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A Nov. 16 article in USA Today, that listed the 15 worst cities for black Americans included Racine. Landing at no. 3 on the list, just behind the metro Milwaukee area and Waterloo-Cedar Falls, Iowa, metropolitan area, the list was created by examining a set of eight data points.
Racine Mayor Cory Mason was not too thrilled to find the city on the list. Again. Racine made an appearance on the same list a year ago, just a few days after he was sworn into office. Mason sat down with Racine County Eye to discuss some of the implications of the article, and more importantly, how the City of Racine will address the issues pointed out in the article.
This is the second installment of a four-part series. Here are the answers to the questions we asked. Check out the first installment.
RCE: You took office at a time when federal and state programs were not only shrinking but in some cases going away. How does the City approach getting the financial support to make changes happen?
CM: Whether its Community Development Block Grants or transportation aids, or shared revenue from state government, (we face) real sustained issues driven by the effects of racism. We need partners at the state and federal level to give us the tools to help us address these inequalities. The City can be the lead partner in getting this done, but it needs to be a partnership.
RCE: What does that cooperation look like?
CM: Whether it’s around policy changes, or support for shared revenue, or the ability to maintain your own roads when the state and federal governments take those resources away, that puts stress on the City’s limited resources.
It’s a key component. I’m am very proud of the local partnerships we’ve forged on these issues. I can’t say enough good things about United Way and Higher Expectations. The County Executive is deeply committed to reducing these inequalities, too. He started the Uplift 900 program. That goes very well with the Racine Works program we’ve got going to get people trained.
We’re stepping up and getting more than $1.5 million in workforce grants to get people into the building trades. That’s something new for us. It’s driven by these kinds of statistics. But it would be nice to have a better state and federal partners to help us with the tools that we need. Whether it’s more flexibility around policy or more resources to sustain our community would make a big difference.
RCE: How is fighting blight in the community an important element in the discussion of racial inequality?
CM: How do you build a community where everybody can succeed and everybody flourishes? Part of what we’ve been doing in neighborhood stabilization, with the budget we just passed, has been twofold. We’ve identified the two most stressed neighborhoods, Lincoln-King and Uptown, and we are going to be very intentional (in working to stabilize those neighborhoods). In putting the budget together, what I heard from almost all of the alders was loud and clear: We have houses in our neighborhoods that are distressed, too. That’s why we put together our neighborhood stabilization program, to begin with. To get grants out to owner-occupants to fix up their houses to make sure they comply and maintain value.
We have great neighborhoods in this community and we have great people in this community. A little bit of effort can go a long way to stabilize those neighborhoods. It won’t solve everything overnight, but we can make some real strides.
Racine County Eye is also bringing back its series on race inequality. Here’s a link to the first project we did called Black Men Speak.
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