This is the third of five questions the six mayoral candidates answered for Racine County Eye. We’ll have more over the next few days. Their answers were submitted to Racine County Eye and lightly edited.

The primary election will be held Sept. 19. The two candidates with the most votes will then be on the ballot for the special election on Oct. 17.

Last week we highlighted their biographical information.

We asked:

The City of Racine remains among the highest with its unemployment rate and 9,000 Racine residents don’t have a GED or high school diploma. How would you address that?

Mayoral Candidates Answer

Austin Rodriguez

Opportunity and social development. We have to do a good job at making sure that our community is well educated this begins with empowering our people working with our people and having a strategy in helping provide the tools needed to improve in development and cutting people off when you have to. We have to do better and be apart of the solution instead of talking about the problems.

Wally Rendon

Work with Racine Unified, Gateway Technical College, Workforce Development and non-profit agencies to encourage them to offer GED and HSED programs. Support programs such the 1st Choice Program and educate and train people to be qualified to enter the trades industry.

 

Sandy Weidner

This is symptomatic of much deeper issues, and there are some things that can be done from the Mayor’s office, but quite honestly I believe that the most effective strategy is to inspire hope and a sense of pride in our citizens who are struggling. There are programs and policies in place to educate and enable those who somehow missed the opportunities of our public education system, but we need to make certain that they have access to them and the inspiration to participate.

I’m concerned that many of us do not understand the magnitude of the challenges that those 9,000 and others face on a daily basis. There are honestly some of our fellow citizens for whom a parking ticket or a flat tire on their car represents a major impact on their economic status. Without a family or circle of friends support system, it can become far too easy to lose hope and give up. If drugs and crime are immediately available it shouldn’t be a mystery why they are chosen.

We also need to recognize, but not shame, those who are struggling with mental health issues. I would hope that we have learned by now that entangling them in the cycle of law enforcement, incarceration and unemployability is not leading to success for them nor safety for the rest of us.

So, we need to do a better job of identifying those who need help and will be responsive to it and, I believe, take a less punitive attitude toward them. In a very real sense, many of us who are succeeding at life must not give up on those who are struggling. More of life consists of work than leisure, and great satisfaction can be derived from work well done. The job of improving this community belongs to all of us, not just the Mayor. And yes, any project we embark on will require some financial support. My preference is to see some of our city’s financial resources directed to addressing the issues discussed here rather than toward a extremely risky arena project on Lake Ave. Particularly if, as is currently the situation, that project would add nearly $65 million to our already dangerous debt load.

Cory Mason

The skills gap is a huge barrier to overcoming poverty. Not only do most employers require at least a high school education, many companies readily admit they have job openings, but applicants simply lack the soft skills to fill them. There are few things more frustrating than leading the state in unemployment while jobs go unfilled because of the lack of skilled workers.

The future belongs to the municipality that figures out how to close that gap, and I believe we can do it. We must invest in a serious way with partners like Gateway, First Choice Pre-Apprenticeship, and Big Step to train more people for the building trades and high-tech jobs that are just around the corner. Foxconn coming to our area presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to move thousands of area residents into good, middle class jobs. As mayor, one of my biggest priorities will be to ensure that we are trained and ready for those jobs.

Fabian Maldonado

One of our goals will be to kick start and expand the trade schools. We want to get these programs going in our schools at all ages in primary and secondary education as well as higher education.

We take the students from abstract theories and place them in an environment where it is half theory and half creating something. Other learning topics such as fine arts can be drawn in once the students are established. Home life impacts school life so if we can assure the students’ meaningful experiences which will open doors to gainful employment; school will once again become relevant.

Melvin Hargrove

The best way to address this situation is availing any appropriate resources to RUSD and our post high school institutions through partnerships.

The city’s partnership wouldn’t stop at these institutions I would actively seek partnerships with non-profits, churches and houses of faith to help address this epidemic.

 

6 Vying For Racine Mayor Seat

Forums Set For Mayoral Election

 

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Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.