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Mayor seeks $30 million from state to rebuild Kenosha
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Mayor seeks $30 million from state to rebuild Kenosha

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Kenosha’s elected officials, including Mayor John Antaramian, came together to show a side of the city that they say is trying to heal in the wake of the fallout of the Jacob Blake police-involved shooting a week ago.

And they’re doing it as one.

The mayor addressed a small group of media and volunteers on the sidewalk at a boarded up Andrea’s, 2401 60th St., that was being transformed with painted murals of strength and hope following the rioting, looting and fiery destruction that befell the Uptown area of the city five days earlier.

The mayor said he was requesting some $30 million from the state and Gov. Tony Evers to rebuild, not just Uptown, but downtown businesses and other areas that fell prey to the nighttime destruction of rioters that followed mostly peaceful protests during the day.

“We are looking for $30 million to help us rebuild to help us with the Uptown. To help us with the downtown,” said Antaramian at the hastily called press conference, in which the city purposefully sought to avoid outsiders and the throng of national and international media that converged upon the civic center near downtown last week.

“This is to help with all the people that have been negatively impacted, that we end up getting them the help that they need to get back on their feet and to enable us to the things we need to do.”

Antaramian said the city is also requesting federal aid from U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil, R-Wis., and U.S. Sens. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis, on Monday.

The mayor appeared with several City Council members including Council President David Bogdala and Alds. Jan Michalski, Shayna Griffin, Bill Siel and Anthony Kennedy.

National Guard responded

The mayor said he wanted to “clear the air” about the National Guard’s arrival in Kenosha, for which city and county officials have been criticized wasn’t soon enough.

“The National Guard came as soon as they were able,” said Antaramian who maintained that he made the request for their presence going through the required channels, which included the county, which in turn, called the state.

“And the guard was here the next day,” he said of the process.

“The guard is all over the state. They cannot mobilize and be here in two hours,” he said. The mayor insisted that Gov. Tony Evers responded “immediately to our request.”

“I asked the governor for the emergency. The governor gave us the emergency,” he said, adding, “Everyone did their job.”

Evers and Lt. Mandela Barnes have become targeted by local groups calling for their recall, in large part to what some people said was a slow response as the governor allegedly turned down help from the White House.

Next steps local

The mayor said that that the next steps were to listen to community and to rebuild and redevelop.

The mayor later toured the sites of the damage in an effort to reveal the side of Kenosha that could be shown in a respectful way as the community tries to heal.

“I want to walk you through the Uptown so you can see the damage done and talk to you about the buildings that are so historic and we’re sad that they’re gone,” he said. “But also … that we will rebuild.

“This is a can-do community. We have survived years of different situations happening,” he said, including economic meltdown that resulted in the Rust Belt of the 1970s to Chrysler Corp.’s pullout leading to thousands of layoffs in Kenosha in the late 1980s into the 1990s.

“This community is resilient and it works together. But it needs to come together again stronger. And, we will do that,” he said.

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David Andrea, whose family has owned the business of the same name for more than a century, spoke about the community of diverse races, ethnicities, faiths, businesses and interests that make up Kenosha.

“Kenosha is a diverse, authentic community,” he said. “We’re a community that helps each other, that looks out for each other and this has been a very tough situation. But our community is going to come together. We’re going to learn from this and we’re going to become stronger. We’re going to become better and address, hopefully, the problems that have caused some of the anger. The destruction.

“These last few days it’s really been amazing to see the families we know, the community members we know, out trying to help clean together, you know, what can we do to rebuild our home and rebuild our community,” Andrea said. “We have great faith in it.”

On top the COVID-19 crisis, he said the destruction caused has been difficult.

“To pile on with this we’re all kind of reeling a bit. It’s going to take some doing to get back on our feet, get back open, get back serving our community, but we do have faith in our community,” he said, thanking groups, including Kenosha Unified student artists who have helped to paint and to community humanitarians Tim and Ardis Mahone.

Even beyond the 60th Street façade, there was more cleaning and painting going on.

Food was being grilled and a DJ played a mix of jazz, old school soul, hip-hop and regaeton, upbeat rhythms on a sunny day in the 70s, a stark contrast to the dark of night and inferno that had seized the city a week ago.

“It’s just indicative of what our community is and the pride our community takes in everything we have to offer here and how everybody wants to help,” he said.

Dennis Nelson, a local business owner and a building owner, referred to the mayor’s earlier speech about coming back from the destruction and said, “Mayor, I think we already have.” He thanked the dozens of volunteers and groups he has met who’ve contributed their time to help.

“They deserve a big pat on the back,” said Nelson who owns and operates the Kenosha Tae Kwon Do Club. “So I think we’re on the way back.”

Harkening back to the days when Chrysler delivered its blow to the area “everybody thought that was the end,” he said.

“But look how we came back, and we can do it again, but we all have to work together,” Nelson said.

Cara Leiting, who supervised the group of students’ beautifying efforts, said “it is a time to listen.”

“These are people we need to be listening to – the children,” she said. “We have to do better for them. We have to listen to them. Their future is in our hands and we just need to do better. Look at what they’re doing? It’s all about them. Let’s do it for them.”

Alexandria Binante-Robinson, executive director of Downtown Kenosha Inc., which helped the city board up businesses, said since last week the organization has been able to raise $100,000 in materials to facilitate the movement’s efforts in “showing hope and unity.”

That has also resulted in a multitude of donations through corporations, including Jockey Inc. and Rustoleum, with $25,000 worth of paint.

“We’ve had outreach around the world watching us,” she said. “Knowing that our response is that we are unified and we are together. Again, it isn’t just Uptown or downtown. We are one town. We’re going to be Kenosha strong for a long time and we’re here to show that we make a difference here, too.”

While President Donald Trump is expected in Kenosha Tuesday, Antaramian said he was not aware of any exact details.

Asked whether he welcomed Trump, Antaramian offered:

“Presidents are always welcome to the community, but the timing, I think, is not really a good timing,” he said. “I think that when you look at the issues that are going on in the community.

“This community is trying to heal. We’re trying to pull together. We think, at this point in time, it’s not the best idea.”

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