I was playing coy about running for a few days with faux blog posts about “announcements.” I’m so sick of pols getting a twofer from the media by announcing that they will be announcing their candidacies I thought the shtick would be a good tease for my own announcement.
Until about two months ago I couldn’t think of a good reason to run for the Duluth School Board. Four years ago I wanted a referendum vote. Eastern voters chose Judy Seliga-Punyko. Three days before my loss a columnist for the local paper ripped me to shreds in the freebie handed out to every doorstep in town. If I hadn’t known the candidates I wouldn’t have voted for me after reading it. I was worse than a horses ass. It probably cost me the election and came to represent in my mind the means by which Dr. Dixon got his way.
Two months ago I finally thought of a good reason to run. It was the same one that motivated me to run for the board back in the 1990′s. I wanted to encourage teachers to take a stronger lead in designing our educational program. As a new member of a larger School Board (we had nine board members then) I got nowhere fast. Other issues cropped up and we moved into the sorry Era of No Child Left Behind and teaching to the test. While a noble causes these programs tend to kill the love for learning and for that matter teaching. As a person who thinks of himself as a lifelong student I find these consequences chilling.
Atlanta, Georgia, is currently wracked by a scandal involving cheating by faculty on NCLB tests. There is nothing new in this. It happened in Texas under the Governor George W Bush’s TASS system which was the prototype for his nationalized NCLB. It was only a matter of time before his Texas initiative’s weaknesses were duplicated nation-wide.
I want to try a different tack and until my last announcement post I was keen to run again. I’d told my wife a couple weeks before of my desire to run and she didn’t say no. Of course, she knows me too well and knows I’d just have moped around the house making her feel guilty. But reservations unexpectedly kicked in when I wrote the post about how my readers should expect me to shift from snark to candor. That post led to a long night of thinking about whether I really wanted to run or not.
Heck, I only wanted to file and win. I had no interest in campaigning. I’m the campaigningest politician this town has ever seen since my first campaign in 1976 as a 25 year old. I’m sixty today! Furthermore, my fight for a vote on the Red Plan means that anyone who follows local politics knows a lot more about me than they probably want to know. That’s especially true if they take periodic peeks at this blog. Over the past four years I’ve averaged between 600 and 1200 different local visitors to the blog each month. I’ve authored around a million words on the Red Plan alone. I suspect one of every 25 or 30 voters has visited LincolnDemocrat at some point. All I wanted was to file and campaign by blog post. Understandably, the few folks I’ve talked to have all encouraged me to go out and knock on doors again. No thank you. I figure I’ve passed out literature to about 80 percent of Duluth’s households over the years. No Mas!
I think I have what it takes to push for more teacher input. Not the Union crap like Frank Wanner’s committee to hobnob with administrators. He did succeed in getting Dixon to buy him off with a painfully expensive teacher’s settlement before the Superintendent hightailed it out of town. The results of the buy off have meant more layoffs and bigger classrooms. I don’t care what Frank says about the insurance. That should have been a slam dunk with or without teacher input. What most people don’t understand is that Frank wrestled better benefits out of the District than the Trib reported and these benefits will leave the District less and less financial room to maneuver in future years.
Do I really need this? Do I want to go door to door for this? When I was elected fifteen years ago I discovered that I was grandfathered into the blame leveled against all previous school boards. I became responsible for Central High’s roof even though it had been built thirty years earlier when I was a high school kid in a different city. I can hear it now. If I’d just shut my mouth about the Red Plan Vote none of this would have happened. Trust me. There are people in this town who believe this. They are probably the same folks who lost their houses with second mortgages. (See, this snark still has sharp teeth!)
However, its not scar tissue that would keep me away from a run for the Board. That’s piffle! There are better reasons for not running for instance, I’ve enjoyed the last year with my grand kids and traveling with my wife and working on projects that suffered from my three year fight for a vote. Hell, my blood pressure went up where its never been before and it didn’t help that I abandoned of a regimen of swimming 4 or 5 miles a week because I no longer had the time to swim. I didn’t even have time to sleep as my loyal readers will recall. I regularly complained in blog posts of 3 and 4 hour nights.
I’ve spent the last year researching a book I’d started working on four years ago at the start of Let Duluth Vote. Like swimming I dropped the book. In six months I hope to have a manuscript ready for publishing. I’m not going to get it written by knocking on doors and putting up lawnsigns. Every thirty minutes I spend writing a blog post is half an hour lost writing and editing my book. I’ve got my priorities straight. I will not give up grandparent time for anything not even the book. Of the three activities campaigning is waaaaay down on the bottom of the list. Being on the School Board isn’t so far down. In six months I’ll be ready for a new assignment. Maybe it could be pursuing that ambition from my earliest runs for the School Board.
I bet it sounds like I’ll file. I’ve been coaxing more enthusiasm out of myself for the past couple days but it was tempered at dinner tonight. My wife and I were out enjoyiing the evening sun on the deck of Sara’s Table. (Great fish tacos by the way) We were about to visit the grandchildren so that their Mother could get in a little run in the cool night air. We got talking about stress and my wife mentioned how much stress she felt during the Let Duluth Vote years especially toward the end when I was suing JCI, helping candidates for office, raising money, writing copiously, and suddenly getting grief not from the Red Planners but from a few of my allies. One ally sent out emails to our side explaining what a jerk I was. I’d put better than $20,000 into Let Duluth Vote and had another $20,000 at risk as part of the bond we posted for the Court and suddenly my allies were backing away from me as though I was an embarrassment. I went to one press conference for a candidate I’d helped raise money for and when the candidate saw me I was asked to get out of camera range.
I kept this all to myself at the time to disguise the rifts which pulled us apart after three difficult and frustrating years but even the best of friends can come to blows when under enough pressure. I must have been very hard to live with staying up till three AM most nights creaking in my swivel chair while others tried to sleep nearby. Claudia also said it wasn’t much fun to hear others criticize me. Being a candidate and a target is a remarkably selfish thing to be. Family’s suffer no matter how thick the candidate’s skin is. I know full well that this is true of all elected officials and especially for the members of the Duluth School Board no matter how they feel about the Red Plan. Their tenacity, if not their common sense, should be acknowledged.
So, now I have to think about my wife’s fear that I’ll push her stress levels up all over again and not just my own. She has begun excercising in the last few weeks and I only learned tonight that has been prompted in part by my thinking about this fourteenth (I think) run for public office. Even so I haven’t abandoned the idea of filing for the School board once again. I think it could be a very good time to start paying really close attention to our teaching program. Besides, I’ve already said I favor an operational levy now that Dixon is history. Who could be a better and more credible spokesman for a levy than one of the leading critics of the Red Planners?
Yeah, well I might file and I might not. I’m undecided as I can be. I sure don’t think I’m indispensable. On the other hand, I think I was a really good school board member. I think I could be again.