Two Duluth Councilors in Contest for President

Heidi Enninga
January 08, 2017 10:43 PM

A contest is set to be settled Monday between two Duluth city councilors vying for the same leadership role. 

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At-large councilor Noah Hobbs and Councilor Joel Sipress who represents the 2nd district are both in a race for council president. 

For Hobbs, two of the most controversial issues council took up last year fueled his bid for president. One resolution called for more environmental scrutiny for the proposed Polymet mine, and the other supported the Standing Rock Tribe's opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline. Hobbs said he's concerned with how the council would operate under Sipress. 

"There seems to be a shifting philosophical divide on what the role of the Duluth City Council is and that has really motivated me to run," Hobbs said. "We have issues such as a housing shortage, affordability gap, we have an opioid epidemic, we still have to invest in our streets, and that should take up a majority of council's time."

While he voted in favor of the Standing Rock Resolution, as council president, Hobbs said he would set a different tone moving forward. 

"I've been critical of these resolutions that have come forward every single time, and I think now that these have become more and more prevalent, I would like to...put an end to it," Hobbs said. 

Sipress is currently serving as vice president, and said the president role has traditionally be rotated among the councilors. More importantly, he said the role is also typically a one year job, ensuring that it doesn't become "like a price people fight to get and hold on to." 

A co-sponsor, of the Polymet measure, Sipress said it's unprecedented that Hobbs is bringing policy into the council's choice for leadership. 

"The role of the council president is to help the council make decisions in an even-handed manner making sure that all voices are heard," It is unusual unfortunate and unprecedented that he's actually running on a platform of how he would use the presidency to push his particular agenda," Sipress said.

Noting that Hobbs is hoping for the position after just one year, Sipress said his experience would serve him well. 

"The irony is that one of the resolutions he's complaining about, he actually voted for. The city council president does not have the authority to determine what resolutions councilors do or do not introduce," Sipress said. "It concerns me that if you run on a policy platform for president, you may be tempted to misuse that authority to shape the council agenda."


Heidi Enninga

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