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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Fundraising fervor unlikely to save St. Bernard's

Topic requested...Please click onto the COMMENTS for the story.


Anonymous Tribune said...

A group's fight to keep the St. Paul high school open faces staggering debt, the archdiocese spokesman says.


Last update: March 13, 2010 - 8:14 PM

The group working to keep St. Bernard's High School open says it has raised more than a third of its $1.5 million goal and has more fundraisers planned, but a spokesman for the archdiocese said it's unlikely the plan to close the school will change.

"It's painful to have them go through this process, as well meaning as they are, when there isn't any real way to change the basic reality of the situation," said Dennis McGrath, spokesman for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

The school is $4.5 million in debt and has logged an annual operating debt of $300,000 for the past decade, McGrath says. "That is a huge sum for a school with 198 students."

Three weeks ago the archdiocese announced the 52-year-old high school would close at the end of this year because of declining enrollment and financial issues. Last spring St. Bernard's closed its 118-year-old elementary school for the same reasons. Both have been pillars in the Rice Street community in St. Paul.

Despite the archdiocese's views, a group of parents, students and community members have been working to raise $1.5 million, which they say could keep the school open the next four years.

"Things are going good," said Dan Ponsolle, the group's spokesman. St. Bernard's students planned an all-night "bowl-a-thon" at the school Saturday, and a rally nearby Sunday evening at Klub Haus. He also said the school could repay some of its debt by renting the closed elementary school to a charter school.

Ponsolle said the fundraising drive is set to end in early April, so that if the school does close, students and families have time to bring closure to their experiences at St. Bernard's.

The archdiocese, which includes more than 100 schools in the state, has asked its local high schools to help St. Bernard's students transition into new Catholic schools.

McGrath said there has been a misunderstanding about the archdiocese's role in the school's closing. The closing decision was made by the school's board of trustees, its principal and the pastor of the Church of St. Bernard, said McGrath.
"The archbishop didn't make the decision; he merely reluctantly accepted their decision," he said.

Gregory A. Patterson • 612-673-7287

11:00 PM  
Anonymous Watchdog News said...

Three years ago, in November of 2006, members of Metro Property Rights Action Committee held a picketing event in front of
the offices of St. Bernardʼs church in St.Paul to protest a campaign orchestrated by
the parish priest, Father Mike Anderson, against a neighborhood bar, Divaʼs Overtime Lounge, and its owner, Deb Johnson.

Johnson, her daughters, and
friends participated. The event gained coverage in the St. Paul Pioneer Press and other media, including the Watchdog newspaper.
There had been a fatal shooting in the bar and St. Paul city officials led by Council
Member Lee Helgen (who was a member of St. Bernardʼs parish) began putting pressure
on Johnson to close the bar. Father
Mike accused Johnson of prancing around the bar in a semi-naked state. According to
her, he also made a comment to Pioneer Press reporters that the neighborhood had
“never been so dark”, or words to that effect, since Divaʼs bar opened. This was a reference
to the black clientele that the bar
sometimes served.

11:05 PM  
Anonymous story continued said...

Johnson explained the animosity between herself and Father Mike by the fact that she refused to renew St. Bernardʼs lucrative
pull-tab operation in the bar after the church put pressure on her. Additionally, the church wanted the site of the bar to build a church-owned assisted-living facility for

When negotiations broke down to sell the property, Helgen and his henchmen used the tools of St. Paul city government to
force Johnson out of business and reduce the value of her property.
Those interested in a more complete
account of those events from Johnsonʼs point of view you can go to:
Those sites tell the story of Deb Johnsonʼs ordeal through the situation three years

Watchdog reporter Bill McGaughey recently sat down with Deb Johnson to bring the story up to date. It seems that the city of St. Paul succeeded in its quest to close Divaʼs bar. The barʼs liquor license was revoked

11:07 PM  
Anonymous story continued said...

through administrative decision. Johnson engaged the services of attorneys Andy Dawkins (a former state legislator and head of St. Paulʼs housing department) and Marshall Tanick to try to save the business but, despite hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, the city prevailed. Distraught, Johnson took a vacation in Mexico to walk the beaches and clear her mind. She came back to Minnesota with a renewed sense of energy and enthusiasm. For a time, she operated a chicken shack in Wisconsin. She has since moved on to other ventures.

The Roman Catholic archdiocese transferred Father Mike to a parish in the
Frogtown neighborhood which had numerous black parishioners. Johnson saw an opportunity for revenge. She made copies of the newspaper article in which this priest had accused Divaʼs bar of “darkening” the neighborhood along Rice Street and distributed them to persons attending Sunday
church services at Father Mikeʼs new parish. The irony is that in 2003, the Roman Catholic archbishop had launched a wellpublicized initiative to combat white racism
in Minnesota. Evidently racism within the ranks of the clergy was of lesser concern.

11:09 PM  
Anonymous story continued said...

Johnson also found a way to thumb her nose at St. Paul city officials. She was supposed to appear at a meeting of the St. Paul city council and be contrite when her license was taken away. Johnson did not attend in person. Instead, she linked to the meeting by computer and, cocktail in hand, congratulated St. Paul city officials on their latest move to wreck the city. What would be left of the city after several more years of such actions, she asked?

The closing of Divaʼs bar has left a void in St. Paulʼs Rice Street community. Nothing could replace the small community that Johnson had created in the bar through activities under her direction.
Deb Johnson has had enough of St. Paul and its conniving city officials. She has recently purchased a motel and bar in the Central American nation of Belize that may also include gambling operations. She plans to move there soon. Because her daughters continue to live in Minnesota, she

11:11 PM  
Anonymous story conclusion said...

may become a frequent visitor to our state. It used to be said of America that proof of our superior social and political system was
that people “voted with their feet” to escape bad situations elsewhere. But now we have
the example of a talented business woman “voting with her feet” to escape abuse in the Twin Cities. The small nation of Belize
seems comparatively attractive to her.

I end this story not with a complaint but an acknowledgment of the remarkable personality
that Deb Johnson is. Descended from
Germans and Italians on her fatherʼs side and, on her motherʼs side, from Chief White
Cloud of the White Earth Indian tribe of northern Minnesota, Johnson is someone at home with all peoples, races, and ethnic
groups. Her optimistic, irrepressible spirit, combined with a certain feistiness, I would
compare with that of Sarah Palin. But, being a bartender who must get along with all people, she is less ideological than the
former Alaska governor.
Deb Johnson is a homegrown Minnesota woman of great enterprise, spunk and imagination.
People like that must, of course, be run out of town by the type of public official we choose to elect.

11:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe if the church would have went after some other businesses besides Divas they may have found some people they could extort money out of to offset their loses. Oh well......farewell Father Mike.....good bye, good luck and thank you for your service. maybe the high school can be demolished and an upscale adult night club built in it's place.

2:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Clean up tje area by getting rid of St. Bernard's.

6:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Didn't you defend this bigot Eric?

9:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good riddance to both.


8:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Helgen is not a racist at all.
I would call it slander except, its from an anonymous gutter snipe- that speaks for itself.

And, the Watchhog is wrong on Deb's place being the small community that Johnson had created in the bar through activities under her direction.

She wasn't there long enough to establish anything. I went there previous to her purchase and post her purchase (well, her friend who purchased it for her). The music was certainly better and it did have a nice niteclub feel to it sometimes. However, if you go to any niteclub, the security is different than a corner bar. She had security for a corner bar. That's one area she failed. Also, all of the underage drinking.

She wasn't running around naked, she's like 50- c'mon. She was friendly and attractive- a few older guys came just to hang with her. Their wives would come in too and see them around Deb, the music being strange to them, and the clients not being the old Vanelli's crew, so they made stupid exaggerated complaints.

She had the best attorneys she could have hired- Dawkins was the first to really aggressively enforce the codes. She had just too many real violations compiled in a short amount of time. The biggest argument was the safety of the community. A couple of shootings and several fights motivated the neighbors who had not already targeted this to do so.

The last thing that people complained about quietly was her friend F.M., running a place in their neighborhood.

So, some of the neighbors didn't like her, some didn't like her clients, however, there was no denying or defending the violations and law breaking. Deb has worked at and ran a few of friends places, none for very long. Maybe Belize is the right move. Been there, they've got a high population of literate citizens, great beaches and universal health care.

As far as the church goes, screw them and their pull tabs. Some bibles used to be clear about gambling. The Catholics got enough problems. Use that money to actually help some of poor.


11:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bob removed the Helgen is a racist comment that I was referring to. Thanks Bob.


11:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Helgen in my opinion seems to speak publicly before thinking about what he is saying, this leaves some of his statements to come out as being not very professional.

1:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I sure question the wisdom of hiring Dawkins. I wonder if he lost on purpose.

3:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Helgen speaks from the "Helgen Zone".

6:04 PM  

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