David's Blog

Monday, May 10, 2010

In support of cutting the cost of city government

Does the city of Duluth really need to spend $3 million each year in overtime wages? Do city employees truly have to be paid one-and-a-half times their hourly wage to be on call? Why doesn’t the city contract with private service providers to do what is now city overtime work, at a lesser expense? Why can’t part-time employees be hired to provide more flexibility in scheduling?

These were just a few of the questions asked of City Councilors Jim Stauber and Todd Fedora at a recently held FORVM, a monthly public policy discussion hosted by the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce. In Stauber’s and Fedora’s defense, they have been asking city administration the same questions.

Thankfully, Stauber and Fedora do not endorse several of the current work rules or the current union contract language that contribute to the $3 million in annual overtime wages.

Two months ago, many community members were outraged when we learned of the overtime expense within the city’s operations.

The Duluth News Tribune courageously focused community attention on what were, until then, quietly implemented city work rules. The Tribune’s front-page article fueled indignation within many of Duluth’s tax payers. Yet, what has changed within City Hall since these practices became public? Have staffing efficiencies been implemented?

The cost of city government must be reduced. The state’s funding of city government is in decline. The appraised value of several properties on the city tax rolls has decreased in recent years. Simply stated, the city’s operations need to shrink commensurately with the decreased city funding.

Mayor Don Ness and his administration have gallantly made initial reductions in the city’s expenses. Yet, it is only a noble beginning to what must be a much larger effort.

It will take courage and political will to do what needs to be done within City Hall. Ness needs those of us who support his cost-cutting efforts to publicly support his efforts. We must also challenge our talented mayor to do far more to reduce the cost of city government. When city services are reduced, we need to thank him for the reduction, not contest the reduction. If the mayor transitions non-essential city services to private sector service providers, we need to applaud his efforts. When he takes on the 1950s-era work rules, we would do well to affirm his leadership.

Additionally, we would be wise to concurrently support the three city councilors who have consistently exhibited a desire to reduce the cost of city operations: Fedora, Stauber and Jay Fosle.

Let us keep our attention focused on the city’s operations. By doing so, we will better understand how our tax dollars are being spent. We will also be in a better position to support the city councilors and city administrators who are striving to reduce the cost of our city government.

In support,
David Ross

posted by David Ross at


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