The Bergson smear campaign

I got a call tonight from someone who described me as their hero……Awwwwww, Gosh!

They told me how Dr. Dixon had come to the Central Labor Body and been cheered when he declared, “We’re going to do it no matter what.”

Not very surprising.

They also told me that Al Netland, the President of the Central Labor Body was accused of spending $25,000 of the Central Labor Body’s money without authorization to run a smear campaign against Mayor Bergson at a union meeting. Netland supposedly got very quiet afterwards. That’s not very surprising either. I wonder if they gave Ralph Doty a cut?

A defective petition

The School District’s Twin Cities lawyers, whose contract I voted for when I was on the Board, told the District that our Plan B petition was defective. This is not a major surprise and its not the definitive end of the petition. They recommended that the School Board send it to the State Attorney General for her opinion.

The principal complaint is that because Minnesota law vacuously says that voters can only vote on issues they can vote on our petition was flawed because we were having people vote on using $60 million that has already been approved for the Red Plan, and that’s not something we can vote on. We can’t because its in the Red Plan, which is an alternative facilities plan, and voters have no right to vote on these. Its something we could challenge if only we had enough to pay a good lawyer at $450 an hour. Too bad the School District has all our money.

I quickly got on the local news and explained that we were not surprised and that our real hope lay with Mike Jaros’ bill. I encouraged people to contact Representative Huntley and Senator Yvonne Prettner Solon.

When I took the letter from the attorneys to the Tribune’s Sarah Horner she said she had just gotten the School District’s press release. She was busy writing another LDV related story for tomorrow’s paper about the likelihood that the legislature would adopt Mike’s bill. It didn’t look good to Sarah. Prettner Solon said she was fearful about setting the bad precedent of having the State interfere in local politics and Tom Huntley said he liked the Red Plan.

I sent a long email to both of them outlining my concerns about the plan itself and the process that led to it but they have not sent me a reply. These folks will deserve much of the blame if the Red Plan goes into effect and if it leads to catastrophic cuts in the school budget, which it most certainly will.

“We are the soundtrack to the Rapture.”

4Track films has just released a trailer for its first feature film “God Rocks.” 4Track is a local outfit and last year their ice sculptor was unable to help them with their punchbowl center piece. Without anywhere else to turn they asked me to help. An ice sculpture is a very hard thing to take a good picture of. Its not in the trailer but it looks like an entertaining little film.

Mike Jaros’ Intent

The News Tribune published a passive-aggressive editorial digging Mike Jaros today. It was pretty loopy criticism of Mike and his intentions. It didn’t quite criticize him but since their editorial stance is to support the Red Plan you’d have to read it as being critical of Mike. They quote the superintendent who says, “If there was any concern about how we used the statute it would have come up in the process.” In this case process means when the Minnesota Dept of Ed reviewed the Red Plan. In other words what Dr. Dixon is saying is that “We didn’t break any laws.” That remains to be seen.

Except that there is no longer any doubt the the method of funding the Red Plan, however foolish, is legal. But so is, as I always point out, executing innocent people, just so long as you go through the proper process of finding them guilty of capital offenses.

At least the Trib conceeds the issue of loopholes and whether the Red Plan was ever contemplated by the legislature. I sent in a 776 word column in defense of Mike after banging it out this morning. Mine will be eaiser to follow for the general public. It also makes more sense. I’ll link to it if the Trib prints it.

Dr. Dixon explains Faribault

Dr. Dixon had this to say about his years in Faribault in the March 27th 2008, Reader Weekly:

“What she [Dr. Dixon is probably referring to Sarah Horner, the Duluth Trib’s education reporter] didn’t ask about are the allegations by Let Duluth Vote that I drove the Faribault school district into the ground. For example, they say I came into Faribault and created a long-range facilities plan, which resulted in the loss of an operating levy.
The fact is, Faribault had created and approved a long-range facilities plan before they hired me, and shortly after I started voters approved an operating levy for the district.( See note) I helped them implement their facilities plan which was on time, on budget and kept people safe. I served Faribault for about 11 years and had four contracts – and still had another year left on my contract when I came to Duluth. The average tenure for superintendents is less than three years nationally. Like any public official, there were people who supported me and people who disagreed with me and we faced many of the same challenges other school districts across Minnesota face.”
* Note – The superintendent is correct. He was hired to implement a building plan not of his design. While an initial operating levy may have passed after his hiring in Faribault two more failed before he came to Duluth.

Read More about Faribault on the Let Duluth Vote Website. This will take you to a second article published in the Zenith City Weekly last fall and also to links to two columns I wrote for the Reader Weekly this year in a series called the Red Plan Chronicles.

Why should western Duluth pay to segregate itself?

Mike Jaros asks a very good question. Why should his voters in west Duluth pay to be segregated from the rest of the city?

There were three exceptions that went into the law that Mike authored years ago. The law permitted school districts, and Duluth especially, to build without asking voters in order to insure the health, safety, and integration of their children. But the District’s Red Plan completely dumps the existing integration plan while dividing Duluth’s schools at 19th Ave E into rich and poor halves. This will inevitibly encourage the well-to-do to flee western Duluth and move east.

It makes perfect sense for Mike to put the brakes on the Red Plan. If you want to help Mike send his fellow legislators an email. Their email can be accessed at the links listed in a previous post. And thank Senator Tom Bakk who has promised Mike to introduce the Senate version of Mike’s bill.

The Red Plan spawns more critics

Today’s Trib introduced us to a new group that is attempting to dial back the Red Plan.

The Trib’s Ed reporter mentioned them to me yesterday moments after one of our LDV supporters sent me an email about their plan to spend $53 million fixing up our schools. I said the more the merrier and I repeated it on the Trib’s online feedback page.

Restore Our schools has a lengthy press release which shows its petition at the bottom. They are basing their numbers on Art Johnston’s numbers. Art is an engineer who has been advising Let Duluth Vote. The group wants a bare fix up of our schools.

I immediately contacted their email address and warned them that the form of their petition did not meet State demands and that I would help them do it right. They’ve already got several hundred signatures but they won’t count without the change. I think their wording is just fine.

65%

Yesterday the Trib had an online poll asking readers how many favored Mike Jaros’ bill, HF 4127 which would, according to the School District’s lobbyist Ron Solberg, stop the Red Plan dead in its tracks.

The Result: 65% in favor of the Jaros bill.

We didn’t break the law

I saw the Jaros bill covered on the evening news tonight. Dr. Dixon was interviewed about his thoughts on Mike’s bill which would make future red plans impossible without a referendum. One thing caught my ear. Dr. Dixon argued that the School District didn’t break any laws.

Well, that’s a stirring defense.

Of course, its also quite legal to execute innocent prisoners just so long as the courts find them guilty of a capital offense. That doesn’t make it right!

House File 4127

I’ve been sending personal individual emails to state legislators today asking them to support Mike Jaros in helping pass his bill. Its HF 4127

The school board partisans evidently sent Mike 62 emails simultaneously as soon as they heard he was trying to clip the school board’s wings. We need to let our friends in the legislature know that the people of Duluth expect better treatment by our School Board. We demand our vote and control over our property taxes.

Here’s a few people to contact:

rep.mike.jaros@house.mn
rep.tom.rukavina@house.mn
rep.mindy.greiling@house.mn
rep.carlos.mariani@house.mn
rep.mary.murphy@house.mn
rep.thomas.huntley@house.mn
Senator Tom Bakk
Senator Yvonne Prettner

The level I would stoop to

An email exchange this morning:

To me from anonymous:

Harry,
I cannot believe that you and your group would stoop to having Mike Jaros sponsor the legislation that he has introduced. How long are you going to continue to rip this community apart? You should be ashamed of yourself. You are a complete disgrace to this community. If the school district doesn’t move forward because of this legislation, you will be the one ultimately responsible for destroying our children’s future.

Good day.

From me to anonymous:

Or maybe its the silent, anonymous, majoritarians like you who have stolen our right to vote that have caused this rip in the space-time continuum.

Teaching our children to get better things by stealing our democratic right to vote is a lousy Civics lesson. And if you really wanted to be sure our schools were the best you wouldn’t be so eager to risk the operational levy referendum that the School Board plans to offer this November. That’s one vote they can’t steal. It will fail because of the 20 percent of you who have pick pocketed the rest of us and stolen our vote. Its your children who will pay the price. They will be sitting in overcrowded classes whose bright young teachers have all gotten pink slips because you allowed $5 million dollars to be jettisoned from the District’s operational budget. Jettisoned because of your greed to spend $300 million to replace schools that are not nearly as decrepit as you have been brainwashed to think they are.

I ran against Mike Jaros twice in the 1970’s. I’d have to say now I’m glad I lost those elections.

Sincerely,

Harry Welty

Who’s reporting the Red Plan?

Finally, the Duluth News Tribune reported on Rep. Mike Jaros’s bill which could potentially cripple the Red Plan a week after he introduced it.

In so many ways Art Johnston’s comment which was posted previously is true. The alterntive press in Duluth is doing all the work of reporting the flaws of the Red Plan and its creators.

I linked to Robert Aho’s comments about the contracts that Johnson Controls is sending out earlier but here is the link to the Hillsider which originally published the story.

Both Art Johnston and Robert Aho have considerable experience with “contract administration.” In other words they can look at a contract with a contractor and figure out things like who’s responsible for what and how much the project is likely to cost.

Dr. Dixon has said repeatedly, when challenged about JCI’s earnings on the Red Plan, that they will be paid 2% and that’s all. But that is simply wrong. There are dozens of additional charges that will boost their earnings. So how much will they make?

Another experienced architect in Duluth, Kent Worley, who helped design the biggest public works project in Duluth’s recent history when I-35 was pushed through the down town, estimated that they could make as much as $33 million last year. The School District killed the story by claiming JCI wouldn’t make more than $4.5 million. The Trib swallowed this hook, line and sinker and nothing more was heard of JCI’s bloated profits.

But both Art and Robert have taken a look at the contract and concluded that JCI will earn in the neighborhood of $20 million dollars – FOR A START!

Robert has noticed the same sorts of weasle language that Kent Worley noticed last year in JCI’s contract with the District which gives JCI extrordinary power to extort from the architects and contractors it hires. This makes it impossible to predict how much they will actually earn. Maybe Kent’s guess of $33 million isn’t all that far off.

The other alternative press which has covered the Red Plan more than anyone else is the Reader Weekly. Just last week they put in a page written by Supt. Dixon and School Board Chair Nancy Nilsen as well as several pages of Q&A about the Red Plan.

The Trib recently reported that it was laying off more staff so perhaps its too much to expect it to be able to be a full fledged newspaper like it was back in the good old days. That’s too bad. But maybe the prejudices of the paper’s leaders also has some part to play in their coverage.

When I recently contacted, Steve McLister, the publisher of the paper to complain that someone had sent our full page ad copy to the School District before it was published he vehemently doubted that any of his employees would do such a thing. In fact, he said if he found out that they had he’d fire them. Well. Good for him. But he also added,

“Our opinion will be on the side of the school district. It was before my arrival and will be now. In my personal opinion, past school board members and district leadership failed our students and failed our community to get us to the point we are today. I certainly can understand opposing views as to solutions but to take this to a level of personal attacks on individuals making attempts to clean up a mess saddens me. The students of this community have deserved more and do deserve more moving forward.”

Mr. McLister, evidently is giving the benefit of the doubt to the current School Board and presumes that previous school boards failed. He’s bought into a myth. Previous school boards began putting more money into school maintenence after the failure of a 1989 school levy to the tune of $2 million a year or $30 million over 15 years. JCI is now tearing down or remodling our well maintainted buildings in great haste before anyone catches on. Or at least before the News Tribune catches on.