Who’s reporting the Red Plan?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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