Highlights From Duluth Mayor Emily Larson’s 2022 Year End Progress Report
As we get ready to turn the page on 2022 and look ahead to 2023, Duluth Mayor Emily Larson took the time to update Northland residents on the accomplishments the city has made throughout the past year; at the same time, offering insight into what the priorities will be in the coming new year.
The Year End Progress Report - shared during a public news conference at City Hall on December 27- provided the mayor an opportunity to review and explain what's gone on during the past year. The presentation was offered as a bookend to the State of the City Address that occurred earlier in 2022.
It also plays well into the reelection plans for the Mayor who recently announced that she's running for another term. Larson offered:
"Earlier this year, in my State of the City Address, I laid out an ambitious, holistic approach to economic development - our path to building a healthy, prosperous, sustainable, fair, and inclusive community."
In her report, Larson offered evidence that she did just that.
As presented, the report broke down the progress into four focus areas: Economic Development, Public Safety, Connectivity, and Sustainability.
The Mayor listed progress made with her Housing Task Force and the Housing Trust Fund, highlighting $35 million in dedicated funds that were invested in this core priority, resulting in 850 new housing units created or planned in the city limits, and helping the City make significant strides toward clearing an ongoing barrier to economic growth.
At the same time, the Planning and Development Team streamlined the permitting process to make it more responsive and intuitive for residents and developers.
The Mayor offered signs that these changes have been making a difference. Those signs include large-scale developments and investments at the Cirrus Innovation Center, ST Paper's purchase of the former Verso paper plant, and "historic" private investments into housing.
Mayor Larson highlighted the work done by the Downtown Taskforce - an initiative that brought together the community leaders and City staff to re-envision and strengthen the heart of Duluth. The Downtown Taskforce recently released their 27 recommendations, and City staff have already put several of those recommendations into action. Those actions have helped to "bridge" Public Safety and Economic Development.
Mayor Larson spotlighted the progress being made by the Planning and Economic Development team on their Duluth Broadband Pilot Project. That project seeks to close the digital disparity gap for 1,900 people in Lincoln Park and eventually any resident who wishes to participate in an affordable, reliable, high-quality fiber broadband opportunity.
Street and roadways also falls into the Connectivity category. Mayor Larson touted the "successes of Public Works and Utilities staff in their road repair efforts". The City of Duluth has accelerated the pace of repair to "nearly 17 miles of streets repaired in 2022". Larson offered a comparison in the fact that when she began her first term, the "city averaged only two miles of repair per year".
The goal here is to create a "clean energy economy" for the city. Mayor Larson explains: "Our Sustainability Office continue (sic) to make huge strides toward cross-department, cross-agency work that not only strengthens our climate action efforts, but also creates a resiliency for our city and its residents that will allow future generations the same resources we have while also allowing for some significant gains for taxpayers in this generation, too. Every win in this category has either current or future positive economic impacts that residents will reap the benefits of for generations to come". Larson offered that she was "so proud that we're on the leading edge of sustainability and resiliency efforts in the City of Duluth".
Even as the 2022 Year End Progress Report touched on areas that will no doubt continue on as priorities in the coming new year, the Mayor offered a promise for additional growth. Those priorities will be unveiled during the 2023 State of the City address. A date and location hasn't been set for that yet, although it generally occurs early in the year.