Are you tired of our city’s lack of priorities?

What is Leadership?

At Duluth BizPac we like to delve even deeper into leadership by being servant leaders. What is the difference between the two? Let’s look at the definitions.

Leadership is defined as “the action of leading a group of people or an organization.” You will also be told that people in leadership positions should possess a number of very important traits, such as integrity, enthusiasm, loyalty and great communication skills, just to name a few.

Servant Leadership is defined just a little differently. The servant leader is a servant first. It begins with someone having the natural feeling to serve and to serve first. Then a conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is a leader first, perhaps because of the need to mitigate an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions. The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types.

The difference demonstrates itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. A servant leader focuses on the growth and well-being of the people and the community to which they belong. Traditional leadership generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power by one at the “top of the pyramid.” Servant leadership is different. The servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible.

So, the question is this; with the current leadership in place within the Duluth City Council and the Mayors office, do we have servant-leaders? Let’s take a look at some of the priorities of the City of Duluth and then you can decide for yourself.

What areas should our leaders be focusing on for a better Duluth?

Duluth City Streets – the condition of many streets within the City of Duluth are extremely poor, to put it mildly. The streets of Duluth have been an issue for many, many years and we are not suggesting that the current administration is responsible for the street conditions. That blame is shared by many administrations over the years. That being said, a servant-leaders needs to step up and create a program that will fix the streets without creating even more burden on the taxpayers of Duluth without warrant. The current administration wants to increase taxes in order to create funding for the street improvement program. We believe there is a better way that may even increase the amount of money collected each year for the Duluth Street Program. You will find this position under our streets approach in another section of this website, but here is a short synopsis.

The Mayor has an option to get together with other Minnesota cities and petition the state to allow a portion or percentage of the gas tax already collected by the state, come to the City of Duluth. With the increase in the state gas tax being proposed by the current Governor, this should be the first approach to best serve the citizens of Duluth. We could collect a larger amount of money, fix more of our streets, and not raise taxes on our residents. This is serving the people.

Public Safety – the Duluth Police Department started the year of 2019 with and an understaffed bench of police officers for the first time in 15 years. On top of this, there is a distinct possibility that retirements could grow in the near future and more than the customary 8-10 people a year could be lost to retirement. For example, 23 active officers are already fully eligible for retirement and another 26 will be within the next 48 months (as of November 2019). That is a prospect of more than a 30 percent turnover rate in the next few years. Meanwhile, the number of people applying to serve on the Duluth Police force has dwindled. In fact, applications are said to be down by 47 percent over just five years ago.

What is the administration’s plan for bolstering the public safety of the citizens of Duluth as well as the police officers that serve our community? And, with the cowardice display we all saw in October of last year during a City Council meeting where protestors tried to stop a vote on protective gear for our police force, the safety of our citizens and police officers was even more apparent.

One action the city council and administration could take is to follow the lead of Congressman Stauber who cosponsored the Protect and Serve Act, which would implement heavy penalties on anyone who deliberately inflicts violence on a law enforcement officer. Enacting this type of law and policy in the City of Duluth would show leadership, and the Duluth Police force that they are valued and respected by this administration.

Economic Development – currently the United States is seeing its lowest level of unemployment in history and the surrounding area is no different. That being said, the best time to change is when you don’t have to.  In other words, now is the time to get aggressive as to economic development and bringing good paying jobs to the City of Duluth.

One way to do this is to be innovative in our approach.  For example, many people do not know that Duluth has a large area within the city that is a designated HUBZone. What is a HUBZone?

HUBZone is a United States Small Business Administration program for small companies that operate and employ people in Historically Underutilized Business Zones. The HUBZone program was created in response to the HUBZone Empowerment Act created by the US Congress in 1998. The City of Duluth could be instrumental in working with small, locally owned businesses interested in federal government contracting to become HUBZone companies. Most of the downtown Duluth area is designated as a HUBZone. This program helps small businesses in urban and rural communities gain preferential access to federal procurement opportunities. These preferences go to small businesses that obtain HUBZone certification in part by employing staff who live in a HUBZone. The company must also maintain a “principal office” in one of these specially designated areas. Downtown Duluth could use this type of development! It would attract businesses, and people to work and live in the downtown area, that want to be in Duluth!

Housing – this is another priority that has been ignored for far too long in the City of Duluth. The low amount of housing stock in the City of Duluth as been an issue for decades. It doesn’t matter what type of housing you are looking for; market rate, affordable, housing in retirement years, it’s very difficult to find. You will find more on this issue under the housing section of this website.

Controlling Taxes –controlling all taxes so as not to burden the citizens of this city should be a high priority for this, and any, city administration. The Duluth City Council has approved a 6 percent tax increase in property taxes for 2019. The Major only requested 3.9 percent tax increase. These types of increases make it difficult for seniors living on fixed income to stay in their homes. Also, being the highest taxed city in the state does not make Duluth an attractive place to do business.

Conclusion

This is just a short overview of what servant leadership looks like and the priorities we believe should garner the most attention of our city leaders. But, if you look back over the last year and list some of the issues that the city council and administration have addressed, they don’t seem to align. Menthol cigarette ban, age restriction on buying tobacco products increased to age 21, earned safe and sick time (when 90% of business already offered these benefits) are just some of the issues that come to mind. And, there have been subjects such as a minimum wage ordinance and an ordinance on charging .10 cents a bag (plastic or paper) to businesses such as convenience and grocery stores, and banning plastic straws.

Where are your priorities on that list? We need leadership that will focus on the basics of safety, infrastructure and economic development.