Council President's View: City government needs to focus on the people in 2022

From the column: "We are not at a point where the people are at the center of government. But we can get there."

Duluth City Council President Renee Van Nett opens a Sept. 23, 2021, news conference on the steps of Duluth City Hall where she and fellow councilors would announce their support for a plan that would boost police pay and provide additional training resources. Andee Erickson / file / Duluth News Tribune

It’s been a busy year as council president. It has been a learning year for me while getting many important things done. I am proud that, as a City Council, we take issues head-on; we don’t kick the can down the road. I felt very proud many times in 2021 to work with such a dynamic council of hard-working people who are able to build consensus even when not agreeing.

I am an optimist in general and work from a nuts-and-bolts perspective. I look for the good in everything, including the work of the council.

I believe our tourist economy will come out ahead because of a new process the city administration brought forward to tell our story to the world and to attract the world to Duluth. I am in full support of that because times are changing, and we need to adapt to appeal to the broader community to be our very best Duluth.

In the light of COVID-19, we received federal American Rescue Plans funds. There were many important funding recommendations in the $58,000 package that are all important.

Public safety, in my view, is important to a healthy community, and one recommendation that was moved on this year was the community crisis-response program, which will be a huge asset to the city while providing support for our police and fire departments.


Duluth is a city where we all matter and are welcomed. That includes the business community, taxpayers, poor people, homeless people, well-to-do people, families, and friends. That was a clear message when I introduced a resolution asking the U.S. Senate to do reconciliation work for the Indigenous community regarding the effects of the boarding-school era. U.S. Sen. Tina Smith is taking that task to the chambers and working for the Indigenous communities in Minnesota.

As a Native woman in politics, I see things differently than others might. I have experienced a City Hall lacking in customer service, and I have experienced government not being people-minded but rather government-minded. We are not at a point where the people are at the center of government. But we can get there.

The City Council in 2021 did not see each other one time face to face because of COVID-19. I am hopeful we will see each other in chambers in 2022.

Miigwetch to my fellow city councilors for your work. Thank you to Duluth for giving of yourself to me so I could work hard for you!

Renee Van Nett served as Duluth City Council president this year. She represents District 4 on the council, which includes Duluth Heights, Piedmont Heights, Lincoln Park, and part of West Duluth. She wrote this at the invitation of the News Tribune Opinion page.

Renee Van Nett

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