1. I see it as vitally important that we return fiscal responsibility to our local government. Racine taxpayers are among the most heavily taxed in Wisconsin yet we have seen services reduced while our debt load has increased. We are on an unsustainable path and we must reduce spending on projects that should be funded by private investors and focus on the less glamorous but fundamentally necessary needs while we reduce our debt load.
2. We have a beautiful harbor, marina and festival site but they are all underutilized and require annual financial support. I will work with the civic center commission to create policies that allow more people and groups to afford these facilities and hopefully eliminate the need to subsidize them. Under the current management model, they are not stimulating downtown activity as effectively as they should.
3. We need to restructure the requirements necessary for small businesses to develop in our community. I have heard far too many stories of how people have attempted to open a business only to be saddled with legal startup costs that consume too much of their capital and divert their time and energy to complying with regulations that do not guarantee public safety. I’ve also heard complaints of inequitable enforcement of our laws and ordinances. This not only discourages business growth, but it could expose the city to legal consequences.
What are the three biggest challenges Racine faces and how would address them?
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
The City of Racine remains among the highest with its unemployment rate and 11,000 Racine residents don’t have a GED or high school diploma. How would you address that?
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 an 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.
How would you attract new businesses to Racine?
Businesses are attracted to locations where they find a safe, stable community that offers them a pool of competent and reliable workers, access to the resources to produce whatever products they desire to, and efficient, reliable transportation resources to distribute those products to the larger market.
We have work to do to create such an environment, perhaps most especially where transportation is concerned. That might be directed toward a revitalization of ground transportation (rails and roads) or “cyber-transport” of data products, which would require us to more effectively link to the “information superhighway” that is the internet. The latter strategy could require working to adjust state regulations that currently restrict some possibilities there.
Why should people elect you?
They should elect me if they agree with the positions I have discussed briefly here because I am fully and enthusiastically committed to them.
Learn about Sandy Weidner’s challenger, Jennifer Adamski-Torres.
The Spring election will be held on Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018.
Find your polling location here.
Learn more about the other Common Council candidates.