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Our view: Consider all options, streets task force

The casino money is gone, but the city has a pretty clear picture of its finances now that the Legislature is adjourned. Still, in slight contrast to the sentiments of some in City Hall, it actually seems a bit past time to come up with a specifi...

Ready for repairs
Chris LaFave (left) and Shaun Frye, with JMF Construction, use an "umbrella" to gather and lift debris from a sanitary sewer on 27th Avenue West at Fifth Street on Tuesday, May 28, 2013. They were doing sewer manhole work in preparation for milling and re-blacktopping the avenue this summer. (Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com)

The casino money is gone, but the city has a pretty clear picture of its finances now that the Legislature is adjourned.

Still, in slight contrast to the sentiments of some in City Hall, it actually seems a bit past time to come up with a specific, long-range plan not only to fix and maintain Duluth's crumbling, frost-heaved streets, but to pay for it, too.

City Council President Patrick Boyle said this week he's putting together a working group of councilors and city staff members to come up with the long-needed plan. Findings and recommendations are expected within six months, which would be a pretty good turnaround time considering the usual speed of government in nonemergency situations.

Sooner would be better for the plan and for implementing it, especially if the plan takes into serious consideration all options for prioritizing projects and, more importantly, for paying the bills. Task force members can't look only at tax increases or higher assessments to cover costs, as already are being discussed. We taxpayers can only pay so much for schools, street lights and everything else. And after the past few years of brutal recession, our tax base can only give so much more. Cuts elsewhere in city spending demand to be studied, too, freeing up money for the most necessary road repairs. Both sides of the ledger have to be on the table.

To the credit of Mayor Don Ness, Chief Administrative Officer David Montgomery and others in City Hall, Duluth has become a fairly lean operation in recent years, even if out of necessity due to dwindling state aid, a stagnant population and falling tax revenue. But priorities can be shifted, and sometimes have to be shifted when funding sources -- like the city's share of Fond-du-Luth Casino revenues, long the source for road repairs -- dry up or are taken away. Greater needs emerge.

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Task force members have much to consider. Those of us paying the bills, from Fond du Lac to Lakeside, can wish them good luck. And we can urge them to look at all options and to be creative and innovative as they consider revenue sources.

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