I have applied for the vacancy on the Duluth City Council. COVID-19 has compelled me to step forward and vie for an opportunity to help our leaders in Duluth traverse through these trying times.

As a citizen and a taxpayer, I am deeply concerned about the city’s projected budget shortfall. The city of Duluth’s 2020 budget projected generated revenues to grow by less than 1% annually for the next five years while expenditures were expected to grow by over 3% annually. A recent projection showed a $38 million budget shortfall.

Those are simply unsustainable figures. As a result, we are beginning to see local government tightening its belt. No one likes austerity, but we have to find creative and responsible solutions to address this. That can be achieved by promoting the type of growth that will increase tax receipts and not sacrifice the support we need to provide to our neighbors in the greatest need.

We must continue utilizing COVID-19 prevention practices amongst ourselves, businesses currently operating, and businesses on the cusp of reopening. As we work to return to normalcy after the worst of the pandemic has passed, we need to harness all the knowledge and experience of business, education, and social organizations across the community. We must heed their advice to create a revived, dynamic, and opportunity-filled economy.

Tourism has been, and will continue to be, an essential component of Duluth’s revenue stream. We need to continue to expand our tourist season and encourage those outside our community to visit and get a feel for what makes life here so special.

However, the pandemic has highlighted how precarious the tourist industry can be. Despite the state-mandated shutdown of non-essential businesses due to the pandemic, we still need to do more to diversify Duluth’s revenue stream. This gives our economy a better chance of thriving through future unforeseen economic downturns.

College students are our biggest export. We must stem that tide. Creating jobs for them would retain the talent fostered at local universities. Let’s entice graduates to stay after school and partake in the economy. Let’s lure graduates from other cities by cultivating a tangible startup culture in Duluth. Let’s team up with surrounding municipal leaders to start coordinating economically. By listening to all the voices throughout the community, we will find an amenable and equitable solution to expand our private sector and tax base.

The city must correct its course to shore up dwindling reserves and utilize our existing resources in a responsible and strategic manner. Protecting our most vulnerable will be increasingly challenging as the city’s budget tightens. That underscores our need to grow our tax base and secure revenue to support those in need. Growing the taxpayer base and the number of businesses in the community is also the only surefire way we can fund our essential city services. Duluth can grow in an environmentally conscious, culturally accommodating, and diverse fashion. We just have to strive to create a more opportunity-rich atmosphere to do so.

I am concerned about conserving the vibrancy we have in Duluth. I want to preserve this wonderful city that I have lived in my entire life. To do that we need to be more frugal when it comes to making the hard choices — as any responsible household would to get its finances in order — so that Duluth can continue to be the great city in which we all are fortunate to live.

Chris Adatte is one of 12 Duluthians who have applied to replace At Large City Councilor Barb Russ, who resigned due to health concerns. Applications are being accepted through June 1.