Not ready for the Junk Man

One reason I missed NP Radio is because I woke up at one minute to seven (what a wonderful night’s sleep that was) and found myself with sixteen minutes to comb my hair and race up to our Church on Woodland Avenue. I didn’t want to be late for the Men’s group.

Today’s presentation was an explanation of the Superior Street Project by an LHB engineer. But before it got started one of our members, an old pastor, began by telling us the story of one of his church’s old parishioners. She was always busy helping everywhere. She was alone with a wealthy family to the east she had little use for. When she died the family insisted that her remains be sent to the East cremated and forgotten. The church couldn’t stop that but they could at least hold their own memorial service for her. It was packed.

Our pastor read us the Carl Sandburg poem he had read at her service. Its titled, “The Junk Man”

I AM glad God saw Death
And gave Death a job taking care of all who are tired of living:

When all the wheels in a clock are worn and slow and the connections loose
And the clock goes on ticking and telling the wrong time from hour to hour
And people around the house joke about what a bum clock it is,
How glad the clock is when the big Junk Man drives his wagon
Up to the house and puts his arms around the clock and says:
“You don’t belong here,
You gotta come
Along with me,”
How glad the clock is then, when it feels the arms of the Junk Man close around it and carry it away

After the reading my fellow bass in the choir offered the lyrics of the song “For the Beauty of the Earth.” It was the song my Mother chose for us to sing at my Father’s funeral.

As for the presentation. It was very interesting. For a hundred and twenty years our narrow main street has been left largely untouched under its “skin.” One of the many features which are being replaced touches on Old Central. The steam pipes from the Steam Plant that heats downtown buildings also heat Old Central. But we have steam pipes. I had been hearing that the school district needed to begin planning to retro fit Old Central for the new hot water heat from the Steam Plant. I doubt we’ve done anything yet. Not with the cost of fixing the old building having ballooned from $18 million to $48 million dollars. It needs to be done now before the steam heat is discontinued. Old Central is not ready for the Junk Man.

DNT Supreme

For the first time in years today’s Duluth News Tribune took up the majority of my news reading. NPR and the NY Times took a backseat.

Most of the list of news stories I would like to blog about today were covered in the Trib. I’ve already put in a longish piece on the 9/11 remembrance so I don’t want to put a burden on my eight loyal readers so whatever I comment on will be brief. I just wanted to say Kudos to the Trib. I hope their will be more mornings like this.

Nine – Eleven Remembrance

I am sure that shortly after 9/11 I posted my recollection of events as a spectator. I haven’t found them as yet so I’ll mention some things now. I had a two-year-old website at the time. For the next half a year I posted this photograph I had taken of the Duluth East Choir during its 1999 trip to the East Coast. Across from Lady Liberty’s Island, which the Choir was visiting, I framed the choir under the Twin Towers. I made sure that my daughter’s smiling face was dead center. When the towers fell I couldn’t think of a better remembrance to share along with the audio of an East Choir recording of the song, “Lost in the Night” with my daughter singing the solo.

I woke up on the day of the attack in good spirits. I don’t recall what was on my mind but I flew into the School Superintendent’s Office happy as a lark. When a secretary told me that a plane had flown into one of the World Trade Towers I shrugged it off with a joke thinking it was a cessna or something on that order. It was only as I got back into my car to drive home that I tuned into the National Public Radio and began hearing the details. Once home after my five minute return trip I turned on the television to a picture of the first tower billowing smoke. I can’t remember if the second plan had struck by then but I remember wondering if the tower, either tower could remain standing as they were consumed by fire. I watched the first tower fall then the second.

Two years ago in France I watched minute by minute videos that had been taken at the time by witnesses during the deadly wait for the towers to fall. They had been gathered up by our nation’s national security as part of the initial investigation as to what had happened during those hours.Like December 7th, 9/11 will remain a touchstone for those alive at the time. Last year, after watching the fall of the Towers all over again, Claudia and I went on to visit the Normandy Coast of France. In the iconic American battlefield cemetery overlooking the invasion site we stopped and watched as an American Flag was raised and lowered and given to a spectator. I wondered if the flag might have been given to a descendant of one of the men lost in the Invasion of France.

For a month after the attack I put up our American flag on our Portico every day.

Up until the attack my chief concern as a school board member to offer an excess levy referendum to Duluth voters to keep funding the Duluth Schools adequately. One member of our Board, Bob Mars, made up his mind to oppose the levy. That was ominous as previous referendums had foundered without a unanimous Board supporting them. I was so disconsolate I asked my greatest foe on the Board to meet with me so I could tell her I didn’t have the heart to push for the levy referendum. She begged me to find the spirit to fight for it and over the next few days I found that spirit. In fact, one of my most controversial moments took place when I gave a speech explaining the need for the levy. Later I asked a television station for their recording of it. I swore once and that was later used against me by some critics. I called it “My Damn Speech.”

The levy did indeed fail and I always blamed that in part on the terrorists who put such a pall on American spirits. It was just one more victory for them. Perhaps our current national disorder can also be pinned in part on their actions. Or, maybe, we should be looking in the mirror to see the cause of that.

9/11 remembrance

Maybe when the campaign is over I’ll push everything to the side and spend all my time on the darned book I’m hawking. But there is so much else going on.

I have a couple blank posts to attend to but I’ll give myself the day to crank them out. 9/11’s anniversary deserves remembrance. But I’ll get to it and the other posts later today. Stay tuned. A lot is on my mind.

Here’s the list of postings. I wonder how many I’ll get to?

Superior Street Project
Old Central Steam Plant conversion
The DNT’s surprisingly weighty issue today
Tonya Sconiers
the Synagogue Fire investigation
Stauber, National Crisis, parking lots
Home-builders feel about local fees a lot like poor people.
“Sankofa” at Duluth’s AME Church

Rosie had to clean out her Mother’s House

For a second night in a row I went to Old Central and the School Board room to listen in on the standing committees. Last night after two hours of a meeting I thought would be completed in half an hour I gave up the ghost and left. My brief discription of that meeting can be found in the previous post.

I made light of it but the tortured length of the meeting and the board member’s willingness to nail down every detail demonstrates how serious they all are about making the selection of our next School Superintendent next year flawless. No one could have, or should have, had any doubt about the importance of dotting every i and crossing every t. But evidently one person did just that. Perhaps intentionally.

I was amazed when former teacher and now county attorney Nora Sanstad called on Rosie to step down from the chairmanship in the Duluth News Tribune a couple days ago. Her ire may have begun well before she learned that she had been asked to vote to hire an assistant principal without being informed he had a colorful past. But when internal politics led Josh Gorham to resign Nora seems to felt Rosie Loeffler-Kemp’s machinations were responsible for his abrupt departure.

When Alanna Oswald joined the Board Art Johnston and I finally had enough votes to make school board meetings public on Youtube. Thank goodness. Here’s tonight’s meeting.

Alanna begins the meeting asking for an explanation about how the District can hire employees before the board approves of the hires. This likely related to the hiring of our new assistant superintendent who has recently been caught in the public glare. Then Nora put the topic in sharper focus after David Kirby brushed off Alanna’s question by saying that board members shouldn’t interfere in the hiring process other than their only employee the Superintendent of Schools. That lit a fuse.

23:00 minutes in Nora fiercely asked HR Director Sworsky why he ignored her request to preview the RFP (request for proposals) to potential headhunters who will manage our Superintendent Search. After some fencing Mr. Sworsky suggested Nora ask the Chair of the Board – Rosie.

For the next twenty minutes Rosie pointed fingers everywhere but herself. Nora pursues her lame answers like a surgeon with a sharp scalpel. In the end Rosie sniffs that she chose instead to help clean her Mother’s house. “The dog ate my homework.” That comes at 42:10.

I’ve always wondered if Nora would ever regret letting the public know that she thought Rosie should resign the Chair. That was answered at 46:34 when Nora repeats her belief that Rosie shouldn’t be the Chair.

I sympathize. A couple months into my return to the School Board Rosie stung me one-too-many-times. From then on I decided to capture every slight Rosie committed. There have been a lot of them.

I was slow to conclude that Rosie needed tending to but as I reflect on the two worst years of my School Board life Rosie Loeffler-Kemp always lurked around the periphery of every arson fire that Art Johnston and I got blamed for. And lately I’ve met people who are afraid of her. That blows my mind. But then again, Rosie seems to have oozed into every nook and cranny of Duluth politics. And she’s the School Board Chair.

I would remind Rosie what my old colleague, George Balach, said when I beat him for the Chairmanship. George told anyone who would listen that the Chairman only has one vote just like every other School Board member. Ah, but some Board Chairs are stingy with public data. I guess that’s because they are special.

Buildings are crumbling all around us

As I headed to Old Central and the school board meeting to talk about how to replace member Gorham I found myself in the midst of cars frozen into place. When they began moving I discovered the reason for the slowdown. The Adas Temple was being combed through by the Duluth Fire Marshall. I found my way around the blockade and went to a meeting I thought would be over by 5:30 which included the Education Committee scheduled to follow the former. Instead I spent the next two hours reading articles from the New York on my cell phone as the board members analyzed the process of replacement with an exactitude little short of a Superintendent’s search.

The first eight years I was on the Duluth School Board we replaced three board members. The first left town after Continue reading

Bad News Everywhere

After reading an on-scene report from the Bahamas its a little hard to work up steam about other issues like distracting Twitter Wars. There was a Haitian shanty town that was leveled with untold numbers of anonymous refugees buried under the debris. One boat with such folks on it fleeing to safety ahead of Dorian and heading to Florida kicked the illegals off to weather the storm in the Bahamas.

But there is more to be concerned about. A conflagration in Duluth burned down an historic synagogue. We’ll have to wait to find out if it could possibly have been arson. Many of us will wonder why after eighty years someone bothered to attack it now.

And there is this in the School District. Denfeld Principal Tonya Sconiers and her attorneys have announced a suit against the Superintendent and School Board. The link takes you to a press conference from Tonya’s attorneys in which they keep their client from answering any questions.

I’ll spare you my conjectures at least for now. Unfairness is alleged and it is a Federal case. In my experience the Superintendent is a very risk averse leader. And yet, he proceeded with an administrative leave. The attorneys posed the question: How does a phenomenal employee suddenly become one in need of firing. They say race is a part of this suit as well as free speech. Whistle blowing is a specialty of the law firm. I will be interested in learning what whistle-blowing took place beyond blowing the whistle on the firing of a minority employee by the employee herself. Having just hired a controversial Assistant Principal, who is named in Mrs. Sconiers’ suit, does not on the face of it look good.

There appears to be as much legal self promotion in this press conference as information about the lawsuit. Here is a link to the lawfirm’s website.

Bear in mind that my name was on a suit against the Duluth Schools ten years ago with an “et al” appended to it.

“Trade Wars are Easy to Win”…Iowa farmers….

… are desperately hoping Donald Trump is right!

I always come back from my wife’s Iowa reunions with new insights. Her cousin who farms a lot of her farm inheritance is free with his views and has a perspective worth listening too even though my politics are not his.

I’ve read much about how farmers, whose products help feed China, are in the process of turning against Trump. This may be true but some have a legitimate reason to fear his defeat. More on that in a moment.

Corn and soybean growers are particularly vulnerable and so too pork producers who raise a commodity much prized on Chinese tables. Other nations can clear land to compete with us particularly countries in South America. Up to a point many American Farmers have bought Trump’s argument that they have a duty to put some restraints on a rogue Chinese economy. And my wife’s cousin appreciates Trump’s actions to compensate farmers for some of their trade war losses.

He is skeptical that other nations can step in soon to fill the void left by China’s refusal to buy our farm goods. We have the infrastructure and mechanics in place as well as the food. And American pork producers may be saved by some really bad news for Chinese pork producers. A swine flu is wreaking havoc on Chinese pig farms necessitating the slaughter of diseased populations to prevent further outbreaks.

Official government sources report that this has affected about 12 percent of the swine. But a lot of American experts are tromping around China and something of a consensus is emerging from them that slaughtered swine may be nearing four times that figure perhaps forty percent of Chinese pork production has evaporated.

This is not Mao’s China. It is a China nipping at the heels of the United States with prosperous people who have come to expect food on the table not shortages. It will he hard for Premier Xi to deny them pork. That would be a boon to American pork producers and the American corn and soybean growers who are fattening up American pork for the Chinese market.

I am in no position to second guess my canny and business savvy friend about any of this analysis.

But there is one item that sticks in some corn grower’s craws. Trump has gutted the ethanol industry. Almost 40 major ethanol plants that turn corn into fuel for cars have been closed at the behest of the Oil Industry. This is despite Trump’s campaign promises to protect ethanol.

These farmers are on a knife’s edge and Trump’s China policies will make or break them. So, they are sticking with Trump because having started a trade war with China many feel that only a reelected Trump will keep up the pressure and force China to back down. They are worried that a Democratic president will cave in to China and cede the upper hand to China forever. This would render their current sacrifice meaningless as well as painful.

So that, along with a lot of calories from roast pork and pot luck desserts was one of my takeaways from Iowa.

looking back, looking forward

The gentleman who said I was not the answer on a Facebook posting replied to my question. He simply said we needed people who looked ahead not those to looked backward. I simply replied “Fair enough” and added that I thought he was wrong about his analysis of me.

I am a historian. I do look back. When I was on the School Board before the turn of the millennium I made myself a business card which quoted the philosopher Santayana’s aphorism, “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.”

A previous school board made a huge mistake that will cost us 100 desperately needed classroom teachers every year until the Red Plan is paid off. I don’t want new residents to blame me for this when I forecast this result of the plan ahead of the cuts. I do know that there is no finding the money to replace them until the end of the Red Plan. So in looking forward I am looking for ways to soften the blow. There are a number of ways to do this but being forgetful is not helpful nor is wishing the problem would just go away.

In fact, I sense in my critic’s frustration with me a guilty conscience. No one likes to be reminded that they pushed for something that had unfortunate after effects. I think a lot of the people who were unhappy that I opposed the Red Plan do not like me acting the part of the historian that won’t let them forget their mistake. They no longer want to look back at it.

But as I said to my critic who was willing to give me an answer. “Fair enough”

“The answer is not Harry Welty”

As I was flipping through Facebook this morning I saw that someone posted the Trib’s story about the recent resignation of Josh Gorham. I couldn’t help but check the comments section and one fellow who I think is a shirt-tail relation to one of Duluth’s political families wrote simply. “Harry Welty is not the answer.”

I’m not sure what question his answer was addressing, transparency, cordiality, stamina etc., but I couldn’t help but reply so I asked him simply: “Why not?”

I’ll be interested to see if he replies.

When I was a school board member I always tried to reply to questions directed at me by email. Sometimes I got quite a lot of them.

And after reading the news and studying French the campaign continues

This time the Reader placed my latest ad on page 8 which seemed like a promotion from page 49. I sent this one in on the weekend long before the School Board fireworks blew up this week. It certainly seems topical.

I also authorized my campaign mailing to go out to another precinct. It might be in people’s homes by Saturday. I have another five precincts to go after the first two. I have enough in the bank to cover two of the remaining precincts.

I’ve also dug deep into my pockets to pay for some Facebook advertising. So far I’ve spent Continue reading

Kindred Spirits

After delivering Grandsons to school I spent much of the morning with my head in the New York Times and the DNT. Additionally, a Facebook post on the Choctaw Indians got me into some online research. One of my grandsons has a smidgen of Choctaw and Chickasaw in his lineage. In fact, his name is from an Indian forbear four generations back. So I found a more thorough article on how and why the Choctaw Indians, still in shock from having been sent on the Trail of Tears march to Oklahoma, managed to raise today’s equivalent of about $7,000 and sent it to the starving people of Ireland during the potato famine. Here’s the full story.

Which led me on a search for the recent news that the Cherokee Indians have just appointed their representative to Congress guaranteed by a treaty with the United States. According to the story the Choctaw also have the option of appointing a representative to Congress but have not acted on this part of their treaty.

My Grandfather’s family left Ireland half a generation after the famine. Earlier this year I began reading a book about it to better understand what my Great Great Grandparents had witnessed. Sadly, I set it aside because other things caught my attention. I do plan to get back to the book. Its called The Graves are Walking.

Sadly we live in a nation that is stripping children from their unwelcome families and locking them away. The Irish remember the gift of their surprising donors and fellow forlorn benefactors. Today they honor the memory with a sculpture called “Kindred Spirits.”

The Trib’s report on Josh Gorham’s resignation

The headline is followed by this: “School board must now appoint someone to fill seat until a 2020 special election next fall

I hope to serve with whomever the current board chooses to take over Josh’s seat. Things just keep getting interestinger and interestinger.

Josh worked in the western schools and obviously has his heart set on improving things where they are the most difficult. I gave a little talk at the beginning of this campaign with words to that effect: 246 Homeless Children

Casting a spell

This is a brilliant cartoon by the DNT’s Steve Lindstrom. My brother read Trump’s ghost-written Art of the Deal and it was his bible whoever the ghost was. One of the books lessons was: be prepared to walk away from a deal. Trump faked a couple walk-aways but he’s currently desperate to get North Korea and China among others to keep negotiating in hopes that it will help his sagging popularity and tanking economy. Too bad the President didn’t read his own book.

However, like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice he has conjured an army of brooms to drown the nation.

The brooms? They tend to answer “YES” to the following questions:

* I fantasize about a natural disaster wiping out most of humanity such that a small group of people can start all over

* I think society should be burned to the ground

* Sometimes I just feel like destroying beautiful things

* There is no right and wrong in the world

I read the original story in the NYTimes. Here’s a summary:

And, of course, this counts many of Trump’s evangelical supporters who are eager for a “Rapture.”

Not a statement likely to suppress questions

Dear Members of the Media,

Effective immediately, I have resigned from the Duluth School Board. I made this decision as I have been compelled by ongoing circumstances to take steps to prioritize my health and well-being, family, and career.

Many personal factors informed my decision, however, I’d be remiss to not speak my peace to the general public that elected me. Life is too short and time with children is ever important to me. I made the choice to serve on the Duluth School Board because I wanted to be part of supporting a system that is focused on providing a vital service to the youth of our community.

The responsibility of the school board under the guidance of administration and board leadership to its community is to govern efficiently and lead effectively to provide for equitable education, resulting in high student achievement. Unfortunately, my experience in striving to provide accountability to educational equity has been met with what I perceive as a dismissive, maintain the status-quo approach.

My comments at a summer Education Committee (I believe in June) in response to the annual report on graduation rates and student test scores were: “Trying hard is not good enough.” The annual refrain from district leadership is: “We have improved, but it is still not acceptable.” Of course it is unacceptable, but where is the accountability and a sense of urgency?

My commentary does not reflect on school staff, principals, nor some of my board colleagues.

These are my comments for now. I would appreciate privacy moving forward.

Josh Gorham

Books for kids

Photo taken by the Trib’s Steve Kuchera.

The Second District seat I’m running for again has both rich and poor elementary school populations. Grant School, combined with Nettleton by the Red Plan, has a poverty rate of 85%. It has had some unique movers and shakers over my years on the School Board. Nettleton was once our Science magnet school and Grant was a foreign language magnet. Grant once had hundreds of adult mentors who worked with kids for a year at at time. As I recall, Men as Peacemakers, was one of the prime sponsors of the program and I participated for a year or two. The school has been rechristened as Myers-Wilkins Elementary.

Today, Principal Amy Warden is attempting to buy new books for her children. She’d like to provide them each with a book a month to take home. The Trib has a story on it here.

And this is how you can contribute to the cause:

To donate, people can drop off cash, checks or money orders, or mail a check or money order to Myers-Wilkins Elementary, 1027 N. Eighth Ave. E., Duluth, MN 55805, Attn: Books for Kids.

The new Christ of God’s Own Party aka the GOP.

If Hurricane Dorian doesn’t crucify him the voters who aren’t kept from the polls in 2020 by Republican election tinkerers might. God knows what his second coming will look like.

I recommend the previous three posts




And I’m running for the school board in Duluth Minnesota and I’m offering a book (currently being written by me) for a %15 donation.

This is it:

Donate here. I think you will like it almost as much as most folks like my snow sculptures. Google Harry Welty snow sculptures…..

Don’t worry. I already have, here.

The official source for all the blather of the eccentric Harry Welty – Duluth School Board member, off and on, since 1995. He does his best to live up to Mark Twain's assessment: "First God created the idiot. That was for practice. Then he invented the School Board."