Stauber seeks to end council's lock on DEDA
The Duluth City Council will consider a proposal Monday to revamp the Duluth Economic Development Authority. Councilor Jim Stauber wants to change the makeup of the authority, usually called DEDA. At present, DEDA is composed entirely of City Cou...
The Duluth City Council will consider a proposal Monday to revamp the Duluth Economic Development Authority.
Councilor Jim Stauber wants to change the makeup of the authority, usually called DEDA. At present, DEDA is composed entirely of City Council members, but Stauber aims to shift the balance to private citizens appointed to serve on the body.
"I think they could provide some of the additional experience, education and expertise that we need to help move forward with economic development," he said.
Stauber proposes that two city councilors and five private citizens serve as DEDA's commissioners. The citizens would be appointed by the mayor but would require the City Council's approval to serve.
Stauber said he believes his resolution will garner solid support, but Councilor Sharla Gardner said she has some issues with it. She favors having at least three councilors appointed to the authority. Gardner also would like more time to consider the best structure for DEDA.
"One of the problems I have with what we've done is that we haven't sat down and talked about what has and hasn't worked in the past with DEDA," she said.
City Councilor Greg Gilbert said he probably will back Stauber's proposal.
"It's good to draw expertise from a wider variety of people, but we also need a good system to keep DEDA accountable," he said.
Stauber acknowledged that DEDA has suffered from a reputation for not being sufficiently accountable in the past.
"There were concerns about DEDA being part of the 'good old boy' network, spending too much money and sometimes approving things that were not in the best interests of the city," he said.
But Stauber said he believes the decision to remove all private citizens from the body and replace them entirely with city councilors was an overreaction.
DEDA's finances are separate from those of the city. Most of its financial resources are drawn from tax-increment financing districts, which are designated areas targeted for economic development. New taxes generated by development within these districts are collected and set aside to subsidize improvements in the district.
DEDA also has authority to issue tax-exempt bonds and operates a revolving "Storefront Loan Program," which has been used to help renovate nearly 100 buildings in Duluth's downtown and Canal Park. The authority oversees three separate budgets: an operating fund that has ranged from $530,000 to $2.1 million in recent years; a capital improvements fund of $2.6 million to $5.8 million; and a debt service fund of between $180,000 and $1 million.