A local commercial property owner, frustrated and ignored by the City of Duluth, reached out to share their story. The property owner owns and manages several properties in Duluth, as well as throughout the Midwest. Again and again, it’s the properties in their hometown of Duluth that create the most issues.
As the sunrises, so do the clean-up crew. Their never-ending job of picking up around the investor’s Downtown Duluth properties usually starts with the dangerous job of removing used needles and picking up human feces. Regardless of the City’s “solution” of placing portable toilets throughout downtown human waste continues to appear on sidewalks and parking lots. Door handles need to be disinfected, as they are the favorite target for those looking to urinate in public. Among the drug paraphernalia and excrement, you’ll find more typical garbage, food wrappers, pop and liquor bottles, paper bags… you’ll also find half loaves of bread and half quarts of milk – items the homeless pick up from the nearby Chum Food Shelf. The Food Shelf doesn’t consider the living conditions of those they hand out food to. Homeless people get the same rations as those with homes, yet they have no place to safely store perishable foods, and really no need or desire to, because they know they can return to get more the next day, either from the Food Shelf or the Day Center.
After the morning clean-up is complete, and the people that work at the commercial properties start arriving and the phone calls begin. The topic of the calls could be anything: an employee harassed on the way to their car the night before or upon arriving that day, new graffiti that needs to be removed, a “wet” entrance door that was missed by the morning clean-up crew, or, has been used as a bathroom between then and now. Entries blocked by broken glass, a used needle, or perhaps a homeless person who refuses to move, and a police force that only has permission to chase them from doorway to doorway.
Tenants and their employees are scared. Security has been hired to walk people to their vehicles in the evening, especially now that it’s getting dark by the time people leave the office.
All of the cleaning at the expense of property owners is done to comply with city ordinances for a city that refuses to address the root of this problem.
When the business and property owners reach out to the city about their concerns, all communication must go through the city’s Public Information Officer, Kate Van Daele, who just happens to be married to the director of CHUM’s Food Shelf. The Mayor herself is a former CHUM employee. We don’t need a big “Who dun it” wall with photo evidence and newspaper clippings connected by lines and lines of red string to figure out who is behind the mystery of Downtown Duluth’s turmoil and consistent inaction to remedy it. Requiring CHUM to modify their services and requirements, as well as making them address the impact they are having on downtown would be, for the city, burdening their… well, chums. So the buck… and lots of them… fall on the people who have businesses and own property in downtown and the surrounding areas.
How long can the idea of a charming and vibrant Downtown Duluth last as these problems continue to grow without any attempt to curb them? If you ask a commercial property owner, they’ll tell you “not long”. Tenants have been moving out rapidly over the last two years, and property owners are looking for a way out too.
As the moonlight streams into our property owner’s living room and the calls taper off for the night, they wonder what fresh mess they will awake to tomorrow. And they are sad for Duluth. A city with such amazing potential ignorantly squandering it, forcing business and property owners to do damage control on a homelessness, drug, and crime crisis that desperately needs all of the city’s attention right now, while the leadership spends their time rubbing elbows with the Governor and then Presidential candidate Joe Biden, popping on board a Russian boat laid-over in the harbor, or sending more money to Spirit Mountain.