By Damakant Jayshi

The City Council on Tuesday deferred making a decision on the resolution declaring Wausau ‘A Community for All,’ instead referring the matter back to Wausau’s Economic Development Committee. 

Alderperson Lisa Rasmussen, from Dist. 7, made a motion referring the proposal back to the EDC, saying the proposal was fanning division in the community. The motion carried by a 6-5 margin. 

Rasmussen, also a member of the Economic Development Committee, was against adopting any kind of resolution, saying that document is “not our document; it was created by the Diversity Affairs Commission (of Marathon County).” Rasmussen, who had tried to defer the matter at the EDC meeting of June 1 but eventually voted with other four Alders of the committee to take the measure forward to the council, also criticized Mayor Katie Rosenberg’s May 18 proclamation of declaring Wausau a community for all without prior council input. 

Mayor Rosenberg said she had given the City Council an option to write their own resolution on May 25. 

“It only makes sense to me that the council should own their policy statements,” Rosenberg told Wausau Pilot & Review.

The mayor, who is supportive of the diversity initiative declared the city ‘a community for all’ through a proclamation during a press conference held on the steps of City Hall.

Now, the Economic Development Committee will deliberate further on the matter. Dist. 3 Alderman Tom Kilian was sharply critical of Tuesday’s decision, pointing to past actions by the city that he said have created anything but an equitable community.

“I find last night’s decision disappointing,” Kilian said. “Historically, in relation to City Hall and its policy decisions, Wausau has not been “A Community for All.” It is responsible for bulldozing swaths of homes in diverse, working class neighborhoods like Thomas Street against the people’s will, it spent lavishly on high-end riverfront development with taxpayer dollars while one-third of the children in our town lived in poverty, and it appeared to leverage the needs and plights of the Hmong community in a federal grant application only to, after receiving the funds, do essentially nothing to address them. With this type of unfortunate history, there would have been significance in passing a resolution that affirms that the municipal government, moving forward, is committed to policies that prevent and counter inequality, including socio-economic inequality. Instead, we got what amounted to a partisan foodfight.”

The diversity-focused resolution has drawn opposition from a number of community members who said the proposal was unnecessary and divisive, a charge opposed by those who pushed for the measure to pass. 

The City Council decision comes after the Executive Committee of Marathon County voted down the resolution on May 13. There are varying versions of the diversity-focused resolution, with supporters and opponents making changes to their respective drafts. The county’s executive body is likely to take up the initiative again for consideration next month. 

Damakant Jayshi is a reporter for Wausau Pilot & Review. He is also a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of GroundTruth Project that places journalists into local newsrooms. Reach him at damakant@wausaupilotandreview.com.