- Associated Press - Saturday, May 13, 2017

WINONA, Minn. (AP) - Winona residents and city officials have gathered together to discuss downtown issues over beer and coffee.

The Pints and Policy event Tuesday covered matters such as construction, plans for development and challenges in revitalizing the area, the Winona Daily News (https://bit.ly/2qbCAfw) reported.

Ed’s No-Name Bar owner Ed Hoffman began planning the event last winter in an effort to provide the greater community with accessibility to officials outside of City Hall. He said he hopes to host the events once a month.

“People really care about what happens in this town,” Hoffman said. “Our idea is to sort of bring civic conversation to a comfortable place.”

Hoffman said he has always wanted to make the bar a gathering place for the community. The bar has hosted events related to politics there in the past, including an appearance by Duluth’s former mayor, Don Ness, local candidate announcements and election screenings.

About 50 people came to hear the panel, which included city planner Carlos Espinosa, at-large City Council member Paul Schollmeier and Chamber of Commerce Main Street Program coordinator Emily Kurash.

Hoffman asked the panelists questions before opening it up to the audience.

Some of the audience questions covered basic city functions concerning downtown, such as what the Port Authority is and what role it has in financing projects. Others focused on Winona’s long-term goals and how those policies will shape the city in the future.

For example, the panelists were asked if the large amount of new development and construction expected over the next several years excited them and if there are any concerns.

Kurash said the projects, particularly the Levee Park Main Street Gateway, will be conducive to more community events and gatherings, which she said was what downtown should be for.

“I like to think of downtown as a park,” Kurash said. “It’s for everybody.”

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Information from: Winona Daily News, https://www.winonadailynews.com

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