Sharpening Knives Against Mary
Because Mary felt that she'd been beaten up two years ago at the DFL Screening Committee I agreed to attend this year's screening with her. It was a little awkward for me since I'm a Republican but everyone was cordial to me.
Knowing nothing about the endorsement process of the DFL I was heartened when the nomination committee, which had screened all the candidates, failed to nominate any of them for the at-large school board positions. Unfortunately, we had not previously asked anyone to nominate Mary. That meant that when the nominations were opened Mary was ignored and left unnominated. That was too bad. I think she would have done rather well among the thirty or so people present. This is very typical of conventions. Unless someone tells a delegate what to do he or she will tend to act like a sheep. Since we hadn't asked anyone in advance to nominate Mary none showed the initiative to do this on their own. If I'd been a DFLer I'd have found someone fast to offer Mary's name and it would have been an interesting contest.
Mary was out of town the next week during the AFSCME (public employee's union) screening so I attended in her place. Again I was welcomed cordially although one of the incumbents said rather frostily to me as I sat next to her "I didn't know you were a candidate!"
After I was introduced several AFSCME officers asked me barbed questions implying that Mary had supported the Edison public schools to the detriment of the Duluth Schools. This was an easy charge for me to dispel. I pointed out that minority children had not always been well served in the Duluth Schools and that Edison was an attempt to try something different.
I explained that we (the Duluth Schools) lost virtually no public money when our students attended Edison. I added that if we took the Edison students back it would require us to pay to educate them instead of Edison. I did admit that losing students put some theoretical pressure on us but only to the extent that we had too many buildings that we had to pay to maintain. This, however, was not currently a problem. I knew this because I had already asked the Administration to look into returning our sixth graders to elementary schools. The administration told me that there was no room for sixth graders in our elementary schools. Since the number of Edison students is close to the number of sixth graders in the Duluth Schools presumably we would have no room for Edison students in our existing schools either.
This was not the only question that was asked. Another AFSCME employee said flat out that Mary had announced her intent to close one of the high schools. He demanded to know which high school she intended to close. It was obvious he wanted to use her decision against her by pitting one part of town against another. This charge came as news to me and I told him that while I knew she was open minded on the subject I had never heard her say she was determined to close a high school.
It was just the first salvo. The following week Mary attended the AFL-CIO screening and the same set of questions was thrown at her. She handled them well. She pointed out that some of the union folks at the screening had begged her to support a charter school six years earlier. Mary told her audience that it was a little late to quibble about and second guess her decision at this late date.
As for the charge that she planned to close a secondary school she explained that she had not made a decision but was merely open minded about a decision which pits elementary closings against secondary closings.
It will be interesting to see if her detractors ignore her true position and publicly accuse her of having made up mind in future letters-to-the-editor. It won't be the first time Mary's gotten poison pen letters.