Citizen Action Weekly: Friday, December 14th

Friday, December 14th

Citizen Action of Wisconsin Stands with Wausau Council member Mary Thao

Citizen Action of Wisconsin members in North Central Wisconsin are very troubled by the events on the Wausau City Council that prompted Council member Mary Thao to recuse herself from closed sessions of the Council. Mary experienced these sessions as an unwelcoming space where diverse perspectives are not respected.

Mary has nearly three years experience on the Wausau School Board and knows how public business is conducted. As a member of Citizen Actions Organizing Cooperative, she consistently leads in a thoughtful and dedicated manner and is well respected for her contributions to public discussions and the manner in which she provides her insights. What Mary has experienced with City Staff and in the Common Council and with  closed sessions that led her to recuse herself should be taken seriously, even if council members believe they have acted appropriately in closed session.

Good government institutions take positives steps to remove barriers to the full participation by people of color. A critical part of building an inclusive environment is understanding that people from minority communities often experience these majority white spaces in a very different way than the majority community.  It is the best practice in both the public and private sector when a person of color expresses concerns of this kind, to take their feedback seriously, then work with them in a positive and constructive way to create fair and equitable  processes to address their concerns. The dismissive public statements of Mayor Mielke and Council President Rasmussen raise the specter of institutional racism and do not seem intended to foster an open and respectful environment.

Mary‘s fellow Citizen Action members in North Central Wisconsin strongly urge the Wausau City Council to first review Robert’s Rules of Order as a whole by staff, and then engage outside experts who specialize in helping organizations create open and inclusive environments. There are many highly qualified experts available who help nonprofits, local governments, and forward looking corporations, create equitable and inclusive environments. Ongoing cultural competency training for elected and sitting officials would foster greater understanding of how institutional racism manifests itself in our society and the impact is has on all people involved: white and non-white individuals alike.

It is our hope that the leaders of the Wausau City Council will treat this moment as an opportunity to create an environment that welcomes and fairly represents all the people of the city. Citizen Action members thank Mary for her courage in speaking out, and stand behind her as she works to create a more diverse and inclusive city government in Wausau.