Duluth city councilor wants red plan to be put to vote

Duluth City Councilor Garry Krause will ask the council Monday to approve a resolution calling for the Duluth school district to put its red plan to a public vote.

Duluth City Councilor Garry Krause will ask the council Monday to approve a resolution calling for the Duluth school district to put its red plan to a public vote.

Krause, who has been a longtime critic of the long-range facilities plan, said he was prompted by frustrated community members as well as by his own concerns about the tax burden on city residents.

"Duluth is in trouble," he said. "How do we tax people more, when they're getting hit hard on a plan that people didn't get a chance to vote on?"

School Board Chairwoman Nancy Nilsen on Monday criticized Krause's action, saying the district already has bonded for $171 million and assessed property taxes for the $293 million plan.

"We're about a year into this," she said. "Now is not the time to be doing this type of thing; we need to be moving forward with this."


For now, the City Council doesn't have any say in the school district's plan, but the district will need council approval to vacate streets or city-owned land.

Some councilors contacted Monday indicated they probably would support the resolution, though its effect would be nonbinding and largely symbolic.

Councilor Todd Fedora said he wanted the red plan to be put to a public vote and he probably would support Krause's resolution, but he said it probably wouldn't matter and could be a waste of time.

"We'll entertain a litany of speakers, entertain our own debate and chew up what could be several hours of time that could be used in a more productive manner," he said. "I doubt it will matter a hill of beans to Superintendent [Keith Dixon] or to the School Board, being that this is a largely symbolic vote."

School district spokeswoman Katie Kaufman issued a statement Monday noting the council resolution would not be binding and saying the district already had received a great deal of public input on the red plan.

"More than any other major Duluth project, the long-range facilities plan had substantial public input, including hundreds of hours of meetings, with information shared and received over an 18-month period through a wide range of communication venues," she wrote. "In addition, a professional survey of residents showed their preference between the three potential plans, and ultimately the School Board made the final decision."

City Councilor and red plan critic Jim Stauber said he will vote for Krause's resolution.

"I try to make it a point to stay out of other government bodies' business," he said. "But this has such a huge impact on the city of Duluth. I'd like to know what all Duluthians feel about paying so much."


Councilor Sharla Gardner, another red plan critic, said she had hoped to work with the school district and board to compromise on the plan but she hasn't seen willingness on their parts.

She stopped short of saying she would support Krause's resolution, saying she hadn't yet read it.

"I am hoping one way or the other, people could vote on [the red plan]," she said.

BRANDON STAHL covers the Duluth community and city government. He can be reached weekdays at (218) 720-4154 or by e-mail at .

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