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Third candidate enters Duluth's mayoral race

A Duluth man announced Wednesday that he will make his first bid for elected office by running to become the city's next mayor. Jim Mattson, 63, lives in the Lester Park neighborhood and works in a local automotive dealership's service department...

A Duluth man announced Wednesday that he will make his first bid for elected office by running to become the city's next mayor.

Jim Mattson, 63, lives in the Lester Park neighborhood and works in a local automotive dealership's service department.

"I have no political experience," he said. "I have never held a political office, but I figure if I get in there, I've got some sound ideas. I can throw them around, and maybe some will stick."

Mattson said he would bring a sense of frugality to City Hall, and he would begin his tenure by cutting his own salary.

"If I luck out and win, I would take a pay cut and say, 'It starts with me,' " he said.

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"I'm just sick and tired of the city really not going anywhere and spending money on things they shouldn't," he said.

Mattson is the third declared candidate in Duluth's mayoral race. Also running are Duluth City Council President Emily Larson and Chuck Horton, a boxing coach and promoter who now seeks to begin a new career as a chemical dependency counselor. Incumbent Mayor Don Ness chose to not run for a third term.

Mattson said the city needs to be more fiscally conservative.

"The city government is just spending too much money on itself," he said. "The city government is supposed to give Duluthians what they need, not what they want."

He called on the city to focus on meeting residents' basic expectations, such as running water and serviceable roads.

Mattson suggested the city has no role to play in the creation of certain amenities, however. He said dog parks, for example, shouldn't be on city property.

"All the dog owners in the city should form a club and charge its members dues," he said. "The city should sell them a lot. They will pay property taxes, and they can maintain it. Then they'll have their dog parks. You see, that's a want and not a need."

Mattson also criticized continued spending to extend Duluth's Lakewalk, to possibly replace the downtown public library and to renovate the NorShor Theatre.

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Regarding the theater, he said: "It's a good idea, but it's costing way too much money. Having the NorShor Theatre come back to life is not going to revitalize the downtown."

Instead, he said, the city ought to concentrate on bringing better employment opportunities to Duluth.

"We have to get more manufacturing jobs in this city and increase the tax base so people aren't getting taxed to the hilt when they can't even afford their own household needs," he said.

Mattson said he believes he would bring a new perspective to city government. After losing a previous long-term job, he recalled the hardship of a home foreclosure.

"I know what it's like when you don't have things," he said.

Mattson noted that many Duluth residents are living paycheck to paycheck and struggle to deal with a growing local tax burden.

"What really gets me is that my house never goes up in value, but my property taxes keep going up. I mean, when's it going to end? When they actually tax me out of my house?" he asked.

Regardless of his success as a candidate, Mattson said he hopes to shape the debate about Duluth's future.

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"I may not have a snowball's chance in hell to win, but maybe some of the ideas I propose will get people to think."

Peter Passi covers city government for the Duluth News Tribune. He joined the paper in April 2000, initially as a business reporter but has worked a number of beats through the years.
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