MADISON (WKOW) -- In response to protests across the country and Wisconsin, Governor Tony Evers is looking to community leaders to develop solutions.
Monday, he spoke with Michael Johnson, the president and CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County.
"I think he heard me but I also encouraged him to reach out to a bunch of leaders and I know he's going to over the next couple of days," Johnson said.
According to Johnson, the governor called him at first to thank him for his efforts at organizing meetings and supporting the youth groups in Madison and Dane County. The conversation quickly shifted to Johnson's thoughts on how the Evers Administration needs to respond.
"This time around it needs to happen and we need to invest and hear the voices of not only our young people but our community in general to ensure we're going beyond just conversation," he said.
Johnson said there needs to be more forums and outlets for young black men and women to express themselves, the legislature needs to allocate funds and develop programming to address the achievement gap between white and black students and there needs to be fundamental changes to policing in Wisconsin.
"I think there needs to be a healthy balance of having community policing and wrap-around services that reflect the needs of the community," he said.
For Johnson, that means prioritizing black health, education and housing when developing city and state budgets. Right now, he said that funding seems to come from what's left over.
"We have these discussions, we have these meetings and then when it comes to allocating resources to address these issues for whatever reason, those resources are not there," he said.
As for police budgets, Johnson said he doesn't support fully defunding those departments but he calls on leaders to look critically at whether or not those dollars are the best way to keep communities of color safe. He asks leaders to consider where that money could be better spent to improve public safety for everyone in Madison.
"The city also has to act on the challenges that are being put forth today," he said.
Johnson said that goes for communities across Wisconsin. Without the promise of fundamental changes, the state should expect protests to continue.
"If not, then we'll continue to see these same kinds of issues," he said.
Johnson said Evers plans to continue talking to community leaders throughout the week, speaking with Freedom, Inc. on Tuesday. Johnson suggested he also listen in on a youth-led town hall the Boys and Girls Club is planning with Madison 365.
He also addressed some of the criticism he's faced from protesters regarding his "peacekeepers" initiative, his fundraiser for downtown businesses and his meeting with police.
"It was actually young people who came to me with that idea and said 'Hey is this something Boys and Girls club can support and fund?'," he said.
Johnson said he plans to continue to support efforts to keep the peace at evening protests as well as donate food and masks. Meanwhile he said supporting State St. businesses is also serving the black community.
"These are the same businesses that are owned by women and minority-owned businesses that support our kids," he said.
As for the meeting with Madison Police and the Dane County Sheriff's Office, Johnson said he believes it was a good chance to explain what the community needs to see.
"I can see why some people would be critical of that but at the same token we did challenge them and we were very, very open about our efforts," he said.
Johnson said while he prefers to lead from home or the office at this time, he supports the efforts of those marching on the street or rallying at the Capitol.
"In order to see the change that we need to see in this country, all levels of protest are needed," he said.