Hi Mayor Emily,
I’m not a Duluth native, I know you aren’t either. But I’ve been here a few decades and learned to love the quirky ways of the North. One of the biggest cities in the state, but also a small town, where I’m often surprised how connected the people who live here are.
Over the last few years, something has changed in this town. It’s not the divisiveness the national media likes to claim is tearing the country apart. It’s more of an apathy. A hands-up, “we give up” kind of attitude to the city. And… to running the city.
Four years ago, a major election left half the country with their panties in a bunch and I think started a sort of general depression that has increasing left some of a certain political persuasion unable to function. Instead, they’ve stood idly by with their arms crossed and bottom lip plucked out, “hmmpfing” and sighing and neglecting their contribution to society. I write to you today because I worry that you’re one of them.
Living on the hillside, with a glimpse of the world’s greatest freshwater lake, one might think that every day I would stand on my front porch and marvel at its wonder, and I do sometimes – when the lake steams in the winter, or the sunrise catches it in the spring, but most days I walk by its view without a glance, busy with the work of life, or other interests. I wonder if that’s what has happened with you. If the ambition and admiration for the place and the people that got you a seat on the city council years ago have faded into the noise that is the humdrum responsibilities of running a city. It’s as if you can’t see the despair of our downtown on the way to your office or the homeless that inhibited Chester Creek this summer because your mind was too busy when you went on your daily stroll with your husband.
My work puts me in contact with all sorts of people and you may not know it, Emily, but they are upset. They are hurting emotionally and financially because of what is happening in our city since before COVID-19. Duluth is no longer safe for families.
I hope my kids are young enough to forget the day we were playing on the beach behind Leif Erikson Park. We had just wrapped up our playtime and were heading back to the parking lot when, of course, someone needs to use the bathroom. Imagine our surprise when we walked into the ladies’ room to find a scantily dressed, panty-less woman with one foot up on the sink washing her…ahem…you know. Her eyes caught mine, she waved us out the door with her hand and said “I’m almost done.” Needless to say, we found a different bathroom to use. This was in the middle of the day. There are homeless on most corners begging for help. The shootings happening in my neighborhood have us all on edge. And I’m sure you’ve heard the stories of hypodermic needles being found frequently in downtown. I’ve seen them with my own eyes, maybe you have too.
Have you also seen the businesses taking down their signs and moving up the hill? I know several business people, lifelong Duluthians, that have invested so much in this city, to find only the “Thanks” of theft, vandalism, and squatters scaring away customers. I’ve read your Twitter responses to business people who have offered their help to the city for free – should it matter that one or all are men? Shouldn’t all people be heard? I saw a recent email response you sent to a person asking about their roads. An angry, chastising email that blamed the citizen for the city not responding because a response “wasn’t requested”. I have never seen anything so rude from an elected official and it makes me wonder what is happening at city hall.
Most recently, I heard that there is to be no direct communication with anyone that works for the City of Duluth. All communication must go through your communications director so that a response can be carefully crafted before given to the public. If transparency is still your thing – this isn’t it. And – it makes me worry.
The people of Duluth want what is best for this city – it really doesn’t matter who’s in the Mayor’s office as long as they are doing what is best for Duluth. The people want to see you acknowledging their concerns, even if there aren’t the resources to fix them right this minute. Your actions speak louder than the Duluth News Tribune puff pieces. Lately, those actions have walked the line between frazzled and fake.
Is it apathy? Or is it loathing? Resentment? Or… deeper yet, hate? Are you punishing us all because of your dislike for some? Has your interest in Duluth waned with the glow of bigger political ambitions on the horizon?
Most Duluthians are here for the long haul… and we need a leader making that long haul a priority. You have a big job, a big title, and a big responsibility to our city. I’m sure it’s incredibly hard, but you chose this challenge, so I’ll leave you with a little piece of advice I give to my kids: Watch your attitude, it’s the first thing people notice about you.
Mrs. Long Hauler