Name three long-term goals you have for the County and why you chose them.
1) Inter-municipal cooperation: there’s a very challenging history between the municipalities represented at the county board–particularly between the city and it’s surrounding municipalities—and the discord ends in all of our communities losing, ultimately. I’d like to bring a fresh start, work long-term to rebuild those relationships and change the narrative around who we are collectively as a county. 2) Responsible Economic Development—With what we have on the horizon, economic development is almost a sure thing in Racine County for these upcoming years. However, whether that economic development comes in a way that will benefit the people who need it most or whether it will act more as a steam-roller over those coming from generational poverty and chronic underemployment will depend on how attentive and responsible we are throughout the process. Since I am in District 1, the goal of seeing this through responsibly is especially a goal I believe we need to prioritize long term. 3) Comprehensive Criminal Justice Reform—SE Wisconsin is riddled with problems related to mass incarceration and there is literally nowhere in the country that incarcerates black males at a higher rate than the region we live in. Think about that. This is a crisis and to not treat it as one of our highest priorities would be profoundly irresponsible. We need a corrections system that does just that—corrects behaviors and helps stabilize people reentering the community. But instead, we have a system that often sends returning offenders back into the community in worse shape than when they came, destabilizing families and endangering, rather than protecting, our communities—and further endangering the law enforcement working so hard to protect us. But there are so many new, evidence-based models being used throughout the country to undo that frightening trend. The C.O.P. houses we have in District 1 and elsewhere are a great example of that. We’ve already begun to implement some of these models, but we need to make it a long-term priority to work on more so that system is serving us again, and that we’re no longer serving it.
What are the three biggest challenges the County faces and how would address them?
The one biggest challenge—and potential opportunity–the county is facing is Foxconn. But because it would likely change every single sector of life in this county, here are three areas where I think the challenges are biggest: 1) Infrastructure—We’re going to need to very quickly do infrastructure projects in preparation for Foxconn that most places might spend a decade plus thinking over, preparing and implementing. And we’re going to need to do them with fewer resources because we all know 4.5 billion tax dollars have been devoted to seeing Foxconn arrive. That’s $4.5 billion less we have to devote to infrastructure (or education, or anything else for that matter). This is going to be an enormous challenge and we are going to have to scrutinize every step of it if it is going to be done the right way. 2) Safety/Quality of life—Foxconn is going to magnify everything in the county, which means the good things may get better, but the bad things may get worse. If things go as planned, we can expect a more challenging time to manage levels of crime and violence—in part simply because there will be more people here. Even the human trafficking issues so many in the county have worked so well to combat are expected to see a spike with Foxconn, so these are challenges we need to be preparing for right now. 3) Lastly, I’ll revisit Responsible Economic Development– it is going to be a major challenge to balance sudden economic development with protecting all of us who are already community members here. Racine County is currently benefitting from some of the most affordable housing stock in the country, which is the only reason why my wife and I could even buy a home, for instance. And, while so many of us work to minimize the poverty levels here, we also know that it is high in part because we’re a community that has fought to make it a place where people down on their luck can survive and have a service network, whether you’re a disabled veteran, living with mental illness or economically disadvantaged for other reasons. We can’t take that for granted; neighbors like Kenosha are proud of their lower poverty rates, but many would say it’s because they’re actively unwelcoming communities to people with economic struggles. Incorporating economic development while not squeezing out our most vulnerable populations and not over-gentrifying our diverse communities will be a challenge that I think, at this point, I haven’t even really heard much discussion about. I want to help see that change and I want us thinking about it at every decision.
The County is poised for growth, but many County residents struggle with employment. How should it adapt to that growth?
I suppose I’ve already talked about that, but to reiterate once more: we need to adapt diligently and thoughtfully, with a holistic approach, keeping everyone in our community in mind. We need to proceed with intention. With Foxconn or any other corporate neighbor, we need specified and agreed upon goals, because if we don’t have them as a county, then we’re just being reactionary to whatever a new business comes in and tells us they’re doing. We need contractually obligatory goals that are legally actionable if those goals are ignored, or even not met in good faith. The expectations have to be clearly legislated, as do the consequences for if those expectations aren’t met. Because this is our community first—we’re the ones truly invested in it and we’re the only ones who are going to fight for its best interests.
How would you describe your leadership style?
Collaborative, cooperative and inclusive. I am strongly progressive, but I want to work across all boundaries, aisles, and divisions with people. I care about good ideas that will benefit the community. That’s it. I don’t care about who came up with them or how that person may be affiliated politically, what their history is. I don’t care if I get credit or they do. I plan to invite as many people into the political process as possible, not just try to be a lone ranger solving Racine County’s problems by myself. None of these things can be solved by one person so we need someone who is going to represent the whole community and organize them and their political will to get the things done that no one of us can alone.
Why should people elect you?
Because I have been incredibly involved in this community since I moved here over a decade ago. Because those who know me already know that I will—and already do–work every day to make it better for everyone here. Because I will be an outspoken public servant pushing on enormous issues in our community that some local leaders are hiding from and pretending don’t even exist. And because I will not be doing any of this alone—because I will prioritize communicating regularly with constituents and making sure that, when decisions are being made, they don’t just reflect what I value. They’ll reflect what we value.
Learn about Nick Demske’s opponent, Donnie Snow.
The Spring election will be held on Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018.
Find your polling location here.
Learn more about the other Racine County Board candidates.
District 1 Candidates:
Donnie Snow (i)
District 12 Candidates:
Ronald Molnar (i)
Donald J. Trottier*
District 14 Candidates:
Katherine Buske (i)
*Editor’s note: We’re still working on getting responses to candidates questions at this time.