With six candidates to choose from, figuring out who to vote for in the Racine mayoral election can be a daunting task. So Racine County Eye is running a series of stories to help voters make an informed decision.

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.

This is the second set of questions we asked the candidates running for Mayor of Racine. Each candidate submitted their answer, which has been lightly edited.

We asked the candidates:

What are the three biggest challenges Racine faces and how would address them?

Austin Hernandez

Jobs, obstructionist, and lack of skilled training….

Racine has to decipher between the lies and who is telling the truth. Racine’s diversity is a huge asset and looking down on how they work or how they live. I think I could give them a solution on how important they are to the community. You don’t have to leave Racine to get a job or an education; you can get that here in Racine.

I think getting involved in youth employment and giving high school youths an open advantage for when they graduate, that, as Mayor can give them the opportunity as part of our working force. As mayor giving opportunity in education and providing skill training, even in computer coding. We can open a better option for stable living.

Wally Rendon

Improve our infrastructure

Improve the unemployment

Attract new businesses

 

 

Sandy Weidner

Ensuring that our neighborhoods are safe, secure and well-maintained. We have a well trained and dedicated police department under Chief Howell, but I believe they could be better utilized. For example, our law enforcement officers should not be expected to manage situations that would more appropriately be handled by mental health professionals. Another neighborhood issue is the new “bulky waste” policy that goes into effect in September. We must make certain that it effectively meets the needs of our citizens in maintaining their properties.

Returning fiscal responsibility to city hall. Racine has embarked on several redevelopment projects that have cost a lot of money and not produced the predicted and needed results. We are now one of, if not the, most deeply indebted city in Wisconsin. As your mayor, I would end this pattern and work diligently to get our community back on solid financial ground. I will also remove the firewall that exists in city hall that makes it difficult for both citizens and council members to access important information.

I will change city hall culture to encourage rather than inhibit small and local businesses who are working to develop and grow. Racine became a strong and prosperous city due to the ingenuity and hard work of our citizens. We need to return to that model and stop basing our hopes on the idea of someone from outside bailing us out of our difficulties.

Cory Mason

Poverty and a lack of middle-class jobs. We need to align the resources in our community to address the education, employment, healthcare, infrastructure, and be dogged in our efforts to reduce poverty. Poverty continues to be a driver for so many other challenges in the community. If we want to improve student achievement, we have to address poverty. If we want to address healthcare disparities ranging from mental health to infant mortality, we have to address poverty.

If we want employers to have the skilled workers they need, we have to address poverty. There is no one silver bullet that can cure poverty. I helped lead the effort locally to apply for a federal promise zone to address poverty. Though we did not get selected (only a small handful of communities did) it required us to identify where poverty is most acute and develop a plan to reduce poverty neighborhood by neighborhood. There are areas in Racine with more than 60% poverty and unemployment. How we address poverty in our community will require determination, marshaling resources from the public and private sectors, and years of commitment. I am the candidate best qualified to do that.

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.

Racism and discrimination. Although we live in a city that was built by immigrants, the immigrants of today face a level of discrimination that I have not seen in my lifetime. Discrimination based on the color of one’s skin or national origin cannot be tolerated. We live in a community where minorities are disproportionately impacted by unemployment, lower educational attainment, and have poorer health care outcomes. I will work on closing those gaps so Racine can be a place where everyone succeeds. Diversity is one of our greatest strengths. It’s time we started acting like it.

Fabi Maldonado

One of the biggest challenges for Racine is holding the Racine Redevelopment Authority (RDA) accountable for wasting millions of dollars on failed projects. Just on Machinery Row the RDA has wasted over $6 million dollars and these are the same people pushing for the arena/event center.

The goal will be to hold the RDA members accountable for their actions. Another challenge would be the price tag for this arena/event center. We’re currently at 101 million dollars in debt. This arena comes with a price tag of over 60 million dollars. Putting our city dangerously close to bankruptcy. My goal will be to stop the event center project with all my capacity.

Finally, Southeastern Wisconsin has the highest incarceration rate of young African American males in the whole United States of America. We have already led the charge to decriminalize marijuana in the City of Racine. We collected over 5000 signatures from the people of Racine to have their voice heard. The goal is to keep people who commit nonviolent crimes out of jail/prison. As mayor I will do everything in my capacity to accomplish that.

Melvin Hargrove

One of the biggest challenges is our budget. Racine has a very tight budget with very little room to operate. Our income and expenses barely balance. I would take a more proactive approach to developing a strategic plan to prioritize our income and expenses over the next three years in focus areas such as infrastructure, quality of life, fiscal management, would be among some of the areas.

Another challenge Racine face is obstacles that are encountered when trying to start a small business. As I have talked with constituents in the community they express their concerns about the process being difficult and confusing. I would establish a 2-3 page document detailing who, where, what and when as it relates to having all information necessary for a successful application process. I would establish a volunteer”small business ambassador” to help guide in the process.

A third challenge is the skills gap that exists. I would seek whatever partnership necessary with RUSD and the business community that would help address this challenge. 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?

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.

Forums Set For Mayoral Election

6 Vying For Racine Mayor Seat

 

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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.