46 days

As of today we have 46 days or less to wait for the Governor (or his Education Department) to hand down a decision on whether to allow the Duluth School District to get away with the no vote Red Plan. The sixty day count down ends on October 14th, I think. My conversations with the State Education Staff suggest to me that while they pushed the District to turn its proposal in early for comment and review they will not be in a hurry to hand down a decision.

Let Duluth Vote is in a hurry. We want a couple thousand signatures on our petition by the next School Board meeting Sept 18th. We’ll announce them to the Board and then send them to the Governor. We think the Governor will be reluctant to let this no-referendum idea get very far. The danger is that the legislature has unwittingly opened up a huge loophole which might allow school districts to bypass voters with various changes its made to state statutes. These changes allow School Districts to raise revenues without always having to go through the hassle of a referendum. Up till now no one has ever considered using them to completely overhaul a school districts schools. This would be a great boon to Johnson Controls which seems to have invested far more in lawyers than architects and engineers to reimagine the Duluth School District.

The contract language that JC will use with the engineers and architects it hires will squeeze them to work on the cheap for Johnson Controls to enhance its profits. It remains to be seen who will want to work for pennies. The District would be better off hiring a professional building manager for a couple years. At least a District employee would have to answer to the School Board not Johnson Controls. Johnson Controls stands to earn millions. A small group of District employees hired for the duration of the project would cost a fraction of that and would owe their ultimate allegience to the taxpayers.

A number of stories are starting to circulate about Johnson Controls unsavory business practices. I don’t know what to make of them. Last night at our meeting one person said that JC had been kicked out of the Two Harbors District. Two Harbors is having serious problems with its new High School. It too seems to have been an over ambitious project. What part JC had in its planning I have no idea. Its something to research.