La Crosse City, County officials working to improve racial equity

Local News

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – Racial equity is still a major topic of discussion around the country as government officials in the Coulee Region are working to eliminate disparities.  First News at Nine’s Alex Loroff details the steps being taken in La Crosse.

Efforts are being made at the City and County level to improve racial equity in La Crosse.

The La Crosse County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution to declare racism a public health crisis during its April meeting.

Board member Rick Cornforth introduced the item, saying a systemic approach to ending racism is needed.

“We can remove those racist individuals from our community, but racism still exists in the systems that those people and those individuals had set up,” Cornforth said.

The resolution details racial disparities in the County and calls on various groups to help create an equitable environment.

“This resolution is asking for local institutions like our schools, nonprofits, health care systems, law enforcement, and local municipalities to get involved,” Cornforth listed.

As for the City, a Racial Equity Team was created in November to address similar issues.

The committee’s chair is Erin Duffer, who says the team is made up of different City employees who come together to share their views.

“We call come from very different departments, we have someone from HR, we have someone that’s in the police department, fire department, works for the library,” Duffer detailed. “It’s really interesting to hear everybody’s perspectives of how their different roles really all come together to this central point.”

Duffer says they’re working towards making tangible changes in the community and addressing questions about the team’s purpose.

“There are concerns that nothing very concrete will come out of it (Racial Equity Team), but we will just work hard to make sure that something concrete does happen and we make things a more equitable place for everybody in the community,” Duffer said.

The County Board is also looking at ways to quantify its efforts, with Cornforth naming housing, education, and employment as good places to start.

“We can measure our progress by what those numbers look like and how they improve moving forward,” Cornforth said. “If we can create an indicators report, that would help us measure where we are now and where we want to be.”

Both City and County leaders agree that communication with the community will go a long way in developing their plans for change.

In La Crosse, Alex Loroff, First News at Nine.

The county and city will also conduct internal assessments to ensure racial equity is a core part of La Crosse policies.

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