Candidate's View: Tourism is important, but Duluth’s tax base needs to grow

As a parent with young kids, I want Duluth to be a place where my kids can grow and thrive.

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David Zbaracki

Running for office isn’t easy. I liken it to parenting. It’s stressful and frustrating at times but incredibly rewarding as well. To my fellow candidates, whether I support you or not, I have the utmost respect for your willingness to serve our community.

I’ve lived in Duluth most of my life, and I’m now raising my children here. I’ve been fortunate to travel to all 50 states and some of the greatest cities in the world. There’s no place I’d rather be than Duluth, but I often wonder what Duluth needs to do to take that next step.

Duluth has had a population hovering around 86,000 people for nearly four decades. In that time, Duluth has made a name for itself as a tourism destination, which is wonderful. Duluthians enjoy many amenities because of this. The flip side of this is that there are times when residents feel that the needs of visitors are put in front of the needs of residents.

Duluth needs to grow its tax base. With a stagnating population, Duluth faces the problem of ever-increasing taxes or a reduction in city services, or a combination of the two. When you compare Duluth to Minneapolis, we have about a fifth of the population while having half the number of miles of paved roads. While Duluth certainly benefits from tourism, we get a lot more bang for our buck when people decide to live here. We have room to grow, and we need to get all options on the table in order to do so.

Duluth has a high poverty rate and below average median income when compared to the state of Minnesota. We need more family-sustaining jobs in order to close this gap. Again, tourism is great, but it’s also seasonal. I’ve worked for tips in January. It’s not great. And when we think about the need for more housing, we also have a need for more people to afford said housing. Furthermore, we must be cognizant of the concentrations of poverty in Duluth. Concentrating poverty doesn’t do anyone any good. Your address should not be a determining factor to your outcome in life.


Speaking of housing, Duluth is like many American cities where the only choices families have are an apartment or a single-family home. We should follow the lead of some cities and states that are looking hard at Euclidean zoning and making it possible to build more types of housing — like duplexes, triplexes, and townhomes — as well as allowing more mixed-use development. More mixed-use development will help our tax base and should make it possible for people to make shorter trips, which will be beneficial to our environment.

Running for office or serving as an elected official means balancing the needs of today while offering a vision for the future. As a parent with young kids, I want Duluth to be a place where my kids can grow and thrive.

If you want to find out more about me and my campaign, check out my Facebook page or my website, As Election Day fast approaches, I’ll be out knocking on doors and meeting neighbors all over the 2nd District.

Let’s build a better Duluth.

Dave Zbaracki is running against Mike Mayou in Duluth City Council District 2. City Councilor Joel Sipress chose not to run again. The district is in eastern and northern Duluth. Zbaracki wrote this at the invitation of the News Tribune Opinion page. Election Day is Nov. 2.

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