Damakant Jayshi

City and county officials on Thursday agreed to continue their discussions on the need for a joint body on diversity efforts but took no official action, after members differed on the path forward.

A joint meeting between City of Wausau’s Liberation and Freedom Committee (LFC) and Marathon County’s Diversity Affairs Commission (DAC) did not result in any final decision on forming a joint entity on diversity, which has become a contentious issue in Wausau and Marathon County. Both the city and county failed to take action on resolutions declaring “A Community for All,” instead deferring matters back to their assigned committees.

Marathon County Administrator Lance Leonhard said if a joint body were to be formed, governing bodies of both the county and the city would have to approve it.

During discussions this week even the members who wanted to form a joint body asked questions about the structure, budget, reporting relationships, and the fate decisions taken at the joint body would have. Others opposed forming such an entity altogether and wanted to continue the efforts on diversity separately by holding occasional joint meetings. Still others wanted to continue with separate bodies at the city and county levels, but have a liaison to coordinate the efforts of both. 

The meeting adjourned after members agreed to further discuss options in their respective municipalities and have another joint meeting in the future.

The subject of diversity has aroused considerable passion and differences from supporters and opponents of diversity-related resolutions at the city and county side. Those pushing to declare the county and city ‘a community for all’ through a formal resolution say doing so is necessary to attract talent to the region, Further, they argue, a resolution is the right thing to do in light of ongoing national conversations about race and inequality.

Those opposed to the proposal contend that such measures are divisive and unnecessary, and say the diversity resolutions aim to paint white people as racist while promoting redistribution of wealth, a charge denied by supporters.

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.

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