Tenacity and perseverance are usually held up as virtues. Stubbornness is not.I’m not sure where the issue of disclosing the truth about the Red Plan fits in. I feel that I have been tenacious, dogged even in trying to win transparency where its finances are concerned. That was not possible when I ran for the school board seven years ago as the Red Plan basked in a kind of nether world with the benefit of the doubt behind it. For the following years the School Board majority refused to question or allow questions about its finance. It was a period of darkness where happy talk and purposeful ignorance prevailed in 5-2 and 6-1 votes not to provide information to the minority. It was a time when it was first falsely claimed that JCI would only get 2% of the Red Plan’s cost and that there would be a $32 million windfall for the District from savings and that no money was being taken from the general fund for bond repayment. To call these claims anything less than lies would be fatuous.
So today, now that the Red Plan construction is behind us but its calamitous results will be with us perhaps until its paid for in another twenty years seems the opportune time to get past the head in the sand Era. I don’t think refusing to look at Red Plan finance for the seventh and eighth years after its commencement can in any way be considered perseverance. I think it can only be considered stubbornness, willful ignorance even. To beg repeatedly, as Chair Miernicki has, for us to look to the future would be comical if he wasn’t so determined to keep his head in the sand at the expense of truth and resolution.
Mike and I are entering a cold war which, I’ve told Art Johnston is a tragedy. I’ve described Mike as big hearted in the past. Since his charge that Art assaulted him, a charge I don’t believe in the slightest, I’d have to describe our chairman as a Grinch in reverse. His heart has shrunk two sizes. He has read my blog regularly so he won’t appreciate this analysis. There are likely to be a lot of things I’ll be writing in the future that he will find even more infuriating.
Last night the School Board had a visit from the national poobah of the Civility Project. I wonder what she though of our meeting. The discussions I introduced were all conducted in a formal and civil manner. The resistance to let the minority speak was not, however, particularly civil. Chair Miernicki’s guiding stars are apparently Senator Reid and Congressman Boehner, not exactly paragons of civility. After the meeting Mike told me angrily that my call for giving the minority a chance to place issues on the agenda would have no place in either Congress or the State legislature. He was perturbed my my observation that it might be against state statute for an elective body in Minnesota to deny the right to discuss issues to members of an elected minority. He told me he would welcome my lawsuit. Should that come to pass he would expect to pay for his own attorneys as he also refused to let the Board discuss a motion I want added to the agenda to pay for Art Johnston’s legal bills should the investigation Mike instigated prove to be a joke.
Mike did not fully succeed at preventing either of the two discussions I wanted to engage in. He was not a swift enough parliamentarian to prevent that. I introduced my requests for additions to the agenda when we were to adopt the agenda so he was forced to let me read them aloud and then explain why I thought we should be permitted to discuss them.
In short I explained that in all the years I was on the board two members were assured by polity that subjects of interest to them would be placed on the agenda. That policy was done away with in the Dixon regime. It will probably not be allowed to resurface in the Dixon-lite regime. I brought forward that policy change at the end of the meeting during question time.
I pointed out, as did Art, that just because a minority is permitted to debate issues it is no guarantee that they will win the day in a vote. I explained that under Parliamentary procedure the minority is guaranteed a voice in deliberations and that repeated my claim, much to Chair Miernicki’s annoyance, that shutting up the minority was tyrannical, thus Mike’s defense that he was simply acting like a Congressman.
This is the resolution I offered but which was denied a formal discussion by a 3 to 4 vote:
Whereas the initial estimates of “soft costs” for the Long Range Facilities Plan were placed at about 16 percent of the overall cost and
Whereas the recent abbreviated report by Minnesota’s auditor confirmed that 27 percent of the spending on the Long Range Facilities Plan went to pay for “soft costs” and
Whereas there has not been any detailed documentation yet presented to the School Board for this public spending and
Whereas the Duluth School Board has a fiduciary responsibility to its taxpayers to ascertain that these $84 millions of dollars were spent for the benefit of the Duluth schools and
Whereas the Duluth School community has been suffering decreases in programming such as music, increased class sizes, diminished transportation and increased student activity fees as a result of borrowing from the general fund to pay for LRFP bonds and
Whereas there have been calls for greater transparency by the community including, recently, the editors of the Duluth News Tribune, to insure good governance:
Therefore be it resolved, that the Duluth School Board demand that all entities who helped complete the Long Range Facilities Plan and who made soft money expenditures towards its completion be directed to give the Duluth School Board full spread sheet documentation of these payments as soon as practicable.