Alderman Fair recently spoke with the Milwaukee Community Journal in to discuss the candidate heavy race he's facing in the City of Racine's 1st Aldermanic District. MCJ is Wisconsin's largest weekly African American newspaper.
In an unusually crowded field for a political race in the dead of winter, one district in the city of Racine is hotly contested. The race is to determine who will occupy Racine’s 1st Aldermanic District seat. Incumbent Alderman Keith Fair is facing four challengers in a Feb. 19 primary election. The two highest vote-getters will face off in the spring election April 2, 2013.
Fair is a US Marine Corps veteran, a life-long southeastern Wisconsin resident and an entrepreneur. He has served as a Wisconsin State public defender’s office employee, private investigator, police officer, pastor and chaplain. The alderman’s seat has been held by this civically active and dedicated public servant for the past two years, as well as several previous terms over the past decade.
This year the outspoken Fair finds himself surrounded by multiple candidates vying for his position—from a woman who works in a state prison, to a former cheerleader for the professional basketball team in Milwaukee, to a yacht broker that resides in an exclusive gated community within the city’s first district.
At a Feb. 13 candidate forum at Gateway Technical College in Racine, Fair and opposing candidates were pressed on citizens’ concerns and important issues facing the city. When asked about the other candidates challenging him, Alderman Fair said that he applauds everyone who chooses to step up and get involved in local government. However the political newcomers “are persons on the outside who have no real knowledge of the way government works in our City,” according to Fair. “I’m afraid that some of the candidates I’m facing have unrealistic expectations of what they can hope to accomplish.
“Some feel that they can come in on day one and start making drastic changes,” he continued. “That sort of thinking is unlikely to accomplish anything positive.” For example, one opponent suggested that the city raise the sales tax to solve budget problems. “Never mind the fact that the city does not have the authority to do so,” Fair said. “When the economy is tight, when our city leads the state in unemployed persons—with a great many living in this district—our community cannot afford to see prices go up.”
What other candidates need to understand, according to Fair, is that when they become elected officials, which does not mean they work on behalf of City Hall. When elected they must work for those whom they represent, to ensure their needs are being met.
Alderman Fair often speaks out about the way things get done in Racine. Many in the community agree with Fair that on appearances, the current administration seems to serve the interests of a chosen few against the better interests of the constituency as a whole.. Since the city administration has a majority among the common council, Fair’s is a voice that consistently speaks out in opposition when he feels the residents’ needs are being ignored. “I am fighting to be a voice for the people in the city. It definitely doesn’t win many popularity contests.”
Alderman Fair’s positions on issues routinely find him mired in controversy. Much criticism is leveled due to his stance related to governmental waste and his frequent concerns about spending and what is perceived by many constituents as fiscal irresponsibility when it comes to addressing the needs of the city’s residents in one of the most vital and fragile areas of the city. By speaking out against injustices from the powers that be in the city administration, it is believe that this outspokenness is largely the reason that he is facing such opposition in this contest.
During the latest round of budget cut discussions, members of the Racine council had proposed the reduction of funding for a fire station and elimination of the firefighters’ positions who work there. This came less than a week after a fire in an urban neighborhood cost the lives of three precious children. While some in the city leadership maintained that a single unfortunate circumstance shouldn’t influence the city’s decision on whether to fund the firehouse. Alderman Fair called on his colleagues to refine their efforts. Ultimately the funding was “miraculously” found, and the city will continue to provide essential services only after being questioned by Fair regarding their compassion and the depth of conviction they have to serve those they are charged to represent.
No stranger to hard-fought races, in one previous election Fair won by a margin of only 3 votes. A civil rights victory ensued as a result of the contested election in which Racine County Circuit Court Judge Emily Mueller issued a state-wide precedent setting decision that homeless persons who have no address still are eligible to vote. They may not be disenfranchised because their “residence” may be a park bench.
Alderman Fair holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, and is earned his master’s in human resources and management. He has owned and operated several businesses in the Racine area, has served the citizens of Racine on the Public Works & Services Committee, Public Finance and Licensing, as well as various other posts during his career in public service.
Standing up for what’s fair and right for every one in our community is a commitment that Ald. Fair made when seeking office two years ago. His conviction to serve in the interests of the people who he is elected to represent may not always be popular but as Fair is convinced that serving the people is the most important part of his job as Alderman. “Many people who run for office believe that once elected they represent the city hall. I don’t work for the city hall, I work for you” said, Fair.
He faces off against Marlo Harmon, Shana Hendersen, Jeff Coe and Ed Jirsa on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013. The polling location for those residing in the 1st District is Lakefront Festival Hall, 5 Fifth Street in Racine. Polls are open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. on election day.
-- As compiled by the Milwaukee Community Journal Staff.