Not Eudora
By Harry Welty
Published Oct. 24
, 2008

Thrills not Chills 

For better than two years I have been thrilled to watch the unfolding campaign of Barack Obama for the Presidency. For half that time Iíve been chilled by the theft of my vote and the imposition of the monstrous Red Plan on the Duluth Schools. It may take the election of Ryan Stauber, a Republican, to undo the damage that will be inflicted on our schools because of our arrogant School Board and the help they received from Rep. Tom Huntley. Itís not a very likely scenario considering the anticipated tidal wave for Democrats this year but then again, none of the experts gave Barack much of a chance either.

Of all the ignorant things Red Plan supporters like Tom say, one argument stands out. Tom says that since county boards and city councils can raise taxes without putting them to a referendum school boards should be allowed to do the same.  If we were talking about money to run the schools I might agree but Huntley applies this reasoning to capital bonding. This is an entirely different kettle of fish. Capitol bonds finance construction not classroom expenses. For generations Americans have had the right to vote school bonds up or down. By abetting the School Board in stealing our votes Tom Huntley has put Duluth ís public school children at great jeopardy. This nearly cost him his endorsement at the DFL convention this summer even though Tom was unopposed.

By depriving local voters of their right to vote on the biggest school construction project in state history Huntley has probably doomed the fall operations levy. As a result we are witnessing the sorry spectacle of desperate students cheerleading to pass it. Only a few pathetic, yellow ďYes, Yes, Yes,Ē lawnsigns have sprung up suggesting the serious resistance levyís supporters must be encountering from angry voters. The three yeses are required because of the maddeningly awkward ballot designed by the Administration in the vain hope of getting some portion of the levy passed.  Even if voters didnít want to take a pound of flesh out of the School Board this odd ballot would probably confound them.

Duluth has been fortunate to pass three out of four operational levies since 1993. The only one that failed was in 2001 when my School Board did not specify how the levy revenues would be spent. Rather than learning from this mistake the current board has once again made no promises about spending. Instead theyíve put a gun to the voterís head threatening a four-day school week or no school in January. Itís hard to fathom Rep. Huntleyís confidence in our School Board watching this nightmare unfold.

The House tax staff is convinced that the laws which give our School Board this power simply represent a legislative oversight. Almost every other Minnesota community has the choice of putting such a decision on the ballot with a binding vote.

This might have been remedied last year had Tom not fought the Mike Jaros bill that would have required a binding vote on the Red Plan. Itís not too late to reintroduce Mikeís bill and Ryan Stauber has promised to do so. Now that Governor Pawlenty, who once opposed the Jaros bill, has seen the error of his ways a new legislator could remedy Huntleyís poor judgment.  If the law passed this winter the Red Planís remaining $283 million could still be put to a binding vote.

Ryan, a stubborn kid my sonís age, would prefer to earn this seat on his own without leaning on his familyís legacy but voters ought to take note of it. Ryanís Dad, Jim, is a long time city councilor and his Grandfather, Tony, was a long time Duluth school administrator and school board member. Both men have steady voices and both have been willing to stick their necks out a time or two. If Ryan is anything like them Duluth has much to look forward to. As an Obamaphile I was pleased to hear that Ryan greatly admires Barack Obama. Just think of it. A Republican who likes Obama! A few more even tempered people like Ryan could help save the Party of Lincoln from going extinct.

Because Democrats will sweep the legislature this year Duluth would send a powerful message to St. Paul by dumping Tom and electing Ryan. If Ryan wins I think you could put money on the legislatureís hand cuffing Duluth ís School Board. If they didnít they would give Ryan a platform to beat up Democrats for years to come. That wonít happen if Tom Huntley gets reelected and the Red Plan will go on its merry way.

For those eager to pass an operational levy Ryanís election would be a Godsend. The sooner Duluth voters get a chance to vote on the Red Plan the sooner theyíll be willing to pass a levy for classroom spending.

Welty is a small time politician and spaghetti cook who lets it all hang out at: www.letduluthvote.com