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Candidate's view: City needs to focus on residents’ needs

I'm 63 and a lifelong Duluth resident. I graduated from Duluth Cathedral (now Marshall) and from the University of Minnesota Duluth with a bachelor's degree in history and a minor in art. I have no political experience and have never held public ...

James Mattson
James Mattson

I’m 63 and a lifelong Duluth resident. I graduated from Duluth Cathedral (now Marshall) and from the University of Minnesota Duluth with a bachelor’s degree in history and a minor in art. I have no political experience and have never held public office. But I’ve lived and worked here all of my years - and through decades of government mismanagement.
City government is supposed to provide its citizens with needs and not wants. Personally, I’d like a 1958 Chevy Impala two-door hard top. Do I need it? No. Can I afford it? No again. This is what is wrong with government in all sectors.
I’m running for mayor of Duluth because I want our city to become a vibrant, busy and growing city.
The population has been approximately 85,000 for years. Thousands of young people come to Duluth to attend our colleges, and after four years so many of them leave. Why? Because there are very few jobs for them. We educate to export. We aren’t tapping into their gifts and talents. This city is getting old, and I see minimal growth, mainly in the brewing businesses and tourism. Duluth needs to gain, retain and maintain the population.
As mayor of our city, I will reduce the governing ways with a belief that, to paraphrase President Ronald Reagan, government is not the solution, it’s the problem. I will also take a $20,000 decrease in pay immediately.
What is important for growth and solidity are manufacturing and industrial jobs for graduates and other employable folks. Much more is needed - needed! - to keep people here and to keep them comfortable and content.   
I would cut city expenses. City of Duluth cars will be scrapped. A city employee can use his or her car and be paid for mileage.
There will be no overtime unless there is an emergency situation.
The old steel plant site in Morgan Park could be put to good use. There is so much that can and should be done in the far-western environs of our city. It is time. With more big businesses, we can increase our tax base, and that will reduce taxes on those of us who work hard to pay them.
A new library shouldn’t even be on the table at this time. When something is 35 years old, as the existing library is, do you put it out to pasture? A home isn’t considered old at that age. Let’s just do the repairs - the “needed” repairs. We shouldn’t be building a new library because of a “want.” Some say a new, state-of-the-art building is needed for 30 years. Would it be obsolete then and torn down? It is nonsensical.
We truly have to finally repair and redo the streets in Duluth. It has been an ongoing dilemma for years now. We need good roads and a strong infrastructure. The hospitality tax just handed over hundreds for bike trails. I was under the impression that tourist taxes were to go to streets and more important repairs and upkeep.
I am also weary when I think of leaders in our city doing things only they want to do. The school district’s Red Plan is one example: It wasn’t even put to a vote! A few hundred million dollars later and where did that get everyone? City government may ask for the input of the people, but decisions are made by only a few. Fair? I think not.
I will do my best for the citizens of Duluth. I will respect the “needs” of  the people. The “wants” will be put aside.

James Mattson is one of eight candidates for Duluth mayor. Incumbent Don Ness did not run again. With him on the Sept. 15 primary ballot will be Thomas Cooper, John Howard Evans, Howie Hanson, Chuck Horton, Emily Larson, Robert D. Schieve and John Socha. Two will advance to Election Day Nov. 3. All the candidates were invited to write a commentary for the News Tribune.

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