Toward One Wausau: Final Deliberation

Source: Wausau Daily Herald

WAUSAU – The best way to fix a problem is to know that there is one, said University of Wisconsin Marathon County student Jay Lee.

“Fixing that can’t just be from one person or a group,” Lee said at a public deliberation event Monday evening at UWMC. “It has to come from the community that wants to make that change and are willing to put the time to fix that problem.”

Lee was one of several community residents who participated in the open forum to discuss how to make Wausau a more welcoming place for everyone, regardless of ethnicity, culture and background.

The public conversation was hosted by Toward One Wausau, a yearlong project sponsored by the Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy and Service, Wausau Daily Herald and Wisconsin Public Radio. WIPPS director Eric Giordano said the project launched after the homicide case of Hmong teenager Dylan Yang and subsequent peace march revealed racial tensions within the community. The aim of the initiative was to address a difficult topic in a constructive, inclusive way, he said.

Toward One Wausau emphasizes ways the community can take action. Broken into small groups, residents on Monday weighed three options for how to resolve these underlying tensions:

Treat all fairly.
Provide equal opportunity.
Embrace and celebrate diversity.
Each option outlined potential action items and drawbacks for the groups to consider.

Charlie Jupp, a student at Wausau West High School, said the discussion was a chance to get out of his comfort zone and see how people feel about certain issues.

“When people really got realer with their conversation,” Jupp said, it helped him to see that “this is what people think on this, and I feel the same way.”

Monday was the final public conversation in a series of 21 deliberations that began in March. Toward One Wausau also surveyed residents online to gauge how they feel about the issues at hand. Several different groups have participated in the project, including the Wausau and D.C. Everest school districts, Marathon County Sheriff’s Department and Hmong American Center.

Toward One Wausau will create a report based on its findings and present that to the community during a free celebration event on Oct. 20 at Northcentral Technical College.

For Lee, who attended a Toward One deliberation for the first time Monday, the experience was eye-opening.

“You see through other people’s lives what they see and what they experience instead of just what you experience yourself,” he said.

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