RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) - The Rapid City mayoral election is heating up with the issue of race and representation taking center sage.
Natalie Stites Means is running to unseat Mayor Steve Allender. In Thursday night's political forum Stites Means quoted a nickname for Rapid City, calling it "Racist City".
That's not the only time she has used the term racist during the campaign. At an earlier forum, she called the city council's resolution aimed at combating aggressive panhandling racist and says Native Americans are disproportionately incarcerated. She says it speaks to a need for change in the city, starting at the top.
"What I encountered was some really, perhaps unconscious, but certainly misinformed attitudes at the city council," Stites Means said. "I think my opponent has demonstrated these at every single forum in terms of stereotyping Natives Americans as the criminal class here in Rapid City. We are not criminals."
In an interview earlier this month, Allender said he believes race relations have actually improved since he took office by combating problems like generational poverty and addiction through various programs and nonprofits.
"Race relations under my leadership have improved in the last four years because we have not meddled in the fine details of those relationships," Allender said. "We have supported other people in the community, both minority and white, that are interested in furthering this community discussion."
In addition, Allender says he has worked with police to develop tools to help smooth out relations.
The election is June 4.