DULUTH, MN– Duluth Mayor Emily Larson held her annual State of the City address at Myers-Wilkins Elementary school Monday night; a place in the heart of the hillside neighborhood which she calls her home and a real depiction of the city.
The Mayor started off her speech addressing four highlights from 2018-2019 which include progress on street repairs, local investment and building, the city implementing priority-based budgeting, and the return of neighborhood youth programs.
“Jobs. Childcare. Housing. Energy. These are urgent problems that we can’t wait to solve,” Mayor Larson exclaimed.
Mayor Larson laid out those topics as key areas of focus moving forward saying “‘let’s take each of them on.”
She went on to say “we haven’t solved these massive challenges yet, and still, we’ve taken real steps forward.” Referencing four key priority areas laid out in her first term. Those include improving streets and other public infrastructure, connecting jobs with those who need them, making Duluth more sustainable and energy resilient, and meeting housing shortage.
All topics that are echoed in her future plans.
Larson says she will address disparities in the job market saying “we need to build a talent pipeline to fill job vacancies in key sectors of our economy and smash persistent disparities across race and gender.”
In Childcare, she is asking Duluth’s Chief Administrative Officer, Noah Schuchman to engage with community partners in creating a downtown child care center for children of public employees and low-income, downtown workers. She says, “without childcare, many of our children are denied opportunities for a healthy start in life.”
Affordable housing hits home for many in the community. Mayor Larson is creating a Mayor’s Task Force on Affordable Housing to come up with a long-term funding plan to address the issue. She says, “we have failed to solve the puzzle of affordable housing. We can’t wait for someone else to solve this crisis-and let me be clear, it is a crisis.”
She says she will be announcing a contest of ideas [to] Rebuild Duluth. The concept Larson says, “the city has developed land across the city. We will identify and secure 10-15 parcels and make an offer: If you come up with a good, achievable idea that can provide affordable housing on the land, it’s yours. For free.”
Larson is also striving to create an energy-resilient and sustainable community. She says the City Council recently approved her new Energy Plan Commission, which will “help develop the policies and drive the city’s strategies for greater energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gases.”
She says she will also be asking the Council to create a new Sustainability Officer position and Office in the city of Duluth.
As for the streets, the Mayor is pushing for state approval of her proposed half-percent sales tax increase which she says would raise $7-million each year for street maintenance.
“I do know that our streets need work. Like a lot of work and there are no easy answers. But still we are making progress.”
Larson, ultimately turning to those who live in Duluth to make it a welcoming home for all. “We rise or fall as a community. We can only do this together.”