The Neil Atkins Show

I almost forgot to show up at KDAL this afternoon for Neil Atkins weekend radio show. About 4:20 I picked up a call with KDAL on it. I exhaled a rude word and told him I would be there in ten. I was there in nine.

Two folks were lined up to rake me over the calls even before I arrived. On reflection I’m rather pleased they both had to wait twenty minutes to pester me.

The second, PG is no stranger to this blog. Among the things he wanted to know was when I’d stop causing all this turmoil. Being long winded he had to continue asking the question as I replied November third three times.

He also took umbrage to my comment that the student group which had conducted the survey of students indicating a slight preference for Plan B over the Red Plan had been yet another tentacle of the Red Planners. I didn’t put it quite that nastily. Indeed I like these kids. Unlike the folks who had hoped they would be yet another patsy for the Red Plan these kids have been honest all along. I commended them a few posts ago for not tampering with the results of the survey sent out and I believe I mentioned the kind invitation I received from one of their leaders to attend the forum they sponsored.

These kids really are the hope for the future. I just hope they continue to transcend the actions of the folks who wanted them to become yet one more arm of Red Plan propaganda.

Neil asked me if there was something I’d like to add to wrap up. I told him that it was sad that the the Red Plan had caused a civil war in Duluth so that old friends and families couldn’t talk about it without arguments breaking out.

On Monday I’ll landfill the 800 lawnsigns I was too busy to pass out with the confidence that they will not be necessary. If people who resent the theft of their vote cast enough to reelect any of the incumbents.

Let the sunshine in

An email from Mimi Larson to her MFD pals:

Dear Friends:

I will have one more MFD email in me before Tuesday! But this email is about following the rules. It’s been an issue at the heart of the 2 year divisive debate about the about the district’s long range facilities plan. There have been numerous accusations on the part of LDV that the district did not follow rules when it developed the LRFP.

I believe these criticisms are inaccurate. LDV may not like the decisions. But their countless false accusations about not following the rules, and two failed lawsuits, keep taking away the focus from the real debate — how we must improve our kids’ education.

And yet at the same time, it seems as if LDV and their leaders have not always followed the rules. We already know about LDV’s attorney, who got tossed off their case because of unethical behavior. Board member Gary Glass was equally guilty, as he was working to help sue himself as a member of the board. Read on and let me describe some other questionable activities.

Despite our differences, I am one of Harry Welty’s most loyal readers, and I have been watching his efforts to raise money for some television ads for the four challengers. By the way, there is nothing wrong with Harry trying to help the candidates he supports, and it would be great if everyone worked as hard for their causes as Harry does.

But as someone who wears several hats when trying to stay involved in the education debate, I feel there is always something fishy about the way Harry helps his candidates. Let me explain why:

1) Any television ad produced and shown on behalf of a candidate falls under one of two categories — a candidate expenditure or an independent expenditure.

2) Someone produced a commercial that included a photo shoot of the four challengers. In other words, the challengers cooperated with the filming of the commercial. So this commercial cannot be called an “independent” expenditure.

3) Since this commercial is a candidate expenditure, how is Harry making sure that the expenditures stay within the law? Is he running all of the money through each of the candidate’s campaign committees, rather than just giving them all to one candidate (which wouldn’t be legal)? Is he making sure that no person has contributed more than $300 per candidate during 2009? Are the donors writing checks to the television stations and then informing the candidates that these contributions have been made for them? Or is Harry not worrying about any of these questions, since the election is just a few days away and there is a lot of work to do?

I know this much — Harry controls Let Duluth Vote, which has operated as a ballot question committee for the last 18 months but has never registered as Minnesota law requires. Harry controls Vote Like It Counts, which raises money by selling merchandise and then supports candidates, yet hasn’t registered or probably even reported those activities as required by law. Is there any reason to believe he is actually following the disclosure laws now, as he is raising money for ads that the candidates themselves helped create?

Hopefully, Harry has some easy answers for this. Since he reads my emails, let me apologize to Harry in advance if my questions have simple and legal answers. If he is following the laws to a T, fantastic — it is a welcome change. (By the way, I am sure his apology to the school district is still being drafted).

But if he is not following the laws, or just hasn’t been paying attention to the laws (his excuse when he was called out by the News Tribune last spring for the work Let Duluth Vote was doing), every Duluthian should condemn Harry’s actions. Like them or not, there are good reasons that sunshine laws exist.

Now, as I demand sunshine from Harry, let me provide a little of my own. I have been involved in 2 advertising efforts that will surface this weekend. One is related to MFD and will be an ad that runs tomorrow in the News Tribune. This ad does not endorse any candidate, it simply states the facts about the LRFP, Plan B and the other ideas being promoted as an alternative to the LRFP (such as stopping the plan). It also summarizes what the candidates themselves have said about their stance with the LRFP. We have asked an attorney about the ad, and it is perfectly legal for MFD to pay for this ad. It’s the correct way to do an issue ad.

The second ad effort is one I was involved with as a taxpayer and mom, and it didn’t involve MFD or any candidate. It is an independent expenditure on the part of hundreds of us who privately (i.e. without organizational representation) support certain candidates for school board. It is an ad that did not go through campaigns, rather paid for by individuals who want to show support. That’s the correct way to do an independent expenditure.

Maybe Harry will provide us the same amount of sunshine, one of these days.

Enough of this — time to get to work!


Comment One. I’m so glad MDF is checking with attorneys. There’s no better way to insure honor and integrity.

Comment Two. The real debate shouldn’t be about how Mimi’s side tried to pull a fast one by hiding behind our children’s well being. If her side hadn’t pulled a fast one the focus of this school board campaign would be our children.

Comment Three. I’m not allowed to make comment 3 because something I signed in order to return the donations made by our supporters for something I’m not allowed to blog about. Mimi, on the other hand is free to comment about *********. Whether she knows that my tongue is tied behind my back I don’t know. When I made the most veiled reference to the subject in a post titled “Must bite tongue, Must bite tongue” which quoted a public document the School Board’s attorney fedexed me a letter warning me that the post could get me hauled into court. The verbiage has been removed and the title changed to read: “Bit my tongue. Bit my tongue.”

Comment Four. My blog posts requesting donations for a TV ad ask for them to be made to the candidates featured in the ad. My personal donations to candidates to date stand at $300 from me and $300 from my wife to Maureen Booth. These are the maximum expenditures we are allowed to give any individual candidate. I could give each candidate a similar donation and have offered contributions to other candidates. Amazingly, Mimi’s allies have so blackened my reputation that none of the other candidates I support seem willing to accept my offer of a donation. Her presumption that I run Let Duluth Vote with the kind of iron fist that Dr. Dixon runs the School District is so far off kilter it makes me smile to read it.

Comment Five. Vote Like It Counts is something I set up because the few remaining people with the stomach to continue meeting with Let Duluth Vote needed me to keep my distance from them. Putting up a ten foot pole between us was my decision not theirs. Most of them appreciate my work but fear my heavily criticized actions will cause them no end of grief. Who can blame them. Duluth woke up on Thursday to see that the Editorial Board of the Duluth News Tribune considers anyone who agrees with me that voting rights are worth fighting for is nothing but one of my gangbangers.

Vote Like It Counts is an assumed name I registered at the Minnesota Secretary of State’s offices to legally spend money to fight the forces of darkness that have hijacked Duluth. It is a single proprietorship whose aim is to sell books and ask for a little margin over the cost of publishing and mailing them out to buyers. That margin in addition to helping fight the forces of darkness could be used to repay people who have lent a lot of money to the cause. One of the people who has lent money to the fight to restore our voting rights has the initials HRW. That’s me. I will be writing a book. Will I make money on it? If everyone in Duluth, bought the book for $10 I might break even. As a legal entity VLIC is one and the same as Harry Welty. I haven’t figured out all the tax implications yet but Mimi can’t prevent people from giving me (VLIC) money to do with as I please. I may only be permitted to give individual candidate’s $300 but my first amendment rights (other than those pinched shut by an *********** that I’m forbidden to write about) are still mostly intact.

Comment Five. Apology accepted.

Three things

Its Saturday. 1. I’ll be on Neil Atkins KDAL program at 4 this afternoon talking about whatever is on my mind.

2. Otherwise no politics for me. I’ve frittered away far to much family time over the last two years. I think the Red Planets are all aligned to crash into the sun. I have invested a lot in lawnsigns I just didn’t have the energy to get passed out. Anyone is free to drop by my back patio today and tomorrow and Monday and pick up whatever they would like to stick in their yards. I won’t be doing it myself. They become landfill fodder after Tuesday.

3. The guy who said I wasn’t serious in the Trib today surely wasn’t serious himself. I’ve never been more serious about democracy in my life. I’m glad I had an opportunity to show it these past two years even if the fight I’m up to my neck in should never have taken place.

My retirement gift to my wife

Preoccupied with last minute election details and a complicated short sale of family property I
was late getting to my wife’s little retirement get together after 30 plus years. A hundred familiar old faces showed up. I was in grubby jeans and a windbreaker.

One old employee and his wife drove three hundred miles to come. He had been hired by my wife when he was in his fifties and never thought he’d work again. I know my wife has been a shoulder to cry on and a sympathetic ear for many people and her empathy didn’t prevent her from rising to the top of the corporation. The people who saw her off were genuine in expressing their regret at seeing her leave. I was good for a few laughs and helped her a little with the ongoing process of emptying her office afterward.

Tonight, to give me a better night’s sleep, she took her stubborn cough to the room overlooking fourth street. She’s a light sleeper so it will be a miracle if she gets a good night’s shut eye. It will be a moderate Friday night with lots of college students strolling by speaking with the aid of liquid lubrication.

As I plunked away at some email a husky voice yelled out of his car in the direction of my wife. “Ef u Harry Welty u rotten piece of shit.”

One of the more frequent jokes at my expense at the noon celebration revolved around the increased supervision I would be under now that someone will be around to keep tabs of me. Depending on how its told it can be a very funny joke. Its not easy to be married to someone who is a such stickler for doing things the right way. Its not easy being my wife.

message from the hood

Yo, Homies,

Dis be mah sign, sukahs.
but it ain’t da way it waz
So let me giv ya sum schoolin
It be a V fo VOTE, fool.
Only I ain’t foolin!

If you want 2 pass.
Don’t mess wid my V
or it will be
your a**

Our view: Do Harry Welty and gang really want a return to chaos?
The mission of Harry Welty and gang all along has been to wreak havoc, to cause confusion and to create chaos.

Mission accomplished -to the detriment of all.

For decades, Duluth battled and debated just what to do with its abundance of outdated, deteriorating school buildings and how to handle its declining student enrollments. Finally, more than two years ago, a School Board actually made a decision, a decision driven by input from more than a year and a half of public meetings with anyone and everyone who cared enough to get involved and a decision guided by leading experts. The School Board then didn’t buckle under pressure from vocal opposition, as happened so often -and far too often -in the past.

Now, well into the implementation of the desperately needed and sensible long-range facilities plan, along comes a new wave of opposition, this one led by Welty and others. They have an alternative plan they don’t even completely like but have managed anyway to force onto a ballot. A meaningless advisory vote will be scheduled, probably before the end of the year. Meaningless except that it’ll cost the district at least $40,000 to $43,000, based on a 2008 estimate. That’s an expense taxpayers will be stuck shouldering thanks to the opposition.

And what happens with the result of the vote? It could depend on the outcome of Tuesday’s School Board elections. Returning incumbents probably would stay the course. Opposition candidates could push the alternative plan, or some variation of it, allowing the fracturing of Duluth to continue, the turf wars, neighborhood border battles and watching-out-for-mine to rattle on.

The alternative plan was created with no public meetings and with zero input from the community. It calls for taking care of can’t-wait repairs during a first phase of construction. A blue-ribbon panel would then be convened to determine whether more work should be done. That panel could do little more than continue the battles and debates that have mired the district for decades and even generations. Its work could easily devolve into an unhealthy rehashing and refighting of all the same arguments considered – and settled – in the creation of the long-range facilities plan.

How does that help the community? And what if the result is yet another plan? Wouldn’t that just restart Duluth’s circle of gridlock with a new wave of opposition?

Anyone livid that the long-range facilities plan is creating a high school at Ordean can’t be thrilled by the prospect, under the alternative plan, of cramming a new middle school building somewhere on the Denfeld High School campus.

And anyone steamed by the long-range facilities plan’s price tag had to be shocked to learn Plan B actually would cost them more every month: $9.50 vs. $9.22 for a median-sized home. That’s because Plan B doesn’t include the long-range facilities plan’s money-saving building efficiencies and its liquidation of excess properties. Plan B instead keeps open more buildings than the district needs, each one requiring the expense of upkeep.

The long-range facilities plan isn’t perfect. Even its most ardent supporters acknowledge that. But it is positive and it is forward-looking. And it is growing stronger with every tweak made during its implementation (at least 11 changes have been made at the Ordean site alone, based on neighborhood and community feedback).

The alternative to the long-range facilities plan? A return to chaos and a deepening of divisions that long have held Duluth back.

Hard to believe even Harry and gang would want that.

The Reader and writin and rithmetic

After all the advertising I’ve put in the Northland Reader for my book I was pleased to get a last word in that publication before the election.

The Eve of Construction.

Damn the Reader Weekly. I was happily out of school board politics for two years when the Reader’s publisher shamed me into writing a column. It was about something called the Red Plan. I’d read about it in the news; some alphabet soup thing called the LRFP. There had been some meetings which had gotten a little attention in the local press.

I hadn’t participated but when it was reported that construction would begin without a referendum I called my old School Board buddy Tim Grover minutes later to quiz him about this incredible news. The lawyers tell us we can do it, Tim explained as though he too had found this surprising.

That would have been it if Bob Boone hadn’t called. You were on the School Board, Bob told me. You have an obligation to let people know what you think about this. And so I wrote a column explaining why this was a mistake. I wrote that the Red Plan might be the best plan possible but it was wrong to implement it without a vote.

Two years later I can state with confidence that I was only half right. It was clearly wrong to implement the Red Plan without a vote.
From the very beginning the Red Plan was built on lies. The first may have been that the public supported the plan. A survey of dubious provenance was produced to prove this. After a sixty-minute propaganda session a majority of 300 people surveyed agreed that an expensive referendum (a few thousand dollars) wouldn’t be worth the costly delays of replacing decaying schools (no construction costs were disclosed to the people being surveyed)

With the illusion of public support behind them the Board OK’d a nearly half billion construction plan. To preserve the illusion the Board adopted the stance of an ostrich, head buried in the sand. If an observer could approach the Board from behind at a school board meeting it would appear that he/she was being mooned en masse.

Only $60 million in Red Plan contracts have been authorized so far. Central High School hasn’t been closed. Indeed, it can’t be closed next year because the District has to move all the Denfeld students somewhere when they gut and remodel Denfeld’s interior. Denfeld kids will have to go somewhere and they will find themselves overlooking the Head of the Lakes. Just like the kids from the townships who had to be bussed from Woodland to Morgan Park while Ordean was gutted Denfeld students will be walking Central High’s halls next year.

Central, Duluth’s only modern high school, could be given new life if a new School Board takes office. That would make it unnecessary to construct a $45 million western middle school. Ordean although remodeled could be kept a middle school. It would be a good location if, as I expect, the ever expanding UMD swallows Woodland Middle School in the next decade.

Despite a growing sentiment that hanging on to Central will not only keep our taxes lower but preserve our schools the way the people of Duluth prefer; the school board is pressing on. Even if they are defeated the incumbent candidates intend to thwart the public will as lame ducks.

Three incumbents told the Duluth News Tribune that they are so committed to the Red Plan that they wouldn’t let a little thing like a mandate from the voters deter them from sticking a finger in the voter’s eyes.

According to the Trib Mary “Cameron said she won’t be swayed to stop voting for the red plan’s implementation if she thinks that’s the best course of action at the time.”

Neither will Ann Wasson who explained “I am a board member until my term expires. I strongly believe in the long-range plan, and so I would continue to move ahead.”

Making it a triple Nancy Nilsen said “she would continue to vote through work related projects under way.”
Only Laura Condon indicated that she might hold off but that still gives the Dixonites control.

The current School Board will defer to the ambitions of a discredited superintendent rather than the wishes of the 90,000 citizens they were elected to represent. As a reward for their poor choice four years ago voters will be doomed to live through the wreckage of an unpopular Superintendent’s dreams while enjoying the privilege of paying for them over the next twenty years. As the incumbents repeatedly remind us, they were elected to make these decisions.

3 count em 3

I noticed that School Board incumbent and candidate Ann Wasson got her third point of view column – not letter to the editor – in about a month’s time. She said little new that wasn’t already in the previous two columns. I can’t help wonder why the Trib would extend this extra push to a candidate unless it is applying the same kind of “fair and balanced” coverage afforded by Fox News.

Here’s a little graphic showing how the public views Fox’s neutrality compared to other television stations.
more here.

Challenger Marcia Stromgren got one in too but only one. And her taxes went up to beat the band as a result of Ann’s Red Plan:

“I was propelled into this candidacy almost two years ago when the school district’s portion of our family business taxes increased 339 percent.”

Life’s just not fair.

Back to the Book

The ********* over the summer severely impacted my posting to the blog. Anything I wrote could have ********************* at risk. I had to operate under the equivalent of radio silence and my readership suffered.

I’ve just counted the words posted over the past three months as I’ve been copying them into monthly folders to be printed out in hard copy. This will make it easier for me to organize and do further research for my book. In July, just before we began exploring the idea of ********, I poured 52,000 words into Lincolndemocrat. In August it fell dramatically to 17,000 and diminished to a paltry 12,000 in September when the school year was beginning and interest in the blog should have been picking up.

To my surprise visitors, although declining, never fell below an average of 200 a day. Now that my output has increased the numbers are back up. I’ve still got two days left of October but I’ve posted over 40,000 words this month. 2,700 are in yesterday’s unproofread Time Out post. It was a difficult post because I was trying to be a little circumspect when there is simply too much information available for someone grubbing around to put a little more flesh on the bones.

I keep learning more things. I bumped into one of our early supporters who wrote some powerful essays a long while back. This person got a new job and discovered afterward that someone from the Chamber of Commerce took the writings to show his employers perhaps with a view to threatening the new job. I know the Chamber guy. I’ve always liked him.

If a new school board is elected I expect a flood of similar stories because a change in the School Board will have the effect of belling the cat. The Superintendent will no longer have carte blanc and District employees who have clammed up for fear of retaliation may feel freer to pass along their impressions of the last years of the Dixon regime. I expect no vote of confidence. Whatever else our teachers did they did not persuade our students that the Red Plan was any great shakes.

What teachers think is especially important at election time. In a community of about 90,000 people a thousand teachers have about a thousand spouses and several thousand parents and voting age children and thousands more neighbors and friends and fellow church members. If the teachers feel strongly about something that attitude will never be far below the surface and will become general knowledge through out the community. When I was a candidate I tried very hard not to offend them. There are very few people in Duluth who don’t know a couple teachers even if they are retired. And retired teachers aren’t nearly so fearful. I’ve bumped into a number of them, some of whom took me to task when I was on the board, who have expressed great displeasure with the Red Plan.

It will be interesting to see how many orders I’ll get for my book before its in print. I’ll keep that bit of data a mystery. No need to spill all the beans and the doubt on that point will cause a few folks a little justly deserved gas.

This can never be repeated often enough

Those of you who read this blog know that most of the older voters in Duluth don’t pay any attention to the Internet. If you want a new school board you will have to help the voters who only watch local news see this ad.

These are the challengers for the Duluth School Board. Contact their campaigns and offer them a donation and request that it be spent to air this ad. A good slot on WDIO news would cost $200. Get a friend and offer to finance one spot.

Contact the challengers here:

Vote for these two At-large candidates:

Tom Kasper
Volunteer Committee: Tom Kasper For School Board 3725 Greysolon Road, Duluth, MN 55804
Email Address:
218 590-1337

Maureen Booth
Volunteer Committee: Maureen Booth For School Board
405 Mesaba Avenue, Duluth, MN 55806
218 722-6430

Voters in the 1st District (east of 50th Ave East Glenwood, and Woodland including all townships) should vote for:

Marcia Stromgren
Volunteer Committee: Better For The Students, Better For You
6179 Lakewood Rd, Duluth, MN 55804
Email Address:

Voters in the 4th District (West Duluth to Fondulac) should vote for:

Art Johnston
Volunteer Committee: A Better Plan For Better Education
37 93rd Ave W
218 626-1997

Sleazy last minute tactics

While I was writing the long post which is probably incomprehensible I got a call from one of the young people who organized tonight’s candidate’s forum. He asked me to come. I was very touched to be invited since I’m not a candidate. I thought about going for a while then decided that I would be better off staying home.

That post is deliberately vague about some points. My harasser had taken a police report he’d filed to the Trib hoping to make that part of a general attack on the people who want a vote on the Red Plan. He wanted my name blackened by being mentioned in the story. I should have made that clearer. I presume that when Chuck read my email he found that my alleged indifference to the lives of my harassers children was not credible.

Tonight online prostitute, Howie Hanson published a Drudge-like post attempting to undermine Tom Kasper and Art Johnson for not making a big deal about the importance of preserving the name Denfeld for Denfeld High.

Apparently West Duluth leader are holding a last minute press conference today to tell us that stopping the Red Plan would cause A. a general rejoicing among the populace, B. a sex orgy, C. Chaos, D. The end of the world.

If you guessed C. you are right although B. was pretty close.

Folks, if you haven’t realized by now that the work on Denfeld is too far gone to be stopped let me assure you that it will almost certainly continue. At this point I suspect mere repair is no longer an option.

There have been so many outrageous last minute efforts to discredit the folks who believe in a vote that its almost funny.

Its too late. The children of the District aren’t in favor of the Red Plan any longer if they ever were. They are probably getting that from home. If parents won’t vote for it and parents are only about 30% of the electorate how will the 70% who are senior citizens vote? No story about the naming of Denfeld will change the voters mind.

I discovered several months ago that someone had already conducted what amounted to a phone survey about people’s attitudes toward the Red Plan and candidates who supported it. I wondered then if the Superintendent who almost certainly knew the results had bothered to tell his Stockholm Syndrome suffering captive board members that they were toast. I figured that he didn’t because that might have helped them break free from his hypnosis. The last thing Dr. Dixon needs is a school board that asks questions.

I’ve also marveled at how little advertising there is for the Red Planner Board members. No TV seems to have been ordered. They have not raised significantly more money than the disorganized challengers. There is a lot less money being spent on them than was spent on passing a referendum or on telling the community how good the Red Plan is.

Where is their campaign money? The DFT whose membership must be appalled forced the endorsement of the incumbents and mailed literature to every home telling them who the incumbents are. I doubt that 30% of the teachers will vote for most incumbents.

So, will the incumbents become lame ducks and will the lame ducks vote for another $90 million worth of construction contracts because their voters were too stupid to know what was best for them? I suspect they will.

Others are not mollified

I just received two stunning indictments the first of the Trib here from today’s online comment section:

“Personally, I am not a Duluth resident so I don’t get to vote. But neither did Duluth residents. And no one gets to vote on the BIAS on the DNT except by a withdrawal of subscriptions. Clearly, the DNT is also on the side of denying the populace the right to vote. This can be seen by the incredible statement at the beginning of this article. The CHAOS was created by the school board who deceitfully advertised the meetings as ‘input’ and then took the incomplete ‘preferences’ of the few who attended as a mandate for the city. Those meetings were not advertised as a mandate. Citizens were not told that this was how the expenditure of millions would be decided. NO. It was thought that they were offering suggestions and what ifs. Instead, the ‘wish-list’ was presented as a fait acompli to the public WITHOUT a vote. That is where the chaos began and why it is still roiling. Confusion is not the issue, the denial of a vote is the issue. This used to be the USA where we participated in a government of, by, and for the people. By the DNT’s mocking derision of those who think this right should continue in every sphere, including spending between $293 -497 million dollars on new school buildings in Duluth MN, they demonstrate their bias and short-sightedness. It is never better to acquiesce to a bully. It is better to do what is right and let the chips fall where they may, knowing that, in the long run, if done properly, no one can argue on the basis of a denial of a vote.”

And this of the vaunted process that was open to everyone to design the Red Plan:

“I attended some meetings at Nettleton when the three plans were originally proposed. Here’s what happened. At the first meeting this ***** ********* took over and we spent two hours coming up with a list of questions for Dr. Dixon and the folks from Johnson Controls to answer. Keep in mind that they were there. We were promised that at the second meeting all of our questions would be answered. The school district even had the presence of mind to bring a staffer to record all the questions in addition to the flip chart questions we had assembled. No questions were answered at this meeting. One week later, ***** ********* (now my arch-nemesis — believe me) informed me that he and another parent from Nettleton had met with Dixon privately and had gotten the questions answered so he had changed the purpose of the meeting to figuring out a way “for us to all get along during this process.” So many of us felt disenfranchised — even teachers walked out of the meeting.

At that second meeting however, I was able to squeeze in a few questions and speak privately with a few folks involved in all three plans. The savings the district will realize after the plan is implemented versus the current expenditures and repairing the things that need to be fixed is just over 1%. REALLY? All this over less than 1.5%? Isn’t that less than the rate of inflation? Some parents even said they’d rather spend that little bit extra. Clearly Dr. Dixon and Johnson Controls found their pockets of support and capitalized on them. I could (and have) go on and on about how we have been raped of our rights by people that don’t have a dog in the fight. It’s important for people to know that this situation has been manipulated from day one. And, as I told [a friend] earlier today — I know of two people who were citizen advisors on the Long Range Planning Committee who will shout how great this plan is from the rooftops — when they found out their kids would be attending Morgan Park instead of their preferred Woodland, they pulled every string they could to get their preference. One finally succeeded by falsifying his address. Am I angry? You bet!!!”

Time Out

This will be the most serious post I have ever written. I just listened to a phone message from Chuck Frederick the Duluth News Tribune’s Editorial Page editor. Those of you who have read his editorial board’s editorial this morning bear with me. The message I returned to him was not motivated by that editorial or perhaps I should say that when I left him a message in reply it wasn’t on my mind. Its probably accurate to say that my increasing contempt for the editorials and Red Plan related news content of the Tribune was on my mind when I replied but I was so white hot with fury when I called back that the only thing on my mind was the message he’d left me.

If you will excuse a few asterisks I can probably paraphrase the last half of my reply to Chuck thusly:

You can print any f***ing thing you want in your M*****F***ing newspaper. I’m going to send you all the emails ******* sent me something something something.

My grandson stayed with us last night. He’s the little fellow I call the Tan Man in the occasional post. Having him near has helped keep me in good humor for the past year as the Red Plan has ground me down into a state of near fatalism. We keep him on Wednesday nights although I end up missing him because I have to attend church choir practice.

He was up and full of good cheer this morning and I wasn’t about to miss much precious Tan Man time with him to check up on the news. I switched off National Public Radio as my wife, “Grandma” to the Tan Man, prepared cream of wheat. For a treat Claudia pulled out molasses for a topping. She calls it by the British name treacle because our Grandson is a great fan of the Thomas the Tank Engine series which is a British production. One of the episodes of the friendly little engine Percy has him getting covered with treacle so that’s what the Tan Man calls the awful stuff.

I quickly grabbed the rolled up Trib from my front porch and pulled out the advertising circulars to discard. Then I took a quick peek at Page two to glance at the headlines and saw one that said that a student group had found that Duluth Students preferred the Red Plan over Plan B. I took a quick look at the charts and thought to myself “not hardly.” Then I opened turned to the Editorial page where I read a headline about the “Welty Gang.” I laughed and Claudia asked me what was so funny. I told her I was the featured enemy of the paper that morning right up there with Doctors who have sex with their patients and secretaries who embezzle from the Charities they work for to feed their pull tab habits.

I saw her pick up the paper to check out the article which I planned to read at my leisure once the house was empty. She is a saint to stay married to a man who courts such public scorn.

When the house was quiet I headed upstairs with the paper to read it bit by bit in between answering email messages. I got a phone call from a confederate who was furious with the inaccuracies in the editorial and who raged that we should boycott it. I still hadn’t read about my gang yet but promised to get around to the editorial shortly.

It was a rather pathetic editorial. I was the only named villain and those who worked with me were reduced to a “gang.” The Trib trotted out the same figures that I’ve described as phony to shore up their contention that only the Red Plan can save us money. Frankly, the tone of the editorial seemed defeated, like a kid who’s been beaten with a belt by his sadistic father one too many times. It seemed like a plea for me at this late date to admit that was wrong for the good of the community. Rather like this:

“Come on Harry. Ask your addled followers to vote for the incumbents. Sure we’ve treated you like a Don Quixote for two years but for the good of Duluth tell the folks who have followed you for two years because you were a champion for their voting rights – never-mind. Please do this Harry, you rotten gang member you.

There is nothing to pick me up from the canvass like a good whiff of smelling salts and getting called names by the Editorial Board did the trick.

I began making calls to raise more money to pay for more TV ads. I had a growing mental list of fun blog posts to write and upload most making fun of the Trib but I was determined to place another $600 worth of ads first. Then I got a call from another LDVer I had asked to return my call. It is a trusted member of the organization. I can no longer make this claim. A lot of folks are perturbed that 1. I make people mad. 2. That I disclose so much information. 3. The media gives me too much attention. 4. 5. 6. the list is endless.

my crisis of the moment, number 15 or 16 on the list, is that I’ve alienated most of the non incumbent school board candidates so much that I’m not even sure some of them will take my contributions for the TV ads Mike Jaros helped us with.

I’ll just cut to one chase by saying I raised enough by a little after noon to place six more spots on the tube and got them all scheduled.

All morning I took calls from people who were steamed at the Trib. Three talked of organizing boycotts. My plan of retaliation was a little more comic. I drove past their offices at 404 West first street and snapped a couple photos. I was going to photo-shop an image of a spray painted “Let Duluth Vote” tag on the picture and post them with a little commentary about my “homies” tagging the Trib.

There’s nothing like a little good natured humor to put me at ease.

My final stop before getting home and blogging up a storm. I had many posts to unload. I was going to comment on the second page story that completely eviscerated the editorial page. I had gotten the headline wrong. I simply was so used to awful headlines about the Red Plan that my brain told me that students preferred the Red Plan. The person who brought this to my attention was LDV’s Brenda Anderson who had also called that morning.

I mentioned to Brenda that after all the propagandizing the District had done in the schools it wasn’t surprising that the Red Plan was preferred by kids over a plan that would cost more and give them crappy schools. I was about to tell her that that’s not what the graphs said when Brenda told me that it was Plan B the kids said they preferred.

She had gotten a call the day before from the Trib’s Ed reporter Sarah Horner and made the same mistake I had. When Sarah told her the results for a reaction Brenda had begun with the same litany I’d recited about the Administration’s propagandizing. Sarah had stopped her just has Brenda had now stopped me. NO. The survey said the kids preferred Plan B over the Red Plan, just barely, but it had come out on top.

The student organization which had been aided an abetted all along by Dixonites and Red Planners had hoped for a different outcome. Unlike their adult sponsors they were too honest to rig the figures.

To be honest most kids expressed no strong opinions and half didn’t bother to fill in the survey. What it mostly did was confirm that kids are far too occupied with the million things going on in their lives than some icky politicking about their future that were in the hands of a bunch of adults frothing at the mouth.

The implications of this survey were dramatic. If the most potent base of support for the Red Plan didn’t support it then how could Dr. Dixon’s incumbents hope to get reelected? All the tripe dished out by the Superintendent’s minions and warmed over by the Trib’s editorial board couldn’t get the students to prefer their plan to the crappy Plan B. As Mimi and the Editorial Board pointed out even gang leader Harry Welty said he hated Plan B but what do you know. The kids preferred it to Dixon’s dreams.

Its fair to say that all this gumbo of late election goings on had put me in a pretty good humor. I’ll even ad that the other crisis in my life (a long simmering family matter) which has been almost as time consuming and maybe even more traumatic to me than the Red Plan seemed finally to be coming to a happy resolution based on an email I’d opened along with the rest this morning. I was in a pretty happy frame of mind when I came home rain soaked from a long morning of productive politicking.

I could see from the flashing light on my kitchen phone that a few calls had come in so I kicked off my wet shoes and listened to the messages.

There were two. The first one escapes my memory blown to bits by my anger over Chuck Frederick’s call.

Now, to be honest, all you could say about Chuck’s call was that he was just being a good newspaperman checking on facts before he published something. As a little aside before I get to the stinking meat of this story I should mention yet another call I’d taken this morning.

One of the callers who was outraged by today’s editorial mentioned the woman who had written a letter to the editor which Chuck Frederick kept refusing to print until she could prove what she was alleging. We in Let Duluth Vote have gotten used to Forum Communication publications running off to the School District to get the District’s side before publishing our opinions. I mentioned one fellow who had sent five incarnations of a letter before his sixth version was finally accepted. Chuck was concerned enough about it that he called me up to say that’s not how the Trib worked. I gave him the particulars but he never got back to me to tell me the story.

So this woman was furious because for weeks her son was in a health class with 65 students. 65 STUDENTS! Chuck has still not let the letter go into the paper. I have no idea what she’s supposed to do to prove her story. Maybe its slotted to go in but the Trib hasn’t gotten back to her with that info. At any rate it makes little difference. I’ve always said that the last thing a candidate for the school board should do is make the teachers mad. There are a thousand of them. If you make one made his or her spouse will get mad. Then the parents and children will get mad. Then their neighbors. Then their friends then members of whatever church they attend.

Folks don’t talk much to me but because I’ve been portrayed as such a villain they steer clear. But its obvious the Red Plan is mired in public antipathy.

So, the Trib and the supporters of the Red Plan are pulling out all the rhetorical stops. Plan B is a disaster. I am a gang leader. My allies are uncivil. The School Board is about to be dumped. What can be done to save Johnson Controls?

Chuck mentioned the name of an adversary a fellow who began sending me email a couple months ago. I had referred to this person in a post without mentioning his name. He kept up a long string of emails to me. He threatened to sue me for libeling him. Every communication was dreadful.

I found out he was the husband of a woman who worked with my wife. In fact she was my wife’s subordinate and a person my wife saw great potential in and has been grooming to a higher station in the business. Our families are connected through church.

My wife was sick about this. My harasser’s wife was sick about it. My harasser had locked onto me and seemed prepared to make a very public stink about something most rational folks would say amounted to nothing.

I’ve kept all the email that was sent between us. You never can tell when some damned lawyer will demand that you present it as part of the discovery for a lawsuit. I am always pretty careful what I write. I have no doubt that an impartial viewer will read the email and sympathize with me. I wasn’t a push over. I pushed back. But I also offered olive branches evidently to no avail.

The emails began with the threat of suing me for libel (so what else is new?) I thought they had ended but my reprieve was short lived. A new round of email from this gentlemen emerged after someone who knew who he was took offense at his postings on the Trib’s online comment section and sent him a nasty anonymous letter. My harasser blamed me. After all I was responsible for creating a mob like environment in town. I’m a gang leader you know. Because my demand for voting rights had gotten out of hand someone had made a threat against his family. I was to blame for this threat and based on comments I wrote to him in the second round of harassing email he was convinced ….Oh, hell. I don’t know what he was convinced of.

Up to now this was just a huge embarrassment. Not for me but for this gentleman’s wife.

Chuck’s message said he’d just been handed a police report given him by this gentleman and had heard how I had equated death threats to his family with catcalls hurled at my home. Chuck wanted to give me a chance to comment.

Through clenched teeth I left a message with Chuck that because of my wife’s fondness for her employee ….Sorry, I don’t recall how I finished that. I told Chuck I would forward all the email I had been sent or had replied to by this fellow and then I concluded my message with the string of pearls quoted at the beginning of this anecdote.

I distinctly felt as I listened to Chuck that he was smirking as he left his message. I like Chuck. I don’t think he smirks. But I’ve been tough on the Trib which has been losing subscribers like a pail with a hole in it loses water. The position his newspaper took two years ago – that the Red Plan was more important than our right to vote on it – helps explain some of that loss. The story on the second page shows that even the people who should agree with that position apparently don’t. I know how powerfully the yen for vindication can drive someone. I can state with confidence that I would have quit this fight a long time ago if one of Forum Communications writers had not told the people of Duluth I should be sued for libel.

I’m still waiting for that libel suit.

Let’s see if the Trib wants vindication for its poorly received political stand against a public vote so badly that it will print this wretched story. If it does I know I’ll finally drop my subscription. My wife already suggested doing this a few months ago. She’s retiring next Tuesday and we’re going on a fixed income too like so many other Duluthians who are getting stabbed in the back by this School Board and the Duluth News Tribune.

This tome deserves a good editing but I’m too pooped out to start that. I’m leaving town as soon as I can after this election to clear my head for a couple weeks. I may not bother polishing it up beyond the rough draft state it currently enjoys because I suspect a shrewd reader who wades through it will probably get the message. I’ll take more care with the book I will be finishing next year. Feel free to put an order in for it. Duluth deserves some memento of the Red Plan carnival and I may recoup some small part of the filthy lucre I’ve expended to defend Democracy in Duluth.

Mimi has a lot of explaining to do

Samples from the latest group email sent out by Mimi Larson to her Red Plan supporters:

“Since the announcement was made last Friday that the Minnesota Department of Education has accepted Let Duluth Vote’s Plan B as educationally and economically advisable, I have received calls and emails wondering what this means.”

No kidding!

It means that the non-binding referendum election will probably occur. I say “probably” because who knows what will happen next in this crazy debate. But the school board has no reason to stop the referendum at this point. . .

Could this mean that the District is seriously considering ignoring the Minnesota Dept. of Education? Just asking.

“Let Duluth Vote has already moved on to their next confusing, chaotic step. Harry Welty’s blog gave the blueprint for their strategy on Saturday: “any vote on Plan B will be anticlimactic.” “I hope the new board … will begin working on another plan.” “I have always hated Plan B” (C’mon, Harry. Really?) “I’d start by offering a Plan C referendum built around two high schools”

C’mon Mimi. Really? Anybody who has paid attention to School District politics in Duluth for the past decade knows I’ve pushed for two high schools forever. Just Google the “Zenith Plan” and “Harry Welty” together and you will probably find the plan I proposed ten years ago to close a high school. Ask the Central folks. They know I was ready to close their high school. As for a Plan C…….Mimi…….Have you failed to notice all the construction going on at our schools? Plan B was conceived long before any excavation. A new school Board will have to blend what can not be stopped in the Red Plan with whatever ratcheting back makes financial sense. If you don’t like the letter C in the alphabet come up with your own term denoting compromise. Oh, I forgot. That’s not a word in your vocabulary.

As for my googling suggestion – I just used the new search engine from Microsoft called Bing. These are the 2nd and 3rd entries from the search I just suggested.

CrisisJune My Zenith Plan vs. the Board’s Corridor Plan – a comparison. 5-22- The Duluth News … Sunday 2-25-2001 Harry Welty Out of his box A flattering column but why does Tom West … Cached pageDuluth SchoolsZenith Plan vs. Corridor Plan – Early in 2001 I proposed a two-highschool plan … Harry Welty Teacher, Three Strikes and You’re Out (This page has not yet been created. Cached page

And last but not least.

The next important decision will occur on Tuesday, election day.

You got that right Mimi!

Bit my tongue. Bit my tongue.


No big deal – a Board member’s historical revision

I got a very good question in my email today. Apparently a former school board member XXXXX has been telling people that Lowell school was built without a referendum back in 1989 and that no one complained about it. The Board member goes on to suggest that the absence of a vote on the Red Plan is no big deal either.

I was asked to explain the history on this since the emailer didn’t live in Duluth twenty years ago.

Trust me. It will be a pleasure!

The traditional law used by school districts to fund building programs allows for a “reverse referendum.” This exBoard member served on the school board when Lowell was built and knows this or should know this.

A reverse referendum allows for a petition by the public to put the bonding question on the ballot if the community has reservations about the plan. If no petition is circulated or not enough signatures are gathered there is no need to put the question to a vote. In the case of Lowell School nobody circulated a petition. That’s because it was part of the third building plan in succession. The two preceding it were voted on and defeated. The first offered in 1989 weighed in at $55 million. It was crushed in a referendum. A second for $35 million was also defeated the following year. Like the Red Plan ALL of the money raised for these two plans, had they been approved, would have come from local property taxpayers.

When the final plan was offered it was for a modest $26 million. Not only was it much smaller but the state offered to kick in half of the cost for safety improvements so that if it passed in a referendum local property taxpayers would only pay $13 million of the cost. So, no one circulated a petition. Duluth voters knew a good thing when they saw it.

The reverse referendum law is still on the books. Dr. Dixon and JCI made sure that they did not use this law to fund their gargantuan design. That’s because they didn’t want to give voters a chance to veto the plan. They were afraid that some clown like Harry Welty might circulate a petition and force the Red Plan to be voted on.

That’s the big deal. This School Board’s attorneys reinterpreted several funding laws including Mike Jaros’ law allowing Boards to bypass voters to fund building plans for the purpose of desegregation. By the way, the ceiling for these building plans is half-a-million dollars for every Minnesota City except Duluth, Minneapolis and St. Paul. Compare that to the Red Plan’s $437 million cost. You can be damn sure the folks at MDE swallowed hard when the Red Plan was dropped on their doorstep.

Dr. Dixon is rumored to have threatened that he would sue the Dept. of Education if it didn’t approve the Red Plan. The Dept. of Ed is full of bureaucrats who don’t want trouble. They left the trouble for Duluth to sort out. The MDE OK’ed the Red Plan with the same language they used to OK Plan B. They did not endorse either plan.

This ex school board member was a forerunner of today’s Ann Wasson. That helps explain why XXXXX wasn’t reelected.