HUDSON – Former Councilwoman Lisa Radigan described how she experienced racism while she was canvasing this past fall with her 7-year-old son.
Radigan described her son, Milo, as "kind, silly, and outgoing."
"He has never met a stranger," Radigan stated in an email sent June 16 to City Council. "He's also biracial and has beautiful light brown skin."
Radigan said she usually canvased by herself or with friends, but that she would occasionally bring her children along.
"They loved ringing the doorbells and talking to our neighbors," Radigan said "One day, however, was different. Milo and I were canvassing in our neighborhood. It was a beautiful, sunny summer afternoon. We were happily skipping between houses, Milo loves to skip. We turned the corner to head down another street and we were met by multiple police cars. I naively assumed that they must be there for someone else, so we just kept walking by. However, they called out to me and asked us to stop."
The police officers asked what Radigan was doing, and she said she told them she was canvassing for the November election. She said that she had a good conversation with the officers about the city and the election. Later, she found out it had been a neighbor who had called them.
"The neighbor, who never opened the door to us, reported seeing a white lady and a black boy ‘peeking in windows’ and was concerned because they had heard there had been break-ins in the area," Radigan stated. "We were not peeking in anyone's window. I had many talks with both of my kids about the appropriate way to canvass -- ring the doorbell, just once, step back so the person can open the door, wait a few seconds and if no one answers, just leave the campaign lit and head out to the next house. My kids know what to do. And even if they didn't, I was with Milo the entire time -- at no point did he peek into anyone's windows. This neighbor called the police because he was worried about a 6-year-old Black boy on his front steps."
Radigan said that her interactions with the police had been "cordial, appropriate, and friendly," and that they even gave Milo a tour in one of their cruisers. Still, she added, the incident left her shaken.
"The only time anyone throughout the course of the campaign ever called the police was when I was with my brown-skinned child," Radigan said. "No one called when my 3-year-old, white, blonde, blue-eyed daughter was with me. No one called when my white husband was with me. No one called when I was with my white friends. No one called when I was alone. And I suspect that no one ever called the police on any of you throughout the campaign season."
The former councilwoman was one of several people who emailed statements to be read during Hudson City Council’s June 16 meeting, where council unanimously passed a resolution condemning racism.
The resolution, sponsored by Kate Schlademan (Ward 1), states that "the mayor and city council support the Hudson Police Department and its continuing commitment to fight against racism and treat everyone with respect and dignity regardless of race, creed, religion, sexual orientation, or color." The resolution was prompted by "by the tragic events that continue to occur across our country."
Council President William Wooldredge (at-large) said that he hoped events and programs, such as a recent program at Christ Community Chapel, would help educate people.
"I’m proud of our police department, I think they do a wonderful job. But I think what we need, we need to change our hearts. I admit, over the years I’ve done some things I’m not very proud of."
Councilwoman Beth Bigham (Ward 4) said she also would like to city the city take action to prevent injustice.
"I think in addition to having resolutions and giving platitudes about racism, that when we have an opportunity to do something significant, such as adding body cams, that we do it," Bigham said.
Councilman Chris Foster (Ward 2) said that in a recent workshop, Police Chief Perry Tabak "talked about some of the processes in place." Foster said that the police department had dashboard cams, and that next year’s budget has a provision for body cams.
In a June 10 letter posted at the city’s website, Tabak stated that the department "has made a significant investment in ensuring the best practices and procedures are being consistently followed."
"We have established policies that any officer present and observing another officer using excessive force are required to intercede to prevent the excessive force (Duty to Intercede)," Tabak stated. "We do not train in or authorize the use of carotid/choke holds. Our policies constantly reinforce our commitment to fair and objective community policing. The Hudson Police Department provides a wide range of service and community involvement. No police department is perfect, but the Hudson Police Department is very proactive, not reactive, when it comes to community needs. The items mentioned were not implemented as a reaction to any of the current incidents but have and will continue to be engrained in the fabric of our department."
Hudson resident Maggie Wise stated that she encouraged Hudson City Council and the police department to adopt measures to help protect citizens, with some recommendations coming from 8cantwait.org online.
"In the U.S., an average of three people are killed per day at the hands of police officers, and this number disproportionately targets Black Americans," Wise said.
Karen Leith, chair of the League of Women Voters Advocacy Committee, said during the meeting that the Hudson League supported the resolution.
"These past few weeks, our country has seen an outpouring of unity in response to the abhorrent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks and too many others," Leith said. "Here in Hudson, we have seen and heard of incidents that are only the tip of something more insidious. This is a critical time in our nation's history, one that must begin locally by providing average citizens, local leaders and elected officials with an opportunity to build a better, more just future for all members of our community."
Proposed loan program vote postponed
Council voted 5-1 to postpone voting on a proposed loan program for city businesses until its Aug. 18 meeting.
Bigham cast the dissenting vote.
"The purpose of the legislation was to provide a tool to help affected businesses restock and reopen," Bigham said after the meeting. "We have spent months discussing this. If we continue to wait, both the need and interest will have passed. Although I may concerns about this legislation, we need to make a final decision while it has the greatest impact for its intended purpose."
The measure, if passed, would have the city and Hudson Community Improvement Corporation create a small business relief loan program. The city would contribute $300,000 to a two-part loan program providing loan proceeds to a limited number of qualifying businesses that have been economically disadvantaged by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wooldredge said he wasn’t sure the loan program was currently needed.
"It does not seem to meet the needs of businesses at this time," Wooldredge said.
At-large Councilman Hal DeSaussure said he agreed with postponing the vote, adding he would like to see an updated financial report.
If the loan program were approved, the first part would provide for loan amounts not to exceed $10,000 with a maximum allocation of $200,000, according to information from the city. Part B of the loan program will be for shuttered small business assistance in re-opening requirements with loan amounts not to exceed $3,000 with a maximum allocation of $100,000. All complete applications will be evaluated for eligibility by the Hudson Community Improvement Corporation. The Hudson Community Improvement Corporation will award loans to businesses with completed applications generally based on the fit against the eligibility and additional loan criteria.
Loans would be available to Hudson businesses with 20 or fewer full-time employees (or full-time equivalents) and total annual business revenue of $2 million or less, for the most current fiscal year-end. In addition the Hudson Community Improvement Corporation will not approve an application unless applicants show they have applied for the loan through ordinary banking or commercial channels and that the loan has been refused by at least one bank or other financial institution.
The loan interest rate is 0%, according to information from the city. The term of the loan is up to 3 years and payments may be deferred up to 3 years. If the borrower moves their business outside of the city, any outstanding balance becomes due and payable at that time.
April Helms can be reached at email@example.com