Park Point group wants Gardner ousted from Duluth City Council
Mike and Deb Medlin characterized themselves as the reluctant figureheads of a campaign to oust 3rd District Duluth City Councilor Sharla Gardner from office in the middle of her second term.
“We work for a living. We’re not retired. But something has to be done,” said Mike Medlin, a Park Point contractor.
Deb Medlin called the decision to proceed with a recall campaign “gut-wrenching.”
The Medlins say they’re not acting alone and that the recall campaign launched via email alerts Thursday was the product of months of planning by a committee of 10 to 12 concerned Park Pointers, but so far they’re the only ones to publicly step forward as members of a group calling itself Concerned Citizens for District 3 Safety, Security and Representation.
“The recall of a public official is very serious business,” Mike Medlin said. “This is our last resort. But what choice do we have if she no longer serves the interests of her district? She has not listened to us.”
Gardner acknowledged that some of her votes have angered constituents but said: “My job as a city councilor is to listen and take people’s views into account, then decide what’s good for the larger community. Sometimes I’m going to agree with people, and sometimes I’m not.”
The final straw for the Medlins came when Gardner voted in support of a plan that called for the rerouting of traffic on Park Point as well as the designation of 16 different beach accesses in addition to three already-established public beaches.
Deb Medlin accused Gardner of arrogance and said her stance on the Park Point plans ran contrary to the wishes of more than 100 residents who packed City Council Chambers in May.
“She’s driven by her own political agenda, and she’s not meeting the needs and concerns of the people in her district,” Mike Medlin said.
For her part, Gardner said: “I’m going to stand on my record.”
Gardner said she considers herself “a strong advocate for the Point.” That’s why she said she supported the development of a long-range plan to address development pressures, growing traffic levels and safety concerns there. Gardner also pointed to her efforts to protect an old-growth forest next to the Sky Harbor Airport from being cut, in light of safety concerns raised by the Federal Aviation Administration. Now a plan to reorient the runway there may spare any trees from harm.
Nevertheless, the Medlins contend Gardner has not acted in the best interests of Park Point residents and took her to task for not doing more to save the Park Point fire hall from closure.
Calling that “a stunning accusation,” Gardner said she had fought to keep the fire hall open but was unable to convince city administration to maintain its operation.
“I still believe we need a fire hall down on Park Point,” she said.
Mike Medlin placed little stock in Gardner’s claims.
“Actions speak louder than words,” he said. “She did nothing to help retain that fire hall. She did nothing proactive.”
The Medlins said they and supporters plan to knock on doors throughout the 3rd District in pursuit of the 585 signatures they need to prompt a recall. City charter sets the threshold for a recall election at 25 percent of the ballots cast in the district’s last election. Only signatures by eligible voters living within the district are considered valid. In addition to Park Point, Duluth’s 3rd District includes Canal Park, the downtown and Hillside neighborhoods, Observation Hill and part of Chester Park.
Gardner ran unopposed in 2011, garnering 2,212 votes. Another 126 ballots were cast for write-in candidates.
In 2007, during her first city council run, Gardner received 59.4 percent of the vote.
If the campaign to oust Gardner proves successful, she will become the first Duluth City Councilor to be recalled since Thomas Agnew II, who was removed from office in 1978. Agnew, an attorney, also was disbarred a few years later.