Category Archives: justice

Commands from Olympus

Chair Seliga-Punyko sends her greetings:


It has come to my attention that you have been publicly sharing private confidential data on your blog that was discussed in the 3/24/15 closed session. Releasing confidential questions and information about consequences is a violation of state law with regards to private data. As a representative of the public, having inappropriate information and language or violating laws about private data is unacceptable.

This was previously addressed through censure and needs to be removed from your blog immediately.


Confidentiality Notice: This E-mail message, including any attachments, is for the sole use of the intended recipient(s) and may contain confidential and privileged information. Any unauthorized review, use, disclosure or distribution is prohibited. If you are not the intended recipient, please contact the sender by reply E-mail and destroy all copies of the original message.

I salute back:

Chair Seliga-Punyko,

You have been misinformed about my post of March 25th. The extent of my reporting on the closed meeting was to refer to a question asked by a member of the School Board. As you recall when we embarked on our investigation of Art Johnston we determined that School Board members were not subject to the same data privacy rules as our district’s employees and students.

This is the extent of my reporting on that closed hearing:

“Young Annie Harala asked one question of District officials at our closed meeting yesterday. Were the students subject to expulsion remorseful for their actions? I’ll only say that the response was what the person putting such a question might hope for.”

Excepting the question and the questioner everything else contained in these three sentences had already been aired publicly in Duluth’s newspaper of record, to wit: We held a closed meeting. We passed a resolution of expulsion directed at two students. All of this was public knowledge. Furthermore our resolution was public data. Only the identities and actions of the subjects of our resolution were covered by Minnesota’s data privacy law. These I did not reveal.

Yours cordially,

Thoughts on the RICO law

Georgia just found a dozen Georgia teachers guilty of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. Their crime? – cheating on student tests to make the Atlanta School District look like it was doing a better job educating their children than was in fact true. Here are the details from a CNN Facebook “alert” that a friend emailed me this morning.

All but one of 12 defendants charged with racketeering and other crimes in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal have been convicted.

A total of 35 educators, administrators and testing coordinators were indicted in 2013 on charges of racketeering and corruption following a 2009 investigation that revealed systemwide cheating in more than half the district’s elementary and middle schools on the state Criterion-Referenced Competency Test.

Twenty-one of those indicted took plea bargains. Two of the defendants, including former schools Superintendent Beverly Hall, died while under indictment.

I think I have a problem with this result. The RICO law was first dreamed up to fight organized crime and the Narcos who were using banks to launder their drug money. Murder, Mayhem, Drugs and outlawry were its targets. Its hard for me to envision a bunch of teachers in RICO’s gun-sights. Sure they were cheating kids of decent educations but their reward was a little gratitude by the Superintendent who wanted to look good. They were also likely motivated by the punitive actions of legislators who like to take funding away from failing schools which then will in all likelihood fail even more. In some perverse way it could be argued that these teachers, some of whom face twenty year jail sentences, were trying to protect their children from law makers.

Ah, but when a prosecutor wants to win a conviction the more dire the law that can be thrown at a miscreant the more successful will the prosecutor be. Like the RFRA law this was originally a bipartisan piece of legislation. How interesting to learn that it now includes teachers under its growing umbrella.

Thoughts on the RFRA law

I don’t always know why my Buddy sends me links to stories but this link to a Jonah Goldberg column could have been prompted by my crack about Indiana being to skittish about so many grooms placed on wedding cakes.

But we live in an age where non-compliance with the left’s agenda must be cast as bigotry. Everyone is free to celebrate as instructed. This is what liberals think liberty means today.

Ignore Goldberg’s jab at the left (above) and read the column. Its thoughtful and I agree with it. That doesn’t mean that I’m not enjoying the spectacle of a Rightest schmoozing Governor getting baked in the glare of righteous indignation over Indiana’s law protecting conservative florists from having to supply flowers at gay weddings.

I’ve evolved myself over the years and am reasonably patient with folks who haven’t evolved as fast as me. Here are glimpses of my evolution first outlined in a column thirteen years ago that I wrote for the Duluth Reader titled “Selected Scenes from my Queer Life.”

Let me point out two of the incidents this story outlines:

1971, Age 20 – I become a summer intern for our local Congressman. I move into a seedy townhouse a short walk from the Nation’s Capitol. I borrow a cake pan from neighbors. When I return the pan I am invited over for dinner and a cocktail. I discover that fresh tomatoes with a little salt are really tasty and drink my first martini. My neighbors are the first wave of new residents who are gentrifying the neighborhood. I suspect that they are gay. I am invited back and find myself among five urbane men in their thirties. One is an internationally famous premier danseur, a male ballet dancer. He regales us with stories about how as a young man all the ballerinas tried to bed him for good luck. The men find this story of heterosexual promiscuity very funny. I excuse myself from the gathering after one of the hosts, who had been petting a kitten, begins petting my thigh.

Before I return to school the neighbors ask me if I would like to house-sit for them next summer while they are abroad. I think they have surmised that I’m not gay. I tell them I’d like to. When I mention this to my Dad he strongly discourages me because the homeowners are gay. I drop the idea.

1982, Age 31 – Duluth overwhelmingly defeats a “civil rights” ordinance which would require landlords to rent to gays. I tell my Dad that I’m inclined to oppose the ordinance. I feel bad that conservative Christian property owners could be forced to rent to open homosexuals. My Dad asks me why gays should be denied access to housing. I am ashamed.

That latter incident in 1982 is the one that falls in line with the furor in Indiana. Note first that my Dad and I seemingly changed political positions between 1971 and 1982. In 1982 I was trying to fit in, however uncomfortably, with the Republican Party that had not yet begun purging RINO’s. President Reagan kept talking up the Party’s “big tent.” Here my Father was sticking up for gays. In effect he let me know that my tolerance for refusing to rent to gays wasn’t any different from practices that let white folks deny housing to black Americans.

One of the fellows working on my attic was listening to conservative talk radio yesterday and one of the bloviators was going on about Native American’s using peyote in their religious ceremonies. That’s what gave birth to RFRA the Federal law analogous to Indiana’s law. The Supreme Court ruled that Indian religious practices, involving hallucinogens, were not protected under the law. Liberals of that Era jumped to the defense of Native America and RFRA was born. The bloviator used that history to defend Governor Pence and today’s Conservatives. Bloviators aren’t always wrong.

MAJ 1 – Restoration

I can’t say much more about our closed meeting yesterday than the Duluth News Tribune reported.

The School Board expelled two students as the story says. It follows on the heals of a troubling incident that made the front page of the Trib several days running. Draw any connection you wish. I will say that the school board asked almost every question that I think the public is asking. By virtue of being Board members we had our questions answered. We were concerned with justice. For my part I mentioned that in the early days of plane hijacking people in airports who joked about hijacking a plane were carted off.

We were concerned that there be some redemption possible. Our school leaders assured us that restorative justice would be employed. That’s something I’ve been enthusiastic about for a number of years although I’m not convinced we are as well practiced in it in ISD 709 as we should be.

The School Board unanimously agreed with the Administration’s response and went in to vote on our public resolution to accept the expulsions described. The Denfeld band was setting up to give us a little Music in the Schools concert so we shooed them out for five minutes to keep them uncontaminated from the unpleasantness.

Whatever our failings that may have helped lead up to tonight I think we acquitted ourselves well this night.

A sermon on bullying

This takes 63 minutes to watch in full. This is why all 50 states will likely soon accept gay marriage. Its the argument that evangelicals will succumb to and that will roll on through all other “conservative” Christian churches.

The attitude under girding this sermon could be applied to some of the Duluth School District’s dysfunction.

More on who this gentleman is here.

Mum’s the word

November 3, 2014

School Board Members
215 North First Avenue East
Duluth, MN 55802

Dear School Board Members:

Enclosed for your review please find a copy of Mary Rice’s investigation report. The exhibits to the report are available for your review in my office. Please contact Melinda Thibault if you want to arrange a time to review the exhibits.

The enclosed report is unredacted and should not be discussed or disclosed, in whole or in part, with anyone. The report contains private personnel data on District employees and private educational data. This information must be redacted before the report may be made available to anyone other than the Board members.

Please be advised that it is a misdemeanor for anyone to willfully violate the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act (“MGDP A”) by intentionally disclosing private personnel or educational data. Minn. Stat. § 13.09(a). Moreover, the MGDPA allows any person who has suffered damages as a result of a violation of the MGDP A to bring a lawsuit against a government entity for “any damages sustained, plus costs and reasonable attorney’s fees.” Minn. Stat. 13.08, subd. l. In the case of a willful violation, the government entity also could be liable for exemplary damages ranging from $1,000 to $15,000. Id.


Bill Hanson
CRO/Executive Director of Business Services


cc: Kevin Rupp

Piano Quintet in A major, B.155 (Op. 81)(once listed as 77)

It took me quite a while to type up that title. The last notes of the piece are fading away as I type this. Now Pandora is on to Chopin. I tried to copy the title and paste it in. That would have been simple but good old Word Press wouldn’t accept it. I thought it might be because I copied it from a link and perhaps there was something about a link that didn’t translate into text. The search for an alternate non link text led me to a webpage that showed the date of of Antonin Dvorak’s composition. It was 1887 the year my Grandfather Robb, that I go on so much about, was born.

Its quiet at 4:43 this Sunday morning. I got a good four hours sleep. Maybe that’s enough if I get a couple naps in after or before Sunday’s worship service. Claudia needs to go there because she is sitting in to watch the kid’s sunday school. She’ll be taking notes for one of her religion classes.

I wasn’t dreaming about the School Board when I woke. It had been a dream about my having brought living dinosaurs back to life. Continue reading

Crazy Numbers, Priorities, the Silent Treatment

It was 6:21am when I began opening up this blog to begin this post. It will be a simple post but I want to impress upon my readers just how long a simple post can take to write. I can work for hours on particularly long ones especially when I embed links to other stories and webpages within the post. I’ll report the time at the point I upload or “publish” it.


I have a head for numbers. That is not to say I have an easy time with math especially accounting to the penny. I was always very undependable back forty years ago trying to balance a check book. But I have never had any trouble with forests of numbers. If I have roughly ten grand in the bank I can go for a year rounding off numbers of deposits and withdrawals and keep a good approximation of the balance in my head, usually withing ten or twenty percent. I have always avoided credit like the plague. Its the hemophilia of bookkeeping. Its a slow leak of money that over time will dry a bank account to the bone.

So, I’ve added a couple new statistics to my thinking. The first is not terribly different than the one that has been in my head for years. It probably came from and NPR story so I have little doubt about its general accuracy. It is this: Roughly 1 in 3 “black” kids will spend time in jail. For Latino kids its 1 in 6. For whites its 1 in 17. I could and no doubt will, and probably already have, written about this in this blog. After worrying about the question of human potential among the various collections of humans artificially divided into a anti-scientific myth called “race,” I’m severely annoyed that something as benign as melanin should be the determining factor in assigning people to costly, damaging and degrading atrocities like prison. It tests my faith in apple pie, motherhood, the statute of liberty, the constitution and the stars and stripes. Not nearly “nuff said,” but I’m in a hurry.

The next number is one I heard today on another NPR story I half listened to about, I’m not sure, Daycare I guess. I was only half listening. It is this. The average daycare providers in the US earn $22,000 a year (a pittance). The requirements for providing daycare are roughly equal to the qualifications demanded of prison guards. Prison Guards in the US earn an average of $72,000 a year. I could pontificate about this at length and as noted in the previous paragraph probably already have or will at some point in the future. Again, not nearly “nuff said.” If the juxtaposition of these two figures doesn’t set your mind into the spin mode what the Hell are you reading my blog for anyway?


I’ve posted about this often in the last year. For me right now its Family first, Saving the Duluth Schools second, Getting a writing career started, or something like that……It will probably change the next time I write about it.

As this construction season has bled away from me I find myself with one putzy project left I paid someone else to do the last time it was attended to – painting the woodwork on my brick house. It needs to be scraped, spot primed, and painted. I don’t have enough time to do it now. I started but I’ll end up finishing up the little I started and then resume the majority of the work next spring. I may do that grudgingly or hire someone to finish it because next spring I hope to attend to two other non family tasks. 1st Electing a sensible new school board in November of 2015 and fixing up my attic into a place where I can commence my writing career with all the documents I’ve collected over forty years and the couple thousand books I’ve put together to make sense of the world. I’d hoped to do that this year but first I sacrificed a 40th year anniversary river cruise through Europe and then the building project itself when we were hit with a huge tax as we altered our retirement financing.

Life……its so two steps forward, one step back.

Meanwhile I’m still attending to the first priority. I had the grandkids over last night as per Wednesday’s usual and I got myself signed up to be a chaperon for half a day on a field trip with the little dickens who crawled into bed with me at 3am this morning to steal my heat. Last weekend we took both of them to Iowa for a family reunion with Claudia’s farming relatives. The boys got to drive a tractor twice as big as anything I ever saw in a farm field when I was little and roll around in several tons of corn. When they got back home their mother dislodged a corn kernel from the old boys hair at bath time. I facebooked the pictures but I won’t be putting them here because of my priorities. It will take too much time to do it with all the other things I’d like to blog about whenever I find the time to get to them.


This, of course, refers to the last post. My buddy sent me this nudge yesterday:

On Wed, Sep 17, 2014 at 2:06 PM, [Harry’s Buddy] wrote:

From (Sometimes when I go silent…)
I have the most to say.

Oh, come on, Harry. Jump in. The water is deep.

[Your Buddy]

To which I replied:

It sure is. Oh my roof’s got a hole in it but I might drown…..


Some of these entries are little literary tricks meant to keep people looking. But it is true I’ve got a lot of distractions. I don’t want to metamorepose badly too often or readers will get the idea I’m trying to miseducate their children. Besides, you always beat me up when I get sloppy.


This started out as a post to let me mention a couple stray statistics before they evaporated from my head. Its now 7:06am. 45 minutes. Sheesh!

Gotta go make breakfast for the grandkids and see if there is any useful news in the Tribune which may be waiting me on my front porch.

PS. I haven’t proof read this post but I did decide to add that I added a colon (:) after PRIORITIES. That and this addendum added another five minutes to the posting.

Promises, Promises

I’ve promised readers that I would explain my theory that one tool used in the courts is to impoverish court adversaries. This relates to my dubious expectation that the District pay for Art Johnston’s court costs if he is exonerated. I’ve promised myself to explain my conviction that young black Tim was pulled over for being black by the Duluth police. That’s because my old buddy and email sparring party accused me of making assumptions that young black Tim was telling the truth without giving the Duluth police a similar assumption. I think that is an important assumption to defend. But I will first devote myself to Loren Martell in several successive posts which are timely.

A sane, fair, and neutral appraisal of the Duluth School Board

One of the pleasures of being in the public eye is the chance to meet folks who are passionate about the same sort of things you are. Last summer during the campaign I met a fine young man, Gosh that makes me sound old and patronizing, Karl Schuettler. Karl is a bright young fellow of his generation with a formidable collegiate education and limited employment prospects. He will be remedying that, or delaying a return to underemployment, by heading off to graduate school soon.

His chief interests are International relations, East High and hockey. In pursuit of all these ends he has taken on the masochistic task of attending Duluth School Board meetings. Its been painful but he has taken pains to post thoughtful, insightful and diplomatically candid assessments of these meetings and the characters he reports on. I know he is neutral because Art Johnston once griped at one of Karl’s posts when I sent it to him because it was apparent that Art is not one of Karl’s favorite board members. Karl has done right by me so, of course, I’m happy to describe Karl’s assessments in superlatives. That doesn’t mean I always get a pass from Karl. In fact, one of my proposals at this week’s board meeting gets a serious and probably accurate critique from Karl to wit: paying Art Johnston’s legal fees should he be vindicated. Its a serious issue that I’ve thought a lot about over the years and I hope to write a post on the issue of bleeding the accused into a state of financial impotence as a police tactic.

Whatever else you read about our last meeting, if you really want to get a good look at how dysfunctional we are, read Karl’s take. Things will likely get much worse so I’m glad Karl is heading off to some place more uplifting.

Oh, and I knew I had to link to Karl’s blog post even before Claudia came down in her bath robe to ask me what made me laugh so loud I scared the cat off the bed a floor above. It was Karl’s gnats.

The Minnesota State Odditor

I woke my wife up in St. Louis this morning at 2:30 a.m. to get into our car in drive for ten and a half hours straight to get to Duluth and the State Auditor’s presentation. I unpacked the car and printed out a dozen pieces of paper related to the Red Plan the District’s finances and messages sent back and forth between the Auditor and Loren Martell who got the ball rolling. I hustled over to the Board room groggy from my long drive but twenty minutes before the presentation. I was handed the exhaustive 8 page report which concludes with a sentence that begins, “We were not engaged to, and did not perform an audit…”

No kidding. To every question Art Johnston and I asked the three, count em three, auditors did their impression of the great Hogan’s Heroe character Sergeant Schultz,”I know nothing.”

The only information they reviewed came from the folks we wanted audited. They declined to offer any opinions even when asked such safe questions as would the State Auditor frown on double dipping by vendors bilking local government? I asked that question although not perhaps as succinctly.

In my email to her staff member Mark Kerr I mentioned that my grandfather had been a state auditor until Kansas abolished the office years after his retirement probably for being redundant. I think it might be time for Minnesota to consider doing the same thing. After what I heard tonight I am sure all of the embezzlers in Minnesota’s local governments can rest easy.

Along came Mary pt. 3

I ended by telling Mary that I thought the big unspoken issue in this investigation is the provocation of Art Johnston. I spell it out in my fundraising letter.

She was very interested in the notes I told her I took (but did not type out) after meeting with Bill Gronseth and his subordinates when I advised him that he was getting terrible political and financial advice. I told her I would type them up and give them to her. She seemed to wince a bit. I think she didn’t want me to type them up. Ditto notes I took from an employee who was treated so badly she stands as a beacon of racial discrimination and mistreatment by the Duluth Schools.

Its a story every bit as sorry as the one about Jane Bushey’s persecutor.

I expect Kevin Rupp to be sharing all these interviews with Supt. Gronseth immediately to warn him how to defend the District. I hope I’m wrong.

Along came Mary pt. 2

As Mary Rice handed me my legal disclaimer to sign indicating that I understood all this secrecy rigamarole I handed her my four page fundraising letter telling her that it was a good summation of my thoughts. She skimmed it.

She had her laptop out and typed as she asked questions and while her recorded got my spoken answers. My mind doesn’t much feel like trying to recall all the lines of questions because I drank too much coffee yesterday afternoon and got barely any sleep last night. I’ve got a school board meeting in an hour and it was all I could do to read the old minutes.

I told her I was eager to read what she had to say when her report came out since we were voting tonight to treat Art as a politician with all the warts visible rather than an employee vulnerable to lots of accusations but with no data to support it……the manure on the barn wall to discredit him publically.

Frankly, I have no confidence that any of this testimony will ever make it public. Mary offered no such assurances. As I told her I’m offended that the glory of American law…the accused’s ability getting to face his accuser doesn’t apply in these data privacy cases. Its a situation that favors the manure spreaders.

Along came Mary pt. 1

Attorney Mary Rice interviewed me for nearly two hours this afternoon. She was cordial and as we went into the office behind the School Board dias for our session I sang a few bars of the Association’s “Along Came Mary.” She told me it came out in 1967 which I don’t doubt because it was her name. I set out three old tape cassettes and started them telling Mary I had no idea how to use them so I hoped one of them would record our conversation. She put her singleton down and we commenced.

I was handed a form letter to sign saying I understood that this was part of an investigation. It asked me to keep everything discussed confidential and I explained that since it only asked rather than demanded I planned to make anything we discussed public. She said that was up to me.

She explained that she was strictly neutral. I’d like to think so but Mary was clearly not my attorney however neutral she acted in our interview. Art Johnston’s attorney says her firm helps our attorney, Kevin Rupp, to investigate errant school board members. We’re paying them but they work at Kevin Rupp’s discretion. I presume their loyalty is to Kevin.

How neutral is Kevin? Like the Superintendent I think he is loyal to whoever constitutes the majority on the Board. That’s who will extend his contract into the future. That may not be Art and me who in any case constitute a painfully small minority.

Kevin has his own material interest in this investigation. He is paid handsomely by our District to advise us and negotiate our contracts. He is thick as thieves with the Superintendent and already once condescended to deprecate my knowledge of the law at a school board meeting. He’s managed to negotiate our teacher’s salary to the fifteenth highest in the State previously. I still don’t know how it will rank after his most recent efforts where he did not advise the Superintendent to let me participate despite our District policy listing me as a member of the negotiating committee.

Kevin may have as much reason as the Superintendent to keep me the smallest minority possible long into the future. Mary was a very nice thorough person but excuse me for some unease with her assurance of neutrality.

Sorry Mary. That’s how I look at it. You did tell me you are aware of my blog and I think suggested that you had taken a peek at it. I’m not sure how you phrased that but I’m not sure I’ve got the endurance to live through those two hours of interview again to catch your exact acknowledgment of that fact.

St. Louis County Schools version of WW III

I have been remiss for the past couple months posting the goings on to our north in the other local District to have been contaminated with Johnson Controlled foolishness. The Timberjay Newspaper has been not only vindicated for conducting a serious review of that District’s JCI building project but lionized by the newspaper association and both political parties in the State legislature. That is quite the trifecta.

Its Editor is asking for the removal or resignation of the Board Chair.

Pol Pot’s boys

The second half of a story on NPR got me thinking today as I drove in the dark to McDonalds for an oatmeal and coffee. It was about the recent slaughter of forest elephants in the Central African Republic. It was produced by the same NPR reporter who visited the forest twelve years ago to record the sounds of these elephants for a report I well remember.

The killings were for the ivory trade which is rapidly reducing elephants to those hidden behind bars in the world’s zoos. Its a surprising story and in some ways a heartening one but it illustrates the disquieting fact that there is nowhere in the world now that nature is safe from mankind.

I was thinking about the unknown elephant killers. Apparently they were from the Sudan no the Central African Republic. That would be a little like folks from New York traveling to Nebraska to poach. Photos of African child soldiers are all over. These soldiers were likely kids who were kidnapped or who were orphaned and drummed into local insurgencies. Such soldiers probably account for the 300 Nigerian school girls whose only fault was choosing to go to school and being rapeable. There is a ridiculously thin veneer of religion used to justify this crime. The kind of justification a child might use for pushing his littler brother over a cliff.

Africa is full of abandoned children. All throughout sub Saharan Africa there is a sentiment that explains kids that can’t be taken care of by their families as being possessed by demons. You can find shades of this wherever children are neglected. Why are one third of America’s black boys fated to be sent to prison or jail sometime in their lives?

One thing I was confident of as a child learning about the Holocaust was that a civilized world would never let such a thing happen again. Imagine my shock when as a climax to the Vietnam War a shadowy group claiming ties to communism as tenuous as Boko Haram’s are with Islam rounded up the entire population of Cambodia and marched everyone under armed guard to the jungles and made them “farm.” Rather than let everyone starve Pol Pot’s soldiers, many of whom were war orphans who had grown up with guns in the forest, gave their Kalashnikovs to city raised children with orders for them to shoot their parents. A gun was trained on the murderers-to-be’s heads so they had little choice.

William Golding’s remarkable little novel “Lord of the Flies” portrays civilized children left to their own devices on a desert island becoming dangerously feral. I’d suggest that abandoning children to adults in war is a surer path for them to become disciples of Hell. I’m sure this was true in China in the time of the war lords and at every other Era in the world History where mayhem ruled.

Civilization is a fragile tissue easily torn. Abandoned children are a tear (rip) ready to happen. They will join gangs rather than starve, shoot elephants, kidnap school girls, you name it. But its not just abandoned children that we have to watch out for. Recent analysis of rapes on college campuses, hardly the province of abandoned children, suggest that most of the thousands of reported rapes are the work of about 6 out of every 100 college men. These fellows must be the kind of people, who during war, know how to put abandoned children to good use or run concentration camps or maybe, in peacetime, who become prison guards, corporate CEO’s or sometimes ministers.

How does one wade through such a world of Pol Pots boys or their mentors? The carpenter’s son from Nazareth reportedly advised: “Be as wise as serpents and gentle as doves.”

When we put one-third of all black American men in jail I don’t think that advice is being heeded. It would probably require a “Christian” nation to put that advice into practice.

JCI’s Get out of jail free card

As the friend who emailed this to me said, “I guess the battle is over.” The scrappy little Timberjay was on the verge of getting a peek at how JCI went about its business with the St. Louis County Schools.

The Timberjay has asked for public data on the JCI work done on the St. Louis County Schools and took their case to the Minnesota Supreme Court. They seemed poised to get it when the Court ruled that it was indeed public. But then the Supreme Court pulled the rug out from under the public with this ruling that JCI didn’t have to disclose the public data:

“The government is required to provide clear notice in contracts for the performance of a government function that a private business performing such a function is subject to the requirements of the Data Practices Act and that the businesses must comply with those requirements as if it were a government entity,” Chief Justice Lorie Gildea stated in the ruling. Because the school district did not provide such notice, Gildea continued, JCI was not required to release the materials.

In my email of condolance I wrote:

What Bull,

So the District was supposed to quote the statute in the contract for the statute to apply? Brings new meaning to the old adage “ignorance is bliss.”

I’m guessing that Duluth is SOL too because I doubt we included that notice in our contract. Who was that notice supposed to protect? The taxpayers or the vendor JCI?


JCI has earned plenty of public dollars to insulate them in the courts from the taxpayers who forked the money over. They have claimed that their data is “proprietory” information or their own secret formula for success that they must keep secret from their competitors. To me this is like saying lying through your teeth to the customer or fraud are proprietary secrets. Our jails are full of people who would love to be able to make a similar claim.

If I had known this and attended the “Delegate Assembly” of the Minnesota Schools Association I would have offered a proposal to encourage all School Districts to include the new Supreme Court mandated language to assure that contractors could not hide public data in a contract.

As Mike Miernicki pointed out to me in a recent conversation no contractors would willingly disclose how much profit they earned from a public works project. However most public works projects, unlike the Red Plan, got their start in a competitive public bidding process to assure a fair price. That was not the case with the Red Plan and now it seems the state Supreme Court has placed one more obstacle in our way from getting any kind of accounting from JCI.

Bullying Awareness Prevention Month…

…is October.

I do not have all the facts of this next story. It is a sobering story both tragic and a bit of a mystery. Its a tragedy because one of our students in the Duluth Schools took his life this September. It is a mystery because, apparently the School District and the Duluth Police are investigating the details and one or the other have requested the grieving family to make no statements. It would be easy for me to criticize the District and it has apparently had the affect of angering the family.

I first heard about the death a month ago at our church’s worship service. A boy had taken his life and acquaintances asked for prayers for the family. It was a surprise to me as I’d heard no news of the death in the local press. This could have been for good reason. There are often copy cat suicides, in fact, a few years ago three Duluth students took their lives in quick succession in something of a domino effect.

I’m not sure how I divined that the death was a suicide but at the Health Forum I made some light of two weeks ago I did mention that a suicide had taken place in one of our schools. I couldn’t say that overcrowded classrooms were to blame but I did point out that under the crowded situation in our schools it would be much easier for a troubled child to be overlooked by teachers swimming in students.

Then the student’ Aunt wrote a letter published last week by the Reader Weekly. I read it at the time and wondered at the unusual venue for the letter. It wasn’t in the paper of record for Duluth, the Tribune. It was in the alternative publication. I don’t have a copy of the letter at hand but I received an email from a friend of the family who wrote that the powers that be were trying to hush up the story. This may not be an unreasonable request. An investigation is underway and it would be premature to draw conclusions. Evidently the boy wrote a suicide note pointing the blame at another student who was characterized as a bully. The police seized the letter and no more has been heard from anyone about the course of the investigation. This has left a sour taste with the boy’s family.

All I know is that a child has died and the general public is unaware of this. It is ironic that it should have happened days before Bullying Awareness Prevention Month.

Red Equity

I almost forgot about my comments on equity at last night’s Lakeside forum when we were asked our thoughts about the subject.

I mentioned the new Duluth East Stadium, an addition to the Red Plan after we were assured the plan wasn’t too expensive. It was one of 60 million in additional expenses that drove the cost up from just over a quarter million dollars to $315 million.

The addition of the stadium was approved in the name of equity. Denfeld out west had a stadium, Public School Stadium and it just wasn’t equitable that the eastern half of Duluth would miss out on having its own stadium. Besides some parents had complained that Denfeld wasn’t very welcoming to East kids who played at PSS. So, to make things fair we built a six million stadium for East Duluth for the half dozen football games they would play at home each year. (I only had a minuted to answer the question but I can embellish and draw out my sneering here on the blog)

I pointed out that until the stadium was added in the name of fairness the word “equity” in public education had always referred to poor and underpriveleged students and bending over backward to assure their fair treatment in the schools to make up for their assets. In Duluth this had been perverted to let what was widely regarded as the rich end of town to have its own stadium. I used the word perverted at the forum.

We have had a truly magical few days recently of balmy sunny weather. On my way home I drove past East High and the aforementioned stadium. There was a night game. It looked like football players at the far end of the field to me but a quick search of the Sports results for last night informs me that Duluth East was hosting a soccer game. I’m so glad. Soccer has not yet become a big sport in the US and that may be the explanation for the paltry 30 or 40 people in the stands. I hope the six football games East hosts all see larger crowds for our new tribute to fairness.

Six Paragraphs

My return to the Reader Weekly, Duluth’s largest tabloid, was a little awkward. Although its publisher had kind words for me as he introduced five new columnists – “Harry is a terrific writer” – its hard not to wonder if that isn’t a promotion of the Reader rather than its returned writer.

My column was submitted and as far as I could tell languished unacknowledged for two weeks before publication. I got home late this afternoon and found that it was indeed in this week’s Reader if not in the Reader’s new website. A picture I’d submitted was not included. My dozen paragraphs were pared down to half that. To the extent that the breaks helped refocus my narative the elimination of them seemed to make it a little breathless. I suspect I’m in part to blame for the mis-communication about what I wanted published. I was on vacation and gloriously distracted until the last two days when I called and found out that another column was wanted forthwith. Yesterday I spent four hours in the car heading home and racing through North Dakota’s stretch of I-94 busily editing a rough draft down from 1100 words to 650 or so. when it shows up a week from now it will be titled “…illions.”

I’m exhausted from a long day and have valiently but incompetantly attempted to stick it into my old website. I’m too tired to correct the mistakes tonight. I need sleep. but for those of you who can’t wait here it is as I would have preferred it to have appeared in print. Tomorrow and henceforth I’ll put it in the proper place and this link will take you to the parent webpage.