News Tribune Editorial Board
Most of us are well aware that cigarettes and other tobacco products kill mercilessly, driving up community health care costs. That the earlier you start lighting up the harder it is to quit later on. That Big Tobacco ruthlessly pushes its dangerous goods, especially in neighborhoods where poorer people, people of color, and other vulnerable populations are. And that Big Tobacco uses fruit flavorings, fun packaging, and other marketing tricks to shamelessly entice children to pick up the filthy habit.
With the list of proposed Northland projects hoping to win state bonding money this year perhaps not as, let's say, "gotta get 'em done" as in years past, perhaps it's OK that passing a bonding bill will be far from a given this legislative session in St. Paul. Gov. Mark Dayton released his bonding proposal this week, a wish list $1.5 billion big with financing for repairs to public buildings, investments in public works projects, and the responsible maintenance of public amenities like infrastructure, parks, state buildings, and other public spaces statewide.
Sexual exploitation and the buying and selling of our children and vulnerable others "happens here in Duluth every day," as Shunu Shrestha of the Program for Aid to Victims of Sexual Assault, or PAVSA, said in an interview last week with News Tribune Editorial Board members. "We see it happening every day."
Just before the new year, a Twin Cities newspaper called Duluth Mayor Emily Larson "a rising star." In the flattering profile story about her, former Duluth Mayor Don Ness said Larson "is just getting started politically" and, "the sky is the limit in terms of her potential." This was after Ness publicly campaigned via social media for Larson to be considered as a replacement for resigning U.S. Sen. Al Franken.
A voice of calm and reason during chaotic, troubled times, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke for only 16½ minutes that hazy, warm summer day in 1963 at the height of the March on Washington. His address — often referred to as his "I Have a Dream" speech — came after years of civil unrest; of Americans of color reaching for the equal rights envisioned for them in the Declaration of Independence; of water cannons, riot police and other efforts to turn back desegregation; and of peaceful protest versus sometimes-violent resistance.
Essentia's coming multimillion-dollar remake of its aging, cobbled-together health care campus in the center of Duluth, expected to be its largest-ever investment here, could have happened on a site over the hill instead. Maybe not even in Duluth at all. The possibility of building new over the hill and out of downtown rather than rebuilding at its current site was seriously considered by the health giant, Essentia officials revealed in an exclusive interview this month with members of the News Tribune Editorial Board.
Listening to Duluth Mayor Emily Larson detailing the work done last year to address her top priorities for the city, two words can come to mind: "progress," but, also, "incomplete." The mayor delivered what has become an annual "state of the city"-style address to Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce members this week. Before a luncheon crowd of about 180 business leaders inside the Greysolon Plaza ballroom, Larson focused on things done in the old year — and left undone.
After more than 10 years of skepticism, scrutiny, research, and exhaustive environmental review, what more could possibly be left to discuss and decide regarding the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine in Northeastern Minnesota? Quite a lot, actually. But with the launch of the latest public-comment period, the focus now can be on how the mine will be built, operated, and closed. Attention now can be on the regulations, requirements, and other details that will ensure its safe operations and its promise of an economic boon for our region.
The good news is all four cities — Duluth, Hermantown, Proctor, and Rice Lake — seem more than willing to sit down and to chat about rising water rates and whether Duluth is fairly charging its three smaller neighbors. The better news is that Duluth Chief Administrative Officer David Montgomery is reaching out to the others to set up a meeting, likely before the end of this month, according to Duluth Public Works and Utilities Director Jim Benning, who spoke with the News Tribune Opinion page late last week.
Airbnb-style vacation rentals proved popular in Duluth in 2017, and city leaders now are wrestling with how to respond, as a story in Sunday's News Tribune detailed. How to respond? Responsibly encouraging an emerging and growing new industry that's contributing to the local economy seems a no-brainer. The Duluth Planning Commission and Duluth City Council can seize the opportunity to do just that, but they'll need a bit of compromise between what now are two very different proposals for what happens next.