Not Eudora
By Harry Welty
Sept. 26, 2008

Whipping them with our noodles

People on Dr. Dixon’s citizen’s committee which gave us the Red Plan were pledged to keep their silence once a decision was made should they disagree with it. During the process their questions were deferred until the end of the analysis. After the analysis was complete they were told it was too late to ask questions.

The analysts were mostly experts from outside Duluth who scurried around looking for things to fix – everything it turned out. Those committee members who had a different idea about what the district should do began dropping out of what they considered a rigged investigation long before it was complete. Only the Kool-Aid drinkers were left to recommend the plan.

When citizens began objecting to such details as the half billion price tag they were told that it was their own fault because they had not bothered to attend the community meetings.  Dr. Dixon had already found a novel legal justification for avoiding a referendum.

When people pointed out that Johnson Controls would get a huge return Dr. Dixon corrected them saying that JCI would only earn 2%. Through cunning or ignorance he was wrong.

Today, faced with complaints that Red Plan projects not yet approved by the MDE, will add another $90 million in bonding debt his loyal School Board Chair, Nancy Nilsen, wrote a constituent: “We have levied for all of it. There is not another levy. . . We levied for the whole amount last year and it is what is being seen in your current property tax.” She’s wrong.

At this month’s school board meeting Dr. Dixon grandly said that none of the fall operations levy would be spent on the Red Plan. But after the meeting he told a worried Tim Grover, who is counting on having a new Central middle school and Piedmont elementary built with an additional $90 million bond, that “I can build anything with the general fund.”

In other words Dr. Dixon can build new schools with operations money. The fall operational levy will give Dr. Dixon more money to build with but even if it fails Dr. Dixon’s top priority - the Red Plan - can be financed with the existing operational levies so long as he has a cooperative school board.

You won’t read any of this in the News Tribune. If you wonder why, pick up a copy of last week’s Reader and see what Ron Brochu had to say about the Trib. Ron used to cover the school district when I was on the Board. Or read what Virgil Swing, a former Tribune Editor, writes about the Red Plan in the Budgeteer. At least a few of us are asking questions.

Dr. Dixon’s teacher allies are beginning to see the outlines of a disaster. They realize what a low priority Dr. Dixon has put on passing the operations levy which could keep them working. Dr. Dixon’s pet organization, Move Forward Duluth, has spent thousands of dollars recently but said nothing to encourage voters to pass the levy. Instead their ad money, some of it extorted from Dr. Dixon’s subordinates, has been spent telling Duluth what a great decision Dr. Dixon’s Red Plan is.

Dr. Dixon shows no sign, has never shown any sign, that he is willing to compromise. The law, as his lawyers interpret it, gives his school board the absolute right to plunge off a cliff with our schools and there's nothing we can do about it. His lawyers aren’t always right.

Dr. Dixon has publicly announced his desire to work on Let Duluth Vote’s Plan B compromise that he delayed for nearly two months to keep it off this fall’s ballot. But at the same time he has ordered the architects to speed up their Red Plan drawings by three months to prevent anyone from putting a stop to it by electing a new school board.

Dr. Dixon can be stopped and a compromise worked out. There are at least three ways.

If Ryan Stauber beats Tom Huntley or Steve Townsend beats Mary Murphy or Alan Kehr defeats Roger Reinert one of them could reintroduce Mike Jaros’ bill for a binding vote on the plan. The Governor has changed his mind and now says he’ll sign the law. If a court challenge is initiated the Red Plan could be ruled illegal.  Finally, and less likely, a recall petition could put the existing school board to flight before next fall’s election.

Let Duluth Vote will meet every Thursday from now until the election to organize and fight for our rights and an honest accounting. We meet at the Central Height’s Community Club at 6:30 pm . We need fresh recruits. We’re also having a Spaghetti Dinner fundraiser on Sat., Oct 25th at West End’s VFW Post 137 from 4 - 7pm. Tickets are $8 for adults $4 for children under 12. It’s free for children under three. Mail a check to Let Duluth Vote, PO Box 3174 , Duluth , MN 55803

Its time this School Board got hit with something a little stronger than a wet noodle. Try our spaghetti!

Harry Welty is a small time politician who lets it all hang out at: www.lincolndemocrat.com