Category Archives: 2017 Sch. B. election

The Trib – today

Time for me to door knock again but first a nod to the Trib. Art was treated fairly in the Front page story about his campaign and it struck me that he hit all the concerns that I know have been driving western parents out of the western schools.

And the other District Seat, far eastern District One, had its day in the Op Ed Page’s sun.

My take: Rosie Loeffer-Kemp was all resume. Kurt Kuehn was all results. I’ll take results over resume any day. I hope the voters agree.

And there was the letter-to-the-editor calling Art and me “holdovers.”

“The Red Plan opponent holdovers on the Duluth School Board continue to disrupt, discourage, disturb and distract from the need to address the inequities between schools.”

Hell, its our kind that insists that “the need to address the inequities between schools,” NOT be papered over with platitudes. The true “holdovers” are folks like Rosie Loeffler-Kemp who sided with the Red Planners. She’s the last one left on the Board.

Fixing what’s wrong with ISD 709 will not be easy because the candidates championed by this writer are the ones who traded 200 teachers for brand new schools.

Not the Trib

Lincolndemocrat certainly doesn’t have the heft of the Duluth News Tribune but these stats demonstrate that in a crunch the people of Duluth pay attention to it. October’s stats are impressive already and there are nine days left for it to accumulate more views.

The Trib does have some good stuff in it……like this letter to the editor from former School Board member Rich Paulson. Its gist?:

“Selling Central has been the no. 1 topic whenever anyone mentions the Duluth public schools the past two years. Many want it sold to any interested purchaser.”

“Daddy, make me a snow dinosaur”…

Another shameless pitch for a donation

OK, OK, OK. This blog is no “Go fund me” or “kickstarter” page. But my “eight loyal readers” have morphed to 500 daily readers. Not all of you are hating me as you read. Whether you agree with me or not I hope you find my blog engaging. I work hard at it and even go the extra trouble of editing it more carefully these days.

My foot is giving out going door-to-door and I gratefully find donations in my mail box every other day. (My door to door packet includes a return envelope with the suggestion that a donation would be appreciated). I’ve actually been able to keep my campaign’s financials on life support this way. As for my pitch for online donations? Early on, (two months ago), I got a $200 donation that gave me the altogether wrong idea about how I might be able to match the DFL money machine. The next two donations however were for $30 and $15 dollars. That’s right 3 donations in two months! My faith in my business acumen has been utterly shattered. I’m no Donald Trump!

Well, this is what my regular readers are missing – a 50 card deck of Duluth winter nostalgia.

I think they would be a great stocking stuffer for any Duluthian who has moved away from home. Count on this. Someday the 200 remaining decks are going to be listed on Ebay for a thousand dollars. Each! (probably by the time the Starship Enterprise has been built)

Donate here.

And this is snow sculpture trading card #2.

Its my first public snow sculpture and was prompted by my then first grade daughter, Keely, who asked me, “Daddy, make me a snow dinosaur.” I was beginning my duties as a “house husband” and imagined a towering Tyrannosaurus Rex looming over 21st Avenue. Gosh, was I disappointed. When it was done I called it an “iguana with a bad overbite.” I added a stegosaurus below it to make the prostrate “T Rex” look like it was in attack mode.

As people who have watched my perennial political career can attest I don’t let failure get in my way. It only pushes me to work harder and smarter. I had over 100 snow sculpture photos to choose from for my thirty year career that I suspect will be continued this coming winter. I get lots of requests (mostly non paid) to build snow sculptures elsewhere. I know my skills are modest but I do have a sense of humor e.g. “Barney meets Godzilla.”

I had originally imagined “selling” tons of these cards with lots of donations left over to help fund the Duluth Schools Educational Endowment Fund. Well, that hasn’t worked out but maybe I’ll be able to fund a mailing by the last week of the campaign if this offer catches on. Can any of my readers help me stir the pot on Facebook?

There will be old folks in their 90’s talking about the crazy guy who made snow sculptures in Duluth long after my battles over the public schools have run their course. They’re just fifteen bucks. That’s 30 cents a card!!!!!


Dana K has new cards and I’ve begun stuffing them into my fat little packet for door to door distribution. They are long overdue because I have to keep correcting folks who call her “Day nah” thinking that she is a him. Her name is pronounced Donna in Slavic tongues, short for “Bogdana” (Boag-Donna), meaning “God’s Gift.”

I also like telling folks that if she were to introduce herself she would sound like a good no-nonsense, Russian armed with a Kalishnikov…..”let me see your papers.”

I quickly explain that she is a Ukrainian by birth and not a Russian and that she came to the US at 15 and never managed to shake her accent. For that I’m grateful and I frequently go into a little shtick telling them how I imagine her sitting next to me as my colleague demanding she be given the long withheld data Art and I have fruitlessly requested in her thick Slavic accent. “I vahnt to see da data and I vahnt to see it now!”

I tell voters about Dana’s Johns Hopkins education in science and how she’s good at math something our previous school boards were absent and which lead to the loss of 200 teachers in exchange for half a billion in new buildings that previous Boards didn’t set aside any money to maintain.

BTW – I crack Dana up every time I launch into my cheesy Russian accent. Damn it. I could use more colleagues on the Board with a hearty sense of humor.

Stuff that happened today – Friday October 20th, 2017

I saw the predictable 4th District endorsement early this morning when I brought the Trib in. I only read it ten minutes ago at about 11:30 PM. The editors almost exceeded the limit of superlatives for Speech teacher Jill Lofald. The only thing they neglected to mention was her devotion to the top administrators of the District. Art Johnston was tarred with negativity. How ironic that the Trib’s inclination is to kill the messenger. Three words that I always used to describe Art were absent from the superlatives showered on Ms. Lofald not that she doesn’t have them herself. They are “integrity,” “honor” and “courage.” That’s something our western schools need now more than ever.

I resumed going door to door for a sustained period of time today. Hallelujah! I’m still gimping it but the pain has receded a bit perhaps because I did so little walking early in the week. That’s a shame as we will not see such marvelous weather again before November 7th. I also made a call to set up an appointment with a foot specialist just to stave off a possible recurrence of the pain.

My preoccupation with the campaign has come at some cost. It slipped my mind that I was scheduled to serve at Damiano Center’s Soup Kitchen this afternoon. They had a lot of folks in line and my absence put a lot of strain on the volunteer servers. I always sing there and I always sing going door to door. I didn’t sing anything today. I just grimly pressed on. I also checked my School District email for the first time in ages and found a lot of messages I had to reply to by beginning my message: “I’m very sorry but I’ve been a little preoccupied for the past couple weeks.” As our President might tweet, “Sad.”

Fourth Street at our intersection is still blocked off but the lights are on. They are permanantly set at green for the time being which means its impossible to escape onto 21st Avenue during rush hour. I took a picture of them as I headed home after door knocking:

I was amused today to find that someone had stolen my defaced lawn sign which called me a house husband. I wonder if it was the vandal who was aggravated at the possibility that I would get the house husband vote.

I hate it when someone steals a popular sign.

I am bushed. I’ll edit this tomorrow. Tomorrow is here. Its raining so I’ll attend to indoor things until it stops.

I was stopped in my tracks for an hour I spent talking with an African American woman about life in general and about how Blacks are treated in Duluth. She has some experience. She came to Duluth in 1957 and raised two sons here. Her’s is a fascinating story. Like the author Ralph Ellison she often feels invisible. Like so many other African Americans she feels expected to speak for all 30 million of them whether its Bill Cosby, Martin Luther King or Colin Kaepernick or or or or or you name them.

When I got home I found someone had anonymously mailed me one of my cards back from my door to door work. I smiled and shook my head reading the only thing written on it:

Charters! I wish this person had perused my blog. There are over 220 posts dealing with the Edison Schools alone. And why the anonymity? Too many Americans are afraid of their politicians.

Does reporting the words and deeds of an elected official constitute “sexism” if the official is a female …

… and the reporter is a male? Or, vice versa?

Last night Rosie Loeffler-Kemp and I attended the Chamber of Commerce’s Pat ourselves on the Back dinner at the DECC. The School District has a table at it every year. (We are Chamber members) In fact, this year we paid for two tables. I sat at a table with two Board members that I’ve not spared in recent blog posts. One was Rosie.

After the dinner Rosie stopped in front of me and gave me a tongue lashing about not asking her where she’d been before I blogged that she may have been avoiding speaking at a candidate forum. I only once began to say something but she shushed me and plowed on to her threat at that women were noticing how sexist I was treating women. She told me she had missed the forum for a family function that had been planned for over a year. She chided me for not asking her where she was before insinuating that she was skipping town to avoid the exposure. It occurred to me that this was fair enough criticism. This is the offending paragraph:

“She ducked out of recent school board forums quite possibly because someone warned her she is a poor public speaker. That did not stop the Trib’s editors from granting her the only private interview with the Editorial Board of the four District School Board candidates. Such favoritism is hard to swallow but what they said of Rosie’s challenger Kurt Kuehn could also have been applied to the two at-large candidates the Trib’s editors did endorse. What did they say of Kurt? Just this:”

This is the offending post if you’d like to keep reading.

Had I asked Rosie where she’d been off to I’d have reported her answer. I’ll add, perhaps gratuitously, that our relationship is strained enough that I wouldn’t have necessarily believed her excuse. I will also add that Rosie has known for four years that October of 2017 would be her last month to campaign for reelection. That she was willing to set a trip far away from Duluth when she would be expected to speak at forums (she missed two of them) was her own fault even if it was a family function. She nonetheless left her daughter to stand in for her at both functions although the folks running both refused to let her daughter speak for Rosie. Geez, I forced my wife to take a trip to China in the most excruciatingly hot month of summer so I could file for reelection.

If anything, my mention of Rosie’s special treatment by the Trib’s editors was my chief target of ridicule. Rosie was collateral damage.

As for the threat that I’d be pegged a “sexist” that was hardly news. Rosie began consorting with a newly organized woman’s group months ago and had already won their devotion although to my knowledge none of Feminist’s Action’s members knew a whit about the Duluth School Board. Heck, I probably marched with most of them during the Women’s March last winter. They never approached me for information but I learned from a friend who attended their semi-secret meetings that they had already targeted me as an enemy of women. Is it possible that Rosie and other school board members attending these meetings said the same kind of things about me privately that I publicly say about Rosie on my blog where everyone knows it comes from me? I’m not really asking. I have no doubt Rosie has little good to say about me. If I’m right about this Rosie is violating one of the tenets of the School District’s Civility Code, “Don’t gossip,” that she reads aloud before every school board meeting gets underway.

Whatever the Feminists discussed I began seeing signs of their repugnance for my politics six or seven weeks ago.

I have always looked sideways at the distaste of gossip. Gossip is the sharing of information informally regarding people who are not part of the conversation. This can be both innocent, instructive and corrosive. The latter quality is what springs to most people’s minds. Take, for example, the notorious daughter of Teddy Roosevelt, Alice Roosevelt Longworth. She had the legend “If you don’t have anything nice to say about anyone, come over and sit by me,” needle pointed onto a sofa pillow in her living room.

But I’ve just been hearing about a very useful kind of gossip regarding powerful people like Harvey Weinstein the Hollywood bully who did his exercise on the casting room couch. Gossip is how his victims warned other women to beware. Surely the Civility Code we adopted does not mean to prevent gossip under these circumstances.

I’d like to take one of Rosie’s implications to pieces – that by criticizing the words and deeds of women I’m a sexist. Tosh!

Bear in mind that my serious criticisms of Rosie et al began with the vicious attack on Art Johnston. Was that attack sexist on the part of his female colleagues?

When Alanna Oswald, not then on the school board, asked Annie Harala what had happened Annie told her privately, that if Alanna knew what Art had done she would want him off the school board too. Well, if there was anything Annie knew about Art I didn’t know she didn’t tell me what warranted canceling the election that put him on the School Board. In fact, I knew a lot of mitigating circumstances that made me extremely sympathetic to Art.

I would have to go back and read year’s worth of blog posts to discover exactly when I began emphasizing the not so sunny machinations of my board colleagues, both male and female, but I’ll bet there were very few pointed criticisms until the Board hired an attorney to assassinate Art’s character.

The names to look up for this research would be of both genders Male: Mike Miernicki, Bill Westholm Keith Dixon Kevin Rupp and female Annie Harala, Rosie Loeffler-Kemp and Judy Seliga-Pynyko.

If anything, the unwillingness of the Board to compensate Art for his legal expenses and the subsequent censuring of both Art and me only made my comments about our “colleagues” more pointed as diplomacy took a backseat to candor. And remember, my blog is read by a few hundred people each day. The News Trib has a far wider readership. How about waking up to this headline just before Christmas (although I do like the picture)?


I also laud people I like regardless of gender. I’ve heaped praise on many women including Mary Cameron, Alanna Oswald and Dana Krivogorsky. (I’ve sent out fundraising letters and paid for a pro-Krivogorsky flyer that I’ve been passing out for Dana) I’ve excoriated women, other than my colleagues on the School Board, like Sarah Palin and Ann Coulter and men like Donald Trump.

So Rosie. Its true I didn’t ask you where you went.

Readers, pay no attention to that post.

As for all the other posts I’ve written. Bear them in mind before you follow the siren song of the editors of the News Tribune. They didn’t think Hillary Clinton was any better than Donald Trump. They aren’t the sharpest pencils in the box either!

And before my boots start walking

I just sent out my last fundraising letter to 55 folks who mostly know me through church. It pretty well sums up my thoughts. Of course my recent loyal readers are always encouraged to help out as well. They can make a donation online. Someday the folks who didn’t order my snow sculpture trading card decks will kick themselves when they realize they’re worth a thousand bucks on Ebay.

Here’s that letter:

October 19, 2017

Dear Friend,

I am running for the school board again because I think I am needed there. Twenty years ago, when I served on the board I didn’t realize that it was a golden age for our public schools. Local taxes poured $14 million dollars of the total 23 million levy into our school’s operations. Today, although our levies have been raised by $8 million for a total of $31 million, only $2.5 million of this goes into operations and by extension into the classroom. That is why you have read news stories about 40 and more students to a classroom; inequity between eastern and western schools; children whose families have no cars who can’t be bussed to school and a growing educational gap between have and have-not students.

Behind my sense of humor and light touch there stands a fellow steeped in history with a stubborn desire to set things right – no matter how challenging the problem. And the Duluth Public Schools have a big problem. These stresses require more revenue from a weary revenue providing public that has felt cheated by the School Boards of recent years. That public demands an honest accounting of what has gone wrong and will need reassurance before voluntarily surrendering more taxes to solve these problems. That will require a leadership from our School Board which has been sorely lacking in the past.

I think I might just have what it takes to win the public’s trust and move our public schools in the right direction. I’m a fellow who has read history, lived the school board for a quarter century, is not afraid to speak up and who can find the elephant in a block of snow – literally. I also am capable of prodigious quantities of good natured work. I’ve been putting in twelve-hour days campaigning through most of the Summer and Fall.

I could use some help. I’ll keep doing the leg work but some financing would amplify my campaign. A donation would be greatly appreciated.
With best regards,

Harry Welty

A pause to reflect while drinking uninspiring coffee from a drive in

The last two days were gorgeous for passing out campaign lit door to door. I only got about an hour in total because I was herding cats… fellow and sister candidates for the school board that I am supporting and upon which the fate of our public schools rests. I think we will do well and have only one concern – that I may find myself in the lonely predicament of once again being in a minority and effectivly out of the loop. I’ve been campaigning with ideas bubbling over about attacking insolvable problems. I always liked Hubert Humphrey’s definition of politics “the art of the possible.” Facing annual ten million dollar losses inflicted by the Red Plan that is a very hopeful attitude. The problem is it has to be backed up by brains, know how and grit. The mighty Duluth News Tribune has done its best to promote a string of candidates absent those qualities. I don’t begrudge them their opinions. I do, however, bemoan their long history of ignorance on the subject of the Duluth School Board. They are good people and good people are often foolish, vain and silly.

Good. The coffee has cooled a bit. My dentist had me worried that I’ve been eating too much pallet scalding food lately.

At eight a young fellow who promised to help me pass out literature called to tell me (in my words) that he was meeting with a poobah far more important than me and wouldn’t be able to help me after all. I think I’ll be a lot stingier taking him out for lunch in the future.

A little after that my old colleague George Balach called to give me grief about our mulchy playgrounds. George had already expressed his opinion to me that our district was in no position to spend big bucks to remove something that had not yet been proven to pose any danger to our students. I’ve never disagreed with him on that. My wife agrees. And yet I voted to change out the playgrounds. I don’t regret the decision. One comment has haunted me since the controversy began: “What if in twenty years you discover that the mulch caused cancers or some other malady in our children?” I am as prone to guilt avoidance as the next public servant and chose to expedite a change that might not end up having been necessary. I consoled myself by reminding myself how many families have already left our school district and deciding we didn’t need another reason to chase them to Wrenshall, Proctor, Esko, Hermantown, Edison, the parochial schools or home schooling.

Certainly, hearing that kids on the new playgrounds were looking like Fozzy Bear after rolling around in the new mulch was eyebrow raising. The Trib’s Jana Hollingsworth’s story is sober and not too alarming. What I’ve heard is that the mulch, has been called “waste wood.” (I’ve heard that the company suspected that they were stymied when they tried to put a bid in for the project) At least it doesn’t seem to be toxic and that’s the bottom line for now. As irritated as George was he said he still supported Art and me…..but he did want me to tell Art again that replacing the rubber mulch was ridiculous.

I just got a phone call that broke my concentration. Good. The weather beacons my door knocking boots to start walking. The phone call alerted me to Loren Martell’s latest column which I’ve read. I approve of it as it gives the wider public a peak at the recent chamber forum for school board members.

Civility for the East/West divide

I attended this meeting tonight. It brought together citizens concerned about the East West divide. It turned out not to be a discussion so much as a class on how to listen to differing opinions.

Among the faces present was former Superintendent Mark Myles. I didn’t sit at his table but we chatted on the way out after the meeting had run its course.

Mark was a strong proponant of a single Central High School all through the Red Plan. In that he had a lot more foresight than the editors of the Trib. I was surprised when he said what we ought to do now was have one high school hold 9th and 10th graders and the other 11th and 12th graders. “You ought to get the xxxx’s to do this,” he suggested. Of course, I have twice been quoted in the Trib as supporting this idea but I’m not sure our ex-superintendent realized it.

Its as close, after the fact, as we could come to uniting Duluth once again. It would take some serious community discussions before racing ahead to make it come to pass. We don’t need another Red Plan but we could use the equity.

Ho Hum

The Tribune’s editors continue in their dreary analysis and endorsements. Rosie Loeffler-Kemp who was a major reason for the ugliness that cost me an endorsement is apparently not to be faulted. That’s not all the Trib’s editors are turning a blind eye to. They faulted the DFL for endorsing candidates but they have so far endorsed all the same candidates for the School Board endorsed by the DFL. They faulted Rosie for refusing to sell Central but that doesn’t trouble them in this endorsement.

What they hang their hat on is an impressive resume that has never managed to obscure Rosie’s limited ability to demonstrate a deep understanding of educational issues. A reporter once told me that Rosie is never quoted in news stories because she never has anything to say.

My irritation must be obvious. Rosie led the charge to remove Art Johnston then she made both Art and I charter members of the Censure of the Month club when she saw to it that we were both censured for dubious reasons.

She ducked out of recent school board forums quite possibly because someone warned her she is a poor public speaker. That did not stop the Trib’s editors from granting her the only private interview with the Editorial Board of the four District School Board candidates. Such favoritism is hard to swallow but what they said of Rosie’s challenger Kurt Kuehn could also have been applied to the two at-large candidates the Trib’s editors did endorse. What did they say of Kurt? Just this:

“Kuehn’s commitment appears genuine and well-placed, but his knowledge of the district and promise of effective representation for District 1 don’t match Loeffler-Kemp’s.”

That goes ditto for their at-large endorsees.

There is one Trib endorsement left and that one is easy to call. It won’t be Art Johnston who did not assault anyone, never had a conflict of interest, never said anything racist, and who defeated all these scurrilous charges in Federal Court while the Trib sulked because Art wouldn’t simply quit the Board and then voted the way the Trib wanted us all to regarding the sale of Central High School. The Trib prefers public officials to be more like Senator Mitch McConnell even as they refused to oppose Donald Trump.

What a think tank. They couldn’t see the Red Plan con and now prefer that no one points out that we traded 200 desperately needed teachers for new schools so cramped that we can’t add many more children to the buildings despite what appears to be a growing elementary school population. Sheesh!

Can Duluth voters take an endorsement seriously from editors who did not notice that Donald Trump was an ignorant demagogue,…

…a liar and a seven-year-old sexoholic?

Well maybe, but I’m still profoundly disappointed in their at-large school board endorsements. They only grudgingly endorsed me four years ago and they have badly confused my principled fight to protect Art Johnston as something ugly when in fact, the only thing ugly about it was the Tribune’s siding with the School Board members who pushed lies to remove Art. As I wrote a couple year”s ago:

Art and I did have a chance to voice our displeasure with the attorney for the District Kevin Rupp. The allegation I leveled against Rupp for pushing the Board to throw Racism on the barn wall last June to see if it would stick comes from an unimpeachable source. I would be amazed if any Board member denied it. This was only the most disagreeable reason I cited for replacing Rupp.

It was chair Mike Miernicki who was sickened by our attorney Kevin Rupp’s recommendation to charge Art Johnston with saying racist things. But Miernicki took the vile advice and it was the Duluth News Tribune who trumpeted the baseless allegation over and over for a year. The Presidential candidate that the editors did not oppose calls this Fake News. Now he wants to undermine the First Amendment. Good work Editors!

In fact, for ten years the editorial board has played the prostitute to school administrations of dubious character. They jumped on board with Keith Dixon, who I’ve always suspected was a charming sociopath. When Gary Glass correctly pointed out that Johnston Controls would earn $30 million from the Red Plan the newspaper quickly countered Glass with Dixon’s lie that the program managers would only earn $4.5 million. After that their columnist at the Budgeteer used this gross misinformation to write a column calling Gary Glass the liar.

Time and again the Trib backed the wrong end of the horse. The Red Plan would not segregate Duluth. The Red Plan would only cost half of its real cost. The new buildings would save a great deal of energy. The old buildings were far too large for Duluth’s needs. The old buildings would be sold and help retire the bonding debt. Interest payments were not part of the cost of the Red Plan. Now the editor’s mantra is “Don’t cry over spilled milk.” The real crime of the incumbent, Harry Welty, is that he is one of the few people who spoke up as the disaster unfolded. That merits the Trib’s dismissal: “Voters can thank Welty for his service — and then jump at the chance for the change that’s needed to finally solve those problems…” The problems the Trib’s editors were to blind to anticipate and too vain to acknowledge

One of the candidates the Trib heartily endorsed showed up for only the second school board meeting tonight since she announced her candidacy five months ago.
I’ve never seen a candidate campaign so little in all the years I’ve been watching the school board. I guess the Trib finds her ignorance as blissful as their own.

Meanwhile the hardest working new candidate Dana Krivogorsky got the Trib’s try-again-at-the-next-election schtick. Alanna Oswald offered a far more cogent testimonial. I wonder if the editors can relate to anyone who understands our schools and takes the time to study them. Krivogorsky’s only crime is guilt by association – with me.

And there may be another reason the Trib acts as it does. Thin skin. I have twitted the Trib time and time again on the blog in posts like this one where I engaged the Editor. And there was the time the editor accused me of defaming the Trib which resulted in this post on his “big boy pants.”

I’ve been to 10,000 doors all across Duluth this summer. I am not sure who the editors think their audience is but I doubt that they understand them very well. The Trib is in an echo chamber populated with poobahs who don’t want to be reminded how wrong they were about the Red Plan.
Now the Trib’s editors are promoting the Superintendent’s “dream team” so we will never have to worry about him jumping ship again.

I write this not in anger but with resignation. The last “fresh face” the Trib endorsed over me in 2007 prevented Duluth from reevaluating the Red Plan before Duluth took the plunge. Had the Trib endorsed me instead of helping elect a pretty young pet of Dr. Dixon’s our schools would not have been ripped asunder. There are solutions to our problems, painful solutions, but I’ll guarantee the fresh faces the Trib is endorsing this election are no improvement on the Fresh Face who cemented the Red Plan into place with the Trib’s help.

Roseate Spoonbill

Today’s pic is not mine and its not Duluth. Claudia is visiting her father in Florida. She saw this dramatic bird, a roseate spoonbill, in a tree by the man made pond at her Dad’s place. I’ve never seen one except in birding guides.

Because of Claudia’s absence, which will last through the week, I have had even more time to campaign albeit on one bum foot. I was working on a different end of town today. Everything about today encouraged me.

But I woke up at 3:30 and decided to get up and stuff envelopes. I’m a couple days ahead of schedule on that score. But I’m suffering sleep deprivation. Znnnnnnnnnooookkkkkk! Oops, sorry. Must of dozed off.


One of the most important aspects of a political campaign is getting in touch with the voters. By the time I’m finished I’ll have been to nearly half the doors of the voters in the Duluth School District. The status quo majority of the School Board ought to talk to the folks in Western Duluth. They would get an earful.

I limped on my sore foot for four hours today after church. I skipped dining with my daughter’s family to hit more doors. Along Piedmont Avenue I got a surprise when a young father seemed to think my campaign was not his concern. He told me his child hopped on the school bus which took him to school in Wrenshall. Wrenshall?

Twenty years ago a few children from far western Fon du Lac started following a friend who transferred to Wrenshall in preference to Stowe Elementary. Until the Red Plan the loss was confined to that far western neighborhood which is midway between Denfeld and Wrenshall. But Piedmont Avenue is almost the center of town just two miles from Messabi Avenue.

We don’t need school board members who wear blinders and who are too busy to knock doors to find out what’s going on. I did see a lot of Dana Krivogorsky’s lawnsigns our west. I put up a few of them myself.


Lawnsign Maintenance

One of my least favorite political chores is picking up and replacing damaged and lost lawn signs. But at five bucks a pop and with a limited supply I knew I had to put some back up on 21st Ave east when I saw them badly abused along with their lawnsign partners, the Dana Krivogorsky signs. At the bottom of the hill I discovered that one midnight author had decided to amend my sign to, I guess, humiliate me.

I am indebted to the anonymous vandal who thinks a man should not stoop to “woman’s work.” I’ve put it in my front yard and from now on will put any other signs of mine which are defaced right next to it. As for being a dreaded house husband, its true that baby boom boys were raised to be “bread winners” but a couple bad breaks put me in the position to test whether I could walk the talk. The “talk” was my 45-year conviction that women and men are equals. Being an equal meant valuing the work of women with the respect it deserved and not looking down on traditional roles. I was at home most of the time that our children grew up and they didn’t turn out so badly – a daughter with a masters in Education and a son a year away from completing a Chemistry/Physics doctorate at one of the nation’s top 20 universities in the field of science.

Besides, had I not been a “house husband” I would never have begun the hobby that makes all Duluth smile every winter- snow sculpting. While I have not bragged about being a house husband I’ve not shied away from the label. The following admission is taken from a post last year.

“Hillary’s sins were often petty as for instance when she told reporters that she wanted to do more than bake cookies. As a house husband myself when she said this I was mortally wounded but I got over it.”

I owe a debt of gratitude to the anti-feminist ridicule bestowed on me. That sign will help me win a much larger share of the house husband vote and, with the shaky economy of recent years, its probably enough to assure my reelection.

I’ve now relocated the sign to my front yard. 40,000 drivers and passengers who pass by will see it every day until the election on November 7th.

Trading teachers for new schools

Chuck Frederick handed these two documents back to me at the Chamber Forum.

Document 1 shows ISD 709’s summary budget, all of it for 1997 – twenty years ago. I fished this out of my old School Board files a couple years ago as I was trying to nail down what the Red Plan had cost our District.

The yellow line at the top is what Duluth property taxpayers contributed to the running of our schools – $23,191,000.00. Its only 22% of our overall revenues and far less than the state’s share of $66 million.

The orange line is what we were paying for “Debt Service.” That is money to pay off loans (bonds) borrowed for earlier building projects. It all comes from the local levy so if you subtract it from the levy the remainder is what is available for classes (operations). How much were local tax payers putting into their classrooms in 1997? Just subtract the debt servicing ($8,957,000.00) from the total levy for the answer. Twenty years ago we were putting $14,234,000.00 into operations.

Document 2 shows ISD 709’s summary budget, for this year Fiscal Year – 2017. (The School Board gets an update every month.) Both the local levy line and the “Debt Service” line are marked in orange on this document. In 2016-17 the levy had increased to $31,217.00.00. (eight million more than in 1997) You will see that the state’s share also increased by about $20 million over the $66 million from 1997.

The second lower orange line tells the tale. In Fiscal Year 2017 $28,684,000.00 of our total local levy was being used to pay off Red Plan borrowing (debt service). Subtract that from the total $31 million levy and what remains is all that local taxpayers today are putting into our classrooms. It is $2,533,000.00 – two-and-a-half million!

Its worse than that. According to an inflation calculator that $14,234,000 we added to operations in 1997 would be the equivalent of $20,812,920 million today. The citizens of Duluth are putting one tenth of the money into our classrooms now than we did twenty years ago. But we are putting a lot more in to paying off Red Plan borrowing.

The average teacher today costs the district $96,000 in wages and benefits. We’ve had to sacrifice a lot of them to pay off that Red Plan debt.

Like I said at the Chamber forum, “we traded teachers for new schools.”

Good luck making our schools the “best in the nation” with that financial burden placed on our children’s backs.


To keep a clear thinker on the school board consider making a donation to his campaign here.

2 dollar note

My fundraising appeal to the 1,100 donors who contributed to the hiring of an attorney to challenge the Red Plan in court have been responding to this election as well. They may even be able to match the union dues being applied to DFL endorsed school board candidates.

Not all our contributors are flush with money. I opened this note in which had been placed two one dollar bills. It humbled me when I remembered my suggestion that taxes are probably the key to a fix for our schools. As former Representative, and my campaign Chairman, Mike Jaros, tells anyone who will listen – property taxes are “regressive” and fall harder on the poor and and folks with “fixed incomes.”

A tale of two reporters

Today’s Trib story about the School Board candidates speaking at the Chamber of Commerce Forum was covered by two reporters. Normally Jana Hollingsworth covers all the Educational news but this election has posed a problem for the Tribune. Jana’s Aunt, Jill Lofald, is a candidate and the Trib and Jana insist that this creates a conflict of interest so that Jana has written nothing about that race. For today’s story on the candidates for the 1st and 4th District candidates reporter Tom Olson took over.

All school board candidates were asked about seven questions and given one minute to answer each. Its tempting to take up all the time although I challenged myself and generally cut my answers even shorter than that. On one of the questions asked me I did nudge up to the sixty second mark and concluded by saying we board members talked for endless hours on the subject and I was pleased to have been given a minute at the forum to address it. That got a little laugh from the audience. The endless hours of talking by Board members would have been true of most issues.

Tom Olson’s story mentions Rosie Loeffler-Kemp’s absence. She missed the previous day’s big poverty themed question period too. Some of us suspect she has gotten nervous about public appearances but Mr. Olson reported that she had family business to attend to. She has managed to substitute nicely with a great many testimonial letters-to-the-editor from her supporters.

Olson captured the essence of the campaign in western Duluth – equity and the future of Denfeld. The differences between Jill Lofald and Art Johnston could be boiled down to a single issue. Is selling Central High School to Edison (which may no longer be possible) a threat to Denfeld? Jill says yes and asked the audience if it would make sense for a barber to sell part of his shop to a rival barber. Art is of the mind that we needed the money and that Denfeld’s biggest threat is too little resources.

If Edison no longer intends to build a high school that issue is moot. But when it was on the table I never saw a threat of closing Denfeld. The threat is and continues to be that the last ten years have been tough on Denfeld with school busses from Wrenshall and Proctor cruising through Duluth to poach western Duluth students. As long as Denfeld continues to be perceived as a lesser high school that will continue as well as the steady drift of western students to eastern schools.

Jana Hollingsworth did cover the At-Large candidate discussion and emphasized the discussion of school boundaries. Jana summed up each of the four at large candidates thoughts. Of mine she reported:

“The last thing we want to do is put a gun to a parent’s head,” he [Welty] said, and force them to change schools. At a previous forum, however, he suggested making one of the high schools for freshmen and sophomores and one for juniors and seniors.

My short term suggestion is to make the Western schools more desirable by pumping more into them especially the compensatory ed money which Duluth skews east. That is easier said than done. As I told the audience, previous school boards traded teachers for new schools.

Word is that if teacher Lofald is elected Jana Hollingsworth will be taken off the public school beat by her editors. I understand that no Tribune reporters are eager to replace Jana. I wonder why?

The Chamber Forum about which I will say very little

I think it was recorded. Haven’t checked to see where it an be viewed. Someone reading this will tell me. If it is available I’ll link to it. It consisted of four segments. City Council at large, City Council District candidates, School Board at-large, School Board District candidates.

I was usually well under my minute with my answers. It was concision on my part.

Chuck Frederick and I joshed with each other. He also returned the documents I showed him that demonstrated how twenty years ago we were putting nine million more local dollars into the classrooms than we are today…….despite our raising taxes for the Red Plan by eight million dollars.

I’ll be showing them to my readers shortly.

My best line at the Forum was that our past school boards “traded teachers for brand new schools.”

I’m sorry this is going to be brief but I’m bushed. I ran more campaign errands after the Forum. I put up more signs and passed out flyers until 6PM.

The most surprising thing all day was when I came home after the Forum wearing my suit. Claudia looked at me and said “That suit is hanging on you. Have you lost weight?” I hurried to our scale for the first time in a couple months and stripped to my skivvies. 188.6 pounds! I haven’t weighed that little for about twelve years when I was swimming regularly and caught pneumonia during Christmas and barely ate for a week. I have noticed that I’ve been cinching my belt up recently.

Walking is good for a person. I don’t expect to crest 190 again for the next four weeks.

Without a primary contest School Board candidates won’t be interviewed by the Editorial Board

4th District School Board candidate, Art Johnston, is denied a chance to have a half hour interview with the News Trib’s Editorial Board prior to their endorsements. Editor Chuck Frederick explains why:

From: Chuck Frederick
To: Art Johnston
Cc: Neal Ronquist
Sent: Tuesday, October 10, 2017 1:18 PM
Subject: Re: any additional info??

Hello, Mr. Johnston. As I said in an email reply to you yesterday, I have nothing at all to do with the News Tribune’s news coverage or news decisions and cannot address anything related to that. I’m confident Editor Rick Lubbers will get back to you on your concerns there.

As I also wrote, with regard to our endorsement process, the Editorial Board is treating you and your opponent in exactly the same way. We requested information from both of you, are doing independent research about both of you, and will be listening intently to your answers at our candidate forums on Friday. The Editorial Board did one-on-one candidate interviews prior to the primary. We are co-hosting candidate forums prior to the general election. Your race didn’t have a primary, so neither you nor your opponent was interviewed. We are treating your candidacies fairly and equally.

Thanks much for your note. I appreciate your concerns, and I welcome this opportunity to again offer clarity about our editorial endorsement process.



Art appeals to the Publisher of the Duluth News Tribune, Neal Ronquist:


All the other endorsements for At-Large candidates have had personal interviews, (and recording kept) by the editorial board, as we all had in past years. I would like to have a face-to-face, one-on-one conversation with them so I have an opportunity at being fairly judged.

Only being seen by the rest of the editorial board in a mass public meeting is not fair. We also have a personal side which I would like the editorial board to see.

The only contact that I know I’ve had with any members of the editorial board is with Chuck. Chuck’s editorial stance 8 years ago, 4 years ago, and 2 years ago was about as biased as one can get, in 100% opposition to me. Who Chuck will endorsement this time around is obvious. I request an opportunity to interact with the rest of editorial board on a personal level, and to level the playing field, to allow the rest of the board to see me as Chuck can’t.

Chuck certainly has a right to his opinion. But I’m asking that I be allowed to have a face-to-face with the rest of the editorial board so I can have an unbiased review by the rest of the editorial board before they make their decision.

Again, the disparate coverage of my candidacy, compared to the at-large candidates by the DNT is not in the public interest.

I request to have a face-to-face interview by the entire editorial board.

If you are going to be endorsing a candidate for 4th District, I request that I be interviewed by the entire editorial board, or else the only fair thing to do is not endorse anyone for 4th District.

Art Johnston

DFL Family Feud

I’ve earlier conceded that I sought my first DFL endorsement this year. But I first attended a DFL precinct caucus in 2006 or 07 after years of trying not to tie myself into a pretzel meeting the Gollum-like policy expectations of the Republican Party – taxes on the poor, free licence for the rich.

Loren Martell has a particularly strong start in his description of what it takes (took) to win the DFL endorsement for the non-partisan office of the Duluth School Board. I was a little surprised to see our Board Chair, David Kirby, in the screening committee weighing me as a candidate.

Our connection did me little good. I would have sold Central.