Daily Mail bashes McCain

This is the first truly unflattering story I’ve read about John McCain. Its in a Brittish publication perhaps because the US media tends to be deferential towards candidates for the Presidency. When George Herbert Walker Bush ran for president in 1988 or 1992 an old crewmate of his began complaining that Bush ditched his plane prematurely ensuring the death of another man on his aircraft. I didn’t read this until years later and don’t know whether the grudge nursed through the decades had merit but the Press pretty thoroughly shut it down. That’s no longer an option with the vitality of the Internet.

Turf Correction

The clipping I published turns out to be about the Superior City Council not the Duluth City Council.

From A.

Hi Harry!

That old news clipping refers to schools in Superior! That was interesting to me, since I went to Superior Central HS, and of course they had to tear that down 4 years ago! We fought so hard to try to keep it. Now the land sits almost empty. There is one lone half finished building way on the back of the lot. The planner in Superior & the Supt. are so far off base!! (Where are we seeing that currently ?) The Erickson & Carpenter Schools were in the North End of Superior, and have been gone for quite a few years. Of course many in my class attended those. The message is good, however.

Evidence of Council SB turf sharing

The notion of non interference of the City Council with the School Board is silly. The City Council is required to ask for the School Board’s approval before they can change the tax base by declaring TIF districts. School Boards often request the Mayor or City Council to vote to approve referendums. A story in the Trib’s bygone days last week remembered the Board asking then Mayor Ben Boo to endorse such a referendum forty years ago.

Other Cities have the Schools under their wing or are fighting to win the right to hire the superintendent.

Also last week during the rehabing of my basement a workman found an old crumpled up copy of the Oct 2, 1930 Duluth Herald stuffed above the ceiling. I found this article:


“Some Councilors” want to stay off the SB’s turf

“Some councilors”, which could be as few as one plus Council President Roger Reinert, don’t want to vote on Garry Krause’s motion asking the School Board to put the Red Plan up to a vote.

This is a chicken hearted attempt to hide. There have been votes in the past dealing with international issues which had nothing to do with the City – voting against the Vietnam war – that sort of thing. But the Red Plan will drain tax money from the Community and the City which has serious infrastructure problems. The state compounded this recently by limititing tax increases for municipalities to 3.9 percent. Talk about stepping on the City’s turf!

I’ve heard rumors about one of the councilors who prefer to remain unnamed. Some of them relish their reputations for talking tough. But, its not too hard to be tough on issues like the American flag and Apple pie. Not me. I’m no phony tough talker. I prefer cherry pie and I don’t care who knows it.

Talking Point Baloney

These talking points are so stupid.

The plan is only half paid for and the “low” taxes we’re currently paying will be doubled before we finish paying for it. $90 million more will be added to our tax burden in 2011 and that doesn’t count the fall operational levy.

The District did not have decrepit buildings. It spent an extra $30 million over the last 15 years to fix them up.

People yearning for great educational classrooms for our kids will yearn for enough teachers to teach them once the fall operational levy fails.

These talking points are being given to uninformed people to spout off but they do nothing to inform them of the District’s realities.

I suspect these were all written by the District’s PR person because I hear the same foolishness spouted over and over.

Talking Points

In concert with the story about Garry Krause’s intention to ask the City Council to pass a resolution calling on the School Board to offer the Red Plan for a vote the DNT offered a page for comment.

It resuoted in four online pages of comments. At first they were all anti-Red Plan then for a page more pro-Red Plan folks spoke up. The last two pages were about two-to-one against the Red Plan.

I think the bump in pro red plan comments was prompted by the following email which was sent out to folks who signed up for Move Duluth Forward, the new pro Red Plan organization. Even after sending it out its supporters were in a clear minority. It was sent to me by someone who is on our side.

Possible Talking Points
We’re a year into the project, we’ve purchased property, sold bonds, and begun two projects. This is a school district issue, just like the city has their issues to address and the legislature has its own issues to address. We need to move forward and implement the plan.

The decision making body for the long range facilities plan is the school board. A resolution passed by the city council would not require any action on the part of the school board.

More than any other Duluth project the LRFP had substantial public input, including hundreds of hours of meetings, with information shared and received over an 18-month period through a wide range of communication venues. The plan included nearly 18 months of community conversation. The process was transparent and inclusive. It relied on community input (over 150 community meetings) and was a plan that was developed with the public, not unveiled to the public.

In addition, a professional survey of residents helped decide between three potential plans. Ultimately the school board made the final decision.

The costs are reasonable. Less than ½ of the total cost of the plan has tax implications for the community.

For a home assessed at $125,100 the plan costs:
-A total of $110 in 2008
-A total of $113 in 2009
-A total of $116 in 2010

In other words, the cost of the plan increases about $3 each year on a $125,100 home.

We believe the plan is a good one, good for students and the community, and fiscally responsible.

The plan improves learning spaces for children and provides schools that meet modern standards for education, safety, and efficiency.

The plan addresses more than 60% of school space that doesn’t meet code in areas including air and water quality, handicap accessibility, the ability to support modern educational programs.

The plan improves the safety of our buildings, and fixes classrooms that were built at a time when teaching and learning were done differently than they are today.

Our group also notified our email list about the poll but there are only about 30 people on our list. I did not recognize most of the names of the critics of the Red Plan.

2% Guarantee

As the News Tribune prepares to write about some of our charges that JCI has not been the best partner in the planning for the new school facilities one thing keeps coming back to me from my lunch with Sarah Horner.

We’ve maintained for months that JCI has much more to gain from the building of the Red Plan than 2% because the Contract with the district lists many higher percentages which will be added to that. In fact, we’ve said they could make as much as $92 million rather than the $6 million that District officials maintain.

Sarah did agree that the contract specifies many additional percentages over the 2% but says District officials keep telling her that while JCI is entitled to this it won’t collect it. Gosh! To think that they are entitled to something in the contract but won’t take it would require considerable trust. The kind of trust, for instance, that leads a school board chair to say that there will be no new or additional Red Plan taxes even though another $90 million of borrowing will be necessary in 2011.

City Council to vote on Red Plan Vote

Gary Krause will introduce the resolution.

And what does the School Board Chair Nancy Nilson have to say about this. Remember she is the board member who last Thursday maintained that all the taxes have already been levied on the Red Plan only to be corrected by the Bond Counsel.

School Board Chairwoman Nancy Nilsen on Monday criticized Krause’s action, saying the district already has bonded for $171 million and assessed property taxes for the $293 million plan.

“We’re about a year into this,” she said. “Now is not the time to be doing this type of thing; we need to be moving forward with this.”

Don’t take the DNT online polls to the bank

Rob Karwath, The Duluth Trib’s editor, wrote a column on Saturday downplaying the validity of their online polls. Specificially he was referring to a poll in which 65% of the participants said they favored the passage of Mike Jaros’ bill to require a referendum on the Red Plan. Its no longer on their website but I believe about 650 people voted – over twice as many as Johnson Controls surveyed last year.

None of the heavy hitters for the District seem to want to know what Duluth’s voters think about the Red Plan. The Board has nixed a vote two years running. It has sought to prevent a non binding referendum from taking place after rejecting Let Duluth Vote’s petition. A professional survey would only cost about $3,000. This year they have spent three times that much on advertising in the Trib alone.

The Trib’s reporter assures me that under no circumstances would the Editorial staff allow their coverage of the story be affected by advertising revenue.

Tell that to the folks who watch Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News.

I’m not sure to which other polls he was referring. [ here and here ]But when it comes to results of our polls at duluthnewstribune.com, the simple answer is: Don’t take them to the bank.

Our online polls, like those of most other Web sites, are far from scientific. Readers who respond vote voluntarily. And the sample size can vary from a few dozen to thousands on a hot subject.

They’re not the kind of polls you occasionally see in our paper that we take pains to make statistically significant. That means ensuring a random sample. It also means collecting enough respondents to say the results would be the same, within an acceptable margin of error, as if we had asked everyone in town.

$16,487.01 to the Duluth News Trib

According to the latest School Board packet the Duluth News Tribune will get $16,487.01 from the Duluth School District. Six items are listed for payment, the largest is $9,728 from Public Relations for “ROUNDUP, BUDGET, RED PLAN ADS.”


This is a recent full page ad put in the Trib by the School District. Ostensibly it encourages people to attend one the three meetings to hear the marvelous plans the School District is planning for student programming. Of course, should the fall operatioonal referendum fail there will be such draconian cuts that all the “promises” will die. All this advertising only managed to cough up sixty people total for the three city-wide meetings the ad promoted. Meager results for an expensive ad campaign.

These ads are obviously designed to put the voters in a good mood to pass the operational levy. Its ironic but state law prevents school districts from advertising for referendums they have placed before the voters. If the Red Plan, which this ad attempts to put in a good light, were being put up for a vote the Distict this ad would be illegal. Because the voters have been denied a right to vote this ad is perfectly legal.

One more point which should be reiterated. The District’s advertising budget is set at about $130,000. We’ve sacrificed two teaching positions to advertise the brillance of the School Board and Superintendent. Money well spent.