Category Archives: Harry’s Diary

Throw away people

I tried to link to today’s Trib story from Lisa Kaczke on candidates addressing poverty. I don’t think it made it to the Trib’s online paper. Symbolic perhaps.

Yesterday’s forum at Denfeld was one of the few my wife has ever attended. Since getting her degree in Religious Leadership and interning at the Central Hillside United Ministry’s homeless shelter she’s been invested in the issue of poverty. Watching a sick woman being released from a hospital to a cot in a Homeless Shelter alters one’s focus.

I can say she didn’t have any superlatives for any of the many candidates who addressed poverty – including me. Claudia’s view of the event was that for once politicians had to listen to those in dire straights rather than the other way around.

There wasn’t much we candidates could say in the minute per question that was given us but we did hear extended life stories. The one that sticks with me was from an ex felon whose entire family finds itself blackballed in every regard because of the father’s past legal infractions. One thing the very Christian legislators have insisted on is that there is no Christ-like redemption in our legal system. Its all mandatory sentencing, a lifelong mark of Cain, and permanent disenfranchisement from citizenship. Even the Old Testament seems humane by comparison and if you are rich like our President you can commit all manner of larceny and get off scot-free with an army of attorneys.

So, this morning our church men’s group had a guest speaker from the State District Courts, Justice Dale Harris. He gave a sober talk that will keep me in deep thought for a while. He began by mentioning that last year there were 1.3 million cases brought to the Minnesota Courts. Heck, there are five million Minnesotans so that means one-in-four of them on average go to the courts each year. Whoa! I know I’ve been in court about once every three or four years myself fighting over the schools or family law or probate issues.

I had many questions for Justice Harris but I had to wait in line to ask them after my fellow attendees. I finally asked him about a concern that a black friend recently brought to my attention – the frustration of the St. Louis County attorney’s office with penny ante juvenile infractions brought to the courts from the schools such as “tobacco tickets.”

We had a short but useful discussion after the meeting and I hope to tap him for more insights in the future……provided I remain on the Duluth School Board. We have a lot of suffering children and I need to know more about Child Protective Services.

Brain drain

I’m only posting this so that my eight loyal readers (and the 400 other newbies) know that my heart is still in Lincolndemocrat. Its just that at this moment my brain is dragging itself behind my heart like one of those doomed extras in a movie about surviving in a long desperate Desert crossing.

I’ve been working on those eight jobs I mentioned stacking up yesterday and begun whittling away at them. And then tonight I attended the forum at Denfeld on folks who are down on their luck. Claudia reiterated her take on this forum by saying it was a way for the downtrodden to tell their truths to the power players. That’s her sentiment but my words.

I picked up the 10,000 snow sculpting trading cards I ordered and after I got home began inserting them in my handouts.

Claudia and I watched an engrossing series “Stranger Things.” while I worked. I have another three days of materials to pass out.

That’s it for me. I’m pooped.


I’ve gotten a little blowback from my supporters about the tutorials. They wonder why I’m telegraphing to the “opposition” what I’m up to. One of the regular phrases I get when I email or text my friends is “this is not bloggable.” (Heavy sigh from me)

I understand that honorable reporters are constantly faced with requests for anonymity from their sources. I understand that sources are shy about being fingered lest they be punished (as whistle blowers) or for being gossipy. Our Civility Pledge disses gossip for instance. That’s one of the planks of the pledge I have a problem with. Ignorance isn’t bliss.

For instance’ I’ve already hinted that the Gronseth Administration is pulling a fast one first having begged us to OK a quick resolution of a change order for mulch followed by a recommendation that we delay a scheduled October discussion until November. Do they hope to delay of a potentially embarrassing million dollar snafu until after the election? The TMI in me (too much information) doesn’t think sweeping inconvenient truths under the rug is good practice or policy. It only aggravates paranoia. If we’d had open and honest discussions during the Red Plan years we might not have had 40 and 50 student class sizes.

So, back to my tutorial about all that stuff I’m passing out in my TMI package. Here’s a small portion of the four-foot-long map of Duluth’s political precincts (purchased in the City Clerk’s office) from Fondulac to Lake County that I have covered on foot. (marked in yellow) Continue reading

Into the rain

I was surprised to find I had 19648 steps on the pedometer today. I got a late start but kept working until dark and rain descended. I came home wet. I passed out a lot of flyers today filling in missing gaps in the region between Kenwood and Duluth Heights. I only have about five days of flyers left but I’ve ordered more which should be available by Monday.

On one of the roads I found a stand of beautiful blue flowers with an aspen backdrop. I have no idea who planted them but I deemed them worthy of a picture.

I don’t seek out conversations but every day I meet more people who have their own little slice of the public school pie to share with me. I’m on the right track. So is Loren Martell. A sample:

The narrative the DFL is selling–the great fallacy of this campaign–is that the conversation should have nothing to do with the past, that what happened over the past decade is irrelevant. In fact, in the DFL’s narrative, any glance in the rear view mirror should expose only one villainous group–the powerless Board minority members, like Art Johnston and Harry Welty, who were speaking the truth.

Blaming the people who had no power in the room is like blaming creditors who bring up the bills for a bankruptcy.
As the dominant, majority voice, it was the DFL-endorsed who rubberstamped Keith Dixon’s spending spree. It was the DFL that blew a thirty million dollar reserve fund, jacked the tax levy by $19 million, concocted a debt payment plan that robs more than $3 million annually out of classrooms to pay for swimming pools, and left the district so broke it had to raid its already pathetically under-funded maintenance fund.

21,000 steps and a mulch footnote


I just pounded in a couple hundred words and was on a role when my clumsy fingers replaced them all accidentally with nothingness and there was nothing saved for me to go back to. I haven’t had that happen to me for a couple years and it drove me nuts.

I began by saying I’ve been very busy juggling again. I offered a litany of things I have been doing this morning. Reflecting on it the most interesting thing I wanted to write about was the candidate forum held last night by our students.

The eight of us had a minute and a half to answer really big questions that each of the seven students present asked us. Most of the questions involved problems our kids face in class. Many of the replies were glittering generalities. I won’t say who glittered the most. I didn’t sugarcoat things.

I explained how twenty years ago when I was on the Board $14 million local dollars went into the classroom. I described it as a “Golden Age.” I then explained that this year only $2.5 million local dollars are going into the classroom. I then parenthetically mentioned the much decorated school counselor who heard me say the same thing earlier in the week and came who over to tell me that when she was hired she was one of 30 counselors in the District. Today there are only 12 counselors – the kind of people who might be able to address the needs the students at the forum were asking for.

I was surprised that Fourth District candidate who spoke immediately after me dismissed this factoid by saying that lots of other District employees had stepped in to do the work of school counselors.

Its becoming apparent that Ms. Lofald now views herself as a chief defender of the School Administration, by which I mean a single individual. He was in the audience listening at the time.

And yes, I got 21,000 steps in yesterday marching across Duluth Heights despite the donation of a pint of blood. More friendly but aggrieved people met me. Here’s a pic I took of the sights along my travels. The nest was closer to half again the size of my hand.

Oh, and of interest to Mulch folks. I just got my school board packet. You may recall that at the September meeting the Administration offered anguished justifications for paying an additional $12,000 for a mulch change order when a bare majority of us asked to table the expenditure until the October meeting. Well, the Administration now wants us to postpone the consideration of the expense until the November meeting. Vindication for us skeptics?

19,000 steps

After noting that I had yet to lit drop yesterday I steeled myself to do just that. I got in four hours (19,000 steps) covering a portion of Duluth Heights and was greeted by this not so little arachnid at one door. I got the willies when I saw him/her and subsequently dropped my literature when putting it in the screen door. It had the leg span to cover a fifty cent piece.

Compare it to the key lock.

I’m used to seeing large spiders in the early fall but they are more often orb spiders with fat abdomens. This looked like a baby tarantula. In either case they live precarious lives as a favorite bird snack.

So far I have covered most of my imediate eastern part of town and felt like I was getting a pretty good reception. That only improved as I moved west to the Denfeld area but this Central Part of town seems even more sympathetic. They know they and their children have been shortchanged.

At one door I met a woman as she was leaving her car and she asked if I was “lincolndemocrat.” That was very gratifying. We had a long talk about bullying at her daughter’s school which I’d never heard of and of grade school children sending emails to her daughter telling her to kill herself. Remember the last post about the counselor bemoaning the loss of so many counselors from her early years? So how did this mother deal with this issue. She reluctantly informed the schools then took her child out despite being a third generation Duluth public school student herself.

The current school board’s policy is to adopt an articulate but mostly symbolic anti-bullying policy and then sugarcoat some grim realities…..realities that are the direct consequence of cannibalizing classroom money to the tune of $11 million dollars annually to pay off loans to build new schools.

I told Chuck Frederick, the Trib’s editor, yesterday that I won’t be upset if I lose this election. That is the voter’s choice and I have other things to do. I also told him that I will never forgive myself if I don’t work my fingers to the bone to win reelection. That’s true too. In 40 minutes I’m scheduled to donate my 101st pint of blood. When I do this I’m always told to go home and avoid any heavy work. Today I will test that recommendation by resuming my leafleting of Duluth Heights despite a painful limp that I suspect comes from an undiagnosed bone spur in my left heel. Its a good pain and I’ll take plenty of liquids.

Tonight at 5 I will attend a school board candidate forum put on by our high school students. I’m looking forward to that.

BROKEN RECORD ALERT: You can donate to my campaign here.

Its sunny again so why am I not out going door to door?

Because I’m juggling right now. I just came back from the offices of the News Tribune where the Education Reporter had scheduled a half hour interview with me. She turned off her recorder with about five minutes to go and we had a candid cordial conversation about stuff she wouldn’t put in the story anyway. There’s nothing I would have minded her recording so she only saved a little battery power. I also stopped by to see the Trib’s editor Chuck Frederick and show him my proposed op ed piece. Its a little novel and I wanted to plead my case for putting it in the Trib as written. He saw nothing wrong with it other than some data he wants to confirm before he publishes it. I was pleased. It was a cordial meeting and I joked that my testiness with the Trib’s editorial board isn’t new. I recall twitting (not tweeting) the editors a quarter century ago long before he found himself in the Editor’s chair.

I’ve also been making calls to arrange for my first fundraising letter. It may go out Friday if all goes well. My hints to my eight loyal followers about helping out seem to have been falling on deaf eyes. I could use a little help as Claudia has been noticing my regular withdrawals from our bank account. She is good with the 70-hour-weeks I’ve been putting in to campaign but she seems to think that if I want to get back on the School Board there ought to be some tangible demonstration of help from my potential constituents. (That’s a hint and none too subtle hint at that. So is this link.)

I mentioned that there were some interesting happenings at the Ordean/East school board forum on Monday night. I’ll just mention one.

It went pretty quickly because for the six questions we were asked we were given one minute to reply. They were questions like do you believe in God, why or why not? You know, easy-peasey questions. I answered one of them in 31 seconds and another in about 12. The quick replies caught poor Rosie Loeffler-Kemp, who answered them after me, off guard. And one of my answers brought a school counselor over to chat me up. It was the astounding factoid (the one I’ll have to prove to Chuck Frederick) that twenty years ago our District put $14 million local levy dollars into the classroom whereas now we only put $2.5 million into the classroom.

The counselor came over to lament the loss of her fellow counselors. She told me that when she was first hired, in what I called the District’s “Golden Age,” she was one of 30 school counselors on the District payroll. Now she is one of 12.

She could obviously relate to the loss of $10 or $11 million dollars from the operations budget and understand how that impacted her. The kids she helps have critical, emotional needs that no teacher with 40 kids in a classroom can attend to.

As I told the East parents: Our school board could use financial experts far more than public relations experts.

Now I can go door to door.

Habitat for H2O

My rain gauge showed just shy of two and a half inches of rain. It was just one more setback to finishing up the intersection.

I woke up in the dark to find an ICO truck fueling up the heavy machines parked in front of our house. There was a foot of water sitting in the forms where sometime soon our new sidewalk will be poured. Yesterday the gutters were finished and a little asphalt was sprayed on fourth street. Its hard to imagine what will be attempted today.

As for me I’ll be working at Habitat for Humanity in Superior today. Our outside project was cancelled so I expect I will be doing some interior painting.

Yesterday it was rainy too and I made some headway on writing fundraising letters and organizing my next mailing. I also printed out some more flyers and stuffed more envelopes for door to door which won’t likely continue until Wednesday.

I also attended a PTA candidate forum at Ordean East last night. If I didn’t have to hop in the car and head for Habitat I’d mention a couple of them. But no time. Ta, Ta.

Campaigning in the rain, and a side rant on people who refuse to meet with me – for coffee.

I didn’t go door to door yesterday. I managed to get some writing done and distribute some of the trading card decks that have been ordered. I picked up some lawnsign stands and, for the moment, I’m caught up with envelope stuffing for door to door work.

I enjoyed a long conversation with a supporter who wanted to tell me about an idea for the use of Central High School. It was interesting but I doubt it would make much money for the District. Its an idea being championed by a lot of ex employees at Central who are sick at the thought of its being vandalized which has begun to happen as it sits empty.

I joked that our retired teachers probably didn’t have much use for me but I was told that is not the case. I’d like to think that’s true. A lot of them thought the Red Plan was an abomination. I theorized ten years ago that their union was doing its best to shut them up about it. I’m not sure the DFT has changed all that much since that time.

NOTE: In the first version of the next paragraph where I have bolded “to avoid meeting with me” I originally wrote “to meet.” I hate when I write the opposite of what I mean.)

Two years ago when I stuck up for a teacher who was getting short shrift for a lapse in judgement my reward was a slap in the face by the DFT. I don’t like being threatened so you will see rather a lot of posts connected to this one in which I explain a heckuva lot about the DFT’s cozy relationship with some board members. Its president had already rebuffed a number of my requests to have coffee with me. She continues to resist meeting with me one-on-one although we are quite cordial when we run across each other. We had a lovely chat about my trip to China on Labor Day. We even sat across from each other during our last teacher negotiation and were given a tour of Old Central’s tower to celebrate a successful conclusion to negotiations. BUT. If there is anything that sets me off its the refusal of a person to meet with me for coffee. One candidate for the School Board has bent over backward to avoid meeting with me since filing. On the other hand I’m meeting with Sally Trnka this morning as she accepted my invitation to meet. We might very well be on the Board together after November.

In this regard I often mention that my campaign chairman, former Representative Mike Jaros, and I first met over coffee just before I filed to run against him in 1976. I ran against him again in 1978. We have always had a cordial relationship since that time. In fact, his opposition to the Red Plan, because it placed a heavier tax burden on poor Duluthians, cemented our alliance. We don’t agree on everything. We have different positions on Charter Schools but not on public education.

The only way to build common ground is to communicate. Running away from having coffee with me is a lousy way to get along.

Ah, but I did have one unexpected conversation yesterday that took me back to 1910. I learned about the grandfather of one of my constituents, Martin Johnson, who was known city-wide as the “wrestling firefighter.”

I asked if I could take a picture of part of Mr. Johnson’s scrapbook and was given permission. You can see his badge, a portrait of the wrestler in his togs and a clipping from the Trib about his bout with Ole Samson who’s ribs got broke during one of their matches.

21st Avenue, progress?

Because of yesterday’s rain the 21st Ave intersection on 4th street should have been opened today. But the City sent out a press release saying it would open at five yesterday and so the press release had to be obeyed. The barriers were taken down at five despite the work not quite being finished. Drivers will have to dodge big trucks today as they travel up and downhill.

As for my home, we might as well live by a football stadium now with the intense lighting that has been installed.

Don’t plan on turning east or west on 4th street anytime soon.

Good manners count – so to do donations

I was tied up much of the morning but I got an hour-and-a-half to pass out snow sculpture trading cards at Chester Bowl’s Fall Fest. I passed out roughly 250 cards. They went almost exclusively to children and I was impressed how nearly uniform their parents were in encouraging them go say thank you to me.

Like Minnesota Public Radio my campaign is always open to donations which can be made here on line.

I would like to think that I have many more potential helpers out there and I’ll start something of a drive for donations soon. More expenses are looming and I daren’t drop them if I want to have a chance to serve another term of office through 2020. Beat the drive. A lot of the kids who got my card had eyes that sparkled and even their parents couldn”t help but smile.

On 21st Av and 4th St. – Two steps forward one step back

A few days ago I took a picture through the blue spruce of the curbing that had been set into the big dig at my intersection. It suggested a speedy end to the month of construction.

It was not to be so speedy after all. My wife’s sister and family came up for a visit on Thursday where a brand new hole had been dug in the filled in excavation. There were huge yellow tubes laying on the ground nearby. My sister-in-law’s husband said they were probably gas pipes. He said they were bumble bee yellow for a reason.

Sure enough some of the workers told me that after they had laid the original gas lines the massive concrete sewer passages had been poured above them. Inspectors came around and made the gas specialists dig their smaller pipes out from under the tunnels to reroute them where they would be less prone to crushing by the massive sewers above. They told me it would likely add a week to the completion of this phase of the project at our busy intersection.

This morning it looks like the hole having been refilled is getting leveled for a big concrete pour.

Progress always has its steps backward.

Mischievousness in the pursuit of Sanity, Justice, Competence and other Miscellaneous virtues . . .

. . . And why it would be a damned shame if I am not reelected to the Duluth School Board this year.

Here’s a visual metaphor to explain my reasoning taken from a mural I painted in our church’s children’s rooms twenty years ago:

This is a picture of a small boy sneaking his head under the Red Tent. Twenty years ago the novel The Red Tent was so popular that church women across America began decorating Sunday School Rooms to look like the Red Tent. Because of my snow sculpting people in Glen Avon assumed that I could paint too. Well, I could use an over head projector. I could paint within lines – coloring book fashion. And I can improvise. When asked to paint a scene of a desert on the wall of a room painted red like the book’s tent in the Era of Jacob, who wrestled with the Angel, I gave it my best. (You can see the full mural and others on this page of my old website

Not having read the book there is, to my knowledge, no child peeking into the tent but I thought putting one on the wall doing just this, seemed appropriate for a Sunday School classroom. I borrowed a Sunday School student wearing a shepherd’s costume from our Christmas pageant.

As for the metaphor – that could me me peaking into the sacred precincts of our Schools or Government or the News Business just like I do when I pick up a history book. And I read lots of them. But unlike that little kid looking into the Red Tent I’m 66 years old and I have taught myself to write and report and look at big mysteries critically for most of my adult life. Few people in Duluth have the breadth of knowledge and experience I have when it comes to the Duluth Schools. Furthermore, I don’t keep it all to myself. To many people’s chagrin I share much of it with the public. As this election season goes on I will be sharing more.

But I’m an acquired taste. Not everyone likes my peeking into the tent or under rugs especially the folks who have swept disagreeable things under the rug to keep them out of sight. But peeking under the rug is called “transparency” and everyone says (officially) that its all the rage except for our President who calls it “fake news.”

I have been pretty subdued in the blog this summer. I’ve had other things to do – organize a school board campaign, visit China, garden, walk door-to-door. But the actual General Election is seven weeks away and my readership has doubled recently. Its time for all the blogging I’ve postponed to kick into a higher gear. There is so much to share.

I truly believe my being on the school board is absolutely vital to moving our schools into the future that the Red Planners promised Duluth. But the Trib, in looking for some magic solution, once again endorsed neophytes (newbies). I must say that the neophyte they endorsed over me as a “fresh face” in 2007 helped make the School Board distrusted while remaining completely ignorant of our downward spiraling finances for her entire eight years on the Board. Likewise, they endorsed a young thing, elected with me in 2013, who’s lone witnessing of an alleged assault (even the so called victim denied it) plunged the School Board into two years of farce. And now, once again, the Trib is trusting neophytes in the hope that their ignorance will give us bliss.

Mine isn’t a blanket condemnation. While looking for their editorial endorsements I stumbled into their videos of the school board candidates in the first few minutes of the Trib interview. I recommend looking at them. I was pleased with mine.

As for me sneaking under the tent, Well, my tent sneaking evidently caused a ruckus at the Trib leading to the replacement of one of the Editorial Board members. I’ll explain my theory in the next post as I ramp up my coverage of the School Board and campaign to rescue the District from a status quo of “Ask no questions.”

From one Artiste to another

Artist, James Zotalis

Caption: The Cathedral of Our Merciful Savior, 1862 – 1869 Faribault, Minnesota. The first church in America to become a Cathedral

Trading card collection of snow sculptures 1987-2017, by Harry Welty

There is apparently a religious conference in Duluth at the moment. One of its attendees is a Mankato classmate of mine, James Zotalis, an Episcopal Priest currently serving near Rochester, Minnesota. He gave me a call last night to see if I was at home. A friend from Duluth was having a heck of a time finding his way in the dark to my home with the intersection at 21st Ave blocked and darkened.

Jim had been regaling his friend with his story about a trip to Washington D.C. in the slummer of 1971 and the tour his old classmate, Harry Welty, then a Congressional summer intern, gave him of every nook and cranny on Capitol Hill. The host mentioned that Harry only lived a few blocks away. Jim called me while en route and, after a comedy of errors with phones acting up during instructions on how to get past roadblocks, we had a brief, cordial reunion in my driveway. I’d last seen Jim when I spent a weekend in his old stomping grounds, Faribault, which I visited to research a former Duluth School Superintendent.

Jim was serving an historic Minnesota Church at the time and introduced me to some Faribault folks in the same way as I introduced him to Capitol Hill. Before I left Faribault Jim gave me one of the prints of his depiction of Bishop Whipple’s church. Whipple was the priest who advised clemency to President Abraham Lincoln for the 300 Sioux warriors condemned to be hung in the aftermath of Minnesota’s Sioux War. When I mentioned that he had given me a copy he asked me if I’d read a book by a New York Historian about the incident. I hadn’t but I was well aware of the history. Its infamy lives on in our old hometown, Mankato.

When the subject of his artwork came up I paused and told him that it was time for me to reciprocate his generosity and ran into the house to find a deck of my snow sculpture trading cards to give him. His friend had already mentioned my prolific snow shoveling to him. Then he drove off into the night to resume his conferencing with a little trip to follow up the North Shore.

16 years ago on

I found this old image courtesy of the Wayback machine.

In 1999 Claudia and I had decided to take a little trip to New York to overlap a visit there by Duluth East’s a Capella choir which our daughter Keely was a member of. I got the chance to take a picture of them on Liberty Island with a great shot of the World Trade Towers behind them and directly above my daughter’s smiling face. Shortly after 9/11 I posted the picture as a small memorial to the lives lost in the beginning of what is now called the “War on Terror.”

Paper bags, Hurricanes, Credit Cards, Skipping Church to politic and the making of teenaged fanatics

8:10 AM! That’s when I woke up this morning. Its been months since I woke up that late after a long sound sleep. I give my 32,000 cell phone accounted steps yesterday the credit for that.

At eight last night I had four houses to go when the bag I was carrying tore open spilling out my campaign material. Today I patched up a bunch of the gift sized shopping bags I’ve discovered are perfect, other than their fragility, for holding the envelopes that contain my lit. Since my family is in Iowa for the big pot luck supper for Claudia’s family reunion I think I’ll skip church today and work on getting another good night’s sleep with another 30 thousand steps.

I got a call a minute ago. Claudia had trouble paying for breakfast with her credit card this morning and just learned that our card was hacked and is now caput. Thanks Equifax. Also her father got very upset in the sturdy home he was sent to and demanded to go to his own far more rickety home last night. That move was possible because Naples and Ft. Meyers on the Gulf Coast will be taking the brunt of Hurricane Irma.

I read a letter in the Trib today excoriating them for electing Donald Trump because of their mainstream coverage of the news and letting such racists as Eugene Robinson show up on the Editorial Page. I think Mr. Gerdes is a bit off. I agreed they were responsible but tendered a very different analysis in a post I wrote with a very different conclusion. To wit:

I could rest my case with a single editorial that is emblematic of their, finger-in-the-air-to-test-the-wind editorializing – their deplorable failure to point out that one of last year’s presidential candidates was a demagogue and a threat to our Democracy. The Trib was too chickenshit to choose an alternative to the Donald Trump.

I guess that if there is any good news from Trump’s election it is that as a demagogue he doesn’t believe in anything other than himself. Mr. Gerdes isn’t blaming Trump for backing off claim that illegals are rapists. No, he thinks the liberal columnist, Eugene Robinson, is a racist. Gerdes would rather blame the moderate sellout Republicans for letting the DACA dreamers future hang on Congress’s willingness to go along with Obama’s “unconstitutional” executive order. (I haven’t put that well. Its too convoluted but I hope you get the idea. I’ve got lit dropping to do so I don’t want to untangle this paragraph right now.) Where do thinkers like Gerdes come from?

A fascinating story on NPR this morning about a goody-two-shoes patriot gone bad had an interesting insight on the creation of malleable teenagers who become dogmatists like Gerdes. The author, a cousin of the goody-two-shoes, concludes that he’s the victim of too little “liberal arts,” eg. the lack of history being taught in the schools. He thinks it helps explain his cousin’s eagerness to accept nonsense drilled into him during the brutal training he got to become a Ranger. Sound like ISIS anyone?

That concern echoed a conversation I had yesterday as I went door to door. I told one person that I’ve seen our District strip the social studies faculty the same way schools stripped elementary schools of recess. The former denied kids challenges to their pre-conceived thinking the same way the latter deprived elementary kids the chance to run off their accumulating calories. We’re slower thinking and more sedentary and spending a lot of time reading Russian hacker generated propaganda on Facebook. It took Mr. Zukerberg a long time to figure out how to make money on Facebook. Electing Trump is one consequence of his success. That and an indifference to History.


This is the Lowell School where the League of Women’s Voters held the at-large candidate’s forum. I counted 36 people in attendance. Subtract the League officials and the PTA co-sponsors and the candidates and their friends and families and the Superintendent that probably left 8 civilians in attendance.

There is no recording of the event. My microphone didn’t work most of the time but I enjoyed myself and gave the shortest answers.

I gave up on door to door this morning because of the rain. Instead I opened up the book on General Stilwell and read to Claudia. We sat by a fire in our living room and managed to finish the chapter I’d been stuck on since China. it ended dramatically with the General successfully marching over a hundred castaways through the jungles of Burma just ahead of a Japanese invasion without losing a single person. When the newspapers back in the US quoted him about the Burma campaign he was terse and honest explaining that the Japanese had whipped the allies. This came after newspapers back home had reported that the Japanese were on the run. It was the beginning of his public fame as “Vinegar Joe” for not sugar coating hard truths. My kind of guy.

As I was heading to the League of Women Voters event Claudia was heading to a Tai Che class. When I got home she gave me a head’s up that the Duluth Reader will publish a scorcher of an attack letter against me tomorrow. It turned out that Bob Boone, its publisher, was also in the class and realized who she was. I guess he didn’t want me to be surprised. As I told Claudia it’s his job to print such letters. Claudia was impressed with Bob, the only male in the class, who she deduced was there because to support his wife. She thought that the huge Boone was very funny as he asked tough questions of a tiny, ancient, nun teaching the class.

There must be something in the water. First there was Gary Westorff’s snide comment on Facebook. There is this letter in the Reader, as yet unseen by me, and then I was sent to a link in the DNT’s website from Mike Miernicki commending the Trib’s editors for not endorsing me. I told the friend who sent it that I’d been tough on Mike and that I didn’t begrudge him his opinion. I think he’s as wrongheaded as ever especially considering the folks I talk to when I’m going door to door. Mike commended the Superintendent and pronounced him innocent of the Red Plan. I never told Mike that when I complained to the Superintendent about being kept out of contract negotiation talks four years ago Mr. Gronseth strongly suggested to me that there was just no reasoning with Mike about this. I have always doubted that Mike blew a gasket over my attending because, until Rosie Loeffler-Kemp was permitted to take my place, Mike sounded happy to let me take part.

I described the event after-the-fact here on the blog writing:

I know I’ve written about the episode but perhaps only in a hot email to Janna Hollingsworth or Art Johnston or Chair Miernicki. I was furious with the Superintendent and sent him an angry text message telling him how angry I was [as] I sat on a couch in his office while his tight little negotiations group met behind closed doors including Rosie Loeffler-Kemp a Board member with no more authority than me. It was Tim Sworsky that turned to me as I was about to follow everyone else in and told me I couldn’t come in. I didn’t blame him but I did blame the Superintendent and our Attorney for not following policy. He was just the designated bouncer. I let Mike Miernicki, who had agreed in a closed meeting that it was fine for me to attend, know too. Mike seemed confounded and caught in the middle. He eventually decided he had to side with the Superintendent’s position.

As for the rain. I took a little nap. (My grandson had crawled into bed with us at 2AM the previous night seriously cutting my zzzzzz’s.) Afterward, the sky looked better so I spent two hours going door to door after all. One fellow gave me a rapturous testimonial to his friend after I introduced myself. I doubt if Mike has ever talked with folks like that. He used his vinegar to try canceling Art’s 2013 election with allegations that never panned out. Frankly Mike and the Trib have a lot of gall to accuse Art and me of negativity. We were the victims of his Board’s wrath for having the temerity to request public data. I guess we can’t expect a newspaper to care about such things. But Mike likes that.

Snow sculpture Trading card 48 of 50

Three people have told me that pictures have failed to appear in my recent posts. I was afraid that would continue but judging by Ms. Congeniality up above I have figured out a fix. I make some points with snow but I’ve mostly relied on word pictures to make my points over the last 40 years. I believe my word pictures are the reason I will likely defeat most of the Duluth News Trib’s endorsees for the at large school board position…….that and the fact that yesterday on a gorgeous day I spent five hours passing out literature door to door.

I’m bad news…..which means I’ve helped sell a lot of the Trib’s papers over the years. But the bad news for the Trib is that I report what the Trib is unwilling to investigate because it could offend advertisers and big shots. I think that helps explain my snubbing.

Their main stated reason for denying me an endorsement was that I couldn’t stop harping about the consequences of the Red Plan which this entire town has to deal with – lost millions for the classroom, lost teachers, and lost students. As ever the Trib’s leadership, now tied to the conservative Forum Communications group, prefers blinders and hates reminders. Reminders that they rooted for the Red Plan and joined the angry chorus of Red’s fans who brooked no dissent from citizens like Art Johnston, Gary Glass and me.

I could rest my case with a single editorial that is emblematic of their, finger-in-the-air-to-test-the-wind editorializing – their deplorable failure to point out that one of last year’s presidential candidates was a demagogue and a threat to our Democracy. The Trib was too chickenshit to choose an alternative to the Donald Trump. But that wasn’t their first offense against democracy. I saw their indifference to the attempt by my former school board to subvert the 2013 election of Art Johnston with petty, overblown accusations of racism (false), conflict of interest (false), violence and assault (false) that cost the taxpayers $200,000 and the good name of the Duluth School Board. The Trib was so consumed by a desire for payback against Art, who shows them little respect, that they were willing to abandon an election to curry favor with the pro-Red Plan mafia who hate being reminded that they screwed up our schools.

I, on the other hand, spent all last year warning that a demagogue was running for President because I’ve read enough history to know what could happen. You have only to look down this blog’s list of subject categories on the right to find “Trump.” This shrewd, billionaire, ignoramus even earned a place in my trading card deck of snow sculptures. Its by far the most disgusting pile of snow I’ve ever put in my yard. Jabba the Hutt pales in comparison.

Today I will passing my cards out to the folks at Bay Front Park celebrating Labor Day. Today only one in ten Duluth families have union members. That’s a sad decline from the 1970’s when over 30 percent of Duluth families had union members. I remember this well because back then I was forlornly running for the legislature as a Republican (albeit a liberal Republican). I managed to make at least one friend, however, Mike Jaros, my campaign chairman. He was the Democrat I tried to knock off twice in 1976 and 1978.

I’m big at predictions and good at them. And I have a startling prediction to make now, not about the Schools but about the next Presidential campaign. If Robert Mueller can’t get the goods on Trump for an impeachment I think Trump’s got a good chance of being reelected. That is how much disarray I see in the Democratic Party.

And among Trump’s voters will the 70 percent of Duluth families who were in union households forty years ago.

I’ll be passing out my cards to the remnant of the old union movement today and I fully expect most of them to take their voting cues from the Red Plan problems that have been heaped on their children and grand children rather than the endorsements that their union leadership is handing down to them.

When I read the Trib’s editorial page I often I see the flattery of imitation. Their slogan (at least where our schools are concerned) could be: “fair and balanced.”

How’s that for a word picture?

PS. I’m a journalist at heart. I was tempted to start a boycott of the Trib during the early stages of the Red Plan but never did. The Press, however plagued with humans it may be, is central to democracy. Every great newspaper had their fallible and myopic leadership – New York’s Horace Greely, Chicago’s Colonel McCormick come to mind. And who can forget Citizen Cane?

I’ve subscribed to the Trib for 43 years and I hope to die thirty years from now with a Trib in my hands. I’m rooting for the paper. We need it even if their endorsements can sometimes disappoint. And I can’t help but like all those folks who snubbed me. They have given me a great motivation to campaign door-to-door from now until November. Like everybody else in this town – The Trib needs me on our school board – words, warts and all.

Oh, and here’s my inspiration:

You can order all 50 cards for a donation here:

Back when Republicans were likeable

The long planned E 4th street project has finally reached my home’s intersection on 21st. Avenue. Its a noisy mess which has been plagued with rain and huge pools of red water covering the clay turned up in the massive excavations. Dismantled street lights and absent traffic make for an eerie calm and darkness. Last night Claudia and I sat in the darkness over our sunroom lit by solar lights in flower pots listening to a young couple trying to navigate around the pit in the gloom. The man’s voice was full of imprecations about how he couldn’t see an effin thing and the woman’s voice was reassuring. “He’s not going to have that girlfriend for long,” I told Claudia.

This morning I went out to take some pictures from my neighbor’s front yard and gingerly stepped over a fresh pile of deer scat. The local wildlife doesn’t mind our inconvenience in the slightest.

A year ago Claudia and I signed over the temporary rights to our front lawn for a windfall of $800 to the County. When our sidewalk was removed a week ago the workers were careful not to damage our relatively new and expensive brick steps. We spent some to keep our home true to its original condition. I am a little worried that the diggers that dumped a ton of soil on the bottom two steps may have damaged them. I hope when its removed its done with men and shovels instead of a bull dozer.

The best yard in Duluth for showing off political lawnsigns has been temporarily transformed. The three at large school board candidates whose signs are laid out on the rhubarb I planted a couple of years ago sit forlornly unread by the 30,000 vehicles which usually breeze up and down our avenue every day.

I began to remedy that yesterday by passing out my upgraded literature on London Road. I was out with Kurt Kuehn. (Remember that’s pronounced KEEN) Kurt is challenging Rosie Loeffler-Kemp for the first District seat. We slapped up five signs on east London Road. Meanwhile dozens of another school board candidate’s signs went missing over the weekend. I hope ours don’t suffer a similar fate. And the frustration of lawnsign maintenance is why I have taken to putting up signs just a couple of weeks before elections rather than months beforehand. Ah, but there is a primary in a little over two weeks. The Trib has already started endorsing candidates for the City Council. No doubt the School Board endorsements are soon to follow. Yesterday I went to the DNT’s offices to get a new head shot taken. They’ve been using a nice photo from a few years ago when I was still wearing a beard and I had more pepper in my hair. Salt is making new inroads and I didn’t want people to think I was trying to disguise my age. As Ronald Reagan once said of Walter Mondale when folks were accusing the President of being decrepit: