5th aldermanic district race: Levie and Smetana

Voter Guide

Racine residents living in the 5th aldermanic district will choose from Jennifer Levie and Steve Smetana on the ballot April 2.

Find your polling location. Here are their answers to several key questions.

Jennifer Levie

Racine Alderman District 5

Jennifer LevieEmail address
levie.alderman@gmail.com

Street address 
421 William St – 53402

Length of time living in the community?
12. 5 years

Occupation
ESL Teacher for RUSD

What is your spouse’s name? 
Allen Levie

Please name any civic groups you have been involved with.
Racine Literacy Council, Voces De La Frontera, former vice-president and president of the Racine Education Association

What motivated you to run for office?
I am running for alderwoman because I believe in the common good, which means making Racine the most livable city in America. Family sustaining jobs, great city services, clean water and air, a strong infrastructure and a city where we all rise together are my hopes and dreams for Racine.

If you are an incumbent, what accomplishments are you most proud of?
I am not an incumbent.

Name three challenges City of Racine residents are experiencing. 
Recently I held a neighborhood listening session for 5th District residents. There were around 40 people in attendance. The three top issues they raised were a need for more street lighting, absentee landlords not monitoring and keeping up their property, and crime.

How would you address those challenges? 
With residents, I would lobby for increased lighting services during the annual budget process and advocate for using green technology to generate the power for lamp-post lighting.

The city of Racine has set up housing inspector teams to monitor residential housing concerns. I would work to identify problem landlords and work with the city housing department to solve problems associated with absentee landlords.

Neighborhood Watch has a solid history of improving neighborhoods and reducing crime. I would work with constituents and adjoining district alders wanting to establish neighborhood block clubs that would percolate up issues and build community.

Name three challenges businesses are experiencing. 
Recently I attended the Northside Business and Professional Association meeting. I would continue to meet with business associations and businesses in this historic area along Douglas Avenue area to identify their issues. They have a committed group of people with deep roots in our community. This area is one of the three Business Improvement Districts in Racine. While this area has a great location to our downtown and is ripe for community entrepreneurs with a variety of commercial space available, it struggles with low-income levels in the area and some areas of disrepair.

How would you address those challenges?
I would work with business associations to garner local and state economic development resources to assist in challenges that business face. I have experience with the complex and interwoven challenges that educational systems are facing, including low-income families and building repair needs. There are similarities to problem-solving in any complex system. Racine County Economic Development Corporation and our city Economic Development staff are also working on the complex issues that businesses are facing. I would seek to educate myself more on these issues. I am also a strong proponent of networking and appreciating the diversity of our city.

Foxconn is slated to build a 22-million-square-foot manufacturing campus and a number of other residential and commercial projects have been proposed in Racine. How would you address Racine’s rising housing costs? 
Recent news concerning Foxconn’s possible pullback and changes to their commitment to our community is very unsettling. Municipal planning and responses to this major project demand certainty and accountability for long-range goals from all parties, especially Foxconn. Regarding housing costs, the suddenness and scale of the Foxconn project put unique challenges in front of us. Racine, surrounding municipalities and financial institutions can work to create opportunities to maximize owner-occupied housing, including low-income home ownership. We need to ensure that Foxconn and developers build, not just luxury housing, but create affordable family-friendly development as well.

A number of businesses are hiring, but Racine’s workforce is not prepared to meet that challenge. How would you help address the skills gap?
Gateway Technical College is working hard to meet these demands. I would encourage city government to continue networking with existing efforts to identify community needs and train students on the skills needed to meet area business needs. The high schools currently have an academy model that has a strong connection to the business community.

Racine was named the third worst place for black people to live. How would you address racial disparity as it applies to access to health care, tackling crime, and poverty?
Our mayor and black leaders have all publicly indicated that no one entity can solve these problems. First and foremost, as a city and region, we need to have the will to recognize and solve racial disparity, and secondly, we need a collective plan. City leaders need to hold community forums to discuss the scope of the problem, create task forces to develop recommendations to solve these problems, and institutions with economic and political power need to be convinced to develop policies that will change this horrible situation in our community.

Do you approve or disapprove of using tax incremental finance districts to attract new businesses?
I would need to have a listening session with my constituents to get their input on this issue before making a decision.


Steve Smetana

Racine Alderman District 5

Email address
stevesmet64@gmail.com

Street address 
426 Romayne Ave

Length of time living in the community?
A lifelong resident of Racine and 28 years living in the 5th District

Occupation
Private Sector career at Putzmeister America.

What is your spouse’s name? 
Evelyn Hauser-Smetana

Please name any civic groups you have been involved with.
None currently

What motivated you to run for office?
The desire to serve the residents of the 5th District and the City of Racine. To be the residents of the 5th District’s voice and to help communicate concerns on their behalf. I strive to be positive and transparent in everything I do. I simply love helping people.

If you are an incumbent, what accomplishments are you most proud of?
I’m especially proud of my communications with residents. Here are a few examples of where I have been able to help. Added 4 way stop at Walton & N Wisconsin. Worked with Parks Department to clear bluffs on Michigan Blvd ( North of Zoo). Advocated for Wild Root Market.

Name three challenges City of Racine residents are experiencing. 
Reduction of services. High property taxes. The growth of long term debt.

How would address those challenges? 
Fiscal responsibility.

Name three challenges businesses are experiencing. 
High property tax evaluations, lack of customers disposable income (Economy) and regulations.

How would you address those challenges?
Encourage more development to spread the tax burden over more shoulders.

Foxconn is slated to build a 22-million-square-foot manufacturing campus and a number of other residential and commercial projects have been proposed in Racine. How would you address Racine’s rising housing costs? 
I suggest the city builds neighborhoods in some of our large empty properties in the city. This could increase the tax base in the City of Racine by developing these underutilized spaces.

A number of businesses are hiring, but Racine’s workforce is not prepared to meet that challenge. How would you help address the skills gap?
Racine’s workforce preparation is addressed through State & County initiatives. I will continue to support collaboration with other levels of government including RUSD offering training in the trades as high school credits.

Racine was named the third worst place for black people to live. How would you address racial disparity as it applies to access to health care, tackling crime, and poverty?
I would encourage young adults to look to UW-Parkside Promise Plus program, Gateway Technical College for its Gateway Promise program and First Choice Pre-Apprenticeship Training.

Do you approve or disapprove of using tax incremental finance districts to attract new businesses?
I would need more information before deciding.

About Denise Lockwood 807 Articles
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.