A Tactless Night in the Council Chamber

29 Oct

Hey there, Duluth City Council. It’s been a while. It seemed like things had been ticking along at a fairly mundane pace in my first two months away, but that all changed on Monday. Now, we have two councilors pushing to remove Councilor Linda Krug from her presidency.

The push, spearheaded by Councilor Fosle and supported by Councilor Hanson, stems from a series of incidents in which they claim President Krug has cut off other councilors as they try to speak. The most memorable was the instant runoff voting incident back in June, in which she made a silly attempt to shame her fellow councilors after the vote, but this Monday’s meeting featured another, in which she headed off Councilor Julsrud’s comments on horse-riding trails in Duluth. See the video here (the incident is around 1:15, though I’d recommend watching the preceding 5-10 minutes for context):

An unrepentant President Krug told Northland’s News Center that she “like[s] to be efficient,” and was simply trying to “refocus” the meeting. Perception is everything, however, and one would have to be very loyal to President Krug to see this incident as mere task-managing. Councilor Julsrud was wandering a bit, yes, and did seem a bit worked up about a horse trail; I could perhaps see some cause for a polite reminder, or a clarification on the direction on her comments (which she gave when finally allowed to speak again). Likewise, I was fine with her reminder to Councilor Hanson at 1:31 when he started to turn his comments into a mayoral stump speech involving Mr. Ed. This is not what President Krug gave Councilor Julsrud. Instead, she barges in aggressively, banging her gavel and putting poor Attorney Johnson in an awkward position. It was hardly a becoming moment.

Most worrisome is the fact that President Krug, a UMD professor who focuses on mediation and conflict resolution in her day job, seems unable to comprehend how or why she comes across this way. Sure, these meetings can grate on a councilor as they drag along, and everyone will snap every now and then. We’re only human. But at least most people are able to recognize it when they lose their tactfulness for a moment, and she could easily have admitted she could have handled things a little better while at the same time upholding her authority as council president. She hasn’t done that. Incidents like this are probably a big reason why President Krug has failed to generate much momentum as a candidate for higher office, despite her solid managerial skills and political views that largely align with Duluth’s electorate. (Also, for the record, I do not agree with Councilor Julsrud, and think tabling the measure was the right decision.)

All of that said, the attempted removal is an act of overreach. It threatens to divide the council and become personal. If councilors would like to take action, a censure would seem a far more appropriate tool. It is probably not coincidental that the two sponsors of the resolution are frequent sparring partners with President Krug, and it’s hard not to see a deeper agenda there. (Councilor Julsrud, notably, has not publicly jumped on board the removal train.) Both sides here seem petty, dressing up a political agenda in high-minded language about how to run a council. It is probably time to take a step back, breathe a little bit, and remember that the duties of the Duluth City Council, while noble, are not worth this sort of fight.

I may just have to watch the next meeting. Someone get the popcorn ready.

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4 Responses to “A Tactless Night in the Council Chamber”

  1. Tleilaxu Ghola October 30, 2014 at 10:52 am #

    I am glad you preach high-mindedness while not so secretly grabbing some popcorn and admitting you want to see the fight and see if she gets voted out of a position she was not really fit for in the first place. Krug is the living embodiment of the cliche` “Those who can’t do, teach.”

    • karlschuettler October 30, 2014 at 3:16 pm #

      Heh. I wouldn’t have pushed for her removal, but I’ll hardly be shedding tears if the votes are there. It’s not a very important fight with only a handful of sessions left before we get a new president, but it should make for some good political theater.

  2. Claire November 1, 2014 at 10:23 am #

    I for one am glad that Councilor Fosle finally acted. President Krug has been acting like a thug since she was elected president by her colleagues. Bullying colleagues for not voting her way, shutting them down when she feels like they’ve spoken long enough or if she disagrees with them … Now screaming at a colleague? Jesus Christ Almighty.

    I have watched these meetings for 20 years and she is an absolute disaster. Even when I once faced off with council president Jim Stauber at a council meeting over remarks he’d made about why the Secret Service targeted local citizens, he did not disrespect me or yell at me — even though smoke was coming from his ears. He didn’t even turn off my mike.

    I support at least councilors at last censuring president Krug, and actually hope she would resign from the position in favor of vp Larson so that councilors can do what they were elected by us to do — no one on that council should have to worry that they’ll be chastised by a colleague for their votes, or that they will be shut down while speaking on an issue, or yelled at. It’ll be less entertaining, yes, but you want entertainment, watch Colbert.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Duluth’s Comings and Goings | A Patient Cycle - January 5, 2016

    […] afraid to fight or take controversial stands. While that did at times lead to a few dust-ups, one of which effectively cost her the council presidency, she was consistent and stuck to her guns, and had the wisdom to step down when […]

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