When a sparrow falls

Apparently I have hornets and wasps to thank for my wine cellar. They carry yeast in their guts and bite wine grapes thus passing it on.

Reading about this reminded me of one of the great miscalculations of Maoist China that caused the starvation of about 30 million people, The Great Sparrow Campaign.

It may be true that no sparrow can fall to the ground without God’s knowing it but that doesn’t mean the consequences are all that obvious to man. That’s worth keeping in mind as Republican leaders keep pooh poohing the notion that releasing hundreds of millions of years of naturally sequestered carbon into the atmosphere over a couple of human lifetimes will have any adverse consequences.Some say that God is in the details so we should be grateful that the Republicans have his ear. I’m sure the close collaboration of God and his party will prevent Lake Superior from evaporating. Apparently some people have been aware of this for quite some time.

Of course, if God’s party is right and America starts acting all godless by allowing gays to marry it could be curtains for ole Gitchi Goomi.

Unendorsed Dayton supports Endorsed Nolan

I enjoy the irony of this. Mark Dayton who got elected Governor without the DFL endorsement is supporting the Eighth District DFL Congressional candidate who got the endorsement Rick Nolan. I would guess that this is mostly a pragmatic decision with Mark looking for the strongest candidate but I’ll bet he and Nolan feel like fraternity members of the 1970’s as well when they bot got into politics.

The one line in the email appeal which was sent to me – twice – (damn overlapping data bases) that I thought was the funniest suggested that Nolan had once before been the Eighth District’s representative to Congress: “And I hope you’ll help me help him– because it’s time we had a fighter like Rick Nolan representing the 8th once again.”

He wasn’t.

90 days for JCI to fess up?

I’ve been AWOL on reporting the ongoing court case against JCI and the St. Louis County Schools. It looks like the recent favorable opinion JCI got to withold public data could be put in jeopardy. Praise the Lord. If only I could have pried a little public data out of JCI before the Red Plan lived up to its name.

From the Timberjay:

Court of Appeals skeptical of J CI’ s public data claims

By Marshall Helmberger

ST. PAUL – The public’s right to know the details of major public construction projects faced a key test last Friday before a three-judge panel of the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

Arguing for the Timberjay Newspaper, attorney Mark Anfinson called on the court to uphold well-established law in Minnesota by overturning an administrative law judge’s ruling in January that said Johnson Controls Inc. did not have to turn over information sought by the newspaper.

In that instance, Judge Eric Lipman determined that JCI was not engaged in a “governmental function” when it contracted to manage construction of a $79 million school building project for the St. Louis County School District, and therefore was not subject to state laws governing the release of public information.

Anfinson noted that while the case centered around the release of an architectural subcontract, Judge Lipman’s ruling would apply to all information related to the project that JCI had not specifically provided to the school district. “Acceptance of [JCI’s] position would overturn ten years of accepted practice,” said Anfinson. “This case will affect every public contract going forward.”

The three judges who heard the case last week appeared to share Anfinson’s concerns about Judge Lipman’s decision and indicated they would offer little deference to the findings made by the administrative law judge.

The judges appeared equally skeptical of arguments made by attorneys for JCI and Architectural Resources, Inc., who stated that subcontracts related to the school district’s $79 million construction project should be kept secret not only from the newspaper, but even from school officials themselves.

Arguing for JCI, attorney David Lillehaug said the contract the company signed with the school district does not call for release of subcontracts, to anyone.

“I start from the position that everything is open,” said Chief Judge Larry Stauber, who countered that he saw nothing in JCI’s contract that expressly prevented release of the requested subcontracts. “It seems to me the school district has a right to know who the subcontractors are.”

Anfinson said state agencies routinely obtain copies of subcontracts on major projects, and those subcontracts are available for public inspection.

Judge Stauber expressed surprise that a similar approach wasn’t taken in the case of ISD 2142. “I don’t understand why the school district doesn’t have a copy of every single subcontract,” he said.

Lillehaug argued that JCI was not engaged in a “governmental function” when it was hired by ISD 2142 to oversee construction of two new schools and renovate three existing schools, and so was not subject to public information laws.

But judges pointed to the statute and to related decisions by prior courts, noting that in a very similar case (WDSI v. Steele County), involving architectural work for construction of a public jail, the court of appeals found that the architect involved was engaged in a governmental function and was subject to the state’s public information laws.

Lillehaug argued that WDSI was distinguishable from the current case because in the prior case, Steele County had “delegated decision-making authority” that was not the case with JCI and ISD 2142.

Judge Margaret Chutich questioned whether such a distinction exists in the law. “Look at the statute,” Chutich said. “It says ‘If a government entity enters into a contract with a private person to perform any of its functions’ it’s subject to the law. The statute is very clear and very broad,” said Chutich.

Lillehaug tried a different tack, arguing that a contractual provision that is supposed to notify contractors on public projects that they are subject to public information laws was missing from JCI’s contract with the school district. “The issue is what does the contract say,” Lillehaug said.

“But the school district didn’t draft the contract, JCI did” said Judge Stauber. Lillehaug responded that the school district had assistance from legal representation and should have included the warning had it wanted the law to apply.

Judge Margaret Chutich noted that the court rejected a similar argument to Lillehaug’s in the WDSI case, and found that contractors are subject to the law even if the notification is overlooked in their contract.

Attorney Anfinson said allowing contractors and public officials to evade public information laws by simply omitting a notification clause would invite regular abuses of the public’s right to know. Judge Chutich appeared to concur. “If a government entity leaves this out, suddenly the law has no effect?” she asked. “We know what could happen then.”

Attorney Steve Lindeman, representing ARI, faced equally skeptical questioning as he argued that releasing his contract with JCI could have “enormous implications” for his client, potentially providing competitors with inside information, including pricing information.
“It’s for a public project,” responded Stauber, somewhat incredulously.

Lindeman repeated Lillehaug’s line of argument, suggesting that ARI was not engaged in a governmental function when it drew up plans for the construction of new public schools and the renovation of existing ones.

“You’re saying your work is not a government function because it’s being laundered through JCI’s contract?” asked Stauber.

Lindeman faced more trouble over an issue first raised by Anfinson during his arguments. Anfinson noted that mistakes in the architectural work completed by ARI had forced the school district to make dozens of costly change orders, and that the Timberjay wanted to review the contracts to determine if it might be possible for the school district to seek recovery for the errors.

“The appellant is saying there are all these overages. But you’re saying all of this should be shrouded,” said Stauber. “What about these overages?” Stauber asked.

Lindeman responded that the issue had not come up earlier and wasn’t in the official record of the case.

“I don’t care if it’s in the record,” responded Stauber, “is it true?”

Lindeman looked for a way out. “I see that my time is up, your honor,” he said.
“That’s okay, go ahead and answer,” shot back Stauber.

Lindeman never answered directly, but the damage had been done.

The three-judge panel now has 90 days to issue its decision.

GOP political pornography

Giving Father Coughlin a run for his money:

“I think it can now be said, without equivocation, without equivocation, that this man hates this country. He is trying, Barack Obama is trying, to dismantle, brick by brick, the American dream. There’s no other way to put this. There’s no other way to explain this. He was indoctrinated as a child. His father was a communist. His mother was a leftist. He was sent to prep and Ivy League schools where his contempt for the country was reinforced. He moved to Chicago. It was the home of the radical-left movement. He hooks up to Ayers and Dohrn and Rashid Khalidi. He learns the ruthlessness of Cook County politics. This is what we have as a president: A radical ideologue, a ruthless politician who despises the country and the way it was founded and the way in which it became great. He hates it,” – Rush Limbaugh

Vacation, Apathy, Metamorphosis, Whatever

I suspect that my eight loyal readers are close to giving up on me. Every so often since I started this blog in 2006 I have to let it go on hiatus. Whether this is for my peace of mind or to keep things fresh or spare myself from embarrassment is hard to say.

I think its all of the above plus a bit of all the things in the Title. I did have a Disney cruise to Alaska with my family that kept me busy but only for twelve days. Some of that time I was out at sea beyond cell phone contact and reluctant to use precious travel time to putz around on a computer. Then again that was only two weeks of the past seven or eight weeks of negligible posting.

Apathy is part of it. That has been brought about by two successive construction projects. The first I mentioned earlier had to do with a two month replacement of 100% of the tuck pointing on my home. It started out innocently enough as the rebuilding of the stairs in our front yard and morphed into a loud, messy, dusty, lawn abusing project that it was very nice to stay away from. It was a big enough hassle to dissuade me from filing for Congress and pursuing another golden goose chase.

I still managed to blog but then an even messier project developed. It too started small. I was tired of the water that seeped into our second house where our grandchildren live. Instead of a little waterproofing the foundation walls ended up being torn out and footings poured to lay new block walls. Fortunately the house didn’t slide down the hill during the June flooding and fortunately we were in sunny Alaska when the heavens poured fourth in Duluth.

I’ve kept up my reading but I’ve kept my opinions to myself for the hiatus. The Duluth Schools, the Presidential campaign, the book I’ve been writing that has been put on hold……these all are on my mind everyday. I just don’t feel like prattling on about them. Besides, since my daughter had to vacate her house I’ve been hosting two cute little boys all day, seven days a week. If I hadn’t woken up at 3:30 this AM I would have been hard pressed to write this minutiae.

My daughter might get to move back to her home this week but since her yard is little more than a vast pit of slippery clay I suspect I’ll be spending an inordinate amount of July and August helping put it in a fit condition for my grandchildren to play in again. That doesn’t bode well for blogging either.

I did read one very interesting book recently the Swerve and I just got the first hundred pages read of the latest book on LBJ by Robert Caro. They account for the metamorphosis part of the title. They are helping me during this cocooning period to transform myself into a prettier little butterfly, like the one my grandchildren might pull the wings off of. Accidentally of course.

Oh and I looked at the newly drawn districts for the Duluth School District. With all the expenses I’ve been stuck with lately the extra two thousand bucks a year the current school board gave itself as a pat on the back for the Red Plan looks mighty tempting. I wonder if I could speed my book writing up and get it out of the way before next year’s election?

The dark arts of Johnson Controls

I’ll write about these revelations from the Timberjay tomorrow or later tonight.

p. 10: Zelda Bruns: ” We’re worse off now than we were operating seven school”.

page 10: Zelda says she is “sympathetic to those who believe the district was “taken to the cleaners by JCI “.

page 10: Chet Larson: wants a comparison of operating costs compared to prior the restructuring. He noted that several schools had been using coal for heat and switched to propane to increase costs.

p. 10: According to Kim Johnson, business manager: the district saw a 34% increase in heating and fuel for 2011-2012 . Board members questioned the increase when we had a mild winter.