“Abortion on demand”


I wrote a while back that during the Red Plan controversy I chose to avoid almost all other issues on this blog. That time is past. For those who disagree with me on other issues prepare yourself.

If there is anything sacred about human beings then they should be treated with great care. A political philosophy that discourages contraception while demanding that every conception result in birth after a complete gestation but then turns its back on protecting, educating and insuring the children it has fostered holds no appeal to me.

Not surprisingly the shallow column/editorial bashing the Democratic Party by Iron Ranger Joseph Legueri left me cold. He implies that all Democrats support “abortion on demand.” Abortion on demand simply means that every child in the womb is subject to abortion at any time for any harebrained whim of the mother carrying them. But does Ligueri oppose all abortions himself? Maybe, maybe not. After painting all democrat politicians into the abortion on demand side he doesn’t make clear whether he himself opposes all abortions under any circumstances or simply abortion on demand. For some of us there are circumstances which justify allowing parents to decide for themselves whether or not to terminate a pregnancy.

I’ve written about Abortion for publication on several occasions sometimes tongue in cheek to keep my wrath in check. (I take exception be being called a “baby murderer”) Here, for the thoughtful person, are some harrowing anonymous testimonies from some baby murderers. I’d like to know whether Mr. Legueri would be willing to concede, after reading them, that his complaint against “abortion on demand” is overblown and just possibly a phony issue.

The Bond has been returned

The One hundred thousand dollar bond required of the five plaintiffs in Welty et al by the Sixth District Court has finally been returned.

Everything about the bond has been a hassle from the start. There was a lot of doubt that the money could be raised. It was but that wasn’t good enough for the Defendants. They wanted the money turned over to a bond company rather than to have the Court hold the actual cash. When Judge Hylden ordered the return of the bond subsequent to the dismissal of the case he took a fair amount of time, requiring proof that the parties to the suit had agreed to a settlement and honored their agreement. Then the Bond Company questioned the Court Order. Finally, the bond company bureaucracy took its sweet time sending out checks. Despite a request to have a single check sent out to Let Duluth Vote five separate checks were returned to the five plaintiffs. All our checks were for $20,077.26 the $77.26 of which were interest earnings.

We’re endorsing them over to Let Duluth Vote’s treasurer who will then be able to return the lion’s share of the donations given by major contributors to the bond. After some expenses are deducted LDV should be able to return well over 90% of the donations.

For our trouble the five plaintiffs will get to pay taxes on our interest earnings.

If my calculations are correct we earned just under 1 percent interest per annum or about .4% in the six months the bond company backed the bond. The bond company charged us $1500 to back up the bond and no doubt earned considerably more earnings on the money than we were paid. Meanwhile they were at no risk since we gave them the full amount of the bond from the start. Ironically, it was only the Defendants who were put at risk with the possibility that the bond company could fail. This added layer of jurisprudential delay.

This hardly rates as an epilogue in the Red Plan controversy which continues on as two defeated Red Planners prepare to step down from the Duluth School Board. Its the holidays so my commentary has mostly been put on the shelf although the DNT occasionally has something worth pointing to.

The retiring Board members both patted themselves on the back like most defeated politicians. And this letter to the editor was a tough little reminder that political rhetoric is often just that – rhetoric.

A sample:

I’m tired of politicians saying one thing while campaigning and then doing 180-degree flip flops a few months later. I remember what Tim Grover said while running for School Board, and I still have his answers to election questions, as published in the News Tribune on Oct. 28, 2007.

“We also need to develop a less costly facilities plan and hold a referendum on it,” he responded. “The red plan would create an educational void for this area. I believe that Duluth’s geography virtually requires us to keep three high schools, which we have now and which work well. – I voted ‘no’ on the red plan because it is too costly and leaves the 3rd district with almost no schools (and no high school). I voted ‘yes’ to hold a referendum on the plan. Voters must have the opportunity to decide on such a major, comprehensive, long-term financial commitment.”

“Duluth needed a long-range facilities plan with major upgrades.” Grover wrote, “The red plan needs both revising and downsizing. We need an affordable plan that will be approved by the voters. This can be done!”

Who bought the bridge?

Brandon Stahl just served up tomorrow’s DNT story justifying the hiring of Howie Hanson to spend a promised 30 hours a week providing content to the School District’s websites. The Trib found an expert who explained that this is a bargain.

The District started paying Howie before the School Board even authorized Howie’s no bid contract for $19,000. That’s OK. Recently the School Board has provided a lot of precedent for this kind of thing.

This reminds me what we tell our children each winter, “Don’t eat the yellow ………aaaaaaaccccccckkkkkkk!!!!! Who just shut off the mike?

I had no idea how easy it was to sell some folks bridges.

“There’s just got to be more to this story.”

At least the Howie Hanson payoff has raised one DNT reporter’s eyebrows. This is from Brandon Stahl;s blog and it contains a link to Sarah Horner’s Eduspeak blog. By the way, the comments section following both Brandon’s and Sarah’s posts are very entertaining. I didn’t bother mentioning how stupid an idea it was for the School District which has its own IT department to pay an independent contractor to do for the District what most of its seventh graders can already do on their own. That absurdity has not escaped other people’s notice:

BUZZ blog: Difference between Duluth City Council and School Board

– 12/18/2009

The difference between the Duluth City Council and Duluth School Board? $19,000. Read more at BUZZ.Duluth.

$81 per Facebook fan?
I missed this blog post from education reporter Sarah Horner last week, reporting that the Duluth School District is giving local blogger Howie Hanson $19,000 to help the district get on board with social networking:

“With the help of local blogger Howie Hanson, the school district launched its own Facebook page in September and plans to branch out in to other social networking arenas as well, such as Twitter and Constant Contact, according to Katie Kaufman, the district’s public relations director.

“The Minnesota Department of Education is doing it, some of the local colleges, too, and we’re going to see how they work for us,” Kaufman wrote in an email to me. “We’re excited to see how the new communication tools work out, especially since social networks are so popular with young people.”

There’s just got to be more to this story. Has to be.

JCI hits paydirt once again


Yes vote nets big payday for Johnson Controls

by TOM KLEIN, Cook/Orr Editor — The Timberjay — 19 Dec 09

School board approves higher levy — Consultant that developed restructuring plan expected to reap $12-$15 million in fees in wake of voter approval Johnson Controls Inc., which served as School District 2142’s consultant on the district’s restructuring plan and passage of a recently approved $78.8 million bond issue, will continue to provide services to the district as a result of school board action on Tuesday.

The price tag for those services will be significant; about $12-$15 million depending on construction costs, which are estimated to be about $65 million.

According to the agreement submitted by Johnson Controls, industry standard for such services, typically referred to as “soft costs,” is 18 to 20 percent of the construction budget, but board members insisted that overall costs should be under 18 percent.
As part of its motion, the board authorized the administration to sign separate remodeling and construction agreements for the school projects with Johnson Controls, pending legal review. Agreements are expected to be finalized no later than Jan 31, 2010. Until then, all work will be billed to the district monthly with a breakdown of services. Bond receipts would ultimately be used to pay for the services.

The agreements will cover standard design, engineering and commissioning services in addition to assistance with educational programming and development of a transition plan for schools during the construction phase. Other services include the development of detailed budgets and schedules for construction and remodeling of schools, and assistance with communication plans to keep the district’s administration, staff and residents informed.

Johnson Controls’ program support team would work with school district administration and personnel and citizen committees in setting and meeting management objectives.

Their directives would be filtered through a program manager, who will oversee teams responsible for different facets of the projects.

Kraus-Anderson has been retained to serve as construction manager for the building of two new schools in the north and south and remodeling of the Cherry School, while Johnson Controls will serve as construction manager for remodeling projects at Tower and Babbitt.

Actual construction work will not be covered by professional services and must be publicly bid as required by Minnesota statutes.

In related action, the board tabled a resolution to sell building bonds.

Joel Sutter and Kristin Hanson of Ehlers and Associates presented the different bond options available to the district. The choices boil down to tax-exempt bonds, taxable Build America bonds or a mix of both.

The taxable Build America bonds were created as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, according to Sutter, and offer a higher yield for investors as well as some advantages for the bond issuers, who qualify for a refundable tax credit equal to 35 percent of the interest expense. Sutter estimated the refund could translate into a savings of $2 million during the 20-year payback period of the bonds, which would lighten the tax burden on district property owners.

However, he cautioned that the bonds require additional paperwork to qualify for the tax credit, and penalties for failing to comply with bond regulations, policies and practices could be severe. In addition, he said, because the program is relatively new, there is some regulatory uncertainty.

As an example, he said, the rebate on interest could be reduced.

Sutter said there may be a greater advantage in offering a mix of both traditional tax-exempt bonds and Build America bonds, using the tax exempt issues for the first decade and delaying payback on the Build America bonds until the second half.

Several board members expressed reluctance to sell Build America bonds, saying the risks outweighed the rewards, but opted to wait until Jan. 11 when Sutter would have better numbers comparing the potential benefits of different bond issues. A study session, to begin at 9 a.m., will be held prior to the board meeting, which starts at 5 p.m.

If the board authorizes the bond sale on Jan. 11, Sutter said bonds could go on sale by the end of the month and the district should receive funds by the end of February. That would be in time to make the first payments on services by Johnson Controls as well as provide reimbursement for the district, which will have to tap its own funds to acquire land for the new schools.

A resolution approved by the board on Tuesday stipulates the expenditures that can be reimbursed from the proceeds of future bond issues. Those expenditures include work by Johnson Controls prior to the bond issue passage.

When thin skin masquerades as civility

I was working in my shop tonight when my wife told me I’d want to see the WDIO news story about the School Board and the civility “code.” Boy was she right.

I critics of the Red Plan have been tough on the sitting school board members but I’ve seen much worse. As angry as folks have been about the Red Plan, and IMHO quite justifiably, public comment at Board meetings doesn’t come close to some of the drubbings I experienced over eight years.

So, I watched WDIO’s video of the mike being shut off on two speakers by School Board Chair Tim Grover. (You can read about it here but the story is nothing without the video) It was a travesty and I say that as a fellow who looks back with great fondness on the time I served on the School Board with Tim. I’ve never had a better buddy than Tim in the political world. I can only speculate that the past two years have been very hard on Tim for him to have cut the mike on two speakers who were calm, polite even and who spoke with justified disappointment. I didn’t even hear them mention Tim Grover’s name. They simply quoted statements Tim made opposing the Red Plan and pointed out that they had voted for a candidate who opposed the Red Plan as a candidate.

This last comment surely stung Tim because Red Plan supporters have taunted its critics for two years by saying the community elected school board members to implement the Red Plan. Tim shut off the microphone.

Its the worst PR disaster for Tim since he voted to close Duluth Central back in the early 1990’s after promising in his campaign to fight to keep the school open. He may have enough scar tissue to blunt the criticism that will be leveled at him but its sad to see his “pragmatism” degenerating into a contempt for the folks who just can’t get over having the Red Plan foisted on them without a vote. He used to be a champion of such folks back when the two of us fought to keep Washington Junior High open. There was a time that he had a high degree of contempt for snooty East Duluthians – the kind of folks whose cars sported bumper stickers saying “my child is a Duluth East honor student.” But that was then.

Cut the Mike!

At the latest School Board meeting Chair Tim Grover cut the power to a speaker who was commenting that after voting for a Red Plan critic for the School Board her candidate won then became the chief defender of the Red Plan. I don’t know whether she mentioned the name of her representative but it could only have been Tim Grover. Her gripe went to the heart of the claim by Red Plan fans that by voting for school board members they had essentially given their OK to the Red Plan.

I have never seen a school board chairman cut the power to a microphone during public comment time. There is a policy that forbids comments that attack people by name but generally Board Chairs point this out verbally. Cutting the power to the microphone is a new level of thin skinned censorship.

In recent meetings Gary Glass has been vilified during this time perhaps most vociferously by Paul Goosens who demanded that Gary write an apology for being a dirt bag or some such thing and not disavowing that rascal, Harry Welty. Paul’s microphone wasn’t turned off.

A little bird told me

Howie Hanson got his $19,000 contract at the School Board meeting. Howie began trumpeting the Red Plan line after his ridiculous assertion that a “little bird” had told him that the Fon du Lac Reservation was going to build a casino where Central High School currently stands.

I asked in a previous post what Mr. Hanson had been doing since Sept. (other than poke fun at Red Plan candidates) for the money he was going to be paid retroactively. I certainly hope the smell of cash had anything to do with the best news source in Duluth’s changing its tune. Well, my own little birdie has just told me that the District has been paying Howie for several months prior to the passage of his contract.

Whether my little birdie’s song is any better than Howie’s I have no idea. However, there’s no doubt that it sure strikes a sour note

Virtual open enrollment

We’ve just invested in twenty years worth of brick just as click education is kicking in:

“During the 2005-2006 school year, 25 students attended an all-day virtual school. This year that number is 92, making virtual schools the third biggest draw for Duluth students behind the Hermantown and Proctor school districts, according to Tom DeSutter, student enrollment monitor for the Duluth school district.

Duluth Superintendent Keith Dixon said he expects to see the trend continue.”

Such foresight! And these kids probably won’t have to live with garbage under the bleachers.

On the “Red Plan Plus” side

I was asked about “Red Plan Plus” at church yesterday by some parishioners who wondered where these folks were during the election. The proposal to keep Central around does have the appearance of being too little too late but that’s not really true. We can spend $45 million on a new western middle school (that can begin accumulating garbage under its bleachers immediately) or we can save the money by keeping one middle school in the center of town. Having a Central High Middle School might come in handy when UMD buys Woodland Middle School to expand. Not spending this money would help pay for ongoing maintenance which was not included in the Red Plan budget.

To alter our course one of Dr. Dixon’s school board supporters would have to change sides. Folks are putting pressure on Tim Grover and he must have winced when this letter made the Saturday Trib:

Everyone should look up and read the pre-election questionnaire Duluth School Board member Tim Grover filled out, and which was published in the News Tribune on Oct. 28, 2007. His responses then versus his actions now are inexcusable.

“I voted ‘no’ on the red plan because it is too costly and leaves the 3rd District with almost no school (and no high school),” he responded. “The red plan would create an educational void in the center of the city. The plan severely limits reasonable access to public education for this area. I believe that Duluth’s geography virtually requires us to keep three high schools, which we have now and which works well.”

Red plan supporters continually argue the public doesn’t need a vote because we get to vote for our representatives on the School Board. What happens when it seems that a representative completely misrepresents his intentions in order to get elected? Or who seems to abandon all promises as soon as he’s sworn in?

Grover’s loyalty should be to his constituents. If it wasn’t for his betrayal, those who wanted a more-sensible plan for the Duluth school district would now have a majority vote on the board.

Whether you live in the 3rd District, Grover’s vote affects you and your kids. Write to the Duluth school district. Letters will be counted, and if enough people write, Grover will have to listen.

Loren Martell

The Teacher’s Union is belatedly sticking up for Central so long as it doesn’t lead to 7-12 schools that would potentially undermine the long move to institute poorly funded “middle schools” in the Duluth Schools.

Maintenance in the Budget

One more thing re: the last post.

Gary Glass has commented over and over that the Red Plan, expensive as it is, has nothing in its budget for ongoing maintenance of all its new buildings and yet maintenance is just as necessary for new buildings as old ones.

Kerry Leider defended the Red Plan from some of my criticisms by saying that while, yes, the School Board in my time had spent $30 million on maintenance (over a period of 15 years) it simply wasn’t enough. That’s why all new buildings were necessary.

How much will it take to remove the trash from under the bleachers of these new school gyms and make sure pin hole leaks in the roofs don’t develop into garbage pails full of water in the hallways?

“Underneath the bleachers” of the Red Plan

This email sent to Tim Grover and the School Board suggests the folly of putting all our eggs in a basket with no bottom in it. We’re spending our treasure to build $293 million in new schools. Is this the sort of maintenence we can expect to see once they are built?

FW: Basketball Game at Woodland Middle School
timothy grover

Sent: Saturday, December 12, 2009 2:13 PM
To: School Board
Cc: kerry m. leider

Good morning,

I attended a basketball game last night at your school. The game was a girl’s “C” team game between Duluth Central and Esko. I was completely appalled at the conditions in the gymnasium. First it was so cold in there that we never took off our jackets, our feet were cold and the girls on both teams had to cover up with either sweats or blankets while on the bench. I know that there are concerns over expenses, but I disagree with keeping the heat that low, especially for an event. When not occupied, fine. Secondly, the other thing that completely disgusted me were the conditions of the bleachers and the gym in general. The bleachers were so dirty and dusty that you had to clean off a spot before you wanted to sit down. The underneath of the bleachers had so much garbage that must have been there for many months, several garbage cans would have been filled. Even the floor had dust on it in certain areas. You would think for any competition, the mats could be moved to another location to give the athletics room on the sidelines for the safety of the athletics.

This was not a good sign for the Duluth Schools in my opinion. Whether your school is on the closing list with the plan being implemented or not, general maintenance and cleaning should be kept up. Keeping pride in your school no matter what should be a priority.

Thank you for listening.

Share the data

Anyone who has followed my criticisms of the Red Plan knows my chief desire is to let the public vote followed closely by the desire to have the data supporting the Red Plan provided to the public.

This story about the fellow who has the scientists at the British Environmental Lab so upset makes the burr under their saddle sound eminently reasonable. Some of them don’t want to share their data with him. I’m not pleased to hear climate scientists sounding like JCI pitchmen and trying to figure out how to deny the public access to their data.

I have no doubt about Global warming and few doubts that it is proceeding at a vastly faster pace due to human impact. Still, I have no criticism for anyone who demands that the date be testable. That’s one of the key requirements to anything posing as science.

This story was sent me by Vic who I have been heatedly emailing over Climategate. I checked the reporters credentials. He’s OK although he writes for a conservative Canadian publication founded by Conrad Black a multimillionaire currently cooling his heels in a Florida prison for dubious business practices.

Provenance is important when attempting to verify fairness and balance in the main stream media but so is ring of truth reporting. This seems to meet the later test and probably the former as well.

The dim witted vid is kaput

As I’ve been reviewing the propaganda value of Howie Hanson’s past unpaid work for the Red Planners I thought I’d take another look at the video Howie circulated for JCI calling it a “must see” on Oct. 19th just before the election.

Horrors! Its been removed from the Vimeo website:

Sorry, “Let Duluth Vote’s “Plan B” presentation to the Duluth School Board” was deleted at 2:20:37 Tue Nov 24, 2009. We have no more information about it on our mainframe or elsewhere.

That’s about the date that the idea of paying Howie off started making the rounds through the School Administration.

Staring into the Abyss

I began our Christmas jigsaw puzzle tonight. 1000 pieces of a painting by the artist Thomas Moran. One of his paintings convinced Congress to establish Zion National Park. This is a jigsaw of his painting of the Grand Canyon. Claudia got the full edge put together while I sorted pieces by color. We’ve been buying puzzles from locales we’ve vacationed at for about ten years. After the election in November we traveled all over the Colorado Plateau. When I wasn’t in clinics with a face mask or on the phone talking to attorneys and bankers to complete a short sale I was leaning against the window of our car emptying out Kleenex boxes while my better half drove me all over Utah, Colorado and Arizona.

This afternoon we took the afternoon off and went to the movie Fantastic Mr. Fox. It was very droll. We treated ourselves to lunch before the movie and my Red Plan counterpart, Mimi Larson, stopped by our table. She asked how my book was coming along. I told her I’d been busy, which is true, and said I was still working on getting our $100,000 bond back. I thought this would have been worked out a month ago when we ..oops….. Sorry. We only get one crack at a press release and this might count.

I’ve been collecting samples of Howie Hanson’s help in promoting the Red Plan. Golly, If my side had done just a little better this election maybe I could collect a couple thousand for my help posting info on the web. I suppose this post election spoils stuff will have to be squeezed into an epilogue.