Pony up

I just checked my email and found the Trib’s latest news alert. Long after I got home from the agenda session the Council voted 5-4 on Mayor Ness’s sanitary sewer plan.

Their vote on the Krause motion was small potatoes. They have now imposed a monthly charge on most homeowners and a staggering $7,000 repair bill for a few. These will go to repair lateral sewer lines from homes to the City sewer. Its something I’m thinking about doing because the old clay pipes from our house may have crumbled leading to the sewage overflow we suffered last fall. I’m determined never to go through that again.

These expenses and those of the School District’s Red Plan (which still requires another $90 million from local tax payers) will put voters in a very sour mood in November.

“Aren’t you just a little curious?”

I try to get my Red Plan work out of the way before Claudia comes home so that she can enjoy a normal home after work. She doesn’t enjoy my politickting. I had more or less promised to come to tonight’s City Council’s agenda meeting but was trying to think of an excuse not to go.

Our patio and garden have been neglected in part due to cold weather, the basement remodeling (which has at time caused demolition debris to be heaped on the patio), and time spent in our daughter’s new garden getting her new home established. We went to Engwalls to pick up some flowers. I suggested a couple getting a couple of hanging baskets with great white fuschia blossoms. Claudia assented and also picked some begonias and vinca vine. I made a stop at Home Depot and got a couple eye hooks and screwed them into our arbor so that they hang above our patio swing. We hope to attract hummingbirds again this year.

Claudia asked what I wanted for dinner and I reluctantly told her I wanted to attend the Agenda session. We would eat afterward.

I signed up to speak and fortunately didn’t have to wait too long. (Chester Creek Cafe stopped serving at 9PM) A half dozen of us spoke up to encourage the City Council to add Garry Krause’s motion to put the Red Plan up for a vote. It was pretty obvious that it would fail because even those of the Council who thought the School Board should have done this had already made up their mind that it wasn’t the City’s business.

I’d sent a couple emails to the City Council earlier, my first ever, arguing the point, and after listening to the Move Duluth Forward folks decided to ad lib my thoughts again.

Jim Stauber who has been Krause’s lone ally on the vote knew the jig was up but just before the vote asked his fellow councilors with a sly smile, “aren’t you just a little curious?”

I’m sure they were but they voted down adding the motion to the agenda 7 to 2.

2:30AM – can’t sleep

So I got up quietly shut the door to my bedroom and tiptoed into my office. Looked out the window and saw two young men skateboarding to the intersection of 21st Ave E. They turned on their flashlights and headed straight down the hill on the avenue on their boards hoping for no traffic and tempting fate. I haven’t heard any sirens yet.

The yellow cat with the stub tail was in my chair so I rolled him out of the way and moved a different chair in front of the computer. I’m so nice to little animals. Time to blog.

The Red Plan’s “Project Executive” quits.

Dave Korhonen has called it quits. I gave him a call and he gave me some interesting information. One gem which I’ve written about on the Let Duluth Vote website.”

“The difference between Duluth and Superior is however dramatic. Superior got to vote. The voters in Superior passed a $47 million bond referendum. That sounds like a lot although its probably considerably less per student than the Red Plan but Superior got a bargain. The referendum was passed at a time when the state of Wisconsin paid two-thirds of the cost of the building. Superior voters only paid a modest $15 million dollars. Duluth voters will be footing a $293 million bill.”

No equipment budgeted – AGAIN?

At our meeting with the Publisher and Editor of the Duluth News Tribune Gary Glass said something that astonished me. The Red Plan has no budget for equiping the schools that are being built. That is exactly what happened (or didn’t happen) in Faribault when Dr. Dixon got his new schools built. There wasn’t money left to furnish the schools and it had to come out of operations and that led to budget problems and failed levies and angry citizens.

I’ve linked to the story before as it was reported in the local tabloid Zenith City Semi Weekly. Since then several stories from the Faribault newspaper have been foundwhich confirm that Dr. Dixon’s troubles were widely reported in the Faribault newspaper. You will find seven new links to these stories of Dr. Dixon’s dark days which seem about to be repeated in Duluth.

One criticism of Dr. Dixon’s opponants is that they have been slandering him. If we have been its because it all started in Faribault.

Where was JCI’s transportation study?

Since saving energy has been one of the prime justifications for tearing down and rebuilding so many of Duluth’s Schools I can’t help but wonder at one of the biggest voids in the self serving JCI analysis of our schools – transportation costs.

When Let Duluth Vote was talking to the State Education folks they kept asking us for information on transportation. I for one kept scratching my head over this because I couldn’t believe the District hadn’t handed something in to the state about this considerable expense. They still haven’t.

When I was on the Board we hired a firm to do some extensive studies to guide us in making more effecient bus routes. We compared the costs of our busses with those of private contractors and the City busses which were allowed by special legislation to carry our students to and from school. We bought an expensive software package that allowed us to plot the homes of every one of our students and caculate many possible bus routes. This makes such a study today a piece of cake. Our board saved a bundle (half-a-million dollars a year is the figure that sticks in my head) on transportation without kicking any kids off the bus.

Why wouldn’t JCI be interested in a little cake? Well, closing schools will mean longer distances for busses to travel and more kids being driven to school which will increase fuel costs, especially with gasoline at $4/gallon. Having the school board learn this might have made JCI’s project a little harder sell. How much will these costs offset the savings of JCI’s energy conservation enviornmental controls? Who the heck knows? That’s probably the way JCI wants it. Ignorance may not be bliss but it can be profitable.

2011 Red Plan taxes

I mentioned in an earlier post that Chairman Nancy Nilsen was corrected by the District’s bond counsel when she told Gary Glass there would be no more additional taxes on the Red Plan. Here’s the plan. I gave this to Rob Karwath the Trib’s Editor at our meeting this morning.

Breakfast with the Trib

After three weeks of talking to the Publisher about having a meeting with him about the Red Plan and Johnson Controls we met today at Porters.

Garry Glass and I were joined by two architects and an engineer who have all expressed doubts about the plans. We met for about two and half very productive hours. Mr. McLister the publisher expressed his interest in investing in Duluth and a laudable interest in public education. He mentioned that Duluth has a reputation for killing development which I couldn’t disagree with. Nonetheless, he admitted that he has been running into critics of the Red Plan everywhere he turns and is concerned about a “trainwreck.” I couldn’t agree more.

Early on there was some fencing over the responsibilities of the Press but afterwards the disussion was quite thoughtful. I think the Trib would like to play a role in getting the two sides together to talk over their differences. That would be novel and, from our point of view, welcome.

My email to the City Council

“Councilors,

The Trib reports today that Councilor Krause is once again attempting to put the Red Plan up for a referendum. Councilor Krause apparently wants to gauge public support or opposition before the City begins cooperating with the building. The paper reports that Krause does not anticipate any expense due to a special election so he must be thinking of holding this referendum during the coming primary or general election.

This year about $10 million will be spent on the Red plan. That leaves $283 million left to spend. My personal prediction is that the Red Plan will never be built in its entirety. The School Board is scheduled to borrow another $90 million in 2011 to complete the Red Plan. That will be two years after next year’s School Board election. I do not expect any of the School Board members who support the Red Plan to be reelected. Without them the Red Plan will be cut short.

Some of us are confident that legal action will bring the plan to a halt in the year between this and next year’s construction seasons. If a referendum was to pass we would cease all opposition to the Red Plan and it could proceed unhindered. This alone would be a great blessing.

The Duluth School Board is greedily eating into resources that the City desperately needs for new schools of dubious necessity. To ignore this is to ignore the elephant in the living room and dismissing Councilor Krause’s measure out of hand flies in the face of the public’s wishes. Tough talk about the City Council only acting where the City Council is concerned completely ignores the School Board’s hogging of tax resources which are critical to the City. Its the City Council’s job to take forceful action on this matter rather than rolling over and playing dead.

Harry Welty”

Go Garry

Garry Krause has returned with a new proposal for the City Counil. Todd Fedora doesn’t like it any more than he liked Garry’s first proposal.

Fedora first complained that Garry’s original referendum was not binding. This time, with the City Council’s muscle it might very well affect and possibly deter the School Board.

It would not be unprecedented. a few years ago another Minnesota city council (Barnesville I think) prevented its school board from building a high school for several years until its concerns were addressed. Duluth’s City Council could do the same thing.

Where this blog is headed

For my eight loyal readers I’d like to report where this blog is headed.

This blog was born over two years ago prior to my quixotic race against Congressman Jim Oberstar. I began using this as a vehical to point out deficiencies in Oberstar. When I was talked into running for the School Board last year I used it to point out flaws in the Red Plan – the Duluth School Board’s floolishly extravagant building plan. Lately its been all Red Plan all the time. That won’t continue. I’ll still dwell heavily on the Red Plan. I expect it to collapse of its own weight and this blog will continue to pile on.

Between causes the blog has sat idle. That could happen again but if it does I’ll still make additions to my even older website www.snowbizz.com.

From its inception I put in some personal information making this something of a personal diary. I’ll resume that. Eleanor Roosevelt did some of this too when she wrote a column for the daily papers back during FDR’s Administration.

I also included silly things I ran accross on the Internet. The only blog I read avidly, The Daily Dish, by Andrew Sullivan often puts such things in. He calls them “mental health breaks” I call them “hoots.” By the way I will likely repost interesting things I find on his blog as well as other interesting things I run across.

The next post will be an interesting one that my argumentative friend Vic sent me today. We’re lining up to take different sides on the Presidential race.

I’ve long thought that the best Presidential race would be a matchup between Senator’s McCain, who I campaigned for in 2000, and Barack Obama. I’m planning on voting for Obama this year for a myriad of reasons but Robert Samuelson’s commentary is a cautionary one well worth reading. Samuelson is Newsweek Magazine’s economics reporter and I’ve read him religiously for ages.

Samuelson makes the sad and inevitable point that no one can run successfully for President without making debilitating promises. Our rose tinted memories of past Presidents must be tempered with the knowledge that the best ones all went through periods of public disapproval.

Eminent Domain

Some problems with the School Board’s use of Eminent Domain.

A sample:

“Under the JCI plan homes are now being acquired for parking lots across from the school. Ironically one of them is owned by a man who for years has asked the city for permission to put a garage on his property. He has been repeatedly been turned down because his land sits on a watershed. Now JCI will acquire his property by eminent domain and turn it into – a parking lot.”

An Inconvenient Problem

According to Saturday’s Trib Denfeld students got together and produced a movie documentary called “An Inconvenient Problem.” Its about the inadequacy of the Denfeld science labs. I’m sure its true. I suspect it will be used to persuade people to vote for the fall operational levy. I’m sure it won’t work. Voters will ask themselves whether it should really take $293 million in spending to fix up science labs.