Wednesday, November 25, 2009
No More Fees, Please
The City of Duluth’s administration was poised to raise our city utilities fees again when the Duluth City Council meeting convened Monday, November 9th. The only thing between yet another increase to our city sewer, water and natural gas rates was a vote by the city councilors. Thankfully, before the councilors voted, there was an opportunity for citizen’s to address the councilors related to the proposed fee increases.
Only six Duluthians took the opportunity to speak on the proposed fee hikes. The first four spoke in support of the fee increases, rationalizing that increased fees were the only way to protect our beloved Lake Superior, the Greatest of the Great Lakes.
The remaining two citizens who addressed the councilors were strongly opposed to the proposed fee increases. I was one of these two citizens. My Chamber colleague, and brother in commerce, Andy Peterson, was the other voice in opposition of the fee increases.
Like the four citizens who spoke prior to us, Andy and I want to protect our treasured Lake Superior. It is our community’s most precious and remarkable asset.
Yet, Andy and I know better than to assume there is a direct link between increased utilities fees and increased protection of our pristine drinking water. The proposed fees increase had far more to do with protecting the city’s union workers and the union’s antiquated, inordinately costly, and unsustainable public sector union benefits.
Councilor Todd Fedora gave powerful testimony detailing the concerns he had relative to the union utility workers alarmingly expensive on-call, overtime and minimum staffing requirements.
The city’s unions have the city’s administration, our city’s utilities, and, consequently, every citizen of Duluth up against a wall – and they are reaching for our collective wallet. At a time when businesses are being called upon to provide more services and products at reduced prices, the City of Duluth is calling upon its citizens to pay more fees. Innovation and creativity are needed within the City’s utilities departments – not more fees to feed the system.
However, all is not lost. There is reason for optimism. The City Council strongly rejected the administrations recommended utility rate increase by a 7-2 vote. The only councilors who voted for the increase were Tony Cuneo and Greg Gilbert. I hope you will join me in applauding the seven councilors who opposed the increase. After voting against the fee increase, city councilors asked city administration to provide them information regarding the utilities department’s union work contract concerns Councilor Fedora shared with them prior to their vote on fees. It is information I also look forward to seeing. I suspect the information will not be comforting. I will keep you posted.
posted by David Ross