EAU CLAIRE — One candidate has left the race for a seat on the Eau Claire City Council, but there are still nine that will be considered in a vote today.
During time afforded each candidate Monday night to make a final pitch to join the council, Trace Skoglund instead opted to withdraw himself from consideration.
“I think you’ve got a deep, strong pool of candidates,” he said to the council.
Chad Rowekamp, Laura Jones Holm, Regina Melendy, Roderick Jones, Douglas Allen, Dang Yang, Randall DeMars, Jacqueline Roelant and Josh Stanley are those still in contention.
At today’s 4 p.m. meeting, the council will vote on which of them will be appointed to fill an at-large seat until the April 2022 election. That seat became vacant when Councilwoman Mai Xiong resigned in April, citing duties for a new job and position on a statewide panel.
Council President Terry Weld explained that the new member must be chosen by a majority of the council’s current 10 members. That means the winning candidate must receive at least six votes.
So that may lead to several votes to winnow the field of candidates down to those with the most support.
“In the case of a tie, voting continues,” Weld said.
As has been the case in prior appointments to vacancies, that can result in numerous rounds of voting and debate until enough members are swayed to create a majority for a candidate.
Demands for COVID aid
Advocates for minority groups in Eau Claire issued a list of demands to city and county leaders on how $33.8 million in federal coronavirus pandemic relief money should be spent in the community.
The Black and Brown Womyn Power Coalition sent the document on Monday to City Council and County Board members with a strong statement about how a community-led process should decide how the money is used.
The document advocated strongly that setbacks dealt to Black, indigenous, and people of color should be especially weighed in dividing up the funding.
“BIPOC communities have endured tremendous harm and oppression during the COVID-pandemic with racism, health and mental health crisis, traumas from losing loved ones, loss of jobs and income, and widening education gaps for our students,” stated the news release accompanying the demands.
True Vue, one of 55 people who signed onto the demands, spoke Monday night to the council about how the funds could help residents who were hit hard by the pandemic.
“Unfortunately the pandemic reversed many of the gains made by minority communities in the last economic expansion,” she said.
One recommendation is that 20% of the federal funds coming to the community be put into a “participatory budget trust,” which would distributed widely but prioritize marginalized, directly impacted districts.
Support for groups that provide essential social services to the BIPOC and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex populations were among the demands. Aid to small businesses struggling due to the pandemic as well as artists from those demographic groups is also sought by the demands.
Other demands seek housing assistance and support for youth organizations.
A specific point made in the document is that local law enforcement get no boost from the federal funding, adding that the Eau Claire Police Department and Eau Claire Sheriff’s Office already account for significant portions of local budgets.
Susan Wolfgram, another resident who signed her name to the demands, said she’s heard from people who object to the document not referring to their requests using a softer tone.
But she argued that using the word “recommendations” would be too vague and not express the urgent need to make real progress.
“Language matters when you’re advocating for change,” she told the council.
In addition to individuals that signed onto the list of demands, several other organizations and businesses also lent their names to it.
Last month the City Council was asked to begin thinking about how the $13.5 million in federal money coming to Eau Claire should be allocated. Eau Claire County began discussions in April about how to use its $20.3 million from the latest coronavirus-related relief package.
The money coming to the local governments via the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act passed by Congress in March.