Readers' Views for Oct. 31

Ness has demonstrated ability to lead Duluth faces a crucial decision on Nov. 6. The citizens of Duluth will have the privilege of electing a proven leader with a respectful, can-do, bring-everybody-to-the-table attitude. Don Ness is exactly the ...

Ness has demonstrated ability to lead

Duluth faces a crucial decision on Nov. 6. The citizens of Duluth will have the privilege of electing a proven leader with a respectful, can-do, bring-everybody-to-the-table attitude.

Don Ness is exactly the kind of mayor who will bring a thoughtful, energetic style that values all constituents of Duluth: working families; the business community; the public, private and nonprofit sectors; and those living on the margins.

I've known Ness well since his high school days when I witnessed him representing the community at an international gathering in Winnipeg, Canada. I was impressed by his keen mind and ability to get along with anyone. As a high school student, he was a fine ambassador for the city and country.

Over the ensuing decade and a half, Ness has matured into a thoughtful, results-oriented leader with heart.


As a city councilor for eight years, he's been willing to roll up his sleeves and work with a broad spectrum of Duluthians to address intractable problems, with the courage to face the retirement health-care issue and the important issue of economic development.

These are critical times for the city of Duluth, and it's important to elect a mayor who understands how city government works -- a mayor who has the respect of local and statewide leaders and who is really grounded in the diverse needs of the people. Don Ness is just such a person.

There's no question Charlie Bell is a fine man and a strong candidate. He's just facing an outstanding leader and individual who has demonstrated the ability to move Duluth toward a more respectful, hopeful and prosperous future.

Don Ness has my support for mayor, and he should have everyone's vote on Nov. 6.

David B. Wheeler


The writer is a former Duluth city councilor from the 2nd District, a candidate for mayor in 1995 and a former member of the Duluth Economic Development Authority.

School Board deserves praise for red plan process


President Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." It seems obvious opponents of the Duluth school district's red plan are trying to do just that -- spread fear.

Where were all these people during the past two years when, as one letter writer put it, this sound, long-term facilities plan was the "most comprehensive, open, transparent, community-engaged and data-driven we in Duluth have ever had to develop" ("Duluth does not need bullying rhetoric on schools," Oct. 24)?

One of the most vocal opponents of the red plan seems to be running for the School Board only to oppose the red plan. Sorry, but candidate Harry Welty had his chance as a School Board member. He brought derision and animosity to Independent School District 709.

In helping to spread myths, innuendos and falsehoods about the highly researched and well-thought-out red plan, opponents of the plan are doing nothing but hurting the welfare of the children in the school district and taxpayers. How long shall Duluth continue before bringing schools into the 21st century? And how much will it cost then?

This is a plan that should have been done long ago but was continually put on the back burner. At what point does Duluth start to invest in its kids and their education?

A billion a week is being spent in Iraq -- for what?

Duluth elected a School Board to make tough decisions, and that's what School Board members have done. Duluth is ready to move forward; it's a shame a vocal minority isn't ready to move with it.

Joe Westerberg



Fedora's 'you people' insult still rankles

I see Todd Fedora is running for City Council. Is this the same Todd Fedora who pushed for the Spirit Mountain golf course and hotel project?

I remember Fedora speaking to the City Council and lobbying for the project and then storming out of the meeting saying to the opposition, "I am sick of you people!"

Is this the equal-minded, fair representation we need on the City Council?

Douglas W. Happy


Mayoral responsibilities ring a Bell


Bell for mayor. Why? Because Charlie is a doer.

From West Duluth redevelopment to a new Public Schools Stadium to private business and to housing, the list goes on. Organization, management, vision, dedication -- those are the attributes he would bring to the office. And he has the time.

When Bell was a single father of three children, his children were his priority -- it took time. Let's be honest: Like it or not, the job of mayor takes a lot of time, and he has it to give. Bell has proven himself as a parent, citizen and businessperson. He puts in the time, and as mayor he will do the same.

Political neophyte? Come on. Bell has had to wend his way through more government than most of us could stand to deal with. Successfully, I might add.

Naive? Charlie Bell? The only thing naive around here is the idea that the people who brought Duluth to its current condition will suddenly discover the way.

This election is about experience; it's about vision; it's about leadership. Rings a Bell doesn't it?

George M. Balach



Fedora's tactics detrimental to Duluth

As the chairman of the Neighborhood District 8 for many years, I have watched Laurie Johnson and Todd Fedora as they have related to neighborhood and city issues. Johnson has been supportive and responsive to neighborhood concerns and attentive to the needs of working families in the community.

Fedora's involvement marked the most disruptive and contentious period in district history. I remember him as part of a small but vocal group that in the early spring of 2005 tried to literally take over a district meeting using intimidation to advance their political agenda. I can recall him presenting distorted and incomplete "facts" to support his views on multiple occasions.

Despite a reduction in the local crime rate, Fedora's rhetoric plays on our fear. He would have us believe that the best we each can do is huddle into our own world with fire and police protection as our only forms of communal existence. Would he advocate eliminating parks, libraries and hockey for an accelerated street repair program?

It is my hope that we have the faith and trust in ourselves and one another to reject his divisive paradigm veiled as fiscal responsibility, which are code words for neglect of the working poor and disadvantaged in our community.

As citizens, we deserve city councilors who respect public process, work for the good of all of us and support our city's greatest assets -- its citizens. I urge District 1 residents to vote for Johnson and government that brings out our best.

Kevin Skwira-Brown



Keep city's absolute financial needs in mind

A lady with a great deal of political savvy and experience as the mayor of a city of about 60,000 people in Minnesota once told me that many of Duluth's financial problems stem from refusing to separate the necessary from the nice.

Necessary services include police and fire protection, street maintenance and repair, and a well-functioning city hall. These aren't funded properly so more money can be diverted to items that are nice but aren't necessary for the operation of the city. When the "must have" is funded then the "nice" projects should be funded as best as possible.

Duluth doesn't need an aquarium; it does need more police. Duluth doesn't need city-subsided housing; it does need its streets repaired and maintained. Duluth doesn't need more nontaxpaying nonprofits; it does need an expanded tax base and the jobs created to help fund the retiree health-benefit deficit.

The current City Council, with maybe two exceptions, has routinely voted in favor of funding the "nice" projects to the determent of the necessary.

When one looks at the endorsements that some current candidates for the council claim, remember each comes with a "you now owe us support for our favorite warm-and-fuzzy."

Of the current slate of City Council candidates, four names stand out as not beholden to some group or cause but to the citizens they represent. These are Todd Fedora in District 1, Heather Rand in District 3, and Becky Hall and Tim Little, candidates for At Large seats.

Anyone in Duluth pleased with the direction their city has taken the past few years should give their vote to the endorsed and beholden candidates. Anyone who thinks a change of direction is needed should remember the names Fedora, Rand, Hall and Little.

John Gravelle


Public was duped by the red plan for schools

I must admit I wasn't paying much attention when the various plans for the future of Duluth's schools were being sculpted. I have no emotional ties to any school in the city and have no opinion on which schools should be closed.

The price tag was what finally grabbed my attention. I come from a family of educators. Historically, I voted "yes" on issues related to the funding of schools. I even said "yes" when the recent poll was conducted.

I now realize that I was duped. This total rebuilding? For what? I'd rather see my money support programming and teachers so that all students in the city can benefit from a first-class education. I'd even go as far as paying for the extras so Duluth's students don't spend time selling magazines and instead concentrate on their studies and sports activities.

Gail Voss


Seliga-Punyko brings heart, thought on schools

I've known Judy Seliga-Punyko for many years and first met her when she was teaching music in Duluth's public schools. Not only has she been a successful teacher, she also has been involved in the PTA and PTSA, works as a swimming teacher, has three children going though the Duluth public school system and is currently a successful business owner. Her unique experience with both education and business makes her an excellent candidate for School Board.

What also impresses me about Seliga-Punyko is how well-informed she is about school district issues, her enthusiasm for providing excellent academic programs for students, her support for the arts and her integrity and honesty. I know she will do an excellent job as a School Board member and I also know she will do the work with heart, thought and creativity.

Her ability to work well with people in both education and business is a huge plus, as is her willingness to listen to others. Her vast experience and her commitment to education will allow her to make excellent and informed decisions. I'm proud to support Judy Seliga-Punyko for Duluth School Board.

Barbara Hanka


Johnson has city's best interests at heart

Laurie Johnson is running for re-election in the 1st District. There are allegations she has (and has had) a conflict of interest because she works for AFSCME. It seems the allegation about union folks having a conflict of interest is generally made by those who have a business conflict of interest, since issues coming before the council are primarily business-oriented, not union-oriented.

The conflict of interest charge puzzles me when, as a mother of three, she knows working families need living wages just as much as salaried professionals. She's consistently supported the protection of the public interest in development proposals, specifically stricter guidelines for the JOBZ program so when public funds are spent, workers get better wages. Should we put public funds into minimum-wage jobs and then expend more public funds for the consequences of underpaid workers?

As a lifelong Duluthian and a former grocery clerk, she knows the need of working folks for affordable housing. Therefore, she supported mixed-use housing at Hawk Ridge.

Because Johnson knows Lake Superior and its Lakewalk are gems of our unique city, she has consistently supported the protection of this heritage and also of our green spaces. Some in the investment and development business may have a problem with this, but do any of the rest of us?

Johnson supported the Heritage Hockey Arena and public services such as police and fire, and sees the need for additional resources for these services.

Johnson is neighborhood-based with a vision of how all areas and economies of the city are knit together into one beautiful quilt.

She will not advocate for one area of our city or economy to the detriment of others.

I hope you join me in supporting Laurie Johnson for a second term on the City Council.

Hal Moore


Grover will fight for affordable school plan

In May of this year, three of the seven current School Board members had the courage to stand up for the citizens of Duluth. Tim Grover was one of the three who voted to give the citizens of Duluth the right to vote on the district's costly long-range building project, the red plan.

Grover is currently the 3rd District's School Board representative. His commitment to the citizens and children of his district has been amazing. He has attended every meeting he was invited to and his input and experience has been invaluable.

I feel the district's building plan is far too costly and doesn't take into account the need for neighborhood schools in all neighborhoods, leaving the center part of town with far fewer schools than other areas. The elaborate building plan also puts the next operational levy for programs at great risk for failure, because citizens will quickly realize the actual cost of the red plan and revolt.

I want to vote before my superintendent and four members of the School Board spend $437 million on buildings in a district with declining enrollment. Grover supports my right to vote and be involved in finding a plan that is more affordable. He supports money spent on teachers and programming before buildings. He understands we need to invest in our buildings, but knows we can find a much more equitable plan for significantly less than $437 million. He will fight for a more affordable plan that benefits our whole district. He also is fighting for your right to vote.

I encourage you to vote for Tim Grover for 3rd District School Board.

Damon Anderson


Anti-red plan campaign breeds dysfunction

Comments made by School Board candidates Harry Welty, Gary Glass and Deb Anderson in opposition to the district's long-range facilities plan have bordered on the irrational.

By equating the long-range planning process to the war in Iraq and stating they'd kill the plan or force a referendum, they have been destructive. Seemingly blinded by emotion, they fail to see the needs of Duluth's children and seem to be driven to hold the district and community hostage.

It's understandable that neighbors of schools proposed for change have anxiety. But dialogue about their concerns is being hijacked by what I see as irrational fear-mongering and bombastic comments by these School Board candidates.

Personal attacks on Superintendent Keith Dixon by School Board candidates in opposition to the district plan are sowing the seeds of dysfunction and acrimony. Is this what Duluth wants from its elected leaders? The city has had plenty of divisive and ineffectual leadership already.

Six years ago, when Welty was a School Board member, he made a quip at a PTA meeting. He said that if you didn't like what was happening in the district you only had to wait two years for the next election. It was pointed out to him that was exactly what was wrong with the district. Without a vision, the district was doomed and it was the superintendent and School Board who are responsible to provide that vision.

To their credit, School Board members finally have hired a man who can lead that vision. Together the School Board and administration have a plan that will bring stability to the district for decades to come. Voters should please support the School Board candidates who can help lead the district to a better future.

Steve Knauss


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