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Incumbent's View Column: Time for change or continue important work? Let’s build on achievements accomplished together

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Duluth mayoral candidate Emily Larson gestures while speaking Tuesday during a candidate forum sponsored by the Duluth News Tribune and the Duluth Chamber of Commerce at the Duluth Playhouse Family Theater at the Depot in Duluth. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

A quarter century of dedicated streets funding. Fourteen hundred new housing units. Year-round free youth programming. A legal resolution and a path of reconciliation with the Fond du Lac Band. Alignment of the Planning, Economic Development, and Workforce departments’ efforts. Transparency in the allocation of tourism taxes. A values-based budget focused on high-impact areas. The elevation of our human rights office and deepened commitment to racial equity. Expanded community policing. A fine-free library system. Exceeding our greenhouse gas reduction goals. A comprehensive plan to guide our next 15 years.

These are just a few of the achievements we’ve accomplished together during my first term as mayor.

We’ve weathered a lot of storms these four years — both figuratively and literally. We’ve developed our own local solutions to problems the state and federal government were unable or unwilling to tackle. And we’ve been able to remain a cohesive community, despite national rhetoric that seeks to drive people apart.

We’ve done this together. Through our regular City Hall in the City events and our community-engagement strategies, you have been honest and candid with me about how you need the city to show up. I’ve worked hard to exceed your high expectations of local government — and of me — because in Duluth, public service still means something.

In this election, you have a clear choice. I believe I bring focus, success, and experience to what it takes to build a successful economy and thriving community, where all neighborhoods and neighbors benefit. I bring my track record of strong, transparent, and inclusive local government.

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I am running for re-election because I understand what work lies ahead, and I have built the regional and national partnerships to go bigger and bolder to get even more done for our community.

I’ve laid out four top priorities for my next term:

Roads and sewers: The work we’ve done securing dedicated street funding is a start, but we can and need to do more. Patching is not a permanent solution for broken roads and 100-year-old sewer pipes. Addressing this problem is a public health, safety, and economic-development issue.

Jobs and economic development: Despite Duluth’s positive job growth and new economic energy, too many people still can’t secure a good job that meets the needs of their family. We can and must redouble our efforts to ensure workforce development and career pathways are part of everything we do as a city.

Affordable housing: Half of Duluth’s families earn less than $50,000 a year and have the hardest time finding safe and affordable housing. We can’t wait for someone else to solve our affordable-housing crisis. We need to create new models and secure new investment to meet our pressing needs.

Energy resiliency and transformation: We must move to 100% renewable energy and build our infrastructure to be more resilient as we continue to face 500-year storms every few years.

Of course we will do more, but these priorities will help focus our attention and guide our planning. And our success will involve connecting these issues and knowing how to leverage the resources and opportunities we have to build and create even bigger and more lasting impact.

Here’s what I mean.

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Duluth’s medical district comprises two hospital systems. The public investment we secured will support them — but, even more importantly, it is intended to support the community. That’s why I am working to integrate affordable housing, neighborhood connectivity, district energy, and additional ancillary development into the medical-district expansion.

The street sales tax will help fill potholes for a better road experience. But it’s also about anticipating economic development; planning for walkability and safe routes to school; and investing in neighborhoods, understanding that city investment sparks private residential financial investment.

Green space is good for outdoor recreation, but parks and trails are also critical for addressing neighborhood health disparities, connecting residents with one another, and providing a sense of place and learning for all kids and families.

Public investment like tax abatement and tax-increment financing spurs economic development. Done well, it can serve the broader public good with local hiring goals and targets for affordability and energy efficiency.

I’m asking Duluth voters to help keep our important work going. Thank you for trusting me with this work during my first term. Your input, feedback and partnership in our democracy have made a difference to our community — and to me personally. I hope you can say the same for my administration.

I’m proud to ask for your support as mayor on Tuesday, Nov. 5.

Emily Larson is mayor of Duluth. The position is up for election on Nov. 5. She wrote this at the request of the News Tribune Opinion page.

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