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RACINE — Alderman Jeff Coe and challenger Susan Wagner will face off for the 1st District alderman seat in the April 2 election.

Coe, a toolmaker who has served on the council on-and-off since 2001, is being challenged by Susan Wagner, a volunteer from the city’s Neighborhood Watch program, who came in second in the primary in February. Scotty Martin, a third candidate on the ballot in the Feb. 19 was eliminated from contention, although he had already suspended his campaign before the primary.

Racine aldermen serve two-year terms with an annual salary of $6,899.

The Journal Times reached out to the candidates to see if they wanted to revise their original responses. Coe opted not to send any updates. His responses below are the same ones that ran in his primary profile.

What do you think about the general direction the city is taking?

Coe: Racine is going through an unprecedented time of change. There is more interest and investment in our city than I’ve seen since my childhood growing up Downtown. As city leaders, it is our job to make sure the benefits and opportunities this investment brings are broadly shared with all of our residents.

Wagner: These past weeks have been educational. Disturbing issues of integrity, secrecy, accountability have been exposed regarding our current politicians. As a truly independent candidate, not representing any party, I will not owe my seat to any administrator. It’s time for independent voices to be heard, responsibly representing the people who elected them.

What do you think about the City Council’s recent marijuana directive ordering the Racine Police Department to issue citations, rather than charges, for first-time marijuana possession offenses for less than 25 grams?

Coe: As an alder, it is important that we are the voice of our constituents. I care about public safety and recognize that sometimes the way we implement laws can create barriers. We need to keep a healthy balance between an individual’s ability to grow and making sure we are not removing the tools that are needed to keep our community safe.

Wagner: Reconsideration of marijuana laws are clearly important to Racine’s residents. I have done a lot of research and communicating with communities that have changed their laws and the resulting wins and losses. I am listening to residents of the city and I believe their request can be honored without damaging our community.

How would you like to see the city address poverty and high unemployment?

Coe: Racine is currently invested in job training and pre-apprenticeship programs. Continuing to support these efforts will help with skill development, reducing unemployment and improving the standard of living. The city can’t do this alone. We are taking a collaborative approach with a host of partners. We have dedicated $1.5 million to do just that.

Wagner: We have great employers paying high entry-level salaries and great benefit packages to relatively untrained labor markets. We need to get our un- and under-employed residents together with these companies and address their barriers to successful employment including expanding public transportation and promoting entrepreneurship with relaxing zoning restrictions. Then we must provide opportunities in professional education and development to those workers.

How would you like to see the city handle transparency in local government?

Coe: With the new administration, I see more efforts in getting information to the public. We need to continue and grow on these efforts to remove the public’s distrust of government. When informed, people become more engaged, take action, find solutions, and hold their leaders accountable and the electoral process gains legitimacy.

Wagner: Daily we learn more ways the current administration has wasted money, withheld information, and acted unethically. The technology exists to bring information to the public, and we must get on board. Also, we need to at least be truthful when personal agendas become more important to the council than honest representation.

What do you think is the most important issue facing the city and how will you help address it?

Coe: Unemployment, poverty and neighborhood stabilization. I will continue to work on helping individuals and families connect to neighbors, services, and useful resources. Staying on top of neighborhood concerns is critical in driving a resolve that brings forth positive changes. These issues are tough, and need a constant crusader that is supporting efforts, resolutions, policy changes and neighborhood connections.

Wagner: Ultimately, lack of respect to the residents of the city. Administration needs to work responsibly in representation of the people, not dictating to them and wasting their resources. We cannot allow city council to violate our rights anymore. I want to bring the focus back to the needs of the people and I will work ethically to be successful.

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Christina Lieffring covers the Burlington area and the Village of Caledonia. Before moving to Racine, she lived in Nebraska, Beijing, Chicago and grew up in Kansas City.

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