Taft, Seaman running for Racine 13th Aldermanic District

municipal judge
Racine City Hall

Racine residents living in the 13th aldermanic district will have two political newcomers to choose from on the ballot during the spring election April 2. Voters will choose from among three political newcomers after Jim Morgenroth filed papers with the city declaring that he would not be seeking re-election.

Find your polling location.

Here are the answers to several key questions.

Natalia Taft, PhD

Racine Alderman District 13

Natalia TaftStreet address 
1301 Cleveland Ave

Length of time living in the community?

Almost 7 years

Occupation

Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences

What is your spouse’s name? 

Benjamin Taft, PhD

Please name any civic groups you have been involved with.

Vice President, Waterworks Commission; Secretary, Wastewater Commission; Superintendent’s Advisory Council

What motivated you to run for office?

The death of a close family member prompted me to think about how I could leave my community a better place as she did. I became more involved in my church and community organizations, and I was inspired by the many amazing people I met that are working so hard to make Racine better.

If you are an incumbent, what accomplishments are you most proud of?

N/A

Name three challenges City of Racine residents are experiencing. 

Racine residents face high unemployment, a steep drop in support for public schools from the state, and the reality that Racine is among the most segregated cities and the third worst for our black residents. Because that issue gets its own question, I also suggest that efficient, affordable public transportation is an important challenge.

How would address those challenges? 

Racine has high unemployment, but we are making progress. The city is exploring initiatives to help train workers and match them with employers such as Racine Works, the newly formed Uplift 900, and several others. Our teachers and public schools have been under attack statewide. This year the city included a more detailed breakdown of where our tax dollars are going in our tax bills, showing that public schools are losing a significant amount of tax dollars to charter schools that are not accountable to the taxpayers. As for transportation, we need to work with our surrounding communities to make sure that we have safe, reliable, and affordable public transit so that people can get to work or school easily.

Name three challenges businesses are experiencing. 
There is also a lot of red tape to get through to get a business started in Racine, and many new businesses don’t have the margins to go through a long process. The real estate in downtown and other parts of the city can be expensive and in need up significant upgrades and repairs. Businesses are also having a hard time finding workers with the skills that they need.

How would you address those challenges?

We can do more to streamline the process to make sure that entrepreneurs have the ability to get up and running as quickly as possible. In addition, programs like the White Box Grant Program are helping accelerate growth in the city to assist building owners to upgrade their spaces so that new businesses can move in. The city Development Department has also used federal legislation to create several Opportunity Zones in the city to encourage investment, with higher rewards the longer they stay. Investments in public education, training for skilled jobs and building better connections between the employers and workforce.

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? 

It is critical that Racine balance new growth with diverse and affordable housing opportunities, including housing subsidies and smaller, mixed developments to encourage a diversity of residents. Already, many residents of Racine are living paycheck to paycheck and are one emergency away from homelessness. The city of Racine has the highest eviction rate of any comparably sized city in the state of Wisconsin. Over 70% of Racine’s landlords are smaller landlords, that have difficulty when their tenants have financial troubles. We need to work with the judges and the court system to find innovative ways to address these problems.

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?

Investing in public schools and innovative educational and training programs is key, and is already underway. The Racine high schools have been converted to the Academies of Racine, focusing on helping students as early in middle school explore their own interests and talents and then provided opportunities to explore potential careers. Gateway Technical School and the University of Wisconsin Parkside provide excellent educational opportunities at affordable costs, with programs to help students meet their financial needs. These institutions are working with regional employers to meet their needs, and connect their students with jobs.

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?

The State of Wisconsin incarcerates more black men per capita than any other state, and so the issue is bigger than the city. However, we need to understand why this is happening in our community. We need transparency and data-sharing between local law enforcement and city government so we can work together toward solutions.

As we saw recently, City Council can seek to reduce harsh penalties for non-violent offenses, and reduce barriers to employment after incarceration. I also enthusiastically support the recent city and county recent efforts to attract a federally qualified healthcare center to the city to serve all residents, particularly low-income residents.

Do you approve or disapprove of using tax incremental finance districts to attract new businesses?

In theory, I am not opposed to the creation of a Tax Incremental District (TID) that then uses a Tax Incremental Finance (TIF). However, they need to be used responsibly and transparently for the affected communities.


Christina Seaman

Racine Alderman District 13

Christina SeamanStreet address 
2710 20th St

Length of time living in the community?

7 years

Occupation
Retail

What is your spouse’s name? 
N/A

Please name any civic groups you have been involved with.
Project Synchronicity, Project New Beginnings.

What motivated you to run for office?
The alderman we currently have in the district is retiring. It is my hope, and that of many I have spoken to, that we elect someone on the council who will be available to us, and to vote on the issues to support our needs.

I interact with hundreds of people from the district and surrounding areas as part of my job at the locally owned Hardware store LEE’S TRUE VALUE. Where I have been told that I am exactly the kind of person we all need representing us. I would be proud to do that.

If you are an incumbent, what accomplishments are you most proud of?
N/A

Name three challenges City of Racine residents are experiencing. 
Broken Families, Insufficient Lighting in some neighborhoods, Dirty Streets (you need to visit other cities to understand this)

How would address those challenges? 
More effective outreach to connect families with available services. Return of the Street Lights to those Neighborhoods that need them. More and better-placed trash receptacles to co-exist with an anti-litter campaign.

Name three challenges businesses are experiencing. 

Reduced Traffic because some patrons fear older neighborhoods, Shoplifting, competition from large chain stores.

How would you address those challenges?

We’ve had several police officers on “paid administrative leave” for years! Any such situations that require time off, must be managed more efficiently. We have manpower shortage on the police force and it makes no sense to pay long term salaries to anyone not working. We also must STOP throwing money at “projects” that end up going nowhere!

Properly funding our Public Works would be much more Valuable investment. We would be wise to also give recognition and support to our SMALL LOCAL BUSINESSES. It seems that the bulk of such support has been going to bars and restaurants. There are others that need and deserve attention.

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? 

In all of the excitement about Foxconn, an important byproduct seems to be routinely overlooked, and that is rising property values and housing costs. BEFORE initiating this project was the time to consider this. Rising property taxes are a real part of rising housing costs. NOW is the time for everyone to pay their fair share and I’m very disappointed that Mayor Mason has taken action to make his property taxes the lowest in his neighborhood. That’s not leadership, that is ELITISM.

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?

I don’t believe that hiring expensive skills training “program directors” is the most effective strategy. We have a very successful, though largely overlooked jobs trainer in our community named Ola Baiyewu. He doesn’t just teach work skills, he teaches life skills and I believe we should study what he is doing. Support him in whatever way we can, and expand on what he is doing.

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?

That reality is not by accident. It is a reflection of deeply ingrained prejudices within law enforcement and the courts and a minority community where resignation to failure and petty criminality has been accepted when other options can’t be seen. I’m from a mixed background and I have seen this up close. Replacing this broken system is not a solution, repairing the broken relationships between communities is what is needed because it is people from those communities that will run any “system.”

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 880 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.