At-large candidates address city concerns ahead of election

The four candidates vying for the Duluth City Council at-large position discussed some of the city’s greatest concerns at a forum.
Published: Sep. 14, 2023 at 4:51 PM CDT
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DULUTH, MN. (Northern News Now) - After the primary election, four candidates remain for the Duluth City Council at-large position.

Lynn Marie Nephew, Miranda Pacheco, Jenna Yeakle, and incumbent Arik Forsman are running for the two seats up for grabs in November.

They had the opportunity to discuss the some of the city’s greatest concerns at a forum held by the Duluth Chamber of Commerce Thursday.

The candidates each made opening remarks and then had one minute to respond to eight different questions guided by the proctor.

On a recent survey released by the Duluth Chamber of Commerce, the number one concern in the city is housing and homelessness.

Nephew believes her background in real estate would help her solve the issue if she is elected.

“My factor in creating just more housing units in general will take pressure out of the system,” said Nephew. “I know in my business alone, I have a back log of first time homebuyers who’d love to buy a house, but there’s not enough of housing units for them.”

Pacheco, who once experienced homelessness herself believes she could bring a unique perspective to the topic.

“When I first started this campaign, it was mostly for people experiencing homelessness,” said Pacheco. “I wanted to you know, figure out some solutions towards that and analysis.”

Yeakle says the city needs to create housing solutions for all residents.

“Actually increasing, developing truly affordable housing, deeply affordable housing and expanding public housing,” said Yeakle. “We need to be exploring protections for renters which are about 40% to 50% of our of our community.”

Forsman supports a five year plan to address homelessness called “Stepping On Up.”

“[The plan] will hopefully decrease the amount of people who are in encampments and build a safer place for transitional housing,” said Forsman. “We need housing at all levels and we all need to do no harm.”

The candidates agree that all of the topics need to be addressed but each have different solutions for them, especially when it came to public safety.

Yeakle says addressing public safety takes a more holistic approach.

“The best way that we promote public safety is to create safe, healthy and thriving communities,” said Yeakle. “That means housing means food security, health care, community resources and services.”

Pacheco says the solution lies within the agencies providing safety.

“My biggest concern is you know, how are we going to end the pretextual stops,” said Pacheco. “How are we going to, like create relationships with the police department and black and brown people so it’s safe for all community members?”

Forsman and Nephew think the solution will not come from questioning these agencies but by compensating them properly.

“What I didn’t want is for us to lose our best and brightest,” said Forsman. “And so we went for that 8% wage increase our police department that got them up with all the median, and we’re about to do the same with the fire department. And I’m really proud of that work”

“We have a very progressive police and fire department and we need to keep that and that’s gonna be through high quality wages and making sure they’re paid well to do their jobs,” said Nephew.

The other topics discussed were budgeting, potholes and infrastructure, parks and recreation, local businesses and economic development, their visions for downtown Duluth, and employee childcare.

The General Election is on Nov. 7 but early voting begins Sept. 22.

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