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Mayor's View: Now is the time to speak up, contribute

Duluth, I know you've got a lot to say about our community. In my first few months as mayor, I've learned that when I ask for your input and ideas, you are eager and ready to provide them.So I've got the perfect opportunity for you: an update of ...

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Duluth Mayor Emily Larson
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Duluth, I know you’ve got a lot to say about our community. In my first few months as mayor, I’ve learned that when I ask for your input and ideas, you are eager and ready to provide them.
So I’ve got the perfect opportunity for you: an update of our comprehensive plan. Now, I know that “comp plan” may not sound like everyone’s idea of a good time. But stick with me on this - because it’s actually really interesting.
Comprehensive planning, when done right, happens every 20 to 30 years with updates in between. It’s a time when communities and neighborhoods meet together and provide input into our needs, opportunities and values as they relate to land use, neighborhoods, community services and economic development.
In other words, comprehensive plans impact nearly every aspect of community life. They’re important, and they’re based on the voices and experiences of people who live here.
In 2006, the city completed its first comprehensive plan in almost 50 years. That plan laid out a 20-year vision for the development of Duluth with 12 guiding principles that were meant to help us achieve a community that builds upon the sense of place we all value while supporting good job opportunities, outdoor recreational activities and safe neighborhoods that are family-friendly. That 2006 plan guided the city’s development of a new Unified Development Code and served as the foundation for the focus on our St. Louis River Corridor.
For 10 years, these 12 principles and our comprehensive plan have shaped our work as a city. During this time, we’ve experienced significant challenges like the 2008 recession and our 2012 flood, but we’ve also experienced enormous growth through nearly $2 billion in construction projects, expanded trail opportunities and new retail and
private-sector development. The comprehensive plan becomes a reliable and steady guide through times of community change.
It’s time to update the plan to make sure we stay on a forward path that balances the needs of people, place and progress. Because while our success stories, resilience and reputation are growing, we have more work to do, and the comprehensive plan is one of the ways we get things done.
We have growing inequities among people living in our community; and to help address that, we’ve added two new principles to be factored into this year’s update of the comprehensive plan: fairness and health.
Fairness is how we address our entire city - all neighborhoods, all neighbors - in ways that ensure physical investments and economic opportunity benefit everyone from Fond du Lac to Lakeside and from Park Point to Piedmont Heights.
Health is the recognition that different pieces that make up a city - our housing stock, transportation systems, access to green space, community safety and more - add up in ways that have a direct impact on people’s lives and life expectancies.
In the coming months, we’ll be engaging the community in four key areas: economic development, transportation, residential development patterns and open space. These four areas have been studied and analyzed and faced a surge of activity since the 2006 comprehensive plan. We need to focus our goals and infuse two new principles to reflect our current and future state.
We’re calling this update “Imagine Duluth 2035: Forward Together,” and we need your help to make sure we get it right. We’ll be hosting a kickoff this September and a series of community events around the city. Fall may feel like a long ways off, but just look how fast the past 10 years have gone.

In the meantime, we’ve got an Imagine Duluth website, Facebook page and online survey.
As mayor, one of my jobs is to listen. This year, your voice is incredibly important to chart the course of our future together for the next 20 years. I’m counting on you to deliver. I know that our community - and our future - will be stronger because of it.

Emily Larson is mayor of Duluth.

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