NEWS DAY | St. Paul school board contest heats up / A sheriff who’s been around / Bloody news from the war fronts / more

ballot box graphicSt. Paul school board contest heats up The teachers’ union refusal to endorse three incumbents and the revelation that Republican candidate John Krenik’s employment as a teacher in the St. Paul Public Schools was terminated last year make the school board race look a lot more interesting.

CLARIFICATION: In an email asking for a correction, John Krenik says he wasn’t fired: “After a settlement was reached I resigned/retired, I was NOT fired.”

The Star Tribune reported that Krenik “said in June 2007 that he heard from an administrator that he would be recommended for termination.” According to the Star Tribune, he accepted a $12,000 settlement last year, in return for quitting his job as a special education teacher at Murray Junior High School and promising “not seek or accept work as a teacher with [the] district at any time in the future.”

This year’s race has four open positions. Three incumbents — John Brodrick, Tom Goldstein and Elona Street-Stewart — are running for re-election, opposed by Jean O’Connell, Chris Conner, and John Krenik. The St. Paul Teachers’ Union, which had endorsed all three incumbents in previous races, this year refused to endorse any of them, reports Minnesota Independent.

The political split stems from a rift that’s played out between the teachers’ union, which has roughly 3,600 members, and the school board over the last two years. Budget shortfalls, labor contract negotiations and proposed school restructurings have all contributed to the tension. Further exacerbating matters has been what the union perceived as heavy-handed tactics by former superintendent Meria Carstarphen.

Jean O’Connell won the endorsement of the teachers’ union, and was the fourth-highest vote-getter in the primary election. Of the six candidates on the November ballot, Elona Street-Stewart got the most votes in the primary, with 21 percent, followed by John Brodrick with 19 percent, Tom Goldstein with 17 percent, Jean O’Connell with 16 percent, Chris Conner with 11 percent and John Krenik with 10 percent, according to the Star Tribune.

The Star Tribune reports that Republican candidate John Krenik accepted a $12,000 settlement last year, in return for quitting his job as a special education teacher at Murray Junior High School and promising “not seek or accept work as a teacher with [the] district at any time in the future.” The Star Tribune article details numerous other legal disputes in which Krenik has been involved.

A fourth seat was left vacant by the resignation of the board’s only Republican member, Tom Conlon, who moved out of state this summer. Vallay Moua Varro is the DFL-endorsed candidate for that seat, running against Pat Igo. Varro has the endorsement of the teachers’ union.

A sheriff who’s been around Sheriff Don Gudmundson chased murderers in Detroit. He investigated Mafia assassinations in Chicago. And then he came home to Minnesota and to a quarter century as a rural police chief and sheriff. Now Gudmundson is retiring, and Ruben Rosario has a fascinating interview with him.

You also handle the foreclosures, evictions, and the sheriff’s sales.

It’s been awful. And it’s still going on. Heartbreaking. If the civil department is less busy, then you know the economy is doing well. In America, they send some of the greatest economists around and see whether or not we are in a recession. They shouldn’t have to do that. They should just call the local sheriff. They will tell you whether we are in a recession or not.

Gudmundson also talks about meth users (“they deteriorate so rapidly”), about racial diversity (“The Dakota County Sheriff Office is the most racially diverse law enforcement agency in the state of Minnesota”), about why he is retiring (“It’s a young man’s sport. It’s dangerous and it requires a lot of energy.”), and about what he leaves behind (“My legacy is those young people who I hired and promoted.”).

War reports

Iraq At least 25 people were killed in a series of three car bombings in Ramadi in Anbar province on Sunday, reports the New York Times. The first bombing killed two people in a parking lot, and the second, about nine minutes later and 15 feet away, killed 21 people who were responding to the first, including police and firefighters. A third car bomb was detonated about an hour later at a hospital, killing two more people. Security forces declared an emergency and imposed a curfew in Ramadi.

Last week, a car bomb at a police station in Amiriyah, about 10 miles south of Fallujah, killed nine people.

Pakistan With violence escalating in Pakistan, a Monday car bomb detonated near an army vehicle and a market in the northwest Shangla district killed 41 people, reports NPR.

Militants targeting the military headquarters in Rawalpindi took hostages on Saturday, and 16 people, including eight of the mlitants, were killed, according to the Washington Post. The hostage taking ended with a commando assault on the headquarters. Police and intelligence officials said Sunday that police had specifically warned the military about the likelihood of the assault in July, and that the mastermind behind this attack had also been behind two other major attacks in the past two years. According to the New York Times:

The surviving militant, who was captured early Sunday morning, was identified as Muhammad Aqeel, who officials said was a former soldier and the planner of this attack and others. Mr. Aqeel, who is also known as Dr. Usman because he had once worked with the Army Medical Corps before dropping out about four years ago, is believed to be a member of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a militant group affiliated with Al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban.

Back to NPR:

The recent string of bloody attacks began last week when a suicide bomber blew himself up inside a heavily guarded U.N. aid agency in the heart of the capital, Islamabad, killing five staffers. On Friday, a suspected militant detonated an explosives-laden car in the middle of a busy market in the northwestern city of Peshawar, killing 53 people.

Afghanistan As debate in the U.S. continues to focus on whether the president should “support General McChrystal” by sending 40,000-80,000 more troops to Afghanistan, the New York Times reports that civilian goals are largely unmet in Afghanistan, as “administration officials say the United States is falling far short of his goals to fight the country’s endemic corruption, create a functioning government and legal system and train a police force currently riddled with incompetence.” The Afghan government has less credibility than ever after a hugely corrupt election.

And the question of “support for General McChrystal” begs the question of what his report really said: that more troops are needed, but that there is no hope of success without a major change of strategy, and that no U.S. strategy can succeed unless the Afghan government and security forces take responsibility and win the support of their people. Read the report here or my article about it here.

World/National news

Health care round-up Here’s a quick round-up of some of the most important articles on health care reform in today’s news:

The Washington Post and other news media are headlining an insurance industry-commissioned report that says that health care reform would raise premimum costs. Let’s see – isn’t that what you’d expect the insurance industry to claim? The New Republic takes aim at the Price Waterhouse report, pointing out glaring flaws in the report’s analysis and conclusions.

• The Sisters of St. Joseph provide free health care to help those falling through the cracks in the system, reports the TC Daily Planet. But the cracks just keep getting wider.

In Minnesota, nurses are rallying to protest the governor’s cuts to health care for the poorest state residents.

• Vermont has a better way to manage chronic conditions, while keeping costs costs down, according to an AP article.

Iran Iran has sentenced three protesters to death, according to the New York Times. The three were among the hundreds of protesters arrested in the aftermath of Iran’s June 12 elections. Iranian officials said these three are members of terrorist organizations, with two belonging to Kingdom Assembly of Iran, a group that wants to restore the monarchy, and one belonging to the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran. At least 30 people were killed in the government crackdown on protesters, hundreds remain jailed, and human rights organizations say thatere are reports of abuse and torture of some prisoners.

Among those who remain in detention are Maziar Bahari, a filmmaker and reporter for Newsweek, and Shapur Kazemi, the brother-in-law of Mir Hussein Moussavi, who the opposition claims won the election. Mr. Kazemi, 62, is a respected telecommunications engineer and is known for his activities in technical and economic fields rather than for political activism.

Others who are still being held include the former vice president, Mohammad Ali Abtahi; Muhammad Atrianfar, a publisher and confidant of the former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani; Mostafa Tajzadeh, a deputy interior minister in the reformist government of the former president Mohammad Khatami; Saeed Leylaz, an economist and former government official; and the journalist Isa Saharkhiz, who according to Iranian news reports suffered broken ribs during interrogation.

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