Budgeteer Letters to the Editor - July 12, 2009What's new this week? A protest to get Cuneo and Gardner fired, more Red Plan debate and a rebuttal from the North Shore Bank of Commerce.
Come protest actions by Gardner and Cuneo
In regard to recent actions by certain members of City Council, I am organizing a public rally to protest the gross disregard they have shown the citizens of Duluth and to tell them: “Enough is enough!”
Speaking on behalf of many who are demanding the resignations of Sharla Gardner and Tony Cuneo, I am organizing a protest on the Duluth City Hall steps at 6:30 p.m. Monday, July 27.
Mr. Cuneo destroyed his trust with the public by voting to raise taxes on his neighbors when he himself was not paying his own fair share.
No one begrudges him for having financial difficulties, but to vote on tax hikes for everyone else at the same time? That shows just how much disregard Cuneo has for the rest of us who are already overburdened with increasing city taxes and fees, not to mention the increasing taxes hitting us from the state and federal governments.
Unlike Mr. Cuneo, most people can’t bank on getting a new job that will make these hardships go away. His ability to obtain a lucrative position with the Zeppa Foundation — the same place where our mayor was employed prior to being elected — further damages the credibility of one who raises taxes on fellow citizens in a community where good job prospects are slim.
Regarding Ms. Gardner, it is without a doubt she demonstrated conflict of interest by accepting money from the Sister Cities commission, when voting to increase their funding. Then Gardner took advantage of her position by going on a Sister Cities-paid trip. Are there not countless other citizens who could have served as our ambassador to avoid this conflict?
But, most importantly, she lied to the public about who paid for her trip and refused to apologize for her deception.
The citizens of Duluth have had it with the most notable news about our leaders being centered on their dishonesty, hypocrisy and disgrace rather than actual solutions to our city’s many problems.
If you agree we need councilors who stop putting themselves above the people, join me July 27 at City Hall.
Better education for less than the Red Plan or Plan B
Taxpayers note what Ralph Doty observed in the Budgeteer. Design for remodeling of schools requires engineers and architects, yet many make suggestions — not from a professional standpoint but from NIMBY-ism.
Wasn’t Plan B proposed to require a vote on spending? Why is it a postponement of the inevitable?
We have almost 40 percent more space than needed, wasting millions every year. Professionals plan what is directed by the school board and our board directed something unreasonable and we got the Red Plan.
Ralph was right, the Red and B plans cost about the same and neither has funding for programs. I’m not an engineer or architect but a knowledgeable educator objectively evaluating and recommending a plan acceptable to the taxpayer. Any plan will solicit negative comments, especially NIMBY-ism.
This plan reflects something reasonable and affordable which the taxpayer deserves.
To save more than $50 million, direct the professionals to use the K-6, 7-9 and 10-12 configuration. Remodel East and Denfeld as they stand and control parking by policy. Remodel one of the three western junior high schools to use as the Western Junior High. Use Ordean as the Eastern Junior High. Continue refitting elementary schools to fit population trends.
Close suggested schools assuring that every vocational program now at SVC is absorbed in the two high schools or leave it, as is, on the Central site.
By remodeling secondary schools, total cost will be reduced by tens of millions. Recommend an additional operational levy to reinstate the seven-period day, provide more electives, update text and equipment, stabilize class size and maintain co-curricular and extra curricular programs.
Isn’t that what any good long range plan should do: give students a complete educational experience, in a safe building, at a reasonable cost to the taxpayer? This plan would do just that and cost less than $100 million, but, as usual, even though this is a good, common-sense plan, the board will ignore it but the taxpayer will know one exists.
Description of bank building unfair and unconsidered
I read, with interest, Jana Peterson’s article (in the June 21 Budgeteer) regarding the city’s comprehensive plan process.
In truth, I am a big believer in zoning requirements that maintain the architectural consistency in urban environments. However, I admit her characterization of our business’s downtown property as a “sore thumb” left me somewhat disheartened.
She is definitely correct in maintaining that the North Shore Bank buildings represent a period/ style of architecture otherwise unrepresented in the downtown landscape. The reason, if you think about it, is pretty obvious: Besides the Radisson hotel and the DECC arena, no other major buildings were constructed in downtown Duluth in the ’60s and ’70s. The fact that members of my family made this investment at a time of economic stagnation doesn’t necessarily need to be remembered, but it doesn’t need to be ridiculed either.
We have had many opportunities to reinvest in our downtown buildings over the last 30 years or so. Each time, members of Duluth’s architectural community have cautioned us about doing anything to fundamentally change the design of our buildings which they
positively consider the only representation of commercial buildings in the era you question. We have worked with a number of those architects to make sure these cautions are heeded and the integrity of design is maintained. In the process, we have also invested close to $2 million in building improvements and enhancements.
It is true that a bank like ours could more easily operate an auto bank and provide parking in a suburban environment. However, we have had a long-standing commitment to urban development, and “fleeing to the suburbs” never seemed like something that was consistent with our values.
We urge everyone to support comprehensive planning that breeds consistency and beauty in our architecture. In the process, however, let’s refrain from denigrating the past efforts of people and businesses to invest in our community.
Douglas H. Lewis
Chairman, North Shore Bank of Commerce
Jana Peterson responds: “Mr. Lewis is right — using the phrase ‘sticks out like a sore thumb’ was not good writing. It was lazy writing, a cliche that presented itself as an easy way to communicate how very different the North Shore Bank of Commerce auto bank building (located at the corner of Second Avenue West and First Street) truly is from its downtown neighbors. I apologize for my lack of tact and applaud Mr. Lewis for having the gumption and taking the time to point out all the good things his bank has done as well as its unique architectural significance. It should be noted that the highlighting of the bank was not intended as a critique of the building’s style. The reason for using the bank as an example was entirely due to its setback from the road. In this way, the bank serves as a perfect illustration of how form-based code regulates the relationship between buildings and their surroundings.”
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