KRM vs. Corinne Reid-Owens Project
Even before its appointed time, the decision has been made. Racine City citizens, you are officially on hold. Now, how does that burn?
Mayor Dickert has decided to put the economic development of Racine’s inner city on hold. The proposed redevelopment of the 1300th block of State Street, an area adjacent to the Transit Center, has been officially stamped ‘postponed’. The project, to be labeled the Corinne Reid-Owens Square, is a community supported effort to ‘make more’ out of Racine, providing brand new residential quarters and prime commercial space.
But, today, Dickert has clarified: you can’t always get what you want, at least not until the Mayor gets what he wants.
Scheduled to meet October 7th, the Racine Redevelopment Authority and Racine-native, real estate developer, Brent Oglesby, had an appointment to decide whether or not Oglesby would be allowed to move forward with the Corinne-Reid Owens Square Project. Already a deferred engagement, Oglesby looked forward to the opportunity to passionately advocate the needs and benefits associated with bringing newness and restoration to Racine’s inner city. But, right before he got the chance, Mayor Dickert publically made the decision: a big fat no; “the city has no plans to develop.” Ouch!
So, what was the point of even setting up a meeting in the first place? Community advocate, Alfonso Gardner zealously states, “Why have economic development committees, when the final decision isn’t even in their hands? Obviously, the mayor has the authority to kill projects or let them go through. I feel, as a taxpaying citizen, that the minority community is being cheated!” That being considered, in light of an obvious injustice, must we now question the real role of our elected mayor and to what degree his ‘power’ extends? According to Gardner, the answer is yes: “The mayor and his administration are playing games; there should be no game playing. I will fight for the project until the last breath in my body; Ms. Reid-Owens should be honored [exactly in the way Oglesby has presented].”
So, now we come to this question: why is such a promising project being delayed? Why is a young African American real estate developer begin told ‘no’ when all he wants to do is bring more jobs, affordable housing and aesthetic appeal to his hometown? And why is he being robbed of the opportunity to even advocate his position? According to our newly elected mayor, the progress and prosperity of Racine’s inner city hinges on a final decision regarding the Kenosha Racine Milwaukee (KRM) commuter rail; a wait that could be up to two years from now!
Why is that, you ask? Well, in recent press release, dated October 5th, Mayor Dickert doesn’t exactly say. Yet, in an obviously desperate attempt to soothe over any red-hot opposition, he includes the weak advocacy of memorializing Ms. Reid-Owens in some way, in a future project. “…while there are not current plans for developing the site, by the city, any future project will include a tribute to Ms. Owens.” Dickert also goes so far as to indirectly and misleadingly associating State Representative Bob Turner with the decision made, making the first sentence of his press release read as so: “Mayor Dickert and State Representative Bob Turner announced today that Corinne-Reid Owens will be memorialized as a part of the design of any project, on State Street, that is constructed next to the train station.” Why even mention Representative Turner? Who is he when it comes to the decisions of the city? In his own words, recorded October 6th, Turner stresses the fact that he doesn’t have any weight concerning the city’s decision; yet he fully supports proceeding forward with the proposed project, clearly stating, “If I was on city council, I would yell and scream in support of that project. This project should go forward.”
So, the African American support Dickert was looking to recruit is, yes, in favor of commemorating Corinne Reid-Owens, but not years from now. State Representative Turner advocates fully the project ‘the way it’s supposed to be.” That vital piece of information seemed not to make its way into Dickert’s press release; instead, Turner is positioned as an advocate for postponement – however, this is just not the case. Sorry Dickert.
All in all, one could conjure up a slew of reasons why Dickert says no to the immediate, much-needed edification of Racine’s inner city. Perhaps postponing any development, in lieu of a decision regarding KRM, is to avoid bringing in African American residents that may make Racine look bad, should the commuter rail have to stop at the nearby train station? Or, perhaps, the willing heart of Brent Oglesby is just too young a heart? Regardless of Dickert’s inner reasons, the citizens of the City of Racine need to demand an explanation. Why is our inner city development dependent upon the hope for a commuter rail that may not even come? What should we do while we wait? Continue to decline? How about a shower of hope? How about giving Racine a collective goal we can all work toward? How about giving local and minority contractors some extra work in the next couple of years? How about providing decent, affordable housing to those who’d really appreciate it? How about encouraging commercial expansion in the inner city, and among the minority communities? How about it, Mayor Dickert? We see development all over the city…how about the new brick sidewalks downtown? What are those going to do for the community compared to Oglesby’s project? Nothing; yet there was no delay in having them laid. Must more be said?
Basically, we wind down to this conclusion: Dickert says no, Racine says why?