Time for Duluth to change the status quo

During this year's presidential election, the themes of the respective campaigns were "Change You Can Believe In" and "Change Is Coming." Ask yourself: Will change in Washington, D.C., make a notable, timely difference in my daily life? Or do tho...

During this year's presidential election, the themes of the respective campaigns were "Change You Can Believe In" and "Change Is Coming." Ask yourself: Will change in Washington, D.C., make a notable, timely difference in my daily life? Or do those we elect to represent us locally have a much greater influence?

Change is best described as different from the status quo or from the status quo if left alone.

Financial conditions are worsening. All levels of government are faced with declining revenue from taxes collected. Our country is in the early stages of multi-year deep consumer spending cuts. Businesses that pay taxes will continue to struggle to make profits, and that'll include having to cut costs, including jobs. Fewer people working, less consumer and businesses spending, and the credit crisis equal a significant drop in sales taxes collected. As people without jobs and business failures increase, income taxes collected by all levels of government most certainly will decline. Housing values also are dropping. If property taxes reflect the true adjusted market value of homes, property taxes collected will be less.

Sales tax declines and income and property tax declines equate to fewer dollars available to operate all levels of government.

Simply put, there isn't enough money for regional government to continue business as usual.


Many households already know the reality of not enough money and cannot absorb more tax and fee increases. State and local government spending cannot continue to increase, let alone sustain, without increases in taxes and fees. Ironically, fewer people in this area of stagnant population have the money for these increases. Consequently, overdue change is more needed than ever.

Tax base growth via additional taxpayers hasn't occurred, and there's little reason to see that changing in the foreseeable future. Such change takes time and those representing us have had ample time -- and opportunity.

The Duluth area has had the same-old politics for far too long -- high on rhetoric and low on results, namely attracting good-paying employers to one of the most beautiful regions in North America. A lack of pro-business policy by local politicians is the reason there aren't more high-

paying jobs and taxpaying employers and employees.

History has shown that businesses employ more people than any other entity in a healthy economy. Businesses create jobs and a business must make a profit to pay taxes and increase the number of employees who also pay taxes. Increasing the tax burden on struggling area taxpayers and businesses is clearly not the answer.

Government budgets were made during much better economic times. Sadly, Duluth has not made adequate progress in funding obligated retiree health-care benefits, and the city is struggling to meet its general fund requirements.

Even more uncertain is the future money available from federal and state sources for local government.

The answer is that local government must cut back on all nonessential spending and attract new taxpayers.


Change is needed, and it will not come from those who have been in office for numerous terms -- or from Washington, D.C., or the state, which have larger problems.

Locally, long-term alliances with special interests, such as AFSCME, have slowed the city of Duluth in solving its problems, opposing necessary and difficult government spending cuts. Change will come only with a change in those who represent us over those who endorse them.

Political indecision, conflicts of interest, and/or a lack of financial common sense to make tough choices are no longer options we can absorb as taxpayers. We cannot be everything to everybody, and our leaders must have the courage to say, "No."

St. Louis County Commissioners Bill Kron and Peg Sweeney have 32 and 12 years of representing us, respectively. State Rep. Mary Murphy has another 32 years. Their alliances are clear and in conflict with the past-due difficult decisions. These representatives have had their chance to take the burden off of us by attracting new taxpaying citizens and businesses to our area. The bottom line is they haven't done the job.

I commend the News Tribune for recognizing the need for true change that can improve our lives by recently endorsing County Board candidates Chris Dahlberg and Sam Haddad and state representative candidate Steve Townsend. These candidates understand that increasing tax revenue by attracting new taxpaying citizens with new jobs provided by businesses must be done rather than further burdening this struggling area.

The time for change starts at home. It is now. And it rests with electing new and unhindered leaders.

Bob Hansen is a lifelong Duluth resident and the owner of three Duluth-based businesses.

What To Read Next