1 March 2022
DULUTH — Duluth’s iconic Aerial Lift Bridge will be lit blue and yellow Tuesday night through Sunday in support of Ukraine, after an abrupt change of heart from Mayor Emily Larson.
Duluthians have flooded the city with requests that the bridge and Enger Tower be lit in solidarity with Ukraine, following last week’s Russian invasion. Over the weekend, Enger Tower was lit but the bridge was not.
When many expressed dismay on social media and through letters to councilors, Larson issued a news release Monday explaining her decision. The city’s chief administrative officer reiterated that decision at Monday night’s City Council meeting, where some council members disagreed with it. Tuesday morning, Larson changed course.
“Sometimes you make a decision based on important variables like rules and fairness and then understand that those things really don’t apply,” she wrote in a statement. “Sometimes you are working to do all the right things, and your heart confirms that there is more. The community is right. Thank you for reminding me of who Duluth is.”
In Monday’s statement, Larson had said the city received a “large number” of requests to light the bridge when new money-saving LED lights were installed in 2020, but changing the color of the lights was never the intent.
“We all know why people want to utilize or light the bridge for the issue that is impacting or an idea that is motivating them — it’s a structure that is iconic and memorable; on the state and federal historic registry for national significance,” Larson wrote. “For these same reasons, the city has chosen to make the bridge off-limits for personal life events, political, financial, commercial or causal gain.”
She suggested then citizens make donations to support the people of Ukraine, and prepare to be a “welcoming home” to future refugees.
Council member Terese Tomanek Monday said the city should make an exception for the global crisis unfolding in Ukraine, in line with “the will of the people.”
“Though it’s a complex issue, it is an easy answer,” she said.
Council President Arik Forsman agreed, saying certain circumstances warrant exceptions to policy.
The city doesn’t accept requests to light the historic bridge, Duluth chief administrative officer Noah Schuchman told council members, and has no policy to guide lighting. Since installation of the new lights, it’s been lit twice for pandemic-related causes. That led to a stream of special-occasion requests, he said, “overwhelming” staff left to make decisions. Enger Tower is where the city typically allows such requests, and those scheduled through 2022 will be honored.
Bogdana Krivogorsky, a Duluthian and native Ukrainian, spoke emotionally to council members Monday asking them to overturn the city’s decision.
“Something as simple as lighting up the bridge … it’s lights,” she said, noting the Empire State Building and other landmarks had been lit in support of Ukraine.
The requests are in support of people fighting for their freedom, she said, and “isn’t that what America stands for?”
Larson said Tuesday the city will have an updated lighting policy in 60 days.