Published September 6th, 2002
Like children begging their mothers to watch them plunge off a diving board for
the umpteenth time, some politicians never outgrow their craving for attention.
I say this with some humility because I am no shrinking violet where reporters
are concerned. Of course, I flatter myself that I have important things to say.
However, since my retirement is always just one election away I too must face
the awful truth that someday reporters will stop calling me. I've consequently
taken some interest in other politicos who have risen from the dead to carry on
carrying on; folks like Jerry Springer, G. Gordon Liddy, Oliver North, and
Duluth's own Brad Bennett.
Brad Bennett and I have developed a prickly relationship since his retirement
from the Duluth School Board. Although we share a fiscally conservative approach
to public spending Brad's accession to the leadership of the FIGHT organization
(Fight Inefficient Government and High Taxes) has put us at odds. Brad has
inherited FIGHT's microphone twice a week on a radio program called,
appropriately, "FIGHTLINE" from which he has mounted many attacks on
the School Board.
Brad should talk! (Or maybe not) Brad had twelve years to learn the ropes on the
Duluth School Board. He even served as a negotiator in contract negotiations.
This pitted him against the savvy and articulate teacher's union President,
Frank Wanner. It was an uneven contest. (Brad recently described the weather
we've been having as "dry humidity.")
Other than leaving the rest of the School Board to deal with unhappy teachers
Brad's legacy was modest. Its highlight probably came when the Duluth News
Tribune called for him to resign. The Tribune objected because Brad had borrowed
a school district car after wrecking his own and drove the District car for nine
months until he wrecked it too. (You can read the editorial and all the gory
details at: http://www.snowbizz.com/ExcessLevy/brad'srecord.htm )
Brad, however, had the good fortune to run unopposed that year. Four years later
when he ran for his final four year term I attended a fundraiser for him at the
Gopher Restaurant. I was surprised to see it attended by so many school
administrators. I guess they were just as afraid to turn down buying a ticket
from Brad as they had been to tell him to give the District's car back.
What they really thought of helping Brad was neatly illustrated when an old high
school chum of mine, who worked in the school administration, put one of my lawn
signs in her yard. Her supervisor ordered her to remove the sign. I thought this
was pretty funny because the supervisor had been one of the administrators at
When the Board began saying the Pledge of Allegiance at school board meetings, a
newly elected member expressed some misgivings about the change to our agenda.
Brad went ballistic and lambasted the Board member on the front page of the
Tribune. I guess it never occurred to Brad that he had served on the Board for a
dozen years and never once thought to recite the Pledge.
Of all the bean balls Brad has thrown at the Board it was FIGHT's full-page ad
dissing last fall's excess levy that really yanked my chain. Had it been merely
scornful I wouldn't have minded. The ad was, however, just plain wrong. It
claimed for example that the District had deficit spent for three year's in a
row. Such calumny! Such libel! We hadn't deficit spent since Brad left the
Board! (You can read FIGHT's ad at: http://www.snowbizz.com/ExcessLevy/fight'sdisinformation.htm)
FIGHTLINE does have its good points. Its one of the few radio talk shows where a
listener can be reasonably certain of being smarter than the host if he/she
decides to call in. While I no longer risk my own brain cells listening to Brad
I do get reports from others who have more brain cells to spare.
There must be something about being on air that brings out the worst in Brad.
Off air he can be quite sensible. A friend of mine told me what Brad said to a
Second Amendment fanatic about gun control. Brad, a Vietnam Vet, asked the
fanatic if he'd ever been shot with an AK 47. When the fanatic admitted that he
hadn't Brad pointed to his leg and said, "Well I have." He then told
the fanatic that this was why he didn't want such guns on the streets. Well said
But Brad, the radio host, has a loyal following to please. One of Brad's
worshipers is a fellow named, Jack. Jack emailed me a few weeks ago asking me
what I thought about legislation that would require all Minnesota Police Chiefs
to give concealed gun permits to anyone without a felony record. I wrote Jack
that if our Police Chief, Scotty Lyons, wanted to deny someone a concealed gun
permit that was OK by me. Jack then tattled on me to Brad who had great fun
warning his listeners to vote for my opponent in the upcoming primary election
rather than "Madman Welty."
After I heard about this from my friends who were losing their brain cells, I
emailed Jack and taunted him to read the pages on my website about Brad's School
Board record. Jack just sent Brad links to the pages and meekly asked Brad what
to make of them. Brad told Jack that Madman Welty ought to get his facts
I got a quick reminder last Friday of the ubiquity of the gun lobby Brad is
trying to arouse against me when I picked up my Grandfather's Civil War Era
Sharps Rifle at the gunsmith's. It's a beauty and the gunsmith told me how much
he'd enjoyed working on it. But as I left the shop with my rifle I couldn't help
noticing the bumper sticker on his wall - "Have Gun Will Vote."
prompted my first complaint