Tate ran for Mayor Cory Mason’s former seat in the Legislature last year and lost to Greta Neubauer and is most well-known for putting the marijuana referendum on the city’s ballot last fall and authoring the directive to Racine Police Department to issue citations for first-time marijuana possession under 25 grams.
His challenger, Ricky Jarstad, a Neighborhood Watch volunteer, is running for office for the first time and said he would represent those who do not approve of the direction the city is taking.
Residents will get to choose between the two on April 2.
The 3rd District is roughly bounded by Sixth Street or Kinzie Avenue on the north; West Boulevard, Washington Avenue or Taylor Avenue on the west; 21st Street on the south; and Racine Street or the Union Pacific Railroad tracks on the east. To see a map of the district, go online to: www.cityofracine.org/CityAlderman/
Racine aldermen serve two-year terms with an annual salary of $6,899.
The candidates provided some information on their backgrounds and insights into why they are running.
What do you think about the general direction the city is taking?
Jarstad: Most people I have spoken with in the 3rd District and city do not approve the direction the city is taking. Cuts to services, crumbling roads/alleys, bloated debt, serious racial inequality, expanding government secrecy, and tone-deaf city leaders are what I heard most often from neighbors across the district. As a real person, I heard loud and clear their concerns and I will take positive action on their behalf. No one will be left behind.
Tate: For the first time in a long time, the city is moving in a direction where tangible positive progress can be observed. With increased cooperation between the city, surrounding municipalities, and the county, we’re able to address systemic issues that go beyond the limited reach of city government. It is also extremely critical that city leaders establish policies and provisions to ensure that this period of growth and investment is of the benefit of all residents.
What do you think about the city’s recent actions on marijuana possession? Specifically what do you think about the City Council’s recent marijuana directive ordering the Police Department to issue citations, rather than charges, for first time possession offenses for less than 25 grams?
Jarstad: While it was passed in good faith, each officer still has the discretion on whether to charge with the state statute or city ordinance for cannabis possession. The mayor and police chief also set the priorities of city law enforcement so it is them who need to set concrete policy within the RPD. Racine also needs leaders who will personally lobby state leaders in Madison for genuine cannabis reform, beyond just partisan lines.
Editor’s note: Both City Attorney Scott Letteney and Police Chief Art Howell have confirmed that the directive is Racine Police Department policy as of Jan. 17, so charging decisions are not at an officer’s discretion.
Tate: The council’s actions are completely within the bounds of the state statute, which grants municipalities authority to 1) regulate first-time possession offenses 25 gram or less, and; 2) issue lawful orders to the police chief. Further, this is a matter of maximizing law enforcement’s limited resources. Their role is too critical to the safety of the community to be spent on minor marijuana possession. And perhaps most importantly, the Council’s actions are a direct reflection of the will of the people, which is what should happen in a functioning representative democracy.
How would you like to see the city address poverty and high unemployment?
Jarstad: Residents need to be offered genuine opportunities for jobs of the 21st century to thrive and succeed in our community. Apprenticeships and meaningful recruitment drives should be regularly held. The city should also continue to partner with technical colleges to expand opportunities for residents.
Tate: The city must be a leader in setting equitable standards for employment. That means paying a living wage, ensuring that city contractors do the same, and setting workforce inclusion standards for major city projects. The city is currently investing in worker training programming through RCEDC. We must also prioritize Racine-based training programs, such as First-Choice Apprenticeship and Racine Vocational Ministries, as they have been most consistently and effectively working to grow and train our workforce.
How would you like to see the city handle transparency in local government?
Jarstad: One of my reform plans is to create a citizens board for government accountability. The board, which will remain independent from City Hall, will be made up of ordinary citizens who investigate complaints and give their recommendations to the city. Residents of Racine crave honesty and integrity from our city leaders. I will champion it!
Tate: The city can always be more proactive in communicating its plans and actions with residents. Failure to do so can engender feelings of distrust and lack of confidence in government processes. Including a break down of how taxes are divided by the various taxing bodies in tax bills is a good example of proactively informing residents of how their government works. Further, the city should begin to broadcast various committee meetings in the same fashion as the council meetings, as this is where ideas and polices are discussed in much greater detail.
What do you think is the most important issue facing the city and how will you help address it?
Jarstad: The most important issue facing our community today is trust. Residents are growing distrustful of polished politicians. And I hear you. As an independent voice, I am not answerable to any political party or special interest. I will be answerable to residents first and foremost and will take positive and meaningful action on your behalf, making decisions that represent a balance between the will of the people and public safety, and without regard for party politics and personal agendas.
Tate: Racial inequality and inequity. As the third worst city for black people in America, the City of Racine cannot be successful, if major segments of its population are suffering. Racial disparities in health care outcomes, crime, and poverty are all inextricably linked by the underlying systemic racism upon which some of our federal, state, and local policies are established. Any real solution to one must include a solution to the other, and must acknowledge the role that racial prejudice has played in creating the problem.
Three direct solutions are: establishing a federally qualified health clinic so individuals and families can receive the physical and mental health care they need without fear of bankruptcy or deepening poverty; re-establishing the $1 home program from the mid-’90s, which allowed individuals and families to own property, repair the property with low-interest city loans, and build generational wealth and equity; and to continue funding and recruiting for worker training programs and enforce compliance with the Racine Works ordinance.