Questioning the Locals: Kate Beaton

get to know your neighbors

V1 Staff |

WHO: Kate Beaton
WHAT: Newly elected at-large member of Eau Claire City Council and community organizer
LIVES: Eau Claire’s Third Ward (but will move to Historic Randall Park Neighborhood in June)
IN THE CITY FOR: Six years
EDUCATION: Graduated in 2014 from UW-Eau Claire, where she studied social work and environmental science

Kate Beaton is the youngest (24!) and newest member of the Eau Claire City Council (she was elected to an at-large seat in April). A certified social worker and community organizer, Beaton helped create the Market Match program, which helps low-income shoppers stretch their dollars at the Downtown Eau Claire Farmers Market. Beaton came here for college, and she was smitten: “I am constantly in awe that I get to live in such a beautiful place,” she says. Here Beaton talks about her City Council priorities, easing townie vs. student tensions, and tackling hunger.

What else can be done in Eau Claire to help people who don’t have access to enough healthy food, or enough food period?

Poverty and food insecurity on the most simplified level comes down to not having enough money. I would like to see our city and other governments foster an economy which makes sure everyone is earning a living wage. Now, this is quite a big feat, one that I am working on locally with thousands across the country. But I think it is attainable.  ... I have some shorter-term goals, too. The public market feasibility study will be wrapping up soon. We will have to see what our consultant recommends. Whether he says that a public market is feasible or not, I think there is some way we can evolve this idea into a place or an organization that makes healthy, local food more accessible to all people.  … Community gardens are an excellent way for people to access healthy food, often for much less than what someone would pay at the grocery store.

If you could only accomplish three things in your term on the council, what would they be?

There are so many things I want to do! It’s difficult to choose three:
1. Increase the capacity of the transit system in any way possible.
2. Implement more bicycle and “complete street” infrastructure.
3. Improve relationships in neighborhoods with low home ownership and high rental rates by reducing incidences due to high-risk drinking while also addressing insufficient housing conditions.

What can be done to reduce tensions between college-aged renters and homeowners in Eau Claire’s older neighborhoods?

I’ve heard a lot of feedback from a lot of different people, and from what I’ve gathered the tensions between college-aged renters and homeowners in Eau Claire’s older neighborhoods comes down to high-risk drinking behavior, inadequate housing conditions for college-aged renters, and a lack of mutual respect between these two groups. Healthy Communities’ High Risk Drinking Prevention group is working on strategies to increase social and networking opportunities for college-aged renters and homeowners, particularly in the Historic Randall Park Neighborhood. They are doing great work to try to improve mutual respect. They are also interested in pursuing legislation that reduces high-risk drinking behavior that keeps young people safe and also makes the neighborhood more peaceful for the diverse population living there. Lastly, I’d like to increase accountability for landlords. When your rental house is falling apart, there is little desire to keep the yard clean of trash. …

What place in town considers you a “regular”?

• Singha Thai. (I have to keep myself from going there TOO much!) My favorite dish is tom kha with tofu.
• The Eau Claire Downtown Farmers Market is my FAV place to be on Saturday mornings in the summer.
• Court’n House – best Bloody Marys in town!

What frustrates you about the Chippewa Valley?

I wish we (in Eau Claire) had a stronger identity with other parts of the Chippewa Valley. Chippewa Falls and Menomonie are so close, yet I rarely spend time there. I think it would be cool to complete the bike paths that go to these other communities to increase tourism between cities.

What is one of the best cultural experiences you’ve ever had in the Chippewa Valley?

The heart of culture in the Chippewa Valley, in my opinion, is the Downtown Farmers Market. It is the only place that I can think of where such a diversity of people gather to buy products from their neighbors, socialize with their friends, hang out with their families, and enjoy Eau Claire’s natural space. I have such a strong sense of community when I am there on Saturday mornings in the summer.

What is your favorite piece of local trivia?

Eau Claire was the fourth city in the U.S. to have electric streetcars introduced in 1889. We were the first city in the U.S. to heat our streetcars with electricity. Imagine how cool it would be if you could take a street car after a day of shopping downtown at Tangled Up In Hue or the Local Store to Water Street for lunch at Dooley’s or Mona Lisa’s?

What book, TV show, or movie would you recommend to your fellow members of the City Council?

For political reading: This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate by Naomi Klein. For pleasure: Shawshank Redemption (the book or the movie). My favorite!

What part of town have you never visited (and why)?

I can’t think of any part of the city that I’ve NEVER been. I worked for Focus On Energy for a summer. I traveled around town installing energy efficient products in peoples’ homes. It was a great way to get to see the whole city!

Journey Ahead

We all get old. In fact, some of us, right at this very moment, ARE old. V1's guide to challenges and opportunities of growing older in the Chippewa Valley. Presented by the ADRC of Eau Claire County