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Dick Palmer: Your interest may be the missing ingredient

With a citywide election campaign now going into the home stretch, all eligible voters in Duluth might take a good look in the mirror and ask yourself the basic question: "Do I really want to be a part of all this?"...

With a citywide election campaign now going into the home stretch, all eligible voters in Duluth might take a good look in the mirror and ask yourself the basic question: "Do I really want to be a part of all this?"

This is a question only you can answer, but the Duluth general election campaigns culminating on Tuesday, Nov. 6, are more than a routine municipal contest: The results could spell out, in dramatic fashion, the future of this city and the immediate region.

Being a part of all this is more than a passing thought, you can actually counter the political hype that has taken hold of northeastern Minnesota in totality. Duluth is at a crossroads. What is really positive is that we have the basic tools, financial investment potential and the human resources to finally make things happen. We need enthusiasm and we need to open our eyes and see what is actually happening here. Then we need to do something about it by voting for a change on Nov. 6.

The city of Duluth has a devastating financial load and it isn't just the employees' health-care issue that continues to rain debt and despair, it is much more. Admittedly, there are no easy solutions.

Here is a sidebar for Budgeteer readers to consider: Recently University of Minnesota American Federation of State, County and Municipal Clerical and Health-care Employee union workers (AFSCME) voted to accept a University two-year contract. The union leadership called off the 16-day strike because it was hurting its members. The university held tough and a realistic conclusion ended the dispute.

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In Duluth, city officials are up to their armpits in a quagmire over a city employee health-care issue that simply cannot be resolved without a serious union compromise. So, should we re-elect an AFSCME employee to continue serving on the City Council? How do you think she might vote on this particular issue?

The question on the table is: How many citizens out there really care?

Historically, we can look at a lifetime of opportunity that turned into failure for Duluth and the area. We had a going U.S. Steel plant in Duluth in 1971, but a legislative bill to keep it operating was defeated by an arrogant DFL political machine in the Minnesota Senate. Now, some 35 years later, a new steel plant will be built on the Iron Range! Go figure.

Incidentally, that Morgan Park property today remains a wasteland and its economic value continues to be a mystery.

Duluthians are faced today with a $300 million employee health-care deficit and the clock continues to tick. Our streets are a mess, we have zoning issues to contend with and our infrastructure needs serious attention. There is a growing crime issue and, yet, prospects for a solid future are not beyond approach.

The University of Minnesota is advancing with a plan. Cirrus is growing into one of our largest employers at the moment and the potential at Duluth International Airport for maintenance and other opportunities is beyond comprehension. Retail continues to prosper. Housing development may be taking a slight hit at the moment, but that is a national issue, and Duluth has great potential to stay ahead of the game in housing development. All is not doom and gloom.

All we need is a change in leadership, a willingness to reassess our assets and cut the fat out of our infrastructure. We also have serious demands to consider as our public educational system continues to battle population shifts that affect educational opportunities for our children.

The challenges are there, but with citizen participation and support, Duluth can and will move on with great promise in the years ahead.

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And on the lighter side:

Ole likes to show his old home movies ... especially the ones of his wedding. His favorite part is when he runs the film backwards and he comes to the part where he is still single.

-- Red Stangland's Ole and Lena

Former Budgeteer editor and publisher Dick Palmer may be reached at rpalmer341@aol.com .

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