Mayor creates new ‘team’ to address diversity, social justice issues

By Brandi Makuski

Mayor Mike Wiza on Friday afternoon announced he has formed a new team to address diversity and related issues facing Stevens Point.

According to a news release from Wiza’s office on Nov. 20, the team will “help address some of the most pressing issues” facing the city and it contains individuals representing a “cross-section” of marginalized or underserved populations.

The group will be charged with “identifying strengths and weaknesses with regard to a spectrum of social issues from housing to racism to social equity,” Wiza’s news release reads in part.

Wiza quoted himself in the news release as saying, “We are really following in the footsteps of many other communities and, most recently, Portage County, and that is getting people together to provide perspectives and insight on relevant issues and challenges that the marginalized segments of society have struggled with. We want to focus on addressing those issues and the only logical way to do that is to involve those affected in creating systemic solutions.”

The team includes Eric Riskus, IL Program Director at Midstate Independent Living Choices, representing people with disabilities; Tamia Yates, a citizen to represent young females and people of color; Tiffany Krueger from Evergreen Community Initiative, which serves low-income people and homeless; Rayvn Knipple, the former Student Government Association Vice President, who will represent “various student groups;” Stevens Point Police Officer Chai Yang, who will represent the department and Hmong community; Rio Greendeer, a student to represent indigenous people and “our young community members;” Idoawa Odedosu, executive director for the city’s Housing Authority; and Morgan Potter, a peer support coordinator for MILC.

The creation of the team has not been discussed during public city meetings. It was not immediately clear how the team’s members were identified or what appointment process was used.

“The above list is only the beginning,” Wiza wrote. “The city expects to utilize many others as resources as they progress toward solutions. We’ll start with an evaluation of where people think we stand as a community. What sorts of things are we doing well and where do we need to focus our attention. We will then break those things into key topics and prioritize them. We’ll then begin work on providing solutions. I expect some of those solutions will come before [the city] council to act, but we’ll also likely have things that can be addressed without needing legislation.”

Wiza said the city has been “active in pursuing changes that denounce hate, bigotry, racism, misogyny, and intimidation.”

“We strive to provide a safe and welcoming environment for everyone,” he wrote. “We have made policy changes in regards to equal housing and benefit rights for domestic partnerships, strengthened policies relating to hostile work environments and whistleblower retaliation, and partnered with UWSP and surrounding communities to bring attention to domestic violence, addiction, and mental health issues.”

The group is expected to meet at least once a month beginning in December. The meetings will be publicly posted and open to the public.