Hiding our lights under their bushel

Not to diminish the wonderful editorial debate in today’s Trib I’ve got to give the paper a swift kick in the pants for hiding this marvelous anti-Red Plan column in their online paper. Oh, they did put in a little teaser by the main editorials encouraging readers to check the column out on their website but that won’t get it near the readership of their newsprint version.

Here are some short sweet excerpts from Lars Fladmarks’ comments:

Last year I received a surprise when I renewed the license plates on my truck. My new plate number was “709 BAD.” Under oath, I swear I did not request those numbers! However, the longer I have listened to the debate over Independent School District 709’s so-called red plan, the more I have come to believe my plates were prophetic . . .

From 1985 to 1993, I served as CEO of Beckley-Cardy, a national school supply firm based then in Duluth. Our sales force of 110 called on every public and private school in the U.S. Since we sold everything from chalk to school furniture, our sales staff followed carefully the career paths of superintendents. We called them “builders.”

. . . In my entire career, I never saw or heard of any school facilities plan of the magnitude of Duluth’s red plan approved without a voter referendum. Never ever, coast to coast or border to border.

Also, the immense costs of the red plan are ridiculous. During the 1970s and 1980s, my company purchased and remodeled 11 different buildings, rebuilding them into totally up-to-date office buildings still in use today. Eight of them are concentrated on First Street in downtown Duluth. We tuckpointed, installed new windows, reinsulated, put on new roofs, built skywalks to connect them, added elevators and air conditioning and did whatever else was needed. We wound up with a cost-per-square-foot averaging less than $3. We proved it’s less expensive to remodel if buildings are structurally sound.

It’s rather clear, I think, that Central, East and Denfeld high schools are much more than just structurally sound. I’d wager a good bet a reliable contractor could bring them well up to date for less than $30 million.