RACINE - At the first of Mayor John Dickert's two "community conversations" to address diversity, the mayor tried to pass on the message that he is listening and actively working on issues. But some members of the minority community who attended the meeting argued that he is not.
"I feel you don't listen. You don't hear what we say," Rosa Salinas-Hultman of Racine told the mayor at the meeting Wednesday evening at the Tyler-Domer Community Center, 2301 12th St.
She was one of about 60 people in attendance, a group largely made up of individuals actively involved in community organizations. But only a few took the time to address specific issues when given time at the end of the meeting.
The event began with Dickert talking about programs the city has, and he answered a few written questions. But when the mayor turned to questions from the audience, the concerns about a lack of help for minority issues started coming out.
Salinas-Hultman's grandparents came from Mexico, but she was born and raised in Racine. She said she has been fighting to end racism since the 1970s, and she said she is still fighting today.
"I need to see action," she said after the meeting.
Maria Morales, who is the Racine coordinator for Voces De La Frontera, also said Dickert "is not doing enough."
She said she has talked to people who are living in fear of discrimination, and said it's important to establish a place where people can go to air complaints.
She also expressed the need to communicate.
The mayor started the meeting by saying that his goal was to bring awareness and address community issues and to help make Racine a better place.
"We are a city of diversity. It's one of our greatest assets," Dickert said. "One of the best things we can do is talk."
But Alfonso Gardner, a local activist, said after the presentation, "It was a farce ... It was a dog-and-pony show."
Craig Oliver, the community coordinator for the local NAACP branch, questioned what the mayor is doing to help the minority community and how he is going about doing it.
"It appears you don't want to dialogue with us," Oliver said. "You, as mayor, pick and choose the people you want to deal with."
However, Dickert said, "I talk to everyone."
If there are concerns, he said, "You have to let us know ... We don't know if there is a problem if you don't tell us."
The mayor's next "community conversation" is April 8.