You’ve got Mail

Today 27,000 residents of Duluth will receive one of the best multi-candidate mailers I’ve ever seen. I did not design it. You will find this representation of our four campaign yardsigns in one corner.

The mailer, which gives a short description of each candidate’s reasons for running for the school board, says of the foursome:

In the upcoming School Board election, if you hope to elect members who are non-partisan advocates for everyone, who are independents not tied to special interests, and who will be willing to engage in healthy, respectful discussion about important issues, please vote for these candidates:

They believe that most of the current district problems can be traced back to budgets-and it’s time to bring ISD 709’s budget out of the dark. It’s time to let taxpayers see what the Board does with their money. Our district’s problems should be solved with transparency and openness-not behind closed doors. The partisan politics of past elections brought us to where we are today. If you want a different kind of board, you need to elect a different kind of candidate. Duluth’s schools need leaders like Kurt, Art, Harry and Dana.

These four candidates could not afford to send this flyer to all of Duluth’s residents so I will put portions of it here over the next couple days. Our financial limitations made a partial mailing necessary but I guarantee the voters that we are as frugal as previously careless school board were spendthrifts having squandered 200 teachers in exchange for vanity stoking new school buildings.

And one more thing for now. I got a call from the Trib’s Editor Chuck Frederick fact checking claims being sent into the Trib. Someone wrote in that I used campaign contributions to help pay my friend Art Johnston’s obscene $75,000 legal costs to defend the election of Western Duluth voters to put Art on the school board. I corrected that in one quick hurry. I had promised to help Art raise funds to defend himself but in that desperate two years could not muster the time to raise money. What to do?

As my long time readers know my Mother died during those tribulations and left me a modest legacy. I gave Art $20,000 to sustain him as Rosie Loeffer-Kemp and her pals tried to drain him dry. I’ve never spend money on a more worthy cause.

As for this year’s spending we four candidates pooled our resources for this mailer. I had access to the addresses of the 2000 outraged voters who in 2009 raised $40,000 in small checks to challenge Johnston Controls and the School Board in court demanding that the Red Plan be put out for competitive bids since we had not been allowed a referendum to accept it. Those LDV voters have not forgotten how the School Board thumbed its noses at them. They once again came forward with nearly $3,000 to cover the cost of this mailer. (I just got a call from an almost forgotten friend who told me it was a great mailer. I thanked her gratefully)

On Facebook I am being singled out by the sister of one of the candidates not pictured in our mailer for having violated the law in raising these funds. She’s encouraging folks to come up with the money to take me to Minnesota’s election commission. That’s ironic because she once helped me narrow down the choice of attorneys for Let Duluth Vote to challenge the Red Plan. As I’ve mentioned in the past I am a connoisseur of irony.

Tomorrow I’ll reprint the letter that is supposed to get me hauled before the judges of good campaign etiquette for the edification of my eight loyal readers.

Sprites Circling and other School Board hauntings

Must go shopping and fix tire. Will be back to explain this later this morning.

OK, So, I’m still letting my left foot rest and I’ve had plenty of other campaign related things to do such as distributing the decks of snow sculpture cards. That’s what I was doing on Park Point yesterday when I found this arresting conclave of spirits or sprites. I had three decks to distribute and was awarded with thank yous for running again for the school board.

I’ve not had time to decorate for Halloween but Claudia did buy a pumpkin today and asked for me to draw a face on it for her to cut out for tomorrow. I made sure we bought chocolate to hand out……just in case we have any left over.

I also snapped a picture of Lake Superior on my way home. After the lawnsign leveling snow storm of the weekend the lake looked like Chocolate Milk. I’ve never seen it quite that color before.

My daughter’s family are making up for my laggardly All Hallows celebrating. At our church’s trunk or treat they scared people for a good cause. Claudia made our grandson’s hair afire.

They should be on the school board with me. We’d dig up a few old skeletons and get a lot more done.

The tenth buddy

It was bagpipes and Scotland at our Presbyterian Church today. My Dad would have loved it. Our graying choir did OK and we had the job of making and serving cookies and treats after church in the basement after the service. I poured coffee, regular and decaf. But one ongoing drama had my attention though the morning.

The Mother of one of the kids who followed mine up the Sunday School chain reported that her son’s tenth buddy from our most recent conflicts had killed himself. She looked ahead and I could see from the choir loft that she was suffering intense pain. I’m sure she was wondering if her son could be next. She was surely reflecting his pain. She has faithfully reported this body count at our services for the past couple years since his return to civilian life.

These young troops are patted on the back when they return from conflict unlike the troops from Vietnam. The dirty secret is that most of us don’t want to follow them into service. We no longer harass them for defending the foreign missions our nation’s leaders deems necessary. But these young people go back again and again and again, as soldiers ever will, so as not to let down their buddies still in the field. And when they come back after years they are not the same; can not be the same, again.

My Grandfather fought for a year in France in World War I. He was shot to hell and like these young people today was hailed as a hero upon his return. But his year of fighting was only about four of five months at or near the front. He did not eat up his twenties going back and going back again. The nations of Europe did not have that Luxury. Their soldiers fought at the front for four years until they were lucky enough the have a leg blown off so that they could return to normal life. Look how well that served Europe’s future.

Its hard for me to put any credence in the faux patriotism from those in power who wave the bloody flag and send soldiers into the night or into a place like Niger with inadequate support and who then do little to insure that our soldiers don’t commit suicide upon their return or clumsily offer condolences to families who’s sons and daughters did what they made damn sure they never had to do themselves when they were young.

The Lost Children of Tuam

For the past two months I’ve read very little. No books. I’m looking forward to the end of this campaign so I can once again look beyond the Duluth Schools.

I woke at 3:30 and trudged up to my office to work on the mandatory Finance Report that will be turned in Monday it having been due yesterday, Friday. After returning to the accounting later this morning I paused to look at the New York Times online.

I have some Irish in me, although my Dad always joked that it was orange not green. The haunting photo above lured me into an extended story about human indifference and one woman’s quest to bring the dead to light if not life. Maybe it was the adagios I had playing on Pandora in the background but I used up a couple of tissues wiping tears away. Tales of human decency often do that to me.

How frauds threaten the First Amendment

I ran across this piece in the New York Times. The Western Duluth Lens has adopted Russian techniques to misinform and confuse those people who stumble into it. The authors gave it birth as a Facebook Page only last March and its lethargy kept it posting at a rate less than once a month. That’s about a day’s worth for my blog. Despite the encouraging name its backers have done little to promote Western Duluth. If they were working closely with Mayor Larson surely there would have been at least one story about their good works. Good works seems foreign to them.

I see that the wife of Congressional candidate Skip Sandman just slapped me upside the head based on the crap the Lens is promoting. I hope her husband Skip is a little less gullible but then again, like me years ago, he hopes to defeat a Democratic Congressman –
Rick Nolan.

Skip might actually succeed – not in getting elected himself, but in turning the 8th District back into Republican hands.

Babbette Sandman has willingly lent her reputation and credibility into the hands of the real villains behind the Lens who are keeping their identities secret. I’ll be watching the page to see how many more folks are snookered into joining the Lens’s chorus as the next ten days march on.

Anonymity is one of dishonesty’s best friends. Abe Lincoln would not approve.

BTW – Yesterday lincolndemocrat got 615 visitors and 10,946 page views. That’s some consolation in the truth department. Maybe the Lens checked me out as well. I wonder what else they can find in my millions of words to take out of context? Go for it…..whoever you are!

Western Duluth Lens, DFL Trolls?

You will no longer find the conversation from the previous post on the Western Duluth Lens Facebook Page. Its a dodgy page with only a few scant posts imitating a pro-Western Duluth “Collaborative.”

Its anonymous. There is no way to know who administers it.

Its administrators paid to have a post taking my words out of context sent to an unknown number of Facebook users. This is what the Russian Hackers did buying secret ads on Facebook to pillary Hillary.

The post prompted a serious question about what this 4-year-old comment meant from an innocent like me who had no way of knowing that this site was really a spider web. I gave the inquiry an explanation that put her concerns to rest. My reply has since been removed from the post by the administrators. They didn’t want me absolved of their character assassination. They did leave the original commentary I wrote probably to “prove” I used the word “gangrene.” But they also removed the comments of the person who put it on the page who also pointed out the soon-to-be ad’s inaccuracy and unfairness.

I’d love to know who had the credit card that paid to spread this defamation on Facebook. I’d like to know how much they spent and to which people their algorithm was directed. This sure doesn’t meet the test of the Civility Pledge that lots of folks are falling all over themselves to cheer on.

Its hard for me not to note that the DFT Union President Bernadette Burnham was one of 19 people “liking” this knock on me. This is a union President that has refused about seven requests from me to meet her for coffee over the past couple years. Yet she sent me a nasty ill informed “complaint” claiming that I had embarrassed a teacher that her Union completely dropped the ball defending.

The wife of a City Councilor running for reelection also liked this smear. Both are active DFLers.

I’d like to point fingers somewhere but I can’t with confidence. Maybe I could get the FBI to call Mark Zuckerberg but so far that hasn’t helped poor Hillary.

What I can say is that whoever is attempting to subvert honest dialogue to keep control over the Duluth School Board has the ethical and moral compass of Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump….and that they are almost certainly active members of the local Democratic party…….but that’s still a guess.

Mayor Emily Larson’s anonymous “collaborators” at the Western Duluth Lens…

…have borrowed the tactics of the Hillary Clinton bashing, Putin-paid, Russian hackers to discredit me two weeks before the Nov. 7th General Election.

I don’t appreciate it.

Here’s what the Lens “collaborative” says about their work with Duluth’s Mayor:

“A Western Duluth Collabrative Leadership Team working with our city leadership to provide insight into areas of opportunity facing our Western Duluth Community. Currently there is not a department head leading any of the City of Duluth’s departments residing within the Western Duluth Corridor. This is recognized as a gap in perspective and the “Western Duluth Lens” Leadership Team is proactively sharing the perspective of Western Duluth through Neighborhood Community Groups and our Youth candid feedback. With valuable insight from our youth, we have been able to narrow down specific areas needing improvement and share these opportunities with Mayor Larson.”

A few days ago the Lens asked a sort of innocent question about me which other’s answered before it was sent to me for my reply:

This post is now being used as a Facebook ad (that’s what “sponsored” means) ostensibly to promote the Lens Facebook Page. It is clearly an attempt to have this “innocent” question show up in everybody’s Facebook space to see what a gangrenous fellow I am.

Mayor Larson. Be careful who you associate with lest they turn their guns on you.

Here is the conversation as it unfolded:

A friend of mine found the source of my original comments and posted it to the Western Duluth Lens:

http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/opinion/2341076-candidates-view-school-board-needs-honest-improvement

He further explained how others had used these words against me four years ago.

Then my school board colleague, Alanna Oswald, came to my defense writing:

“Welty’s voting record since this 4 year old comment happened firmly demonstrates he votes for and advocates for Western Duluth always.”

I followed up with a thank you to the Western Duluth Lens writing:

“I would like to thank the Western Duluth Lens for showing the context of my remarks 4 years ago.

But one persistent critic, Elizabeth Carlson, was not satisfied with this explanation and repeated the question writing:

“Can you explain your comment in that article? “Now gangrene is spreading east from western Duluth.” What was meant by that comment? It certainly doesn’t sound very complimentary for those of us that live out west, but things can be misinterpreted…”

This was my reply to Elizabeth:

Elizabeth,

Gangrene doesn’t stop at the limb where the infection begins. If it is not stopped it kills it’s victim. The Red Plan’s first damage was felt out west and in Central Duluth. The metaphor I used was a warning that even eastern Duluth was vulnerable. For instance, western Duluth generates most of the compensatory aid that is spent on eastern schools. I would put a quick stop to that which will cause eastern schools to suffer.

My metaphor may have sounded unpleasant but it was meant to to wake people up. It was accurate and described the loss of western students to nearby school districts. Here’s Another metaphor. A chain is no stronger than its weakest link. If our western schools fail so too will our eastern schools.

Ms. Carlson seemed satisfied with my reply:

“Harry Welty ok, thank you! Now I understand what you were saying.”

The anonymous collaborative promoting western Duluth, however, has taken the Donald Trump approach to my words and are only posting their original discredited post to promote their Facebook Page and to help other candidates. I know I wouldn’t want to win because of such underhanded actions.

Snow Purge # 4

Loren’s column mentions the bad headlines which he posits are mostly the fault of the Red Plan’s aftermath. I’ve already blogged about the latest news story which I read last night. Readers will note that the Superintendent wants to blame the evaporation of our thin layer of reserve funding on the local Charter Schools. Piffle. Even the reporter seems to give this notion short shrift.

Last night, and all through the campaign, Art Johnston’s 4th District challenger has been scare mongering that if we sold Central to Edison Denfeld would close. Tosh!

This is informal data given to us from Bonnie Jorgensen (Edison’s head of schools) about where their 8th graders go when they leave the Edison system. As you can see, we are not talking HUGE numbers that will be taken away from Denfeld. Of the 3 years listed, it was 35, 24, and 22 students that chose to go to Denfeld each year. We are talking a 100 kid loss for 4 years at most. That will not close Denfeld or any school.

The numbers for East are 45, 65, and 60. 200 students from East.

That is hard, but not necessarily a crisis.

But sometimes scare mongering works. Let’s hope that it doesn’t work in this election.

It might be worth considering again what damage to ISD 709 we could stave off with $14.2 million should Edison tender that offer once again.

Snow Purge #3

Loren Martell always writes long, very long, columns about the School Board. (With millions of words on the subject here at Lincoln Democrat I should talk!)

Today’s piece in the reader is, however, simply mesmerizing. Its mesmerizing for his honesty and its exposure of the powers-that-be in this City and how they have brought our public schools down to their knees and then punished any truth tellers pointing the finger at them for the destruction they are responsible for causing. For once I can tell you all to read it to the end.

Here’s a sample:

“The bad headlines

The News Tribune and the rest of the establishment painted me and others who opposed the Red Plan as bad citizens who didn’t care about the little children’s future. The reason we opposed the Red Plan was because, right out of the gate, we saw that it was a dumb idea. We did not believe running up a bill of nearly half a billion would “save” $122 million; we did not believe the vacated buildings would sell for big money; we did not believe the huge aquatic centers and all the other over-the-top extravagancies would be a magnet for students; we did not believe getting rid of all the schools in the center of Duluth–a city nearly thirty miles long, with an already existent east-west divide–would create “educational equity.”

A week or so ago (10/18/17,) the News Tribune reported on a forum sponsored by the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation. Comments from some of the attendees were included in the report. One concerned mother “explained that she moved to Duluth to raise her children because of the city’s size,” but had “come to feel there’s a ‘good side’ and a ‘bad side’ to the city, and (is) troubled by the division.” Another woman said “she’s concerned that the ‘trouble students’ only live on the western side of Duluth, and the division began when the school district closed Central.”

At what point does it become evident that this town has been listening to the wrong people: the News Tribune and the rest of the stodgy establishment? Just look at what the alternative press was saying, back in 2008: ……………..”

Snow Purge #2

A colleague who monitors the Internet noticed a nod given to one of the folks running against me in the At Large election, Josh Gorahm.

Josh didn’t ask for this picture to be posted to one of our school’s web pages by the principal (who I happen to really, really like) attending last night’s League of Women Voter’s candidate’s forum. I replied to my colleague that it was probably innocent because Josh puts in a fair amount of time at the school for his public nursing work. My colleague replied by saying that a few weeks ago when Josh’s lawnsigns were being passed out at the School by someone in the front office our Superintendent wrote an email to all staff reminding them that politics was reserved for their own time and that the public schools were not the place to campaign for (the teacher’s union’s) preferred candidates.

My colleague noted that after that reminder it was a little unsettling to see Josh’s image defying that sage advice and reminding the faithful to “Go Union!” (my words)

It reminded me of my first encounter with school politicking as a candidate for the School Board. In about 1989 I attended a fund raising event for Brad Bennett then a member of the School Board in the basement of the Gopher Cafe on Central Avenue. Lots of school administrators were there but I only recall the Director of Curriculum. I remember this because just a few elections later one of her staff members apologized to me for not putting up a lawnsign for me because this same Director announced that none of her employees were permitted to express their constitutional right of free speech by putting up lawnsigns for school board candidates at their own homes!

I always think back fondly to this hypocrisy whenever stuff like this happens.

Snow Purge # 1

We in northern climes often view winter as a time of purging the ills of the warmer months, disease, rot, allergens etc. And so, when I woke early this morning and found snow beginning to accumulate on our lawn’s grass I was delighted at the change in scene and chortled as I went from window to window to see what the different views displayed.

Claudia and I settled down to sip our coffee and watch the traffic along 21st Avenue, a snow tradition at our home, to see how the conditions were affecting the passing traffic. Not too bad. I hopped in the Traverse to drive to McDonalds for some egg sandwiches.

I’d already read a half a dozen Friday articles about our schools and they reminded me of another kind of purge – the possible purge of the noxious myths of the Red Plan that have allowed exSuperintendent, Keith Dixon’s ghost, to rule the Duluth School Board for the past six years since he touchingly left Duluth – holding another $19 million bag of Red Plan doggy turds.

My ailing foot is not about to go out today to pass out more literature. Fortunately, my team has scraped up enough to reach most voters without depending on my mobility. So, I will spend the morning pointing to the various sources that strongly argue for this second purge.

The Other Shoe Drops

Our budget reserve comes close to evaporating. Here’s the straight forward story from the Trib.

Like member Nora Sandstad, Alanna Oswald and I were told by the Superintendent that Special education “cross subsidy” payments to Edison skyrocketed by about a million more dollars this year. The explanation had something to do with a legislative change in the special ed formula that caught the Minnesota Department of Education by surprise.

I am puzzled however by Jana Hollingsworth’s report that Edison got $1.7 million from us four years ago in 2013 but is getting $2 million this year. That’s only a $300,000 increase not a million. Did the “cross subsidy drop to $1 million last year? I don’t know. I’ll have to have this all explained to me in depth.

The suggestion that special education has caused our fiscal problems was part of a question addressed to five of the six at-large and District 4 candidates tonight at the League of Woman Voter’s forum. (Sally Trnka sent her regrets from a conference she had to attend) I acknowledged that this was something that merited attention but added that the payments to Edison paled before the $11 million dollars drained from the classroom in recent years to pay off Red Plan building debt. Its this debt, far more than special education, and the additional investor concern over our negligible fund reserve that has prompted Moody’s to downgrade some of our building debt to just above junk bond status.

GET’M WHILE THEY LAST – SNOW SCULPTURE CARD 40 OF 50

The “Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.”

This is one of my provocative snow sculptures from 2009 as the Red Plan was proceeding at break neck speed. Some people took it as a commentary on the Duluth School Board. I never bothered to disabuse anyone of that interpretation.

Put in an order online with a donation to the Welty For School Board campaign:

https://www.paypalobjects.com/en_US/i/btn/btn_donateCC_LG.gif

Fifty snow sculpture cards for 30 cents apiece for only $15.00.

Irony watch

I am a connoisseur of all things ironic and recent stories, that have been a surprise to me and everyone I know, may have an incredibly ironic connection.

I blame one administration suck up for bringing down a ton of bricks on my colleague Art Johnston three years ago. Long time readers may know to whom I’m referring although I’ve never quite been enough of a “provocateur” to use such incendiary language before to describe her. I can’t help but wonder if the recent news about Art’s challenger wasn’t brought about by the very same person, thirteen unlucky years ago, sowing time bombs and mayhem wherever she went.

I highlighted the word provocateur because I described myself as such to Jana Hollingsworth for today’s story about the At-large school board candidates.

I was thinking historically. More examples of my kind of provocateur: Sam Adams, Thomas Paine, Martin Luther, Frederick Douglas, Jesus of Nazareth.

Moody’s – Read it and weep

It begins:

“Moody’s Investors Service downgrades Duluth Independent School District No. 709, MN’s underlying general obligation unlimited tax (GOULT) and full term certificates of participation (COP) ratings to Ba1 from Baa2. Moody’s also downgrades the district’s annual appropriation COPs rating to Ba2 from Baa3. Concurrently, Moody’s assigns Ba1 underlying GOULT ratings and Aa2 enhanced ratings to the district’s $3.6 million Taxable General Obligation Facilities Maintenance Bonds, Series 2017A and $615,000 Taxable General Obligation Capital Facilities Bonds, Series 2017B. Following the sale, the district will have $51 million in general obligation (GO) bonds, $147 million in full term COPs, and $33 million in annual appropriation COPs. The outlook on the underlying ratings is negative.”

The Editorial Board of the Duluth News Tribune has, like the DFL, generally approved of most of the last decade’s Red Plan School Board majority. Its funny, but they don’t get a mention in the Moody’s report.

Read it all and weep.

And remember. There is one more shoe to drop.