Bonding Bill, housing crunch take center stage at legislative roundtable

By KBJR News 1

February 16, 2014 Updated Feb 16, 2014 at 10:25 PM CST

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - In an intimate setting at the Willard Munger Inn, lawmakers pointed to Spirit Mountain as a bonding priority in a roundtable discussion with members of the League of Women Voters and the public .

"Right now Spirit Mountain makes snow using city's treated water, so you're putting fluoridated, chlorinated water on the hill, which then runs off, then runs directly into the St. Louis River Estuary," said Sen. Roger Reinert (DFL-Duluth).

The destination is requesting $3.4 million in funding for a system that would transport clean water from the St. Louis in order to make snow.

"I think it's interesting, because if that project goes through, that will be the most money spent that the average person won't ever realize it ever happened," said Rep. Eric Simonson (DFL-Duluth).

The League of Women Voters asked lawmakers which improvements they are considering to make campaign financing more transparent.

"I want to know that too. I think the average citizen on the streets deserves to know and wants to know how we accomplish that? I don't know, yet," said Rep. Simonson.

Representative Mary Murphy agreed the public has a right to know, but said changes need to happen at the top.

"We cannot give the campaign financing board more responsibilities and still cut the number of employees that are working there," said Rep. Murphy (DFL-Hermantown).

The discussion went from legislative priorities at the upcoming session to what to do about the housing crisis in Duluth. The city suffers from a 1% vacancy rate, among the worst in the nation.

"The state can play a good role in this, but we have to partner with local government and we have to partner with private businesses," Rep. Simonson said.

"I also offer, there is open spaces in precinct 11 and precinct 23 in Duluth... that's a little bit more of Duluth, than where the masses are living," said Rep. Murphy.

"We need a more full spectrum housing solution in Duluth. And That's going to be our challenge," said Sen. Reinert.

The legislative session kicks off next Tuesday, February 25th.

Written by Kevin Jacobsen
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