December 28, 2007

Racine man dies from apparent self-inflicted gunshot in parking lot

A 68-year-old man died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound Friday afternoon in the parking lot of Super Cuts on Washington Avenue. Here's the release from Mount Pleasant police:

At 1:13 PM Mt. Pleasant Police were dispatched to the back parking lot of Super Cuts 5360 Washington Ave. Employees were outside the back of the store and noticed a jacket lying on the snow next to a truck. They found a man lying on the ground and called rescue. Rescue was first on scene provided medical attention to the man who had gunshot wound to the chest. Rescue transported to St. Mary’s Hospital. The victim, “Warren R. Stinson 68yoa, of Racine.” was pronounced deceased at 2:02 PM by medical personnel. Police notified the immediate family.

Police found a handgun lying in the snow next to the man on the ground. Preliminary investigation indicates that the gun shot may have been self inflicted based on the evidence at the scene, and persons interviewed thus far. Police are continuing to investigate all aspects of the case, but as stated we do not suspect foul play at this time. Anyone with information about this death investigation is asked to call the Mt. Pleasant Police Department 262-884-0454.

Here we go again: Gas prices head back up

Don't look now, but gas prices are headed up. (That's us, represented by the blue line trending northward.) Once again, $3 a gallon fuel will seem like a good thing, thanks to the upheaval caused by the chaos in Pakistan (which also shot a hole in the stock market Thursday.)

As Roseanne Roseannadanna warned us years ago, "It's always something!"

Record prices are -- once again -- predicted for spring. More details of the bad news are HERE. Makes you sort of glad to be snowed in, eh?

How about a snow tow?

Snow? Ice? All we adults think about is how dangerous the roads are during winter storms. But if you're four years old, and your daddy has a bicycle ... well, it's a whole 'nother story.

Battle of Incumbents: Kaplan challenging Lumpkin for County Board

Jim Kaplan and Ken Lumpkin will be pulling double-duty this election season.

Kaplan, who sits on the Racine City Council, has taken out papers to challenge Lumpkin for his County Board seat.

The news comes less than a week after Lumpkin announced he was challenging Kaplan for his City Council seat.

It also sets up an interesting election for most voters in the city's Fourth Aldermanic District and the county's Fourth Supervisory District. The two districts largely overlap; map is the county district.

Voters will get to decide if one person should represent them on both elected bodies, or whether they should split their votes in hopes of both candidates winning an election.

The winner will not be the first person to serve on two bodies. Alderman and County Board Supervisor Q.A. Shakoor serves on both.

PROPERTY TRANSFERS: Wind Point home sells for $520,000

It was a Merry Christmas for the new owners of 6920 Burma Court in Waterford. The home recently sold for $555,000, according to the Racine County property transfers.

Other big sellers recorded Dec. 21-26 include:
4715 James Ave. in Wind Point for $520,000 - FirstWeber listed this Colonial home surrounded by 1.2 acres of woods for $550,000.
8505 Hollander Drive in Caledonia for $465,000 - Former home of Motor Technologies. Company owner Mike McGray died on Aug. 20.
8102 Scenic View Drive in Norway for $425,000
34 Harborview Drive for $351,000
4 Gaslight Drive for $304,800.

Here are this week's listings:


December 27, 2007

Racine, Mount Pleasant officials discuss border deal

UPDATE: The JT followed our tip and is on the story. They interviewed Becker and Mount Pleasant President Carolyn Milkie and found that the communities want to "straighten out" their borders. As our commenters have pointed out, the issue is more likely centered around high-crime neighborhoods that the village doesn't want to deal with any more. But at what price will Racine take on these resource-intensive areas? Perhaps the former Case plant?

Original post:

Racine Mayor Gary Becker and Mount Pleasant officials are meeting to discuss changes to the communities' borders.

Preliminary talks would "straighten out" the borders between the communities and possibly result in the city receiving more land in exchange for taking on high-crime areas that are currently in the village.

The discussions are preliminary and no decisions have been made on the borders. City Council members have been asked not to discuss the matter with the media.

UPDATE: Ghuari running for City Council

UPDATE: Ghuari is running for council, along with several other challengers to incumbents. In all, five of the eight elections for City Council are contested, so far. There are no primaries, so far. The deadline to file is Jan. 2 at 5 p.m. Here's the list:








Old post:

We're hearing from people that Jameel Ghuari, head of the Bray Center in Racine, has taken out papers to run for City Council. Ghuari would run in the city's second district, which is currently represented by first-termer Robert Anderson.

December 26, 2007

What I did in Congress this year, by Russ Feingold

There's been a lot of talk this year about the "do-nothing Congress." Many are angry that the Democrats, given a mandate and a majority in 2006, didn't show much backbone and act on it to reverse President Bush's __________ (pick an adjective: disastrous, monomaniacal, misguided, idiotic, forward-thinking, inspired, Heaven-sent) foreign policy.

Others talk about the "do-nothing Congress" as a good thing. I've seen many comments grateful for Congress' lack of action ... since so much of what is "accomplished" turns out to bite us in the backside.

But those are both the views of outsiders. What does a real Congressman think was accomplished this year? Below, unedited, is U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold's staff-written self-evaluation. You be the judge. (We would, of course, welcome similar reports from Sen. Herb Kohl and Congressman Paul Ryan.)


Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Russ Feingold’s 2007 list of legislative accomplishments included helping secure the extension of Wisconsin's popular SeniorCare program and the passage of landmark lobbying and ethics reform largely based on legislation Feingold authored. The extension of SeniorCare, the prescription drug coverage program for Wisconsin seniors, runs through December 31, 2009 and will provide approximately 100,000 low-income Wisconsin seniors with meaningful prescription drug coverage while saving the federal government $27 million over five years. Feingold worked closely with Senator Herb Kohl, despite opposition from the Administration, to negotiate a SeniorCare extension in the Emergency Supplemental Spending bill passed in May.

Feingold was the main architect of tough lobbying and ethics reform legislation that passed the Senate in January. The bill curbs lobbyists’ gifts and privately funded travel, slows the revolving door between Congress and lobbying groups, improves lobbying disclosure, and prohibits elaborate parties for members of Congress at conventions. More than two years after Feingold introduced the first comprehensive lobbying and ethics reform bill in the Senate in July 2005, the president signed the final version of the ethics and lobbying reform bill into law on September 14.

“I am pleased with the success in the last year of measures to provide the best drug coverage for Wisconsinites, clean up Congress, and much more,” Feingold said. “I look forward to the opportunity to work on these and other issues for Wisconsin in 2008.”

Health Care: Along with extending SeniorCare, Feingold also passed two more important measures to improve health care for Wisconsinites. A Feingold-sponsored amendment passed in December to more than double funding for dental care for people living in underserved areas. The Senate also adopted in the Farm Bill a Feingold proposal to help Congress understand the current state of, and how to improve, health care for farmers and rural communities.

Supporting American Workers: Feingold was an original cosponsor of successful legislation to increase the federal minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $7.25 an hour over the next two years. In addition, Feingold’s Buy American reporting requirement, which requires federal agencies to report on purchases of foreign-made goods, was strengthened and extended for the next five years. The requirement now requires agencies that use an exception in the Buy American Act to specify the exact legal provision allowing them to purchase foreign-made goods.

Education: Provisions modeled on Feingold’s legislation to allow two-year colleges across the country to apply for TRIO grants were included in the Higher Education Amendments passed by the Senate. The TRIO grant program provides outreach and assistance to low-income students and underrepresented minority students to help them achieve a college education. Also included in the Higher Education Amendments was a measure cosponsored by Feingold to combat ongoing student loan abuses around the country.

Rural Opportunities: The Senate Farm Bill contained many of the provisions Feingold authored in his Rural Opportunities Act introduced in February, including improved support for organic agriculture, beginning farmers, bioenergy, rural broadband and local food systems. Several Feingold amendments were accepted to the Farm Bill on the Senate floor to require improvements in the Office of Small Farms, improved oversight of dairy markets, ginseng country-of-harvest labeling, and a report on the safety of high protein imports like gluten and milk protein concentrates. In addition, Feingold was part of an effort to restore the original payment rate of the Milk Income Loss Program, which acts as an effective safety net by targeting small and medium dairy farmers and only operating when prices are low.

Fairness for Farmers: The Senate Farm Bill also included a provision based on Feingold’s bipartisan legislation to protect farmers from being forced into mandatory arbitration agreements as part of a comprehensive package to improve the USDA’s ability to ensure fair competition. The Farm Bill also includes language from Feingold's Farmer Tax Fairness Act of 2007 to help ensure farmers and other self-employed individuals are able to remain eligible for social security and disability benefits.

Veterans and Military: In response to revelations of alarming conditions at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the Senate passed provisions based on legislation Feingold cosponsored to improve oversight of military medical facilities. Feingold also passed an amendment requiring the Government Accountability Office to report to Congress on the state of mental health care for female servicemembers and veterans, as well as legislation to ensure compensation for veterans who lose sight in both eyes as a result of service-connected injuries.

Foreign Policy: As Feingold led the fight to end the disastrous war in Iraq, he also fought to establish an inquiry into waste, fraud and abuse in wartime contracting, including violations of law by private military contractors. To protect against wasteful use of taxpayer dollars in reconstruction projects, Feingold was an original cosponsor of an amendment that created a special inspector for Afghanistan reconstruction. As the chair of the Senate’s Subcommittee on Africa, also Feingold authored a successful resolution calling on the warring parties in Northern Uganda to recommit to peace talks, cosponsored an effort to prohibit assistance to governments that use child soldiers, and two successful resolutions calling for greater action to halt the genocide in Sudan. To help address the ongoing conflict in Somalia, Feingold played a catalyst role in the appointment of a Special Envoy to that country.

Wanted: Citizen reporters to cover City Council meetings

Interested in local government? Want to get involved? We have an opportunity for you.

RacinePost is looking for ambitious volunteers to help report on Racine city government. No experience is required, but you do have to be willing to attend city meetings and write up what happened.

We'll help with the writing. Your job is to be the eyes and ears for the website to report on what's happening when our officials meet. Most city meetings have no media in attendance, so we'd like that to change.

But we need help. The hope is to build a network of reporters to cover as many city meetings as possible. The reporting will be straight forward: what happened, what were the issues discussed, how did the committee vote, etc.

If you're interested, contact Dustin ( for more info.

Bringing kringle to the world outside Racine ...

There's more -- and less -- to O&H Danish Bakery's kringles than you know.

As the company nears its 60th birthday, it is going off in big -- and little -- new directions. Be prepared to relearn a lot of what you thought you knew about kringle, "this hyper-sweet, O-shaped pastry that helped put Racine on the map," according to, which this year voted Racine the "quirkiest" place to spend Christmas because of kringle.

Since its founding in 1949 by Christian Olesen, grandfather of the generation now minding the store, O&H has made its mark with the kringle we all know and love. Racinians gobble more than 5,000 O&H kringles each week. Thousands more are sent out by mail order to customers all over the U.S.

But now O&H has gotten a new groove on: It is tackling the in-store market -- supermarkets in the U.S. and Canada -- as it tries to bring kringle to people who never heard of them.

This new direction started in 2001, when O&H moved into a new production facility on Rapids Drive. (The Douglas Avenue plant still bakes O&H's doughnuts and other goodies.) At 10 p.m. each night, production of "our" kringles begins, and the finished product is driven to retail stores starting at 4 a.m. But in the morning, a new shift of bakers comes to work...

When I toured the plant last week, O&H was making chocolate-covered cherry kringles at a rate of about 1,000 an hour, all for Valentine's Day. While you were baking Christmas cookies, they were baking 7,000 kringles a day, more than 50,000 a week! for supermarket sales two months hence.

These new kringles are identical to ours in almost every way, but the differences are also significant. While ours are 24-ounce circles, the new kringles are smaller 14 ounce ovals. And while ours are sold and served fresh, these new kringles are frozen right after baking. And these new kringles are branded Olesen's Family Bakery, not O&H.

One more thing: if you want to order them, you have to order at least 1,200 at a time. These are strictly for supermarkets; O&H's largest order so far: four truckloads comprising 200,000 kringles!

The basic kringle-baking process is unchanged. It's a three-day effort that begins with flour, butter, eggs, yeast and other ingredients mixed in 450-lb. batches. The dough is then rolled, with thick slabs of butter, and refrigerated overnight. On Day 2, it is rolled again, and again refrigerated overnight. On Day 3, the dough -- now in 32 layers -- is rolled down to 1/4 inch-thick sheets, then cut into strips. Filling is placed on top, the dough is folded over, and shaped by hand into the oval shape, then placed on huge baking sheets, and onto large racks.

They are baked 160 at a time, for 20 minutes in a walk-in-sized oven at 370-degrees. After cooling,
each kringle is covered with icing, packaged and sent to the freezer.

"They're made the same way grandpa made them. We just make more of them and we're more consistent," says Eric Olesen, who runs O&H with his two brothers, Mike and Dale.

"It's a big challenge selling kringle in a market that's never heard of it," Eric says. "The consumer has to take a little risk. And you need a customer -- the supermarket -- that's excited about it, and will promote it."

Three generations: Eric, Mike, Dale, Ray and Christian (1982)

O&H is a family operation. Mike runs the stores, Dale is the facilities manager and Eric runs the overall business. They grew up in the business, working for their parents, who taught them to "be our own greatest critics; don't be afraid to find what you can do better, and acknowledge that you weren't doing it the best way before," Eric says.

About a dozen family members work at O&H. "We all started out in the bakery; you've got to touch it, feel it, taste it, know how it stretches, how it shapes," he says.

Eric went to business school at UW-Madison and came away with a new mantra, "A successful business is a growing business; a healthy business is a growing business." Out of that came the business plan to bring kringle to the masses. "It's important to have an element of challenge," he says. O&H is also working towards American Institute of Baking certification, like manufacturers' ISO certification. "It's a way to let customers know our high standards," Eric says.

Kringle 101: Everything you didn't know ...

--Kringle used to be shaped like pretzels, more of an almond-filled coffee cake, dusted with granulated sugar. "Racine bakers were geniuses to create the oval shape," Eric says. In Europe, the focus was on the pastry; here in the U.S., the focus is on the filling -- and with more filling it's harder to make the pretzel-shaped pastry. He credits the Ostergaard family -- they had a bakery in West Racine until the 1970s -- for popularizing the round kringle, which lets bakers focus on the filling: pecans, cherries, apples. "But they still have to have a light, tender pastry."

-- The most popular flavor is pecan, hands down, accounting for one-third of all the kringles sold. For the past two years, O&H has run a contest among its customers, challenging them to come up with new kringle flavors. The two winners so far have been raspberry lemonade, and French toast.

-- Calories: The government says there are 180 calories in a typical serving -- but it defines a serving as 2 ounces. By that reasoning, there are 12 servings in a kringle. Good luck with that!

-- Who's the "H" in O&H Bakery? Harvey Holtz was a bookkeeper in 1949 who found a location with ovens and suggested a partnership with Christian Olesen, a Danish baker who had come to the U.S. at age 14. Olesen would do the baking, and Holtz would be the bookkeeper. Ray Olesen, Christian's son, bought out the Holtz family interest in 1960.

-- It was Ray Olesen, and his wife, Myrna, who started the mail-order business in the 1980s. They retired in 1994.

-- O&H's best customer locally is Ruud Lighting, which sends out thank you notes accompanied by kringles in response to every order. Thousands of kringles a year.

-- Three other kringle bakers in Racine are Racine Danish Kringles, Larsen Bakery, and Bendtsen's Bakery, which claims to be the oldest family-owned bakery in Racine, having opened in 1934.

-- O&H kringles were featured in the Wall Street Journal's Catalogue Critic article last week. Go HERE for their review.

PROPERTY TRANSFER: Mount Pleasant home sells for $575,000

A Mount Pleasant home at 5109 Sheridan Road sold for $575,000 on Dec. 14. Century 21 listed the residence. It was listed at $575,000 with four bedrooms, two bathrooms.

In Caledonia, a home at 415 Bonita Lane sold for $362,500, and another home at 12620 Bluestem Road sold for $445,000.

The big seller in Racine was a condo on Gaslight Pointe for $374,000.

Lumpkin running for City Council

County Board Supervisor Kenneth Lumpkin, owner of the Insider News and a four-term Racine County supervisor, told supporters he'll run for a seat on the City Council in the upcoming April election.

Lumpkin, the owner of the Insider News, is running for the Fourth District seat currently held by incumbent Alderman Jim Kaplan. Kaplan was first elected in 2006.

Lumpkin whose business and home is located in the Fourth District said his experience in business and government makes him the perfect candidate to turn-around a waning community.

“We have watched as other areas of Racine go through a new growth while our historic district slowly declines because of the lack of attention and resources,” Lumpkin said.

He said because of so many needs in the diverse and changing community, the Fourth District couldn’t afford to spend more time training leadership. The district needs an alderman with a vision of how the neighborhoods need to look decades to come, Lumpkin said.

“My strong stand against crime in our neighborhoods, economic development for the Fourth District businesses, commitment to education and proven ability to help create jobs make me the best candidate to move the Fourth District forward,” Lumpkin said.

In a District that is 67 percent minority, Lumpkin is working with Racine County Executive Bill McReynolds to design a project that will aid small minority businesses.

He added that he worked closely with the Al Gardner and the developers to bring the new Corrine Reid-Owens Square project to the Central City.

Lumpkin said his efforts will help revitalize distressed business areas like parts of Douglas Avenue and bring affordable housing to the vacant lots in the district.

“The success of bringing change will be based on weeding crime out and seeding jobs opportunity in,” Lumpkin said.

About Lumpkin:

• Age 60

• Married, proud Father and Grandfather

• High School graduate

• 8-Years on the Racine County Board

• 20-Year Business Owner (owner Insider News)

• Member of New Omega Church

• Home and Property Owner

• Vietnam-Era Veteran

• Winner of the Ted Harris Humanitarian Award

• Winner of Gateway Humanitarian Award

• Nominated by Congressman Paul Ryan to the National Civil Rights Commission

• Member of the American Legion

• President of the Flatiron Mall Association

• A member of the City of Racine Community Block Grant Committee

December 23, 2007

Comments: Clean up your language ... or else

We've reached the moment of truth: Some of you, like Ralphie here, need to have your mouth washed out with soap.

Others do not use offensive language or w*rds 'cleverly' designed to evade profanity filters, but still lack civility and deal only in the put-down, while hiding behind anonymity.

We have these choices:
1. Cut it out! You know who you are. Let this be a place for civil discourse and discussion.
OR: 2. We'll tell your mother what you said.
OR: 3. We can require registration before anyone is permitted to post comments.
OR: 4. We can start moderating comments, which will delay their appearance on the blog.
OR: 5. We can shut off comments entirely.

We'll go with #1 first, but if that doesn't stop the abuses immediately, we'll move to something more restrictive.

This isn't a poll and the majority doesn't rule. Feel free to comment, of course, but be forewarned that we're not going to put up with the profanity and nastiness any longer.

End of an era? Main Street General Store for sale

The best-smelling store in Racine is closing.

Open the door to the Main Street General Store and your olfactory senses are overwhelmed by the mingled aromas of dozens of exotic coffee beans. You stand by the door and drink it in. After a few moments, you wander to the back of the store and read the labels on big glass jars of beans from all over the world, and try to choose among them. A half-pound of this, a pound of that... And, of course, a bag of chocolate-covered coffee beans.

The caffeine high is an extra bonus.

Enjoy it while you can. Proprietor David Azarian has put the "For Sale" signs up on his general store / gift shop. After 25 years running the store (it opened in 1976), he's ready to hang up his apron for the last time. Azarian is 64, and says simply, "I've had enough. It's time." He's not necessarily retiring (he's also an accountant), but will see what else develops.

He and his wife, Mary Kaprelian (a teacher and former Racine alderman), are not leaving the area; they've just bought and moved into a house in Caledonia.

Azarian would prefer to sell the business as a going concern, but if no future general store proprietor-wannabe steps forward, the building at 302 Main St. is listed for sale at $249,900. Azarian recently sold the building next door, and is eager to see how the new owner renovates it. "If it comes out well, it will increase the value of this building," he says.