The Racine County Workforce Development Board has announced plans to tackle some of Racine's most vexing problems, according to an article today in the Racine Journal Times. The Board, led by Twin Disc CEO Michael Batten, has identified the following as top challenges:
1) High unemployment in the inner city
2) Low educational attainment, especially in the inner city.
3) Long term decline in manufacturing jobs.
4) Historical difficulty in attracting businesses and residents to the Racine area.
5) Inability to fill the demand for existing jobs.
The board has hired two Washington D.C. area companies to complete a strategic plan. Your tax dollars will foot the bill for half of the $100,000 plan. Local companies will fund the rest.
I think the board has correctly identified the problems, though I would add high rates of crime to the list. But identifying Racine's problems has always been easy. Our unemployment rate has been among the states highest for some time. Our crime rates in certain areas are very high and our public school education problems are and have been patently obvious to anyone paying attention. So identifying the problem is very easy to do. The solutions on the other hand are the hard part.
So I will chime in with a few suggestions and questions for the D.C. companies.
1) Why would people stay in Racine if they are chronically unemployed?
Hint #1. Racine is losing population so some people are clearly leaving. Yet some are staying despite their joblessness. Their is little reason to stay in an area when you don't have a job unless the area supports the jobless or unless the area is a haven for black market economic activity.
2) Regarding education, if educational achievement is lacking at the public schools, would it make sense to expand the educational options for inner city students?
Hint #2. Rarely if ever are our local private schools cited as the problem, and for good reason.
3) Are some of the problems facing Racine internal or cultural problems?
Hint #3. Yes. We are now seeing the inevitable result of decades of mistaken policies, some local, some statewide, some national. Racine and Wisconsin became a draw some decades ago because of our lavish welfare benefits. These benefits marginalized men while offering financial incentives for out-of-wedlock procreation. Inevitably, we now have a multigenerational dependence on government and an entitlement mentality coupled with, as always, a decline in personal responsibilty and initiative. Crime, low educational attainment, and joblessness are the inevitable result.
4) What can be done?
Hint #4. If you actually want to improve Racine, then fearlessly address the problems. If you just want to collect the $100,000 in the easiest manner possible without ruffling feathers, well, just offer the usual "more government programs will save the day" policy suggestions.