November 9, 2007

Corinne Owens honored by NAACP


Two days after her 95th birthday, Racine treasure Corinne Owens was honored Friday night at the NAACP's Freedom Fund Dinner.

The organization that she helped start 46 years ago celebrated her legacy by announcing a new college scholarship in her name. It also gave the Racine community another opportunity to acknowledge Owens' long-standing efforts to fight for the underserved and oppressed in Racine.

But for all of her accomplishments in bringing fair housing and civil rights to Racine, Owens' greatest works may have been the day-to-day acts that never made the papers. She routinely brought strangers into her home to give them a place to stay. She mentored, and continues to mentor, community leaders. She inspires countless others.

"If I can do it, you can do it," Owens said during a recent interview with the Insider News (Click here to read that story in the Insider.)

George Stinson, of Racine, is among those touched by Owens' efforts.

"I've learned from Corinne to be tenacious in what I'm doing, to stay at it," said Stinson, the owner of General Converters and Assemblers in Racine. "Corrine is a stay-at-it person. 'No' was not an answer. She thought 'no' meant come back later."

Beverly Hicks, president of the Racine NAACP, said Owens embodied determination. She not only overcame racism throughout her life, she was a leader at a time when women struggled to be heard.

"When I first met her, men were definitely at the helm of things," Hicks said. "Seeing her at a position in an organization, such as NAACP president, certainly had an impact on my life. It showed me women too can do the same things men are doing."

Owens moved from Louisiana to Racine in 1946 to be with her husband, Burse Owens. She had taught in the Louisiana Public School System for 13 years before coming to Racine. But when she got here, she was told by Racine administrators there was no place for black teachers in their schools.

It would take 23 years before Owens was allowed back into the classroom. She was hired in 1969 as an elementary school teacher. In 1971, she became the first woman and the first African American on the Gateway Technical College board of directors.

But Stinson said Owens' greatest accomplishment was helping countless people find a place to stay, either by changing city laws or putting them up in her own home.

"Corinne was the person you went to for housing in Racine," he said.

She was the person, because everyone knew she would see a situation through to its resolution. That's her legacy: Living a life that refused to accept difficulty.

"I haven't met anyone with more determination than Ms. Owens," Hicks said. "She showed me that you don't back down, you go for it. That's why she's made it as far as she has. It's the strong determination that she has."

Downtown merchants getting it together

Dorothy Ward and Mary Osterman go over downtown flyer

Dorothy Ward and Mary Osterman each have a small retail store downtown. Now they also share a big mission.

The two, who finish each other's sentences, want no less than to get downtown merchants working together, for the common good.

Their first "event" is extended shopping hours downtown. So far, 24 merchants have signed on, and will remain open Friday nights until 8 p.m. betwen Nov. 30 and Dec. 21, and on Sundays, between noon and 4 p.m., between Dec. 2 and Dec. 23.

This may not sound like much to the uninitiated, but efforts to get our independent merchants working in tandem have failed before. Many times.

"We're optimistic and positive," says Mary. "And when we're not, we call each other," says Dorothy. Their enthusiasm is infectious.

"This is the first time we've ever done a combined effort, and promoted it," says Dorothy, who opened Molly MaGruder in 2001. "There's power in numbers."

Adds Mary, who opened Copacetic three years later, "We wanted specifically to target retail stores; there's already something for restaurants, for the arts. Well, we're the third leg of downtown."

Yes, Racine already has Gallery Night for the art galleries. Says Mary, "Downtown has become known as a destination for art. Well, wait a minute! What about all the retailers?!"

"We decided it was time to help ourselves," Dorothy chimes in.

So the two hand-delivered invitations to 28 downtown retailers, inviting them all to a meeting to plan an event. Eighteen came, and eventually 24 ponied up financial support and agreed to participate. Posters will go up soon; flyers will be handed out at the Holiday Parade; advertising has been bought in Kenosha's Gift Guide. ("They gave us the best price. And, anyway, we need to reach people out of town.")

"The people from Kenosha say our downtown is wonderful," says Dorothy. "They wish their downtown was as good as ours." Says Mary, "The people from Chicago, this is their playground!"

Both note that the most successful downtown event ever, Party on the Pavement, was a grassroots effort, initiated (so the legend goes) by a suggestion made by Mayor Gary Becker at Ivanhoe's one night, soon after the two-year paving nightmare ended: "Let's have a party and close the street," he is recalled saying.

"Well, we're grassroots, too," says Mary. "All these stores are being operated by families; nobody's driving BMW's." Says Dorothy, "There's a feeling of being connected, because everyone is in the same financial condition."

There's a third major helper, too, Joanne LaBre of Dover Flag and Map Co. "She's the big sister of downtown," say Mary and Dorothy. And indeed, there Joanne was Friday morning, on her knees clearing out a paper jam in her copier and printing flyers to let people know of the extended hours.

Dorothy and Mary still need to work out the details. But they're getting the important stuff right.

Good reason to be optimistic.

Both women and their stores have interesting back stories:

Molly MaGruder's: Dorothy Ward's lilting English accent is a tip-off she's not from around here. Her connection with Racine began when she was 9 years old, and began corresponding with a penpal from Racine. That friendship lasted, and the penpals finally met in England when both girls were 18. By 1976, Dorothy and her husband decided to move to the U.S. (his first choice was Australia, but she vetoed it), and they came to Racine a couple of years later, stayed for half a dozen years, went back to England ... and then decided to return to Racine for good, with their daughter Laurie.

When she decided to open a store downtown, "We wracked our brains, 'what are we going to name our store?' Well, we had a Golden Retriever named Molly, and we used to call her Molly MaGruder. My son-in-law finally came up with the idea to give that name to the store."

Copacetic: Mary Osterman was building a house in Jasper, IN, when she went out one night with some girlfriends and ran into Monte Osterman, who was visiting his brother in Jasper. She mentioned her house under construction; he mentioned his countertop company in Racine, Osterman Granite and Marble. "It was love at first sight," Mary says.

Their store came about because Monte "always wanted to buy a hat, it was his pipe dream" but could never find them. Then they came across the "Life is Good" line, and ran with it. "We wanted to name the store "Life is Good," but that wasn't possible. "So we turned to the thesaurus, where we found copacetic." Which means ... well, you could look it up.

Extended hours participants:
Art Metals Studio
Artistry Furniture Gallery
Brandt Jewelers
Common Scents
Copacetic
Dover Flag & Map
D.P. Wigley
EYE-openerZ
Funky Hannah's Beads
Greens & Goods
Hot Shop Glass
Inside-Out
JOJO's Toys
Main Street General Store
Martha Merrell's Bookstore
Molly MaGruder
Moxie Child Children's Boutique
Nesting
Plumb Gold Ltd.
Racine Art Museum Store
Red Pony
Sheepish
Sullivan's Antiques
Uncorkt!


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River's Bend Engineering moves to Renaissance

River’s Bend Engineering (RBE) is moving to the Renaissance Business Park in Sturtevant.

RBE is a Civil, Environmental and Electrical Engineering, Automation and Controls, Design-Build and Information Technology firm, whose revenues have been growing an average of 25% per year. The company is hiring one more engineer, and anticipates hiring up to two additional staff in the near future.

The company also has offices in Auburn, IN, and is also licensed to practice engineering in Illinois, Alabama, and Florida. RBE’s engineers bring extensive experience in the field of industrial wastewater treatment, industrial process design and control systems, environmental compliance and electrical power system analysis and design.

In addition, control systems experts design wastewater control panels and automation systems. The majority of RBE’s clients are within the industrial market segment.

RBE's new address will be 1611 Renaissance Boulevard, Sturtevant.

Property Transfers, Oct. 30-Nov. 5

Here are the Racine County property transfers for last week... enjoy!

Property Transfers, Oct. 30-Nov. 5 (Excel spreadsheet)

Ryan supports Janesville... what about Racine?

A friend of RacinePost sent over an interesting spreadsheet that tracked where Department of Defense dollars were spent throughout Wisconsin. The data was from 2003, so it's a bit old, but they showed an interesting trend:
Racine County - $17,621,433
Kenosha County - $19,123,573
Walworth County - $1,044,937
Rock County - $83,661,429
The numbers four years ago showed federal dollars rolled into Rock County, which includes Ryan's hometown of Janesville, at more than double the rate as the other three county's in his district (which also includes a portion of Milwaukee County).

Hard to say if Ryan has anything to do with this discrepency, and maybe it's as simple the GM plant in Janesville getting a lot of federal work. But it sure seems like there's room for our Congressman to help out the local economy with some government contracts.

November 8, 2007

Lehman's tax fix bill passes Senate; faces roadblock in Assembly

State Sen. John Lehman, D-Racine, is putting up a solid fight for $700,000 in state funds for the Racine Unified School District. But his efforts are likely to fail before Republicans in the Assembly.

Lehman's bill amounts to a wonkish, but important, distinction between levy credits and general state aids. A portion of the recently passed state budget will distribute $79.3 million in state money to school districts. The money was originally supposed to be distributed as general state aid. But the 4-month delayed state budget resulted in the money be given out as a school levy tax credit.

Here's where the change gets interesting: shifting the money to the school levy credit cost 299 school districts across the state an estimated $12 million in state aid. Where did that money go? It was funneled from 70 percent of the school systems in the state to a select 30 percent. How and why the money was moved is best left to policy wonks to explain. But the bottom line for Racine is Unified loses $700,000 in the change - money that will either require cuts or higher taxes.

Lehman's proposal, which passed the Senate on a bi-partisan 25-7 vote, would revert the funding back to the general state aids. It's unlikely, however, to pass the Assembly where leaders said they would not consider the legislation.

It's unclear why the Assembly won't take up the bill, particularly because its leaders have schools in their districts that will lose under the plan. Chalk it up to another example of bureaucracy getting in the way of common sense.

Contact me

Hi all,

Dustin here. I've been playing around with a couple of different ways to talk/chat/communicate with people online. Below are the ones I've tried so far... feel free to try them out, if you get a chance.

AIM - Dusty21376
Twitter - www.twitter.com/deblock
MySpace - www.myspace.com/racinepost
Gmail - dustin.block@gmail.com

Get in touch any time...

Dustin

An artist's eye wanders: Kate Remington moving on

Eight years ago, Kate Remington looked into the storefront window at 613 Sixth St. and saw it with an artist's eye:

The hole in the roof, which created a hole in the floor on the second story, was a challenge an artist could love. An opportunity to flood the interior with light had presented itself! Typical artist's think.

And so a great working studio with natural light on historic Sixth Street was born.

Now Kate's muse is leading her into the great outdoors and a big green space. "It's time to get the cement mixer out of the building," she says. "Time to find a pole barn in the country, and garden space" to show her sculptures. "I'm working bigger," she says, "and I want to see them outside, in a really special space."

She's looking around St. Joseph, Michigan, across the big lake, an area similar to Racine: affordable, touristy, with a vibrant arts community. She's been selling her sculptures there for a while.

And so, she's selling her stuff, her building. Moving on. "Somebody will love this building as much as I have," she says. "You don't have to be an artist; maybe even a lawyer, or a 'City Hall lifer.' " Nah, an artist is better.

Poke Around: An Historic Building Tour, a/k/a/ the Stuff Show on Saturday, Nov. 17, from 6 - 9 p.m. will be the last time Remington-May participates in Gallery Night.

The public is invited on Gallery Night to take a guided tour of Remington-May Gallery's historic building, which is rated an "excellent example of its period" by the 1974 Johnson, Johnson & Roy architectural survey of Racine.

How does an artist renovate a building? What is essential? What is treasured? You will see a retrospective of art work in the hallways and throughout the building. What does an artist collect? What does an artist treasure?

Kate says, "make me an offer on some of this stuff that I can't refuse! Maybe you have always wanted a classic claw tub with trees growing in it? What's it worth to you?? How about an old frame? Always wanted an ancient typewriter? Want some thick old glass? Yes! What about a 9-fuse bomb box, vintage Viet Nam War?"

What about it, indeed.

November 7, 2007

Local stocks: Time to buy ... or to cry

The four-word secret of success on Wall Street ("Buy low, sell high.") resonates when looking at the stocks of local companies today. It's either time to buy, or to cry.

Stocks of six of eleven companies with substantial operations in Racine came within pennies of their 52-week lows Wednesday (or set new lows), as the overall market tanked with the 30-stock Dow average falling 361 points, a drop of 2.64%.

The six local companies sitting at the bottom of their 52-week valuations are: Associated Banc. Corp., Kohl's Corporation, Lee Enterprises, Marshall & Ilsley Corp, Modine Manufacturing and TCF Financial Corp. The most hard-hit yesterday was TCF, which fell 7.97%.

Year to date, since Jan. 3, seven of our companies show declines: Lee Enterprises (Journal Times), is down 54.7%; and Marshall & Ilsley Corp. (M&I Bank), is off 39.66%. TCF Financial Corp., Kohl's Corporation and Associated Bank Corp. all have lost about 25%. Modine Manufacturing is down 16.9% and WI Energies is off a scant 1.5%.

Racine has two solid winners this year: CNH Global, maker of Case tractors, is up 128%, continuing a climb that began in 2003; and Twin Disc is up 76.2% although off its July high by 23%. Bringing up the rear, but still in the black, are Johnson Outdoors, up a solid 16.3% and Fiserv just holding its own, up .99%.

Still, as Scarlet O'Hara reminded us, "Tomorrow is another day." Your results may vary.

Ryan takes moral high ground on earmarks
while rest of Wisconsin reaps $72.5 million

OK, we're really conflicted.

Philosophically, we agree with U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan when he says Congress should start practicing fiscal accountability and stop slipping earmarked spending bills into every other measure.

Ryan, R-WI, 1st District, long a proponent of earmark reform, yesterday signed a new reform pledge to boost transparency and demand higher standards from members of Congress regarding earmark requests. Among its provisions: disclosure of any earmarks a week before the bill comes to the floor, a promise not to direct funds to any entity not requested by a federal agency, a prohibition on earmarks that don't serve a federal interest, and so on ... 10 provisions in all.

Ryan's press release touting the pledge quotes from both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal (strange bedfellows to find on the same side of any issue) on the evils of earmarks:

“Even though members of Congress cut back their pork barrel spending this year, House lawmakers still tacked on to the military appropriations bill $1.8 billion to pay 580 private companies for projects the Pentagon did not request.” --New York Times, Nov. 4.

“A review ... of dozens of such contracts funded by (U.S. Rep. John) Murtha’s committee shows that many weren’t sought by the military or federal agencies they were intended to benefit. Some were inefficient or mismanaged, according to interviews, public records and previously unpublished Pentagon audits. " -- Wall Street Journal, Oct. 30.

Says Ryan: “It has become all too clear, with every new media report on abusive, special-interest spending in Washington, that we have to drain this earmark swamp. For citizens to regain faith in their government, we have to change the way Congress spends taxpayer dollars. This earmark reform pledge is helpful because it calls on lawmakers to make sure that any earmarks are subject to intense scrutiny and meet strict standards. The point is to prevent abusive earmarks, change the culture that has allowed spending bills to become a wish-list for powerful members of Congress, and save taxpayer dollars in the process.”

So, why are we conflicted? Because while Ryan climbs on this white charger, other members of congress are delivering dollars -- bundles, bags and truckloads of dollars -- to their districts. A simple search through EarmarkWatch.org produces a list of almost two dozen earmark spending measures within the 2008 House Defense Appropriations bill that will bring $72.5 million to Wisconsin.

$72,500,000! None of it coming here.

No doubt, some of that is pure unadulterated pork. But can't we stop the flow after some of it trickles into this district?

Here's the list of defense bill earmarks coming to Wisconsin, along with their sponsors. You decide whether they're all waste and fraud waiting to happen ... or whether you'd like a piece of them first, before completely turning off the tap:

"$4,000,000 to Fairbanks Morse Engine for LSD-41/49 Diesel Engine Low Load Upgrade Kit" --Sponsor: Rep. Baldwin (D-WI)

"$2,000,000 to Alfalight Inc. for High Brightness Diode-pumped Fiber Laser (HiBriD-FL)" --Sponsor: Rep. Baldwin (D-WI)

"$1,500,000 to ConjuGon for Wound Infection Treatment Program" --Sponsor: Rep. Baldwin (D-WI)

"$500,000 to Multiple Recipients for Solid-State DC Protection System (SSDCP)" --Sponsors: Rep. Bartlett (R-MD) Rep. Meehan (D-MA) Rep. Moore (D-WI) Rep. Murphy (D-CT)

"$500,000 to Multiple Recipients for Solid-State DC Protection System (SSDCP)" --Sponsors: Rep. Bartlett (R-MD) Rep. Meehan (D-MA) Rep. Moore (D-WI) Rep. Murphy (D-CT)

"$500,000 to Multiple Recipients for Natural Gas Firetube Boiler Demonstration" --Sponsors: Rep. Davis (D-CA) Rep. Moore (D-WI)

"$2,000,000 to Appleton Papers, Inc for Flame & Thermal Protection for Individual Soldier" --Sponsor: Rep. Kagen (D-WI)

"$2,000,000 to Utility Tool & Trailers for High Performance Aluminum Structures and Components" --Sponsor: Rep. Kagen (D-WI)

"$1,000,000 to Utility Tool & Trailers for High Performance Aluminum Military Trailers" --Sponsor: Rep. Kagen (D-WI)

"$2,000,000 to KT Engineering, Inc. for Radially Segmented Launch Vehicle (RSLV) Risk Reduction Program" --Sponsor: Rep. Kind (D-WI)

"$2,000,000 to Philips Plastics Corp for Revolutionary Self Sealing Plastic Enclosures for Military Batteries" --Sponsor: Rep. Kind (D-WI)

"$500,000 to Vantus Corporation for Personalized Orthopedic Implants for Combat Trauma induced orthopedic Surgery" --Sponsor: Rep. Moore (D-WI)

"$10,000,000 to Nobles Manufacturing for Modular Advanced Ultra Light Weapons System Prototype Mount" --Sponsor: Rep. Obey (D-WI)

"$5,000,000 to SGI for Next Generation Supercomputer IA Prototype for the NRL" --Sponsor: Rep. Obey (D-WI)

"$5,000,000 to University of Wisconsin-Superior for One-Step JP-8 Bio Diesel Fuel" --Sponsor: Rep. Obey (D-WI)

"$5,000,000 to Pliant Corporation for Ration Packaging Materials and Systems for Meals Ready-to-Eat" --Sponsor: Rep. Obey (D-WI)

"$5,000,000 to Clover Hydraulics for Ruggedized Cylinders for Expandable Mobile Shelters" --Sponsor: Rep. Obey (D-WI)

"$5,000,000 to Resilient Technologies for Spring-Suspended Airless Tires for Convoy Protection" --Sponsor: Rep. Obey (D-WI)

"$4,000,000 to Resonant Microsystems for Nanotechnology Fuze-on-a-Chip" --
Sponsor: Rep. Obey (D-WI)

"$4,000,000 to Rex Systems Inc. for Sustainability of AN/SPS-49 Common Signal Data Processor" --Sponsor: Rep. Obey (D-WI)

"$4,000,000 to McNally Industries for Technologies for Military Equipment Replenishment" --Sponsor: Rep. Obey (D-WI)

"$3,000,000 to American Plastic Inc. for Multifunctional Protective Packaging Technology" --Sponsor: Rep. Obey (D-WI)

"$4,000,000 to John Deere Horicon Works for M-Gator" --Sponsor: Rep. Petri (R-WI)

You decide: You want a piece of these ... or the moral high ground?

Mama's waiting for second Good Samaritan

Our adoptable four-legged friend this week is Mama, a nine-month Chihuahua mix at the Countryside Humane Society.

Mama was found "almost dead" alongside a Racine highway by an apartment dweller who nursed her back to health and wanted to keep her. Enter mean landlord (twirling black moustache, no doubt).

The landlord made our Good Samaritan bring Mama to the humane shelter, where she's just waiting for someone to call. We don't know whether she's really a Mama, but that was the name she picked up along the way.

UPDATE, 11/14: Mama has been adopted by a couple with a black lab. They wanted a lap dog. Mama loves her new large playmate and that warm comfortable lap!

P.S. Good news regarding Hap, last week's dog. He's been adopted by a Racine family whose last rescue dog gave them 15 years of companionship.

Racine BMX: These guys are awesome...

Here's a little diversion for the day... great video from Racine's skatepark...

November 6, 2007

City Council answers School Board's tough questions

Kutz, Van Atta, McKenna query aldermen in otherwise empty chamber


The Racine Unified School Board met with the big kids at the Racine City Council Tuesday night.

And while they weren't given all the answers to the test (though they asked for them), neither were they given wedgies. They weren't even rapped across the knuckles with a ruler (although that was suggested by a councilman, but in a slightly different context.)

It was billed as a Community Listening and Linking Session by the school board, which initiated the meeting in council chambers. School board members William Van Atta, Sue Kutz and Julie McKenna met with more than a dozen aldermen and asked them the really tough questions.

Here's some of the Q and A:

Q: Would you support building new elementary schools to allow grade reconfiguration at the high schools? (i.e., from 10-12 rather than 9-12):

Thomas Friedel, District 10: We could do a better job with smaller high schools. But before you do any of that, you've got to wrestle with the redistricting problem; it's been on the table for years. Until you solve that, you won't pass a referendum.

Jim Kaplan, District 4: I only support new schools in high density areas.

Mayor Gary Becker: I sense the school board isn't willing to make the tough decisions. No matter what, people will be upset; that comes with the big bucks you get.

Raymond DeHahn, District 7: The high schools were not built for grades 9-12, they were built for 10-12.

Q: Should we renovate or build new?

Becker: Whatever makes sense. We don't want a ring (of schools) built around the city. We want kids able to walk to school.

Friedel: You've got a school built in the 1850's (Winslow, 1856); you've got to wonder whether it makes sense to keep putting money into it.

Q: Would you support building schools west of Route 31?

Becker: If you're waiting for the perfect plan -- it's not going to come. City neighborhoods have to be taken into account. Of course, that's easy to say: It has to work for the community, for Mount Pleasant, for Sturtevant, for the city.

Q: What do we need to get referendum support?

Sandy Weidner, District 6: Bring more people into the schools.

DeHahn: Have a community open house.

Jeff Coe, District 1: Unified has to regain credibility, get trust back. Stop saying one thing and doing another. (The name Hicks was mentioned.)

Pete Karas, District 9: Hold exit interviews with kids, so staff and administrators can learn. Create more opportunities for recent grads to come back and work with kids. Engage young people; invest in the future.

David Maack, District 5: The school district doesn't do a good enough job of tooting its own horn about the good things, not just the dropout rate. You need to be able to show some success stories.

Kaplan: (Quoting a study showing why kids drop out) The kids found school too boring. I found it boring too ... and got a ruler across the back of my hand.... (amid laughter) I know you can't do that now.

Becker: Keep the process as open as possible. We're representatives of the community, but we're not the community. Find your critics first, if you're going for a referendum, and talk to them

Coe: Create a junior school board; we don't listen to our kids enough.

Robert Mozol, District 15: Indecision is worst.

SiCKO, the movie: Friday night, and free

How sick is the American health care system? Don't get me started. Don't get me started.

We can all agree it's broken: there are 50 million Americans without health insurance, Congress can't find the backbone to provide coverage for 26 million children, prescription drugs can cost as much as a compact car. Don't get me started!

Earlier this year, filmmaker and provacateur Michael Moore -- he of Fahrenheit 9/11, which skewered the war on terror and won the Cannes Film Festival's Palme d'Or in 2004 -- brought out a controversial documentary about health care in the U.S. Now, for the first time (I think!), it will be shown in Racine -- one night only, and free!

Sponsored by Americans for Democratic Action, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, SEIU 1199 and Mayor Gary Becker, SiCKO will be shown in two places hereabouts on Friday, Nov. 9 at 5:30 p.m.: In Racine at Union Hall, 1840 Sycamore Ave. and at UW-Parkside, in Greenquist Hall, Room 103, with parking in the Communications Building parking lot.

Space is limited; call Will at 262.994.8905 to RSVP.

Happy Birthday, HALO! Two years of hope and shelter

Bedrooms in the women's shelter have
uplifting names, not numbers.


An important Racine anniversary passed this week, but if you missed it consider yourself blessed. And not homeless.

Two years ago, on Nov 4, 2005, HALO opened the city's first full-time homeless shelter, in a former Massey-Ferguson factory on DeKoven Avenue. To say it's been a success, and fills a great need, would be two large understatements.

In a single year, it provided 38,314 nights of safe, warm and dry sleep to 944 homeless adults and 200 homeless children.

We should have held a citywide party to celebrate HALO's birthday. And then, of course, redoubled our efforts to make it redundant.

Cheryl Buckley looks over the shelter's busy schedule

You don't have to be one of the hundreds of homeless people who used to traipse back and forth throughout the city -- from one church to another, a different one each night, carrying all your belongings -- to understand the difference a guaranteed and stable bedroom makes, along with regular meals. REST, the old Racine Emergency Shelter Taskforce, performed a necessary service on the backs of church volunteers, and deserves much credit for its years of work; but there simply is no comparison.

When REST provided beds and meals for the homeless, approximately 60 people could be accommodated each night. (Homeward Bound also provided emergency housing for 35 women and children.)

By HALO's definition, homelessness is "a temporary circumstance." Some people only stay one night. But for others ...

According to Cheryl Buckley, HALO's director, about 1,200 people are homeless in Racine County, and 150 to 200 need emergency shelter on a daily basis. Many of those are children.

HALO has beds for 120 people, 60 men and 60 women in two separate areas. But there are many nights when more show up; HALO has stacks of portable mattresses it pulls out for the overflow, setting up for men in their dining room, and for women in a family room. Last Friday, for example, 64 men were sheltered.

More pictures HERE.

As it gets colder, more men will seek beds, Buckley says. "There are more seasonal jobs in the summer, and when it's warm men are more willing to sleep outside in cars, parks, streets or cars. Men are more likely homeless in fall and winter."

For women, it's the opposite; the shelter hosts more women and children occupants in June and July. "The hidden number in homelessness is people living with others," Buckley says. "People live doubled up, with an aunt or grandmother; you get into an argument and are thrown out. But it's real hard to kick them out in winter."

The crunch for women and children comes in May, "when the hammer comes down from the utilities." Under Wisconsin law, utilities are prevented from shutting off service for non-payment between October and April.

Despite all that, Buckley says she feels "a sense of hope here." And well she might: much of HALO's effort is aimed not so much at running a homeless shelter as at trying to fix the underlying problem, one resident at a time.

"All we guarantee people who come here is 24 hours. Then they meet with a case manager and create an Individual Success Plan" that helps them work toward independence and self-sufficiency. "If it takes one year, or two years ... as long as you make progress you can stay here. We're really about connecting people with the services they need. But everybody is surprised at how long it takes." Social Security disability claim appeals, for example, routinely take at least a year and a half to be resolved.

"Ninety-eight percent of the people who come in here want to work, want to be productive. But even when working, they're on the edge; get sick for a couple of weeks and lose a job, and they have to start over."

That was one of REST's frustrations, Buckley says; they saw the same people coming back year after year. "It's like an onion; you peel the layers back. A man is a tool and die maker; try to find a job doing that these days. First the job goes, then the marriage, the kids, the psyche. People are road-weary." HALO aims to end that cycle; help the homeless get diplomas, training, free of addictions.

Buckley was hired just before construction started in the summer of 2005. Her touches are everywhere: for example, rooms are not numbered, but instead named: "Caring," "Peace," "Love," "Kindness," and so on. On the women's side, the names are gaily painted on signs hung on each door, project of a Girl Scout troop. Four bedrooms were recently painted and their floors re-waxed by a group of Johnson-Diversey executives, who spent a day working their muscles and hearts.

Bedrooms are tidy (It must be said: Buckley is a neat- and cleanliness micro-manager). Besides the bedrooms -- there's a subtly tiered system for men: if you have a job, you live in a room without bunk beds -- there is a tutoring room with computers (project of a Leadership Racine class), family room on both the men's and women's sides with comfortable couches and TV, and a colorful children's playroom. And two separate kitchens.

But this is not summer camp. All residents are required to be up and dressed by 8 a.m. and active. There are classes and chores, with big whiteboards listing the schedule, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 9 to 2, everybody is required to be out of the building, to give the staff time to catch up. Baby-sitters are provided, so mothers don't have to bring kids to appointments in town. The YMCA provides free memberships to all who want it, the DeKoven center offers classes, the Racine Public Library is available.

Besides the shelter, HALO also manages 22 transitional apartments rented for those who are nearly independent; last year they housed 32 adults and 26 children. The cost comes from a HUD grant that used to be managed by the now-defunct Homeward Bound women's and children's shelter. When Homeward Bound was operating, Racine provided (along with REST) beds for about 135 people. Now, with the larger HALO facility there are beds for about 165.

And still they are sometimes turned away. No matter how full, the shelter will find room for anyone from Racine County, but when at capacity it will turn away people from out of town, giving them bus tokens to Kenosha or Milwaukee.. Kenosha still operates its homeless shelters as Racine used to, moving from church to church each night.

By the numbers, in one year:
944 people sheltered
672 adults created Individual Success Plans
301 moved to a permanent address
95% of parents attended parent education classes
Of 200 children: 98% had wellness check-ups and immunizations
98% attended school regularly
75% maintained passing grades
Things you didn't know:

-- HALO is one of those hard-wrought acronyms, more trouble than they are worth: Homeless Assistance Leadership Organization.

--REST, the old Racine Emergency Shelter Taskforce which HALO replaces, performed a necessary charitable service thanks to myriad church volunteers, and deserves much credit for all it accomplished. Cleaning out church basements, setting up and taking down 60 beds a night, cooking meals for all who needed food, taxed a lot of resources.

-- Many people helped bring HALO to fruition, but the one without whom nothing would have happened is David Maurer, executive director of the United Way of Racine County, who, starting in 2002, formed the committees, populated the task forces, knocked on corporate doors seeking capital and put his organization's money where its mouth was. United Way put up $150,000 in transitional funds to make the leap from REST to HALO, and currently supports the organization's $1 million annual budget with $280,000.

-- The capital campaign seeking $2.1 million to build HALO in 2005 was one of the more successful here in recent memory, actually raising $2.4 million. Maurer and Willard Walker (chairman of Walker Forge, whose wife, Mary, was United Way board president in 2005) managed to obtain pledges like the following:
$600,000 from SC Johnson
$243,000 from the city
$180,000 from the county
$150,000 from Modine
$100,000 from Twin Disc
-- Executive director Buckley spent 11 years as associate director of the Racine YMCA, leaving here in the mid-90s to direct Y's in Chicago and Des Plaines, before "retiring" in 2002, being recruited to restore the Women's Resource Center to health, and then to direct construction and operation of HALO in 2005.

-- The building is owned by the Neubauer family (Kranz Inc.). HALO and the Food Bank, which each occupy about a third of it, pay only interest payments toward eventual condo ownership.

Sale won't change Batteries Plus operation here

Owners may come and go, but at the retail level the clerk at the counter is unchanged.

In other words, don't expect any changes when you visit Batteries Plus (behind Best Buy on Regency West Drive), just because the Hartland-based retailer was sold today to an Atlanta equity firm, Roark Capital group, owner of such franchisers as Cinnabon and Schlotzky's.

Batteries Plus has 292 franchise stores and 15 company-owned stores in 41 states, generating $200 million in annual sales. The Racine store, along with most others in Wisconsin, is company-owned, according to Ken Burket, corporate store operations manager.

And if your cellphone, car, watch or other battery dies in a few weeks, when you're up in Milwaukee, the company's 16th Wisconsin store is about to open at Bayshore Mall.

Root-Pike WIN announces grants

The Root-Pike Watershed Initiative Network’s Resource Group awarded $13,610 in grants on Monday. Grant winners include:
$10,000 for Signage for the Root River Parkway, Racine County Department of Public Works. Signs will be installed at conspicuous points along the Root River corridor where the publicly-owned parkway intersects with or is in close proximity to public roads. The signs are intended to increase public awareness of over 675 acres of publicly owned lands that comprise the Root River Parkway, and to stimulate interest and support for the acquisition and protection of additional land in the corridor. The signs will be installed in August 2008.

$1,386 to Weed-Out! Racine, a volunteer program of the S.E. Gateway Group Sierra Club, for equipment & supplies to control the spread of exotic invasive plants in City of Racine parks and natural areas. Volunteers will remove honeysuckle, buckthorn, garlic mustard and dame’s rocket and restore areas with native trees, shrubs and plants.

$2,224 to Eye on Racine for a pilot cable television program created by Racine youth featuring Root-Pike WIN grant projects and volunteers. The purpose of the project is to increase awareness about Root-Pike WIN, especially among Racine youth who will also acquire interview skills and learn about television production. The production will be aired on CAR-25 twice a week for four weeks and a DVD will be donated to WIN for use in public outreach activities.
Six applicants applied for grant funding in the cycle that ended August 25, 2007. Root-Pike WIN’s next grant cycle ends February 3, 2008 and grants will be awarded in Spring 2008.

For the first time, Root-Pike WIN will offer a pre-application workshop intended to help applicants plan their projects and write stronger grants. The workshop is planned for December and the date, time and location will be announced soon.

“We want to work with applicants right from the beginning and help them write stronger grants, ones that are likely to get funded,” said Susan Greenfield, executive director of Root-Pike WIN. “Often, our grant application is the first one our applicants have prepared. Our goal is to help them succeed with projects that will protect, restore and sustain the ecosystem in the Root and Pike river watersheds,

The Root-Pike watershed extends from Kenosha County, through Racine, Milwaukee and Waukesha counties. Since 2001 the organization has awarded $311,170 to seventy-one watershed projects. The Root-Pike Watershed Initiative Network grew out of a group convened in 1998 by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to identify critical natural resource issues in the Root River and Pike River watersheds.

For more information, go Root-Pike WIN’s website, www.rootpikewin.org or contact Susan Greenfield at 262-898-2055 or sgreenfield@wi.rr.com.

Kohl votes no on Mukasey over waterboarding

Sen. Herb Kohl, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, voted today against the nomination of Judge Michael Mukasey to become U.S. Attorney General because of his refusal to condemn waterboarding.

In voting against the nomination, Kohl said:

“It is with great reluctance that I cannot support Judge Mukasey’s nomination to be Attorney General. He is nominated to be this nation’s top law enforcement official. His unwillingness to say what we all know – that waterboarding is torture – sends the wrong signal to the rest of the world, puts our own soldiers at risk, and harms our ability to win the war on terrorism.

“As Judge Mukasey’s answers mirror the President’s on this issue -- and defy common sense -- we are forced to question his independence as well. The Attorney General’s loyalties must be to the Constitution, to the American people and to the law. Too much doubt on this point is disqualifying.”

Wisconsin's other senator, Russ Feingold, said this weekend that he, too, would oppose Mukasey's nomination when/if it comes to a vote in the full Senate.

The Associated Press reported this morning, as the Judiciary Committee prepared to vote on the nomination, that Mukasey's confirmation "seems assured" after two key Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats accepted his vow to enforce any law Congress might enact against waterboarding.

However, committee Chairman Patrick Leahy said Mukasey's assurance to Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Schumer was disingenuous.

"Unsaid, of course, is the fact that any such prohibition would have to be enacted over the veto of this president," Leahy, D-Vt., said as the panel prepared for the vote to advance Mukasey's nomination to the full Senate.

UPDATE: Sen. Russ Feingold, also a member of the Judiciary Committee, voted against Mukasey's nomination, too, saying:

"In many respects, Judge Mukasey is a big improvement on the previous Attorney General. At this point in our history, however, the country needs more.

"Simply put, after all that has taken place over the last seven years, we need an Attorney General who will tell the President that he cannot ignore the laws passed by Congress. And on that fundamental qualification for this office, Judge Mukasey falls short…The rule of law is the very foundation of freedom and a crucial bulwark against tyranny. Congress cannot stand silent in the face of this challenge by the executive to the crucial underpinnings of our system of government."

Nonetheless, the committee approved the nomination by a vote of 11 - 8. All of the Republicans on the Committee voted in favor of Mukasey, while all but two of the Democrats on the panel opposed the nomination.

Pope Benedict's new Racine connection

Pope Benedict XVI now has a Racine connection.

Here's a hint: It can lift 20 tons.

Stumped? It's a New Holland tractor that will be used to move the stage in St. Peter's Square when the Pope addresses the faithful.

The New York Times reports that the Vatican recently began using a new, bigger stage (weighing 17 tons) that could not be moved by its previous equipment, so representatives went to a New Holland dealership in Rome in search of a tractor. Sergio Marchionne, the Fiat chief executive, decided to give the tractor to the Vatican and handed the Pope the keys on Wednesday.

The Pope's new tractor is painted white, has custom trim and the Vatican coat of arms on the front. If you want one just like his, be aware it costs $173,000.

Fiat, the Italian carmaker, owns CNH Global, the maker of Case and New Holland tractors. It purchased Case in 1999 for $4.3 billion. Case began in 1842 as the Racine Threshing Machine Works

November 5, 2007

Karas seeks payback for presidential candidate visit

Alderman Pete Karas was busy Monday. After putting in a communication requesting to talk with city committees about signage in Racine, he went back to work with two more proposals.

Karas wants to talk with committees about requiring presidential campaigns who visit Racine to reimburse the city for the cost of the visit. This could come into play during the 2008 presidential election. Wisconsin is a toss-up state and Racine County is split between Democrats and Republicans, which could draw candidates to the city.

Karas also teamed with Alderman Aron Wisneski to announce a public information and listening session on the city's 2008 budget. The meeting will be held Nov. 16 at 6:30 pm at Gethsemane Lutheran Church, 3319 Washington Ave. Attendance at the session is open to the public.

Painting, Maasai and more coming to Library

A variety of family programs is scheduled at the Racine Public Library this month.

Events include:
-- Families creating decorated windows based on entertaining stories.
-- A presentation on Africa's semi-nomadic Maasai by a cultural ambassador from Kenya.
--Creation of a "teens-only space" with free internet, video games, music and food.
--A create-a-card stamping workshop.


The Adventures in Stories program for kids and their families is Tues., Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. in the Children's Dept. Families will share stories told by storytellers and will form teams and adopt a library window to decorate for the holidays, or dabble in finger paint. Space is limited so families are urged to form their teams as soon as possible and call 636.9245 to reserve a spot. Window decorating supplies will be provided, and families are invited to bring anything they would like to add to make their window unique. This program is free and open to all ages.

"Meet the Maasai," in cooperation with the Agape Performing Arts Center, will be at the library on Wednesday, Nov. 14 at 6:30 p.m. Presented by Joseph Ole Koyei, Cultural Ambassador to the Maasai, the program will offer a look at the culture, lifestyle and rituals of these people based in southern Kenya and northern Tanzania in East Africa. Mr. Koyei is founder of a school for indigenous children in Kenya and speaks extensively about the issues facing his people and ways people can help with education and relief programs. He hopes to preserve the Maasai's traditional ways while restoring self-sufficiency. This program is free and open to the public; no registration is necessary.

The "teens only" space will be created on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 16 and 17, from 3 - 5 p.m. Youth ages 13-17 will have access in the community meeting room to free internet service, video games, music, popular teen reads, food and more at this free event. Interested teens will be offered the opportunity to have a say in future teen programming and in the library's future renovation of its youth area.

And finally, the library will host a series of stamping workshops on Sun., Nov. 18 from 2:30-4 p.m. and on Sat., Dec. 8 from 1:30-3 p.m. for beginners 12 and older. Kelly Graham, an independent consultant for Stampin' Up! will demonstrate a variety of greeting card creations and participants will take home a project created in class. Supplies will be provided. Space is limited for this free workshop and registration is required. Contact the library to reserve a spot.

Holidazzle: Artful fun and shopping downtown

Downtown Racine holiday shopping hours and events have been announced, starting with the lighting of the city's 35 ft. Christmas tree at Monument Square Saturday, Nov. 10, after the parade. The parade begins at 5:30 p.m.

Special Holiday Hours have been set. Beginning Friday, Nov. 30, downtown shops are extending their hours until 8 p.m. every Friday evening, and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m.

Downtown Racine’s Holiday Open House will be held from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 1. More than 50 unique stores, galleries and boutiques will be open with holiday gifts and decorations.

Holiday Gallery Night will be held on Saturday, Nov. 17 from 6-9 p.m. Fifteen galleries and workshops will be open, offering exhibits, refreshments and entertainment. Maps detailing the gallery locations and exhibits are available at all participating galleries, as well as the DRC office at 425 Main Street.

Participating galleries include:

Artists Gallery, 312 6th Street -- Racine’s only cooperative gallery of local and regional fine art and gifts.
Art Metals Studio, 332 Main Street – custom designs in precious metals with exotic colored gemstones and diamonds by Chris Sklba.
Avenue Gallery & Frame, 402 Main Street – selection of artwork by local and nationally recognized artists; also art glass, pottery, sculpture and wood turnings.
Cobblestone Ltd., 415 6th Street – Racine Room hosts local artists in a variety of media, including originals, prints and pottery featuring many Racine landmarks.
Funky Hannah's Beads & Art, 324 Main Street -- they put the 'fun' in funky.
Hot Shop Glass, 239 Wisconsin Avenue -- Local artists will be blowing glass throughout the evening. Watch as molten glass becomes beautiful art. The hottest spot downtown!
Mathis Gallery Frameshop, 328 Main Street – thousands of works of art for every d├ęcor from period to contemporary.
Monfort's Fine Art Gallery, 430 Main Street – artworks by international, regional and local artists working in a wide variety of media.
Northern Lights Gallery, 423 Main Street -- featuring glass art from three artists: local glass and jewelry artist Lynne Rae Eaton, Michigan mosaic glass artist Jackie Russo, and glass faces by Indiana artist James Connolly.
Photographic Design Studio, 411 6th Street -- fine art photographic gallery with unique images by Carol Hansen and Brad Jaeck. Photographs of Racine's landmarks and other locales.
Plumb Gold Ltd., 322 Main Street -- combination of designers, goldsmiths, and American Gem Society Certified Gemologists.
Racine Arts Council, 505 6th Street
Racine Art Museum, 441 Main Street -- free admission from 5:00 – 9:00 pm.
Remington-May Workshop Gallery, 613 6th Street
Spectrum Gallery, displaying at Martha Merrell’s Bookstore, 600 Main Street.

Just the numbers 1 to 9; how difficult can that be?

I hesitate to tell you the following, since Sudoku is just an endless time-waster, with no redeeming value (much worse than the daily crossword puzzle, which at least teaches new words) but who am I to judge?

For those of you who indulge -- you know who you are -- Martha Merrell's Bookstore will host a Sudoku book signing and classes by local author Robert L. Ware on Nov. 10 and Nov. 17, both Saturdays.

Ware's book, "The WareBox Book of Sudoku," and its accompanying template explain how to solve Sudoku puzzles. Ware will host classes at the bookstore on the use of the book and the template, and will also sign copies of his book.

The classes will explain the logic behind Sudoku solutions, teach Sudoku tips, and solve the puzzles in minutes not hours .

Beginner classes are from 10 a.m. to 10:50 a.m., and intermediate classes from 11 a.m. to 11:50 a.m. on both Saturdays. Advance reservation is encouraged due to limited seating. Call Martha Merrell's Bookstore at 262-632-0215 for details and reservations. A small enrollment fee will be applied to the purchase of the book.

Any questions may be directed to Pamala Handrow, Scott Schroder or Vaughan Weeks at the bookstore, 600 Main St.

Newspaper circulation: Choose your synonym

UPDATE: The JT saw a slight dip in its circulation to 30,471 on Sunday and 28,287 weekdays, according to the Milwaukee Business Journal. The Kenosha News declined 1.6 percent on Sundays to 27,149 and 0.9 percent weekdays to 24,552, the paper reported.

ORIGINAL POST: The auditing body of the American newspaper industry issued its circulation report for the past six months today, and it's an exercise in synonyms for bad news. The first report, from Editor and Publisher, the industry trade publication reveals:
Fell: New York Times, -4.5%
Down: Washington Post, -3.2%
Tumbled: Boston Globe, -6.6%
Down: Wall Street Journal, -1.5%
Slipped: New York Post, -5.2%
Experienced deep declines: Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News, -10%
Dropped: Minneapolis Star Tribune, -6.5%
There are a few papers with signs of life, mostly reported as "stabilizing" or "minimal" losses or "virtually flat."

Current numbers for the Journal Times haven't been released yet. In April, the last six-month figures available, ABC listed its average daily circulation, M-F, as 28,586 (26,453 on Saturday), with 30,807 papers sold on Sundays.

Both major papers in the region suffered declines: The daily Chicago Tribune "slipped" -2.9% daily to 559,404, and Sunday -2.1% to 917,868. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which only makes the top 25 on Sunday, "fell" -2.6% to 389,840.

The flagship paper of Lee Enterprises, owner of the JT, is the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, bought 2 1/2 years ago as part of a $1.46 billion deal. It's down -4.7% daily, to 265,111, but up Sunday by +.04% to 420,222.

Alderman wants fines for biz signs left in yards too long

Businesses could be fined $250 for leaving signs in yards for more than two days after they complete work on a project, under proposed changes to the city's sign ordinance.

Alderman Pete Karas wants to fine companies like AT&T who hook up television service at a city home and then leave signs in people's yards for excessive periods of time. He's also going after contractors who put up signs all over town after a hail storm or other strong storms. Both could be fined between $50 and $250 for signs left up too long. Homeowners would not be fined.

"I believe this will raise public awareness of our sign ordinances and the changes will make Racine’s neighborhoods more aesthetically pleasing," Karas said about his proposal.

He's also taking aim at two obscure items in the city's sign ordinance. One, current law seems to ban signs for civic events - events like Pancake Days or church festivals - or statements of conscience. Karas would allow such signs.

Also, the city specifically requires evergreen trees to block views of signs near homes or apartments. Karas would like any perennial shrub to be acceptable, as long as it hides the sign.

Not included in Karas' proposed changes are fines for political signs. While they may be lumped in with the business signs, Karas said he does not intend for candidates to be fined for signs left up too long after an election.

November 4, 2007

VIDEO: Fritz Cape serenaded as new president of Realtors

Here's some fun from YouTube... Bill & Kathy Novak, Realtors with ERA Newport Realty Corp. in Racine recorded Fritz Cape's installation as president of the Racine, WI Board of Realtors on October 30. Cape, who is replacing Bill Novak as president, is a good sport about the surprise serenade, and his colleagues had a few laughs, too!

Dunder Mifflin Racine Branch

Some fun for local fans of The Office:

Gas prices? Here they go again ...

Chart courtesy of MilwaukeeGasPrices.com.


You know that hole in your wallet?

Well, we figured out where the money went. Gas prices snuck up again in the past week, while you were fixated on Halloween candy.

Scary, isn't it? We couldn't find anyone who tracks Racine prices, so the graph above is from Milwaukee, the state and the entire U.S. It shows quite clearly what's happened in the past nine days -- a 25-cent increase in the price per gallon of regular. Note that Wisconsin prices, on average, are higher than those in the rest of the U.S. Yea for our side!

According to the Lundberg Survey, which tracks this sort of depressing statistic, things can only get worse.

"If crude oil prices don't retreat, gas prices could easily cross back over the $3 mark on average," said publisher Trilby Lundberg.

Prices reached an all-time high of $3.18 in May.

The current average U.S. price, $2.96, is 78 cents higher than it was one year ago, Lundberg said.

The survey looks at thousands of gas stations across the country. It found the highest average price for a gallon of self-serve regular was in San Francisco, at $3.28. The lowest was in Newark, New Jersey, at $2.73.

If you're headed to Chicago, be sure to fill up here first; average price of a gallon of regular there is already $3.13.

Driving around Racine this weekend, we found prices from $2.97 - $2.99 a gallon. Those may look good in a few days ...

The JT's "Money" section throws out all pretense

Yup, it's all about money, and not about local business news.

Anybody beside us notice the extra advertising on the front of the Journal Times' Money section this morning? The usual 2-inch high strip across the entire bottom of the page is now 3 inches tall. And there's another ad on top of that, five columns wide and 4 inches tall. Between them, and a small house ad to square things off, they take up 40% of the page's ... um, newshole, to extol the virtues of a stock broker and a car dealer.

All the news that's fit to print on the cover are two wire stories and a sidebar.

Not that there's anything inside the section, either: just a single local business story in four pages. And that story -- about Racine Danish Kringle buying Pinahs Rye Chip. Co. -- was first reported by the Milwaukee Business Journal on Thursday, when we posted a link to it. (Even then the story was a month old; the sale reportedly was finalized on Oct. 1, although just announced.)

In fact, local business news gets far less space in the section than the reprinting of one of the JT's comic strips, because that strip, in the four-page comics sheet wrapped around advertising inserts, is missing eight words on its right side. The missing words are: is, the, a, and, morning, of, out, at.

The reprinted comic strip took up 24 column inches.

Feingold to vote against Bush's AG nominee

Early Sunday morning, Sen. Russ Feingold's office issued the following statement:

"I will vote against the nomination of Judge Mukasey to be the next Attorney General. This was a difficult decision, as Judge Mukasey has many impressive qualities. He is intelligent and experienced and appears to understand the need to depoliticize the Department of Justice and restore its credibility and reputation.

"At this point in our history, however, the country also needs an Attorney General who will tell the President that he cannot ignore the laws passed by Congress. Unfortunately, Judge Mukasey was unwilling to reject the extreme and dangerous theories of executive power that this administration has put forward.

"The nation's top law enforcement officer must be able to stand up to a chief executive who thinks he is above the law. The rule of law is too important to our country's history and to its future to compromise on that bedrock principle."

Last we heard, Sen. Herb Kohl was still trying to make up his mind; hadn't issued a definitive statement one way or the other.