Our view: Go slow on Duluth’s sudden emergenciesAnother day, another where’d-that-come-from, gonna-cost-us emergency in Duluth. Hasn’t it seemed that way all of a sudden?
Another day, another where’d-that-come-from, gonna-cost-us emergency in Duluth. Hasn’t it seemed that way all of a sudden?
First, last week, Mayor Don Ness rolled out — seemingly out of nowhere — a grand and hugely expensive proposal to completely overhaul the city’s waterfront. Yes, the little blue pedestrian bridge has broken down repeatedly over the decades to the point of being the butt of many jokes, and the slip containing the William A. Irvin has pollution problems and crumbling seawalls; those issues have been pretty well known. But addressing them by spending potentially tens of millions of dollars to fill in what’s now water, to add parking, and to build a pedestrian walkway and plaza and possibly more, well, isn’t that sort of like building a new house because the furnace is acting up and the basement needs to be cleaned out?
To his credit, the mayor said his proposal wasn’t even really a proposal yet but more of an idea. And maybe a good idea, too; that’ll have to be hashed out and determined. “My goal is to create a starting point for a community conversation,” he said. While there’s nothing wrong with that, can the conversation please start with why the waterfront suddenly is being presented as a huge, critical issue?
The same with the downtown library. The City Council voted 8-1 Monday to establish an advisory citizen committee and to hire a consultant (hopefully paid for with a grant and not with our tax dollars) to look at improving the 1980 structure. Most Duluthians probably didn’t even know there was anything wrong with the library. But Duluth Chief Administrative Officer David Montgomery insisted, “The facility is woefully outdated and massively energy-inefficient.”
Woefully? Massively? When did that happen?
Councilor Jay Fosle was asking similar questions at Monday’s council meeting. “We have a lot of city buildings that are older than the library,” he said, and the library is still operational. Some community club buildings, meanwhile, are closed, denying neighborhoods places to gather and youth in Duluth access to opportunities and recreation.
Fosle voted against an assessment of the library, convinced it almost certainly will lead to recommendations of costly upgrades. And it probably will. The chances of a paid consultant finding nothing to improve seem about as slim as the plot in “Fifty Shades of Grey.”
“This council wants to spend more money every time you turn around,” Fosle said.
It certainly does seem that way sometimes. Especially all of a sudden, hasn’t it?
Meanwhile, the work to identify a funding strategy for ongoing street maintenance remains unfinished.