Duluth mayoral candidates share forum stage for first time

Published: Sep. 13, 2023 at 5:50 PM CDT
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DULUTH, MN. (Northern News Now) - The two candidates running for Duluth mayor shared a spotlight on a stage for the first time Wednesday, answering questions for a packed Duluth Chamber of Commerce forum.

The forum at the Garden Event Center in Duluth allowed the two candidates to tout their campaigns, while also discussing issues the city is facing.

“We’re very different candidates,” Mayor Emily Larson said. “We get along well, we like each other, we know each other, but we are very different.”

The timeline is ticking down for the candidates as the general election is less than two months away.

“Duluth right now, we’re sort of good,” Mayoral Candidate Roger Reinert said. “We should be exceptional.”

One question the candidates were asked about involved housing. Larson touted recent investments.

“We’ve invested $19 million in ARP funds into affordable housing, we’ve invested into expanding warming center hours, we have invested into shelters,” Larson said. “We are doing the investments.”

Reinert said the problem with housing in Duluth is the amount of houses.

“We have to get more inventory on the market, in the middle of the market,” Reinert said. “It’s not the city’s job to build houses, but it is our job to work on the infrastructure side of that, the streets, utilities, water and sewer.”

Another question discussed infrastructure in Duluth, including street maintenance and pothole problems. Larson said her team has increased the amount of pothole fixes.

“When I took office, we were doing two miles of road a year,” Larson said. “We are now doing 17 miles. Next year I proposed 19 miles, and my budget for the next three years, we will do 50 miles.”

Reinert said conditions of streets worsened over the record-breaking snowfall this past winter.

“I think we look at the entire utility infrastructure, do a mile-by-mile analysis of where they are at,” Reinert said. “Do we have streets that still need to be there? Are there places we can shrink the physical infrastructure and make it more cost-effective?”

When asked about the property at Lester Park, candidates had different solutions.

“Transitioning Lester Park Golf into residential housing and getting it back on a tax base is incredibly important to the future stability of this community,” Larson said. “Full stop.”

“I’m not a golfer, but it is a major issue to residents on the eastern side of our community,” Reinert said. “There are ways for Lester to be sustainable. There are ways for Lester to not be a drain on city operations. There are ways to maintain 18 holes of public golf and still have housing development on the outer edge of that asset.”

The general election is November 7, but Duluth residents can cast their vote early in-person or with an absentee ballot starting September 22.

Reinert won the primary election August 8 with 63% of the votes.

For more information about the election, click here.

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