• Christine Pribbenow

Village Trustees Respond to Questions from MEP Community

Updated: Mar 24


The MEP Community emailed all four of the McFarland Village Trustee candidates and invited them to answer the following 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.


 

Mike Flaherty


McFarland faces two major challenges when considering how to combat racism and inequities in our village:


1) We need to attract a more diverse population. McFarland is NOT diverse. The recent Census shows McFarland is 95.4 percent White and 2.3 percent Black — percentages that have remained constant over the 30 years I’ve lived here. We can’t change this overnight or even in the next few years. But moving forward, we need to focus on affordable housing as well as creating an inviting community for all — and we need to start now.


2) The other is more specific: How do we alter, redirect, change village government to combat racism or discrimination? First, we must ensure our hiring policies are color-blind and open to all folks. Second, we need to ensure that our police are well-trained in the art and science of community policing, with special sensitivity to the dangers of racial profiling.


Finally, I’ll be listening carefully to our consultants and our DEI committee’s recommendations that should help us specify problem areas and provide concrete suggestions to address them. (We don’t know what we don’t know, right?) Perhaps it will be in the form of programming. Communications? Currently, our village government is focused primarily on infrastructure (streets, sewer, water, parks), public safety, and the library. Madison, by contrast, has hundreds of programs for housing, recreation, arts, transit, health, etc, that gives the city tools to address racism and inequalities. But first, let’s better understand our weaknesses and blindspots, then let’s think creatively together how to address them.


On a final note, I know from experience it's hard to change people’s minds and attitudes. That’s why I’m so impressed with the leading role our schools have taken to educate our children about racism and equality. The future rests with our young people — and our school system has done an amazing job to help them build that future..


TJ Jerke


1. Racial equity and justice intersect when all members of the community feel safe and connected, have the same opportunities to live the quality of life they want, and local decision making is done with collective input and through an equitable lens for the benefit of everyone. By leveraging this intersection, the Village can foster a community atmosphere welcoming to everyone, which creates an environment that leads to future growth and fosters collaboration. These priorities are important to develop and maintain as the Village develops and adopts future policies, such as the Eastside Neighborhood Growth Plan, which will be critical for bringing affordable housing, new and expanded business, and new community-wide opportunities to the Village.


2. The Village Board plays a role in creating opportunities and establishing long-term priorities and social infrastructure that fosters a community culture where diversity, equity and inclusion is naturally ingrained in all decision making. One way the Village is creating these opportunities is through the recent promotion of the ad-hoc Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion subcommittee to become a regular, standing committee that will provide recommendations to the Village Board. It will be important for Village Board members to not only support the committee’s work, but help find ways to bolster their efforts moving forward to make sure all Village decisions are made through a diverse, equitable, and inclusive lens. The Village Board also has opportunities to partner with community organizations and the McFarland School District to collaboratively identify where inequality and injustice exists, understand the root causes, strategically address the underlying issues, and develop long-term, sustainable solutions. I believe this can be done through joint ventures such as the Memorandum of Agreement (MOU) to create the McFarland School Board and Village Board Joint Planning Committee, which will solidify their partnership and collaboration on joint initiatives and programs such as diverse policies, school resource officers, community recreation, among many other topics.


3. The Village is well positioned to foster more collaborative partnerships with leaders and organizations to create programming and opportunities to encourage regular dialogue that will inform and change policies to ensure equitable access to programs and services. I believe it is important for the Village Board to increase community trust and involvement in local government by offering more options for community members to be seen and heard. I welcome regular dialogue and hope to implement new opportunities for Village residents to speak with me about Village issues so that I can gather input and leverage the unique experiences and abilities of all community members into Village Board decisions. It’s equally important to me to do this while creating educational opportunities that encourage more residents to get involved in Village government and decision making.


 

Edward J. Wreh II


A community is not solely its majority, and decisions should be vetted thoroughly and through equitable lenses for a more precise understanding of the impact on marginalized groups. The policies and systems that have adversely affected minority groups were not built and implemented overnight and have long existed since the birth of our nation. I mention this because I am not naïve enough to think that I can solve all the systematic issues within our community by myself. What I can do, as a board member of the Village of McFarland, is always to do (reactively and proactively) what is ethical. I will also work alongside those in my community to address barriers and historical factors that have led to unjust conditions for any marginalized population.


My three platform priorities are DEI, Sustainability, and Community Partnership/ Collaboration. I am in my position today because those before me stood up against injustice, and they did so fearlessly and unapologetically. In that light and confidence, I can unapologetically state that the Village Board most certainly has a significant role and responsibility in disrupting and dismantling systemic racism and countering historical and persistent inequalities. McFarland will be a community where people are loved and embraced based on character rather than race, sex, gender, religion, disability, etc.


Creating a DEI committee and recent budgeting of funds for affordable housing is an excellent start, but we, as a board, are still maturing in our DEI journey. We need to look at more programs that help lower-income families close some of the educational gap caused by a lack of resources. Second, I would like to see the village partner with the City of Madison and evaluate ways to extend mental health resources to McFarland. Mental health is a crisis, and access and availability to resources is an area of opportunity in Dane county. Lastly, I would like to see a creation of a full-time DEI Director or Manager role led by a distinguished leader who can help us be more intentional and impactful.

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