Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian speaks to gathered members of the press on Sept. 14, 2020. That day’s press conference announced listening sessions for residents to give input to the city on how to move forward after the local unrest. Photo by Daniel Thompson/The Uptown Observer.

KENOSHA ⏤ In their final public comments of 2020, Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian and city aldermen first reminded residents to stay safe.

However, for one alderman, the alderperson’s comments portion of last night’s meeting served as an opportunity to speak their piece about the city in 2020.

Antaramian asks residents to follow COVID-19 precautions

During mayor’s comments, Antaramian wished residents and aldermen a happy holiday season. 

However, he pressed residents to take precautions to ensure they don’t spread the coronavirus to family.

“I ask everyone to please be careful as we get together,” Antarmain said. “COVID is definitely not gone away. And it is important for all of us to take precautions and ensure that family members are going to be safe.

“So please take precautions over this Christmas holiday, but there are still a lot of ways for us to be grateful and thankful for a happy holidays.”

Kenosha County COVID numbers

As of Tuesday, Kenosha County has reported a total of 11,567 positive COVID cases this year, an increase of 6 percent from last week. The county has reported 192 deaths in 2020, according to its COVID-19 dashboard.

The state had reported 458,612 positive cases as of Tuesday morning, with 4,425 deaths.

So far in 2020, the city of Kenosha alone has reported approximately 7,400 positive cases this year. 

New daily hospitalizations in the county spiked on Dec. 8, with 32 new ones that day. As of Tuesday morning, daily hospitalizations were back down to around eight. 

Michalski cautions safety on roadways

Apart from wishing residents a happy holidays, Dist. 3 Ald. Jan Michalski took time to remind residents that, when snow does come this winter, they need to be safe on the roads.

“We have been without snow so far this year, but I want to remind everybody that, when the snow does come, and it will and it probably will before we meet again, to be careful,” he said.

“It seems like anytime we get any significant amount of snow, people almost have to learn how to drive in it all over again.”

While there may be more excitement to see people this year, he asks residents to show patience while driving to their destinations.

“So please be careful, slow down,” Michalski said. “It isn’t that important that you get their five minutes sooner. It’s more important that you get there at all.”

‘A horrible year’ 

With the final sentence of his comments, Michalski dipped into a feeling shared by many residents. And one that would be expanded upon by Dist. 10 Ald. Anthony Kennedy.

“And a very happy farewell to the year 2020,” Michalski said. “It was a horrible year.”

For those who know Kennedy, describing him as having a big personality doesn’t even seem to quite cover it.

You can often find Kennedy at public meetings outside of the City Council, and he does not back down from debates.

In fact, Kennedy will often tell those he argues or talks with the same thing: “Ask the hard questions, but accept the hard answers I give you.”

Monday night was no different.

Kennedy’s own ‘interesting’ start to year

Instead of turning into the negative skid that is easy to do in looking back at 2020, Kennedy recapped his own personal struggles and support.

“When I look at this past calendar year, my calendar year, for my colleagues that don’t remember, or laugh, I was in deep doo doo this time last year or shortly before,” Kennedy said, referring to an altercation that landed him in the pages of the local paper of record. “Through actions of my own.

However, he thanked all the people “who stood by me in that very, very difficult time.”

“I want to thank my friends, my family, my supporters and my co-workers,” he said. “I try to carry myself in a certain way and was disappointed by the lack of control that I exhibited.”

He noted to other aldermen that was just the start of “my own personal, interesting year going into 2020.”

The city in 2020

Turning from himself, he moved his focus to the city overall in the year 2020.

“We as a council, we as a city, we’ve endured some very challenging times this year,” he said. “There are some things that we should be very, very proud of. And there are some things we should do a deeper reflection on, all of us.”

As a result of wishing to give accolades first, Kennedy praised city departments for successes throughout the year.

This included the city’s Waste Department for its successful rollout of the new automated collection system. He also praised city staff for keeping services running “while servicing a very challenging general election in November.”

“If we didn’t know it before, we definitely know it now: We have some A-class, wonderful staff who have shown themselves their value in this past year,” he said. 

Praises police department

In a move some might find surprising, the alderman also praised the Kenosha Police Department.

The department has faced local and national scrutiny since KPD officer Rusten Sheskey shot Jacob Blake in the back seven times on Aug. 23.

That incident led to two nights of rioting in Kenosha that followed months of peaceful protesting, causing national media and groups to descend on the city.

Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley has yet to decide if Skeskey will face charges for shooting Blake.

“To the Kenosha Police Department, it’s been challenging to say the least,” Kennedy said. “From one of your officers being shot, to the intense scrutiny put on your department.

“And yet, I think you still maintained your professionalism and you met your mission for our city. And I thank you for it.”

KFD transition

With Fire Chief Charles Leipzig retiring, he acknowledged the transition the city Fire Department’s staff is going through.

“To Kenosha Fire Department, the transition that you guys are going through with leadership on top of everything else we’re going through and still you guys are maintaining and providing the support needed during this really difficult time,” he said, “and I want to thank you guys for that.”

‘We haven’t always agreed this year’

Here are the comments made by Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian and the city’s aldermen at the end of the City Council’s last meeting of 2020 on Dec. 21. Video by Daniel Thompson/The Uptown Observer.

“To my colleagues, we haven’t always agreed this past year,” Kennedy continued. “But look where we’re at. We’re still here. We’re still moving forward. And we’re still making those investments in our city that are going to pay off, like someone mentioned today, for our children, for our grandchildren.”

Along with other aldermen, he specifically thanked Council President David Bogdala, who Kennedy has almost playful interactions with during City Council meetings ⏤ even when the two find themselves on opposing sides. 

“I want to thank my council president for his assistance during the time of trouble,” Kennedy said. “And I want to thank him ⏤ (chuckles) you know if I’m thanking him ⏤ I’ll say him by name: I’m thanking Council President Dave Bogdala for his leadership and assistance helping the mayor during our civil disturbance.”

The hard answers

However, as promised, Kennedy had hard truths he wanted to tell specifically to constituents as the city enters 2021.

“I think 2021 is not going to be easy,” he said. “Compared to 2020, I’m praying it’s going to be better. But it’s not going to be easy.”

He acknowledged that the Skeskey ruling still hangs over locals’ heads, but that, in the end, the community needs to keep making all areas better.

“No matter what happens with that report, with that judgement, whatever we want to call it, there are still people in our community who are hungry,” he said. “There’s still people in our community that are being exploited financially, sexually, emotionally. 

“There’s still people in our community who cannot read and write There’s still people in our community who cannot economically provide for themselves or their family.”

‘Those problems are still going to be here’

Graveley’s ruling on whether or not to charge Sheskey will not change those factors, Kennedy said. 

“We still have people in our community that are marginalized, and we need to do our best to help them, he said. “And those problems are still going to be there. Those are some problems that people are engaged in every single day. 

“They need our help. They need our compassion, and they need our empathy in dealing with those.”

Rating: 1 out of 5.

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Daniel Thompson is an independent journalist and the founder of The Uptown Observer based in the Kenosha, Wis., area. He started in journalism at the Western Nebraska Observer in 2012 and, most notably,...