Mayor Emily Larson calls upon students to help pass infrastructure referendum

 Mayor Emily Larson proposes the sales tax increase at a State of the Streets community meeting

Mayor Emily Larson proposes the sales tax increase at a State of the Streets community meeting

With a dedicated sales tax increase up to public vote Nov. 7, the referendum is Mayor Larson’s first attempt at a local street improvement plan.

“We do a lot to help to make sure students feel welcome and invested in the city, so it would be a nice gesture if they could help the community out,” Larson said.

Larson’s proposal calls for a half percent sales tax increase. Transportation sales tax revenue would allocate around $7 million for streets, tripling the amount of money set aside under the city’s current budget.

Senior Joel Makore is optimistic that the mayor's plan will provide support.

“I hope the streets improve,” Makore said. ”I also agree with the sales tax.”

 A pothole lurks, waiting to inflict damage on a vehicle's suspension

A pothole lurks, waiting to inflict damage on a vehicle's suspension

Nathan Schield, a junior, is more concerned about the commute to class than the sales tax hike.

“There are a lot of potholes around the city, and I’m sure every student that commutes to class would probably say the same,” Schield said.

Samantha Wunch, attending her fifth year at UMD, has had to deal with this problem for a long time.

“Overall, Duluth has some pretty crappy roads,” Wunch said. “Each year it seems like they tear up the West College Street and Kenwood intersection.”

A graduate from The College of St. Scholastica, Larson knows how important it is to have roads in good condition so students can get off campus without worry.

“Students are a very important part of this community,” Larson said. “I was a student here once and getting off campus was just as important as making it to class on time.”

The street behind Bluestone, East 8th Street, drew specific comment from Mayor Larson.

“East 8th street is a perfect example, because students know that road and how bad it is,” Larson said. “I would like to think it is high on the priority list.”

 Potholes like the one above line East 8th St, from top to bottom

Potholes like the one above line East 8th St, from top to bottom

The city expects that every dollar spent on street maintenance saves seven dollars worth of repairs. According to The Transportation Sales Tax Proposal, this could mean overall savings of millions of dollars over the 25-year length of the tax.  

“When you’re 18, 19, 20 years old, you don’t think too much about city issues, but your community does,” Larson said. “We really want students and others to see us as a city that takes care of itself.

 

NewsConnor Shea