I promised “honesty” in my campaign. I did not pledge to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” I need some wiggle room on this score because my chief objective is to save the Duluth Schools and make them the best place they can be for our children. Its that “whole truth” clause that gives me pause. There’s a lot of the whole truth in the letter I just delivered to my colleagues. It ain’t pretty but telling that truth won’t necessarily help me accomplish my chief objective. It will cause panic, outrage, and a year and half’s worth of general disorder. It also will assure me of a board majority in a year and a half. I don’t want to wait that long to clear the air and begin working as a team to solve our problems.
At the moment the Board majority is under the sway of the Superintendent who is convinced happy talk will get us past classrooms with way too many children in them. My view of happy talk is a little cynical right now. If you’ve seen the first Schrek movie you may recall the scene when Shreck first enters King Duloc’s capitol. He encounters a parody of Walt Disney’s Small Small World ride. (Here it is on youtube) That’s because Disney and Dreamworks Animation were at each other’s throats when the movie was made. That’s sort of my take on the happy talk in the school district. Its empty as long as we can’t manage our classroom numbers.
The Board majority is no doubt right that the Red Plan is done and there is no turning back. As I’ve written recently its probably also true that there is a diminishing chance that we could seek some restitution from Johnson Controls. That said I desire, as a historian if for no other reason, to know just what the hell happened through the course of the Red Plan even if learning it sets people’s hair on fire.
Its already set five heads on fire. That’s why Art Johnston has been targeted for extinction. He believes that JCI, Johnson Controls, was paid at least $87 million dollars to build our Red Plan schools. If they were there ain’t no getting it back but that doesn’t mean Duluth shouldn’t be informed of what a poor decision it was to hire the firm to loot our treasury. Besides that other school districts might be spared a ravishing when JCI begins sniffing under their skirts. The entire story of the Timberjay is a testament to that newspaper’s crusade to get the truth out. Sadly the Minnesota Supreme Court said they were absolutely right that the information should be made public except that the Court denied them access to that information. Duluth citizens have the same right and its only the Duluth School Board majority that stands in the way of a full accounting.
I want to know if Art Johnston is full of shit. I hope he is. But seven months on the School Board have given me little confidence in his critics. Our CFO shows no interest in sharing the data needed to account for the Red Plan’s spending. The Board majority is shielding the Business Office from any kind of an investigation. Why does this gall me?
In 2007 when Gary Glass announced that JCI would be paid $33.4 million to build what then was said to be a $257 million plan the District pulled out the stops to have its pals denounce Gary as a liar saying JCI would only be paid $4.5 million. Two years later it turned out Gary had been right all along. But the cost of the Red Plan swelled to $319 million. That’s sixty million more than the original sticker price. If what Art Johnston says is right it is almost exactly what was added to that original $33.4 million that JCI stood to earn from the Red Plan.
Just think what Duluth could do with sixty million dollars. We could replace the lost gaming revenues from the Fonduluth Casino and fix our potholed streets for a decade. God knows I’ve done my best on this blog to trumpet Art’s allegations. I want to know if he’s full of it or if JCI’s bank vaults are full of our taxes. The current School Board just thinks such an investigation is a distraction from the business of running our schools. I don’t think keeping your head in the sand is good leadership. Knowing we were lied to and possibly ripped off won’t solve our problems but at least it will clear the air.
Hiding this knowledge, should it be true, will only serve to save the reputations of a half dozen folks who for the most part have retired from the scene. Its seems to be that this School Board would rather hide the negligence of half a dozen friends rather than look out for the interests of 8,000 school children who deserve some recompense from JCI for a job poorly done.
If this School Board won’t open up the records to uncover the truth I’d just as soon go to war with them. They’ve done little in the last seven months to earn my respect.