Imagine Duluth is a big garden. Your job is to tend the garden and grow the resources that will sustain you throughout the year. What do you plant? Of course, you’d want a variety of things. Vegetables you can store in a root cellar or can, things you can harvest more than once, and mabe a few things just for fun. The better you plant, the better you survive.
Duluth could have planted a bounty of potatoes, beans, corn, tomatoes, peppers, and so on… and sure you will find a few patches of important resources thriving in the city, but most of Duluth’s garden has been planted with pointless pumpkins like the public golf courses, Spirit Mountain, the Blue Bridge, and the Lakewalk.
Poor planning and even worse, neglect of the soil that should nourish and support Duluth has left our cellars, jars, and bellies empty. Opportunity rots on the vine and weeds make it hard to find the good in our garden. You reap what you sow.
The current city administration isn’t completely at fault, for decades those in leadership positions have been focused on the idea of impressive pumpkins not realizing how much water and attention they require to grow. If everything goes just right, they would end up with a tasty pumpkin pie, if not a smirking jack o’ lantern rotting on the front step.
This spring, the City of Duluth decided against opening the Lester Park Golf Course, the city’s two public golf courses are subsidized by the city to the tune of $200,000 a year. A 2018 study done by the city found it would take $4.1 million to make critical improvements to the Lester Park course and a total of $12.8 million to also complete the comprehensive and competitive updates the course needs. Lester Park Golf Course is in shambles with 5 dry wells requiring the city to truck in city treated water to their irrigation ponds, a leaky irrigation system that is 30 years old (the life span of one of these systems is 25-30 years) and a 30+ year old irrigation control panel you can no longer buy parts for. The presentations, available on the city’s website have one bold slide that says:
General Fund Subsidy Will Be Required Annuallyhttps://duluthmn.gov/media/8042/6-jj-keegan-financial-review-ppt.pdf
Estimated at $200,000 Per Year To Support 10.7% of the Population
Whose Income is 64.5% Greater than the Typical Duluth Resident
Spirit Mountain, the focus of a recent article on this site, is a pumpkin that has been rotting for years, requiring a greater city subsidy each year. Millions were spent on the Little Blue Bridge to allow a handful of charter fishing boats access to Lake Superior. And the Lakewalk is a budgetary line item that won’t go away anytime soon.
While the city administration googles “how to make pumpkin pie from a rotting jack o’ lantern” the rest of the city is falling apart. Garbage cans overflow in parks, homeless people camp out on sidewalks, infrastructure and road maintenance are neglected, and just yesterday City Councilor Arik Forsman tweeted a comment that basically said “Tourists: We Don’t Want You”. Disparaging the only industry that is at this time feeding Duluth’s bottom line.
No one could predict COVID-19, but in reality it just shone a light on the musty cellar corner that is Duluth’s budget and how it’s been mismanaged the last 20+ years.
Duluth has been financially fragile for years and the eagerness of the Mayor to raid the general fund during the pandemic shows how dire the city’s situation is.
Four city council seats are up for election in 2021. Consider planting people in those seats that have the experience and knowledge to make Duluth grow.