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  • Writer's pictureChristine Pribbenow

2023 Village Trustee Candidates Respond to Questions from MEP

On April 4th, the Spring Election will decide who becomes the next Trustees for the Village of McFarland. The McFarland Equity Project invited all four candidates to answer three questions:

  1. As you consider your platform priorities, what are specific examples of how racial equity and justice intersect and influence the priorities you would like to see the McFarland Village Board focus on in the future? And, why?

  2. What is the role of the village board in disrupting and dismantling systemic racism and countering the historical and persistent inequalities?

  3. What steps, if any, do you believe should be taken so that all community members feel a sense of belonging in the village and have equitable access to programs and services?

Three of the candidates provided responses.

Hilary Brandt

1. To put it simply, verifiable justice is impossible to achieve without racial equity. To deny the need for racial equity along with the refusal to confront it will most definitely lead to a less cohesive, prosperous, and vibrant McFarland. Money is a common theme and concern in government. Systemic racism carries significant economic costs; it prevents people from making the most of their economic potential. There is a serious racial wealth gap in the United States. According to a 2019 study by McKinsey and Company, the racial wealth gap is projected to cost our economy between $1 and $1.5 Trillion in lost consumption and investment between 2019 and 2028. Racial equity is often adopted due to sheer morality, however I wanted to shed light on the fact that these inequities have multi-faceted consequences- even financial.

2. Disrupting and dismantling systemic racism is recognizing that racism itself is less pervasive as it was maybe 30 years ago. We are now facing more subtle forms of racism such as inadequate enforcement of anti-discrimination laws, segregation and discrimination in housing, ineffective use of dissemination of data, and dozens more. By dissecting our Village’s policies and procedures and holding all those in leadership roles accountable, we will find the inequities to continue to get closer to the ultimate goal of racial inclusion and equity. Our recent efforts in creating a full-time Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging position in the Village will aid in these attempts to eliminate historic inequities and collectively help us evaluate our own implicit biases to create a stronger community as a whole.

3. I am a strong advocate for our community to continue on its life-long path of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging attainment. However, I believe this work will never truly be complete and should always be evolving and growing with its community members and their needs. To legitimately create an inclusive community where every member feels celebrated, seen, and heard we must focus first on seeking equity for all members of McFarland; without all four components (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Belonging) we will never see authentic outcomes. Using the allotted funds for DEIB trainings and programs will help Village staff and residents to learn their own implicit biases and begin (and forever continue) to unlearn such stereotypes, so that we can ensure that we see people as individuals and not be blinded by our unconscious biases through historical stereotyping. This is something that is ongoing and will take time and effort from each member of the community. The creation and hiring of a person for the DEIB role will help in an abundance of ways. Hiring a professional with the expertise, background, and specific educational credentials to help uncover inequities in all areas of the village will be an invaluable piece to reaching our DEIB goals. This individual will help guide, push, and pull us toward this goal of community inclusivity. To be celebrated for who you are as a person and embraced by your community furthers our unwavering dedication for community health sustainability in the Village of McFarland.

Stephanie Brassington

1. When I think of equity in the village as it relates or intersects with justice I think of some of the programs that we currently have and I support. Restorative justice programs, Mental Health training for our police department, collaborative efforts between senior outreach and the Police and Fire department, Shopping with a cop, fishing with a cop (cops and bobbers - Spring rec program). I support and encourage community policing efforts and strong communication. We need to build on what we have started.

2. First and foremost we have to be open to change. We have to look at our past decisions regarding policies and procedures and review those decisions with a different lens. Is it possible that our ordinances, codes and policies negatively impact residents in our community? Have we inadvertently created marginalized segments of our community? As a board we need to be aware of the impact of our decisions on all residents in the village and we have to work with staff to review current policies and procedures to make sure we are supporting all Diversity, equity and Inclusion initiatives in all that we do.

3. We need to work towards a common goal of integrating diverse conversations within our community. We need to listen to our residents and find out what resources they need to enjoy a better quality of life in McFarland. Our residents with special needs or disabilities need to know that they have safe, comfortable access to our facilities, meetings and future programming. Our senior population has very specific needs. We need to communicate in different formats. We need to create better opportunities and open dialogue so that all residents know that their voices are heard.

Luke Fessler

1. Racial equity, along with broader Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB), should be a lens that we use to look at every decision coming before the Board. It should help to influence our policies, procedures, and staffing decisions as we move forward in the Village. We need to seek out voices and opinions that will help us recognize disparities in the village.

2. The Village Board’s role is to create budgets, policies, and systems within the Village and to oversee the jobs done by our Village Administrator and department heads. For the Board to make meaningful change, we will have to look at our current policies to ensure that the systems and programs in place give equitable access to those who need it. We need to ensure that we build the budget to put money toward programs that help to bridge gaps felt by those who have been historically marginalized. Finally, we must be vigilant and use data to ensure that our policies and laws are being implemented equitably.

3. To create a sense of belonging for all in the Village, we should continue to sponsor events like the McFarland Community Festival that help to bring the community together. We can ensure that we create gathering spaces and programming, such as the proposed Community Center Re-design that aims to be a fun and safe location for all ages and demographics. We need to make sure our parks, streets, and government buildings reflect the Village’s core DEIB values to create a welcoming space so people can enjoy the village and feel they truly belong here.

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