Tuesday, 2-2-2002

A to Z Plan

Dear Political Diary,

About the last thing I expected today was disharmony on the School Board. The day started out routinely enough with an email from the Northland Reader. I was informed that they weren't satisfied with my inaugural column. It wasn't political enough. They were also unimpressed with my suggestion for a column name: "Not Eudora." When I made a case for it they suggested it was too obscure for their readers. At least they extended my deadline till next Monday. Fortunately there are no end of subjects available to me. I just hope I don't annoy all the local politicians with my observations the way I annoyed our new Chairman tonight. It could make me very unpopular.

It took me the morning to flesh out a new column about soft money in local campaigns. There was a story about it in the Trib a few days ago featuring Greg Gilbert and the Chamber of Commerce. It reminded me of a similar story two years ago featuring me. The chief difference was that this year's article had Greg pointing his fingers at the Chamber while I two year's earlier I had pointed mine at local unions.

I got a call from Grant at noon telling me that my reading partner wasn't in school. I missed him last week too because he was skiing on a school field trip and it turns out there's no school next week. The fellow calling me told me they'd reintroduce us when we finally got back together.

That gave me the afternoon to turn my attention to the long overdue campaign finance report I was supposed to turn in on Jan 31st. Its for the legislative campaign I never concluded. I'm risking a fine if I don't get it in soon although I took in no money last year. I dug out the information I needed and had a few questions which I decided to square away on the morrow.

My son came home with a troop of guys to network computers together again. He'd had a gang over while we were away and left computers all over the house with tangled wires and empty pop cans. He kept putting off picking up with lame excuses like "it was pitch dark last night." Too bad we don't have electric lights. After I got him up for school I took them all to the basement.

Tonight was another jam packed Committee of the Whole. To my surprise Garry Krause was there. He'd had been scheduled for one of the hospitals and didn't think he'd be there. It was just as well that he was because Pati Rolf and Mary Glass Leblanc were absent and it was a full agenda.

We started at 4:30 and went through for three hours. I'd forgotten we'd decided to forgo meals as a cost saving measure. I got pretty hungry before it was all over.

It was important but standard stuff until suggested that I might not vote for some of the plans because I preferred closing a high school. I'm particularly unhappy about having to send Woodland Avenue kids to Central because I've heard lots of complaints. I've always thought two high school would be less controversial because it would affect the entire population  and not just pick on a small slice of them. 

I've made the arguement before to no avail but did it again to insulate myself from the inevitible criticism which will be pitched my way because I represent the area. I want my constituents to know its the rest of the School Board's plan.

Evidently I rubbed our new Chairman Mike Akervik the wrong way because he stepped out of his role as the impartial stage manager of the meeting took me to task after I'd made my comments. I was taken aback by what I interpreted as a reprimand for expressing minority ideas.

I mulled over his diatribe and one of the comments he'd made to the effect that it was the Eastern part of Duluth that was due for some school closings. I really couldn't recall his exact words but when I got a chance to get back in the conversation I addressed Mike and told him I thought he'd just "chastised" me and wondered if I'd heard right that he really thought that after all the school closings in the western half of the town it was payback time for the east. 

He gave quite a speech which reminded me of Hamlet's Ophelia. I really thought he did protest too much. I could have swallowed a simple explanation and apology better. He concluded by saying that it was a simple matter that we had too many schools and that we must make decisions with the good of the entire school district in mind. Laura Condon quickly chimed in that she didn't want me to prolong the Board meeting with what she evidently considered irrelevencies. She used to quite garrolous when she was in a minority. How the worm has turned.

Later when I was called on again I agreed with Mike's last comment. Both Garry Krause and Mary Cameron stuck up for me. Garry pointed out that not all Board members have the same point of view. Mary expressed the hope that board members with minority views didn't have to worry about being silenced and commented that we were all elected to represent our constituencies.

The ever eager Chad Thomas from KDLH rushed up to me after I left to ask me if I'd accused the Chairman of wanting to punish East Duluth. I told him that I took Mike at his word that he was only thinking of the needs of the entire district. I hope this is true but I have my doubts. Mike seems hell bent on closing schools and the quicker the better. He has really fallen into the Zeitz Huddleson conviction that programs trump school buildings every time. Its not the Akervik to Zeitz plan (that's A to Z for short).

 Chad hashed up the story a bit. He said I accused Mike of having an "ulterior motive" when in fact I only asked him to clarify what I thought he had implied. At least the story made it plain that some board members were determined to close more schools this year. That ought to keep more people tuned to our deliberations. 

The job of a board chairman is to help promote calm. Mike's only in his second month and he almost had World War Three on his hands. I'm sure glad he's the pilot and not me.

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