Equity Team Discusses Wealth Redistribution

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Michelle Phillips

MIDDLETON–Conversation at the Middleton Equity Team (MET) meeting last week centered mostly around the redistribution of wealth within the community and how that could be achieved. 

After watching a short video about redlining, the practice of rating neighborhoods and drawing red lines around those deemed least desirable, the committee broke into small groups to discuss the practice and what it means in regard to wealth, how racist neighborhood covenants have affected the city and the impact of redistribution of wealth. The members returned to as a whole and discussed the factors that affected wealth distribution. 

One concern was some of the neighborhoods with infill housing lack green space and transportation options. One idea was to include green space when planning infill projects in existing neighborhoods. 

Middleton Cross Plains Area School District (MCPASD) Director of Equity and Student Achievement Percy Brown Jr. suggested, “It may be worthwhile to brainstorm ways in which you can redistribute capital. For our families of color, transportation is huge.”

Other suggestions included building wealth through small investments, making higher education accessible through satellite libraries and availability to all resources and documents.

Simrnjit Seera, who is running for Middleton school board in Area V and studied health science, added that environmental racism is also a problem and cited lack of tree cover in neighborhoods with a high concentration of people of color, contributing to heat stress.

Mayor Gurdip Brar said that as a community we need to help people and added that without the help of others he may still be in the mall village in which he grew up.

“We must look at people who are underserved–if we don’t look at it now, we are creating the same situation.”

Former mayor Doug Zwank questioned the amount of affordable housing in the way of apartments and said he would like to see more small condos that would provide an opportunity to build monetary equity.

Middleton City Administrator Mike Davis defended the city’s decision to build affordable apartments and noted that affordable housing is a way for parents to get their child into the school district without buying property, which can be inhibitive for many low-income workers. Education is important to lift oneself out of poverty, he noted.

Additional suggestions for creating wealth redistribution included:

• Eliminating Gerrymandering

• Reinstating the city’s down payment plan for home ownership.

• Including young people in conversations about equity.

In addition to wealth distribution, the MET discussed diversifying city commissions and committees. The city is currently accepting applications for several commissions and committees and Brar said he would like to see more diversity to reflect the diversity of the community.

“My first goal was gender equity, and we’ve been successful with some diversity, but not with Black residents,” he said. 

For more information and to apply for a position on a committee or commission, visit https://www.cityofmiddleton.us/120/Committees-Commissions.

There was also a discussion about equity in the schools, and the need for the schools to be anti-racist and pro learning.

Mandi Sersch-Morstad MCPASD Director of Bilingual Services and Brown are working on anti-racist, professional development for staff. The pair is working on a video to highlight the districts efforts to be more racially just.

“We have not done a very good job at telling our story,” Sersch-Morstad said.

Brown added that the district has been working on improving cultural studies and restoring classed like social studies to the curriculum. In addition, there is a need to include cultural perspective other than Western European to history, and social studies classes. 

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