Empower Wisconsin | June 30, 2020
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Cory Mason, Racine’s far left mayor, is now governing out of spite.
Mason admits that he denied a pandemic-related business grant to Dimple’s Fine Imports because one of the store’s co-owners attended an April rally in Madison calling on Gov. Tony Evers to end his draconian lockdown of the state.
“It’s outrageous. It’s absurd. It’s completely wrong,” said Denis Navratil, who, with wife Dimple Navratil, has owned the downtown Racine staple for more than 20 years. “It (speech) is an explicitly protected right in our constitution, which (the mayor) is sworn to uphold.”
In the throes of the COVID-19 outbreak, when Evers issued his now-invalid Safer-at-Home order, Racine, like a lot of communities across the nation, dipped into federal funding to assist its suffering small businesses. The city awarded a total of $900,000 in grants, with individual awards ranging from $2,500 to $15,000.
The Navratils applied in both rounds. They fit all but one of the grant requirements. Dimple’s Fine Imports is a minority-owned, unique business (voted as such multiple times in the community )and the retailer was severely impacted by the government-issued public health lockdowns.
They heard nothing from city officials in the first round. When the broader second round grants were awarded, the store didn’t make the cut again.
“We didn’t get that. My wife, who is a bulldog when she has been wronged, started asking around, but nobody was answering her emails,” Denis said.
When Mason finally answered Dimple, he at first said there just wasn’t enough money to go around. Questioned further, the mayor told the business owner there were “compliance issues.”
“She said, ‘What are you talking about? We shut down when the government order went into effect. And we didn’t open up until we were allowed to.’” Denis said.
Mason explained the “compliance issue” was Denis’ decision to attend the April 24 Reopen Wisconsin rally, where thousands turned out to protest the Evers administration orders that had effectively shut down Wisconsin’s economy, sent half a million people to the unemployment line and forced businesses to the brink of extinction.
The mayor didn’t deny his heavy-handedness when the Racine Journal Times sought comment.
“As Mayor, it is my duty to protect the public health of our City’s residents. While I certainly support the rights of free speech and assembly, I cannot in good conscious [sic] send scarce City resources to a person or business that willingly jeopardized public health, especially when they were competing with other businesses who were not flagrantly violating safety measures,” Mason wrote in a statement.
Mason and the Racine City Council already are in hot water with a Racine County judge after they violated the court’s temporary injunction against the city’s restrictive business reopening plan.
Denis said he attended the rally wearing a mask and he practiced social distancing. The vindictive mayor doesn’t care about any of that. He and his liberal pals, including Evers, have castigated demonstrators of the government orders, even as they have applauded the massive Black Lives Matter and radical left protests.
“If an applicant was openly violating the statewide Safer at Home order and the public health emergency under which the City was operating to help mitigate the spread of coronavirus, that applicant would compete less favorably,” Mason wrote. “When it comes to disbursing discretionary funds aimed at helping businesses who were sacrificing to protect public health, the City is not going to reward business owners who took reckless behaviors that risked the health of our community.”
Perhaps he can explain all that in court.
The Navratils have retained the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty to represent them in their complaints against the city and what they allege is the city’s discriminatory grant process.
“We didn’t start the fight but we’re engaged now,” Denis said.