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Mayor Emily Larson takes to social media responding to Chamber comments on earned sick and safe time

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DULUTH, MN -

Duluth Mayor Emily Larson says she won't take the bait or respond to threats when it comes to the future of her street improvement proposal. This comes as city business leaders are sounding off over earned sick and safe time recommendations, which will be taken up by the city council next Monday.

After a dozen public hearings, hundreds of surveys, and months of research, the Earned Sick and Safe Time Task Force has a recommendation more than a year in the making. On Nov. 20, task force co-chair Laura Weintraub plans to bring the recommendations on policy before the Duluth City Council.

"We knew that there were going to be competing opinions about what is, what would be appropriate or not," she said. "That's why we held such extensive hearings and gave every opportunity for the public to come forward."

But some city business leaders fear any ordinance mandating earned sick and safe time could cost them. Many of those concerns were spelled out in a recent Duluth News Tribune editorial, quoting Kristi Stokes and Chamber of Commerce president David Ross. 

"It's just this piling on of additional costs to our businesses, and that's where it's becoming very difficult for them," Stokes said.

In the editorial, Ross implies the business community would be willing to withhold their endorsement on Larson's proposal for a half-percent sales tax hike to fund street repairs... which was overwhelmingly approved by voters last week. 

Larson took to Facebook over the weekend to criticize Ross's comments, calling them threats  that would do a disservice to both issues.

Stokes said she supports the community's choice in voting for the increase to improve streets, but adds it's another cost city businesses need to prepare for.

"So what we also need to look at is if we add additional costs onto our businesses in other ways such as earned sick and safe, such as water rates increasing, electric rates increasing, property taxes going up, a Superior st. reconstruction those costs have to be taken on somehow," she said.

According to her Facebook post, Larson said she and the council are happy to hear concerns at the next meeting, and before the council comes to a decision.

We did reach out to the Mayor's office for comment, but were directed to the Facebook post.

The Earned Sick and Safe Time task force will present their recommendations to city council next Monday. 

Any policy changes are still a ways away, next Monday, the council will simply hear the recommendations, and they can choose whether to draft an ordinance based on those recommendations. 

The councilors would then vote on that, and even if it passes,  the task force recommends an 18 month waiting period before any policy changes go into effect.

The two policy recommendations are available here.

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