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Does Mayor Ness realize that the tourism tax is taxing the residents of Duluth?

Today in the Duluth News Tribune there is an article about our mayor wanting to bring back a .5 percent tax on our restaurants, hotels, and other amenities. My question is how do we as citizens of Duluth then get exempted from that tax? Should we not go to our local restaurants? Should we not go to Canal Park and support our local businesses?

This just seems unfair to those who live here to have us pay an extra tax to use our own local amenities. I’ve read that we pay very high taxes in our community compared to others, which made me wonder why we don’t get cards to exempt us from “tourist” taxes. This tax would go for the next 15 years and fund development of West Duluth. Well, that’s great, but what about us here in the Endion area? I can see taxing the hotels to get the tourists, but taxing restaurants makes me want to take my local money elsewhere.

I don’t think it is fair to those of us who live here, and if this is a push by our mayor there should be a way to exempt anyone who has a local identification.

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59 Comment(s)

  1. I would disagree with your assessment. I personally am in favor of the tourism tax, it is an opportunity to improve Duluth as a whole, not just by neighborhood. Sure, the money would be directed at West Duluth, but by improving that part of town, city services and infrastructure would be forced to improve. Not to mention, increased tourism benefits all businesses. I want what is best for Duluth, and if that means paying a little bit more per transaction, it is just fine with me.

    moosetracks | Mar 24, 2014 | New Comment
  2. I remember when the canal was scrap yards and the lakewalk was inaccessible shoreline. Tourism taxes were part of the mix that made those improvements — which led to a revitalized downtown. If it pains you that much to pay the extra pennies, enjoy the food in Hermantown.

    TimK | Mar 24, 2014 | New Comment
  3. I would also have to disagree. West Duluth residents have already been paying this tax to help Canal Park be revitalized from scrap yards to the place for tourists to pilgrimage to during the summer months. West Duluth will finally see some investment from city hall and could really benefit from the renovations to Wade Stadium, the Zoo, and Spirit Mountain. And if Spirit Mountain keeps developing and the city focuses on West Duluth, it wouldn’t be a tourist place just for the summer; it very well could extend into the winter months as well.

    Merrittdweller | Mar 24, 2014 | New Comment
  4. I am curious if TimK or Merrittdweller can comment with some evidence that showed that tourism tax contributed to changing Canal Park from scrap yards and inaccessible shorelines to what it is today. This article mentions, “This particular sliver of the tax stream first had been earmarked to cover the cost of locker room improvements at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center’s original hockey arena and subsequently to help retire debts associated with the construction of the Great Lakes Aquarium.” I’m wondering if there were tourism taxes in place earlier than the article mentioned and they were actually instrumental in changing Canal Park or if we are now just talking about taxes in general.

    Either way, I agree that it would be great if there was a way for Duluthians to be exempt from the extra tax, or if it could only be applied to lodging. We put a lot of money into our local economy by living, working and playing here, I personally don’t want to see us being taxed even more to enjoy our town. Canal Park has already begun to feel unfriendly to residents; parking is an expensive pain the ass now, I don’t want to be further discouraged from going out elsewhere in Duluth as well.

    wskyline | Mar 24, 2014 | New Comment
  5. You are subsidizing putting bodies in someone else’s hotel rooms.

    adam | Mar 24, 2014 | New Comment
  6. I’m not an economist and I don’t know what official records to investigate to document the impact of the tourism tax on previous development in Duluth. That being said, my opinion is that you would have to eat out twice a day at $15 per meal to be forced to part with $2.10 in additional tax per week. If you can afford to eat out that often, I think you can afford the two bucks. If you want to cry principle, you should be going after bigger fish in our tax structure. Local taxation is much more representative of our values to boot.

    TimK | Mar 24, 2014 | New Comment
  7. The 0.5% tourism tax is a great idea. It is a small 5 cent tax on a $10 restaurant meal or a 50 cent tax on a $100 hotel stay.

    If you can afford the luxury of a $10 restaurant meal, you can afford to contribute 5 cents to revitalizing our parks and tourism infrastructure.

    If you can afford the luxury of a $100 hotel, you can afford 50 cents to revitalize our parks and tourism infrastructure.

    It a small price to pay for a substantial benefit to the people who live in and visit Duluth.

    This is what we should call a “No Brainer!”

    Sam | Mar 24, 2014 | New Comment
  8. I’m fine with it. Yes, we pay some of the tax, but by targeting areas where tourists as a class pay a high proportion they foot way more of the bill than residents. Alternatives to a tax like this would likely leave residents paying all of the tab, or at least a higher proportion compared to tourists.

    rev | Mar 24, 2014 | New Comment
  9. TimK -- If I broke out everything I spent in a month it would only be the same ratio here and there, but it adds up.

    WSkyline: Thanks. I agree about parking down there as well. What about each resident getting a parking pass that has to go to a registered vehicle. So that there are not a million out there maybe locals can apply for one per family who pays property taxes each year. Allow us to park for free anywhere in town and avoid the meters and ramp rates. It would get more people to go to different areas around town.

    I just feel that I pay a lot of money to live and own a home in Duluth. My taxes go to schools I don’t use and to spruce the town up so tourists can enjoy the lake. Looking at our local tax structure I think we should get a break if we live here. Tax the tourists, but give us a card to avoid all these extra taxes. I am sure someone on here knows more than me, but don’t we already have a higher city sales tax than most communities to pay for many things? Does UMD get to use Amsoil, but then we pick up the bill?

    I think if you own a home in Duluth and pay taxes there should be a way to exempt us from these “tourist” taxes. Why does my road look like the moon with craters, but Canal Park always looks nice? If we are redistributing money from one side of town to the other is that fair? Why buy local when the taxes are way cheaper elsewhere?

    I think us locals should be taken better care of in this town as we are the town.

    Endion | Mar 24, 2014 | New Comment
  10. If people question a Duluth tourism tax, says TimK, “enjoy the food in Hermantown.” This is typical of the belittling insults that get thrown around whenever the tourism tax debate comes up.

    It’s not just a matter of paying a little extra for a restaurant meal. As I have pointed out over and over, tourism taxes allow the tourism industry to expand without risk, because the city takes on all the risk for tourism projects.

    Did the tourism industry suffer from the multimillion-dollar debacle known as the Great Lakes Aquarium? No; the city did. While the city was dealing with severe financial cutbacks, did the tourism industry cut back? No--it just kept right on growing with DECC expansions, Spirit Mountain chalets, alpine coasters and so on, thanks to risk-free debt issued on their behalf by the city. If the tourism industry were actually responsible for handling its own debt, none of those projects would have happened; they’d still be paying for the Aquarium, as the city still is.

    There is a lot to say on this subject. A few years ago, I wrote a series of articles that I think present a full picture of how the tourism tax works in Duluth and what it actually does. I know they were accurate, because both the executive director of Spirit Mountain and a local attorney who was a driving force behind the aquarium snarled at me about them, on separate occasions. Here are the links.

    A Common Sense Proposal

    City Debt and Tourism: An Illustrated Guide

    An Implied Obligation: The Paradox of Tourism in Duluth

    The Case of the Rubber Stamp: A Thriller

    The Next Big Thing

    Ramos | Mar 24, 2014 | New Comment
  11. In other words, you could eat every meal of your life in Hermantown, and you’d still be paying for Duluth tourism projects.

    Ramos | Mar 24, 2014 | New Comment
  12. What are taxes?

    Mr. Nied | Mar 24, 2014 | New Comment
  13. Considering the way this city is run, I have no problem spending an extra .5%.

    Dorkus | Mar 24, 2014 | New Comment
  14. I don’t mind paying the tax at all! I moved here because I was a tourist who fell in love with Duluth. As a resident, I still take advantage of all the amenities that make Duluth a great tourist destination -- and a great place to live. Without our visitors, we wouldn’t have half of the things we enjoy today. And I look forward to additional assets to make it easier to enjoy the river and western neighborhood.

    Terry G. | Mar 24, 2014 | New Comment
  15. People sound so defeated. I liked the Ramos articles, very good stuff with lots of research. Our debt and the very selling of any debt is predicated on the “but it is only .5% more” argument… Payment savings over the long term for services rendered and purchases made. There is a point where all the .5%s in life catch up with you though. I value libraries over parks and off-road bicycling paths through Hartley. I like my dollars to stay local, but I don’t want my money redistributed to West Duluth Development or a new locker room for UMD.

    My question was simply about getting a card that exempts anyone who pays property taxes in the city of Duluth from the restaurant tax. We are not a “tourist” and pay taxes to prove it. Can I also get a card that allows me to park down there for free so I can shop?

    Wouldn’t that help the local economy? It is like we built the amusement park, but we have to also fund it and pay admission. How is that fair?

    Endion | Mar 24, 2014 | New Comment
  16. Whether or not people “mind” paying the tax is not the real issue, though it definitely works to the advantage of the tourism industry that the debate is always framed that way.

    A better question to ask would be: If tourism tax collections slowed down for a few years, would you be willing to shoulder an $18 million debt out of the city’s general fund?

    I’m not saying you wouldn’t. But the question is never, ever asked.

    Ramos | Mar 24, 2014 | New Comment
  17. So how are we going to pay for the “I’m a local” card you’re proposing? It would cost money for the city to define what a “local” is. It would cost money to print the forms you would need to fill out. It would cost money to have city staff review every application. It would cost money to have the little plastic cards printed. It would cost even more money if you wanted to have safeguards in place to verify that only locals were applying for the card.

    So, would all of this expenditure really cost less than paying .05% of your bill?

    BadCat! | Mar 24, 2014 | New Comment
  18. It is 0.5% and generates 1.25 million dollars a year. You could drive to city hall, show your driver’s license or ID that we use when voting with your address and be granted a card. The card would be good for one year and exempt us from ALL tourism taxes. (not just the .5% proposed increase)

    If you read Ramos’ articles you will see it isn’t just .5% we are paying. It is WAY more than that.

    Sorry for not wanting to pay higher taxes. I guess money isn’t important to some of you. How about we raise it to 1% and double it? Why not 2% and hire more workers at VisitDuluth.com?

    What is the tax ratio that the hotels pay as opposed to this tax that goes on us? What do the restaurants pay their workers and in their business taxes as opposed to me as a paying customer paying this “tourist” tax to eat locally?

    I’m just curious?

    Endion | Mar 24, 2014 | New Comment
  19. If you want to see a parade of indignant bigwigs storming into city council chambers, just get somebody to introduce an ordinance exempting locals from paying the tourism tax. You would realize then just how much the wealthiest among us depend on the nickels and dimes of the masses.

    Ramos | Mar 24, 2014 | New Comment
  20. Sounds like the typical belittling insults that get thrown around whenever the tourism tax debate comes up.

    TimK | Mar 24, 2014 | New Comment
  21. What’s belittling about it?

    Ramos | Mar 24, 2014 | New Comment
  22. I’ve seen bigwigs who were indignant storming into council chambers over the tourism tax before, so I don’t think that’s an insult. TimK, you should read my articles.

    Ramos | Mar 24, 2014 | New Comment
  23. If you dare.

    Ramos | Mar 24, 2014 | New Comment
  24. It’s called humor. Sheesh.

    TimK | Mar 24, 2014 | New Comment
  25. So, in addition to NOT being an economist, I am also NOT a sarcastic comedian…

    TimK | Mar 24, 2014 | New Comment
  26. Let me see if I have this right:
    You want people to bring in ID to prove that they are a local, but you don’t require any ID to vote in an election?

    Does anyone else see the irony?

    Joel | Mar 24, 2014 | New Comment
  27. If I owned a restaurant in Duluth I would issue a locals card. I would offer 10 percent off everything Sunday to Thursday, January to May. Maybe that would incentivize the locals to get out and eat more during the cold winter. Does not solve the tax issue year round, but it is a start.

    secjewl | Mar 24, 2014 | New Comment
  28. There are restaurants in Hermantown?

    blind | Mar 24, 2014 | New Comment
  29. Hermantown has at least a dozen restaurants. A few places you might think of as Duluth restaurants are actually in Hermantown, such as Zen House, Maya Family Mexican Restaurant, Outback Steakhouse, China Star Family Restaurant and Foster’s Sports Bar & Grill.

    Paul Lundgren | Mar 25, 2014 | New Comment
  30. Voting is a constitutionally protected right. Lame analogy is poorly researched.

    lojasmo | Mar 25, 2014 | New Comment
  31. I don’t think anyone will argue that tourism has contributed a great deal to improving Duluth. The idea of a tourism tax is a reasonable way to raise to funds for further improvements. Not all the changes are directly related to the tourism tax, but the clean up of the canal area, the Rose Garden, and the I-35 extension were all paid for by public funds = taxes. We have to pay taxes in order to do things for the general good. Yes, people in the west side of town have contributed taxes that help the Canal area. So do people in the east side, and hillside neighborhoods. But, in the end, we all benefit from what is created. I don’t have kids, but pay for schools. I don’t have a bike but pay for trails, I don’t ride public transit, but pay taxes that go toward it. We cannot survive in any society if only the people who use/benefit directly from a tax pay the tax. That is not how it works. And, personally, I don’t want to see Duluth go back to the post-industry pre-tourism days. It was very bleak around here.

    pats | Mar 25, 2014 | New Comment
  32. I am not against taxes as a concept. I am against taxes that are used to build admission-charging tourist attractions--especially when doing so adds millions of dollars of debt to the city’s overloaded balance sheet. If the tourism taxes fail to cover the costs of building the projects they are intended for, the city must find the money somewhere else.

    Why must we constantly be building new things? Why can’t we take a break for a few years and try to make some headway on the massive amount of debt we’re already carrying? Although you wouldn’t know it from all the chipper booster-talk you hear nowadays, the city is not exactly flush financially. Saving a few million dollars on interest payments every year would be extremely valuable.

    Ramos | Mar 25, 2014 | New Comment
  33. And, by the way, I do recognize that my cause is futile. When people can counter my “millions of dollars” pronouncements by saying, “But it’s only a nickel!”, I don’t stand a chance. That is the genius of the tourism taxes--they allow people to make multimillion-dollar decisions by presenting the argument in terms of nickels.

    Ramos | Mar 25, 2014 | New Comment
  34. To Lojasmo,owning a gun is right enshrined in the Constitution. The only one that says it shall not be infringed. So why do I have to show my ID and jump through hoops to get one? Your argument that voting is a right enshrined in the Constitution so we can’t have Voter ID is not enough. Every right has some form of restrictions on it.
    As far as the Tourism Tax, Duluth can keep on placing little taxes and fees on things all it wants. Just don’t be shocked when it doesn’t grow like Mayor Ness wants it to. There is a reason Ness wanted to annex Rice Lake Township and a bigger reason why they basically said go to hell.

    Jadiaz | Mar 25, 2014 | New Comment
  35. Guns, taxes, The Constitution, big wigs, insiders, user fees, God, lions, tigers and bears…

    Four things:

    1 -- Duluth is a far better place than it was 30 years ago. Did some of those tourism taxes contribute to that place you and I see daily. Yes.

    2 -- The aquarium was a mistake.

    3 -- Like a bible-banging born-again Republican from Texas said in 1994, “Don’t get mad, get organized.”

    4 -- Don’t go to the Twin Cities, San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Miami, St. John, or any other desirable destination. Do you know why? They all have a tourist tax of some sort or another. Please get over the idea of “If I can’t directly benefit from it, it must be shit” attitude.

    This is the price we pay for living in a desirable place. I’m sure each Duluthian knows many people who would love to live here. That wasn’t always true. Now back to Jim Richardson’s Wild Kingdom!

    runningman | Mar 25, 2014 | New Comment
  36. “My taxes go to schools I don’t use and to spruce the town up so tourists can enjoy the lake.” -- Endion

    I stopped taking anything you said seriously when you implied that you shouldn’t have to pay taxes for schools because you don’t have kids in them.

    mannyL | Mar 25, 2014 | New Comment
  37. I didn’t say I shouldn’t have to pay for schools because I don’t use them. You need to work on your reading skills. I voted to approve the new referendum if you must know my voting record to take me seriously, although, I haven’t seen a single posting for a teacher yet to reduce class sizes. I also am paying for the Red Plan, which I was never allowed a voice on. I’m paying the $168K a year salary of the superintendent and another $15k a year for his education. All told, that is about 5 to 6 teachers’ salaries that could reduce class sizes, but I still voted to give another dollar, a little more, you know, for the kids!

    What I proposed initially was that as a property owning citizen of this city who pays taxes I should get an exemption from the “tourist” tax. It would be nice if we could apply for a card that would exempt us from paying the tourist tax. It would encourage locals to eat at local establishments instead of taxing us like we are a tourist. Why not have the tourist tax go to something that will improve the overall community for those who live here? Originally it was to build a locker room for UMD, why do I have to pay for their locker room?

    Then I read Ramos’ articles and learned that it isn’t a mere .5%, but a lot more that that. Read his article if you can’t take me seriously.

    What our mayor is proposing is a tax increase. He can say he is bringing back an old tax that funded a locker room and a grossly underperforming aquarium, but he is just raising our taxes on eating at local establishments by .5% more than it already is.

    I also think that local citizens should be able to apply for parking permits to park locally for free. Canal Park has tons of meters, ramps downtown and more meters, but how about we get to park for free? Those fees are usually sold the same way -- let’s tax the tourists.

    Those that live here and promote the local economy shouldn’t be punished like they are tourists. We already are punished living here with lower wages than many other cities… the price we pay to live here.

    Endion | Mar 26, 2014 | New Comment
  38. One more thing about the free parking passes for tax paying local residents… This would encourage locals to shop downtown and help our downtown local shops. Otherwise too many people drive up to the mall and Hermantown where they can park for free. Take a casual drive down 1st street downtown and count the “for sale” or “for lease” signs. Take a look at the Kozy building boarded up year after year. Free parking for local shoppers would help the downtown area. Why walk several blocks to the Fetus and pay for parking when I can go to Best Buy and park for free and walk a few steps? We need to encourage shopping downtown. Also, why block off an entire block of parking for the building nextdoor to the Fetus?

    We need to promote our local establishments, not punish the very citizens who pay high taxes already to live here.

    Endion | Mar 26, 2014 | New Comment
  39. The Kozy is not boarded up because people don’t want to park downtown. The Kozy is boarded up because it burned down and Ringsred didn’t have the will or perhaps the funds to fix it. Or if you believe him, it’s because Duluth hates him. He tends to see these things as a personal affront.

    hbh1 | Mar 26, 2014 | New Comment
  40. Then what was the point of saying “My taxes go to schools I don’t use…” without somehow being against paying taxes to schools that you don’t use. That line certainly wasn’t a ringing endorsement from you to the schools. What was the point of that comment?

    mannyL | Mar 26, 2014 | New Comment
  41. I added it into a comment about how I pay taxes for many things I do not use. I am not saying I am against it, as I stated above to clarify. If the comment throws you from my overall argument than don’t read it as I am not complaining about paying for schools. I tried to say above that I do vote in favor of schools and voted for the whole “one more dollar for kids” push this past November. What I don’t like is paying a “tourist” tax when I live here and pay property taxes. I don’t like paying a tax that can only be used for certain items that I do not use (like a locker room for UMD). Please read Ramos’ articles so you understand the entire argument. I was just a little against it until I saw we are paying a whole bunch of “tourist” taxes.

    Endion | Mar 26, 2014 | New Comment
  42. I just think we should get a card that exempts us. I like the idea of local restaurants issuing 10% off cards for locals. I also would like for locals to get free parking to increase business downtown. If I shop in the Fitger’s mall I get my parking validated. More things like that would help our city and local businesses.

    And schools are a great thing that I support and don’t mind paying taxes for. A locker room for UMD on the other hand doesn’t further young minds and is a waste.

    Endion | Mar 26, 2014 | New Comment
  43. There are good enough reasons to oppose the tourism tax, but this exemption idea is flawed.

    The point of the tourism tax is to shift part of the financial burden onto tourists. If a local exemption is offered, it shifts the entire burden onto tourists and presents the image that Duluth is out to fleece them. If Duluthians fleece themselves while fleecing tourists they can be viewed as equal-opportunity fleecers. Obviously that’s all about perception, but perception is important.

    The bureaucracy that would be created by an exemption card could reach comical proportions. Keep in mind that there would be no incentive for restaurants to carefully to check the cards. The restaurant would make the same money either way, so it would be up to the state or local government to make sure cheating wasn’t going on.

    If you don’t support the tax, I would recommend you focus on that general opposition and drop the exemption idea. The exemption idea weakens the credibility of the opposition.

    Paul Lundgren | Mar 26, 2014 | New Comment
  44. I know it’s boring to talk about numbers when we could be out chasing butterflies, but here are a few to think about.

    Total gross bonded debt carried by the City of Duluth in 2014 is $156,427,000.

    When you subtract all debt that is intended to be serviced from special sources (including tourism-tax proceeds), the total net bonded debt carried by the city in 2014 is $41,280,706, or $479 for every man, woman and child in the city.

    If the special sources are unable to make their payments (such as if tourism tax collections fall short of expectations), that debt is added to the net debt.

    How has the city’s debt changed over the years? Here is the information from the 2014 budget.

    Year … Net debt … Per capita cost
    2004 … 21,365,000 … 245
    2005 … 19,208,000 … 221
    2006 … 26,802,000 … 308
    2007 … 29,284,000 … 337
    2008 … 28,986,000 … 333
    2009 … 22,420,000 … 258
    2010 … 41,410,000 … 476
    2011 … 40,949,000 … 471
    2012 … 41,874,000 … 485
    2013 … 40,540,000 … 470
    2014 … 41,281,000 … 479

    Does this look like a lovely, rosy picture of financial security to you? It doesn’t to me--especially considering our ongoing responsibility to fund retiree healthcare (over $100 million outstanding), the loss of casino money for the streets, and the ever-increasing cost of water and sewer infrastructure repairs.

    And yet none of this seems to matter, as long as we can go “Whee!” on a zipline and giggle happily about nickels.

    Ramos | Mar 26, 2014 | New Comment
  45. I never imagined Ramos would be arguing for higher taxes…

    Terry G. | Mar 26, 2014 | New Comment
  46. So not to beat a dead horse but the idea to be “exempt” from the tourism tax because you’re not a tourist Endion this process of creating a card for every resident for both a car and a person as you suggest would be much more expensive then if you just paid the tax (again .05 cents for every $10). And to further illustrate the lack of depth to your argument, why should my property tax go to fix your street? I have a street that is just recently redone and nice (not many people in Duluth can say that) so why do I pay taxes anymore, right? Because we all live in this city and should look at ways that we can improve it and this method has proven effective as a West Duluth resident I believe it is time to invest in this end of town. More tourists equal higher revenue for the city which means there is less of a push for higher property taxes, and with more revenue comes more investment into fixing our streets.

    Merrittdweller | Mar 26, 2014 | New Comment
  47. Like I said: WHEEEEEEEEEEE!

    Ramos | Mar 26, 2014 | New Comment
  48. Paul & Merritt -- I know it would be difficult. That is why I thought it would take citizens going to City Hall with identification and then applying for the card. Not all would do it so the city would still get their $$$. In a way my argument is as flawed as the tax itself is.

    It is probably a pipe dream, but I don’t think raising taxes .5% on restaurants is the right way to go. ($0.50/$10 MORE) Merrit, I could argue your own argument against your interests as you brag about good streets and having the money go to your side of town. I don’t want it to go to the Endion area either though, but I don’t think it should just be wasted. If I am paying a “tourist” tax and it cannot go to anything that won’t enhance tourism it doesn’t make sense to me. If you told me you were raising the sales tax .5% I would be less upset.

    Although, how high will taxes go here? My power/gas bills are rising, my school taxes are rising, and now my “tourist” tax for living here and eating locally will be rising. My gas is more expensive here because the gas stations want to gouge the tourists. My “tourist” tax also funds VisitDuluth.com -- and I recall hearing that they were not getting the best bang for their buck.

    Many jobs here don’t pay competitive wages when compared to other communities because of how much of a dream it is to live here. My taxes are higher and my cost of living ends up being higher.

    When will I be priced out of living here? How will Mayor Ness get this city to 100k people if we are too poor to live here? How big can this city’s debt grow? I only have so much money to give out, but if I move that is a total loss of my tax revenue.

    I drive through downtown and I think it is a shame that people go up the hill to shop. The big issue is parking, but maybe if we could come up with a plan that could improve. That is why I thought that maybe a sticker you put in your window would encourage shoppers to downtown.

    If someone has a plan put it out there, but just surrendering to high taxes and burdening debt is not a good plan. You can clean up the Saint Louis River all you want so developers can sell townhomes and “riverfront” expensive new houses, but eventually the little guy in town will be forced out.

    If you wanna tax the tourists then tax the hotels, but not our restaurants.

    What would you do to pay off our debt and get people to eat and shop downtown?

    Endion | Mar 26, 2014 | New Comment
  49. I don’t think paying to park is the reason people don’t shop downtown. Decades back, downtown retail sectors started to see customers vanish to malls, and store closings were a regular thing in most downtown areas. Now, malls are starting to fall out of favor; people shop on line instead of going to a mall. It’s just part of the cycle of change that all businesses impacted by trends and technology experience. If it was as simple as free parking, the canal area would be jammed with local shoppers from October to May when there is no fee to park there. It’s not the parking, it’s just the reality.

    pats | Mar 26, 2014 | New Comment
  50. If I had an ironclad guarantee of a fifteen-year moratorium on big projects, especially tourism projects, in the city, I would pay my $500 per capita cost, and another $2,000 for my family, to kill the debt. Getting it done like that would be preferable to listening to the endless spring-peeper chorus of people who claim that if only we fund enough new development, property tax collections will jump up enough to wipe out a $40 million debt.

    Sure, it might be a quiet, boring fifteen years. But just think how awesome it would be to be debt-free, with a healthy surplus set aside.

    I know, I know. What a ridiculous plan. I’m sorry I even brought it up.

    Ramos | Mar 26, 2014 | New Comment
  51. Providing free parking to locals means that downtown workers would fill up every single parking space every single day.

    You may suggest that we have some way of moderating who is allowed to park there and how long, but how much would we spend policing the parking beyond what we currently are?

    Also, if the “locals only” card can be picked up at city hall, that means that people without transportation, and/or people who can’t leave their job during business hours won’t have the opportunity to get the savings card.

    BadCat! | Mar 26, 2014 | New Comment
  52. You bring up a good point with workers (time limits?). Which is why I tried to start the discussion here. I don’t think that I am right and don’t think others are wrong, but I thought it was something to talk about.

    For parking downtown the mayor and council could make it easier. Redesign blocks and parking based on the businesses that are there. Free ramps wouldn’t be too hard to control. Allowing parking in private lots between certain hours would be nice too, but then some jerk will break a bottle or be stupid and the owner is liable. Perhaps the city could give the owners of private parking in the city a tax break to allow “locals” to use their lots during certain hours. The lots behind Luce’ would be nice to park in during the evening and are always empty. Different lots are used on different days or during different hours.

    Just a few ideas.

    I think the tax on restaurants should be lowered, but hotels would be better served for a true “tourist” tax. The horses, bike rentals, candy shops, and other “tourist” establishments should pay the “tourist” tax.

    Endion | Mar 26, 2014 | New Comment
  53. How exactly are property tax collections supposed to jump, if every big project gets it’s own TIF district?

    adam | Mar 26, 2014 | New Comment
  54. This might be a dumb question, but are there tax breaks for the hotels or restaurants around town? I know of lots of cities who attract businesses by offering to exempt them from property taxes, does that happen in Duluth?

    Endion | Mar 26, 2014 | New Comment
  55. Most of the hotels in Canal Park benefited from tax-increment financing, but that all sunset years ago, I think.

    Paul Lundgren | Mar 26, 2014 | New Comment
  56. I just think it is sad that the tax is passed down to the little local (wo)man. We work hard for our money and live in a place where there is already an “aesthetic” tax. It would be nice for the locals who pay high taxes and a city drowning in debt to figure out what needs to be done. Otherwise what is to stop businesses from moving up the hill?

    I love it here, but I think the taxes when I go out to eat are high enough. The outlook is always grim, but dreams for this area are always on the horizon.

    Endion | Mar 27, 2014 | New Comment
  57. When the new 0.5 percent food-and-beverage tax is approved (and it will be, of course, under the “Only a nickel!” clause), Duluthians will be paying 2.25 percent extra on their restaurant meals and bar tabs to pay for tourism projects. All those who say they are fine with this are also fine with, say, a young, hardworking mother who treats herself and her three children to a $25 purchase from the Super One deli paying an extra 56 cents for tourism. It’s nice of you to make that decision for her.

    It should also be noted that this latest tax will be permanent. It’s not targeted toward any specific project with a specific dollar amount. The goals I’ve heard so far are cleaning up the riverfront and funding the zoo. There will always be something more we can do in those areas, of course, so the tax will never sunset.

    Also: if we hadn’t let Spirit Mountain build a new chalet, we would already have enough tourism tax to do what we want to do now. But when it comes to tourism (unlike, say, street repair), there are no priority projects: We have to do them all.

    Ramos | Mar 27, 2014 | New Comment
  58. And then if you add the City of Duluth’s general 1 percent sales tax to the tourism taxes, that young mother’s $25 deli purchase has 81 cents tacked onto it, specifically earmarked for the city.

    But what else would she do with that money, right? Probably just waste it on Redbox or something.

    With all taxes included--city, state and otherwise--the $25 deli purchase is increased by $2.50, and costs our hardworking mother $27.50 in total.

    That’s nothing, right? We should slap a few more on.

    Ramos | Mar 27, 2014 | New Comment
  59. Not that I advocate slapping morons.

    Ramos | Mar 27, 2014 | New Comment

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