Our view: Anderson, Arnold, Cuneo, Hall have experience, vision
Henry Banks' broad experience in community activism -- as a founder of the nationally recognized Clayton, Jackson, McGhie Memorial, with the annual Juneteenth celebration, as coordinator of the Washington Family Resource Center, with Neighborhood...
Henry Banks' broad experience in community activism -- as a founder of the nationally recognized Clayton, Jackson, McGhie Memorial, with the annual Juneteenth celebration, as coordinator of the Washington Family Resource Center, with Neighborhood Housing Services and in other capacities -- makes him a formidable candidate.
He also could be, as he said it: "The person who will bring leadership to the City Council, to City Hall [and] to the citizens of Duluth to make this a more welcoming and inclusive community that celebrates and appreciates diversity.
Jon Donahue is perhaps the most spirited and energetic of the council candidates. And the long-time star of the public access cable television show "The Average Guys" certainly hit a home run when asked about problems in Duluth related to houses rented by college students. "UMD, if you're out there, get involved, be a part of the solution," he said during a News Tribune forum broadcast by PACT-TV, where Donahue works. "Help us out on this."
Tim Little, an attorney and an At Large councilor since 2004, echoed a common refrain this election, that Duluth needs to be more business-friendly. But he went a step forward, offering ways for Duluth to get there, namely by erasing the city's retiree health-care debt and by addressing crime.
"We need to get back to being a place where businesses aren't afraid to come," said Little, who missed the editorial board's televised forums due to a mail mix-up. He was invited to an off-camera makeup session and graciously accepted.
Little made headlines during his first term when he voted in support of funding for the Minnesota Council on Compulsive Gambling despite allegedly having had a romantic relationship with its vice president.
Tony Salls, who quickly identifies himself as a recovering alcoholic, moved to Duluth "to sober up" after growing up in Silver Bay. He said he never expected he'd stay.
But he realized while in Duluth that "there are things more important than jobs and wages and bigger houses, and that's the people," said Salls, a food and beverage manager at Ledge Rock Grille at Larsmont Cottages. "I'm in the service industry. ... It is in my nature to serve, and I'm here to serve the taxpayers of Duluth."
Jeff Anderson would be the sort of cheerleader for Duluth the City Council has long needed. With visions of a city population once again above the 100,000 mark, and of housing corridors for college students established along London Road, downtown or elsewhere, Anderson says that a "can-do" attitude would go a long way toward attracting new industry and new businesses to Duluth.
An advertising executive for Red Rock Radio, Anderson is a political newcomer. But he has the experience to bring his vision to fruition, having served on the Duluth Housing Commission, the city's community development committee, the charter commission and in other capacities.
The culture in City Hall has to change, he said. "I'm not a fan of attacking the largest employer in the city," he said, referring to Mayor Herb Bergson's contretemps with St. Mary's Duluth Clinic Health System in the ongoing parking-ramp dispute.
John (Jack) B. Arnold is retired from the U.S. Department of Commerce and is ready now to put his job-creation skills to work full time for Duluth. The city certainly could benefit from his knowledge of successful economic development.
Arnold's attractive resume also includes a previous stint on the City Council and membership on a previous Bayfront planning committee.
As the owner of Sir Benedict's Tavern on the Lake and of another formerly abandoned gas station, Arnold knows full well the pitfalls businesses and prospective businesses can face when dealing with City Hall. He said permitting and other city processes need to be streamlined and made simpler.
When asked about rental restrictions and the problems the city is facing with regard to an abundance of rentals in Duluth's hillside neighborhoods, Arnold insightfully asked what the University of Minnesota Duluth is doing to assist the city.
Arnold also brings a long-needed voice of financial responsibility.
"If we don't have the money, we don't spend the money," he said regarding the proposal to build a $5 million cut-through road from Arrowhead to the Miller Hill Mall. "[Duluth needs to] be careful. There are tough times coming."
And tough times demand strong leaders.
Tony Cuneo got an early taste of politics while he was still a student at the University of Minnesota Duluth. He was part of the Young Voter Project in 2004, which encouraged college students and other young people to vote and to get involved with the presidential election. The project proved successful. That fall, the polling place at UMD ran out of ballots.
A real estate agent and the co-owner of a property management business, Cuneo said Duluth could realize economic development by working "from the ground up" with a "long-term citizen-produced vision." That vision, he said, includes a decades-overdue update of the city's "ancient" codes.
"I owe this city a lot," Cuneo said of his decision to run for the council. "It's been here in Duluth that I've learned what it is that gives my life a sense of purpose [and] that really is helping others be a part of the process [to] create the kind of community they want to see."
Becky Hall has been in Duluth just five years and already has made a run at political office. Her bid last November against long-term incumbent Thomas Huntley for the state House District 7A seat fell short. Expect her bid for City Council to go much better. Her no-nonsense positions, optimistic outlook and background in economic development are a good fit for Duluth.
Government doesn't create jobs, she said, but needs to support the businesses that do. That support can come from re-examining the city's far-too-complex permitting process. Doing so could help accomplish one of Hall's top goals: expanding the city's tax base.
A fully developed Bayfront Festival Park also could help accomplish that goal, Hall says. "To attain revenue to support city services a council leader should support efforts to increase our tax base and not just our taxes," she said.
Hall describes herself as a "team player" and "hard worker" who doesn't shy away from challenges. Rather, she said, "I look forward to tackling them."