With 20 x 20 hindsight

Supporters of the Red Plan School Board have constantly accused Red Plan critics of misrepresentation of the truth. In fact it has been the other way around since the early days of the Red Plan.

I pulled out some old Trib stories from the past to illustrate this point. This one titled Overheard: Johnson Controls talks about red plan and dated June 5, 2009 begins thusly:

After grilling both Duluth schools Superintendent Keith Dixon and the anti-red plan group Let Duluth Vote, and after publishing roundups of their comments on long-range school plans and related subjects, the News Tribune editorial board this week sat down with Johnson Controls. The school district’s consultants on the red plan were represented by mechanical engineers Jeff Schiltz, who has worked in Duluth for Johnson Controls for 18 years, and Michael J. David, a Johnson Controls employee for 17 years in Minneapolis.

Following are excerpts straight from their mouths — as “overheard” by editorial board members.

— On the contract between Johnson Controls and the Duluth school district, which designates the firm to both design and implement the district’s long-range facilities plan:

“What the school district was looking for … was a partnership.” — Schiltz

“‘You’re in the long haul with us.’ That was the intent.” — Schiltz

“It holds our feet to the fire for accountability.” — Schiltz

“It helps to guarantee that what gets promised and planned is what gets designed and built.” — David

“[Such a contractual arrangement] is very common.” — David

— On Let Duluth Vote’s argument in its lawsuit that the contract violates bid laws:

“It does no such thing. Professional services are exempt from public bid laws.” — David

— On the sometimes-nasty criticisms leveled in Duluth against Johnson Controls:

“It does hurt.” — Schiltz

“This is our community. We live here, too. Our kids go to school here. It is difficult to see ourselves getting beat up.” — Schiltz

“We don’t have any sort of policy [when it comes to responding], but we’ve chosen to take the high road. It’s hard. If there’s a discussion, we’d like to discuss the facts.” — David

“If we’re going to debate issues, let’s debate, get it settled and move on.” — David

“The district often gets accused of not listening. They are listening. The plan has fluidity.” — David

“It’s a very passionate debate throughout the community, and we’re equally serious about it.” — David

“Healthy debate for a community about a plan is healthy. Debate that always turns to emotions and suspicions is difficult.” — David

“Character assassinations on the superintendent and personal attacks on [school] board members hurt and aren’t part of any healthy dialogue.” — Schiltz

“If [Let Duluth Vote] wanted to have a true debate, we’d hear facts about an alternate plan. Then we could stack them side by side. The red plan would look very good then.” — David

— On claims Duluth taxpayers can’t afford the red plan:

“It’s an excellent question. It’s an excellent comment. What we’ve been trying to stress is that the full tax burden of the red plan has been felt already. It was levied 18 months ago.” — David

“Only 46 percent of the plan is paid for through an increase in property taxes.” — David (The other 54 percent, they said, will be paid from sources that include $120 million in operational savings as a result of the red plan, $23.8 million from the sales of Central High School and other district properties, and savings incurred because costly repairs will no longer be needed.)

— On the decision to locate high schools at Denfeld and Ordean:

“Every group we met said to put the schools where families live, to put the schools where the kids are.” — David

“Put schools where they should be. That’s what we did.” — Schiltz

“With utmost confidence I think our numbers are right on the mark with demographics.” — David

— On Central High School, scheduled to be closed under the red plan:

“It’s being touted as an ideal site. It’s less than ideal.” — David

“That site has a lot more drawbacks than most people realize. It’s

77 acres, but a lot of it is unbuildable because of the grade.” — David

“It would have worked as the single high school for the city, but there’s misunderstanding about the amount of developable land or buildable land there for a school.” — David

“We would have needed a parking ramp.” — Schiltz

— On measures in the red plan to improve security and safety in Duluth’s schools:

“Nobody wants to have a problem and then say, ‘Why didn’t we do something?’ ” — David

“That’s an issue every single day. Security is a major issue in our schools.” — David

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