The Duluth News Tribune (DNT) of July 26 soundly criticized six members of the City Council for rejecting the resolution to lease 6 acres of city land to the DNR to construct the McQuade boat launch. On the contrary, we ought to honor councilors Hogg, Fena, Gilbert, Stewart, Stover and Eckenberg for their principled stand upholding the 1915 Congdon contract with the city and their thoughtful and responsible financial judgment.

The McQuade Public Access Committee (MPAC), the organization pushing for the McQuade boat launch, made several errors in presenting their case to the city. First, they were obviously uncertain of the Council's and citizens support for their project. Thus, they obtained federal and state support dollars first before applying for City Council approval for the lease of the required city land. Perhaps they thought that the Council would be bound to approve the project if MPAC had already obtained some funds. They should have gone to the Council first.

The Council spoke clearly to MPAC and to the DNT on two recent occasions. First, the Council asked to be released from the joint powers agreement with other governmental groups that were working on the McQuade project. Second, it refused to include the McQuade launch site in its legislative requests in January 2000. Surely, it came as no surprise to MPAC and the DNT that the Council vote of this past week was consistent with their past views. Furthermore, when the Council made these previous decisions, there was no public outcry opposing its actions.

MPAC made another error when requesting support funds from the Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCMR) and the IRRRB. They claimed to already have the city land needed for the boat launch, but this was not true. Why would they misrepresent the facts in this fashion? Perhaps it was because they sensed a waning of support for their project.

MPAC made another error at their public hearings when they encouraged only those speakers who agreed with their position on the boat launch. Differing opinions were scorned, ridiculed or ignored, thus, leaving them unaware of the growing opposition to the boat launch. In addition, because a public hearing by the Council on McQuade was not held until this last January, the City Council was also not aware of the growing public opposition.

MPAC also erred when it assumed that the City Council would dishonor the 1915 agreement with Chester Congdon contained in Ordinance 606. But as it turns out, the City Council is made of stronger stuff. The Council's 6-3 vote honored this earlier commitment by our city.

Mayor Gary Doty has since claimed that the Council's decision, "went against a 10-year tradition of City Council support for the project."

To the contrary, Councilperson Ken Hogg explained that, "The mayor may feel that the Council made a commitment, but at least during the time that I've been on the Council, the Council has never said or been told that it was making a final commitment on this."

Mayor Doty, not the Council, was the person creating commitments regarding McQuade. In a letter to LCMR Chairperson Sen. Gene Merriam, dated Dec. 20, 1995, Mayor Doty wrote, "At this point I can say the city will make available for construction the needed Congdon Trust land located between the North Shore Drive and Lake Superior which has an estimated value of approximately $500,000."

This presumptuous action by the mayor leaves me speechless.

Senator Sam Solon this week questioned who the Council was listening to when it voted down the McQuade resolution this past Monday. It has not occurred to him that it is the public to whom they are listening. He is underestimating the widespread opposition to McQuade.

On another project which he supported, placing the USS Des Moines on our Bayfront, Sen. Solon also misread the public. Solon, Mayor Doty, and the DNR lost on the Des Moines issue by a landslide vote of Duluth citizens.

The city gave up $14 million the DNR was going to sink into the project. In giving up this money, the city's reputation did not suffer in the Legislature. In giving up the McQuade money, we will not be damaged by our legislators.

We are stewards of our Lake Superior. We must offer protection for the long term and not accede to short-term encroachments. How else can we save it for posterity.

Iver Bogen is a retired UMD professor and a member of Friends of the North Shore.

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