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Duluth came up empty on its request for legislative authorization to increase its local sales tax this year, even though 77 percent of the city's voters supported the proposed hike. The Minnesota Legislature adjourned shortly before midnight Sunday without approving the tax or a funding package that could have fueled a massive investment in Duluth's medical district.
A new program could make winter a bit more comfortable and affordable for renters in Duluth's Lincoln Park neighborhood. Earlier this week, the Duluth City Council authorized Comfort Systems to invest up to $125,000 in a pilot program that will help landlords upgrade their heating systems.
Duluth's efforts to usher a proposed local sales tax through the Minnesota Legislature have proven to be a challenge this session. A tax bill that would have seemed the most natural vehicle for the local tax has become a political football. On Thursday, Gov. Mark Dayton kept his promise to veto any tax bill that failed to contain $138 million in emergency funding he requested to financially shore up school districts across the state facing severe budget shortfalls.
A recent court order striking down part of Minneapolis' earned sick and safe time ordinance could have implications for Duluth, where city councilors have been working to craft a similar ordinance for months. Fourth Judicial District Judge Mel I. Dickstein ruled that Minneapolis lacked authority to require non-resident employers who did business in the city to comply with its earned sick and safe time ordinance and provide time-off benefits to their workers.
Plans are being laid to move the SS William A. Irvin out of Minnesota Slip for the first time in more than three decades. But the retired laker will face a tight squeeze — with just 15 total inches to spare — as it passes between the abutments of a pedestrian lift bridge that spans the slip. In spite of the Irvin's size — stretching 611 feet from stem to stern with a 30-foot beam — LeRoy Kolenda, a Fraser Shipyards foreman, expressed confidence the vessel can be successfully navigated into the harbor without damage to either it or the bridge.
An ordinance that would require employers in Duluth to provide workers with paid time off to deal with family illnesses or emergencies will be up for a second reading and a possible vote by the Duluth City Council Monday night. But two amendments will be offered to the ordinance that night, as well, and if either of them is adopted, the new rules will have to wait until May 29 before the city councilors can vote whether to enact them.
It looks like the much-debated parking meters of Lincoln Park won't be yanked, at least any time soon. The Duluth Parking Commission voted 4-0 Friday to recommend the neighborhood retain its meters. The city parking department and commission had been directed by the Duluth City Council to look into the matter and report back. Members of the Lincoln Park Business Group have advocated for removing the meters, but a survey, mailed to people who live and work in the neighborhood's business district, showed stronger support for keeping them.
Four proposed local apartment building projects have entered the running for low-income housing tax credits, and all the would-be developers for those properties will seek support from the Duluth City Council on Monday. Plus, a fifth request will be made for tax credits to maintain 39 units of affordable housing in an existing building in the city, Washington Studios.
Many downtown Duluth property owners soon could be granted a reprieve on escalating assessed market values. St. Louis County Administrator Kevin Gray said a review of downtown Duluth properties “identified several issues in calculations that resulted in inappropriately high estimated market values.” He shared that finding in a letter to David Ross, CEO and president of the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce.
Many Duluth residents struggle to find affordable housing, and legislation being proposed by Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson would only worsen an already-tough situation, warned Mayor Emily Larson at a Monday afternoon press conference. "This really is a community-wide issue to ensure that we have the housing resources that we need and to ensure that we're creating policies on the federal, state and local level that allow people to feel safe, to feel secure, to have what they need and to be more competitive in a market economy, not less," she said.