By Harry Welty
July 4, 2008
The Red Plan is Doomed
I recently asked who would save
from the Red Plan. Even as I wrote that I was predicting in my blog, www.lincolndemocrat.com, that the Red Plan is doomed. Yes, ten million will be
spent this summer. Thatís ten or fifteen years too soon to replace 16-year old
air quality equipment (products that
manufactures and sells) in the Districtís newest schools,
and Stowe. But this is just a down payment on the $293 million project. The
only question is; how much farther will it get before it is dealt one of the
following death blows?
Death Blow #1. Better than a third of its cost to
taxpayers, $90 million, was pushed off until 2011 so that voters wouldnít
begin a tax revolt. But a new school board will be elected next year Ė four
votes Ė a majority - who could
stop the final borrowing. After I pointed this out Dr. Dixon announced on KDAL
that the District wonít wait three more years. It will borrow the last $90
million next year before a new school board can be elected. Mind you, the
Superintendent didnít bother telling the School Board first. One neednít
bother small children about such complicated details.
Death Blow #2. Mike Jarosí bill to force a binding vote
on the Red Plan could be reintroduced by his successor. If it passed before the
next construction season begins the Red Plan could die stillborn saving
taxpayers $280 million. I donít think any candidate can hope to replace Mike
without promising to reintroduce Mikeís legislation. And Red Plan cheerleader,
Rep. Tom Huntley, in whose district half of the Red Plan is being built, will be
challenged by at least one Red Plan opponent. If Huntley was defeated Mikeís
bill would almost certainly pass thus guaranteeing a referendum.
Death Blow #3. Critics of the Red Plan will take the
District and or Johnson Controls to court. If they win a restraining order the
delay might last long enough for Mikeís bill to be enacted or a new school
board to be seated. A successful court challenge could terminate the
Districtís plans to complete the Red Plan.
There are four or five serious legal cases to be made
against the project.
School Board surrendered unprecedented power over the construction of the
Red Plan to Johnson Controls Inc. leading to: A. Design work by architects
without Minnesota licensure, B. Contractual language that gives
the power to make business decisions without School Board oversight, C.
ís conflict of interest in awarding bids to subcontractors.
ís schools by income and race in violation of state and federal law.
is already one case winding its way through the courts. Litigants (Iím one
of them) are challenging the City of
for refusing to authorize an environmental study of the plan.
least one of the families being evicted through eminent domain will fight
until the bitter end. Their home canít be bulldozed until a court rules on
their case and they might even win.
for Duluthians who resent having their voting rights snatched away, there is
a constitutional issue. The 14th Amendment which granted freed
slaves their citizenship says that all citizens must be accorded ďequal
protection under the law.Ē But
has created two classes of voters with unequal rights. Citizens in suburban
and rural school districts can vote on projects like the Red Plan but not
voters in Minnesotaís big three cities. The ACLU declined to take this
case due to limited resources but explained that it might be willing to help
out on this challenge with an amicus brief.
Of course, the Red Plan ought to die of its own stupidity.
I called its former manager, Dave Korhonen after he quit
the Red Plan last month. He told me how he ran a similar project for the
Superior Schools in the 1990ís. Dave was an employee of the Superior Schools.
He was in charge not Johnson Controls. This is what
should have done. We should have hired a project manager whose loyalties were
to the Duluth Schools. Instead we hired a vender who was also selling goods and
services to us.
All the mischief in
began once it was discovered that there was a way to authorize a building
program without a vote.
had a referendum. They got a good deal.
The Superior Schools have half as many students as the Duluth Schools. The
cost of their school overhaul was $47 million. Thatís far less per student
than the Red Plan. Here are the round figures:
Superior 5,000 students / $50,000,000 = $10,000 per
10,000 students / $300,000,000 = $30,000 per child
But thatís just the beginning of the comparison. When
built its new schools the State of
agreed to pay 2/3rds of the cost. The
project cost $47 million but
taxpayers only paid $15 million dollars for their new schools. Thatís one
taxpayers will pay under the Red Plan.
paid $3,000 per child.
will pay $30,000 per child.
has done nothing to break the law but has only bent it, that doesnít change
the fact that it is still the fox guarding the hen house.
Who will save
from the Red Plan? The answer is:
will have to save itself either at the polls or in the courts. A court
challenge could cost fifty or sixty thousand dollars - a fraction of the $20
million annual taxes the Red Plan will consume. A donation to Let Duluth Vote of
one monthís worth of Red Plan taxes could put a stop to twenty years of taxes
levied without a vote. Twenty-five to a hundred bucks would be a small price to
pay to defend our Constitutional rights. American kids fighting overseas have
paid a lot steeper price than that.
Contributions for a court challenge can be sent to: Let
2610 E 3rd St.
If youíd like to help, give me a call. My numberís in the book. Or email
me at: email@example.com
Harry Welty is a small time politician
who lets it all hang out at: www.lincolndemocrat.com