Kenosha's 'Commit To Action Roadmap' Includes Community Listening Sessions

Sep 15, 2020

Kenosha's mayor has announced the goals of a community improvement plan following last month's police shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake, and the unrest that followed. Blake was severely wounded when shot seven times by a Kenosha police officer.

Mayor John Antaramian says the next big step in what he calls a "Commit to Action Roadmap" will be four community listening sessions starting Sunday.

But some activists in Kenosha hope they're not being left out.

Antaramian says he worked with local faith leaders and the U.S. Justice Department on the basic points of the roadmap. He says it should come up with effective strategies for dealing with systemic racism. He also wants changes in police-community relations, criminal justice, employment and education. 

Antaramian added one more topic at a Monday news conference, saying the subject was “off-script.” He says Kenosha needs better mental health care facilities.

"I believe so strongly that that is an issue, that if we don't deal with it, we're going to have numerous issues in our community," Antaramian said.

But Antaramian says the roadmap needs a lot of public input. So, he's urging city residents to attend — in person or online — the community listening sessions that start on Sunday

"It will not work if city government says we're going to do this. It will not work if county government says we're going to do this. If we are not listening to what the people have to say, we are doomed to fail,” Antaramian warned.

Antaramian says Ken Bergeron, an experienced community relations specialist with the U.S. Justice Department is helping set up the sessions and will lead them.

Pastor Roy Peeples, of Turning Point Life Church, (at microphones) speaks at Monday's news conference.
Credit Chuck Quirmbach

Several members of the Kenosha Common Council stood with Antaramian at his event inside the city's Civil War Museum. So did a few local Black clergy members. One of the pastors, Roy Peeples of Turning Point Life Church, says there has to be healing.

“We're here to unify and heal the inequalities in our community. Injustice that we have seen, and lack of opportunities that are in Kenosha,” Peeples said.

But waiting outside the news conference, were about a dozen Black Lives Matter activists who had read that the city was announcing the Commit to Action Roadmap.  Activist and business owner Alvin Owens told Antaramian that more people should have been invited to speak.

"When you have these open community press conferences, can it be a different variety of all of us? Like we don't know some of the ministers who haven't reached outside beyond their church,” Owens said.

Mayor Antaramian confers with an aide (in orange) before meeting briefly with Black Lives Matter activists.
Credit Chuck Quirmbach

Antaramian replied that the news conference was just laying out how the city is moving forward.

After the exchange, Owens told reporters that he was speaking only for himself, yet believes the activists have a common goal.

“We're all Kenosha citizens, and we want to make sure there's effective change, and justice coming to the table, and we want answers,’’ Owens said.

Alvin Owens speaks with the news media.
Credit Chuck Quirmbach

Antaramian says after the listening sessions are finished about a month from now, the public's recommendations will go to committees that the mayor says will have diverse representation. Some ideas may go into the next city budget scheduled for passage in early December.  The mayor says he's already including in his budget proposal a plan to have body cameras for Kenosha police by next year, instead of 2022, as previously planned.

Ultimately, Antaramian, who has been Kenosha's mayor for 20 years, over two periods in office, says the success or failure of the roadmap will be at his doorstep.

"Down the road, it's going to be my responsibility to make sure we've changed. And with the support of the [Common] Council, we will do that. With the support of the people, we will do that,” Antaramian said.