2015 Local Solutions to Poverty Candidate Forum
Poverty is not a niche issue. Nearly one in four Duluthians live below the federal poverty line, and more than half of us struggle to pay for housing. These realities are even more extreme among Duluthians of color. Poverty is an issue that touches every neighborhood, every age group and every family. With federal funds for housing and anti-poverty programs continuing to shrink, our community has an even greater responsibility to develop our own solutions, and we believe that we can and must do better.
On October 20, nearly 200 people packed the Damiano Center in Duluth for the 3rd annual Local Solutions to Poverty Candidate Forum. This forum was unusual in that candidates for Duluth mayor and city council came mostly to listen, not to speak. Seven Duluthians shared personal stories of poverty and exclusion, touching on the issues of homelessness, the housing crisis, racial discrimination, concentration of poverty in Lincoln Park and Hillside neighborhoods, job insecurity and transportation barriers for people with disabilities. Candidates were then presented with proposals for local policies that would help make Duluth more livable and fair for everyone. Candidate responses are posted below. After three years, the forum has become one of the most important events of the election season. Candidates who participate in the forum are universally grateful for the opportunity to hear from Duluthians who are often shut out of the political process, and stories shared at the forum are often repeated at city council meetings.
The questions raised at the forum were developed over three months of conversations with people living in poverty and social service agencies. They are not the only steps we can take to end poverty, but they surfaced as priorities that we can actually accomplish over the coming year or years to improve people's lives and advance equity in our community. We look forward to working with whoever is elected to turn promises into action.