Candidates view: Enough divisive politics; we should work as one

In this election, Duluthians have the opportunity to embrace a new political culture -- a culture in which a spirit of innovation, service and cooperation are the hallmarks and a simplistic us-vs.-them mentality is left behind. The status-quo pol...

In this election, Duluthians have the opportunity to embrace a new political culture -- a culture in which a spirit of innovation, service and cooperation are the hallmarks and a simplistic us-vs.-them mentality is left behind. The status-quo politics in Duluth is holding us back. I believe a better way ispossible.

Over the past eight years, I have had a solid voting record on behalf of working men and women in Duluth, and I enjoy strong support from rank-and-file union members. Yet, recently, my campaign has been the target of attack ads purchased by the leadership of the AFL-CIO designed to promote the candidacy of Greg Gilbert. These attacks are a crude attempt to weaken the support I enjoy from working families. Not only do these ads fail in their intent, but they serve to highlight my more positive and independent-minded approach to public service.

Union leaders have sought to wreck a respectful and constructive 10-year working relationship with me over two honest differences in perspective on retiree health care and their card-check proposal. Unfortunately, union leaders in Duluth and St. Paul are spending many thousands of dollars in television ads, paid phone calls and direct mail trying to influence this primary election through negative campaign tactics.

While we don't always agree, I have worked hard to maintain a respectful and constructive relationship with Councilor Gilbert and the union leadership supporting him. Political attack ads not only damage working relationships, but they erode a common sense of community that is essential to addressing shared challenges.

Many rank-and-file union members supporting my campaign understand the need for reasonable, and timely, concessions from the union on retiree health care. We have the common goal of creating a sustainable benefit and maintaining quality city services that we'll achieve if we are able to maintain a respectful working relationship. For this reason, I believe union leadership is doing a disservice to their membership by engaging in these attacks, which diminish our ability to maintain respect in that relationship.


Duluthians deserve leadership from the mayor's office that is cooperative, civil and positive. I believe constructive disagreement in community dialogue is vital to a healthy community. If we can move city government's work beyond just politics, we will be able to focus on innovative and cooperative approaches to solve Duluth's more pressing issues.

For example, we all acknowledge the need to provide quality, well-paying jobs to residents, and we all want to produce sustainable economic growth in the region. My approach is to work cooperatively with business, labor and education leaders to create a comprehensive workforce strategy that invests in the skills and talents of people living and working in Duluth.

We will create a work-force system that will not only provide opportunities to those looking to improve their career path, but also provide benefits to our local employers and offer tangible and sustainable reasons for companies to create jobs in Duluth. By being deliberate about communicating the specific needs of both business and labor, we can identify strategies that will benefit both. Isn't that a better model than using negative tactics for political advantage?

The most effective mayors in America are those who understand the symbolic importance of the vision they present for their cities. They set the tone for community discussion; they direct and inspire within and beyond the walls of city hall; and they take on the duty of representing the values and spirit of the community they represent.

Voters of Duluth are fortunate to have 11 candidates with strong, yet divergent, visions for their community and for public service. These visions are articulated through positions on the issues, the nature and focus of campaign efforts, and the embodiment of the values and perspective of the community. It's a tremendous opportunity for Duluthians to compare and contrast many different visions of their shared future.

You can be sure that if I am elected mayor of Duluth, I will bring honor, civility and integrity to the office and to my relationships with all Duluthians, no matter their political perspective. This is the kind of leadership Duluth deserves.

Your vote on Tuesday can send a statement that we believe Duluth's best days are yet to come, when we choose to reject the politics of division and embrace a more positive and constructive approach to local government.

Don Ness is a city councilor and one of 12 candidates for mayor of Duluth.

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