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Local View: Duluth's focus on homelessness snubs locals, shortchanges economic development

From the column: "Unless something is used by or seen by a tourist, it is not a priority to the city (of Duluth), it seems."

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2018 News Tribune file photo / Deb Holman, street outreach worker for CHUM, stops to look over a homeless camp at First Avenue East and Fourth Street before starting to break it down and move it out.
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Duluth has been a great place to raise a family and live for as long as anyone reading this can remember. Duluth has some of the best scenery in the world, overlooking beautiful Lake Superior, and amazing outdoor recreational opportunities for all kinds of people. There used to be good businesses around the city and in the area, which allowed residents to have good-paying jobs and to be able to afford their own homes or to rent a place to call home, young and old. Most of us live and continue to stay in Duluth for these reasons. Tourists come from all over the world to visit this amazing city for two of the above reasons and several other reasons.

Unfortunately, I and a majority of tax-paying residents of this city see this coming to an end, with some of the decisions we have seen made by our city government.

Homelessness is only increasing in Duluth, which is a sad state of affairs. But why is the homeless population growing so fast? Is it that Duluth residents are falling on such economic hardship, to the point they are losing it all? Or is it that the city government in Duluth continues to make homelessness a priority over economic development and job growth and builds facilities to accommodate more homelessness to come into Duluth? Are people coming in from all over the area because of the handouts?

Businesses continue to leave Duluth due to a lack of support from city government and the regulations placed on businesses by the city.

Public facilities for residents to use and come together as a community continue to be demolished with no replacements in sight. The infrastructure: we all know what a joke the roads are in Duluth, and our water lines are at the ends of their lives and fail often.

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Unless something is used by or seen by a tourist, it is not a priority to the city, it seems.

When I read about the things the city continues to prioritize over economic development, the phrase from the movie “Field of Dreams” goes through my head, “If you build it, (they) will come.”

So, do we as Duluth want to build more and more homeless facilities to bring in more and more homeless? Or do we in Duluth want to build up our community with good jobs, good businesses, and good public facilities for the residents to use and where they can collaborate with other community residents? Do we want to bring back the middle class?

What we do today will affect our future for years to come.

Zak Radzak of Duluth is president of Teamsters General Local 346. He wrote this exclusively for the News Tribune.

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Zak Radzak is president of Teamsters General Local Union 346 in Duluth.

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