Duluth is becoming a Boom Town and many people would like to move here. This is a great opportunity for our town, but we do not have much room left to build on. The Comprehensive Plan 2040 FORWARDuluth includes the future land use map which provides the guideline for future land use decisions. I fully support the plan. However, what is missing is a concept on how to protect the tree cover and greenspace as well as plans on how to develop more affordable housing. Housing has been a topic under discussion for a long time, but our Planning Department does not have the resources to complete the work. My goal is to make this a priority because of its long-term impact on the future of the city.
Although, our town has a mix of housing options to provide adequate housing for families of all income levels, we are lacking on the high-end but have already identified opportunities to fix this. What concerns me most is affordable and low-income housing. All new developments approved over the last few years do not cover this bracket. One of the reasons for this can be found in our Unified Development Code (UDC) which sets the rules and confines for new buildings. We need to have high standards in our code, but there are ways to reduce the development cost. In these codes, we do not have a ruleset to allow smaller homes, granny flats, shared driveways etc.
I believe walkability is an important factor when talking about City Planning. It has impact on health, environment, and the economy. Wikipedia’s definition and summary of walkability is a good one: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walkability
I would especially like to highlight this sentence - “Walkability increases social interaction, mixing of populations, the average number of friends and associates where people live, reduced crime (with more people walking and watching over neighborhoods, open space and main streets), increased sense of pride, and increased volunteerism.”
There are some challenges in creating walkability. Sidewalks and biking trails are expensive to construct, purchase land, and to maintain. Especially if they are added to an already existing environment. They need to be planned carefully: adding lighting for safety and tree cover for shade. Keeping this in mind I say the benefits of creating a walkable city are higher than the cost and I will support this effort. In addition to creating new sidewalks and multi-use paths, I will work on dedicating a budget for regular maintenance.
Possible connections for multi-use paths:
- Downtown to the Rivergreen Business District
- Downtown to Southeastern Railroad Museum
This effort should not be limited to connect downtown, but also to connect schools, parks, churches, and businesses.
There are undeniable traffic issues with our major Arteries (PIB, Pleasant Hill, Buford Highway). Rush hour traffic is a nightmare, entering and exiting neighborhoods is a challenge, and traffic signal timings seem questionable. Unfortunately, most of these issues are out of the control of the city as these are state or county roads. Nevertheless, I will make sure that we as the city leaders work with DOT on improving the situation.
Parking and public transportation
Parking is a big issue in our downtown and especially in our older neighborhoods. I aim to add public parking options to future developments around the downtown and study the feasibility of adding a shuttle service around the city.
On-street parking in neighborhoods is a difficult and controversial issue. I believe we can no longer avoid this issue and need to come up with a plan.
I am proud of our Police Department and believe it's one of our biggest assets. Our officers make us feel safe and they are always there when needed. If ever there is an emergency, we know that they arrive quickly and will professionally handle the situation. We need to make sure that the Duluth Police Department has the proper funding to do their job. As well as retain and hire the best officers available and provide them with the tools and technology needed.
Duluth is an aging City and that can be seen when going underground. While doing regular inspections of our stormwater infrastructure city staff regularly find failing stormwater pipes and retention ponds. There is a good plan at work to fix these issues but it will take time, energy, and money to get there. I will support our Planning Department in doing so.
Parks and Green space
The Parks & Recreation Department does a great job in designing and maintaining our existing parks. They create a great program with activities for all age groups. I will support this effort.
For the future, we envision a hiking trail through the city along the Chattahoochee River, but there is much work to do in securing the required land and funding.
I support the idea to build a trail system which connects Duluth with the surrounding cities.
Our Comprehensive Plan 2040 “FORWARDuluth” contains a statistic stating that about 13,700 workers commute into Duluth and roughly 12,000 commute out of Duluth. This is not ideal for the environment and explains a lot of our traffic issues. Our Goal must be to create an environment that supports the creation of new jobs which fits the needs and qualification of our residents.
I will support a study to get better information on where to focus our resources. Which type of jobs are needed? Do we have the needed infrastructure to support work from home?
Finances and Taxes
Currently, the finances of the City of Duluth are in great shape. This is the result of hard work, solid budgeting and forecasting.
I support the Duluth Public Art Masterplan and agree with its implementation. Public Art is an important part of society.
Our Red Clay Theatre, currently managed by Eddie Owen, is a wonderful event venue and worth the money we spend. If you have not visited a show yet, you have missed a great experience.