Beware the gadfly’s sting

Duluth News Tribune photo by Clint Austin

Duluth News Tribune photo by Clint Austin

The crabby, vindictive majority on the School Board crumpled like wet tissue when Art Johnston stood up and defended himself in court — something he has been unable to do in the majority-controlled environs of the School Board.

In your face, petty tyrants! The First Amendment rules!

Duluth News Tribune: Duluth School Board may opt against removing Johnston

Duluth Reader: Stop swatting the gadflies

19 Comments

Herzog

about 5 years ago

Allright, I'll bite just this once for old times sake.  First, AJ is the poster child of mixed bags.  He's the most conservative hippy hating hippy around who as far as I can tell, where school board transparency/ fiscal responsibility is concerned appears to be thee single ray of relative sunshine in a field of silly geese and turd tulips that stretches well beyond the known universe (Duluth). 

The whole 'Art assaulted me mentally and poked me in my flabby man-boob' shtick is beyond reproach, and so last year. Sure, I've been mentally assaulted by Art too during political arguments that left me chasing my tail and scratching my head, but you don't see me spending 150k of taxpayer money on lawyers while sipping cocktails by the pool.
 
The real issue at play here is the 'maverick' who asked too many questions at school board meetings making the inflated bobble heads running the board, (who probably received payouts from Johnson Controls) nervous.  Love or hate him,  he's the only one who had anything to say about the general bagging and tagging Duluthians endured at the hands of these and other parasites. Perhaps the moral here would be, try to avoid letting other people do your thinking/voting for you? What a long strange trip Duluth. It's been real.

 And speaking of goofy, can anyone explain why downtown has an added bonus 10 percent food and drink tax while Canal Park doesn't?

Ramos

about 5 years ago

My favorite quote from the DNT article was from Judy Seliga-Punyko. "It's frustrating he filed a lawsuit to stop [his removal]," she whined. After all the months and money they spent attacking, smearing and trying to discredit Johnston, she thinks it's frustrating when he defends himself!

How many times did Seliga-Punyko publicly lecture Johnston during School Board meetings? I can't even count them all. How many times did the School Board refuse to consider any item that Johnston wanted on the agenda? Every single time he introduced something, that's how many times. The School Board, unlike every other public body that I'm aware of, does not follow Robert's Rules. They follow the Rule of Tyranny, where the minority is always shut out. 

I will have a great time watching future meetings and laughing at Judy Seliga-Punyko's disapproving, tightly pursed mouth. Ha ha!

Ramos

about 5 years ago

Now the News Tribune is crying about it. Although they call Johnston a bunch of names, you'll notice they include not a single comment made by the judge in the courtroom. That's because those comments might be construed as pro-Johnston. Loren Martell's piece in the Reader paints a much better picture of what's going on.

Our view: No victory for Johnston

Nick L

about 5 years ago

I'll wade in with a fresh bag of Troll Kibble.  

Art Johnston is an embarrassment.  He embarrasses himself, the school board, our schools and our community as a whole.  

It's no longer clear what Johnston is fighting for.  His many claims of corruption and malfeasance remain unproven.  100 years ago, he'd have gotten himself elected to City Council and screamed uselessly against the damn canal and steel bridge built down by the waterfront.  

We do not have a dysfunctional school board.  We have a school board with a dysfunctional member.

Herzog

about 5 years ago

Nicolas, first, I doubt you've spent 1% of the time Ramos has at school board meetings.  Like how would you compare the Aquarium project to the Canal Bridge for instance?  Yah, what's done is done, I got that part. But Art J aside, did you get to vote on the 'Red Plan?' The lack of democracy where that was concerned surprised me how readily people accepted it.  Like a docile child who was told he couldn't have an extra cookie.   And didn't Duluth recently spend millions to repair a brand new roof built by JC that wasn't designed to hold snow?   Duluth also sued Johnson Controls in a separate incident and won which would imply this particular company has an unstable history where trust is concerned, and if corruption did happen, wouldn't it have been nice to double check if all was honky duty? Or maybe even just spend an hour on it to shut Art up?

But all that aside, no one I've asked about this subject, even the well educated Duluthians like Lundgren, appear to have the foggiest clue of what went on here.  I'm all for water under the bridge too, but Ramos has the track record of a math wizard bloodhound when sniffing out misspent funds, so why should I trust your take on the school board again?   I want them to be the grandfatherly guiding light that does no wrong too, and for Art to go away if that's the right thing,  yet I'm also aware how easily industry takes advantage of things like school boards using lawyers to scuttle normal voting procedures among taxpayers, and where big money is involved, loose lips sink ships. 

But when I think of the DNT's scolding parental tone toward Johnston though,  'journalism' does not come to mind.

Ramos

about 5 years ago

Now Nick L. is crying about it. Although he calls Johnston a bunch of names, you'll notice he includes not a single comment made by the judge in the courtroom.  Does he work for the News Tribune?

Jana Hollingsworth

about 5 years ago

I was at the hearing with Judge Davis, and my story included his comments. It also most definitely captured the spirit of his thoughts. Last time I checked, I work for the News Tribune.

Ramos

about 5 years ago

If I was Johnston, I'd be doing the Angus Young duck walk into future board meetings, but he's probably too mature for that.

Ramos

about 5 years ago

My mistake, Jana. In your story, you did quote a single word from the judge: "unethical." Here is your description, in total, of what went on in the courtroom:

Judge Michael J. Davis said at last week’s hearing that Johnston has a right to speak his mind, while also noting he shouldn’t use the First Amendment to protect other “unethical” behaviors that could be grounds for removal.

The next, much longer, paragraph reads as follows:

Reasons for removal included Johnston's involvement in his district-employed partner's work dispute and his behavior toward former board Chairman Mike Miernicki and Superintendent Bill Gronseth. He is said to have shoved Gronseth after East High School's graduation last year and to have that same night confronted Miernicki in anger, behavior deemed by the investigator to be "threatening," "abusive" and "intimidating." Johnston’s public criticism of Gronseth was also part of the reason for removal.

Ramos

about 5 years ago

It's funny that you didn't mention this quote from the judge, as reported by Loren Martell:  “Gadflies make the best laws…Mr. Johnston has a right to speak out. I’m not going to stop that.”

Ramos

about 5 years ago

Or this one: “Gadflies have made this country what it is, pointing out what governments and organizations are doing that are inappropriate. That’s what the First Amendment is all about.”

Ramos

about 5 years ago

But no. "Unethical" pretty much sums it up for the News Tribune.

Paul Lundgren

about 5 years ago

In response to what Herzog wrote several comments back:

Johnson Controls did not build the section of roof at Lincoln Park Middle School that had defective support trusses. Timber Systems was the contractor hired for that project and was responsible for paying all the costs associated with repairing it. So, no,  "Duluth" did not "recently spend millions to repair a brand new roof." The school district initially paid tens of thousands for the repairs, and was reimbursed by Timber Systems.

The First Amendment, however, allows anyone to characterize that however they want and then do a heavy-metal guitar dance.

Jana Hollingsworth

about 5 years ago

Not to belabor this, but you are missing this quote, that I used: "Understand gadflies can make this country what it is," Davis said. "I get criticized all the time. It's part my job."

Also this: "He has the right to speak out, to criticize the superintendent, how money is handled," Davis said. "But he can't wrap the First Amendment around assaultive behavior" or other actions that could be grounds for removal.

So, I guess you didn't read my entire story. But please, continue to disparage my work and that of my colleagues. You certainly have the right to do so.

Ramos

about 5 years ago

Jana, after googling the quotes you provided, I see that they did appear in a May 6 story. That is my mistake, and I apologize. 

The story that I was responding to, and the link that I provided, is from May 12, which includes only the word "unethical." The many disparaging comments are included in both stories, as well as in the DNT's whiny editorial, which throws in "inappropriate and abusive behavior" as a bonus.

But you're right. I should subject my blog comments to same level of fact-checking that I do with my news articles. And I will.

Herzog

about 5 years ago

Damn, I wanted JC to be responsible for that mishap. Shirley they've screwed up something in the buildings besides all the other things they've messed up around here.  However, if these are the greatest schools ever and kids are super happy with good 1/14 teacher time and new textbooks, soon to become Duluth's finest, and if 400 million was a fair price for what they did, then yah, I guess Johnson needs to shut up and go home.  
 
But a federal judge stepping in on Art's side does sort of sound like a roundhouse kick to the fragile ego face of the DSB/DNT.  Maybe just a subtle moonwalk into the next meeting?

Nick L

about 5 years ago

This string of comments sums up the whole fracas around Duluth schools:
A passionate group forges on spreading doubt and allegations.  Others point out documented flaws in the group members' claims.  Passionate group persists.

Herzog

about 5 years ago

You're right Nick, this thread really does showcase the tribal and provincial aspects of this town. At least it isn't humorless too.

If it's any consolation, Art is calling this a victory for democracy.

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