Category Archives: 2017 Sch. B. election

Loren lays it on a little thick. Thanks!

Loren Martell’s account of the June School Board meeting has finally made it to the Duluth Reader. Loren dwells on many speakers at the outset who argued that the western schools should have been allowed to keep their existing principals as the eastern schools were. Then he tacks to Art Johnston who was unhappy about a range of equity issues including the principals. Equity should be the main issue in this School Board campaign.

Loren, heaped far more praise on me than I deserved for voting against the teacher’s contract I helped negotiate. I’m grateful for Loren’s exposition which explains how I could help to negotiate it but then turnaround and vote against it at our Board meeting. It was purely a symbolic vote and much of my justification was simply a restatement of the negotiating teacher’s own platform. Here’s Loren’s full account of my statement intelligently cut down to size:

The bravest person in the boardroom this evening, by a long shot, was Harry Welty. Particularly considering the fact that he is facing reelection, board member Welty was a tower of courage. The DFL/Labor dynasty that dominates Duluth will have a target on Mr. Welty’s back for the stand he took this evening.

“It’s important to make a couple of points that we, as a community, need to understand.” Continue reading

Phil isn’t all that interested in money after all and preparing for China

I have a much better idea than I outlined in the previous post. I’ll use the money I raise with trading cards (after covering my modest campaign expenses) for the Duluth Public Schools Endowment Fund for which I once acted as a trustee.

I came to that conclusion later in the day after writing the previous post. It didn’t take me long to remember that President Trump has been the exemplar of using public office for self enrichment. Its been pretty unappetizing.

I have been playing with suitable snow sculpture images and contemplating how to apply them to my reelection campaign. If I can find time between now and my departure for China on July 18th I may even have them in hand for distribution.

And this comes with a confession regarding my moaning about not writing the book to sew America back together again. Its not just school board related stuff that is keeping me from undertaking it. Its books on China. I just finished reading one book to Claudia that I’ve added to my online reading list for 2017. Its a peculiar little book called Mao Tse-Tung and I were Beggars by Siao-Yu. It was published in 1959 when it was still possible to imagine that Mao was a benevolent figure.

Yu and Tse-Tung were students together and Mao invited himself to join Siao-Yu for a month of begging across the countryside in an eccentric experiment by two prosperous college graduates. They set out in 1917 the year my Grandfather was enlisting to fight in France and six years after the Chinese Revolution that ended 2000 years of Dynastic rule.

The book was pokey enough that to keep myself awake I alternated it with the blockbuster expose of Mao’s biography by Jung Chang. After receiving wide acclaim the book has been faulted for blaming everything gone wrong on Mao. Be that as it may it was jarring going back and forth reading about Mao traipsing around the countryside in his youth as a beggar followed by stories of the brutality he inflicted on so many in his years as a Communist revolutionary/Bandit leader.

A week ago I told my brother I was looking forward to visiting a country that worked – a poor attempt at a joke. Its working a little too well. This 3 minute video from the New York Times gave me pause. The Chinese are light years ahead of America and the world in making the Internet a useful tool while keeping track every detail about the personal lives of their 700 million Internet users.

We want to get to know this nation with its justified chip on the shoulder over 150 years of harsh treatment at the hands of the Occident. To that end we purchased a couple new books. I began reading the Introduction to Driven Out by Jean Pfaelzer about the KKK like treatment of Chinese in the Pacific States in the Era of the Chinese Exclusion Act. It was far more harrowing than I realized. I also remembered having started Barbara Tuchman’s Pulitzer winner, Stillwell and the American Experience in China. We ordered a new copy and began reading the first chapter on Kindle. Its a helluva good read. So, it looks like I’ll have two new books on Chinese to alternate between.

While we’ve been at it we’ve been watching Chinese films. I still don’t know quite what to make of “The Mermaid” a comedy and some have been gritty enough that I was surprised the government allowed them to be made. I guess as long as the Communist Party itself is not criticized anything is fair game. Last night I recalled another book from the past “The Soong Dynasty.” Three sisters of the Soong family each married some of the most important men in Twentieth Century China, Sun Yat-Sen, Chiang Kai-Shek and its richest citizen H.H Kung. We started watching a twenty year old melodrama on them last night.

Some experts are predicting that this century will the the “Chinese Century.” Having lived in the best half of the “American Century” I owe it to myself to follow the transition.

Bringing back Phil to manage my school board campaign

Alanna Oswald told me yesterday that she might not to vote for me because of all the posts in which I whine about having to campaign instead of writing about my Grandfather. She says my getting off the School Board might be the only way she gets to read that book.

Its a tough choice. I’d love to compare George Robb with his fellow Kansan, oil billionaire fifty times over, Charles Koch. My Grandfather was a rock ribbed Republican but Koch is making it his business to roll back not only Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society AND FDR’s New Deal BUT the trust busting reforms of Teddy Roosevelt. Koch truly wants to take America back 100 years to the Gilded Age and Jim Crow. Perhaps that explains the jarring video I saw the 82-year-old Koch along side our Era’s Stepin Fetchit Snoop Dogg. Koch is a lot more comfortable with a black idiot sidekick than a sober and brilliant Black President taxing his billions and restraining his pollution.

Hell, when I was exploring the Kansas State Historical Museums files on my Grandfather I got a peek at his old College scrapbook which gave a pretty strong hint that my then 21-year old Grandfather liked Teddy Roosevelt. He pasted in a flyer from Park College’s Teddy Roosevelt Club into the book the year the ex-president’s Bull Moose party challenged Wilson and Taft. It was probably Koch who talked right-wing talk show host, Glenn Beck, to denounce Teddy. Beck was regularly invited to attend Koch’s soirees to return America to the days of John C. Calhoun and State’s Rights.

But as tempting as it is for me to try to save America with a boring reminder of a more decent political past, my Grandfather also set another standard before me when he fought in the Great War. As the lyrics to one of his Era’s war songs put it “…and we won’t come back till its over, over there!” I’m afraid that my school board work is not over either.

My Grandfather’s war lasted about one year. Mine began 28 years ago (if not earlier) when I first ran an unsuccessful race for the Duluth School Board in 1989. That was two years after moving to our new home on 21st Ave E and my Daughter Keely’s request that I build a snow dinosaur. I was reminded of this a week ago when visitors asked if they could look at my scrapbook of a 30 year snow sculpting career.

Following my second failed attempt to run for the School Board I decided to make a not so subtle comment about the struggles of the Duluth Schools in 1991 in snow. The DNT’s head photog, Chuck Curtis, snapped a photo which made it to the Front Page if I remember correctly. A passerby with a camera took a photo of me sculpting it and sent it to me afterwards. Until the advent of cell phones Claudia and I got used to flashes coming through our drapes on winter nights from folks dropping by to take a picture of our front lawn to mail to their friends in warm weather states.

Like my Grandfather I conceived of my campaigns for the School Board like his Meuse-Argonne campaign. I ran a third time and lost that election as well. As a consolation Claudia gave me a small black figurine of a disconsolate Gorilla sitting chin on hand like the thinker for my birthday. That became my inspiration for yet another snow sculpture and perhaps an augury for a change in my political fortunes.

This sculpture was the first of a couple which made it to newspapers on the Associated Press circuit.

By now I had a name for my gorilla. Phil. It was prompted by yet another gift from Claudia which came with a card inspired by the cartoonist Gary Larson:

After christening Phil I decided to attach a story line to him. He became my “campaign manager” who couldn’t get me over the finish line. I pinned the blame on him in a letter I penned to the News Tribune. That’s in my scrapbook too and for school board wonks its a most interesting peek back at our school district’s history.

What I wrote is the gospel truth. In the 1987 school year (the year in which, by coincidence, I lost my teaching job) our school district reported that we had 1200 seniors. And yet only 775 seniors graduated. We were paid by the state of Minnesota to educate 425 students who seem to have vanished into thin air. It was school board counselors who told me to check the numbers and they were confirmed by an employee in the Minnesota Department of Education. Sadly, the MDE didn’t lift a finger to call the District on the carpet. It was a preview of how they would handle the preposterous financing proposed for the Red Plan.

Discovering that public school administrators would lie was as shocking to me as it was for Loren Martell to find himself handcuffed for addressing the Duluth School Board during the Red Plan. Its the sort of experience that turns concerned citizens into ever vigilant watchdogs. Its been my Meuse-Argonne ever since.

I thought I had left the School District in pretty good shape when I retired from the Board in 2004. Three years later, after the voters were denied a chance to vote on the half billion dollar Red Plan, I realized that if I could get elected again I could put the issue before the voters. I was prepared to offer a smaller plan should that referendum fail. Instead, the Dixon administration worked hand in hand with my critics to attack my motives and those of Gary Glass. In doing so school administrators passed on one more great lie – that Johnson Controls would earn no more than 4.5 percent of the building program’s cost. Throw in the wildly incorrect promise that the Red Plan would barely increase property taxes and you can see how my vigilance was rekindled.

The travesty of seeing my colleague Art Johnston raked over the coals has done little to restore my faith – especially after it become evident that 30% of Duluth’s eligible ISD 709 resident students have left us. Golly! We’ve got new half-billion dollar schools to fill up and maintain and we are not succeeding at either objective. I’ve got five months to make a case for shoring up our schools even while my Grandfather’s life story begs to be told.

This began as a light-hearted reintroduction of my old campaign manager, Phil. I’m bringing him back.

Phil has given me the idea to raise money for my campaign by selling snow sculpture trading card packs in lieu of political propaganda. Goodness knows I’ve taken lots of pictures of my creations over the years. Here’s the first page of my scrapbook’s Table of Contents:

I’m going to do things a little differently. Rather than ask for donations by mail this year I think I’m going to offer the trading cards in sets of five to help me recoup my expenses incurred to defend Art Johnston. That was because the school board used the excuse of a nonexistent assault to remove him from the Board. My Mother’s death left me with a modest inheritance that allowed me to give Art $20,000 to help defray the $75,000 legal charges Art incurred to defend himself from the vile accusations hurled at him, to wit:

“Racism” (He was a member of Duluth’s NCAAP Board for crying out loud)
“Conflict of Interest,” for sitting in on meetings affecting the employment of his school district employed partner. Nevermind, that a Red Plan supporting Board member sat in on similar meetings when a relative ran a school bus into a child – the relative was given a desk job!
“Violence” Who wouldn’t be mad after serving five years on the School Board while constantly denied public data and then discovering that the School Administrator who recruited your last opponent was now orchestrating a spy network to harass your partner starting on the very day you beat the candidate that said administrator encouraged to run against you?

$20,000 is almost all I “earned” over my first three years on the School Board. I spent just as much trying to get a Red Plan referendum on the ballot. Its been expensive to pay for the honor of serving the public.

So, if I print up trading cards, I’ll treat it as a small business and use the proceeds to pay for my campaign. Maybe I’ll break even on the cards and avoid going any deeper into the financial hole to stay on a school board that has finally calmed down from the insanity of 2014 to 2015. Calmed down yes, but we still need to get out from behind a $3.4 million dollar a year eight ball that costs us 36 teachers.

It may be hard for folks to take Phil seriously as my campaign manager so thank goodness my old rival, Representative Mike Jaros, has agreed to be my campaign chairman. He ran a dozen or more campaigns and never lost. Having only won three of 16 campaigns for public office myself, I am in awe of his record.

I just can’t wash my hands of Phil. He’s been the logo above my old webpage for almost twenty years now. Like me, Phil deserves a little respect.

School Board filing notice

I find waking up in the middle of the night to mull over problems that can only be dealt with during the day very annoying. I really tried hard not to think about them at 1AM but its 3 AM now and they are still keeping me awake. So here’s the link to my current cause for insomnia.

Its a pdf on the School District’s website and I’m irritated that I can’t simply copy the words and paste them here but I could take a picture from my computer screen so this is it:

If next Tuesday wasn’t July 4th I think it would be the first day of filing but July 5th works for me and it may very well lead up to its own sound and fury as the school board election draws near.

Potential candidates have two weeks file and as it stands now there aren’t enough announced candidates for a primary but only for the general election. At present there are four candidates for the at-large positions currently filled by Annie Harala and your’s truly, and two candidates each for Rosie Loeffler-Kemp’s 1st District and Art Johnston’s 4th District. Some other candidates must add their names to the list if there is to be a primary election in September.

Former Chair Harala has worked hard to recruit challengers for Art and me. She works with two of my challengers professionally and met with Art’s challenger a couple times before Mrs. Lofald announced her candidacy. Our Superintendent used to babysit for Jill, one of his favorite teachers, so there is little doubt that he has a stake in the election’s outcome this November. The four to three vote to extend his contract 3 years last December is still on his mind as it was in the Winter and Spring when he applied for so many other Superintendent vacancies. Now he and his supporters are working overtime to make sure the balance on the Board doesn’t change. He already indicated to me that he took my vote in the minority as a sure sign his days were numbered. I didn’t bother to tell him he was wrong but he was. Now he’s counting on this election to guarantee a full three years.

Frankly, I would be much more favorably disposed towards the Superintendent if he worked half as hard to make sure we were spending compensatory education dollars where our poor kids go to school as he has worked to keep his job.

Mr. Gronseth hovered over the DFL Endorsing convention all the time that I was there trying to be heard over a malfunctioning sound system. He let his true loyalties show when he came up behind retired chair Judy Seliga-Punyko, one of several ex-school board member delegates, and gave her a warm, lingering hug. He did everything he could a couple years ago to change the date of the 2013 election so she could serve an extra unelected fifth year on the Board. Judy was the last of the Board members who fought from the beginning for the Red Plan that chased 30% of ISD 709’s students to other schools but old loyalties run deep in the School District just as partisan ties run deep.

I’d like to think I could have gotten more than ten percent of the vote if the delegates had been able to hear my speech but there were probably far too many friends of the Red Plan and the public employees’ union at the DFL convention for me to have had any hope of endorsement. Fortunately for me, I’ve won three school board elections without any party endorsement. I’m counting on that streak to continue but every day the news coming out of the White House and Congress reminds me that there is much more at stake than what happens in Duluth. I would much rather write a book about the good old days when voters regarded political parties more like bowling leagues than churches. But every day that I put a post in this blog about our schools its time taken away from that book and time away from helping the nation get past the fossilized politics of gridlock.

After the endorsing convention I have little faith in our local DFL to set the Duluth Schools on a sensible course let alone the Nation. They didn’t stand up for equity. They didn’t stand up for transparency. They didn’t even seem to notice that 30% of our school’s children now attend schools other than ISD 709. Instead, they stood pat.

Don’t forget to visit

Where did my Sunday post go?

Ah poop! Or should I say “Professor Poopypants?”

I cranked out a quick post to address a complaint that I was giving short shrift to some school board candidates who had attended some portion of recent school board meetings even if they didn’t stick them out for the full, four “butt wearying” hours the meetings took to conclude.

But evidently as I rushed to wrap it up with a final note to the effect that I was in a hurry to see the movie “Captain Underpants” with my grandsons I must have deleted the post instead. In searching for it on my blog’s “dashboard” just now I discovered 165 previous posts in the “draft” stage that I never returned to finish. They are in effect wadded up pieces of paper that never made it to the wastebasket.

As to the stamina deficient candidates I may return to their Trump-like penchant for golf over policy and polity later but they can consider this fair warning that I will note their lethargy at some point in the future should they not manage to overcome it.

Oh, and as for Underpants? It was pretty good (Rotten Tomato’s audience score 65% – critics 85%) although I’ve must confess to having been a David Pilkey aficionado for a long time. Evidently he has abandoned his old website because its up for the highest bidder. As to his fetish for tighty-whiteys – I’ve been there too.

And don’t forget. Republicans have long considered me a RINO! Little did they know how appropriate that title was:

I never did manage to figure out a good riposte acronym to the Koch Brother propagandists who so savaged moderate republicans.

Say “simple summary sans soliloquys” ten times fast

That happy little alteration comes courtesy of the last post. Its as good a title to introduce my thoughts on yesterday’s very pregnant school board meeting. The forgone conclusions to approve our teacher contract and our budget and our Superintendent’s right to reassign principals were all fraught with anguished explanations and symbolic votes. Here’s my brief take on our deliberations.

Jana said of my symbolic vote against the teacher’s contract I helped negotiate:

Welty, who sat in on negotiations, said he had intended to vote for the contracts, but decided against it considering the teachers union’s stated goals during those negotiations of wanting to work to better meet the mental and emotional needs of kids.

“It is my sense that the finances of our district are such that (the contract increases) will make doing student-centered advocacy more difficult,” he said.

I was the lone vote against a contract that in essence required give and take by both sides. Even so, most board members trembled at the second contract we approved for 3 and 4 years out. A long hard conversation with Loren Martell a day earlier made me reconsider my vote to support the contract. Nora Sandstad was right to be put off by my change of heart because I did not express the same reservations when we were in closed session that I did publicly last night.

At the one hour 50 minute point in the meeting

I read the introductory language offered us by the teachers at the outset of the negotiations. This language emphasized the teacher’s determination that we help the whole student including social and emotional needs. I went on to explain with some passion, if not much eloquence, why my lone symbolic vote against the contract was intended to show Duluth that our schools would continue to come up short in the coming years in meeting those needs. We need more staff and these contracts do not give us room to hire more staff.

By the same token Alanna Oswald cast a lone vote against our budget later during our discussion of the Business Committee meeting.

Art Johnston offered an amendment that demanded that we look at a transition over the coming years to make sure that we spend an ever increasing percentage of Compensatory Education revenue on the schools that generate the funds with their larger “free and reduced” student populations. Still, the resolution deferred that decision till after next year.

By the same token there was a lot of temporizing about bending to the will of parents where the reassignment of principals was concerned. But again the Board did not intrude on the Superintendent’s authority. I did point out that while I was sure “educational” concerns were the primary motivation behind these decisions they might very well have political consequences. While parents in Rosie Loeffler-Kemp’s end of town were placated Laura Mac has a lot of unhappy parents.

Shakespeare could have been summing up this meeting when he wrote about “sound and fury signifying nothing.” In five months time we will discover if the voters signify nothing.

Did you catch my simple math error?

A friend texted me this morning pointing out that 18% of 2000 Proctor students is 360. I immediately knew what she meant.

From the previous post on our sending busses into neighboring School Districts to entice open enrollment students I wrote this:

“A hasty check of Wikipedia shows that Proctor has about 2000 students and Jana’s story reports that 18% of them come from Duluth. That would be another 180 lost Duluth students to add to the chart above.” As I lamely replied sometimes my brain doesn’t work but that doesnt stop my busy fingers.

The additional 180 students brings the number of our students lost to neighboring districts (not counting charter, parochial or private schools) to close to 1000 students. More of the Red Plan’s legacy not counting the ongoing $3.4 million annual transfer out of our general fund to pay off the damned Red Plan bonds that costs us 36 teachers each year.

Yesterday’s four hour school board meeting was full and Jana did a nice simple summary sans soliloquys by anguished Board members like me. More on mine in the next post.

Martel on Maintenance

I’m not sure how many of Loren’s recent columns I have failed to mention. They seem to have been coming out weekly just as I began digging in to do some serious gardening and yard work. The latest begins by quoting my poor pun at the last meeting about our being between a “Rockridge and a hard place” and then veers into the land of the worst case scenario with regard to twenty plus million in building and maintenance costs we are faced with but for which there are no current resources to address.

Loren is right and he has yet to talk about the two contracts with teachers we are likely to approve tonight and which I finally got a chance to play a small part in helping to negotiate.

If the maintenance costs are driving Loren to despair he will likely be positively apoplectic about the contract settlement. Can’t say as I blame him.

Please note the correction from two posts ago

I unfairly slammed my school board colleague Rosie Loeffler-Kemp two posts ago. Please note the correction. I apologize to my readers. I ought to apologize to Rosie. She reminds me of this at every school board meeting when she reads our prescribed tools of civility which have also been adopted by the Duluth City Council. “Apologies” are called for in “tool” number 7 of 9.

I take no satisfaction from acting like an elementary school child but I’ve never believed that forcing anyone to apologize when they don’t feel like it is honest or useful.

Why don’t I feel like acting the part of a grownup? Rosie is busy organizing the next five months of school board campaigning with an eye to removing those of us who did not support extending a full three-year contract to the Superintendent. She has me in her sights and, truth be told, I have her in my sights.

Rosie hammered me during our closed teacher contract negotiations, as she regularly does, because she does not like what I blog about. I’m not a team player which means, I guess, that I don’t speak for her majority. I did not speak for the majority when Rosie called my colleague Art Johnston “violent” on television something for which Rosie herself has never apologized. Rosie’s majority was the prime mover behind a two-year attempt to remove Art Johnston from the Board thus reversing the people’s decision in an election. This in turn put the entire school board under the dark cloud of public ridicule from which it is only now slowly reemerging. Should Rosie survive the November election she will, in fact, be the only remaining member of the five-member majority which brought the school board into such ill repute.

I prefer honesty to apologies although I do recognize the decency of the latter even when I can not bring myself to fully embrace it.

Keen on Kuehn

Photo by: Bob King /

I was pleased to see this picture on the anniversary of Duluth’s infamous lynching because one of the new school board candidates is pictured in it, Kurt Kuehn (pronounced KEEN). The caption below had his comments on the grim history, to wit:

“It’s always inspirational,” said Kurt Kuehn of Duluth, about the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial. “We’ve still got a lot of work to do.” Kuehn attended the memorial event Thursday honoring the three black men who were lynched in 1920 after being falsely accused of rape.

Kurt is running in District One currently represented by Rosie Loeffler-Kemp.

Although I have often written about the Clayton Jackson McGhie lynching I did not attend this particular event. Art Johnston and Alanna Oswald and Rosie Loeffler-Kemp represented the School District.

CORRECTION: When I posted this yesterday I incorrectly said that Board member Rosie Loeffler-Kemp was forty minutes late. That was wrong. Rosie was present shortly after the presentation began. As I said I was not in attendance. It was Jill Lofald, Art Johnston’s 4th District challenger who was late.

Having mis-remembered what I had been told about the order of appearance of Board members at the Lynching memorial I was a little too eager to link to an unflattering anecdote about Rosie that did not put her in a good light. After having served on the Duluth School Board with Rosie for the past three years I am still inclined to link to those unflattering 2015 posts heret and here.

I have to be careful that when I replant the rhubarb today…

…my head doesn’t fall off into the hole with the manure.

I have good reason to worry about this because, as I just told an unhappy ISD 709 parent who reads my blog, “I have so much in my head to blog about that right now its lying on my floor and if I move to fast it will snap off.

On the other hand, I have five months before the November election to get things off my chest on Lincolndemocrat so maybe I don’t have to do five months worth of blog posts in the next five days. I can probably spread them out.

Trifecta Schmrifecta

Posts that began in my head over a week before but which become placeholders for me to finish are a pain. Life goes on and so does my attention. I am not only watching the developments in the School District campaign ahead but in China and in the ongoing Trumpaloonia. And the books that I’ve been digging into to provide me context on my grandfather’s life for a book that I would like to write – Well, they are on hold too. I’d love to get the book finished by the time the 100th anniversary of his being awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor takes place. But I’ve got a darned school board race to run and China to study before my summer travels.

So, about the Trifecta. Supt. Gronseth had a very good couple of days. Candidates that he can count on to support him no matter what won all the DFL endorsements. That was his first success – trifecta part one, although it’s no guarantee that these candidates will win in the Fall, five months from now. Not having the endorsement hasn’t stopped me from getting elected to the Board 3 times. However, its always nice to have the entire city leafleted with your propaganda a week or two before the election and I expect the Democrats to be energized after last year’s debacle. I began writing about this as part one of the “Trifecta’s” but I’ve lost interest and my reporting some of the details might make people unnecessarily mad at me. I am a politician and making people mad by being “impolitic” has its costs.

Trifecta Part two was the conclusion of the teacher contract negotiations. Once again it was/is an interesting story with details that might make people unnecessarily wary of me. I had people nervous even hinting at things that took place during the Board’s closed meetings. Perhaps that quality helped us reach a contract that gave the teachers less than two successive years of 2% pay increases which is what the State Legislature embedded into the Education bill. The wiggle room we achieved has just allowed the Superintendent to come up with new spending that will soothe some savage breasts. There has been a simmering anger over moving some principals to new schools. One particular hot bed was in Rosie Loeffler-Kemp’s 1st District. Now those reassignments are kaput which puts out the fire and last night the Superintendent gave all the credit to Rosie for having made the parents happy. No such thing occurred but Rosie is his gal. He has also credited her with being the force behind replacing the rubber playground mulch even though Rosie came a year late to the party. Rosie was one of the two Board members who jumped down my throat in closed meeting to discuss our teacher contract negotiations. Ironically, the agreement we got has allowed the Superintendent to placate her first District voters.

Trifecta Part three was the unexpected news at the beginning of last week that the Edison schools have, at least for the time being, given up on building a new high school. This is a subject that put the Superintendent’s majority at some risk because it entailed turning down $14 million badly needed dollars and left continuing to take $3.3 million out of the general fund for Red Plan bond repayments. I talked with the Superintendent about this briefly a couple days ago and he restated his position, that has some merit. Mr. Gronseth argues that the loss of 400 or more high school students to an Edison High would damage our District in the long run – even close Denfeld. On the other hand, turning our back on “competitors” cost us even more than $14 million. By the time you consider the Many Rivers Montessori offers and the rehabbing of Rockridge you could argue that the District lost twenty million. If that loss damages our credibility with angry voters when we next offer an operational levy referendum that would add millions more to the loss. It dwarfs the teacher contract settlement savings we just negotiated. We let a couple birds in the hand fly off. Now only time will tell whether these building non-sales will haunt us. For once I am inclined to believe in ghosts.

There was much more to these trifecti for me to tell than I’ve shared here. Maybe I’ll dredge some of the gritty details out in the future. But for now that’s it. I’m headed to China for my next post.

The Superintendent’s trifecta

I called the Trib’s education reporter Jana Hollingsworth on Tuesday and told her about the tentative settlement of the teachers contract. When she picked up the phone I asked if I’d reached the “Hollingsworth News Tribune.” Her stories that day (four of them) covered the front page. She laughed.

Sorry, I’ve got more gardening to do. I just put this here to force myself to write this post which should have been posted on Wednesday)


Ah, now I’m back. It’s 2:15 AM Saturday. This not my preferred time to blog, but what can you do when the cares of the day invade the night?

So Saturday last, the Superintendent enjoyed the first of three remarkable bits of good news which would continue through Tuesday. On this day the Duluth DFL would emerge from its slumbers much like the United States did after the attack on Pearl Harbor. For the Democrats the alarm was spread not on December 7th, 1941, but on November 8th, 2016, the day of Donald Trump’s election. Almost 300 delegates would be seated to endorse candidates for municipal offices for the first Duluth election following that earthquake.


I had only attended one other DFL endorsing convention and it was quite a contrast. It was 1999 and I was still a nominal Republican. But my good friend Mary Cameron hoped to earn the DFL endorsement and asked me, her de facto if not official campaign manager, to give her moral support at that year’s endorsing convention. I agreed and sat somewhat awkwardly in a small room at the YWCA.

If there were forty people in the room I’d be surprised. It was all the DFL regulars, AFSCME leaders, the candidates, the new school board members elected in 1997 that dearly wanted to take control of the Board, and me, a lone Republican, sitting beside Mary. She didn’t stand a chance. Neither did she stand a chance in her reelection campaign. She was smeared for deciding to stay on the Board while commuting to Syracuse, NY to earn her Masters Degree. It was a campaign organized by fellow school board members who wanted to improve their 4-5 minority status by removing our only real “minority” member and me. I got re-elected despite being “targeted” by the DFT President and May won vindication after completing her Master’s and ended up ousting the Board member who had ousted her in 1999.

(I was able to confirm my memories of this thanks to the “Wayback Machine” which has been capturing websites and recording them for the past two decades. I found several news stories I captured of that Era. Pouring through it is a great time waster.)




Sorry, Anybody who thinks writing is a breeze I’ve been at this for two hours – mostly researching. I’ll post this prologue and work on the Trifecta parts later after I make another go at getting some shut eye. Hope I can sleep through the thunder storm that’s just started.

More old news stories from

Settling the Contract –

I may have missed a story about the Teacher contract negotiations but they are likely over as we, Management, and Teachers, shook hands on Tuesday two days ago. The DFT has to take the proposal to the teachers for a vote and then it will come back to the School Board for the final OK – probably at a special meeting next week. To punctuate the conclusions of the negotiations the Superintendent led all concerned on a tour of Old Central’s Clock tower which I haven’t seen in better than a decade. Here are a couple of my pics of that celebration:


I don’t think I am obligated to mention the details of the contract but I did call both the Trib’s education reporter and Loren Martell to tell them it was over. According to Jana Hollingsworth once something is on paper it is public data. That sounds right but I have no idea if “the paper” been made available to her or Loren.

When it comes time to vote on this I will offer what I consider some sobering insights on the District’s financial future. That said, the State legislature offered up education funding increases that amounted to a 2% increase in each of the next two school years and our teachers, for an important and uncertain consideration, accepted less for these two years. That will give ISD 709 a tiny improvement in its fiscal situation for the next two years.

What will happen in the second consecutive approved contract (the third and fourth years) could be a disaster or a success for the District. Time will tell. Loren was aghast that we did not win concessions on our health care. It wasn’t going to happen with this board and could have caused a protracted year of more of bad feelings while we wrangled over an unsettled contract.

I have no idea if I will be on the Board in four years but I am I will want to have a long public study of the District’s finances to prepare the District for talks in the fifth and sixth years.

During one of the school board’s closed door talks it was suggested that the meager insights I put on the blog could get me censured again for not being a team player. That led to a testy 45 second discussion before we agreed to new parameters which were undoubtedly necessary for the quick end-of-year settlement we seem to have achieved. I hope the Union finds them entertaining when they become public.

I got waxed continued – the DNT > DFL editorial slam

After Claudia got home from a wedding shower and I joked how I’d been waxed she asked if I’d read the DNT editorial lambasting the DFL for endorsing candidates for “non partisan” offices. I hadn’t. Just read it. I disagree although I am sympathetic with the editorial and that’s not because I only got about 10 percent of the delegates vote. But – I have to get ready for church. I have a long summer to upend the DFL endorsees running for the School Board. Its not because they are bad people. Its because they now represent a kind of insular “group think” that is out of step with the people I talk to throughout Duluth on the issue of public education.

Mercifully, now that I am not endorsed I no longer have to abide by my promise not to speak ill of the short comings of the DFL endorsees. Maybe that’s the “ugly” campaign the Superintendent warned one of the non endorsed candidates about.

I got waxed – I like my chances

Of four candidates for the two at-large positions I came in fourth. I got 34 votes the two winners got 234 and 244 votes. There were about 300 delegates with votes.

And yet after my many political scrapes today’s convention was painless for me. It was like staying awake for an open heart surgery with a mirror on the ceiling but with powerful anti-pain medications to completely neutralize the pain. I was able to study the process academically.

There were several factors going against me which other people had sensed a week out.

1st: the forces arrayed against the outsiders on the Board were significant: I haven’t been to the DFL conventions since a little after Obama’s first win but I saw a couple dozen folks with whom I tangled in the past – past board members, union leaders, Democrats. Spread through-out the 40 Precincts or townships they would have had significant influence with the people in their precincts. If the 24 anti-Harry people I counted influenced half a dozen people each I was in rough waters. Furthermore, Rosie Loeffler-Kemp and Annie Harala recruited all the candidates that won. The DFL screening committee recommended everyone of them to the Convention beforehand. Even the candidate who didn’t show up to speak to the convention (usually a big No No) barely lost out of first place voting. I’ve never heard of her and I doubt many of the people voting for her had either.

2nd: It was a pretty gray-haired group. The Bernie Sanders supporters who were out-maneuvered in Hillary-centric Districts last year never got to be delegates plus; because so many of those who did become delegates were college students they had almost no interest in municipal elections if they were even still in town.

3rd: It was a spectacularly well attended off-year endorsement convention. Those 300 delegates brought all the loyal DFLers from years past out. In 1999 I went with Mary Cameron to another off year endorsement convention and only about 30 attended. It was been the Trump victory that energized the Martin Luther King, women and science marches. The old timers made for very Harry skeptical crowd.

4th: In my letter mailed to all delegates didn’t shy away from hinting around about some controversial stands I’ve taken like the refusal to let voters have a say on the Red Plan. By being critical of a project dear to many in the convention I was inviting antagonism. The Red Plan is supposed to be over by now……even if it still pulls $3.4 million a year out of the classroom for bond repayments and makes voters reluctant to pass vital operations levies. People don’t like having their scabs picked off.

5th: It was announced before voting that the Duluth DFL did not permit secret ballots. Delegates would have their votes thrown out if they did not write their names down on the back of the ballots they cast. That’s a heckuva way to enforce group think.

6th: My one secret weapon was utterly traduced – my thoughts and my voice. As Loren Martel, who stood in the back of the hall as I spoke told me – the sound system wasn’t kind to me. Fully half the people sitting in the back couldn’t hear me and many sitting in the front half of the acoustically challenged hall could only hear half of what I said. I had been made aware that I would be hard for people to hear me but this was especially true of men with resonant deep voices like mine. It caused so much feedback that it forced me to back off so that for most of the audience I was silent. Even so, because there were amplifiers nearby, I thought I was blasting out the audience. My only hope of getting people to vote for me was to wow them. I did waw them – in the manner of the teacher in a Charlie Brown specials….”waw Waw, waw Waw, waw Waw, waw Waw.” The only votes I got were from people who liked what I stood for in advance or who felt sorry for me.

This last was the great disappointment of the day. I’m so chagrined by it that I will probably film myself giving it and posting it to you-tube. As it is, I will post the verbiage below for my eight loyal readers to peruse. It took four and a half minutes to deliver but I kept having my microphone messed with by officials to improve the sound quality and the time they futzed around was deducted from my five minutes.

I joked with the new DFT President, Bernie Burnham, afterwords and told her I suddenly had some sympathy with Donald Trump and his alleged microphone tampering during one of his debates with Hillary. Here’s the speech sans my sonorous voice:

I’m Harry Welty. Continue reading

Welcome DFL delegate to today’s endorsing Convention

It will be a long and fascinating day. I’ll keep lots of mental notes. I would also like to provide you with some time fillers during slow periods during the convention that are – blush – (dare I admit it?) a little self serving.

Yes, I live at that house and have for thirty-plus years of snow sculpting.

There are dozens of other examples here.

To the horror of local Republicans I sculpted Bill Clinton in 1992. Check out the Clinton Video and Barack Obama.

This is George Seanor Robb (Grandfather of Harry Robb Welty) shaking hands with JFK at a gathering to celebrate servicemen awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. There is a much more about my Grandfather here and on my blog.

I won’t post the startling photograph of the reenactment of Mankato’s infamous hanging that circulated after news of a Minneapolis Sculpture Garden tribute went awry and made the headlines. I wrote about this dreadful history in the Duluth Reader 15 years ago. My hero Lincoln reduced the number to be hanged from over 300 to the still alarming 38. There was another war going on at the time which took his attention away from a fuller clemency that I’d like to have think he would have preferred.

I wrote over 100 columns for the Reader and have them on my old Website.

You may wish to compare the speech Harry will give today with this one. Harry delivered it on Veterans Day in Topeka, Kansas a few days after Donald Trump was elected. If you start it at 11:30 minutes in it begins with a description of the unusual outfit that My Grandfather served with in World War I. My tribute starts after that.

Finally, I approve of Bernie Sanders campaigning for a pro-life Mayoral candidate of Omaha, Nebraska. If the Republicans have repudiated Ronald Reagan’s “Big Tent” the Democrats better follow Bernie’s example. By the way – I’m pro choice and have made that clear on a number of occasions, for instance here and here (when I first broke with the GOP)

With each passing year it becomes more evident that the Republican Party cares deeply about fetuses up until the moment of their birth. Then Its OK if the world they enter turns Dickensian. It will give them character and if we don’t like it we can just throw them in prison.

Dear DFL Delegate

I’ve missed two great days to garden working on my election and School Board business. There have been lots of email and letters-to-the-editor to consider. Oh, there have been the regular reminders of the new Trump Dystopia we have brought down on ourselves. – Ivanka’s Chinese shoe manufacture having investigators imprisoned for recording the maltreatment of workers who were helping Ivanka’s bottom line. – President Trump catering to the Koch Brother’s desire to pollute without restriction by canceling an international climate control agreement. He says he did it for Pittsburgh not Paris. Pittsburgh’s City Council has rejected the help.

More importantly I sat in on a second round of teacher contract negotiations…………..Argggggerrrrregggggg*******!

Pardon my strangled words. At a closed meeting Tuesday I was sternly instructed by Rosie Loeffler-Kemp not to mention that they were happening on the blog. She has a firm grip on my throat. I was glad that Chair David Kirby joined me at the negotiations. Nothing explosive seemed to have happened as a result of our presence.

I’ve got another busy day planned that will put the gardening off – Drat! And tomorrow I will attend the Duluth DFL endorsing convention seeking Democratic support for my reelection campaign.

This is the letter I sent to about 800 eligible delegates two days ago. I’m guessing only one in ten will actually show up although Trump is probably keeping most of them every bit as on edge as he’s keeping me. Maybe a lot more will show up to convince themselves that can really turn the world back right-side-up:

Dear DFL delegate, Continue reading

And while I’m speaking truth to power…

…These are the 14 Questions from the DFL screening committee and my answers to them:

2017 Screening Committee Questions, City of Duluth DFL

In this questionnaire, we are asking the same questions of all candidates for a given office. When we
conduct the follow-up, in-person screening, questions can, of course, depend on a candidate’s initial
answers on this questionnaire.

SCHOOL BOARD (indicate office you are seeking): At-Large____X____ 2 nd _______ 3 rd________

1.Why are you seeking the DFL endorsement?

I wish to serve my fourth term on the Duluth School Board as a Democrat.

2. Have you been endorsed, or screened for endorsement for any other political parties, groups, or
organizations? If so, who?

I was endorsed by Republicans for the legislature in 1976, 1978 and ran against the endorsed Republican for the legislature in 2002. I parted company with the GOP when I began my blog in 2006.

3. Will you commit to using union materials and services for your campaign when possible? (Will
you support union represented members of staff in the Duluth public schools and work with
them to enhance our public education?)

I like union bugs. And yes, I will continue to work cooperatively with school district staff as I always have for the betterment of our schools.

4. What do you consider the top three priorities for the Duluth Schools right now? Please place in
order of priority and state your plan to work on them. Continue reading