Monday, August 25, 2008
Is Your City Councilor Helping or Hindering the Mayor?
Mayor Ness displays courage as he sets out to balance the City of Duluth's budget prior to the end of the year. He has risen to the challenge of effectively addressing the City's compounding difficulties. Thankfully, he has not become discouraged. Instead, Ness demonstrates a resolve that is more powerful than outside circumstances, including intense opposition from the City's largest employees union: the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). In doing so, he exhibits the kind of leadership we elected him to provide our beloved community.
We are fortunate that Mayor Ness is leading this bold effort to balance the City's operating expenses with its annual income. Balancing the budget is simply what thousands of Duluth business owners do every year. To do otherwise is not sustainable, nor responsible to those involved in the business.
Yet, it appears AFSCME's leadership finds the mayor's budget balancing initiatives nothing short of "ultimatums." They have publicly labeled the mayor's recent actions as "threatening and irresponsible." Mayor Ness rightly called the question: "Will the relationship (city and union) follow that all-too-predictable path of conflict to the point of breaking down discussion, or can we set a new model in which we set forth our positions and our interests and our needs, and at times agree to disagree?" Let us, as community members, hope for a new and less predictable response from AFSCME's representatives.
Let us, as well, call for stronger and more decisive leadership from our city councilors. Thus far, only a few of the councilors have displayed the courage necessary to stand with Mayor Ness and do what needs to be done. Regrettably, Councilor Greg Gilbert has gone so far as to publicly label Mayor Ness' staffing reductions "unnecessary and unwise." Councilor Gilbert called the financial crisis that Mayor Ness has portrayed as "rhetoric."
Gilbert's comments and position are frightening. I am scared. You should be, too.
If Councilor Gilbert's view on this seminal issue is shared by the majority of city councilors, we are in serious trouble.
We can assume the councilors and the mayor are receiving candid feedback on this issue from those interested in blocking the mayor's budget repair initiative. It is time these same elected officials heard from those of us who applaud and support the mayor's efforts. The councilors can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The mayor can be reached at email@example.com.
Please make your voice heard on this critically important issue.
posted by David Ross