Duluth Mayor Herb Bergson has backed off his comments about changing the make-up of the Duluth Economic Development Authority (DEDA). The mayor says that his comments were taken out of context.
Frankly, in context or not, we see little wrong with what he said. Currently, four of the nine city councilors also sit on DEDA. The mayor says it is somewhat redundant to sit through DEDA hearings, and then have to listen to all the same arguments at council meetings while non-DEDA councilors are brought up to speed.
The point is well-taken.
The composition of DEDA is worth further discussion. To a person, every candidate for the council said last fall that economic development is a major issue, and in most cases the most important issue of the campaign.
It doesn't make sense for half the council to sit on DEDA and half not.
The council could take over DEDA completely, if it so chooses, but the result would be that the council would be seen as no longer wanting advisory opinions on development.
If the council were to leave DEDA with only one token councilor, it might be concerned that DEDA would break out of control, causing untold political problems for the council.
Our view is that the council ought to seek advisory opinions on all issues. To keep control of such an important body as DEDA, however, we would suggest that the council reform the appointment process. It should allow each councilor to appoint his or her top economic development adviser to DEDA to serve at the pleasure of the individual counselor. That would give a second pair of eyes and ears to the various issues while assuring that DEDA will not cause the council any untoward problems -- and it would also do away with the redundancy issue that brought DEDA's structure to the forefront.
Yes, it would in some ways be a rubber stamp, but it is still better to have someone give a second look to these important projects.