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Duluth City Council seeks data comparing Duluth to other cities | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota

Duluth City Council seeks data comparing Duluth to other cities

The Duluth City Council made a formal request Monday for a yardstick of sorts.

By: Peter Passi, Duluth News Tribune

The Duluth City Council made a formal request Monday for a yardstick of sorts.

Councilors passed a resolution by a 7-1 vote asking for comparable data about the costs, operations and revenues of Duluth and five other Minnesota cities: Bloomington, Rochester, St. Cloud, Minneapolis and St. Paul.

The resolution’s author, Councilor Dan Hartman, believes the information could prove a useful tool.

“Bottom line, a more informed council produces a better city,” he said.

Councilor Linda Krug offered qualified support, but with a word of

caution.

“I think it is good to look outward. It’s good to have all that data. But we are a city that lives in the shadows, and always has, of Minneapolis and

St. Paul and Rochester. We tend to look and compare ourselves to other cities, and we often find ourselves coming up short. I worry about that,” she said, warning against any effort to adopt a one-size-fits-all approach to city government.

Nevertheless, Krug observed: “I think it is good to get data detailing what other cities do and indeed there might be some good ideas that we haven’t thought about.”

Councilor Sharla Gardner expressed her faith in the City Council’s ability to sort out useful information from the request.

“I think we, as city councilors, are pretty aware of the uniqueness of our city, and I don’t feel like we’re in the shadow of either Minneapolis-St. Paul or Rochester myself, but that’s just my personal view. I do think that

Duluth has a lot of unique issues and problems with regards to building,” she said pointing to the city’s topography and rocky terrain.

Gardner also said that the fire operations in Duluth and Bloomington will be structured differently out of necessity, noting: “They’re nice and square. And we’re 27 miles long.”

Hartman agreed that the council would need to exercise good judgment in evaluating the information to be collected.

“When we do get the data, we do have to be cautious about it because frankly it isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison,” he said.

“But amongst this data there will probably be areas where we do have shared experiences that could be useful as we make future decisions,” he said, “Sometimes the easiest way to move forward as a community is just to see how others are succeeding and to learn from that.”

Jay Fosle, the only city councilor to oppose the resolution, questioned how instructive the data request would be, given how many unique revenue streams the city of Duluth already has tapped. He cited the local tourism tax, parks and recreation charge, street light fees and water runoff charges as examples.

The resolution directs city staff to collect information on the following items:

  • General fund expense and revenue comparisons.
  • Staffing levels and total annual expenses by department.
  • Taxing mechanisms and tax base comparisons.
  • Mean income of population.
  • Physical size of each respective city.

Duluth City Council seeks data comparing Duluth to other cities | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota.

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