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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Get your DECC expansion updates here

****NEW***** We will keep you updated all night on what is going on with the vote on the DECC expasion so keep checking back and read the updates in comments area of this topic. Also feel free to post your thoghts of what you have heard as well.

It appears that voting turn out is getting higher. Many polling places now reporting well over 100 votes. This is more then I thought most places would have at this time.

If you have not voted yet, get out and vote you are down to just a few hours before the polls close.

Proudly voted NO!!!

This is part of what I posted on another blog today. I wanted that person to be aware that there are people that have reasons to vote and that I was proud to vote no. The reason I wanted him to know I was proud of my vote is because he seems to attack those that voted no. He had no real reason to attack anyone that voted no but chose to anyway.

I was proud to vote no today. I have said many times I am all for the DECC expansion, however I don't believe the citizens should have to pay for it in any way.

I may be for a very small portion but not half as a citizen of Duluth and then on top of the I pay again as a citizen of the state.
I don't affine go to the DECC now and I would not go there any more or less if the expansion does pass. The fact the DECC will not get any better concerts then they do now. They will not get any

More hate showen from the yes group.

Here is an example of the hate the yes group has for those that are voting no today.

This came from citizens blog, I don't post there but love to read it.

Tue Feb 28 08:38:41 2006: [Fat Tuesday...Bring Your Crying Towels], Tony R writes:

Today is the day some of you negative folks find out that you are no match for the machine. This wont even be close. Get your crying towels out!Happy Fat Tuesday!Tony

Monday, February 27, 2006

Prediction for DECC vote.

It seems that many people that I have talked to are going to vote no. With that being said I don't know how many of them will go and vote as some people have said to me what is the point. They don't believe that this is a big issue either way.

The yes group has done a good of getting out and telling people why we need the expansion. There are also big names from all of the state that said they support the expansion as well. The unions have also tossed in there two cents worth.

There is no real group organized group out there for the vote no side.

I believe this passes easily, at least 60-40 for the expansion.

New poll question.

The new poll is up.

This week we ask if you think Mayor Bergson is doing a good job.

Again the poll is at the bottom of the page so please vote. Remember you can only vote once.

poll results.

Here is the results of the last poll.

Duluth Politics poll of the weekDo you support a county smoking ban?
total votes: 8
Free polls by

If you have any ideas for a poll question you can email to us at www.duluthneedshelp@yahoo.comor you can just leave it here.

Friday, February 24, 2006

More from are wonderful union on the DECC expansion.

This came from the labor world newspaper. Here is the link for the articale.

I know it is hard to read that is why the link to the papers site is there however I don't know when it will be up again.

It is just more the same get out and support us. We don't really care about the expansion we just need it for the jobs no other reason. What a joke.

OH BOY I am excited.

OH BOY everyone get excited the aquarium is not just fish. Now we can really hope it holds it own with this new are gallery. I am so excited I just can't hide it.

Aquarium is more than just fish
Park Stewardship Through The Arts has donated $1,500 for the creation of a dedicated fine arts gallery at Great Lakes Aquarium.
This new arts space, tentatively titled the PASTA Fine Arts Gallery, will occupy the southwestern portion of the aquarium lobby.
For more information on the aquarium, go to or call (218) 740-3474. More information on PASTA can be found at


New air line in Duluth?

City looking for new air line to come to Duluth. They are using the help of a consultant and he only gets paid if he finds one that will come to Duluth. He only has two weeks to do this. I found this story interesting because of the way the guy gets paid or does not get paid depending on his performance.

City enlists help to land new airline
TRAVEL: The Duluth Airport Authority would pay its consultant only if he can bring an airline to the city.
Mark Sixel, an aviation consultant from Eugene, Ore., is betting that he can bring new air service to Duluth in the next two years. If he's right, he'll get paid. If he's wrong, he won't.

Those are the basic terms of Sixel's recent agreement with the Duluth Airport Authority.
Should he succeed in bringing a new carrier into Duluth, Sixel would receive a $2 payment from the authority for every passenger who uses the service. His maximum compensation would be capped at $80,000 for two years.

"This way, my interests are aligned with Duluth's," Sixel said.

If he is able to get an air line any thoughts on who it may be.

I think it is good the city is doing, we can still be very strong in the aviation world. We need a diffenrent air line to come in in case Northwest goes under, it also will allow for more competive rates as there would be compition.

South Dakota takes on abortion.

This is an ap story that I got off

I am one that believes abortion should not be a political issue. Yes I have my own thoughts on it.

I do have a question do you think this is some thing a state should have taken on? You may feel free to debate the whole abortion issue if you choice as well. I may even let you know what I think not sure.

PIERRE, S.D. - South Dakota lawmakers approved a ban on nearly all abortions Friday, setting up a deliberate frontal assault on Roe v. Wade at a time when some activists see the U.S. Supreme Court as more willing than ever to overturn the 33-year-old decision.

Republican Gov. Mike Rounds said he was inclined to sign the bill, which would make it a crime for doctors to perform an abortion unless it was necessary to save the woman’s life. The measure would make no exception in cases of rape or incest.

Union wants you to vote yes.

We recieved a proganta piece from the unions today asking us to vote for the DECC expansion.

The piece offers no reason to support the expansion other then 300 UNION jobs that it would create for two years. I have no problem with the DECC using union work infact it is great for our area workers that get the jobs.

The fact is there is many reason to not support this projects as well. As I said before I am for a larger arena and more halls for events. I am against the funding for the project. Remember as Duluthians we get nailed twice with a yes vote.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

No surprise!

In a move that should have shocked no one. Long time democrat representive James Oberstar endorsed Senator Becky Lourey in her bid to become governor.

There was a rumor and then a press release this week that she would be getting a huge endorsement on Friday. Well she did and to no surprise to me is was Jim Oberstar.

I don't know if this will make a huge difference or not in her campaing. It is always nice to have powerful people backing you, however how much will this help?

Oberstar backs Lourey for governor
U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., endorsed state Sen. Becky Lourey today in her race for the Minnesota governor's office.
Lourey, of Kerrick, is in a five-way race to be the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party candidate to challenge Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty in November.
"Becky Lourey personifies personal integrity, commitment to service in the public interest, lives her beliefs, and has the energy and enthusiasm for success," Oberstar said in a prepared statement.
Oberstar made his endorsement during a press conference at the city library in Wyoming, Minn.

Read the full articale,

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

smoking ban on hold for now.

It seems as if the the county will put the smoking ban issue on hold for now. They decided to defer the issue to the state for this session. If they don't do anything, which I don;t think they will. Then you could look for the board to take the issue up again.

The St. Louis County Board won't consider a smoking ban after all -- at least not until Minnesota's upcoming legislative session is over.
Commissioners took up the smoking issue for the first time Tuesday but soon decided to defer the matter for state action.

Board members reviewed a draft smoking ban proposed by Commissioner Steve O'Neil that would prohibit smoking in public places throughout the county, including restaurants but not bars. The exception for bars would have expired after Aug. 1, 2007.
While board members unanimously support a statewide smoking ban, several commissioners had reservations about adding to the "patchwork" of smoking bans in northern Minnesota.

"If the state doesn't have the courage to step up, then I could support this," Chairman Keith Nelson said. But he objected to singling out St. Louis County from the region.
The decision was a setback for O'Neil, who has worked with several other communities to enact smoking bans, including Duluth

I found it interesting that the paper feels this is a set back for commisser O'Neil. I don't believe it is, if he choices too he could still bring it up again. I would say if the state does not do anything I would guess he will.


Tuesday, February 21, 2006

DECC expansion question.

Here again is the question we will vote on for the DECC expansion. Keep in mind that we in Duluth will pay twice as much as everyone else will. Now you can tell me that we use it more but that is not necessarily true.

"If the state of Minnesota allocates enough funds for the project to go forward and to pay for up to one-half of the cost of a new arena for concerts,conventions, hockey, and other events at the Duluth Entertainment ConventionCenter (DECC), then should the city of Duluth get permission to pay for part of the remaining cost by increasing the existing sales tax on food and beverages purchased in Duluth bars and restaurants by .75 percent (7.5 cents per tendollars spent), subject to the following conditions:

(a) The tax increase would only take effect if the state allocates money for the project to go forward and to pay up to one-half of the project costs; and

(b) The stateapproves the new tax; and

(c) The tax is only in effect for the period oftime needed for it to raise enough money to pay off the city's portion of theproject cost.A 'yes' vote means you favor funding the new arena in thismanner.A 'no' vote means you do not favor funding the new arena in thismanner."

Monday, February 20, 2006

Radio show legal?

There is an interesting debate going mainly in the twin cities. The debate is on whether or not the Governors talk show it legal or not. The democrats claim it is not. They feel as if it gives Pawlenty an unfair advantage .

The fact of the matter is the dumocrats( democrats) need to realize that there is no such thing as equal time. There for his show is legal.

If any radio station wanted to give a show to lets say Hatch all they would have to is go to him and say he do you want to do a show and that would be that.

Below are a couple of links to the issue.

ST. PAUL - The DFL Party stepped up its complaint over Gov. Tim Pawlenty's weekly radio show Friday, asking the state campaign board to investigate whether it's an illegal campaign contribution.
It's a new front on a growing battle to get the Republican governor off the air. The DFL argues the show gives Pawlenty an unfair advantage as he gears up for a re-election bid.

The DFL Party stepped up its complaint over Gov. Tim Pawlenty's weekly radio show Friday, asking the state campaign board to investigate whether it's an illegal campaign contribution. It's a new front on a growing battle to get the Republican governor off the air. The DFL argues the show gives Pawlenty an unfair advantage as he gears up for a re-election bid. One DFL candidate, Kelly Doran, has warned WCCO-AM that he might lodge a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission if the show continues. But the agency said Pawlenty's show won't trigger equal-time requirements for his competitors until he actually files to put his name on the fall ballot -- something that won't occur until July. FCC attorney Mark Berlin told The Forum of Fargo newspaper that it doesn't matter that Pawlenty sounds like a candidate and is raising money toward a 2006 campaign. Berlin added that Democrats competing in a primary wouldn't be eligible for equal time until one candidate is nominated. WCCO-AM has stood behind its decision to let Pawlenty continue the show. "It is not intended to be a political campaign platform, and in our review of it, it isn't," Mary Niemeyer, senior vice president of the station, told the Forum. The weekly show has an audience of about 100,000 listeners, according to Niemeyer and the governor's office. In seeking a ruling from the campaign board, Democrats said Pawlenty should have reported the air time as a campaign contribution. A Pawlenty campaign spokesman didn't immediately return a cell phone message from The Associated Press.

What are you thoughs is the show legal or not?

Sunday, February 19, 2006

What people are saying.

Here are what some people are saying about the proposed smoking ban in the county. What are you thoughts?

"If they ban smoking in restaurants and not bars, then bars get all the business. The restaurant business is a business of making pennies, and you don't want to turn anyone away."
RICH CHALUPSKY, owner of Sammy's Pizza & Restaurant in Hibbing

"Some of my critics say we should let the state do it, but they're not doing it and it's unfair to workers."
STEVE O'NEIL, the St. Louis County commissioner who is sponsoring the smoking ban ordinance

"It would hurt business big time. About 80 percent of my customers are smokers. I think it should be a personal choice. If people want to go to a smoke-free environment they can go to McDonald's. As the owner, I should be allowed to be the one who decides whether I have smoking in my business or not."
MIKE WEDIN, owner of the Wooden Table Inn, a restaurant and bar in Britt

"I know there's a big concern in the state and county about health-care costs. We as taxpayers are paying $7 in subsidies (for smoke-related health problems) on each pack of cigarettes. It's 2006 -- let's lead again."
PAT MCKONE, senior director for Tobacco Control Programs of the American Lung Association of Minnesota

"The county already has it where you have to have a nonsmoking area. It's 15 below out there this morning -- am I supposed to send people outside if they want to smoke?"
STEVE SWANSTROM, owner of the Island Lake Inn

"I personally would like to give it a shot at doing it statewide, but if something comes before me that will eliminate people being exposed to secondhand smoke, I would support it."
MIKE FORSMAN, a St. Louis County commissioner from Ely

Source: Duluth News Tribune,

I will have more on this again later today.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Tourist and citizens don't want to pay more to eat.

This was a great letter in today's papers.

What the yes group needs to realize is for every person you say this will attracted it will also keep as many people away. Tourist or citizens just don't want to pay more when they go out to eat.

The writer also points out that this is just another strike against Duluth and when you combine them there is no reason to come here.

Tax for DECC will help Brainerd and Bemidji
I live in the Grand Rapids-Deer River area and we used to have several occasions to visit Duluth for business, shopping and recreation during the year. Now with the smoking ban in place and the proposed .75 percent increase in food and beverage tax, I have decided that if I desire a "Big City" experience I will go to Bemidji, Brainerd or St. Cloud. It appears that they still want people to come to their city to shop or spend recreational time.
While I do not live in the Duluth area, I do vote with my expenditure of disposable income. I can sympathize with the numerous business owners who will not be able to receive the benefits from my disposable income. I feel that it is best left to a business owner to decide how they want to operate their business.
Regarding the additional sales tax to support the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center: I feel that rather than increasing the sales tax city-wide, the city should look at increasing the taxes on admissions and services supplied within the facility or adding a surcharge on admissions.
See you in Bemidji or Brainerd.

Source: Duluth news tribune,

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

I support councilors Stewarts ordinance.

Last nights city council meeting had a lot of hot topics. I will get into those shortly but the first one I want to talk about is the ordinance by councilor Stewart.

I have to say that I am impressed with this. Yes it makes it harder for devolpers in some sence however at with the times that Duluth is facing we need to start getting harder on everything that we do with our money. This does not make it tarrible for and developer at all.

Below is the full

The city of Duluth does ordain:
Section 1. That the Duluth City Code, 1959, as amended, be amended by adding a new Article XXXIV to read as follows:
Article XXXIV. Regulation of Development Agreements and Business Subsidies.
Sec. 2-179. Policy.
It is the policy of the city of Duluth to engage in appropriate business development and physical development activities, but only in compliance with law, this ordinance, and reasonable standards for the honest disclosure of costs and revenue sources to the public. The city should not agree to pay for activities or structures unless the maximum cost thereof is set out in the agreement.
Sec. 2-180. Definitions.
(a) Development agreement means any promise between the city, DEDA, a city department, city agent or city official acting in his or her official capacity and at least one other party which agreement at least one of the parties intends to be legally enforceable, and which agreement has, as one of its purposes, the encouragement, assisting, subsidization, financial support or development of commercial, investment, land development, employment or business activity within the city of Duluth. It includes an agreement with a not for profit corporation, a government agency, or any other party. It includes an agreement by which any other party will, for the purpose of making a profit, use or manage real estate owned in whole or part by the city. It includes an agreement whereby the city agrees to alter or build public facilities, streets, sewers, or other improvements as a part of an economic development project, including a tourist attraction. It includes an agreement for a business subsidy. It includes a change to, amendment of, or a part of, a development agreement;
(b) Physical development means construction or alteration of real estate, including buildings, structures and infrastructure, whether or not for public use;
(c) Public activity summary means a document, on a form approved by the finance director, which contains the following information about the development agreement:
(1) A brief statement that describes the project;
(2) The public purpose of the agreement;
(3) Identity of each party to the agreement;
(4) The total cost of completing the project, including interest, professional fees, financial fees, bonding costs, the value of donated land or property;
(5) The greatest possible total cost (expenditure by) to the city, including the value of land or property donated by the city, under the proposed development agreement;
(6) Any contingent costs, such as environmental response or regulatory penalties, that could not be estimated for inclusion in (4) or (5) above;
(7) The estimated actual total cost (expenditure by) to the city or DEDA under the proposed agreement, including business subsidies, pass through money, grants, loans, tax increment financing, value of land or property donated to the project, etc.;
(8) The estimated total net cost to (expenditure by) the city at the time of completion of construction of the project (7) above less money or property received by the city under the agreement);
(9) The amount and source, by fund if applicable, of each revenue to the city that will be used to pay each expenditure that makes up the total cost (expenditure by) shown in (7) above;
(10) The certification by the city finance director or city auditor that each amount and source identified in (9) above is available for use at the time needed under the proposed contract, and has been secured and encumbered for the proposed use or, if not, or if the money is to be received as reimbursement for costs actually, an explanation of the extent to which the city can be sure that it will receive the money;
(11) Tax base impact information required for a proposal under Article XXXI of this Chapter, or its successor and a statement of amount of annual ad valorem tax that will not be available for general use, which otherwise would be, as a result of tax increment financing of the project under the agreement;
(12) The party responsible for paying any costs of the project which are not paid by the city or DEDA;
(13) The certificate of the director of planning that the proposed agreement is for the entire project and that costs in excess of those reported are not expected or foreseeable.
Sec. 2-181. Public activity summary required.
Whenever a development agreement that has an estimated actual total cost (as defined in Section 2-180(c)(7)) in excess of $55,000 is presented for review or approval to any government agency, elected official, city board or commission or city council, it shall have attached to it a public activity summary. The public activity summary shall also be filed with the clerk as a public document. The city council shall not vote on any development agreement, or part or amendment of one, unless the public activity summary has been on file with the clerk as a public document for at least five days before the date of the vote.
Sec. 2-182. Requirements for a development agreement.
Any development agreement entered into by the city shall:
(a) Contain a clear statement of the maximum total expenditures (cost to), including all costs, fees, business subsidies, pass through money, grants, tax increment financing, value of land or property donated to the project, etc., by the city or DEDA under the agreement;
(b) Identify each funding source for the city or DEDA’s expenditures under the agreement;
(c) Not obligate the city or DEDA to do an act or construct a structure the total cost of which is not included in the total expenditure described in (a) above;
(d) Shall not obligate the city or DEDA to furnish a service, structure, value or thing to another party to the contract which is not limited by an enforceable and stated cost maximum as set out under Section 2-182(a), above.
Sec. 2-183. Remedies.
If any development agreement is entered into in violation of this article, or does not conform to the requirements of this article, then it is voidable. Such a contract can be cancelled and rescinded by written notice to the other parties from the mayor, or by written notice approved by the council by resolution, or by ruling of a court of competent jurisdiction. If an agreement is cancelled and rescinded, the city or DEDA will be responsible for performance of the agreement up to the date of cancellation, but may seek contribution or set off from any liable party. An intentional violation of this article is punishable as set out in D.C.C. Section 1-7, or its successor, together with any civil liability or criminal liability under any applicable law.
Section 2. That this ordinance shall take effect 30 days after its passage and publication.
STATEMENT OF PURPOSE: This ordinance regulates the use of development agreements. It creates two basic requirements:

1. Every development project must have a known maximum amount the city can be forced to pay.

2. Every development project must have a known cost to the city and a known source for funds to pay that cost before the council votes on the matter.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Mayor Bergson must have been drunk again.

Ok it is time for this mayor be done. I can't believe there is not more of an out cry for this guy to leave office. If this contunies we will start to see the billboards that say will the last one out please turn off the lights again.

This mayor seem to not relieze a good thing when he see's it.

Bergson rejected ramp offer from SMDC
An offer that could have released the city from its obligation to build a parking ramp for an expansion of St. Mary's/Duluth Clinic's campus on the eastern edge of downtown should have been taken more seriously by the mayor, At Large City Councilor Jim Stauber said.
In an Aug. 8, 2005, letter of intent to Duluth Mayor Herb Bergson, SMDC President Peter Person outlined a 20-step offer to amend a development agreement between the city and the health system.
The offer would have allowed the health system to take over construction and acquire ownership of ramp, according a copy of the letter obtained by the News Tribune.
It also may have freed the city from the ongoing costs associated with the ramp, Stauber said.
Payment on city-backed bonds for the ramp are estimated to cost taxpayers $300,000 a year. The city also will face about $180,000 in annual operation costs for the ramp.
While these costs far exceed the city's subsidy to the Great Lakes Aquarium, few seem concerned about it, Stauber said.
"We've been saying all along, 'Let's get St. Mary's to the table. Let's get St. Mary's to the table,' " Stauber said. "Little did we know they were already at the table."
Among other things, the deal offered by SMDC included a requirement that First Street from Third Avenue East to Eighth Avenue East be converted from one-way to two-way traffic. The deal also would have given SMDC the $3.97 million DEDA was raising to help finance the ramp's construction.
At the least, Bergson should have made a counter-offer, Stauber said. The mayor also should have informed the City Council, which serves as the Duluth Economic Development Authority, of the offer, Stauber said. In the end, DEDA would have ultimately made the decision on the ramp, Stauber said.
Neal Hessen, an attorney who represents SMDC on the project, confirmed the offer was made but said he wasn't at liberty to discuss the details.
He said that SMDC would have been open to a counter-offer had one been made. "SMDC is a very good corporate citizen and is always willing to help the city," Hessen said.
But Julio Almanza, the city's interim chief administrative officer, said the deal wasn't doable for a number of reasons. It would have created a private parking ramp instead of a public one. That would have jeopardized public money, including state grants, being sought to pay for the ramp construction. The proposal was reviewed by a number of city staffers, including the city attorney's office and DEDA's executive director. All concluded the offer wasn't in the best financial interests of the city at time, Almanza said.
"The deal was not viewed as a positive one for the city because, basically, at the end of it all the city would have been left with no assets," Almanza said.
Beyond that, the city also has an agreement with Sherman Associates, developer of a nearby hotel and condominiums, to provide it spaces in the ramp.
The agreements with SMDC and Sherman also require the city to extend its skywalk system from the ramp on Third Avenue East to the existing skywalk, which ends on the west side of Lake Avenue. How the city will pay for that expansion, which could cost up to $15 million, is unknown, said Stauber.
"Financially, the city has become extremely strapped, and for us to continue to make pie-in-the-sky offers is misleading," Stauber said.
He supports, at least in concept, a new ordinance being drafted by 3rd District City Councilor Russ Stewart, which would require the city to limit how much it can spend on any development agreement. The ordinance also would require the city to show where that money would come from.

Councilor Stauber said that it seems many people have not shown a huge consern over the parking ramp cost. He must not have seen this blog or almost on the range blob a few month ago when this issue was in the paper almost daily. I think there are more and hope there are more people consernd about then councilor Stauber thinks there are.

Stewart wants to limit the money the city gives to developers.

It's not that Duluth 3rd District City Councilor Russ Stewart is anti-development. But city officials should be more careful when they use tax money to make deals with private developers, he said.

Let’s set the record straight here. Councilor Stewart is one of seven councilors that want’s little development in Duluth. He is an out spoken green party member, one of there biggest plat form issues is green space. Now I know councilor Stewart is not against ever project but it seems to be for the most part if it is a private for profit group he will not support you. It seems he and councilor Gilbert come from the same mold that is it is a non-profit they get what ever they want. If you are for profit company we will make it as hard as possible for you to come into Duluth or expand.

Today during a 6 p.m. committee meeting, the City Council will have its first full discussion on an ordinance proposed by Stewart requiring the city to know precisely how much it will spend on development agreements and to say where that money will come from.

I hope all nine members of council will keep an open mind on this. As I read this ordince , I think I am about 50 – 50 on it right now I am going to the meeting tonight to get more info on it. This could form what Duluth business claimed is going to be from here on out. Everyone needs to show an interest in this.

"People think this will stifle development in Duluth," Stewart said. "But when developers come to the public and ask for money, we need to be accountable to the public -- and that means knowing how much money we are obligating ourselves to pay and where the money is going to come from."

Councilor Stewart is right the council does need to be accountable with the money not only on development projects but everything. As far as development goes that is why we have a fish tank that is trouble and a soft center that never did develop. There are others as well.

Recent development projects for which the city has promised to prepare land or build structures to entice other private investment have cost far more than first estimated, Stewart said.

This is true and this is why the city needs to be very careful when they do enter into a contract or they need to say up front this is what you get and that is it. With that being said the process needs to be far for ever one. A non- profit building project A can’t 350,000 and a for profit group building project B can’t get just 145,000 for example.

Read the full story at online at

Friday, February 10, 2006

Pawlenty says he will support the DECC expansion if referdum passes.

This is not new Governor Pawlenty has said that he would support it many time as long as the referendum passes. As I said before I believe this will pass now there are just to many groups out there for it and as far as I know there is not group out there saying not to vote for it. There are people like me that are asking people not to support it but not group that is out there fighting against the project.

Pawlenty gives nod to DECC plan
DULUTH:Gov. Tim Pawlenty says he'll support the project if a city referendum on a sales tax increase passes.
If local voters agree to add 0.75 percent to Duluth's restaurant food and beverage sales tax later this month, the city probably will win a powerful ally in its bid to expand the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.
"Assuming the referendum goes well, we would be inclined to support it," Gov. Tim Pawlenty said Thursday.
In Duluth to celebrate Minnesota Power's 100th anniversary, the governor also met with Mayor Herb Bergson to review the city's plan to solve its unfunded $280 million retiree health-care debt.
Outlined in a set of recommendations issued by a City Council-appointed task force on the problem, that plan was impressive, Pawlenty said.
"The problem is large and it's serious, but the good news is Duluth has recognized the problem, city leaders have come together, have acknowledged the problem and come up with a blueprint to try and solve the problem," he said.
Duluth was ahead of other Minnesota cities and counties with similar hurdles, Pawlenty said. He credited Bergson and the City Council for taking on the issue.
"These are big and serious challenges, so we are glad the mayor has had the courage to step forward and tackle this," Pawlenty said.
A big part of Duluth's solution involves renegotiating contracts with city workers and eliminating the lifetime health benefits now promised, Pawlenty said.
But those contracts don't expire until the end of the year, and a decision on whether the state should fund half the proposed $67 million DECC expansion needs to be made by the end of the legislative session in May, Pawlenty said.
"We need to make the DECC decision now, so we are going to have to take a leap of faith that the city will get these retiree health-care issues worked out," he said. "Based on what I have just heard, my comfort level has increased significantly."
Pawlenty previously had voiced reservations about the city adding $33.5 million -- Duluth's share of the expansion cost -- to its debt load. The city would pay for its portion of the expansion costs with the increased sales tax.
Even with voter approval of the tax increase, Pawlenty and the Legislature must agree to the tax increase and to provide the state's share of the construction costs.
If approved, the tax increase would make the total sales tax, including all state and local taxes, on restaurant food and drinks 9.75 percent in Duluth. A $100 dinner tab would fetch $9.75 in taxes, instead of the $9 paid now.
The expansion includes a new ice arena with an Olympic-sized ice sheet and seating capacity of 6,630. An additional parking ramp is part of the expansion plan. The existing arena, which seats 5,100, would be used after the expansion.
The University of Minnesota Duluth, which uses the DECC as home ice for its men's and women's hockey teams, also has agreed to fund about $16 million of the expansion cost. The DECC also is footing a share of expansion costs.
"The DECC project is a needed project. We need to find a way to have a modern expanded arena and convention facility in Duluth," Pawlenty said. "This is a tourism Mecca. A big part of the economy and enjoyment for people to be here is to have a tourism experience here, a convention experience here, a big event experience here. Having the DECC expanded and remodeled is a wise thing to do."
But Pawlenty, an opponent of new or expanded taxes, stopped far short of supporting the proposed funding mechanism by dodging a question on how he would vote on the sales tax referendum, if he could do so.
"Well," Pawlenty said laughing, "I haven't had the benefit of all the community debate and information, so give me a week or two to study that and I'll answer that for you."
Duluth officials said they were satisfied with the meeting and felt buoyed by the governor's reaction to their plan for solving the retiree health-care debt.
"He was very gracious," Bergson said. "He went as far, maybe even further, than I had hoped in endorsing what our position is."
At Large City Councilors Don Ness and Roger Reinert, who both participated in the meeting with Pawlenty, echoed the mayor's assessment.
"I think he came to appreciate the breadth of the plan and the fact that there is political will behind the plan to get it done," Ness said.
Pawlenty was engaged and sincere during the meeting, Reinert said. "He didn't come positioning himself or playing politics," Reinert said. "Just like we do, he has concern about the issue and wanted to understand it better and know what we are doing about it."
But a citywide no vote on the sales tax increase would probably end Pawlenty's support for the project, Bergson said.
"That's the line in the sand," Bergson said. "We expect it to pass, and I'm willing to stake the project on the fact that the referendum will pass. If it doesn't pass, then I'm not reading Duluth very well."

Do you want to be more politically active?

Most of the thes groups are left leaning actives groups so I hope that what they say is true that it will be a non-partisan event. I think this could be an interesting event to attend.

Learn how to be politically active
People interested in becoming active in their political parties have an opportunity to learn how Feb. 28.
The League of Women Voters of Duluth, Clean Water Action, Citizens Federation-North East, and Twin Ports Area Non-Profit Coalition are sponsoring a precinct caucus training session from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Central Hillside Community Center, Lake Avenue and 4th Street.
The event is non-partisan, free and open to the public.
The skills session participants will learn include how to prepare and present resolutions, how to participate in political party committees and conventions, and how to become a delegate.

source: duluth news tribune,

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Kroc Center

The salvation army is doing an outstanding job on raising the money they need to get to receive a match trust. The salvation army has raised 9.5 million of the 10 million dollars they need.

Most of the money is coming from the city which has agreed to fund this project. Yes one new councilor has issues with this because he thinks it will be another GLA.

Oh wait no he doesn't he just does not like the project because it is ran by the salvation army get over it. The same goes for all the other councilors that don't like the salvation army being part of this project.

The second largest is donations from people how don't want to be reconnized at this time here in Duluth.

It looks like the Salvation Army will ask for an extension of the date because of work that needs to be done on the area were the center would be built along with some other minor issues.

Again this is a great project for Duluth and the Salvation army is going a great job and conducting them selves with classic business skills.

I don't know for sure but if you would like to donate to the kroc center I am sure all you have to do is call the local salvation army.

source: Duluth news tribune. I did not see this story on the internet but it is a front page story of today's paper.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

This clears up nothing.

This is from today's Duluth News Tribune I know I have said this many times but here again I don't believe that Mayor Bergson does not really want to fix the health care problem facing Duluth. Especially if it is a big hit against the union. This mayor can not afford to lose his big supporters at this time. Mayor Bergson is trying to keep his head above water.

City outlines plan to cut debt
CITY COUNCIL: An update from the city's chief executive officer Monday shows headway being made on retiree health-care debt.
The Duluth City Council got its first comprehensive update from Mayor Herb Bergson's administration on what's being done to counter the city's massive retiree health-care debt.
In his January State of the City Address Bergson embraced the recommendations offered by a City Council-appointed task force on the $280 million debt.
Monday his Chief Administrative Officer, Julio Almanza, gave a step-by-step outline on how much the city administration has done regarding the 15 task force recommendations.
"We don't have all the answers yet but I hope you get a flavor of us continuing to work on this issue very seriously," Almanza said.
In a priority-setting discussion, all nine city councilors said solving the retiree health-care issue remains a top priority in 2006.
Bergson further relaxed a citywide hiring freeze and will allow the hiring of 13.5 full-time positions in a range of city departments from finance to parks and recreation, Almanza said.
Some of that new staff is needed to work on the health-care issue. That includes a labor relations expert and a person to manage the city's health insurance fund, Human Resources Director Gary Meier said.
Bergson enacted the freeze in 2004 so new city employees couldn't add to the city's health-care debt. Currently, lifetime retiree health-care benefits are negotiated into all contracts the city has with its various labor unions.
"This was a long discussion in looking at what we have to do," Almanza said. The decision to relax the freeze applied only to specific positions and were the results of give-and-take exchanges with the city's various department heads, Almanza said.
The mayor attended Monday's non-voting, working-group council meeting, but allowed Almanza, Meier and Finance Director Genie Stark to give the update on retiree health care.
The administration is negotiating with three of the city's collective bargaining units and has informed them the city intends to move from contracts that promise lifetime health-care benefits -- a key task force recommendation.
Almanza is optimistic the city will be able to reach contract agreements with all its bargaining units by the end of the year.
"It could be naive if we think the negotiations aren't going to be very difficult this year," 3rd District Councilor Russ Stewart said.
Union leaders, so far, have recognized the seriousness of the problem and most are embracing the task force recommendations, Almanza said. "I'm hoping they won't be as cantankerous as you've indicated," he said.
The administration is gathering more information on the benefits retirees receive, Almanza said. The city will try to reach a cooperative agreement with retirees before asking a court to rule on whether the city can unilaterally change retiree benefits, he said.
The task force suggested the city ask for the court ruling first.
Another task force recommendation, creating a Canadian drug reimportation program is being researched, Almanza said.
But Bergson and the administration first need to understand the full impact reimportation would have on local pharmacies and the community before moving forward, Almanza said. Some are skeptical reimportation could save the 25 percent on health-care costs predicted.
Efforts to set up a new trust fund to help pay retiree health-care costs are progressing. Stark is working on that task force recommendation with State Auditor Patricia Anderson's office.
New state law allowing the city to set money in the fund and to invest it in higher yield funds is needed, Stark said.
The state's investment board may end up with oversight of the fund or allow it to be invested with other state retirement funds, Stark said.
Efforts to create more competition in the city's health insurance business are in the works.
An independent audit of the city's current health insurance plan has been completed and is set for review, Almanza said.
Other task force recommendations to find more money to pay for health care costs by increasing property taxes and utility rates or to tap the city's share of Fond du Luth Casino profits are being set aside for now, Almanza said.
"We first want to look at reducing costs," he said. The administration is not taking seriously the task force recommendation that the city find a good municipal bankruptcy lawyer, he said. "We don't believe that's a realistic option."

Source Duluth news tribune,

Friday, February 03, 2006

Krause can't really believe this can he?

Krause gone nuts already that did not take long. I can't believe this, Mr. Krause you need to take a look around Minnesota and around the country there are kroc centers and like centers all over and not in one city is it a "money pit". There are many in smaller city's then Duluth and they are doing very well.

We here at Duluth Politics have been critical of some projects such as the DECC expansion and the ice arena and center that they want to built at the old Clyde iron site. Perhaps because we believe so strong in the kroc centers. Duluth can not support to many sporting event areas. We know eact of the three projects have the own idenidtys but still we don't believe Duluth is a large enough city to support them all.

Mr. Krause I wonder how much of this is because it is in part a salivation army project? You are a fool if you think this is another GLA, or even softcetner.

Don't let Kroc center turn into a money pit
Commentary by GARRY KRAUSE
After reading the Jan. 26 editorial, "Construction hike shouldn't raise cost to city for Kroc," I must respond.
I recently participated in a lengthy meeting with state Salvation Army officials. Much of our discussion focused on long-term operating budgets. Operating budgets are especially crucial to high-maintenance facilities such as the proposed Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center. Long-term operating budgets need to be formulated to ensure there are no future organizational cash-flow problems. Cash flow is the lifeblood of any venture.
The Kroc endowment will not operate the Kroc center forever. Eventually, there will need to be ongoing fundraising.
My question-and-answer session with Kroc representatives revealed the budget has not yet been entirely completed. When considering the scope and size of the facility, I am not surprised. Facilities that contain aquatic components are extremely expensive to maintain. Pools and associated equipment suffer from liquid and chemical damage. Swimming areas require elevated supervision and care. In general, utility costs for aquatic centers are higher than other traditional facilities. It is extremely hard to predict anyone's future energy costs.
I am in support of the Kroc center. However, because the Kroc center will begin to experience expensive maintenance costs as it ages, I informed state Salvation Army representatives I would be looking for a solid long-term operating budget. In particular, I will be watching for a budget with viable numbers. I was promised a long-term budget would be forthcoming. It was communicated that Kroc estate representatives also were looking for the same type of financial information.
At the editorial's referenced full City Council meeting, we received information from a different group of local Kroc representatives. Once again, I articulated the due diligence needed for a detailed long-term operating budget. Understanding maintenance costs will begin to mature in time, I did add the comment that the organization needs to be self-sufficient, and that we do not need to be hit with a request for future city funding. We do not need to experience another aquarium. Local representatives stated the Kroc center would be self-sufficient.
At our most recent council meeting, it was revealed the Kroc project would not fund the replacement (or creation) of tennis courts, bocce courts, a skateboard park, or a required parking lot. The cost of providing these services most likely will fall to the city. Our community enhancement project has hit us with an unanticipated expense, and we have not even removed the first shovel of dirt.
From my perspective, the city gets blindsided by too many surprises. For all intents and purposes, cost overruns have become the operating norm. The city recently experienced unanticipated expenses in other improvement endeavors, including a hospital development and the Cirrus expansion. Duluth cannot afford to pay for private-endeavor shortfalls. We need to look closely at every activity to ensure there are no future surprises linked to our budget. I do not want to see the city face a cost overrun exceeding the industry norm of around 10 percent.
It is the fiscal responsibility of lenders, directors, commissioners and elected officials to ask sound financial questions. It is the responsibility of leaders to ensure due diligence is performed in all endeavors. Being informed, and monitoring key construction and operating costs is what stakeholders, namely residents, expect from our city leadership. Duluth needs to develop proactive cost-containment measures.
Should the council ask more probing questions in the future? Absolutely. For me, the questions have just begun.

Commissioner O'Neil on smoke free county.

We got a reply now from commissioner O'Neil on his why he is for a smoke free county.

A couple weeks ago Dan Hass suggested that I received money from MPAAT and the American Lung Association. My campaign received no money from either group. Feel free to check with St. Louis Co. Auditor office where all campaign donations are filed. I have not received money from either since I've been elected. I am working on a smoke free St. Louis County ordinance because one of a commissioners responsibilities is to promote the health of the our citizens. Like many people I wish the state and federal government would pass strong, uniform laws requiring all indoor public places and worksites be smoke free. This does not seem likely in the near future. For example, Congressman John Boehner, Ohio Republican just elected to be the House majority leader is very close to the big tobacco companies. According to many news sources including today's Duluth News Tribune, Mr Boehner passed out checks from the tobacco industry political action committees to House members on the House floor in 1995. Sadly Big Tobacco has a stranglehold on our Congress and Minnesota legislature.

Steve O'NeilDistrict 2St. Louis County Commissioner

What are your thoughts.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Tracy Lundeen speaks out about the DECC expansion.

Here is an email for Tracy Lundeen, he is a local business man that is for the DECC expansion. I asked Tracy to write some infavor of the DECC expansion. He took my over unlike Steve O'Niel when I asked if he would like to write something about his smoking ban for the county.

Tracy and I have known eachother for a few years now and I have nothing but respect for him. He is always willing to share his thoughts and be very forth coming with them.

Here is his email.

"If the expansion passes it will be good for Duluth. If it doesn't....oh well, the no votes will have it their way and we'll see what happens. One thing I will say for myself is that I'm not afraid to state my opinions with my own identity. I have a lot to lose by being outspoken but it has never stopped me. I've never hidden my opinions on anything involving area politics or business. Anyone can hide in bushes or hide behind false identities on this blog and take pot shots at me or the DECC or on anything else for that matter. If you don't dare use your identity for fear of something then perhaps you should keep your opinions to yourself. Much of the blither on this blog isn't even substantiated. When I speak I try to speak based on FACT, REASON, EXPERIENCE, KNOWLEDGE and then OPINION. I have had the unique position of being able to look at this issue from many angles. I've been a local bar/restaurant owner, a taxpayer, a critic of two recent mayors, a concert promoter, a special event promoter, a radio talk show host, a competitor of the DECC, a former DECC board member, an occasional consultant to a former mayor, a Duluth business owner for 32 years and a few other hats along the way. Having done all this, I have never been accepted by the Chamber or the rich and powerful in Duluth as one of the good old boys network that I hear people blog on this site so much about and with such resentment. The events I've created and staged in this town have by Convention Visitor stats over the years conservatively generated over $100 million dollars in economic impact to the tourism industy....primarily bars, restaurants and motels. Calculate the tourism tax on that. I didn't rack up the 280 million dollar unfunded liability for employee health care, I didn't bring NW Airlines to town with their maintenence facility and I DID NOT support the building of the Aquarium. I refuse however to link some of Duluth's failures, black marks or misfortunes to the DECC. The DECC is one of Duluth brightest spots. Duluth's tourism industry is what has saved this town from complete oblivion since the 80's. Using the referendum on the DECC to make a statement about Duluths problems or failures is like cutting off your nose to spite your face. Vote yes, vote no. But vote with accurate information."

What are your thoughts on what Tracy had to say?

Thoughts on DECC Expansion.

DECC expansion thoughts. I was listening to fightline last night and some one called and said that if the expansion project did pass the old arena would stay as well. This is not the first time I have heard this. I don't know if that is true or not. If it is Duluth is not big enough have two arena's. Brad said that he had heard that it would stay because they DECC and UMD would not want the high schools to play at the new arena.

Also the yes group is telling lies but then again what do you expect. They are saying with a bigger seating area for concerts the ticket prices would be lower. This is not true first you must remember the seating is going to be smaller not larger. The floor would be larger so they could put more seats on the floor or they could make the stage larger. The fact is if they did have more seating that would not affect the price of a ticket. If it did you would say that concert tickets would be cheaper for concerts in the cities then here but they are not. Tickets are always more for concerts in the cities then in Duluth.

This referdum needs to not pass we have a city that is in major trouble with city health care problems that need to solved. We have a council that will spend more money instead of less on projects and a mayor that does not seem to care about the city at all.