On the day that President Trump will give his first speech to Congress…

… I was fixing old posts. One of them was this short post from JANUARY 23, 2012. Richard Nixon’s simple explanation for why America should have two political parties reaching for the center instead of the periphery demonstrates the wisdom he had and that he ignored in order to become President in 1968.

Today the Bernie Sander’s diehards are hoping to do to the Democratic Party what the Tea Party did to the Republican Party. Break it.

From that post:

In 1959, Vice-President Nixon, speaking to members of California’s Commonwealth Club, was asked if he’d like to see the parties undergo an ideological realignment, the sort that has since taken place, and he replied, “I think it would be a great tragedy . . . if we had our two major political parties divide on what we would call a conservative-liberal line.” He continued, “I think one of the attributes of our political system has been that we have avoided generally violent swings in Administrations from one extreme to the other. And the reason we have avoided that is that in both parties there has been room for a broad spectrum of opinion.” Therefore, “when your Administrations come to power, they will represent the whole people rather than just one segment of the people.”

Fake “Real News”

The Trumpians sent me an email with a link to this website promising non fake news:

The email said the Trumpians would unleash “unfettered capitalism.” Yipee! I can’t wait for the next Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire.

Just what I need. Another FOX News with its “Fair and Balanced” reporting. “Fair” as in the condition of a book or a collector’s coin = Excellent, Good or Fair and balanced in the sense of journalists trumpeting “conservative Republican” values balanced against journalists attempting to show some objectivity.

Blog Housekeeping cont.

For the past few days I’ve been attacking the posts that have such nonsense as these in them: €œ,‘€, –, é, €™, Â

I don’t know how many posts include these nasties that can make old posts unbearable to read. It could be somewhere between 900 and 6,000.

Neither do I fully understand how they intruded themselves into the blog. Some may have entered when my blog’s spellcheck failed and I began typing them up in my computer’s composition software. I wonder if when I brought them back there was some miscommunication between the software of my computer and WordPress software. At any rate I’ve corrected about 200 old posts for which the apostrophe’s were replaced with this: €™. Its taken seven or eight hours and I may have another 700 posts left to remove them from……or more.

I’ve also started checking out the posts in the category “uncategorized.” These happen when I fail to designate a category for a newly written post to be associated with when I push “upload.” I don’t often forget but with nearly 20,000 posts over the past decade it happens.
There might be 200 posts that I’ve forgotten to categorize since 2006. I periodically recategorized them from 2006-2011 but its been about seven years since I last did this.

I’ve put a lot of myself in this blog and every time the Wordsoft folks make changes I’m slow to update the software. In December of 2015 I messed up an update and ignored my blog until I thought my Blog was dead and that I would never be able to add new posts to it. I was in Israel at the time and preoccupied. Four or five years ago I estimated there were 3 million in lincolndemocrat. God knows how many there are now. They take effort to keep orderly.

I am bending my will to make corrections in anticipation of both my run for reelection this fall. I also want to make it more easy for me to search through my post so that I can pick out material I’ve written previously for some of the various books, as yet unwritten, that might speed up my book writing. I’m also correcting typos and misspellings some of which snuck in when my blog’s spellcheck stopped working.

Even this entry along with others in the “Blog Housekeeping” category is part of my record keeping. I feel better knowing there are explanations for why human error keeps creeping into my blog. They have nothing to do with me, of course!

ISD 709 budgets and the sale of empty schools

A SOBERING PREFACE:

We will have a Committee of the Whole meeting at 5 PM on Tuesday to consider our 2017-18 budget. I explained that an initial worksheet sent to use said we could face a $5 to $9 million deficit in 2019. In a flurry of email following this info, it now appears this did not include the $3.4 million annual transfers out of the General Fund into bond repayments. (I used a $3 million figure earlier which understated the actual transfer) If this is true we face either an $8.4 or $12.4 million deficit in 2019. That is “gobsmacking” as they would say at Hogwarts.

For eight year’s we have been trying to sell off buildings to help pay for the Red Plan. We have received offers on four buildings in recent years New Central, New Central’s STC (the Secondary Technical Center), Nettleton Elementary and most recently Rockridge Elementary. All are empty buildings that are expensive to heat and maintain. As a Board we have deemed it inadvisable to sell to “competitors” even though two such entities have placed the highest offers on all of these buildings. This post considers two of the properties – Rockridge and the STC.

709 has a long-standing relationship with a separate Independent system called Woodland Hills which takes in troubled kids from all over the Midwest in a “residential” setting. Long ago they bought our old Cobb Elementary along Woodland Avenue. We now lease this building from them while they use 709 teachers to teach their clientele. It’s an old building and costs Woodland Hills more each year to fix up. They will need to charge us more for lease payments but our District wants to avoid these additional expenses. We suggested that they could use the Rockridge School thinking that it would have a longer life and help us avoid an increase in lease payments. But there is a big hitch. We estimate it will cost us $2.5 million to take the elementary school and alter it to suit high school students. Maybe this will be a wash if we no longer pay to lease our own building, Rockridge, but we will also lose a new offer on the building which could go to paying off Red Plan debt. To my knowledge that offer has never been mentioned in the press and the Board has not granted me permission to mention it now.

I recall asking at a recent closed meeting if we had considered using the STC as an alternative facility for Woodland Hills students. I can’t remember what we were told but the discussion went nowhere. Well, bless her heart, Alanna Oswald asked the Director of Woodland Hills if he had ever discussed using the STC instead of Rockridge. No one from 709 had raised that possibility with him. He was game for it. Since we have an offer for Rockridge that could be a boon to 709 I think we ought to consider it. However, we have very little time to spruce up either Rockridge or the STC if Woodland Hills students are going to move in next Fall which is their timetable.

Why hasn’t this possibility been discussed with our school board or Woodland Hills? I suspect the answer may have to do with our allergic reaction to “competitors.”

Another Board member recently suggested to me that selling the STC by itself would be foolish because that’s what makes the whole Central site valuable. However, I pointed out we decided to sell the Central site in bits and pieces to make it more attractive to buyers. If we used the STC for Woodland Hills we could sell Rockridge at a profit, use the proceeds to fix up the STC, and satisfy Woodland Hills. We would still have the rest of the Central site to sell. That’s Alanna’s idea and I think it is brilliant whether “competitors” benefit from such sales or not.

I have spilled more beans than some of my colleagues would want me to spill. I don’t do this lightly. I was censured by a previous school board for reporting that we had buyers who were willing to pay us $10 million for the Central property before the District was ready to acknowledge it. (That sale fell through later when the buyers got cold feet) So, I’m treading on Elizabeth Warren territory here.

I’ll just remember Warren’s new mantra: “Never-the-less she persisted.”

I like the sound of that a lot better than a $12.4 million deficit in 2019.

My Mulch Reply to Jennifer

Jennifer,

Such simple questions can lead to the longest more tortured answers. Here’s my tortured answer for you.

By temperament I hate wasting money, let alone for a project that may be unnecessary to insure our children’s safety. The Red Plan playgrounds should have several years of life in them before we replace the mulch. If there was no safety concern I wouldn’t consider replacing them. Yes, there are several studies that suggest the fears are overblown but I don’t expect any guarantees from the study that is meant to be completed at the end of this year. I suspect that it will punt and only tell us that rubber mulch has not yet been proven to be toxic. Both scientists and bureaucrats like to be cautious drawing conclusions.

If my prediction is correct I will still be left with the question one chemist posed to me a year ago: “How will you feel twenty years from now if it turns out the playground mulch was toxic and poisoned some of our children and you did nothing about it?”

We are still waiting for more information about the cost of mulch replacement which will come in around May. It could end up costing $600,000. That is an emergency cost that the school district ought to be able to support if we didn’t have such a Red Plan depleted reserve fund. A one-time mulch replacement cost to protect our children would be a pittance if we still had the $10 million reserve fund our past policies mandated. It all went to the Red Plan building bonds.

The absence of financing makes it hard to address our needs and the graduation rate dip, reported in the Trib yesterday, makes our distress stark. And the Red Plan pulls three million dollars out of the general fund each year. This increases class size and cuts into our programming. ISD 709 is unique among Minnesota’s school districts in this regard.

Parents can and have pulled their children out of ISD 709. I estimate that the Red Plan has led to an exodus of 15% of our student population. I know of a few families that are sending their children elsewhere because of our tire mulch. Each lost child costs us about $10,000 in state aid. Losing sixty kids over tire mulch would equal the cost of mulch replacement times every year they were absent from the district. Spending $600,000 to avoid losing $600,000 annually is an easy call. Not replacing the mulch would be penny-wise but pound foolish.

I have some caveats:

First, we don’t want voters to think we are spending money recklessly by replacing perfectly good mulch on the basis of hysteria. We depend on the voter’s confidence to pass operational levies. If mulch replacement led voters to vote against renewing our current $1.8 million levy it would be a terrible price to pay.

Second, I don’t want to spend General Fund (classroom) money. I want it to come out of our capital funding. This will have one negative impact. It will reduce our funds for long-term building maintenance. That’s a big deal. It was poorly maintained school buildings that led us to build the extravagant Red Plan.

There has been some doubt about whether we can use capital funds. Administration explained that we couldn’t use our capital funds. However, I’ve been told that Duluth Representative Jen Schultz, recently told parents at a “listening session” we could use our capital funds. Based on inquiries I’ve made I think she is right. So, it should be no problem replacing the turf, right?

There could be another claim on our capital funds that would take priority over mulch replacement. This competing claim is tied to the tricky issue of selling our empty Red Plan schools to non-ISD 709 “competitors.” Because we have a divided Board I’m not sure our Administration has been as forthcoming as I would like them to be. How forthcoming should I be?

This topic will appear in a later post, possibly the next one. These issues are all tied together by our budget. We will be having a Committee of the Whole to discuss this subject at 5PM on Tuesday. Our Friday Board packet gave us a preview. It contained a single sheet of paper with two likely budget scenarios over the next two years. The optimistic budget assumes that we will get more money from the stingy new Republican legislature. This lucky scenario will leave us with a $5 million dollar budget deficit at the end of the year 2019.

The pessimistic budget assumes that there will no new revenues. If we are unlucky we will face a $9 million dollar deficit at the end of 2019. Oh, and I don’t know if either of these budget scenarios take the next teacher contract negotiations into account.

Harry

PS. Sorry to have left your phone number in that last post.

Tire mulch Intermission is over

Well not quite yet. I wrote last night that I would continue this morning because I was too bushed after staying up to watch Steven Colbert. I got a fabulous night’s sleep. However, I’ve just typed up a thousand words and I’m just now getting to the tricky and speculative part. When I’m finished with it, it will require editing and a check of all the caveats the post will require. I am pretty sure it will show up before the day is out.

“Big Trump” or “Little Trump?”

My Buddy sent me this thoughtful appraisal of how the stock market in the US is taking Donald Trump in stride. The Atlantic column takes no stand on Trump. It just lays out the possibilities for Trump either cratering our economy or being irrelevant. Its not very long.

My guess is that he will hurt significantly especially in the huge swath of Red States that depend on Agriculture. Foreign travel is down too. Foreigners have always been hyper sensitive to the idea that the US is the wild west with gunfights breaking out everywhere. The news from my old Homestate, Kansas, today won’t help that perception. That story is already running on Indian media.

I’ve read enough stories that suggest doom and gloom in various economic quarters that I find the idea of a “little Trump” imprint on the economy wishful thinking. Maybe that’s wishful thinking on my part.

“The Little Trump hypothesis regards these fears and declares: “meh.” Instead, it posits that the president will be a loud yet minor figure, sound and fury signifying nothing; a wannabe superhero hemmed in by the limited powers of the executive branch. Rather than rule like a populist demagogue, he will mostly sign bills written by his pro-business staffers and approved by a pro-business Congress. There are extremely smart people who believe in each hypothesis. But the theories are mutually exclusive. They cannot both be true. No matter what happens in the next few years, a lot of people are already wrong about Donald Trump.”

Intermission

I stayed up late to watch Colbert’s latest sketch on national politics. I’m too bushed to begin that post about mulch after all. Instead, I will direct you to the Duluth Reader I just picked up. Loren Martell is still working overtime and has another column in the Reader. I haven’t read it yet. Meanwhile White Bear Lake made its decision on a new Superintendent tonight. I presume they will announce the results tomorrow. Also, we school board members were emailed an “embargoed” summary of our Graduation Rates from the Minnesota Department of Education. Embargoed meaning I am not to spill the beans.

I just read Loren’s column. Its very thoughtful. It seems to have been prompted by the blog post I put up titled “DFL Monsters?” This was my analysis of Loren’s last column throwing a little heat at local DFL insiders. Some of my best writing starts from a seed in an email or letter I receive from people parsing what I have written. In the same way I think my post served to crystallize Loren’s thinking. He’s in top form.

“Vintage Harry” in Three 709 updates

1st.

I had a long delayed lunch with member Nora Sandstad yesterday. Nora has had some medical worries that seem to be resolving themselves and we finally got a chance to talk together outside of School Board meetings. It was very cordial. Nora mentioned that she got my email to the Board which I had just sent out. I told her I was just being “quarrelsome.”

My email noted that the Board, at least as a whole, had not been notified that US Senator Al Franken would be visiting Denfeld to learn first hand about its Robotics work. I only found out late the evening beforehand from an outside source. So, I scolded the Administration noting that when I was on the School Board and Senator Wellstone had visited ISD 709 all Board members were invited to meet with him. I said that if we were not welcome to meet Franken I’d keep my distance but then mentioned another meeting which not all of the current Board members were appraised of.

While we lunched I also showed Nora a letter that had chewed me out a year earlier and to which I sent a four page reply. I told her my letter was “vintage Harry.” Nora smiled and I was pretty sure that she took from the comment my tendency toward long windedness.

Then this morning the School Board was sent a question from one of the TV reporters who covered the Senator’s visit. She asked us why we Board members didn’t avail ourselves of the chance to share what we knew with the Senator. I sent her my email to the Administration to let her know it was a good question. She then asked if I’d go on air. I wrote back that I wouldn’t want to because I’d sound petty when other bigger issues were on our plate such as this email from our Superintendent today:

2nd.

Chair Kirby and School Board Members,

Through the US departments of Education and Justice, President Trump has sent a “Dear Colleague” Letter rescinding the Dear Colleague letter from President Obama regarding rights of transgender students. I have attached the letter for your review.

In response, the media has asked for statements regarding this change. Here is the response we plan to share:

It’s our responsibility to ensure all students – including young people who identify as GLBTQ – can attend our schools and receive a great education in an environment free from discrimination. We endeavor to treat all students with respect and equity and to validate the rights of all students to a safe and welcoming environment. We work with students who identify as transgender to provide support and will continue to do so. We train staff in strategies to help create safe and supportive environments for students and will continue to do so.
As an organization, we’ve included community input in creating policies and practices to comply with Minnesota’s Safe and Supportive Schools Act and Federal harassment laws. We will continue to seek guidance from the Minnesota Department of Education, the Minnesota School Boards Association and the Minnesota State High School League in an ongoing effort to create safe, supportive environments for all students.

Please feel free to contact me should you have any questions or concerns about this.

Thanks,
Bill

3rd.

Meanwhile The Zenith’s Editor, Jennifer Martin-Romme, sent the School Board a challenging question asking us if, in light of the EPA’s recent comments about tire mulch, we shouldn’t hold off on deciding to replace it:

Greetings, School Board Members!

This is Jennifer Martin-Romme with the Zenith newspaper. I’m working on a story about the playground tire mulch. Since I don’t have many questions for the school board, I figured I’d email you, but I would be happy to talk by phone if you prefer. My number is 218-xxx-xxxx.

My question is this: The Environmental Protection Agency is currently working on a study of recycled tire crumb for use on playing fields—-https://www.epa.gov/chemical-research/federal-research-recycled-tire-crumb-used-playing-fields. The EPA is expecting to have results in late 2017. Previous research has found no environmental or health concerns with the use of recycled tire crumb, but this study is intended to fill in the gaps and address concerns raised the public.

Therefore, why not wait for the EPA’s results before deciding if and/or how to change the material on our school playgrounds in ISD709? If the EPA continues to find no health concerns, would you consider not changing the current rubber mulch on the playgrounds, and why/why not?

I would also love to hear any other thoughts you have on the playground tire mulch issue.

I’ll be working on this story through Saturday, February 25.

Thank you!

Jennifer Martin-Romme
Zenith News, LLC

Boy, do I have a lot to say about this! Maybe I’ll write it up in the next post but, if so, I probably wait till bedtime to crank it out. I will need to give this some thought and possibly a lot of space because I may send it out the the dozens of parents who have written to me about this subject. I will want concerned parents to wrestle with the same issues I’ll be wrestling with. Its complicated and connected to other School District issues. I don’t have all the answers only a lot of questions.

I know Jennifer looks at my blog on occasion. She’ll probably have to read my answer to her question here when I get around to it.

’ Blog Housekeeping

For several years I’ve been greatly annoyed that bugs sneaked into my blog posts. They are punctuation bugs. Maybe you’ve noticed them especially if you’ve followed my search function to older posts. They are especially common from the time I began serving for my third term in 2014. I still don’t know what caused them to replace simple apostrophes and quotation marks.

Its harder to fathom what President’s means than President’s or School Board’s compared to School Board’s.

Over the past couple years I’ve gone back and corrected some of the old posts when I myself linked back to them. But there are about 900 such posts and I used a lot of apostrophes.

I have found a slow and fairly tedious way to correct the mistakes one by one. I’ve spent the last half hour correcting about seven of the exasperating posts. I’ll keep working on it as this blog is my primary means of communicating and Harry’s blog reads so much better than Harry’s blog.

OMG A new check suggests I have 6000 posts with the strange hieroglyphics.

I have always suspected that one botched attempt to fix of this blog turned all those apostrophe’s and quote marks into weird things. Ditto hyphens. 6,000 corrupted pages is almost 1/4th of ten years work. Sheesh!

A year ago today the most famous man in World History…

…showed up on my front lawn

I know because Facebook reminded me by putting this image on a “year-ago-today” memory function.

And why do I say that he is the most famous person in World History? Well first a prologue.

I woke up today not thinking about Trump, a rarity, but perhaps he was in my thoughts way behind the scenes in my subconscious. You see, I woke this morning imagining going back to a day when I was in college 45 years ago with the memories of me today, at age 66, stuck in my head.

What I thought about was compelling enough, for me, to imagine writing it down as the beginning of a novel. So taken was I by this writing exercise that I decided not to listen to NPR this morning so I could continue thinking about this novelized time travel story. (Actually, last night before going to bed I thought I should stop listening to the morning news because I had been so wrapped up in it that I have been neglecting various projects I wanted to work on. This has become so standard that I find myself going to bed wishing I had done something useful instead of obsess about Donald Trump.)

I got out of bed before the crack of dawn and kept the radio off while I fed my cats and gathered my gym bag to swim some laps at the fitness center. I drove sans radio and swam. On the way home I bought some coffee, orange Juice and a banana nut muffin but made the mistake of looking at my cell. I noticed a New York Times Story (I subscribed to the Times a couple weeks ago to have unlimited Trump News coverage and avoid being limited to ten-a-month) about someone who had attempted to do what I was failing to do with my morning. Block Trump out of my thoughts so I could do something else for a change.

Mr. Manjoo is the columnist who tried unsuccessfully to blot out Donald Trump not just for a morning but for a week. He couldn’t do it either. Then he did a little research and concluded that Trump is the most famous person in world history that has ever been. As I extrapolate Manjoo’s conclusions it appears that Donald Trump has gotten something like a trillion dollars worth of free publicity over the course of the last twelve months. He has me convinced. Its astonishing to think that the most famous person ever is the world’s biggest twit. Or is that twitterer?

It can’t happen here.

I only had to type six characters and a space: It can’ – and the full title of the movie I woke up dreaming about popped up in my Google Search: It Can’t Happen Here. I suspect Donald Trump’s series of unfortunate events has prompted a lot of other people in their sixties to Google that title.

It Can’t Happen Here was a book written by, Sinclair Lewis, the Minnesotan who wrote one of his books half a mile from my house. But I was wrong. The movie I had in mind was Red Nightmare, which you can see on Youtube. This was a Warner Brother’s Film, about what America would be like if Russian Communists took over whereas Sinclair’s book was published a quarter century earlier. Lewis, long suspected be a Commie by Right Wingers had a differenty bogeyman in his 1935 novel. It was a Fascist demagogue, Buzz Windrip, modeled after Louisiana Governor Huey Long. Like Saturday Night Live the book was considered satire although Lewis probably thought it was more of a wake up call.

Ten years after Lewis, Robert Penn Warren would win a Pulitzer for another treatment of Huey Long called “All the King’s Men.” I’ve only seen the Broderick Crawford movie. Claudia, the novel reader in my household, loved Warren’s book.

The line that Democracy calls for constant vigilance is appreciated on both left and right. Eight years ago “conservative writers” were warning that President Obama was going to instigate a communist take over. Count me among the Obama lovers who fret that the opposite could occur. This post was originally going to be titled: “Trump Supporters are Not Brown Shirts – Yet.” That was meant to be a hopeful title.

I have no trouble seeing Donald Trump put his own ego over the “American Democratic Experiment.” He’s like one of the Tigers in that embarrassing old relic Little Black Sambo. I can only hope he chases the other tigers around the tree turns and to butter. I’m losing hope that he will grow into the Presidency. He looks more and more like the tinytrump pictures in that Reddit Thread.

When I hear him call legitimate news “fake” I can imagine him being gently led to a psyche ward mumbling to all who will listen that he is Jesus Christ. Is this madness, illiteracy, dementia, a lifetime of unpunished bullying or vainglory? I don’t know.

Thankfully, for every Bannon, Pudzer, DeVos and Miller Trump has been coaxed into appointing sensible people. I’ve got no problem with General Mattis or Judge Gorsuch. I read a glowing review of the jurist in the Denver Post when I was visiting my Uncle last month. As long as Trump keeps appointing one Gorsuch for every Sessions I’ll sleep at night. As long as Republican Senator’s McCain and Lindsey Graham birddog Trump, I’ll sleep at night.

American Dictator Watch – 2-18-2017

Considering turning the National Guard into a police force

Considering curtailing the Founding Father’s right of a free press.

After begging Russia to release hacked US Government emails an About Face calling for prosecutions of American government leakers.

Not to mention this old chestnut from the campaign trail back in February of 2016:

Campaigning on making it easier to sue his detractors and the press for golden showering on his parade.

Prodded by conscience and a blog critic I offer…

…the Duluth News Trib’s take on I.V. Foster the six-month superintendent that I suggested was harassed out of Duluth.

This is what was reported shortly before he meekly departed:

Foster spent 31 days out of office

Former Duluth school Superintendent I.V. Foster was out of the office for more than a quarter of the time during his 5½ months on the job, employee records obtained by the News Tribune show.

According to public data the News Tribune requested in January, the new superintendent used 21 days of combined vacation, personal and sick time and 10½ days of professional leave from July 1 until he was put on paid administrative leave Dec. 19. The 31½ total days away from his office represent 27 percent of the ….

You can read the rest of the story at this link.

Here’s a follow up story.

My critic is in no doubt that Dr. Foster was a ninny. Certainly his many days out of office in his first five months in a big new job raised eyebrows. We have a President who seems similarly disengaged.

My suggestion that the powers-that-be in the District helped undermine the Music Man (Foster was a musician) is still likely true. Ask President Trump about all his administration’s leaks. Whether the new Supe had good reasons for his many early absences has never been addressed publicly. He did take something like seven sick days and as far as I can tell he had every right under his contract to take the personal leave days off. That leaves the issue of the Minnesota Superintendent license which he failed to apply for in a timely fashion. That is harder to explain although I’ve had some ameliorating suggestions offered to me.

For the record, I always thought Dr. Foster would have a tough time after a bruising Red Plan Civil War. He seemed to shrug off the seriousness of the war’s aftermath which struck me as naive. His previous superintending experience was limited as well. He’d been in a small district that only had elementary schools. I honestly don’t know what to make of what happened and at the time I felt no impulse to investigate. Last night I briefly imagined conducting such an investigation with a flurry of after-the-fact interviews. Silly me! I’ve got too much on my plate as it is.

Still, What happened to the good Doctor was embarrassingly consistent with several previous unhappy experiences that our District’s minority teaching staff have encountered. The District may not have failed I.V. Foster but it did him no favors either and this in a District with a damn near criminal gap in achievement between white and minority students.

DFL Monsters?

Loren has a beef with “the DFL-endorsed Board majority.” Whew! Where to begin?

I have had some beefs with the majority of the Board, some of them quite vehement. I don’t however, look at them as the DFL Board. Yeah, they got DFL endorsements. No, I don’t approve and never have of party endorsements for “non Partisan” civic elected positions. Meh! That’s what I think of DFL endorsements. A lot of the endorsements are handed out like party favors to insiders but a good candidate can win without endorsements. I’ve rarely been a “good” candidate but I’ve been a regular candidate and a hard working candidate and I’ve gotten elected three of the 8 times I filed for the school board. I would almost certainly have won re-election to a third term in 2003 had I not changed my mind and told everyone the other guy was OK and stopped campaigning. That would have been four out of eight.

I might have won in 2007 without party endorsement except that a horrid man blackened my reputation three days before the election by circulating a highly inflamatory portrait of me to every front door in the School District. That would have been five out of eight.

I don’t have anything against Democrats. In fact, that word is half of the title of this Blog. I filed for Congress when I created the blog with the initial idea of running as a Democrat in 2006. At the last minute I filed independently as a “Unity Party” candidate after the name of the blog was set. I was the Unity Party. Subsequently, I attended three or four DFL precinct caucuses including the best one I ever attended in 2008 as an enthusiastic Obama supporter. I can’t tell you how much it warmed my heart when the DFL party machine gave a tribute to the Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, at one meeting I attended. Lincoln has become an embarrassment to his own party.

My Buddy likes to criticize me for being a bigot towards all things Republican. He’s wrong, of course. I’m bigoted about the purging of Lincoln lovers from the Republican Party. As a result I’ve heaped abuse on the Republicans non stop for the last decade. Checking my search engine I have categorized 674 of my posts under the biting title “God’s Own Party.” A little math tells me that this is about 3.5% of my total postings so its not exactly obsessive. And under the category of “Good Republicans” I found 147 posts. There is a little balance there. And I’ve stopped attending DFL precinct caucuses. I’m a creature of habit – the habit of being mostly honest about what I think. I think we did pretty well with two middle of the road parties for most of my first century on Earth. Sadly that has not been true during any of my second century except for a couple years after 9/11. My blog is my personal, pathetic attempt to find common ground again. I’d like to be nice to Republicans but God Dammit! Their obsession with strangling unions and Obama and Roe v Wade and indifference to poor people stuck us with Donald Trump. Its not easy to forgive all of that.

I don’t blame the DFL for mucking up the Duluth Schools like Loren does. True, they gave the vast majority of boneheads who have brutally ruled the School Board over the past decade their endorsement……… hmmmmm.

I guess I’d suggest that Duluth’s DFL inner circle owes it to the voters, our children and itself to be a little more thoughtful in the future……..just as the DFL would certainly wish Republicans everywhere do the same.

By the By – I’ve heard from one person who chills with young DFLers that they think I’m a jerk. He asked them if they’d ever met me. They admitted they hadn’t. I’ve got a reelection campaign coming up this summer and fall. I hope I get to have a beer with one or two of them so that they can size me up and dispel some of that negativity I seem to be saddled with. In the privacy of the voting booth they don’t have to limit their votes to DFL endorsees.

Oh and this just popped up on Facebook from my sister in Ecuador. It seems appropriate to share it.

To Err on the side of self flagelation is….

Loren Martel.

Loren has been outdoing himself lately. His columns have been churned out almost weekly and he is in the Duluth Reader yet again this week aiming a blow torch very narrowly at his favored whipping boy “The DFL-endorsed Board majority.” He has a little left over for our Superintendent’s wandering eye as well. More on this in the next post but I’d like to linger on the meat of his retraction in the first paragraph. Loren admits a mistake, not his first, but offered one of his most important corrections.

He recently explained that since the days of Dixon our taxpayers had suffered a 60% increase in their local school taxes. It turns out Loren was way off the mark. He corrected himself: “Our tax levy from the district has risen by a whopping 246% since the start of the Red Plan.” Yup. Yup. Yup.

I’ll add some additional details, one of which I learned today in a conversation with an MDE finance expert from that Era who watched with astonishment as the Duluth Schools proceeded with their exploding hot potato. I learned that a few years ago the District had the opportunity to raise money for capital costs to help pay off the Red Plan but chose instead to take the money out of the General Fund and thus from classrooms. The reason is understandable. Having already failed miserably in their promise not to raise taxes as a result of the Red Plan, the powers-that-be decided it was better to raid classroom money rather than further anger voters. For many years we took six million annually from the classroom for bond payoffs. Now its a little over three million stolen annually- and that’s not an unfair description.

I asked if any other school districts in the state had ever done such a thing. “Yes,” I was told. Minneapolis and St. Paul did it briefly. I asked if they took anything close to 5% out of their General Funds for bond payoff purposes. “No,” was the answer. And of course we both knew that Duluth will be doing this for ages. “Some of these bonds won’t be paid off for 35 years,” I was told. (Or was it 50 years?) This major outlay from the General Fund was made necessary by change orders, cost overruns, lying, grossly inflated charges even more excessive than those recently exposed at Prior Lake. What makes it worse is that the Red Plan Board members regularly denied that they were taking General Fund money to pay off the bonds on the Red Plan. No wonder they wanted to remove Art Johnston when he kept asking for the public data that confirmed how bone headed the Red Planners had been.

Loren quotes one of the applicants for the Superintendent job who the Board passed on in 2012. Stan Mack was a thirty year administrator who frankly told the board that the Red Plan’s financing was “unprecedented in Minnesota…a most serious problem…major leakage from the General Fund, caused by school board action.” Mack did not get the job but three of the Board members were unable to get their preferred candidate Mr. Gronseth hired. But time heals all wounds. Six months later the new Superintendent was sent packing after a well orchestrated campaign to make him look like a ninny. Positivity at last.

PS. That Martell article is in the news stands but not yet online. I think the Reader stalls a few days to keep its advertisers in the print version happy.

Rascals are rascals no matter under what banner

My Buddy sent me a link about DFLers who were taking advantage of their connections to leach off of our new Billion dollar Football Stadium. He said he was “grateful for living in a state where the political reaction to this shit (finally?) seems to reflect that it stinks.”

I agree. I’d hate to live with the hypocrisy we are seeing in Washington DC. https://www.facebook.com/CREDO/videos/10155814178245968/

I began researching one of my many quickly evaporating books in 2005. It was about the biggest political scandal in Minnesota History that I know of and which was centered in Duluth. One of the chief rascals was a fellow named Tom Kelm. Michele Kelm-Helgen is his daughter. Apparently the acorn fell close to the oak.

Still, Michelle’s extravagances are a pale shadow of her Father’s exploits which are only hinted at in News stories of his Era. He was a preternaturally lucky gambler in Vegas. He escaped the law only to reincarnate as a lobbyist for the Cancer stick industry but there was one little tornado after his exit. It was called the Minnesota Massacre. The link in the last sentence takes you to a story that puts all the focus on the BWCA controversy and none on the scandals overseen by Mr. Kelm during Governorship of Wendell Anderson.

I can only hope that a politial massacre of political ne’er do wells also ends up being reflected in national politics some day in the near future.

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.