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Sundown Town Proclamation

Bernard Black signs Mayor Tim Kabat and former Mayor John Medinger’s sundown town apology proclamation Thursday in the lobby of City Hall.

La Crosse’s mayors proved Thursday that they know the value of words when it comes to healing divides.

Mayor Tim Kabat and former Mayor John Medinger came together in La Crosse City Hall to sign a proclamation acknowledging La Crosse’s history with discrimination that strained relationships between the city and the minorities who live in it and pledging to work harder to ensure equality for all the city’s residents.

“When there are strained relationships, we look for words to help us deal with them,” Kabat said. “The way we use language and communicate with each other is really that first step. I can’t think of any more powerful three words for rebuilding relationships than ‘I am sorry.’”

The proclamation came a little over a month after Kabat apologized for La Crosse’s history as a “sundown town,” a city or village with either formal or informal codes that pushed black people out of the community after sundown, after a presentation from sociologist James Loewen at La Crosse City Hall. Loewen was invited by the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and the city’s Human Rights Commission.

“We had a great crowd and it was fantastic as far as being able to get a sense of what La Crosse’s past is,” HRC chair Fabio Burgess said. “We’re never going to be able to change the future of this city and really make it the city that it can be without acknowledging what had gone on in the past.”

Kabat and Medinger took that message to heart in the proclamation, which reads, “Healthy people and healthy communities are able to recognize their past mistakes, admit when they have been wrong and resolve to ensure equality for all people.” It goes on to recognize the city has “made great strides in eliminating discrimination,” while calling for the city to “commit to becoming an uncommonly great community and a beacon of hope through our advocacy for equality and justice for all.”

It further includes a pledge “to work toward the common good in building a warm and welcoming community” for everyone, regardless of race, color, gender identity or expression, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, age, ability, marital status, physical appearance, political activity or familial status.

Medinger recalled a visit while he was mayor, when a priest from out of town suggested he put up a sign reading “Welcome to La Crosse, an ethical city.” While he chose not lead an effort to put the signs up, he said he hoped the city lives up to the label.

“This proclamation will send a message to the world that La Crosse is a warm and welcoming community for everyone,” Medinger said. “For everyone,” he repeated.

The proclamation, which had garnered 33 signatures by Thursday afternoon, will remain up at city hall throughout the holiday season with participants encouraging community members to sign on to the pledge.

“I’m a great believer that this country and frankly the human race is in an upward trajectory. Sometimes it’s hard to see in the moment or within the context of a few years, but I think this is one big piece of the puzzle in moving this community forward,” Burgess said. “Anybody who comes and signs it is putting their mark in a positive way on this city.”

While acknowledging La Crosse’s history and pledging to improve is a start, the next steps are also important. Kabat praised the HRC for being at the forefront of action to change La Crosse’s future, holding a series of listening sessions throughout the year to allow minorities to air their concerns and grievances.

“They’ve been so awesome to bring people together and most importantly, they’ve been just listening,” Kabat said. “They’ve been giving people an opportunity to share their stories and share their pain, quite frankly.”

The listening sessions have given the HRC a great many different perspectives and ideas, Burgess said.

“There is a lot of work to do and there is a lot of progress that has been made,” he said. “The main thing we’re hearing is that there is work that needs to be done and it may need to be done outside of government, as far as making sure the workforce in the city is really representative of the make-up of the community.”

While Burgess said that was largely outside the purview of city government, Kabat said that was something that could be addressed within city hall when it comes to city staff.

“We’re trying to make sure our workforce is reflective of the broader community,” Kabat said. “We’re not there yet as far as people of color who work here for the city or women and other groups who make up our leadership team. We’re actively working on trying to recruit more applicants and try to get our workforce to look like La Crosse.”

The city government has also supported additional training and workforce development to make sure current employees treat La Crosse’s diverse population equally and stepped up efforts to support minority business owners as part of its economic development programs.

“This proclamation will send a message to the world that La Crosse is a warm and welcoming community for everyone.” John Medinger,
former La Crosse mayor

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City government reporter

Jourdan Vian is a reporter and columnist covering local government and city issues for the La Crosse Tribune. You can contact her at 608-791-8218.

(18) comments

real life Justice

I worked for the city, They hired One of the most corrupt officer the city ever had. He was caught doing Illegal activity as a Police Officer The city looked the other way. Medinger was the mayor then with his rainbow family which some I had to deal with as a employee of the city. Now You have Kabat trying tell the good citizen of the city of La Crosse he is going to apologize for not treating the minorities of the city with respect, What a joke. When you have a majority of the minorities committing most of the violent crimes, Drug offenses, Assaults and rapes, Murders. Citizen of La Crosse owes NO one an apology. The city hired a minority and he was fired for sexual harassment the city even over paid him because he was so Qualified imagine that. As for other attempts to hire minorities for other city positions. The city sent teams of managers and supervisor to cities and colleges outside of Wis. And no minorities applied. So once again the city wasted City tax payers money to recruit minorities and they won't even apply. So tell me why are you so hell bent on bring minorities to the city when you have Four colleges producing Qualified person that want to work for the city, yet you go out of your way to bring more trouble and lawsuits to the city. Wake up hire people Black or White that want to work. Not because they think they are entitled because of the color of there skin.

Climatehoax

Let us not forget this tidbit of factual information

A new study of how criminals vote found that most convicts register Democratic, a key reason in why liberal lawmakers and governors are eager for them to get back into the voting booth after their release.

“Democrats would benefit from additional ex-felon participation,” said the authoritative study in The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.

The authors, professors from the University of Pennsylvania and Stanford University, found that in some states, felons register Democratic by more than six-to-one. In New York, for example, 61.5 percent of convicts are Democrats, just 9 percent Republican. They also cited a study that found 73 percent of convicts who turn out for presidential elections would vote Democrat.

kingman10

OMG some people don't know how goofy can you get. So felons are felons because they are democrats? That somehow there is a correlation between being a democrat and being a felon? How about these felons are that way not because they are democrats, but because they drank milk when they were young. I bet there is a study to confirm that correlation. Drinking milk can lead to being a felon! That study you profess to be factual is nothing more than fake news brought about by the alt right.

Climatehoax

Ha, ha typical head in the sand liberal. The study was conducted by liberal universities. It's not fake news. It sounds like the new liberal evasion tactic will be 'its fake news' the fake news came from Hillary, remember, when she WASN'T shot at. GET A CLUE! Take off the blinders for Gods sake!!

tower

And yet you were the first to post bozo. I have never met or read a racist bigot who admitted they were. Care to become the first?

Climatehoax

Or a criminal

tower

And yet you were the first to post bozo. I have met or read a racist bigot who admitted they were. Care to become the first?

lutefisk

What a crock...

kingman10

just love how the hateful rhetoric takes hold everytime there talk of equality and realization of past racism. If you want to join a white group to make yourself feel important there is always the KKK or nazi party both perfectly legal, whatever gives you that warm fuzzy feeling all over in the season of goodwill towards men.

random annoying bozo

nah, the 'hateful rhetoric', as you put it, seems to always be coming from the liberals and progressives, which for some reason seem to be anally fixated on all things race related. i understand that the left likes to keep minorities on the plantation, and make sure they get their votes come election time. and that is racism of the most insidious kind.

tower

Next climaxhoax will have to integrate his KKK klavern.

Climatehoax

No rebuttal as usual, just name calling. Do you ever use your brain to examine how things are?

Climatehoax

Does this mean whites get a riot on their behalf if a cop shoots them while breaking the law? Are there now going to be white miss America pageant? How about a white congressional caucus? Maybe an all white college or at least some white only groups on campus to help them when they feel sad? How about some equal opportunity employment in the NFL and the NBA, 2 EXTREMELY racist businesses! This can go so much further than JUST LaCrosse!!!

Clarification

Yeah, make fun of attempts at equality, call it "coddling." The brownshirts think it is their time to assert their slimey beliefs now that their Huge Leader will be playing the part of President. Ain't gonna happen.

random annoying bozo

the mayors are basically saying that the citizens of lacrosse are racists, what with all the 'discrimination' they say that has occurred in the city over the years.
maybe the mayors should start by turning their gazes inward, the city of lacrosse work force is by and large a massively lily white workforce, and it's been that way for decades, even under the watchful eye of medinger.
but like I said earlier, if this gives people a warm and fuzzy feeling to 'sign' something, knock yourselves out...ink for signatures is cheap.

random annoying bozo

much ado about nothing....but if it warms the cockles of some peoples hearts, knock yourself out.....maybe really go to the next level of white guilt, and make lacrosse a sanctuary city.....not just the coddling city it is now.

RemoteEmployee

Great idea!!! Let's make La Crosse a sanctuary city. Thank you, Bozo.

Climatehoax

There must be some kind of attraction to Lacrosse by black criminals.

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