column submitted to the Duluth News Tribune and
scheduled to appear Aug 2, 2008
Plan Critics Here to Stay
year the News Tribune published my thoughts on Johnson Controls: “Clever
Corporation runs School Board’s Big Decision,”
Oct. 27, 2007
prompted an overheated columnist in another Forum Communication’s
publication to advise
to sue me for slander. Critics of the
Red Plan still endure more journalistic skepticism than its supporters and the
July 6-7th story on Johnson Controls was no exception. Local design
professionals who’ve criticized
were labeled a mere “handful.”
skepticism was evident in June, 2007, after Gary Glass charged that
could earn up to $34 million on the
Red Plan. The next day the Tribune reported that
would only earn $4.5 million or 2% of
the project’s cost. Glass was made to look foolish. The Tribune’s story
was the proof that my critic relied on to label Glass “reckless” before
warning against electing him to the School Board. Superintendent Dixon piled
on by repeatedly assuring, “
will not receive one penny more.”
the following year $4.5 million remained the Tribune’s last word on
’s compensation. Last Month’s
story changed that. It told us that
will receive $5.7 million as a
program manager and additional payments of up to 15% for every school it works
will earn it 7% "to cover
professional service fees." The story also reported
’s successful bid to provide air
control for the
. It did not mention that
effectively awarded itself these
contracts. With 14 more schools
has many more contracts to look
’s final earnings were not estimated
but it’s now obvious that Gary Glass has had a much better grasp of
’s potential compensation than Dr.
Dixon. This doesn’t even take
into account the long term contracts
will get for ongoing maintenance and
repair of its equipment. It should be noted that after the failure of two
operational referendums Two Harbors had to discontinue their relationship with
. The story also failed to mention the
$50 -100,000 security system
Elementary with 13 more schools
likely to follow.
another anecdote that went unreported. School Board member Glass asked the
Administration in May if
had any other contracts. He was told
“no.” A skeptical Glass checked with the
Inspector and discovered a $2,666,000
may be a successful company as the
Tribune reported but its story lacked perspective. For this we have only to
where Dave Korhonen, the Red Plan’s
“Project Executive,” supervised a similar project. I called Dave up after
and learned that
’s $47 million project was a bargain
compared to the Red Plan.
will pay ten times more per child
paid. In round numbers:
’s Plan cost $50 million. Wisconsin
paid 2/3rds of the cost.
’s share of the cost was $15
million. With 5,000 students
paid $3,000 per student.
The Red Plan’s cost is $300 million.
will contribute nothing.
’s share will be $300 million. With
will pay $30,000 per student.
had a referendum!
discovered the School Board could
avoid a referendum the sky was the limit. (Although the next legislature or a
future legal challenge could change this) This may explain why
’s “exhaustive study” had so
many glaring omissions:
- Although it is an energy company
never calculated transportation
costs. As Mr. Korhonen told me, bussing more kids longer distances to fewer
schools will burn more fuel.
- Even a casual observer can see how the Red Plan will divide
along racial lines.
and the District have chosen keep the
new boundaries a mystery to avoid controversy over the inevitable segregation
they will cause.
- The Red Plan crams half our high school population onto Ordean’s tiny 26
acres. Junior high students don’t drive but high school students do and they
will triple Ordean’s enrollment. They will travel to a school on a highway
so problematic that MNDOT has been studying it for the past year. They will
enter a choked single entrance where they will find less than half the
their credit the Tribune’s Publisher and Editor recently spent two hours in
a spirited discussion with Red Plan critics.
Both gentlemen suggested that the Tribune hold a televised
give-and-take between District officials and Red Plan critics. Although this
is no substitute for a referendum such a program would offer
voters a chance to make sense of the
single biggest school building project in
It’s not too late for compromise. Only $10 million of the Red
Plan’s colossal price tag will have been expended through this summer.