We strongly condemn County Executive Samantha Kerkman's attempt to disband the Racial and Ethnic Equity Commission through the act of revoking all of its members when the issues with this important Commission stem from the actions of just a few of her appointees. This reflects either a significant leadership failure or a deliberate attempt to achieve a predetermined outcome based on her decisions that contributed to the dysfunction within the Commission.
Kenosha County declared systemic racism a public health crisis in August 2020, backed by data revealing disproportionate negative impacts on residents of color. The Racial and Ethnic Equity Commission was subsequently established in April 2021 to address the public health crisis. Its establishment followed the police shooting of Jacob Blake and ensuing protests.
The commission's mission is to achieve significant racial and ethnic equity, dismantle racism in Kenosha County through research, education, and continuous review of policies, and implement transformative ideas from research, collaboration, and community engagement.
County Executive Kerkman, elected in April 2022, left crucial seats on the Commission addressing the county's public health crisis vacant for months, prioritizing dozens of other appointments to numerous other committees and commissions.
County Executive Kerkman's March 2023 appointments of Xavier Solis and Brian Gonzales to the Commission sparked community outcry for their inappropriate nature and Kerkman’s dismissal of highly qualified applicants - concerns that both the County Executive and County Board ignored.
Months of dysfunction ensued without any intervention from the County Executive or the County Board to steer the Commission back to its crucial mission. This period included an incident believed by many in the community to be a racial slur directed toward a Black man by the Commission's Chair during a meeting.
Instead of exhibiting leadership during this time, the County Executive remained silent and uninvolved.
However, rather than addressing the evident issues stemming from her appointees, she has announced the disbandment of the entire Commission. This cowardly approach is inexcusable for the highest ranking elected leader in our county government.
Xavier Solis, the problematic Chair of the Racial and Ethnic Equity Commission, attributed the County Executive’s decision to disband the Commission to pressure brought by the Kenosha County Democratic Party and Forward Kenosha over his actions. We proudly own the fact that we and other community members held him accountable for his inappropriate actions while on the Commission.
In 2021, leaders in Kenosha County pledged to address racial equity, as expressed by Supervisor Laura Belsky, the then-chair of the Human Services Committee. She stated, "Passing this resolution signals to our community that we are attentive to their concerns for justice and are committed to being a part of the solution, aiming to enhance our community for a better tomorrow than today."
The County Executive has suggested that the Kenosha County Public Health Department and the Kenosha Thrive Initiative will address the hole left by her disbandment of the Racial and Ethnic Equity Commission. While impactful, they do not comprehensively address all aspects of the Racial and Ethnic Equity Commission's mission.
We express profound disappointment in the County Executive's leadership failure. We urge members of the Kenosha County Board of Supervisors, many of whom previously acknowledged racism as a public health crisis and supported the creation of the Racial and Ethnic Equity Commission, to pass a resolution transferring control of the Racial and Ethnic Equity Commission and its appointments to the County Board of Supervisors.
Kenosha County Democratic Party Board
Contact the Kenosha County Board of Supervisors at email@example.com