School Board candidates Harry Welty, Gary Glass, Deb Anderson and
incumbent Tim Grover
are centering much of their election
campaigns on their opposition to the Red Plan for long-range
1. The nastiest and most misleading campaigns are being led by Mr.
Glass and Mr. Welty.
In addition to their bitter attacks on the Red Plan, Mr. Welty and
Mr. Glass are viciously attacking Johnson Controls, the company hired
by the school board to conduct exhaustive studies of every school
building, and to organize hundreds of public community sessions to get
input about their findings.
On June 17, 2007, at a meeting of the Duluth Heights Community Club,
Mr. Glass criticized Johnson Controls for what he claimed would be a
financial windfall (he called it a “plum”) for the company if
it’s later hired to manage remodeling and construction of school
buildings. Glass contended that Johnson Controls stood to get up to
$33.4 million. The Duluth News Tribune reported on Mr. Glass’
comments the next morning.
2. But Mr. Glass was wrong. So, the following day, June 19, the News
Tribune published a front-page story of clarification. It turns out
that Johnson Controls got $250,000 for the study and follow-up
activities, and could possibly earn another $4.5 million for managing
projects. Undeterred by the fact he was $28.9 million off the mark,
candidate Glass continues his reckless attacks on Johnson Controls.
For his part, Mr.Welty, a former school board member (1995-2004),
authored an attack-filled op-ed piece in the News Tribune (Oct. 21),
accusing Johnson Controls of treating voters like “that frog in a
cooking pot that is slowly heated until it boils.” He also charged
that the company found “loopholes that stripped us of our vote.” 3.
(Fact is it’s not a loophole, it’s a state law).
Mr. Welty also recklessly alleges that Johnson Controls will
“squeeze 4. profits out of any subcontractor who takes part [in the
project], not to save money for the school district but to line their
5. I guess that’s what we might expect from a perennial candidate
for many local, state and federal offices who, as a board member, in
April 1998 publicly used a black needle to stab a voodoo doll to
“exorcise the evil spirits” from the school board. (www.snowbizz.com).
6. Long-time board observers also remember Welty’s obscenity-laced
diatribe at a board meeting at which he expressed anger on several
issues. He later apologized. (www.lincolndemocrat.com).
7. A few days ago, I called the Ohio community college where I served
as president for 13 years, and confirmed that Johnson Controls is
currently working on a large project on my former campus. A long-time
employee at the college told me, “The college chose Johnson Controls
because of its reputation, as well as the fact that they are under an
Inter-University Contract (IUC) with the State of Ohio.” The IUC
designation makes Johnson Controls an approved vendor in the state’s
higher education system, without requiring colleges and universities
to go to bids.
8. Some folks think that Mr. Welty is walking on very thin ice. If I
were the CEO at Johnson Controls — a company with 130,000 employees
worldwide — I’d consider taking legal action against him for his
libelous and slanderous remarks about the company. You see, during
election campaigns, most attacks on political candidates are fair game
even if they’re not true. But Johnson Controls isn’t running for
elective office and should not be subjected to a candidate’s
What the Duluth School Board needs in future years is responsible
and reasonable board members who can make up their minds based on
facts and not emotions. Duluth will not get that type of
leadership if Gary Glass and Harry Welty are elected Tuesday.
It is the oldest of all political dirty tricks: Campaign
workers, sensing that their political candidate is in election
trouble, write last-minute letters to the editor accusing their
candidate’s opponent of dirty tricks and smears. The letter writers
hope voters who have not followed the campaign will accept their word
that smears are taking place, even when they’re not.
Last week, two letters from two different Duluthians appeared in
the Budgeteer News and News Tribune. Both writers — supporters of
incumbent City Councilor Laurie Johnson — accused her opponent, Todd
Fedora, of “slinging mud” at Ms. Johnson. Both letters — eerily
similar in tone — contained the same “mud slinging” phrase.
On Aug. 12, I quoted directly from a questionnaire Councilor
Johnson filled out for AFSCME — her employer — before the union
endorsed her for re-election. Many of the lawmaker's answers to
AFSCME’s questions are cited, word-for-word, in Mr. Fedora’s
campaign literature. That is surely not mudslinging. But Ms. Johnson's
responses in the questionnaire could lead one to ask: Whom will she
represent on the council if she's re-elected: the union, or her
We'll know the answer on Tuesday.
Ralph Doty can be contacted at email@example.com.