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Dick Palmer: Duluth's challenges are solvable

It has been a busy week. Holy Week services have dominated the Christian world, and signs of spring everywhere have sort of given those of us living in the Northland an upbeat feeling. The human warmth supercedes the weather pattern and with spri...

It has been a busy week. Holy Week services have dominated the Christian world, and signs of spring everywhere have sort of given those of us living in the Northland an upbeat feeling. The human warmth supercedes the weather pattern and with spring comes a renewed interest in outdoor activities and neighborhood gatherings. The local environment comes to mind, and plans are starting to unfold for the coming summer season.

Would you believe the Fourth of July is but 11 weeks away and counting? That's like the day after tomorrow the way time flies these days.

The local headlines lately have been sort of mixed, and that's not unusual. For example, former city councilor Neill Atkins, ongoing chair of the Save Our Ships group, hopes to move the Viking ship, now dry-docked in Leif Erikson Park, to a temporary or long-term site at the Duluth Aquarium. I think this is an excellent idea and should be pursued quickly.

That Viking ship has almost been a life endeavor for Atkins and he deserves a lot of credit for his tenacity in this effort. The vessel, completely restored, has been victimized time and time again by vandals and besides, it is currently situated off the beaten path in relation to Duluth's waterfront appeal and continuing growth pattern. Again, the arena-auditorium complex is the center of attraction with the renowned Aerial Bridge, Great Lakes Marine Museum, excursion cruises, pleasure boat activity, the aquarium and the blossoming downtown business area.

There is no question it will take money for moving and continued restoration and maintenance of this Viking ship replica, but it represents a Northland heritage that should not be ignored.

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Moving along, a recent story entitled "The trashing of Skyline" reported that people are dumping trash along this wonderful roadway. They should have their butts kicked good and hard and then be required to pay a heavy fine that would include a public-service commitment to clean up a portion of the area affected.

This won't happen, but the Skyline Boulevard is one of Duluth's most valued treasures. In recent years, it has been neglected. Scrub growth has blocked the beauty of our city from one end to the other. Tourists from far and near marvel at the view once offered and shake their heads as today's scenic beauty has all but disappeared. We see this as a total community challenge and hope that personal pride and strict enforcement of dumping regulations and continued thinning of the brush can bring this treasure back to reality.

Looking a little further down the road, the Minnesota Legislature image looks pretty good this time around, but anything can happen -- and it usually does. As some of you recall, the Legislature last year enacted a 75-cent per pack cigarette fee to buoy up the state's budget shortfall. This effort has been challenged in court and the Minnesota Supreme Court is now involved. A lower court ruled that the fee is illegal, and if the Supreme Court agrees, the state of Minnesota will lose around $3.5 million per week from this bonanza and may be required to refund the money going back to last August. Naturally, a repeal of this fee would certainly put a huge dent in the current state budget and grossly affect the effort of the current session dealing with infrastructure issues.

To add to this dilemma, the Republican controlled House of Representatives is seeking a property tax rebate to homeowners. If this plan goes through the process, homeowners and farmers would receive checks totaling 10 percent of this year's property taxes. Of course, should the current 75-cent per pack cigarette fee be repealed, the homeowners' rebate would be dead in the water.

With all this going on, it is interesting to follow the Twin Cities newspaper headlines: This is a bonding year legislative session and two years ago, the Legislature failed to complete the bonding session on time, went into special session and had to adjourn without passing a bill. That held up statewide infrastructure projects. That was an election year, too.

Last year, the Legislature had to double up with the governor's budget proposal, authorizing taxing formulas to pay the bills and follow through with the 2004 bonding issues. That too was a hair-pulling session.

Now the Minneapolis Strib is saying: "Session adjournment forecast: Looking sunny." Could be, but my guess suggests major challenges throughout the state will remain unsolved, and getting things done here in Duluth will require local leadership and community involvement.

On the lighter side

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Kirsten: Lena, you should see da dog dat Karl brought home for me. Cute little fella. Vun of dose little fluffy dogs.

Lena: Spitz?

Kirsten: No. But he drools a little.

Happy Easter.

Dick Palmer is the former editor and publisher of the Budgeteer News. He may be reached by telephone at 729-6470 or by

e-mail at rpalmer@duluth.com .

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