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This afternoon I attended a Marathon County Board Executive Committee meeting. On the agenda was a recommendation for the dissolution of the Diversity Affairs Commission. County supervisor Craig McEwan and Jacob Langenhans brought this proposal to the committee.
The reason McEwan stated for wanting to dissolve the Diversity Affairs Commission was that his constituents were complaining that non-elected community members who serve on the commission shouldn’t have a role in making this policy for the county. He also said that many other supervisors stated their constituents had the same concern. In reality, every single Marathon County Board committee is comprised of non-elected community members. Every. Single. One.
As if the Marathon County board couldn’t look any worse after not passing the Community For All resolution last summer, this shows they’ve learned nothing. These board members who voted against inclusion feel they have community support now to go even further on anti-inclusive policy and basically tell marginalized communities their voices don’t matter. Meanwhile, county boards across the state of Wisconsin are implementing diversity and inclusion initiatives because they recognize inclusive communities are essential for economic growth.
Marathon County was actually ahead of the curve with our Diversity Affairs Commission. I think the supervisors who presented this proposal are counting on the fact that the conservative leaning candidates are going to win the election this April and if that happens, getting the board to dissolve the Diversity Affairs Commission would be easy with a new whiter, more conservative board in place. If those candidates win their districts there will only be one person of color on the entire 38-member Marathon County Board.
I refuse to believe that there are more people in Marathon County who are against making our county welcoming and inclusive then are for it. I’ve lived in the area all my life I don’t believe people don’t recognize the importance of ensuring all people feel included and welcomed. I just think those who don’t see the value of inclusion are the loudest. Do you support a more diverse inclusive Marathon County but haven’t said anything publicly or to friends? Am I wrong about the people who live here? Is this county really going to continue to go backwards?
If you live here and haven’t said anything to support inclusion, it’s time to speak up.
Businesses who can’t find workers, who believe in the value of a diverse community: It’s time to speak up.
For those of you who want to keep this community insulated, isolated and white, enjoy it now because people already don’t want to move here, the kids leave as soon as they graduate, and professionals who currently live here want to move away. Marathon County, backwards is where we’re headed if voters don’t step up and vote for inclusion this April.