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Duluth 2011 General Election Results

Congratulations to new city councilors Jennifer Julsrud (pending recount), Garry Krause (returning to the council after time off), Linda Krug and Emily Larson.

For the School Board, the winners are incumbent Judy Seliga Punyko and newcomers Michael Miernicki and Bill Westholm.

As for the various questions on the ballot, it’s good for parks and bad for schools.

With 36 of 36 precincts reporting and 20,663 total votes:

At-large Duluth City Councilors
(Two positions; top two candidates advance)
Emily Larson – 13,164 | 39%
Linda Krug – 12,134 | 36%
Tim Riley – 4,448 | 13%
Chad Smith – 3,911 | 12%

First District Duluth City Councilor
Jennifer Julsrud – 3,024 | 50.07%
Todd Fedora – 3,006 | 49.77%

Fourth District Duluth City Councilor
Garry Krause – 2,220 | 52%
Jacqueline Halberg – 2,043 | 48%

At-large Duluth School Board Member
Michael Miernicki – 11,152 | 58%
Ryan Stauber – 8,009 | 42%

District Two Duluth School Board Member
Judy Seliga Punyko – 3,458 | 64%
Loren Martell – 1,887 | 35%

District Three Duluth School Board Member
Bill Westholm – 3,242 | 63%
Jon Donahue – 1,856 | 36%

Duluth School District $650.37-per-pupil Referendum
No – 10,949 | 54%
Yes – 9,185 | 46%

Duluth School District Additional $122.70-per-pupil Referendum
No – 12,292 | 61%
Yes – 7,780 | 39%

Duluth School District Additional $98.15-per-pupil Referendum
No – 12,951 | 65%
Yes – 7,069 | 35%

Parks and Recreation Facilities $2.6-million Referendum
Yes – 11,649 | 57%
No – 8,786 | 43%

85 Comments

Rob

about 8 years ago

Thanks Paul.  This is great.  Nice job to you and the rest of the people who orchestrated this. Really, really cool.

Claire

about 8 years ago

WOW, nail biter, indeed!

Chris

about 8 years ago

Well no one in the 1st can claim their vote or lack thereof didn't make a difference.

Claire

about 8 years ago

Wow. I'm not surprised. Todd Fedora is the Jesse Helms of the 1st District. Excellent re constituent services, but a lot of noise and drama, so half the people loved him, and half hated him. Jen will do a great job -- without pissing everyone off.

Bret

about 8 years ago

Glad my vote counted in the 1st!

edgeways

about 8 years ago

I was a poll worker in precinct 6 (which is only 1 out of 36). Fedora won it by 1 vote. 

If precinct 6 is any indication (and take it with a grain of salt) all the school ballot questions failed, but the parks/library question passed. 

Larson and Krug won easily. 

Voter turnout was pretty much at 50% at my place.

Chris

about 8 years ago

Are the two races with no precincts reporting listed finals then?

Vicarious

about 8 years ago

Todd Fedora is a pre-civil rights bill, 90-year old racist South Carolina politician? 

Interesting comparison.

Shane

about 8 years ago

Not possible for 100% of the votes for the Fedora / Jarslrud to be in yet.  You posted this at 7;01 and the polls closed at 8:00.

Nathaniel

about 8 years ago

The post has been edited since then Shane; you can check the DNT's site for confirmation.

Paul Lundgren

about 8 years ago

The initial post, with no results, was at 8 p.m.

We had the results at about 8:25 p.m.

Danny G

about 8 years ago

It's quite possible that 25 people who normally would have voted for Fedora instead wrote in "Daniel J. Golden."

Lojasmo

about 8 years ago

Congratulations, Jennifer! So long, Fedora.  Good riddance.

hbh1

about 8 years ago

Wow. No wonder I was getting calls from every DFL organization known to man, about 3 times a day for the last week. I was starting to feel like I was being pursued by a very nice but kind of frighteningly persistent cult.

hbh1

about 8 years ago

Anyway, I'm so glad Julsrud won in my district. Walking to the polls made it a lovely day.

Rand McNally

about 8 years ago

My god it makes me happy when Republicans loose.

EvilJeffy

about 8 years ago

But did Ness win?

edgeways

about 8 years ago

Charlie Bell got 6 write-in votes in P-6 today... giving him a better showing than the last time he ran (I kid). 

Other notables:
Alfred E Newman - 1
Mickey Mouse - 1
Herb Bergson - 1 (what is he doing nowadays?)

Chad S

about 8 years ago

The city clerk's office just posted the precinct report, breaking down vote totals. 

Jadiaz

about 8 years ago

*lose. Now if only certain Democrats could spell....

michelle

about 8 years ago

Did I miss something? What about Sharla?

Danny G

about 8 years ago

So, Don Donny lost 5% of the vote to nobody in particular?  Seems kind of high.

farglebargle

about 8 years ago

Curious how Red Plan skeptics Martell, Stauber and Donahue lost for school board yet all three school levies went down. Voter schizophrenia?

edgeways

about 8 years ago

Irregardless of the term schizophrenia being over used and used incorrectly... 

Letters were in the mail from the state essentially saying property values are going down while overall property taxes were going up as part of the state shutdown deal from this past summer (homestead credit is going away). The schools may have overreached asking for so much at one time with this news also coming down the pipe. And I say that as someone who does support increased funding for schools.

I wonder how many more cracks Stauber Jr. is going to take at Duluth public office. I think this is his second?

Tom

about 8 years ago

Michele, Sharla Gardner was running unopposed, as was Jay Fosle.  And Ness, of course.  So there's really no point in listing them here.

Actually Danny, considering his approval rating was 87% a few months ago, 5% isn't very high.  That just means that 5% of voters either don't like him or decided to take the opportunity to write in a joke name.

farglebargle, I thought that was odd too.  Red Plan skeptics are dancing on the rooftops, celebrating the fact that the levies were shot down.  Yet all three Red Plan skeptics lose the election.

edgeways

about 8 years ago

er.. and I want to offer a bit of an apology if the first part of my last part came off as rude, it wasn't meant to be just was a pet peeve of mine that perhaps shouldn't have reared it's head.

Barrett Chase

about 8 years ago

It's a pet peeve of mine when people use the word "irregardless."

Barrett Chase

about 8 years ago

It's also a pet peeve of mine when people hijack threads to talk about grammar.

Claire

about 8 years ago

It was a good night. Thank you voters.

Sam

about 8 years ago

Too bad the smaller class sizes, etc., didn't pass.  Our students could have really used it.

Endion

about 8 years ago

The school levy not passing stinks, but I blame the school board up here and whoever is in charge of their PR should be fired and run out of town.

They should have been direct and clear about what the money was going toward.  They also are seeing what happens when you run over the people with the Red Plan.  Which is why they need a better spin doctor that sells their needs correctly.

I thought I would see some gloating over all of the woman power now on the City Council.  Looks like the days of the "good-ole-boys" club are coming to an end. Maybe we can be the first city to have a woman recognized for a holiday - Susan B. Anthony Day!

Claire

about 8 years ago

I don't see the voters voting for Red Plan supporters but shooting down the three levies as contradictory. This tells me that people want to move forward, and not have a contentious school board rehashing the Red Plan controversy all over again. At the same time, voters are not willing to support more taxes if they don't trust the body asking for more taxes, and if they don't know what the taxes will be used for. Look at the fact that the Parks Fund passed -- the voters trust Mayor Ness, and also were told why they were asked to vote for the Parks Fund, what the money would be used for.

Chris

about 8 years ago

Does anyone know if the absentee ballots are included in the totals for the First District council race?  Fedora claimed last night that there's 150 of them yet to be counted.  With that many uncounted votes, he wouldn't even need a recount to possibly overtake Julsrud's 18 vote lead.

Joel

about 8 years ago

While I voted for the school levy, and beleive that its failure is going to cause huge problems for the schools, I totally get why it didn't pass.  To pass a levy, you actually need to make the case for why it is needed.  This is the second time in a row that the district has a adopted the "throw three levels of levies at the public and see what sticks" approach.  It is insulting to the public and a recipe for disaster.  Regardless of what people think of the Red Plan, we will be paying for Keith Dixon's arrogant and high-handed attitude toward the public for years.  Hopefully, the new board members and the new superintendent will be able to repair the damaged trust between the district and the taxpayers.

Jadiaz

about 8 years ago

It's a pet peeve of mine when people say "loose" instead of lose. Especially when trying to rub it in. The above is my biggest spelling pet peeve, and I will gladly call anyone on it. 

On the topic at hand, I'm glad Krause won. He's a great guy. I'm also happy that the majority of us voted against all the school board referendums.

Bret

about 8 years ago

Yes, "irregardless" is not a word.  It should be "regardless", and perhaps "disirregardless" would work but then people have to think through a triple negative.

Bret

about 8 years ago

And, the question on absentee ballots is one I'd like to find an answer to.  Does anyone know if absentee ballots have been counted?  I do know of two Julsred absentee votes and hope there are many more if needed!

Paul Lundgren

about 8 years ago

To Chris and Bret's question:

There is a precinct-by-precinct breakdown for the Fedora/Julsrud race in the Duluth City Council District One Election post. It includes the results from PDD's poll watchers (which are identical to the Duluth News Tribune's numbers) and also includes the city clerk's numbers. 

The numbers above are from the city clerk. They are pretty much final, but are "unofficial" or "not certified" at this time.

Julsrud went from having a 25-vote lead to an 18-vote lead when the additional ballots were thrown in.

Bret

about 8 years ago

Thanks, Paul.  Recounts seem to be the new normal.

magus

about 8 years ago

Duluth voters to Duluth kids: School? No, No, No. Go outside and play!

Iron Oregon

about 8 years ago

Nice job on the fast reporting. This was the go-to site last night - especially for Dist 1.

Rand McNally

about 8 years ago

My apologies Jadiaz. In my exuberance for the conservatives who appear to have suffered an unheralded ass-slapping last night, I misused the verb 'to loose.'  No no, don't try to alleviate my suffering with kind words.  My replete embarrassment is now unrivaled,  perhaps second only to those who now seek to reverse course,  appearing to be desirous of a tax increase they previously abhorred.  I think I smell a change in the shit-winds.  Which brings me to, what would Herman Cain do?    I think he would say 'Stay the course, flip floppers, stay the course.  Or perhaps, 'I decided not to molest that woman, after I molested her.'

And kids, sorry about school, in general, keep in mind Jimi Hendrix dropped out when he was 15 and became a paratrooper... just sayin'.

Claire

about 8 years ago

PDD smoked everyone else last night in reporting the results of this race. Good job!

Danny G

about 8 years ago

I agree.  Especially the new Duluth Politics FB group.  They had nothing.

Paul Lundgren

about 8 years ago

I think PDD was indeed the first to have the Fedora/Julsrud results. I had the numbers at 8:17 p.m. and they were posted at 8:25. I know we were way ahead of the TV stations in that respect, but I don't know when the News Tribune or other media had that result.

As far as getting the results of the other races, we were actually pretty slow. We picked one race to focus on and did a good job with it, so we'll take credit for achieving what we set out to do. 

We won't let our heads get too big, though. We should be expected to beat other media with the result of one 7-precinct race when everyone else is covering multiple races at 36 precincts.

sparhawk

about 8 years ago

The anti-union (and especially anti-teachers) rhetoric coming from the right this past year certainly has done it's damage. The Scott Walkers and Koch bros of the world are still winning.  All they had to do was spread a little shit about teacher unions and how "cushy" their jobs are, and now everybody at Walmart thinks public education is the problem. Shame on this generation for dropping the ball.

Shane

about 8 years ago

Amazing and impressive.  How on earth did you get the numbers so quickly?  My mother was working at one of the precincts in District 1 and told me that they did not finish counting everything until close to 8:30.  I would speculate that if you had someone on site and that person only looking for the results of the one race, it would have been possible to get an unofficial total before the official total was finished and taken downtown to the city clerk's office.

Claire

about 8 years ago

Paul, I checked PDD about 8:15, you guys had results for the 1st. I think the DNT posted results around 8:20 pm, it was definitely after you guys, but not long after. I just looked at the DNT News Alert saying live results were being posted that was emailed to me last night, and it was sent out at 8:17 pm. The DNT called the race for Larson and Krug by sending out a News Alert email at 8:28 pm.

Zacaroo

about 8 years ago

It bums me out that there was such little support for the school referendum plans, especially when people accuse k-12 teachers of being babysitters. I'd like to see those people try "babysitting" upwards of 35-40 kids without just putting in Toy Story.

Sam

about 8 years ago

We need to get the word out better next time about how small class sizes, etc., will benefit students.  I think people will get behind the students once they realize what is at stake.

lee

about 8 years ago

Gary Krause again? Bad news for the 4th.

Jadiaz

about 8 years ago

Rand, I don't believe a single Republican in Duluth is shocked the Democrats won. This is after all a large Democrat strong hold and always has been. Perhaps that's why we have to vote to raise our own taxes to keep libraries and parks open and maintained, or why stuff like the Red Plan happen without voter input. Maybe just maybe, the Democrats ruling Duluth is the cause of all the financial hardships Duluth suffers. Mayor Ness has done a fine job and holds my respect, but the rest of the DFL Union controlled politicians people like you vote for haven't done much for this city at all. So gloat that once again the city is in the hands of those who have done nothing to bring in business or solve the city's financial woes except by trying through more and higher taxes. Hurray, we're fucked!

Claire

about 8 years ago

Jadiaz, face it, the candidates who won ran good campaigns. They and their supporters knocked on doors, they talked to people, they got out there. What did your preferred candidates do? What did their supporters do? Like I wrote elsewhere, it doesn't help your preferred candidate squat if you sit at your computer trashing citizens or groups for thinking and/or  voting the other way.

edgeways

about 8 years ago

Statewide school referendums fared much better. According to MNPost about 80% of them passed, which is a huge number. As we saw with the Parks question Duluthians are willing to pay extra for what they value, so I'd say the argument that the PR for the school board could shoulder a sizable portion of the blame for the lose.

(should I throw in some irregardless here and there?)

Bill

about 8 years ago

I am about to get a bill for around $1400 from the city for my "share " of the new Arrowhead Rd. in front of my house even though I already paid for it with my gas taxes. The county assessor just came to my house (and trying to be a good and fair citizen, I let him in)and he informed me that he just valued my house $12,000 higher than it was the minute before he showed up. The next day , literally the next day, I get a piece of mail informing me that due to the shell and pea game Gov Pawlenty played for the last 8 years everyones property taxes in St. Louis Co. will be going up. So if you take the $12,000 revaluation of my house along with the higher over all property tax rate you see my property taxes were raised twice in a 24 hour period. When you throw in the (estimated) $1400 dollars for the street you may see that it is kind of hard for me to vote for more taxes for the schools. Even though I don't have kids I have always voted for the levy increases in the past. Unfourtunatley the well is not only dry but there is a bad taste in my mouth from having the Red Plan rammed down it.
On the other hand I did vote for the library and parks bill. First of all because I believe the public library is one of the most important institutions in a free and democratic society (read everything, believe little of it). Secondly I voted for it because if the kids are missing some educational opportunities because I didn't vote for the school levy they can pick up the slack by going to the public library to round out their education.

Bill
  
PS: Enjoy driving on my/yours/our new Arrowhead Rd. and if you like it feel free to throw a few dollars in my driveway as you go by.

jessige

about 8 years ago

Not trying to pick a fight here, Bill, but what I read you saying is that you're making the school district pay for what you feel are unfair taxes imposed by the county, the city and the state.  Seems like you're beating the dog because the cat shit in your bed.

However, I agree with those who have said that the levy choices weren't explained right.  The school board and the superintendent's office need to hire new communication folks stat.

Pat

about 8 years ago

To paraphrase jessige, if you are upset about taxes, take it out on the children and our future!

David

about 8 years ago

Wait -- someone's property values are going up?

I've been shopping for a home for the last year, and all I see are drops, sometimes precipitous.  I appreciate the hardship, but I see only cause to celebrate in this market.

Endion

about 8 years ago

Some great stuff in this thread.  I think it is sad that classes have 40+ students in them in the new schools as was reported this morning in the DNT.  I would hate to be teaching a class of 42 kids that are 16 years old and don't want to be there in the first place.  Multiply that times 5 and that means the teacher has to get through to over 200 kids in a day.  Imagine any job where a manager would be in charge of that many employees daily.  

The kids become a number and not much learning happens.  Then imagine the parents who complain to that teacher daily to help their kid more and the teacher who has to email back or call.  

Then the district lays off more teachers and the class size grows again.  Good thing I graduated years ago and never had a class size bigger than 30 people.  Charter schools are closing, but you could send your kid to a private school where the teachers are paid below the poverty line and the parents have an open line to the teachers and small class sizes.  

Let's all live below poverty and increase class sizes more!  Let's follow the private school plan and pay people who went to college less than someone at WalMart!  

What a great future we are making for our children!

That is what I would have said if I was doing PR.

Chris

about 8 years ago

The timing of those letters warning of a property tax increase was interesting.  Ours came on election day, others came the day before.  I wonder how much it played a part in people's votes on the school levy?  Wondering if it was enough to at least effect the result of the smallest levy.

Rand McNally

about 8 years ago

Jadiaz, can you name one Republican who has brought in a miraculous proliferation of jobs to Mn or Duluth?  Where it was like, 'holy shit. they brought in some serious jobs here! I don't know where to start working?'  Was it Pawlenty?  Who, after deregulating highway safety, put people to work by rebuilding I-35, which perhaps collapsed as a result of his golf game?  Who are these great job bringers to which you speak, whose job creating so greatly  overshadows their Democrat counterparts?  Or are Americans finally getting wise to the whole carnival?  And when someone like Palin, Cain, or forgetful Rick Perry say they have the new magic pill,  are they really just blowing smoke rings up your ass, because all they really want is more money so they can buy a one way seat on that grandfatherly spaceship with a thousand buxom blonds and a case of champagne to get off Earth with, when the whole thing blows?  To the heavenly places you aren't invited.

 To cap, I guess Republicans remind me of slimy little shit-weasels just a little more than Democrats do, for I just can't seem to erase this unfair assessment of them as 'pig-men' in my brain. Maybe a decade of roving Dick/Bush mistakes,  if you can call testing out new secret weapons on  influential senator's planes, so they can show daddy how it's done overseas,  a mistake. Or years of them masquerading as folksy folks who promise to bring in jobs and save us with no new taxes, and deregulation (as a surefire path to job creation) instead bankrupting the world because they don't understand economics like Clinton does (or the importance of regulation on Wall Street), which is why they used his budget surplus to squander on illegal wars they had war stocks for.  Maybe these-your-heros don't really care what happens to you Jadiaz, which is maybe why you feel fucked in the first place?  As a child, don't you remember the shit-times of the Reagan/Bush years, the run down neighborhoods, the lack of avocados and good coffee beans, versus the renaissance that followed, called the Clinton Era, when there were jobs? You really think Republicans are going to save you?  I don't think Democrats are going to save me.  I just think they're a little less evil is all,  maybe only 31% less likely to try to have sex with children at airports.  But if you're smart, like 'sore loserman,' you'll switch to the other side of the boat when it starts to sink.

chiefly

about 8 years ago

Wow- hard to follow that. Just saw a great movie- "Inside Job"- that cuts through a lot of the BS, and really tells it like it is in this country- economically speaking. Very eye opening. What all this has to do with the local elections, I'm not sure.

Doug

about 8 years ago

I live in the Anoka - Hennepin School District, and once again they faired pretty well, with 2 of 3 levies passing.  They do a great job of outlining what it will mean if a levy should pass or fail, although they have been accused of being a little "apocalyptic" about the outcomes should the first levy not pass. 1 mile north of my house is the shool district boundary.  The St Francis School district fails to pass a levy year after year (I don't think they had any this time).  Property values on that side of the boundary are lower, houses don't sell as fast, etc.  Families are less willing to move into a community that doesn't support schools.

Lojasmo

about 8 years ago

My pet peeve is pedants who feel the need to post twice regarding another poster who writes "loose" when they meant "lose"

All absentee ballots (but not provisional ballots) should have included in the Tuesday night vote totals.

Pat

about 8 years ago

What Doug said.  We need to start passing these school levies.

[email protected]

about 8 years ago

I've only lived in three cities (Milwaukee, St. Paul, and Duluth) and I feel more alienated from my school system in Duluth than I ever did in St. Paul or Milwaukee.

"We need to start passing these school levies."  Maybe.  We also need a new relationship between schools and communities.

TimK

about 8 years ago

It might help if people understood the difference between a bond and a levy. The Long Range Facilities Plan (the Red Plan) was a bonding project. Most bonding projects are decided upon by the particular governing authority seeking to sell bonds- in this case, the Duluth school district, and are not referendums. We elect school board members who decide what they need to bond for- levies are different- they are a direct appeal to tax payers to have their taxes raised to accomplish an operational goal. In the case of the Red Plan, the district held over 100 (yes, 100) public meetings where the citizens of Duluth could actively participate in the formulation (and cost) of the plan. Lots of people attended these meetings. They came up with a few different options. In the end, the plan sent up the chain to the full school board was the Red Plan. The board then approved the plan and subsequent bond issuance. A handful of public school haters then had a conniption and did everything they could to spread misinformation throughout the community. Our local media sensing a dog fight didn't help matters much by offering no actual insight or explanation, instead focusing on the battle. Yes, the district could have done more in the PR department then AND now, but I am very happy that the Red Plan was implemented and very disappointed that the levies did not pass. If you feel "alienated" from the school system, than do something about it. Go to some meetings, talk to school board members, talk to your kid's teachers and principals. If all of your information comes from Area Voices or for that matter, PDD, you probably aren't getting the whole story.

Sam

about 8 years ago

A lot of people talk about every school levy as if it were another referendum on how much they hate the Red Plan.  It's really too bad since the kids could have really used the smaller class sizes, etc.  I hope someday people stop seeing supporting Duluth schools as supporting the Red Plan, and start seeing it as supporting our kids.

[email protected]

about 8 years ago

My point was, TimK, that in cities of 250,000 and 600,000, I felt closer to, more invested in, and more connected to my school system than I do here, living the same life I did in those larger cities.  In none of these cities did I have children.

You tell me that I feel alienated from my school board, that's my problem;  I'm not doing enough.  I'm doing plenty.  I don't think I'm the off variable here.

zra

about 8 years ago

For perspective, Virginia spends about twice what Duluth does...per student.

Joel

about 8 years ago

When the decision was made to implement the Red Plan without a public vote on the bonding, I remember saying to someone that it would be years before Duluth voters approved another operating levy.  I take absolutely no joy in being proven right.

I remember that the argument against taking the Red Plan to a vote was that "voters always vote against schools."  In fact, in the time I've lived in Duluth, I've seen school referenda pass and I've seen school referenda fail.  The difference between victory and defeat is always the degree to which the district, the board, and PTA's do their homework, put together a well-thought out package, and make the case for it.

If you tell the public that you don't trust them (like Dixon and the board at the time did), you shouldn't be surprised if the public returns the compliment.  I just pray to god that the new superintendent and board are able to repair the relationship between the district and the public.  If not, our schools are in big trouble.

carla

about 8 years ago

Does anyone know what the school levy was supposed to pay for?

Claire

about 8 years ago

Hire more teachers so class sizes will be smaller, and buy textbooks.

emmadogs

about 8 years ago

We got some literature on what the levy would be used for, one day before the election.  It was extremely confusing, difficult to understand, and after reading it a couple of times, I threw it aside and just voted 'yes' on all the levy questions.  Could just as easily voted 'no.'  If the schools want our money, they are going to have to do a much better job in telling us why and what it's for.  Otherwise, Red Plan memories will keep us from just trusting the district to do right by us.

Claire

about 8 years ago

Emmadogs is totally right, that's exactly what people were telling me about the school levy the day before the election when I was leafleting outside the library. It's a shame, because the anti-levy people were out there, writing op-eds, talking smack about it all over the place. The new superintendent should have been out there too, writing his own op-eds, making his case. If he did write any op-eds, I don't remember seeing them. ISD 709 needs to work on their public relations.

bluenewt

about 8 years ago

I agree with emmadogs. I had no idea what the levy would pay for, and I tried to find out. I went to the school district's web page, I asked around, I searched the DNT. A day before the election I got the flyer she mentions. 

Someone told me that the district can't legally campaign for a levy. Is that true? Or is it just that it would be unseemly to spend the money it says it doesn't have on a slick advertising campaign?

farglebargle

about 8 years ago

I got my school levy info in the mail the day after the election.

Claire

about 8 years ago

Doesn't cost much to write an op-ed and send it to the papers and to talk it up on blogs and on social media, etc. It's called guerrilla marketing and that's what the anti-levy people did.

chiefly

about 8 years ago

According to the Dull News, there was a distinct East /West gap in the voting for both the school levy and the park/library levy. East was fairly heavy pro both, and the West (and North) very against both.

Joel

about 8 years ago

There was indeed an east-west split on both the schools and the parks levies, though the parks levy did much better in the west than did the schools levy.  That east-west split is totally understandable. Property taxes fall more heavily on homeowners of modest means, and there a lot of homeowners of modest means in the western part of the city.

While I did vote for both the parks and school levies, raising local property taxes to pay for these things is not a sustainable long-run solution.  The solution is restoring local government aid so we aren't forced to keep asking middle and lower income homeowners, many of whom are already in very difficult financial straits, to keep paying more.

On the school levy, I believe it is true that the district cannot actively campaign for the levy.  The school district, however, does have the obligation to develop a clear, precise, and well-thought out levy proposal that school advocates can rally around and campaign for.  Simply tossing out three levels of potential taxation in the hopes that one of them will stick doesn't cut it.

Sam

about 8 years ago

In many other states, school levy's are done by districts.  The schools in district #3 (for example) would have its own school levy voted on and paid for only by those in that district.  The result is some districts always vote yes and others no, and huge inequalities result among the district schools.  District #3 might have great public schools as a result and district #1 not so much.  

But this is like the difference between Duluth schools and Virginia schools (which apparently, according to a post above, have nearly twice the funding per student; I'd love to see the numbers and source of this information).  The result of the inequality is that anyone with a family who can afford it moves to district #3 for the superior schools, and then district #3 becomes really nice and fancy, and then everyone with financial means wants to move to district #3.

Duluth does not do the school levies by district, in part because it is unfair to punish kids who live in the districts where people vote down the levies.  Under a district based levy system in Duluth, extreme inequalities would arise between the East and West school districts (given that the East more often votes yes and West no for levies).  Someone was recently arrested in Michigan for sending her child to another far better neighboring school district that votes yes for levies.  Any good parent wants a good education for her children.  So the Duluth system has its virtues.  

However, the result of the Duluth levy system is that ALL the kids get punished if the whole city votes down the levies.  In other places, the punishment is by district.  And I say "punishment" because the huge class sizes and lack of textbooks punishes kids for life since they get less of an quality school education and more of a "child care center" babysitting experience. Poorer education now can affect a child's opportunities and intelligence down the line.

Joel

about 8 years ago

Sam -- the whole purpose of the having the state provide a basic level of school funding to all districts is to avoid exactly the situation you describe.  In the absence of state funding, those communities that have means will tax themselves to provide good schools while those communities without means will not, thus reinforcing the cycle of inequality.  The reason that Minnesota saw a rash of school levies this year is because the state is failing to meet its responsibilities to provide adequate school funding.  The results are exactly as one would expect -- we are creating divisions between the have and have-not school districts based on who can get a levy passed and who can't. But I guess that's OK so long as Minnesota's 1% doesn't see even a penny increase in their income taxes.

Shane

about 8 years ago

One problem with state funding of schools is the large voting population in the Twin Cities metro area. The people in that area like districts to be funded by pupil unit. This works in areas that have 300 or so pupils per square mile. When the pupil count per square mile is considerably lower, not so much.

Something needs to be done to convince people to both live and work in the city of Duluth. I know a lot of people who live outside Duluth and drive in every day to work.

Sam

about 8 years ago

I agree with Joel.  Lowering taxes too much weakens the democratic institutions that serve the people.  Weak democratic institutions leads to inequality.  The public school system is one of the most important democratic institutions in America.

If we underfund public schools, then they underperform, and then people say "public schools shouldn't be funded, they underperform."  And so the public schools get even more defunded, and underperform even more.  It is a vicious cycle.

If the democratic institutions are weak, the nondemocratic ones fill the void and become relatively strong.  Then people say "look how strong the business institutions are relative to the governmental ones."  Another vicious cycle.

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