Fiddling around

I put up a lawnsign a few weeks ago urging voters to vote no on the proposed constitutional ban on gay marriage. I mention this only to give some context to the following comments.

The Trib has done a good job outing Rep. Gauthier who was caught by police just after a hurried act of intimacy at a highway rest stop with another fellow. Tawdry, embarrassing and human.

I’ve never had a very positive feeling about Rep. Gauthier. It wasn’t because he was rumored to be gay but had more to do with his personality. Despite that I can’t help feeling a little pity for him. At 56 he came around long after gay liberation which has been a great improvement over the bad old closeted days. He may be one of the last gay Americans to suffer the indignity of such a public outing.

He’s unmarried. The act was consensual. Also, as the DNT points out with some apparent irritation, no laws have been broken. Its too late for the DFL to field another candidate and I know nothing about the Republican challenger except that before this he had zero chance of being elected.

I long for the day that voters can vote against a guy like Gauthier in good conscience because he fiddled around with a kid and not because he was fiddling around with a boy.

War on Clean Air

RE the previous post:

Mitt was trying to hurt Obama in West Virginia where the big coal companies imperil miners with shoddy safety practices, communities with waste heaps, while enhancing the environment by shaving the tops off mountains to provide coal which releases vast quantities of sulfuric and nitric acid into the atmosphere which a few decades ago almost totally denuded Shenendoah National Park.

But the businessman “I built that” Romney fails to understand that it is Natural gas production that is killing coal in West Virginia. From today’s DNT. (Darn it, they don’t seem to have put the story on their website ) Here it is from the Associated Press.

This could lead to a whole new argument about “fracking” and its perils but one indisputable consequence of fracking has been cleaner air a vast improvement over the kind of choking Chinese smog that Romney seems to favor – you know – with none of that business killing government regulation.

I have a new found personal interest in this. Among my Mother’s assets is a small ownership interest in Texas gas and oil property. She owns a little over three-one-thousandths percent interest in about six oil wells. For several years a number of companies have offered to buy her interest in the wells. Although the wells have produced a lot smaller revenue lately I suspect fracking may improve production at some point in the near future.
Some day One-and-a-half one-thousandths of those oil and gas wells will be mine. As with this blog I’ll be pleased to do my part in clearing the air.

The Iron Drainge

My Buddy sent me this story about the shrinking heft of the Iron Range for the 8th Congressional District.

When Tony Sertich graduated from Chisholm High in 1994, he was one of about 80 seniors who crowded the stage, he recalls.

This year, the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board commissioner and former House DFL majority leader returned to his alma mater as the commencement speaker. The graduating class numbered fewer than 40.

A MN Supreme Court ruling worthy of comment

Editorial: A Catch-22 ruling for state’s schools
Minneapolis Star Tribune

A recent Minnesota Supreme Court decision is likely to lead to a damned-if-they-do, damned-if-they-don’t dilemma for the state’s school districts.

Last week, the court said that state campaign finance rules do indeed apply to school districts. So if school officials use public resources to ask taxpayers for more money, they must register and report that activity like any other political committee.

Even before the ruling, school district leaders already understand that they could not campaign for a referendum, based on a decades-old attorney general’s ruling. They know they are limited to providing referendum information to the public. Filing a campaign finance report, of course, would suggest they’ve crossed the line from offering facts and figures to promoting a particular vote.

The question came before justices because some “Vote No” citizens challenged St. Louis County schools over a ballot initiative. An administrative law judge rejected their claim and said campaign finance rules did not apply to school districts. But the group appealed to the high court.

Supreme Court justices found that school districts may fall within the reporting requirements of the law as “public corporations.” Still, the court did not rule on whether the district violated reporting laws. That will be left for a panel of administrative law judges to decide.

It’s certainly no secret that superintendents and a majority of their school board members favor passage of school referendums. They are, after all, the officials who make the request for additional tax dollars. Superintendents and their staffs manage district budgets and make referendum recommendations to school boards. When a school board votes to place a request on the ballot, the vote says it supports passage of the referendum.

Once they decide to make the request, it is their duty to explain why the funds are needed, how they will be used and how the tax hike will affect property taxpayers. That’s why most districts seeking additional tax dollars post information on their websites.

However, for years, school district leaders have understood that they may not actively campaign for a ballot question with school resources. Simply put, they must not cross the line that separates providing information to voters from telling them how to vote.

Those promotional functions are typically left to a separate committee, often run by volunteer parents, that produces flyers, lawn signs and other campaign materials. “Vote Yes” committees raise their own funds and do not use school district resources.

Erick Kaardal, the attorney who brought the St. Louis County case on behalf of citizens who believed their schools crossed the line, told the Star Tribune that the Supreme Court ruling would increase transparency.

We generally favor more transparency at all levels of government, but we fear that the ruling will embolden “Vote No” groups to mount costly legal challenges to legitimate information efforts by school districts.

If that’s not the case — and if the court’s decision simply stands as a strong reminder to schools officials that they shouldn’t use public funds for referendum campaigns — Minnesota will have been well-served by its high court.

Paul Ryan throws over Ayn Rand…

…for Jesus. If my previous posts on the budget hawk can be believed.

Its tough enough for the GOP to have a Mormon on the ticket let alone a worshiper of Ayn Rand who famously called Christianity “the best kindergarten of communism possible.”

Ryan introduced a bill to recognizes newly fertilized human egg cells as persons with legal rights. He just doesn’t want to cover them with medicaid if they get sick.

Today, 19 percent of the U.S. population is on Medicaid, nearly half of whom are children.

The last post is mistaken…

…in saying the DNT did not carry the story about the Minnesota Supreme Court ruling against the St. Louis County Schools.

I was in town for a short time when I quickly perused two day’s worth of Tribs. I already knew the story was out there because it had been on MPR (public radio). I found it when I googled but missed the small story on an inside page in the DNT.

If only my general observation about the DNT’s coverage of the Red Plan were as inaccurate.

And I threw water on Justice Page…

…at the Grandma’s Marathon back in the 1970’s.

In his opinion, Justice Alan Page writes there’s nothing in state law to indicate the Legislature intended to exempt school districts from campaign reporting requirements.

Funny but this story was reported by the San Francisco Bee. I suppose its too much to expect the Duluth News Tribune to print it. They’ll do anything to get us to forget about JCI and the misleading that they did to get the Red Plan started. Fortunately for the School Board they found a way to get it built so that they didn’t have to lie through their teeth to get a referendum passed. They raised the money without a vote of the people.

I’m late returning to the cabin but the story is more complete on Minnesota Public Radio’s website.

2022 kind of appeals to me

When will the majority of Americans have no personal memory of these?

I hope we’re still studying Lincoln. I’ve been on a week’s at the cabin rest without Internet (I came home today to feed the cats) and am half way through Goodwin’s book on Lincoln. Its great.

BTW – nice to hear Mitt Romney quote the “better angles” bit of Abe’s (courtesy of the Bible) today in his announcement of picking Paul Ryan for his VP. If only he’d learn the “of the people, by the people, for the people” quote from the Gettysburg Address.

Has been, carpet bagger, non entity want to challenge out-of-stater.

While the DNT editors will be required to endorse Cravaack in the General election by their owner/investors they have endorsed Duluth City Councilor Jeff Anderson for the DFL primary. That suggests that the editors are 1. attempting to stay on the right side of local Duluth boosters and 2. Doing their best to promote the weakest candidate likely to face the candidate they will ultimately endorse.

Minnesota Public Radio has a good analysis of the DFLer’s strengths and weaknesses.

My Buddy still sends me email

On Thu, Aug 2, 2012 at 9:08 AM, Harry’s Buddy wrote:


Maybe Harry Reid”s problem is not that he is a Democrat, but that his first name is Harry.

Your Buddy

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
You, Harry Reid, Are Terrible
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook

To which I replied:


I think I speak for all other Harry’s – Truman, Potter, Eubie (I’m Just Wild about Harry) Blake and the English Prince when I say that I’m ashamed that Harry Reid is busy acting Like Fox and Friends.


Pavement and rain

I got a call Monday asking me if I could help our fellow Presbyterians at Westminster Prez over on Grand Ave next to Denfeld High School. When I was on the School Board the Church’s pastor opened up the church daily for Denfeld kids who were loitering around the neighborhood to give them an outlet that would keep them safe while playing basketball in the church gym.

Since the June flooding the City has posted the church building as off limits due to the massive internal flooding and destruction it suffered. Because of that the small congregation had to postpone a clean up until Sunday. They were still mopping up mud and water when I arrived at 11:30am yesterday. The not so faint odor of mud, mold and sewage was in the air when I descended to the basement. The walls had a water line at about five feet and almost nothing that was at that level could be rescued save a few mostly plastic tables and perhaps some folding chairs. That meant that fifty years worth of accumulated church stuff used for funerals weddings and inumerable youth and holiday celebrations had to be hauled up into a dumpster above ground. The church floors were heaved up from the water pressure. One looked like a whale had breached it being about two feet higher at the center of the room than by the room’s walls. The water rushing up from this volcano took a right turn and smashed down the plaster wall of another room across the hallway. It was impressive.

The clothes of the men who had gotten to the church early in the morning were pretty well slathered with mud. I was pretty prissy about handling things but you can be sure all my cloths went into the wash immediately upon my return home.

The City of Duluth has communicated to the church that it takes no responsibility for the church’s trashing. I think that may be more of a negotiating stance than actual reality. The City says that a culvert built years ago by private entities absolves them of responsibility. The City has been forcing homeowners to put in sump pumps for several years including my home. The City also approved the massive paving of new and expanded paved parking lots for the Red Plan expansion of Denfeld High School. I presume the city’s engineers had to have some familiarity with the hydrological implications for any building resting over the culvert. Anyone living in Duluth for the last decade has seen rainstorms pop manhole covers on streets below the hill pretty regularly. I found one in Chester Creek below the Ninth Street Bridge a few days ago when I took a hike along the stream bed.

All that pavement would have funneled water instantly under the church no matter who built the culvert. Westminster is owned not by the small local congregation but by the Presbyterian Church USA. It will have the national church’s attorney’s to deal with and they should be formidable. If the the City is dinged for the Church’s repair it will be yet one more unanticipated expense of the Red Plan. It will fall on the City’s tab not the School Districts but it will come out of the pockets of the same taxpayer’s who are already paying for the Red Plan .

Thanks for hanging in there for the blog

If I can believe my blog’s stats my eight loyal readers keep coming back everytime I abandon them because of a vacation or my being in a funk or my being preoccupied with some big project. I don’t mean to tease with the occasional posts. Both my readers and I need to check on each other periodically to see if we still have a pulse. It may be week be neither of us have flat lined yet.

When US politics wasn’t a blood sport

I just stumbled on this delightful exchange between Woody Allen and the arch conservative William Buckley. It took place in 1967 when the Vietnam war was ballooning out of control and Detroit had suffered bloody race riots. Despite the poison there could still be good humor between Democrats and Republicans. The last funny and goodnatured Republican conservative was Bob Dole. Sadly that’s ancient history.


JCI’s lies

The duplicity of the local Johnson Controlers is highlighted in two recent publications. The first is the news story in the Timberjay which backs the editorial I posted a short time ago. A friend sent me an email of the articles highlights (read lowlights):

Today’s Timberjay ..July 27, 2012..
Lots of GOOD Stuff ..

P. 1 – ISD #2142-
Operation Costs for the New Schools : The District will NOT achieve the operational cost savings reported by JCI… In fact,
school officials recently reported that the school district’s operation costs were up 34% over projected in the just completed nine month school year …. AND we had an extra mild winter .

when …JCI said “restructuring” would save up to $5.6 MILLION the first year.

p. 10-
At the same time, consolidation of the schools has increased the district’s transportation costs by as much as $300,000 annually.

The heating costs at the new South school was DOUBLE ($105,000) that of the of the individual heating costs of the old Albrook ($31,000)and Cotton schools(28,000)… AND we had a MILD winter…. and DOUBLE what JCI officials projected .

Zelda says ..”It’s disappointing and frankly embarrassing because we sold these new schools on the savings they would produce.”

Options for recovery?:
When JCI’s promised energy savings failed to materialize at the city of Duluth’s steam plant two years ago, the city of Duluth ssuccessfully sued JCI for the difference…. but Duluth had a performance contract with JCI, that guaranteed savings.
Zelda said ” she doesn’t think there is anything in the school district’s contract with JCI that requires them to produce the savings they estimated.

Change Orders :
JCI, in an effort to keep construction costs in check, substituted less energy-efficient windows and lighting than had originally been planned.
JCI approved more than 100 change orders early in the construction at South Ridge.

Chet Larson didn’t think JCI ever adjusted its estimate for the operational budget for South Ridge.
Chet Larson said there’s an option of adding wood pellets for supplemental heating. BUT that would require the addition of a different boiler OR conversion of an existing boiler ….
AND he said it wouldn’t make up the difference if the operating costs are DOUBLE the estimate .
Statutory Operating Debt :
Zelda noted that JCI’s restructuring plan was supposed to improve the district’s finances and AVOID STATUTORY OPERATING DEBT.
Ironically, Bruns said, “that’s exactly where the District appears to be headed.
The district’s finances have only worsened since the restructuring was implemented.”

While the recent alternative tabloid the Zenith who’s Richard Thomas is the only local journalist with the freedom to honestly write about Duluth’s ISD 709 has a reality check called “The Truth behind the Red Plan.”

Richard provides numerous examples of quotes from District Administrators which demonstrate the District’s own duplicity. The one that struck me as the most egregious came from the PR person Katie Kaufman who flatly denied that the District and JCI sold the Red Plan by saying it would save the School District a couple million in energy costs once it was built. “Savings were projected based on operating five fewer schools not on any energy savings that might be realized in new buildings.” This is at best a half truth. From the beginning, from when I was on the school board and advocated closing one high school there was no doubt that maintaining unnecessary building space, including energy costs, would save the District money. In fact closing excess, unneeded space became a mantra for Red Plan supporters like the Chamber of Commerce’s CEO David Ross. The funny thing is the current Red Plan may contain almost as much space as the buildings it replaced thereby eviscerating that argument. Further reducing energy costs for transportation and heating were always part of the sales pitch. You can see from the Timberjay article that JCI sold the St. Louis County Schools with the same promise since broken.

What I find most annoying about Ms. Kaufman’s historical revision is that it seems motivated to protect the reputation of the Superintendent who gave her a boost in salary and job protection. There is no need anymore to protect Dr. Dixon’s reputation in Duluth. It is in tatters. Willfully bending the truth to protect Dixon only serves to blind the people of Duluth who need to evaluate their schools with the unblinking honesty that the Duluth News Tribune’s editorialists can’t bring themselves to provide.

A month ago a news story suggested that about 25% of the students in Duluth were dropping out of school. These figures are notoriously difficult to track but for years Minnesota as a whole had about a 10 percent drop out rate which was about what Duluth probably had. If these figures can be born out then the modest successes which today’s DNT story about student testing have been built on the backs of an additional 15% of struggling students who just gave up as our Red Plan stressed classrooms grew in size. They are no longer tested and thus can not bring the overall testing averages down. As far as the Duluth School District is concerned those lost kids can just go and line up outside the Last Place on Earth.