Not much sound, fury in 5th District Duluth City Council race

The City Council race in Duluth's 5th District, which encompasses residents west of 40th Avenue West, might qualify as the quietest of this fall's campaigns.

The City Council race in Duluth's 5th District, which encompasses residents west of 40th Avenue West, might qualify as the quietest of this fall's campaigns.

Though incumbent and candidate Russell Stover and challenger Jay Fosle both have been reaching out to constituents -- Fosle said he has visited residents along just about every street in the district -- there hasn't been one debate in the 5th District.

"I'm quite disappointed there hasn't been a forum in the 5th District," said Stover, 53.

Fosle, however, said he preferred not attending forums because he's afraid a debate might encourage mudslinging.

Neither have large sums of money been spent. Stover reported collecting $870 in campaign contributions as of the end of August, the end of the most recent reporting period, while Fosle, 46, had taken in only $115.


Stover said he has focused his efforts not on how he differs from Fosle, but on what he has accomplished since joining the City Council in 2000.

"I think I've had a common-sense approach to all the issues. I think we've made some great strides," he said.

Stover said he helped bring the new West Duluth Police Station/Emergency Operations Center to the district and had a hand in many infrastructure improvements in the district.

"I've stuck up for working people," Stover said.

But Fosle said Stover hasn't been sticking up for them enough, and that's why he is challenging the city councilor. Fosle said he respects Stover but thinks he can do a better job following up on residents' concerns.

"I don't feel he's representing the 5th District as strongly as he should be," Fosle said. "It's just time for new, fresh ideas, and somebody to take care of the concerns and needs of the people who feel like they haven't been taken care of properly."

Stover countered that he always listens to every constituent. He just doesn't always take that person's side on an issue.

"I've always responded, but I haven't necessarily agreed with somebody on an issue," Stover said.


Stover also contends some of what he and the council have accomplished hasn't made it in the news and therefore isn't noticed by residents. He and the rest of the current council and mayor have begun to set aside money to cover the city's retiree health-care liability by creating a trust from casino revenues, and they have been following the recommendations of the retiree health-care task force, he said.

"They [the media] haven't really focused on the fact that the council has put money aside," Stover said. For example, by the next time the retiree health-care liability is calculated, it should go down from the $309 million currently being cited, Stover said.

The Lake Superior Zoo in West Duluth is a top concern of both candidates.

"We need to do some major capital improvements at the zoo," Stover said. He's hoping the Legislature will help the zoo financially, as it does other zoos in the state.

"The zoos just don't make money," Stover said.

He's open to the idea of shifting zoo management to the Lake Superior Zoological Society, as long as the number of zoo jobs doesn't dwindle. The society, which helps now with zoo management, has been studying the feasibility of fully managing the zoo for the city.

Fosle said he hasn't decided what ought to be done about the zoo's management, but he would like more financial support from the state and city. He also thinks the city should form a task force to figure out the best way to help pay for the zoo and restore its status as a major tourist attraction.

Fosle said he also would like to see the city reallocate a portion of the hotel-motel tax to support the zoo instead of putting that money into the general fund.


PATRICK GARMOE covers the Duluth community and city government. He can be reached weekdays at (218) 723-5229 or at .

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