Larson Campaign | Oct 24th, 2015 | Campaign News
Posted on Oct 21, 2015 at 10:21 p.m.

By so many measures, these are heady days for Duluth. More of us are working. Violent crime is at its lowest level in five years. In City Hall, what had been a crippling $15 million-a-year retiree health care liability is now a manageable $9 million annual expense, and what had been a reserve fund $1.5 million in the hole is now a healthy $7.5 million in the bank.

Duluth has swagger, and others are noticing. Big-time employers like AAR Aircraft Services and Maurices are investing tens of millions of dollars in Duluth. And the growing, rebounding city is receiving accolades for everything from our abundance of outdoor activities to our livability to how easy it is to get around.

A vote for Emily Larson for mayor on Nov. 3 is a vote for maintaining our momentum and for continuing our prospects for prosperity.

“We have incredible, incredible momentum under way in Duluth right now (with) nearly $2 billion of construction projects either underway or in the pipeline. (And we have a) lower-than-the-state-average, lower-than-the-national-average unemployment rate,” Larson said at a candidate forum last week at the Playhouse theater. “Now is the time to continue to build on our momentum. The state looks at the city of Duluth very differently than they did five years ago and 10 years ago, and that’s critically important because that translates into local government aid, that translates into bonding. What we need is leadership that’s experienced and ready and steady and prepared to continue to grow that momentum.”

Larson has leadership experience and the qualifications to be Duluth’s next mayor.

She’s our current Duluth City Council president with a depth of knowledge about city operations, finances, opportunities and challenges and with contacts and relationships from City Hall to St. Paul that can benefit our city and help keep Duluth moving forward.

She’s a commissioner on the Duluth Economic Development Authority, which has played a key role in lowering unemployment while encouraging reinvestment. She understands that attracting and keeping job-creating businesses and industry requires the city to be a reliable, honest and consistent partner, not an open wallet.

She has a master’s degree in social work from the University of Minnesota Duluth and has worked to help homeless families in Duluth as well as families at risk of homelessness. And she’s a small-business owner, operating a consulting firm.

Last year Larson was a leader of an independent engineering study that determined Duluth’s downtown public library was in need of tens of millions of dollars worth of work. When it quickly became clear there wasn’t public support for such an outlay, Larson showed true leadership by stepping back.

“I have been a champion, a very public champion, of libraries for a variety of reasons,” she said last week. “I will always be a champion for having a strong library downtown. And if the community does not have an appetite to move forward with a brand new building, I think that’s fine. But we can’t ignore the fact that we actually have a building that has significant needs.”

Taking action to address significant needs may not always be popular. Larson has proven herself a collaborator and consensus-builder. As mayor she’ll need to be decisive, too, even when not everyone agrees — much the way Mayor Don Ness was with retiree health care. Larson has had her moments, too. In 2012, she supported changes to the city’s civil service code in the face of stiff opposition and criticism of her from the unions and DFL, which had endorsed her.

Larson promises a strong stand, too, on crime as well as Duluth’s growing heroin and mental-health problems. She knows what’s working and that more needs to be done.

“As a city councilor I authored a resolution to remove the methadone clinic licensing on Central Entrance because it was contributing to (Duluth’s heroin) problem,” she said. “We have an award-winning drug task force that is active on this issue. We have community policing that works in partnership with many, many community entities, including drug court, probation, the Human Development Center and other mental-health entities. I believe we are on the path of a holistic approach to addressing the drug issue and other crime issues.”

Larson’s opponent on Nov. 3 is Chuck Horton, a combat veteran and a boxing promoter, trainer and manager.

“We have to grow our tax base,” Horton said at the forum, which was sponsored by the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce and the News Tribune. “My experience is from the business world. I come from a background of being able to build relationships with my sponsors, with venues, (and) with everything that involves that effort. And I found a way over the years to have win-win relationships.

“Here I am,” he continued. “Judge me. But judge me for everything I have done in this community.”

Voters can judge both candidates for mayor, and the better option becomes clear: Emily Larson, a leader with experience, infectious enthusiasm, optimism, and a commitment to be inclusive and transparent.

“I believe we can continue the momentum that we have while ensuring that the next chapter is a place where we can all prosper together,” Larson said. “I understand what’s at stake. … We have the opportunity to continue to move forward as a city, to build with experience and momentum, and to ensure that we’re not leaving anyone behind.”