The Gusset Plate

Once again I’ve woken at threeish in the morning with the School District on my mind.

My plan was to edit the last post which took two hours to crank out from 3 to 5 AM. But my heart isn’t in proof reading. I went downstairs to give our cats some very early morning food mostly to assure that they don’t start howling and prowling and wake up my grandsons who stayed with us last night. They are clever like that. If I won’t wake up for them then they know I’ll wake up for the boys. I also checked on the laundry while I was in the basement. Drat, After putting in the last load in the washer I forgot to push the start button last night.

My Grandson’s took up most of my day yesterday as they likely will today. There was a very interesting column in the Trib which I set aside and still haven’t read. Its by Art Johnston and on a topic we’ve discussed a great deal. I got several emails regarding it but I haven’t read them either. I will do so soon perhaps this dark morning and comment on them here but until now I’ve not wanted to draw my attention away from my loved ones.

After attending a funeral yesterday morning of one of my old allies, another last remnant of the old RINO GOP, I found that my future son-in-law had left me a phone message inviting me along with the gang to the Public Television Fun Fair being held at out newest Middle School, Lincoln. I dressed down and hurried over in time to join the boys and my daughter for hot dogs. While sitting under the central open space in the building I looked up to see if I could spy the failing gusset plate I’d heard about from a structural glitch in the building’s making. Sure could. I was right under it.

If you read the paper you may have heard about it. We’ve known about the bowed out plate for months. It may have been caused by all this winter’s snowfall pushing down the brand new roof. Its been circulated quietly among the School Board but despite a threat which caused at least one athletic event to be canceled when it was discovered we’ve grown complacent with early suggestions that its not a big deal. The architects of the building reportedly weren’t eager to get too much attention. I discovered why a week ago when I saw that LHB had pitched the Superior School District on their own version of a scaled down Red Plan for $70 million or so. That Gusset wouldn’t be good advertising.

Like a lot of other stuff that doesn’t fit in with the positive spin our District understandably wants spun the suspect roof is unwelcome news. That doesn’t excuse us from bringing it to the public’s attention, however. As I found myself being strung along by the District’s powers-that-be in my futile attempt to ……damn cats, I fed them but they are back up here howling anyway….my futile attempts to understand our budget and the assumptions underlying our contract negotiations I got thinking about the terrible position the school board would be in if the roof actually failed. Knowing that the roof had a glitch and saying nothing about it would have made us all accessories to a potential calamity. Screw that! If the powers-that-be were willing to risk children walking under that roof they ought to put their names to that decision publicly. That, of course, meant me too now that I’m part of the power structure.

I’ve not written about my stringing along over the past month because I’ve tried not to be a pill. Diplomacy you know. But I have some serious grievances. Like Abe Lincoln I’ve written a couple scathing pieces for inclusion on this blog or the Duluth News Tribune or to read at a school board meeting only to fold them up and hold my tongue. That was one of Lincoln’s secrets. It allowed him to vent but like counting ten it kept him from burning bridges with words he could not later take back.

I have given two of my rants to the Superintendent to make clear how I was feeling but without making them public and putting him on the defensive. A couple weeks ago after some clumsy fun and games about when we as a school board would meet to vote on the contract I took one of the held back pieces and hand wrote a hard edged little note explaining that I was so angry I planned to tell the Trib about that gusset plate and suggested that the trib be apprised of it before I weighed in. The Lincoln Roof made it to the paper the next morning suitably downplayed to keep the public from alarm.

When I get around to reading Art’s take on another issue of accountability I’ll have plenty so say but this is my weekend with the kids so I’ll take my sweet time responding, thank you very much.

When I opened up the computer and went on line this morning I found the latest Google logo honoring actress Audrey Hepburn’s 85th birthday. It took me to a short video about her stellar performance in the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s which I saw with my parents back in grade school before I could deduce that it was about a love affair. The music in the video was the melancholy Mancini melody, Moon River, which I occasionally sing to my Mother. Like so many other things in my 63 year old head the clip flashed a dozen recollections successively. I thought of Buddy Ebson who showed up in the movie and how he later was the lead in Beverly Hillbillies and how he missed the chance to be the Tin Woodsman in the Garland movie the Wizard of Oz which I tried last night to get my wife to let our grandsons watch. She doesn’t want to because she thinks its too scary.

I thought about how Frank L Baum the author of the Oz series had written an infamous editorial calling for the eradication of Indians, Geez. That’s quite enough already. My discursiveness can be so undisciplined.

I did find a few minutes to begin yet another history book while out of sight of my Grandsons. Its Mr. Speaker by James Grant. Its about the remarkable career of Thomas Reed who became the first Czar of the House of Representatives between Reconstruction and the worst excesses of the Gilded Age. I learned of him in junior high when I read JFK’s book Profiles in Courage. The president had been assassinated when I was in seventh grade and I was under my Grandfather’s spell to read history. We had urged our Grandfather to go to a Medal of Honor Convention in 1962 that was called together by the new president. I have a lovely picture of the two of them shaking hands at the Rose Garden.

When I was a kid my Dad (his son-in-law) and I were talking about history. One of us challenged him to list all the presidents from Washington to Lyndon Johnson in order. He did it with no hesitancy. That’s not all that surprising. His family was steeped in post Civil War politics. There is an old family story about the time my Grandparents, Winona and George Robb, arrived late at a Robb family gathering. When My Grandmother asked if they had missed anything a sister-in-law told her not to worry. The men were talking presidents and were only up to Warren Harding.

Speaker Reed’s contribution to politics was to take a dysfunctional Congress and turn it into a lean mean legislating machine. That seems a suitable goal for me to contemplate for the next four years. Enough of the sweeping things under the carpet.

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