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.

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