limit several times over and am continuing with plans to recover some of the costs should things go our way and some of my money be refunded.

I’ve been appalled that our economy has been built on so much credit. When people started using home equity loans to buy goodies I knew we were in trouble and began harping about this long before 9-11. The Bush Administrations push to keep the economy going afterwards by encouraging more such spending was very troubling.

I have no problems with the Keynesian policy of “priming the pump” (spending tax revenue to get factories working again) or tax reductions to (free up private sector money for additional investment) But I’ve expected the bubble to burst for some time and in fact that was one of the things that led to my previous Quixote moment – running for Congress – which is why I began this blog four years ago.

When the Duluth Chamber of Commerce exults that Red Plan spending will get money circulating again that’s true. It circulates it out of the pockets of people whether they can afford it or not and hands it over to the forces who have the power to get hold of it. If it was going for something our community needed it would be easier for me to accept even though it is based on regressive taxation. Only a small portion of this spending is going toward critical maintenance and far too much of it is going to the company that sold a bill of goods to seven people who were drunk on the intoxicant of Dr. Dixon while the people they represented were sleeping.

Yesterday’s column by the hopelessly hopeful Mr. Heffernan who, like Rodney King, just wanted us all to get along elicited a long heavy sigh from me when I finally got around to reading it. It could have been George Bush telling us all to go out there and spend, spend, spend right after 9-11. Our school board has put us in hock for the next twenty years committing us to pay off building bonds when we should be using it to pay teachers. How much will it suck out of the classroom? We’ve been told its $4 million but I think in the next few years we will learn it will take much more than this. Amplifying this effect is the simultaneous exodus of students from the Duluth Schools which adds another $7 million annual loss to the classroom.

Our operational budget is only a little over $100 million annually. Removing ten percent of it for brick and mortar will drive more children and families out of Duluth. Of course, this is just my prediction, but if I’m right it will be the beginning of a downward spiral. The larger national economic difficulties will only compound the local ones unleashed by the Red Plan. We will get a little short term economic goosing from transferring money from those who are living on the edge to those who are creating something we don’t have a vital need for. It will be like all that home equity borrowing George Bush encouraged us to do that we are now paying such a heavy price for.

My job in the trenches is to elect a sensible school board that will pull in the Red Plan horns and avoid the worst of its excess.

No complaints

I just read the Trib story about the loss of our attorney and the continuance of the suit. The paper has been sitting on my kitchen table all day. No complaints.

I found one of the remarks in the comment section following the online version humorous. That reader was waiting to find out what law was broken. Golly, the darned Courts always schedule frivolous cases where no law is in question. That’s why there is such a legal backlog. All the real law breakers never make it to court.

Go to the SOSDuluth site and read the pleadings friend!

A little help please

I just checked my stats. I’m just 18 people shy of having 1,000 “unique visitors” to the website this month. That would be a first. I’ve still got two-and-a-half days to get them here. That would be so cool in July when no one is following the news. If you know anyone who might find this blog interesting at election time why don’t you encourage them to pay it a visit before the weekend rolls around.

Popular Pariah

For a pariah a lot of people have been stopping to thank me. And this is after Ralph Doty’s column and losing the taxpayer’s attorney.

My poor little Tan Man is under the weather today. He hadn’t eaten in 24 hours when his Mother called to ask if I could look after him. He’s had a fever and he has a terrible rash you know where from you know what. I had to change his didies 5 times while we watched Thomas the Tank Engine and the Teletubbies together. Every time, no matter how gentle I’d try to be, he cried for “Mamma.” No matter gentle we Papaw’s are we just aren’t Mommys.

Fortunately, I’d gotten my reply to the Budgeteer finished up before he arrived but I don’t mind any interruption if it involves my Grandson.

I sneaked in that last post after my daughter returned and then I was called upon to help break the 24 hour fast. The boy wanted macaroni and cheese and we didn’t have a box of it or noodles or cheese. I zipped up to Mount Royal for some food right off the stove. As I headed in humming the song about the steam ship Robert E Lee I was stopped by three women who got a kick out of my good mood. One of the three wanted me to know that her daughter loved my visits to Lincoln School. Her daughter is 20 years old now so that was a few years ago. I used to visit all the grade schools to read. (If I showed up at a school today the Principal would be handed a scoop and scrub brush and told to clean the latrines.) She wished me well in my current fight. A few steps later in front of the Deli a fellow stopped to tell me that his wife sang with me in the Symphony Chorus. He too wished me well. More folks I knew acknowledged me as the Deli filled my lunch order and I hightailed it out before I held the Tan Man up any further.

He was already in his highchair nibbling on an apple when I returned. We served him up and he played hide and seek with Thomas the tank engine which was hiding under his lunch on his special plastic tank engine plate.

Two months shy of Two years he is a most remarkable little talker. Three and four word sentences regularly escape and make us smile. He looked down at Moloch, our bull in a china shop cat with a short helicopter tale and said “Hi Moley Poley” over and over. If I hadn’t already been in a good mood that would have put me there.

At my high school reunion we were asked a trivia question about the good old days. What was the song the whole class, not just the choir, sang at our graduation someone asked. I remembered immediately.

When you walk through a storm
Keep your chin up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark.
At he end of the storm
Is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark.

We’ve just lost our lawyer but there are other’s waiting in the wings. I’ve discovered who JCI’s dirty tricks meister is. We’re going to win an election. the attempt to destroy my reputation that may have been necessitated by that secret survey we’ve heard about is foundering. That’s just for starters.

Ralph, I can’t wait till you write your next column. Every time you write one its a little like Fox News Pundits getting You Tubed telling their viewers that the new President is a Commie.

By the way, I hope you enjoy your Central Class reunion. I’m sure your classmates will have many fond memories to share with you.

Shadows on the wall

A week ago someone mentioned at one of the LDV meetings that a few weeks earlier a phone survey was being conducted around Duluth about the schools and issues related to the Red Plan. Among other things people were being asked what they thought of Harry Welty. Other than the fact that LDV has no clue what this is all about it raises an interesting question. Presuming that the Red Plan side has financed this poll I’d be curious to know what if any information from the survey has been passed on to the school board incumbents who must face reelection? Presumably, since the incumbents have a great stake in that election, the survey results would have been disclosed to them. And that’s my question.

The philosopher Plato used a metaphor to describe some of the uncertainty we all face. He wrote about a cave with a fire in it and people on the other side of the fire who can not be seen but whose shadows being cast on the far wall of the cave by the fire can be seen. He suggested that like people gazing at those shadows we often don’t really know what those shadows represent.

Much of what goes on between the District and JCI is shrouded in mystery. All an outsider can see are the mysterious shadows cast on the far wall.

I certainly have no idea what the survey suggested the voting public thinks about the Red Plan or me or the School Board. I didn’t pay for it so it will remain a mystery. I can’t help but wonder, however, if the School Board incumbents who are critical to the Red Plan’s continued Juggernaut have been told anything about it either. For two years their supporters have told them they represent the majority of Duluth. How would the incumbents take it to learn otherwise? Perhaps, if the survey’s results were too dreadful, the keepers of the fire would prefer that their school board members be kept as ignorant of the survey’s results as the Red Plan’s opponents.

A Riposte to Dr. Doty

I can’t reveal my reply to Dr. Ralph Doty’s column lambasting me last week in the Budgeteer. If I did it might not be published. As it is I’ve been warned that because ad revenue is declining the Budgeteer might not have the space for me to defend myself this week. That would mean that Dr. Doty’s remarks would go unrebutted for two weeks.

I will offer two paragraphs from my reply as a teaser.

Curiously the quotes Dr. Doty offered gave scant evidence of his claim that I am often profane. When I wrote that I don’t use the “B word” it’s because I was chiding others who do. I dislike the word so much that I only typed the “B.” I did use the word “pissed” to describe Art Johnston’s irritation with me because after two, long, hard, years my allies are getting tired and cranky. I thought it was important to make this point candidly. I’m thrilled and delighted that Art Johnston is running to replace a Red Plan supporter. The day I told Gary Glass that Art was “pissed” at me I emailed this to Art:

“I told Gary this morning in reply to an email he sent me that you are politically inexperienced. I added that despite this you had something far superior – innate honesty. I’d take that over the shrewdest Machiavellian any time.”

Craig Hunter – a most honorable man

I’m sure the Red Plan cheerleaders will be crowing over this set back and heaping abuse on the taxpayer’s attorney, Craig Hunter.

Let Duluth Vote interviewed quite a number of attorneys as we searched for a case that had legal merit. My first impression of Craig Hunter has never been betrayed. He struck me as a careful, thoughtful, idealistic and daring attorney. Taking on a Fortune 100 colossus like Johnson Controls Inc. is not something for the faint hearted. My admiration for Mr. Hunter has only grown.

In my own small way I’d like our community to know what a gem it has in Mr. Hunter despite this unfortunate legal setback. This anecdote that I prodded out of him touched me deeply.

At one of our conferences a few weeks ago I told him I’d enjoy getting together to share a bottle of wine with him. (I consider myself a connoisseur of any good wine I can buy as cheaply as possible) Mr. Hunter told me that he’d be happy to get together but that he didn’t drink.

I let this comment go for a while but my curiosity got the better of me and I asked him. “Well Craig. How come you are a teetotaler? Are you a member of AA or is this some sort of religious practice?”

No, he told me, he’d married a woman who had some trouble with alcohol as a young woman and he resolved to stop drinking as an act of solidarity to support her.

Craig Hunter is one in a million.