Bergson raises concerns about fire department hiring, Airport Authority
As mayor-elect, City Councilor Herb Bergson is already voicing some tenets that will guide his administration. Bergson won the Nov. 4 mayoral race and will take office in January. Until then he remains on the council. Bergson indicated how he wil...
As mayor-elect, City Councilor Herb Bergson is already voicing some tenets that will guide his administration.
Bergson won the Nov. 4 mayoral race and will take office in January. Until then he remains on the council.
Bergson indicated how he will act as mayor on two issues that came before the council this week. One involved the Duluth Airport Authority and the other the fire department.
As the council faced the annual resolution to approve the authority budget, another airport issue surfaced.
Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees (HERE) Local 99 asked for a delay in acting on the authority's budget until the council could consider new developments regarding the Afterburner Lounge.
Acceding to union concerns, the council recently voted twice against allowing the authority to transfer the Afterburner liquor license to Pedro & Kerv Inc.
Monday night, labor leaders said the authority had leased out management and circumvented that decision. They wanted the council to put pressure on the airport by delaying the budget. Alan Netland with the Duluth Central Labor Body said the airport was using "union busting tactics."
Councilor Ken Hogg, who has supported the union position, disagreed with holding up the budget as a tactic, as did Councilor Donny Ness.
But Council President Rob Stenberg said a management contract was one of the airport options. "They basically did what we asked them to do," Stenberg said.
Councilor Neill Atkins said the authority was losing $40,000 to $50,000 a year on the operation, and there is something more wrong than just the cost of employee benefits.
"This is the second time in about six weeks when a board of commissioners totally ignored a decision of the council," Bergson said. He guaranteed, as mayor, to only appoint people to commissions who are willing to work with the council.
The resolution approving the authority's $2.5 million budget eventually passed 6-3, with Atkins, Bergson and Councilor Russell Stover voting against it. The budget is totally funded by airport authority revenues.
Down the agenda, councilors discussed designating some increased revenue to restoring three positions cut from the fire department during the city's budget crunch.
Bergson raised a concern with the examination process for firefighter jobs. He said city employees receive preferential treatment, creating an unfair, mostly male hiring list.
"Other people want to compete for those jobs," he said. "I made a pledge to be fair, and I'm going to keep my word." While he was mayor of Superior, that city hired its first female firefighter.
Bergson may soon get a chance to back up another campaign pledge. Duluth is getting more money from Fond-Du-Luth Casino, and those extra dollars are being eyed to pay part of the city's costs for the St. Mary's/Duluth Clinic expansion.
However, as mayoral candidate, Bergson promised to take $200,000 from the new casino proceeds and put it into crime fighting measures.