Not Eudora
By Harry Welty
July 4, 2008

The Red Plan is Doomed

I recently asked who would save Duluth 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 JCI manufactures and sells) in the Districtís newest schools, Lakewood 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.

  1. The 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 JCI the power to make business decisions without School Board oversight, C. JCI ís conflict of interest in awarding bids to subcontractors.
  2. Dividing Duluth ís schools by income and race in violation of state and federal law.
  3. There is already one case winding its way through the courts. Litigants (Iím one of them) are challenging the City of Duluth for refusing to authorize an environmental study of the plan.
  4. At 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.
  5. Finally, 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 Minnesota 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 Duluth 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 Duluth began once it was discovered that there was a way to authorize a building program without a vote. Superior 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 child
Duluth 10,000 students / $300,000,000 = $30,000 per child

But thatís just the beginning of the comparison. When Superior built its new schools the State of Wisconsin agreed to pay 2/3rds of the cost. The Superior project cost $47 million but Superior taxpayers only paid $15 million dollars for their new schools. Thatís one tenth what Duluth taxpayers will pay under the Red Plan. Superior paid $3,000 per child. Duluth will pay $30,000 per child.

If JCI 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 Duluth from the Red Plan? The answer is: Duluth 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 Duluth Vote, 2610 E 3rd St. , Duluth , MN 55812 .

If youíd like to help, give me a call. My numberís in the book. Or email me at: harrywelty@charter.net

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