Duluth mayoral candidates spar over how to handle roads

Published: Oct. 18, 2023 at 5:42 PM CDT
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DULUTH, MN. (Northern News Now) - In Tuesday night’s mayoral debate, incumbent Mayor Emily Larson and challenger Roger Reinert had two very different approaches to fixing and maintaining roads.

The two candidates were asked what they believe is the most efficient way to plow and both agree that not enough is being done.

“The reality is that right now we don’t have enough staff and when we have one that goes out, that part of town just doesn’t get plowed,” said Reinert. “And a tool that we didn’t use last year which I think we should use is the snow emergency ordinance.”

Larson followed by stating Reinert’s track record in office and said her plan for proper plowing invests in proper equipment.

“The last time my opponent was in a position of local government power he chose to cut the street staff,” said Mayor Larson. “My budget this year provides equipment. We have money in there for more snow plows. We right now are spending about 70% of our fleet dollars on repairs. We need to get that to 30%.”

The two were then asked whether the current plan to fix 20 miles of road next year is enough.

Reinert said no and filling potholes every year only puts a band-aid on the problem.

He suggested mimicking St. Louis County’s solution of bonding the city’s tax money already dedicated to road repair.

“They built up $68 million, they spent it in three years, and now primarily spend their money on maintaining instead of rebuilding,” said Reinert. “And what they straight up said was, ‘If you don’t do that you will never get ahead of the hill of diminishing returns.’”

Mayor Larson is the one who announced the city’s current plan to fix the roads.

She disagreed with Reinert’s plan to bond the money.

“I would love to do more and I am unwilling to put our community at financial risk,” said Mayor Larson. “Issuing bond debt is how we got into this mess in the first place. We are pay as we go, with a cash system and an 850% increase.”

The rest of the debate can be watched here.

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