Thursday's Council actions: No to red plan advisory referendum, Kenwood Walgreens

Council rejects red plan advisory referendum WHAT HAPPENED: By a 6 to 2 vote, the City Council voted against a resolution that would have called for a public advisory referendum on any issue the council would have to vote on regarding the Duluth ...

Council rejects red plan advisory referendum

WHAT HAPPENED: By a 6 to 2 vote, the City Council voted against a resolution that would have called for a public advisory referendum on any issue the council would have to vote on regarding the Duluth school district's red plan.

WHAT THEY SAID: Councilor Garry Krause, who authored the resolution, said the issue doesn't affect just the school district but the city as a whole, and that the Council should listen to the community before it votes on issues such as vacating streets, neighborhood variances, property sales and easements.

Speaking against the resolution, Councilor Sharla Gardner said that while she wanted the community to vote and is against the plan, she didn't think the resolution would be beneficial to either cause.

"I have had to think about this again and I've thought about it long and hard, and if I thought for a minute that this resolution would defer the plan, I would vote for this in a heartbeat," she said. "But for all practical purposes, this is not a practical resolution." Six people addressed the council before the vote; four were for it, while two were against.


HOW THEY VOTED: For: Krause, Jim Stauber; Against: Jeff Anderson, Tony Cuneo, Todd Fedora, Gardner, Greg Gilbert and Roger Reinert. Councilor Jay Fosle, a school district employee, abstained.

Council approves hiring of Johnson as new city attorney

WHAT HAPPENED: The City Council unanimously approved the hiring of Gunnar Johnson as the new city attorney. Johnson, who has worked since 2001 for the Minnesota Attorney General's Office, told the Council that he wanted to be a leader in the city attorney's office and expressed optimism for helping the city get out of its continuing problems.

"I am very confident in the resilience of this city," he said. "There is a common goal of everybody wanting to make this city a better place."

Johnson is a native Duluthian who will work both for the Council and Mayor Don Ness. He will begin his new job on July 16, after current city attorney Bryan Brown retires.

Council votes against Walgreens in Kenwood neighborhood

WHAT HAPPENED: The council voted unanimously against a resolution that would have vacated undeveloped alleyways in the Kenwood neighborhood to allow Walgreens to put a store on the southwest corner of Arrowhead Road and Kenwood Drive.

The council seemed to be swayed by numerous homeowners in the neighborhood who before the vote pleaded with councilors to reject the resolution, saying that a Walgreens would lower their property values while increasing vehicle noise and potential for accidents.


WHAT THEY SAID: Councilor Sharla Gardner said the Walgreens didn't belong in what is mostly a residential neighborhood. "They belong in malls. They belong in shopping centers."

Councilor Todd Fedora concurred.

"I would love to see the property tax revenues and the sales tax revenues," he said. "But given the location, I can't support this."

Council approves Playfront upgrade

WHAT HAPPENED: Playfront Park will get a major facelift, thanks in part to the City Council unanimously voting to give the green light to an agreement between the city and the Junior League of Duluth. That group will raise and spend an estimated $146,000 to build a state-of-the-art playground at the current site of the Playfront Park. While the Junior League had wanted to build the new playground near the Lakewalk, the city denied its request because it might need to build a storm water tank at the site in the future.

The new park will be made with 80 percent recycled materials and would consist of activities designed to promote upper-body strength and provide an aerobic workout for kids, and is expected to be completed by next summer.

Council votes against capping arts fund

WHAT HAPPENED: The City Council voted


6-3 against capping the 1 percent arts set-aside, which is triggered whenever the city spends money on a building project, at $100,000.

WHAT THEY SAID: Third District Councilor Sharla Gardner argued that integrating arts into a construction project was essential. "People don't want to just look at concrete walls," she said. Councilor Garry Krause, who brought the ordinance, agreed, but argued that $100,000 was a significant and reasonable amount. "It's a number that can be worked with," he said.

Councilor Todd Fedora wanted the amount set at $50,000, but his amendment failed.

HOW THEY VOTED: Voting against: Jeff Anderson, Tony Cuneo, Gardner, Greg Gilbert, Jim Stauber and Roger Reinert; voting for: Fedora, Jay Fosle and Krause.

Sewage overflow plan debate runs late

The City Council still was debating a plan to eliminate sewage overflows into Lake Superior at presstime Thursday. At issue was whether the city should help homeowners pay to fix leaking sewer lines on private property. Look for coverage today on

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