Emily Larson intends to seek a second term as mayor of Duluth. She officially launched her campaign for re-election at a noon news conference Wednesday on the steps of City Hall.
“In my first term, I’ve focused on the historic inequities and big challenges that divide and test our community - that the quality of your parks or streets shouldn’t be determined by your ZIP code. Your safety and security should not be determined by where you live or by your race or religion,” she said.
“It is fundamentally wrong that a person in Lincoln Park has a life expectancy 11 years less than a person living in Congdon Park,” Larson said.
Duluthians elected Larson as their first female mayor in 2015, when she received 72 percent of the vote and defeating her opponent, Chuck Horton. She is the first and only candidate to enter the mayoral race so far this year.
As she announced her re-election bid Wednesday, Larson rattled off a list of accomplishments, including a 15 percent reduction in the city’s emissions of greenhouse gases, the construction of hundreds of units of new housing, her ongoing efforts to fund street improvements through a proposed half-percent sales tax and improved relations with St. Louis County and the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.
But Larson freely admitted there is much left to do. She noted that while Duluth’s inventory of housing has expanded under her watch, “We have failed to crack the nut on affordable housing and ensure a safe home for those most vulnerable and at risk.”
Larson said she’s ready to get to work on the problem.
“We can’t wait for someone else to solve our affordable housing crisis - and let me be clear, it is a crisis. On any given night, 600 people in Duluth have no home, and hundreds more worry if they’ll have one next week. It’s unacceptable, and we are morally obligated to figure this out,” she said.
Larson also said she continues to make the case for a half-percent local sales tax in St. Paul. She proposed the tax to help fund street improvements, and 77 percent of local voters supported the idea in a 2017 referendum. The proposed tax is expected to generate about $7 million per year, but it cannot be put in place without approval from the Minnesota State Legislature.
The mayor said she takes encouragement from continued new investments in Duluth, including more than $1 billion that Essentia Health and St. Luke’s expect to sink into their downtown medical campuses in the next several years.
But she said the city can ill afford to rest on its laurels.
“We can and must redouble our efforts to ensure workforce development and career pathways are part of everything we do as a city. We can’t just wait for developers to ask for help. We must proactively seek investors who can help grow new industries and create new job opportunities here,” Larson said.