Category Archives: Media

My letter

This is the letter I sent in to the Trib. They made no changes that I can detect:

Reader’s view: Reinert didn’t listen to voters’ views on Red Plan

So the News Tribune endorsed Roger Reinert (Our View/DNT Endorsement: “Reinert DFL’s best bet to retain Senate seat,” July 29)?

The editorial board praised Reinert for predicting that Local Governmental Aid will soon vanish. Board members didn’t mention that I told them much the same thing.

They reported that my desire to have the state pay for the Red Plan “doesn’t appear to be legal.” Apparently they did not know that state legislators change laws.

The editors gushed that, “For two years, (Reinert has) been trying to engage Minnesotans – via Facebook, e-mailed updates, letters to the editor and other avenues – to partner with him and the Legislature to find solutions. The teacher in him has worked tirelessly to educate constituents about tough decisions that must be made.”

For three years the teacher in me – I used to substitute teach for Sam Solon – has circulated petitions, created a website and blog, e-mailed like crazy, organized a grassroots organization and kept the public informed about an issue of surpassing importance. The issue is the Red Plan. The News Tribune dismissed it as “hardly a statewide issue.”

Just because the News Tribune finds the Red Plan tiresome doesn’t mean our stolen referendum isn’t of statewide significance. If every Minnesota school district followed Duluth’s example it would cost $43 billion, dwarfing the state’s $6 billion budget crisis. That’s probably why governor hopeful Mark Dayton said voters should vote on school building proposals. I read that in the News Tribune.

It’s nice Reinert has been on Facebook, but I would have been more impressed if the editors had pointed out a single useful accomplishment springing from his hands.

Notwithstanding his Facebook presence, Reinert ignored the Red Plan. That’s why I’m glad to have former lawmaker Mike Jaros’ endorsement for state Senate. Jaros is not on Facebook, but he actually listened to voters.

Harry Welty

Duluth

The writer is a DFL candidate for state Senate in District 7.

“You immediately lost 64%”

Glenn Beck beckons your bacon.

The bottom line:

“A 2000 investigation in goldline by Congressman Anthony Weiner discovered that their average markup on numismatic coins was 90% above melt value and 47% higher than their competitors. According to the report, the 1/4 oz Proof Gold American Eagles have a melt value of $285. competirors sell them for $318 and Goldline sells them for $813. If you bought these as a hedge against inflation, you immediately lost 64%. The price of gold”

Needling the Press

Another email exchange between me and the Trib.

Editor:

Your letter is good to go, Harry. Thanks for your consideration and extra work.

Chuck

Me:

My pleasure, Chuck.

Its always fun to needle the press. And I appreciate the fact that you guys can take it and even offer suggestions on how to make the point go in cleaner.

Harry

Facebook Farce

Chuck (the Trib’s editor) pointed out that the letter-to-the-editor I sent him had a factual error that I will be changing tonight. He made a couple of good suggestions but I’ll wait till tonight to think about them.

The editorial endorsing Roger was extremely long almost as though its length would cover up its lack of substance. Driving back to Duluth this afternoon I could think of nothing of consequence that the Trib claimed Roger had accomplished. Oh, he set up Facebook. If that’s the criteria he’s your man.

I hate Facebook as a political tool. I have a Face bookpage I set up years ago that I rarely visit despite getting lots of friend requests. They come from both family friends and political junkies. That’s oil and vinegar. I much prefer my blog to communicate to the world (or one of my websites) and I much prefer email for collecting feedback and data.

If Facebook is the criteria for election to the State Senate Duluth has thousands of adolescents with bright political futures.

Just in case you think I’m a jerk

A grown up relationship doesn’t mean holding grudges. In the old days Republicans and Democrats could fight hammer and tong but put their harsh rhetoric aside after an election. Now they believe their rhetoric and treat it as though it was handed down to them from Mt. Sinai.

The same should be true of pols and the press. Here’s the quick comment from the editor and my reply resulting from the submission of a tough letter to the editor this morning.

Editor:

Thanks, Harry.

As long as this hasn’t and won’t wind up on your blog we’ll work to use it in the coming week. Even if we sometimes disagree I appreciate the respectful dialogue. Good luck on Aug. 10 (and I do mean that!).

Chuck

Me:

Chuck,

I know you mean that. Withering sarcasm aside I like you guys.

Harry

The passing of a real journalist and one of my heroes

Daniel Schorr RIP

From the NPR Obituary:

In 1976, Schorr reported on the findings of the Pike Committee, which had investigated illegal CIA and FBI activities. The committee had voted to keep its final report secret, but Schorr leaked a copy to the Village Voice, which published it.

Schorr was threatened with a $100,000 fine and jail time for contempt of Congress. But during congressional testimony, Schorr refused to identify his source, citing First Amendment protections. The House ethics committee voted 6 to 5 against a contempt citation.

But CBS had already taken Schorr off the air. He ultimately resigned from the network that year.

“CBS found that, like other big corporations, it did not like to offend the Congress,” Mudd said. “He broke his ties to CBS and before they could fire him, he resigned.”

Well why did you tell me that in the first place!!!!

Yesterday’s Trib editorial prompted the following fulmination which I’ve edited a bit from its first appearance.

The title for this post is somewhere between ironical and scornful. Irony is a rather mild form of commentary. It could be humorous it could be bitter. Whatever punch it offers it is frequently a reaction to results which contradict expectations or promises.

Scorn is caustic like an acid or a base. Causticity in chemistry is the result of elements and compounds which are powerfully attracted to each other because their atoms have different electrical charges. Salt, Sodium Chloride, NaCl is an inert material. Its constituent parts are not. Chlorine Cl has such a powerful charge that it is used in swimming pools to kill bacteria. Sodium is so reactive that when it is thrown in water it burns.

After three years of looking at the Red Plan my little brain has become like sodium when it runs across any Red Plan claim that is too chlorinated. It never stops. As the years pass Red Plan proponents keep coming up with new reasons why we disenfranchised voters should love our new schools. I haven’t kept track of them all but here are a couple justifications with ironical consequences.

Claim 1. We simply had too much building space which was expensive to maintain

Red Plan result – but the Red Plan was designed to be something like 12% more than the space required to house the expected number of students. As more students flee Duluth (so far about 1,500) our new schools will have unused space.

Claim 2. By reducing the space we would also have lower energy costs because we would not be heating excess space

Red Plan Result – but some of the building like the energy hogging glass topped atrium at Denfeld will undermine energy efficiency.Further more by busing kids farther to schools we will increase the cost of transportation.

Claim 3. We had long neglected our schools.

Red Plan Result – Sorry this one is just not true

Claim 4. We needed equity across the district (implying fairness for poor and minority children)

Red Plan Result – but the equity argument was used to justify a new stadium in East Duluth and the discontinuance of the desegregation program to divert its million dollars to other less integrated schools.

Claim 5. And, guess what? The Red Plan will stimulate the local economy enriching the community

Red Plan result- never mind that it is based on a regressive tax and that over half of the pay will go to people outside Duluth.

If I thought about it longer I’d come up with many more. The School Board is like a kid throwing mud (justifications) at a wall in the hope that at least some of it (their arguments) would stick. The latest comes today from the Trib. To wit: these aren’t just new schools they will be integrated into the community.

An example of this mutual benefit could mean the closing the Mt. Royal and West Duluth branch libraries. This implies savings for the City although the city’s librarians might wonder what’s in it for them. Will they become school district employees? Will school employees start serving the city? (I got an irate call from an ex Duluthian and librarian from NY, NY just before skipping town today who wanted to call everybody she could about the Red Plan. She marveled at the incompatibility of the two library systems. Before we admit the public to our schools to check out books we will probably have to install metal detectors.)

According to the Trib all this was hashed out at the marvelous community planning process that left us the Red Plan. Oh, perhaps that explains why the City Council was so eager to get information about the Red Plan from the District in the last couple years. They set up meetings which were taken over by Dr. Dixon who hogged all the time, as is his want, by chattering until the clock ran out. No time for questions. The fact is neither the City or the voters had a clue what the implications were. Because no vote was held no civic conversation took place. All this was justified on the faulty line of reasoning that we elected the School Board to make these decisions.

I will not argue with the utility of making our schools available for the community. When I was a Board member I worked hard to find ways to work with the County and City and Schools to find similar efficiencies.

Ironically, we had one sterling example of a school that had become a “community center” and in a neighborhood that desperately needed it. The Trib even wrote stories about it. Lincoln Park’s principal, Ed Marsman, had managed to get all sorts of community services into the school so that many adults came there for their health, recreation etc. This all died under Dr. Dixon.

But who will pay to staff all the Trib’s rec centers and libraries in the schools? The District is losing students, state aid, sneaking operational levies into Red Plan’s construction, signing expensive contracts early to pay off senior teachers while stripping away less senior staff. Does anyone expect a state facing a six billion shortfall is going to boost LGA Local Government Aid for cities? And does anyone expect the City of Duluth to pay to support the schools?

Schools today are shut up at tight as a drum because we’ve become paranoid about who we let in them. Today all our high schools have police assigned to them. How will an understaffed school offer all these community services? Answer – It simply will not be able to.

I’ve said before that the Trib has become a shill and apologist for the Red Plan. This lame editorial is a strong hint that they are building a case for endorsing Roger Reinert because he has had the good sense to ignore the Red Plan. I, of course, haven’t become mesmerized by the L Ron Hubbard of the Duluth Schools, Dr. Dixon, and to my dismay the Trib Editorial Board is composed of Scientologists.

“News partner”

For years I used to explain to folks that if you wanted to know what was going to be on the television news in Duluth you would have to read the Duluth News Tribune first. It was my way of showing the primacy of the printed page over TV journalism’s sound bites.

I was just looking for a sound bite on a Fox News story. This clip doesn’t have what I was looking for but I watched it again. I’ve got to say that suddenly the tables are turned. What shows up on Fox News now shows up later in the Trib.

I’ve also go to say that nothing this cogent or analytical has shown up in the Trib concerning Roger Reinert’s vulnerability. If you want the local news now I’d have to recommend getting it on the television these days. The Trib is lucky to have Fox as a plucky “news partner.”

Misc. & a Correction

I hid in the basement by myself tonight and downloaded the State’s finance reporting software and sorted the donations from the first three days of my fund drive.(Its cool down her on a warm night) What a hassle. My dear wife did this for me eight years ago. However, after leading her to believe I would never run for office again I don’t have the audacity to ask her to help me this time.

So, that left me putzing around until past the evening news. That meant that Saturday Night Live had started. Betty White was a hoot so I decided to give it a chance while I printed out the 45 pages of software instruction. Jude Law is the guest and he had a very funny opening monologue. Continue reading

Mainstreet Media Bias – all conservative today?

In the old pre Reagan, pre Nixon days conservatives, many of whom like me were essentially drummed out of the GOP as RINOs complained about liberal bias in the media. This brought the term “politically correct” into vogue.

The term is still in vogue with the right although it has run roughshod over the media and even captured a network television station, Fox News, with the help of an Austrailian media mogul who got his start flashing pretty ladies breasts on page 3 of British Sun Newspaper.

As Glenn Greenwald points out in Salon the “liberal” media is pretty much a thing of the past as journalists who don’t tow the conservative line have been falling like RINOs. (Check here and here) So much for Reagan’s “big tent.”

Greenwald asks the rhetorical question:

Does anyone ever suffer career-impeding injuries of this type — the way Nasr and Thomas also just have — for expressing anti-Muslim or anti-Arab views?

The implication is that conservative journalists have free reign.

I do know of one local journalist (talk show host) who got canned for taking the conservative line that Duluth voters should have been able to vote for the Red Plan – Carinda Horton.

It wasn’t the lefties that got her though. It was the Chamber of Commerce.

Tell me about it

Speaking of letters.

“30 property owners neighboring Piedmont school it wanted to close Ensign Street between Chambersburg and a nearby church. I was the only person at the following City Council meeting to protest. I wonder how many of the many people who use this road everyday would have been there, too, had they known about it.”

Press Releases as unfiltered news

I read this in the DNT a week ago. A friend sent me the exact same thing from the Minneapolis Star Trib. Both read like carbon copies of a Duluth School Press release that begs for some serious questioning. None is provided of course.

Here it is with some good questions inserted:

DULUTH (AP) – Two groundbreaking ceremonies will be held by the Duluth school district next week.

One for the new eastern middle school, at the current East High School site, is at 11:15 a.m. Monday. The school will open as the eastern middle school in September 2012.

This summer, an eight-lane pool with locker rooms for both school and community use will be installed. A parking lot and bus loading zone will be added in the fall. Also planned for this summer is the addition of a secure entry leading to administrative offices, a remodeled media center and renovation of six classrooms. Next summer, there will be a major renovation of the rest of the school.

A groundbreaking for the new Piedmont/Lincoln elementary school is at 10 a.m. Tuesday. That project is expected to be complete by September 2011. Classrooms for the new school are designed in clusters and located close to the media center. Classrooms will have new instructional technology and are to be naturally lit and well-ventilated. Spaces for music, art, physical education and special-needs programs are included.

The school district’s June report broke the contracts for building projects into three categories: contracts with companies located in and next to Duluth; contracts with companies in other northern Minnesota communities; and contracts with companies based in the Twin Cities and beyond.

Perhaps those of us who have commented how the regressive property taxes of Duluth are being used to hire out-of-town contractors and prime other region’s economy have persuaded the District to show how much local spending is taking place. If so………

Of the 336 construction contracts awarded by the end of May, 148, or 44 percent, were awarded to companies in and next to Duluth, for about $66.4 million. About 90 percent of all consulting agreements have been awarded to firms in and next to Duluth.

……then how much of the spending for previous projects was given to local vs. outside firms?

And “consulting agreements?” What the heck are those? Construction contracts or architectural services or some other miscellaneous spending like for legal consulting needed to fight the people of Duluth?

For the eastern middle school, 21 percent of work so far has gone to contractors in and next to Duluth. For the Piedmont/Lincoln school, 42.5 percent has gone to companies in and next to Duluth.

42.5 percent! Whoo hooo! How much local spending for all those earlier projects or maybe they really would prefer not to publicize that figure.

A person might lament the passing of newspapers but little death rattles like this almost make one wish some papers would hurry up and die and just get it over with.

The undead Online

As I’m off with my family listening to loons who escaped the Gulf Oil Spill I’m reduced to catching up on the Trib strictly on line. Today’s online story had what I presumed was the story of Senator Robert Byrds death. It was not. I learned that the Senator had died elsewhere on the Internet but the Trib’s online paper only had this summation of his life. I presume the paper version actually mentioned his death.

I’ve enjoyed criticizing Byrd’s porkish ways ever since he stuck the FBI fingerprinting lab in West Virginia. I admired him when he opposed George W Bush’s War in Iraq and the insinuation that it was unpatriotic to send soldiers off where they shouldn’t be. Pork got him elected and elected over to Congress and over starting when I was two years old.

Much has been made of his 1920’s membership in the KKK. Shameful yes, but he’s apologized for it many times since. Sad to say but the Klan was a cross between Rotary and a band of vigilantes. It was a sign of distinction that many wore like Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black one of my heroes for his steadfast fight for 1st Amendment rights. It was a political stepping stone.

three more days for me

As we speed toward the August 10th Primary I keep mental note of good days that tend to advantage me. I count the day I got 10.5% of the vote for DFL endorsement as one. The days that Mike Jaros’ endorsements made the papers as another and today looks good too as even the Tribune which will almost certainly follow the DFL’s endorsement of Reinert admitted that the school district’s administration hasn’t been acting with anything approaching transparency.

For the very first time the Trib Editorial Board acknowledged, however timidly, that the School Administration has been high handed. I told one astonished emailer that everyone has a breaking point and it sure as heck took the Trib a long time to find it and flex their atrophied skepticism muscle.

I had very little hope when I read the Our view headline: “Red Plan shifts can’t come as any surprise.” What I imagined was that they would point out the natural alterations one would expect from such a large project. Thankfully they dwelt on the unwillingness of the District Administration to share information in any sort of a reasonable way with the actual elected officials who give them the authority to proceed. In years past Trib reporters demanded timely information from the District and I don’t mean six months later. When I was on the Board two trib Ed reporters took turns sitting in the Superintendent’s office for 24 hours straight until the Superintendent handed over public docs a few weeks after they got wind of them. Maybe that’s what our minority school board members should do so they don’t have to wait half a year.

The index fingered Chairman told the Board at last night’s meeting that he didn’t want to see all the Administrations Red Plan documents which is par for the majority’s course but irrelevent to the three minority board members who do. Instead Tim Grover is reinforcing the District’s wall of secrecy because ignorance is his preference and the minority must be satisfied to share it with him.

Today also had the third defense of Tm’s fingerer in the letter to editor section. Maybe the Trib is finally taking Red Plan critics to heart.

The same editorial page had a damning critique of the Wheeler Site by Art Johnston, dismissed in the editorial as “seemingly never-ending opposition.”

Its easy to nitpick the editorial. It says that JCI will have to pay for cost overruns which won’t happen because the District keeps adding more goodies to the Red Plan every time they save money and its obvious that the District, not JCI will be stuck with any cost overruns.

Just what is happening is hardly transparent based on the odd information presented in today’s Forth Red Plan item their story about last night’s school board meeting concerning the cost of construction. It begins hopefully with a headline about school taxes declining (due to nothing the District has done) but then proceeds to report the following:

1…Because of a “competitive bid climate” in the construction industry, several projects were bid for lower amounts than estimated. About $25 million in the past three years has been put back into the plan, for additions or needs that have arisen through public input or necessity ” (What input???????? Not the School Boards. What “necessities?” Why weren’t they in the original Red Plan?)

2. The district is $803,000 over budget (they’ve saved $25 million but are $803,00 over budget????????????)

3. The board voted 5-2 to approve a Red Plan amendment that allows the district to move money around for several project changes totaling $11.6 million (Which, as the Editorial acknowledges, the School Board is largely clueless and content in their ignorance about)

So I’ll take today’s Trib as another advance in my election hopes for August 10th because as much as the Trib will root for the all but incumbent Roger Reinert, they are having to give credence to my three-year fight for an honest appraisal of the Red Plan. I have confidence that voters will remember that for the next 50 days.

And don’t forget that Roger was endorsed by Yvonne Prettner Solon whose running mate Mark Dayton contradicted the empty claims both Roger and Yvonne made when they told us that the School Board has the right to levy for building bonds without referendums. Its little things like make my day.

Shill baby, Shill

Among the most muddled Republican voices on the Gulf oil spill is…… TA DA, none other than Sarah Palin.

From her appearance on Oh Really! the other night:

“… as governor of Alaska, what I did in dealing with the oil companies and I’ll betcha 75% of my time was being taken up by energy issues here in this state. I had to set up our Petroleum Systems Integrity Office so that we could be there on the front lines making sure what the oil companies were telling us was legit when they were dealing with their corroded pipes that we find out and other lax maintenance issues. It took us putting that as the highest priority to to protect our resources to protect our environment including not just the physical environment but the human environment here.”

So, she’s for serious regulation? What kind of Republican is she?

As another blogger noted Oh Really brown nosed her by telling her that she had had more oil experience than any other US Governor. That for two years as Alaska’s Governor. What about Rick Perry Governor of Texas with a dozen oil company HQ’s in his state and hundreds of off shore oil wells. He’s been the Gov for ten years.

I’m so sorry II

I posted about the Trib calling on other folks (who they disagree with) to apologize when I’m not so certain the Trib is big enough to do the same in this post.

Well, today a gushing front page story says good bye to the same dynamic person who was once subjected to a spiteful personal attack in a Trib editorial. Maybe this story was a form of apology to the Rabbi. If so, its not unlike Dr. Dixon’s leaving an apology on an answering machine. Hurry! Quick! The Superintendent needs his Girl Friday to send out a press release for the Trib’s Editorial Board so that they can beat up that poor schmo again on their organ (of the free press.)

Maybe its time for the Trib to “step up.”

I’m so sorry I

Loved the Trib’s editorial today. Once again they managed to put the onus on the little guy getting shoved around by the District’s bulldozers.

I got another email on that subject today which echoes my thoughts.

Harry,

Thank you for pointing out the DNT’s tactics. When something is so obviously wrong but falls on someone or something they support they will wait until they can find some blame to spread around.

They knew they would have to come out against the district’s bulldozer illegally destroying someones property. But their first story was very telling. “prematurely” taking the property

Or maybe it is the circulation division that tells them to keep all sides happy.

I still find their treatment of an ordinary citizen doing what was within his legal rights the most egregious of these damning commentaries. They minimized the district’s lack of following procedure with the letters people had written to the SB and made comment of Lauren M’s actions as “in his mind he…” How cruel.

Now they are going to frame this as a “man up” contest. Painting their side as the heroes no matter what.

As far as the one finger salute that Kuiti gave, it is nothing compared to the gesture this district gave us when it stole the vote.

Here is more about what the district has done to Kuiti from DNT Voices. First, the Duluth School District shows the Duluth Zoning Appeals Board a (incorrect) map which included property owned by Mr. Kuiti, as belonging to the
District.

Next, the realtor representing the Duluth School District told one of Mr. Kuiti’s prospective tenants that his property was being sold to the District and torn down! As a result, Mr. Kuiti demanded that the Duluth School District write him a letter agreeing that it was not interested in his property to squelch rumors that were driving away prospective tenants.

And now the Duluth School District has bulldozed his private property!

While I don’t agree with his figure gesture, is it any wonder why Mr. Kuiti is angry? At the very least he’s owed an apology — beginning with one from Tim Grover.

Flicking on someone smaller than me

Apropos the previous post: Who might be smaller than me? Maybe the Trib.

I enjoyed this self righteous line from the Finger editorial.

“Raised fingers and hard feelings aside, what this entire situation screams for is strong, grown-up behavior. And for someone to point out the obvious — that the district needs to apologize to Kuiti for bulldozing land he still owns and that Kuiti needs to apologize to Grover for his less-than-friendly hand gestures. Kuiti and the district could then get back to negotiating the land sale so the Piedmont school project can continue to move forward.”

So what examples have the editors of the Trib set in the past? Here are two that stick out.

Chuck Frederick is a very agreeable guy, especially when he sticks to human interest stories, used his bully pulpit on the Editorial Page a year ago to criticize the Arch Diocese of Duluth for firing a very popular parochial school principal.

As a parent myself I can appreciate the temptation to use his position as a Trib employee to second guess the Catholic Church which seems completely inept these days. Perhaps the firing should have been widely and publicly denounced. I’m just not sure that Chuck was the one to do it or that he did his reportorial due diligence. Some of the folks who defended the decision raised points which the journalist Frederick seemed not to have considered. In this way Chuck used his power much like a high school reporter who uses his/her position to embarrass a fellow student.

A more egregious actual editorial slipped past Robin Washington some time before that. His Rabbi was an adoptive mother and, gasp, gay. She also is no doubt a better singer than Robin, an incisive thinker, and she probably knows Hebrew better than Washington. She was pulled over driving home from a friend’s house and found to be a hair above the newly lowered alcolol limit. Her child was on board at the time in a car seat.

Every week the Trib is full of notices of people who have been pulled over for DWI’s. Perhaps this event, considering the situation and the driver, was worthy of a small story but that’s all – maybe. When I read the damning editorial that followed it too reminded me of the abuses you might find in a high school newspaper. I couldn’t help but wonder if there was something about the Rabbi that got under the Editor’s skin so that he felt empowered to bring her down a notch.

I don’t know about you but if I had my druthers I’d rather have an irritated citizen flip me the bird for some failure on my part than read about how reckless I was with my child in an editorial in the local rag. Its called the power of the press with good reason. Its a damn shame to see it abused.

I wonder if the Trib’s editors are big enough men to offer apologies when they are warranted.