Restoring the community's trust in city government is among the Cloquet City Council's top priorities for 2019.
During its work session Tuesday, May 21, the council reviewed a list of aspirations for 2019 after councilors provided their individual priorities during the May 7 session.
Typically, council goals are discussed and established during a retreat early in the year. With four new members of the council, scheduling conflicts prevented the annual retreat, which also includes the department heads. Instead, department heads have made presentations to the council about their individual plans for 2019 and councilors listed their goals for the year during the May 7 work session.
Mayor Roger Maki and all of the new councilors - Ward 1's Warren "Bun" Carlson, Ward 2's Sheila Lamb, Ward 3's Dakota Koski and at-large member Lara Wilkinson - listed "restoring trust with the community" as a priority for 2019.
To that end, the city is planning to install live streaming equipment in the new City Hall to allow remote recording of all city meetings. It will broadcast all city meetings - council, Planning Commission, Economic Development Authority and others - on Cloquet's Municipal Community Cable Access Television channel without the use of city staff time.
The city also plans to host "Coffee Chats" for councilors on a monthly or bi-monthly basis at the Cloquet Public Library. The programs would be roughly an hour on a consistent time and day, allowing residents to share their thoughts or concerns with councilors.
"I hate to go back to the campaign, but restore the trust is a big thing to me," Maki said. "We need to be in the community talking to people, which I have been. We've been getting a lot of good feedback. People feel like we are headed in the right direction and are telling me, 'You're doing a good job, keep at it, but we know it takes time.'"
Another top priority for the city is to improve its partnerships with other local governments and organizations like Carlton County, Fond du Lac Reservation and the Cloquet Area Chamber of Commerce.
Staff and elected officials from the city, county and reservation met once this year to discuss partnerships. The three entities plan to continue the meetings quarterly.
The city also plans to work on its relationship with the Chamber. Maki said his work schedule will allow him to attend more Chamber ribbon-cuttings and other events.
A third goal for 2019 is to increase the city's use of renewable energy sources. The city is working with two consultants regarding the potential of installing solar panels on city buildings or building a solar farm in Cloquet to provide power to all city buildings.
In addition, Cloquet plans to pursue a "Minnesota GreenStep City" designation. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency program is public-private partnership designed to help cities achieve sustainability and quality-of-life goals.
"With the carbon emissions requirements that are coming out through legislation, if we get in early, there's going to be a reduced cost to us," Lamb said during the May 7 work session. "We have more playing room by getting ahead in the game and being leaders."
Other priorities for 2019 include:
• Continue to push for the passage of a local-option sales tax;
• Pursue funding for street infrastructure repairs and improvements;
• Implement the housing study to increase the supply of housing in Cloquet;
• Support the Cloquet Public Library expansion project;
• Establish a plan to deal with stray animals as a result of the Friends of Animals shelter closing, including the potential of establishing a new shelter; and
• Work with local partners to develop a city community center.