BY HANNAH BROADBENT AND SCOTT LONGAKER On Election Day this November, the citizens of Duluth will be doing something that has not happened in eight years. They will be electing a new mayor.
From what had been a crowded pool of candidates, two emerged as the main contenders after a September primary. City Council president Emily Larson and local businessman and boxing promoter Chuck Horton are this year’s mayoral candidates.
The candidates were asked what they can do as mayor to continue to foster a positive relationship with UMD, both as an institution and with the student body.
Calling students a “huge economic driver,” Councilor Larson spoke of her relationships with university administration and the Board of Regents as an asset. She mentioned the future move of some classes to the old Maurices building downtown, calling it a “huge progress.”
She also talked about the proactive relationship-building that has been happening in neighborhoods around campus. She wants to help that continue wherever possible.
“I got my master’s degree at UMD,” she said, “so I know what it’s like to be on those campuses and not feel as though the rest of the city is welcoming you.”
Mr. Horton also addressed UMD’s place in the local economy as being a large local employer.
He believes that if it weren’t for the school, there would never have been Bluestone Commons or the Amsoil Arena. Horton calls these products positive.
“We need to embrace them (students) and make students feel more welcome,” Horton said.
On the issue of housing and commercial development in the UMD area, each candidate had their own ideas.
Larson cited the ability to plan, rezone and work with developers to make the local connections needed to encourage more pedestrian-friendly development. She said it’s in the city’s best interest to encourage on and off-campus life for students.
Horton agreed with Larson.
Horton also expressed frustration on the subject of bike paths, claiming the climate is not agreeable for cycling.
Horton thinks there are bigger problems than bike paths in Duluth.
“There’s drug problems everywhere in our community,” Horton said.
Other changes he would like to see are overhead walkways connecting the campus to the shopping district on Woodland, and for the city to be involved in that.
The parking situation around campus (and throughout the city) at times can be very contentious between permanent residents and students.
Mr. Horton suggests UMD build parking garages which would then provide more parking for students on campus, freeing up streets for neighborhood residents.
In response to these issues, Councilor Larson again talked about the relationship-building in neighborhoods.
Other topics of mayoral concern are students staying in the Duluth area after graduation.
Councilor Larson talked about mentoring programs and building networking between the local business community and the student body as solutions.
Larson thinks that simply encouraging involvement in the community is not enough. Instead, the city needs a presence on campus, to show the student body that local policymakers do care about them.
“Businesses choose where they want to headquarter at,” Horton said, claiming current industry as being a driving force in this regard which is not the job for a mayor.
“I would like to see the city ask, ‘How can we help entrepreneurs get to the next level of small business and how can we help get that to the level of big business?’” Larson said.
The mayor’s office, past, present and future has UMD students on their radar. On Nov. 3, 2015 the polls open for Duluth citizens and UMD students to make their choice for the new mayor of Duluth.