January 5, 2008

School Board candidate Ravnikar starts a blog

At least one of the candidates for the Racine Unified School Board is taking her campaign online.

Carly-Anne Ravnikar, a student at UW-Parkside and first-time candidate for School Board, has started a blog. Her first post gives some general background and asks interested voters to email her questions.

It's a great use of a free medium, and we hope other candidates follow her lead (and that Ravnikar follows through on her promise to update her blog with posts about key issues and the campaign). You can checkout her blog at: http://schoolboardelectionracine.blogspot.com

John Nichols: Obama's Iowa victory 'a big deal'

By Bonnie J Hollis

John Nichols, political analyst and associate editor of The Capital Times in Madison, believes Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain will be the eventual candidates for president of the United States in November.

Speaking before 160 members of Racine’s chapter of the American Association of University Women and their guests at Meadowbrook Country Club on Saturday, Nichols had just returned from covering the caucus campaign in Iowa. Although his assignment was to cover Republican Michael Huckabee and his strategy for winning that race, Nichols said it was all the Iowa caucus voters who made the greatest impression on him — and it was that experience that he believes will change America.

"We’ve had “a screwed-up culture,” Nichols said, but because of Iowa, we are on the verge of real change. “It matters a lot that Obama won in a state whose residents are mostly white. It’s a big deal.

“I hope we are on the track with race as we have come with religion,” Nichols said, referring to the religious struggle John F. Kennedy, a Catholic, had when he campaigned for president in 1960. “In one night, Lutheran farmers in Iowa moved the discussion to a different level. It was an epic moment. It was Kennedyesque.”

Not impressed with most media coverage, Nichols said, “The media dumbed it down; but those caucuses set a new tone. Each candidate was, for the first time in Iowa, treated as a human being. The caucuses of the past were grandmotherly, but there was a dramatic shift this time. Participants crossed the generations; young people cared.”

That shift, he said, included the numbers who got involved in the process and the money spent by those who won. People and their involvement made the difference, not the dollars spent by the candidates.

As important as Iowa was, it probably won’t spell the end. On Tuesday, New Hampshire will be different, as will the primaries in the states that follow, Nichols said. The significant battle will be Super Tuesday on Feb. 5.

“On Super Tuesday, “ Nichols continued, “we will have a real race. We will have good politics.”

The author of "The Genius of Impeachment: The Founders’ Cure for Royalism," Nichols challenged the group to follow Iowa’s example.

“We tell ourselves that we’re ‘too busy.’ Iowans engaged at a very deep level. They took their children to the caucuses; they waited hours to cast their votes. They got involved. This will be an interesting, scary, inspiring year,” Nichols said; but instead of saying, ‘We’re too busy,’ we must say, ‘This matters so much; we all have to be a part of it.’

“ Change is not only in and for America but for the world.”

January 4, 2008

Networking session set by four disparate organizations

Four disparate professional organizations are getting together to network and learn about each other.

Members of the African American Business and Professional Association, the Hispanic Business Professional Association, Leadership Racine and Young Professionals of Racine will join on Jan. 17 for a presentation, speed networking and a reception.

The session, called Making Connections: Building Your Network, will feature a presentation by Martha Carrigan, of Milwaukee’s Big Shoes Network, on the importance of building a professional network.

The event, with registration starting at 5 p.m. and the presentation at 5:30 p.m. will be held at the St. Luke’s Health Pavilion Auditorium on the All Saints campus.

“The fact that you have four of the most active and recognizable non-profit organizations coming together to network is historic,” said HBPA President Wally Rendon. “Never in the history of Racine do I recall groups representing the different ethnic and non-ethnic groups collaborating in the same event to promote each others’ organizations which will undoubtedly benefit the overall Racine Community.”

“We all hope this event will spur further collaborative efforts, friendships and partnering opportunities,” said YPR Program Director Dana Grueter. “Our members can get to know many new people at an event designed to help them build their network in a comfortable atmosphere. We wanted to be part of this to build relationships with other organizations across the community and to expand our outreach.”

While the focus of the event is networking, each organization will briefly discuss what it does.

“In business, a lot of success happens based off of relationships,” said AABPA President Scott Terry. “This event will help stimulate relationship-building not only for our members, but the general public as well. I hope the community sees that we have thriving groups of professionals and business owners of all colors and, many times, these positive, successful people get overshadowed by the negative elements that may exist in the community.”

The event is sponsored by City of Racine, Racine County and Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare-All Saints. Registration is not required, but is encouraged at www.ypracine.org. There is no charge to participants.

“Each of the four participating organizations have their own mission, but, collectively, we all live, work and play in Racine,” said Leadership Racine Executive Director Karen Bayer. “By utilizing each of our groups’ strengths and sharing resources, we will ultimately benefit the organizations and our community as a whole.”

Lee rumors swirl as $1 billion evaporates

Is there more going on at Lee Enterprises than meets the eye? Thursday's stock sell-off came at a time whispers about the newspaper chain's intentions -- especially regarding The Journal Times -- have been heard. Take the following rumors with a grain of salt -- they're totally unconfirmed (and unlikely to be confirmed at all until something happens -- or doesn't).

I first heard that The Journal Times -- which Lee bought in 1959 -- might be traded to another chain from a former Journal Times ad director. Later, an industry insider, who also used to work here, said he'd heard that much more than our newspaper may be involved. But both tipsters are dealing in second-hand, or worse, information.

I tried to check out the story through official sources, but got this response from Dan Hayes, Lee's vice president of communications, "Pete, as you’d expect, we never comment on speculation about possible acquisitions or divestitures, regardless of how off base it might be." Yup, just as expected. (And a sly dig as well; Dan's a sharp former Lee editor.)

The world of hurt at Lee came to the forefront Thursday when shares of the company stock (NYSE: LEE) closed at $11.78, down $2.69, or 18.59% in one day. "Lee in free-fall," headlined an industry story; it's a "mystery," said an analyst.

The high volume of Lee stock sales Thursday (four times the norm), and the sudden price drop are unexplained. Hayes, said, "We know of no news that would trigger this."

Um ... the fall came right after Lee CEO Mary Junck's New Year's Eve letter to shareholders, which attempted to put a good spin on the past year's results -- down in key categories (revenue, circulation) but less so than many other newspaper chains. The sentence that I think spooked the market warned that Lee's 1st Qtr. results would be down from an "exceptionally good" 2006 1st Qtr.

Whatever the reason, the outcome exacerbated the pain that's been present all year: Lee's value is down two-thirds since February. On Feb. 16, 2007, with Lee stock selling at $35.51, its 46.19 million shares had a total valuation of $1.64 billion. At Friday's close, Lee's market capitalization had dropped to $547 million -- ouch, if that missing $1.1 billion came from your 401k. Shareholders don't feel any better knowing that all newspaper chains are in the dumps -- Journal Register was down 75.9% for the year; McClatchy, 71%; misery really doesn't love company.

Lee has grown dramatically in the past few years. When I became a Lee editor in 1979, the chain had just 18 daily newspapers. Except for the addition of a miscellaneous daily or two, and scores of weeklies and shoppers around the country, it pretty much remained a mid-sized, Midwest newspaper chain (having sold off half a dozen TV stations) until 2005, when it bought -- for $1.46 billion -- the Pulitzer newspaper chain and its flagship, the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

Overnight, Lee became the 7th largest newspaper chain in the U.S., as measured by circulation (1.7 million daily; 2 million Sunday); or the 4th largest chain, as measured by the number of papers (56 dailies; hundreds of weeklies and shoppers). Lee's largest paper before the Pulitzer purchase, the 90,000-circulation Wisconsin State Journal in Madison, was displaced by The Post-Dispatch, then at 286,000, and the Arizona Star, at 100,000.

Lee's revenues more than doubled after the sale: from $518 million in 2002 to $1.12 billion in 2006. But high interest costs have kept net earnings unchanged in the past five years ($81 million in 2007).

So what are the rumors?

Simply this: that Gannett and Lee will swap a number of newspapers -- in theory to help both chains regionalize their holdings, allowing both to wring financial economies and operating efficiencies out of the process. Lee owns eight dailies in Wisconsin; Gannett owns 11.

The most intriguing speculation involves both The Journal Times and the Wisconsin State Journal going to Gannett, and Iowa's Des Moines Register, which Gannett bought for $195 million in 1985, going to Lee. Gannett also owns the Iowa City Press Citizen. Lee owns five Iowa papers; largest is Davenport's Quad-City Times.

The scuttlebutt also includes unspecified Gannett property in Arizona going to Lee. The Arizona Star, which Lee bought with the Pulitzer deal, competes with Gannett's (daily only) Tucson Citizen, 30,000 circulation. Gannett also owns the Arizona Republic in Phoenix.

This theoretical deal-making would be complicated by the fact that Madison's Wisconsin State Journal already has a complex operating arrangement with the shrinking Capital Times. Also, if Gannett were to acquire Madison, it would bring about, in one nay-sayer's words, "incredible ownership concentration" when paired with Gannett's other dailies in the state, which include Green Bay and Appleton. Not to mention the State Journal's ties to Portage, Baraboo, Beaver Dam and eight or so weeklies.

And finally, why would Gannett want Racine? It's isolated from the chain's other papers, negating savings through centralization. As to why Lee might want to get rid of Racine: Hard to say (despite shrinking profits here, as elsewhere). But in 1998 secret talks took place between Lee and Journal Communications. (I only heard of them after the fact.) Milwaukee was building its new printing plant, and clearly had designs on Racine County: it had opened up a bureau and distribution center and started a Sunday tabloid section of Racine news, all prelude to starting a regional edition to compete with The Journal Times (as it had done successfully against the Freeman in Waukesha). But discussions about swapping The Journal Times for some of Journal Communications' Community Newspapers came to naught -- and since then Milwaukee's own financial problems have starved its expansionist dreams.

Still, this is an industry in rapid upheaval; as if the dinosaurs disappeared over a long weekend. Landmark Communications put itself up for sale two days ago. Lee sold the DeKalb (IL) Daily Chronicle in December. Knight-Ridder, gone, and then McClatchy turns around and sells its new flagship, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Pulitzer, gone. Tribune, sold. Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal, sold to Murdoch (and there's talk of removing 'Wall Street' from its name!). Ottaway papers for sale. There's even speculation about The New York Times Company merging with Bloomberg.

Very little should surprise us. The real question is not who might end up owning The Journal Times but rather this: What difference would it make?

January 3, 2008

The best-kept secret : Racine's Habitat ReStore

Jim Kitchak shows off some window trim: $15
You know those travel magazine articles extolling the virtues of "best-kept secret" places ... the kind of wonderful hideaways that are instantly ruined the moment the hoi polloi hears about them? Well, this is one of those stories; I've resisted telling you about this place for nine months -- keeping it to myself as much as possible. Now in the glow of the holiday season I've momentarily softened ...
Listen up: We're going to go shopping at a home store that:
-- has the best prices in town. (By far.)
-- uses all its revenues to help others. (I said all, not just a few percentage points of profits.)
-- has kept 150,000 pounds of debris from the landfill. (Eh?)
OK, that last point didn't excite me, either, although on reflection it's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. And the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources gave $120,000 in grants for landfill reduction a few years ago.

But back to our main points: When it comes to price and philanthropy, you just can't beat the Habitat ReStore. Open just nine months, it's become a must-shop for its biggest fans, who are known to congregate by the loading dock and buy stuff even before it gets into the store.

Lois Solberg with two windows as big as she: $75 each

Racine's Habitat ReStore is now one of eight in Wisconsin. It gets all its merchandise for free -- from businesses that fail, from contractors with an extra this or that, from builders about to "deconstruct" a house willing to donate its usable pieces to someone willing to haul it away. And the Habitat ReStore passes those savings on to you!
--350 linear feet of cedar boards for $100
--two 90" tall, glass and mullion doors for $150 (the pair!)
--bathroom vanities, $40
--microwaves, $30 - $50
--a big double-door refrigerator, $200 (Ah, too late!)
--two baby grand pianos, $600 each (Oops, sold.)
--7' patio doors ($1,500 new), for $250
I could go on, but I see you reaching for your wallet and car keys. Too late! All those probably are already gone ... but there will be more bargains in the days to come.

They come in without fanfare or preannouncement. When I visited last week, I found Harold Solberg working his way through the last of four truckloads of millwork, trying to match one piece to another, packaging them for sale. "It's like sorting earthworms," he said, happily showing off seven wonderful, 16-ft. long pieces of crown molding.

Jim Kitchak, donation coordinator, pointed out the store's diverse inventory: the last of 1,800 paving stones, 1,200 bricks, copper plumbing, a six-foot combination kitchen center, perfect for a cabin or small apartment. He picked up a carved window lintel, and sighted down its length, assuring no warpage. "They're architectural salvage, $15 each. But when I showed them to one customer, he said, 'Are you kidding? It's $15 a foot at the store.' "

All these bargains are overseen by Lois Solberg, a tiny dynamo who served for 19 years on the financial committee of Racine's Habitat for Humanity before getting the ReStore underway last March. The store was seeded with a grant from the Racine Community Foundation, which bought a truck, and free use for a year of its 5,800 sq. ft. warehouse / retail store at 2302 DeKoven, thanks to the generosity of Johnson-Diversey and Jeff Neubauer. (Drive all the way to the back of the parking lot on the west side of the Kranz Building; the store isn't easy to find the first time.)

Habitat's main goal, of course, is to build houses for those who can provide sweat equity. Habitat volunteers have built 52 houses here, and have five under construction. First dibs on the donated merchandise goes to those houses -- gas stoves and gas dryers, say. But that doesn't begin to reduce the store's inventory.

All the Habitat ReStores in the region share with each other. The Gurnee store, for example, got 32 pallets of ceramic tile. Some of them ended up here. Gurnee also received 13,000 toilet seats from a closeout. Recalls Lois: "Jim brought back 60 and we thought we'd never sell them. They sold, so he went back and got 120 more, and then 180 more." ReStore sells them for $3 apiece.

Sometimes more work is involved. "I got a call on Thanksgiving Day," says Lois. "A house was being torn down in Salem; were we interested? By the next day I had a crew of 10 down there -- just (she snaps her fingers) like that! They brought back 30 doors, 10-inch baseboards, lintels, window trim, cabinets, flooring." The list goes on.

Harold Solberg sorting the last of four truckloads of molding

Lois brings out a contact sheet of photographs: a house in Ft. Atkinson the ReStore is about to "deconstruct." "It's a huge mansion that was offered to the Madison ReStore -- but they didn't want it!" She almost can't comprehend. (Madison's ReStore doesn't venture beyond the Dane County border.) The contact sheet shows wonderful detailing, grand stairways, banisters, French doors, chandeliers, a cast iron footed bathtub, wood grates, metal registers. Jim and Lois are like kids in a candy store.

A house in North Bay gave up a custom-made 16-ft. walnut bookcase (in just two pieces). When it was removed, the cabinet maker's sketched-out plan was found drawn on the drywall behind it. There have been two Jacuzzi tubs, Mission furniture, innumerable appliances. (Princess Pink oven and stovetop anyone?) Unlike many ReStores, Racine's sells furniture. "We didn't want furniture at first," says Jim; "We didn't want to be a Goodwill. But it sells."

"Every day," says Lois, "Jim and I look at each other and say, 'It's been a crazy day.' " On its best day, the store took in $2,000.

Habitat ReStores began in Toronto in 1991 and spread across Canada before coming down to the U.S. Madison's, at six years old, is Wisconsin's oldest. Milwaukee's is just six months older than Racine's. Sheboygan and West Bend also opened in 2007. And then there are Appleton, Plymouth and LaCrosse, the oldest from 2004.

Says Jim: "I've got a beef with all those home makeover shows; the ones that just sledgehammer cabinets and walls. We can use that stuff!"

It's clear that Jim (a retired teacher, he calls himself "Lois' lackey") and Lois are enjoying themselves. "We're having a ball," she says. The only argument they have is about prices: "That's a DD item," Jim says. He translates DD into Doomsday ... "That's when it will sell, Doomsday." Lois finishes the story: "And then it sells!"

So far, the ReStore has earned $85,000 for Habitat. Every aspect of the store is purely a volunteer effort. The store is open three days a week: Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Finally, back to that figure of 150,000 pounds kept from the landfill. The ReStore has a dumpster out back, "We're very careful about what goes into it," Lois says. "It costs $200 each time it's emptied. We don't throw things away; we sell them."

In nine months, the dumpster has been emptied just once.

Winter, what winter? Alaskan Malamute is right at home

Snow. Cold. Winter. What could be more appropriate than an Alaskan Malamute?

Yes, he loves the snow! William is a 3-year-old, 60-lb. Malamute / Collie mix; a stray brought here from Milwaukee. He's even-tempered and laid back; mostly hair, he'll need regular grooming. Because of his size, he needs a household with no children under 10 -- don't want him knocking little ones over!

He's available for adoption at the Countryside Humane Society.

UPDATE: Last week's dog, Harley, was not adopted, but will get another chance at the Elmbrook Humane Society.

Housing slump: New home construction down 25% in Racine County

While working on a story for another publication, I came across the number of new homes built in Racine County in 2007. Seems like the national housing slump everyone is talking about is happening here, too.

Through November 2007, 371 one- and two-family homes were built in Racine County. At the same point in 2006, 498 homes were built. That's a 25 percent drop in one year.

It gets even worse when we compare the numbers to 2005. The Wisconsin Builders Association counted 677 new homes in Racine County two years ago. Even if we assume 20 new homes were built in the county in December (highly unlikely), that's a 42 percent drop in new home construction since 2005.

Those numbers mirror the state trend. Throughout Wisconsin, new homes are down 26 percent this year compared to last, and at least 38 percent compared to 2005.

For builders' sakes, let's hope for a rebound in 2008.

Nelson seeks third term on County Board

County Board Supervisor Karen Nelson sent us a note announcing her re-election bid. (Note to all candidates: Send us press releases and we'll be happy to publish them.) Nelson is being challenged by newcomer Lisa Van Koningsveld.

Here's Nelson's statement:
Nelson Running for Third Term on County Board

Racine- Racine County Supervisor Karen A. Nelson is running for a third term on the county board. Incumbent Nelson represents district 5 in the northwest section of the City of Racine.

“I am proud of my record on the County Board,” Nelson said. “I am strongly committed to serving the needs of the district” she added. Nelson currently serves on the Finance and Personnel, the Economic Development and Land Use Planning, and the Intergovernmental Relations committees. She has also been a member of the Public Works and Parks committee.

Nelson has over two decades of service experience. She is a board member of Girl Scouts of Wisconsin Southeast. She has previously served as president of Girl Scouts of Racine County, chairperson of the Racine Civic Center, and as a board member of several other not-for-profit organizations.

Nelson is a nineteen year resident of the district.

January 2, 2008

Spring Elections: Local candidates running for office

Wednesday was the filing deadline for candidates running for local offices. Below is the list of who is running in Racine, Mount Pleasant, Caledonia and for the County Board. The primary election is February 20. The general election is April 3.

Here's the list:


This is almost the same list we ran last week. Two of the potential candidates didn't turn in signatures. That leaves three contested elections, and one newcomer.

Terry McCarthy, who narrowly lost to Pete Karas last year, will takeover for Karas in the ninth aldermanic district. Karas, an insurance agent, abruptly resigned after learning about an obscure state law that prohibits elected officials from doing business with anyone who has a liquor license.

The two hot races will come in the second and fourth districts. In the second, incumbent Robert Anderson is being challenged by Jameel Ghuari, who is head of the Bray Center. In the fourth district, incumbent James Kaplan is being challenged by Ken Lumpkin, who is a County Board supervisor. Kaplan returned the favor and is challenging Lumpkin for his County Board seat.

In the 12th District, incumbent Aron Wisneski is being challenged by Joseph Legath.

Incumbents Sandy Weidner, Q.A. Shakoor, Tom Friedel and Ron Hart were not challenged for re-election.

A complete list of city, county, Caledonia and Mount Pleasant races after the jump.

Here's the list of city races:

Second District
Robert Anderson (i)
Jameel Ghuari

Fourth District
James Kaplan (i)
Ken Lumpkin

Sixth District
Sandy Weidner

Eighth District
Q.A. Shakoor

Ninth District
Terry McCarthy

10th District
Tom Friedel

12th District
Aron Wisneski
Joseph Legath

14th District
Ron Hart

County Board
All 23 seats of the County Board seats are up for election this spring. Seven of the races are contested. Here's who is running:

District 1
Donnie Snow

District 2

Gaynell Dyess

District 3
Diane Lange (i)
Lou D'Abbraccio

District 4
Ken Lumpkin (i)
Jim Kaplan

District 5
Karen Nelson (i)
Lisa Van Koningsveld

District 6
Pamela Zenner-Richards

District 7
Van Wangaard

District 8

Q.A. Shakoor

District 9
Dan Sharkozy

District 10
Russell Clark (i)
Mary Land

District 11
Katherine Buske

District 12
Robert Miller

District 13
Mark Gleason (i)
Scott Schroder

District 14
Mike Miklasevich

District 15

Ken Hall (i)
Brian Dey

District 16

John Wisch (i)
Melissa Taylor

District 17
Robert Grove

District 18
Peter Hansen

District 19
Joseph Bellante, Jr.

District 20
Jeff Halbach

District 21
Gilbert Bakke

District 22
Tom Pringle

District 23

Mike Dawson

Mount Pleasant

There will be a primary election in Mount Pleasant, as eight candidates compete for three open seats on the Village Board. Trustees make $6,500 per year and serve two-year terms. Here's who's running:

Incumbents: Ken Flones, 1332 N. Stuart Rd., Robin Garard, 2340 Rivershore Dr., and John Hewitt 11219 Louis Sorenson Rd.

Non-incumbents: Harry Manning, 5824 Evarit Dr, Don Schulz, 811 Hwy V, Ruth Gedwardt, 5815 16th St., Charles Haakma, 4700 Spring St. and Robert Strausser, 2701 Cozy Acres Rd.


There are two contested races in Caledonia, where candidates serve two-year terms and make $6,600 per year. Here's the candidates:

Village Trustee #2 – 2 year term
Wendy McCalvy (incumbent)
5400 - 6 Mile Road
Racine, WI 53402

Kathy Burton
5825 Leawood Lane
Racine, WI 53402

Village Trustee #4 – 2 year term
Gale Morgan (incumbent)
6951 Beechnut Drive
Racine, WI 53402

Matthew Schmidt
6765 Bobolink Road
Racine, WI 53402

Village Trustee #6 – 2 year term
Lee Wishau (incumbent)
8345 Foley Road
Racine, WI 53402

The letter the Journal Times won't print

Before Christmas, 32 local women submitted a letter to the editor of the Journal Times, in response to Rep. Robin Vos' actions on the Compassionate Care for Rape Victims act.

The bill would require emergency rooms to provide information about the morning-after pill, or Plan B, to rape victims and give victims the drug upon request. When the bill came up for a vote (after taking six years to get that far) Rep. Vos, R-Racine, tried -- but failed -- to amend it to allow hospitals and their employees to opt out of providing the so-called morning-after pill on moral or religious grounds and require hospitals to notify the parents of minors under age 16 before they got the pill. Supporters contend the bill will help prevent unwanted pregnancies; critics liken the drug to abortion.

Vos voted against the bill, which nonetheless passed the Assembly on Dec. 12 by a 56-41 vote. It goes to the Senate this month.

After almost two weeks' delay at the Journal Times (attributed to an editor's holiday vacation) the newspaper told the letter writers: "We do not publish letters that appear to be like petitions." The newspaper offered to run the letter with one signature, but this was unsatisfactory to the women who signed it. Here, after the jump, is their letter, and the names of the women who signed it.

To the editor:

Imagine you are a woman who has just been brutally raped. Terrorized and battered, you enter the emergency room for care. Fearing disease or pregnancy, you ask the doctor for emergency contraception in case the unthinkable has happened. The attending physician tells you that he or she will not provide you emergency contraception based on their own personal moral or religious beliefs. The person who has sworn an oath to medically treat you has just said no to you in your most vulnerable moment as a woman and as a patient.

State Representative Robin Vos thinks this is not just reasonable, but on December 12th, he aggressively attempted to amend AB377 Compassionate Care for Rape Victims Bill to do just that. Perhaps, Robin Vos would have rape victims go from hospital to hospital looking for help or be forced to have an abortion later if pregnancy occurs as a result of sexual assault. How very compassionate he is indeed.

Each year approximately 1.2 million women are raped. It has taken six years for the Compassionate Care for Rape Victims Act to pass both the Wisconsin Senate and House of Representatives and yet there are those like Robin Vos who not only voted against it, but sought to deny rape victims medical care.

We don’t know exactly who Robin Vos thinks he represents, but as women and Racine County constituents, he does not represent us. The women of Wisconsin deserve better.

Signed by: Kelly Gallaher; Gabriella Klein; Carol Olson; Mary Gallaher; Debra Hall; Janet M. LeSuer; Nancy Holmlund; Katie Simenson; Jennifer Levie; Miriam Bugnacki; B.J. Dent; Dorothy Feeney; Linda Flashinski; Jane Witt; Sharon Erwin; Tamerin Hayward; Nancy Hennessy; Jill Rakauski; Pat Kardas; Meg Andrietsch; Patricia Ehlert; Mary Kedzie; Marcia Vlach Colsmith; Barbara Hardy; Betty Larsen; Mary Catherine Cashion; Sandra Pendell; Cindy Timmel; Betty Brenneman; Mercedes Dzindzeleta; Michelle McCarthy; Colleen Patterson

Here is the correspondence one of the letter writers had with The Journal Times:

From: kelly gallaher
To: Chris Bennett
Sent: Wed, 2 Jan 2008 8:20 pm
Subject: RE: Letter to the Editor


Thank you for you reply. I am confused by the word "petition". Since the letter does not make any request, which is the definition of a petition, I do not see how it can be interpreted in such a way. I could have easily produced 50 or 100 signers who feel the exact same way as the original 31, but since the Journal Times gave virually no coverage of this vote or Mr. Vos' actions to subvert it, I doubt you are aware of the strong outrage by local women at his actions. The Capital Times and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal have accepted it as is with all the signatures.

I read your letter requirements and believed that we had followed your own instructions. I respect your right to deny printing this letter as it was intended, but it is a disappointment. This letter passed from friend to friend over 48 hours and it demonstrates the groundswell of disapproval for the actions of a State Representative who won't stand to defend the rights of rape victims from his own district!

Thirty one women who sought to speak out on behalf of rape victims signed this letter, but you'll only print one name? Why is one angry woman acceptable, but 31 too much? Perhaps it is a logic only someone like Mr. Vos can understand.

I would like you to add one final sentance to the letter signed by me that reads:

"Thirty other local women also signed this letter, but the Editor declined to print their names."

Kelly Gallaher

Subject: RE: Letter to the Editor
Date: Wed, 2 Jan 2008 17:37:19 -0600
From: Chris.Bennett
To: kkgallaher


We’re not going to publish this letter with 31 signatures, according to Editor Steve Lovejoy. We do not publish letters that appear to be like petitions.

We will publish the letter with your signature.

I was out of the office over the holidays, which is why I did not respond sooner.

Thank you.


From: Kelly Gallaher
Sent: Wednesday, January 02, 2008 10:32 AM
To: Chris Bennett
Subject: Letter to the Editor


I am resubmitting my letter to the editor originally sent on December 21st. I have made one small change that reflects a reference to the date of the vote.

On behalf of the women who have also signed this letter, we believe it to be newsworthy and accurate. If there is a problem in the format or if you have any questions I am more than eager to assist you so that we may see it published.

Thank you for your time.

Kelly Gallaher

And now for something completely different: St. Patrick's Day

Halloween morphed into Thanksgiving, which morphed into Christmas. Hardly time to get over one holiday before the next rears its head, eh?

Well, are you ready to think about St. Patrick's Day?

The Downtown Racine Corporation is. DRC is seeking entries for its second annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which will be held on Saturday, March 15.

Parade applications are available at DRC's office at 425 Main Street or download an application. Deadline is Feb. 22.

Last year Downtown Racine’s St. Patrick’s Day parade featured Irish and Celtic music, troubadours, leprechauns, pipe band music, floats, Irish dancers, Irish wolfhounds and much more. It drew thousands downtown to enjoy the festivities. Local organizations, businesses and clubs are encouraged to participate; there is no cost to be in the parade.

The parade will begin at noon at Main and State Streets and will travel south on Main to 8th Street. From there the parade will turn left to Lake Avenue and follow Lake Avenue back to Christopher Columbus Parkway.

Racine man dies after being hit by car on Highway 31

Racine police responded to a terrible accident yesterday afternoon at South Green Bay Road and Kinzie Avenue. A pedestrian walking along the state highway was hit by a passing car and thrown 30 feet. The accident happened at 5:21 p.m. and the 59-year-old victim, Richard Munson, was pronounced dead at 7:10 p.m. at St. Mary's.

The 37-year-old driver of the car stayed at the scene and was not ticketed. Here's the release from police:

On Tuesday January 1, 2008 at 5:21 p.m., Racine Police responded to S. Greenbay Rd & Kinzie Av for the report of a traffic crash involving a pedestrian. As officers arrived on scene, they found that the pedestrian had been thrown from the roadway onto the adjacent property about 30 feet from the initial crash point. The 59 year old male pedestrian (later identified as Richard Munson 05-07-48 of 617 S. Greenbay Rd) was transported by rescue to the Wheaton Franciscan Emergency Room, where he was pronounced dead at 7:10 p.m.

Preliminary investigation indicates that the pedestrian was walking or standing near the roadway edge when he was struck by a northbound vehicle operated by a 37 year old female. The vehicle operator remained at the scene, and as of this time, has not been cited for any traffic violation.

The investigation is continuing and it is unknown at this time whether road conditions, lighting conditions, or the visibility of the pedestrian’s clothing are a factor in the crash.

Barely noticed power outage provides context

The power in Mount Pleasant went off this morning -- just for a millisecond. Enough to turn off the TV and cable, dim the lights momentarily, set a clock or two blinking 12:00. I switched the TV back on, rebooted the cable box, rebooted the wireless modem and listened as the upstairs printer rebooted itself and printed a test page.

When I finally restored everything to normal, and stopped grumbling, I came across this moving piece from McClatchy Newspapers' Inside Iraq blog. Unlike most American media over there, McClatchy has focused on the lives of ordinary Iraqis. Their blog is filled with posts by their Iraqi staff in Baghdad and outlying provinces -- just a bunch of everyday working stiffs trying to do a job and not get killed accidentally or through reprisal. "These are firsthand accounts of their experiences. Their complete names are withheld for security purposes," the blog tells us.

Anyway, I apologize for this post's lack of local relevance, but perhaps it provides some context. It is dated Dec. 30, 2007, and titled One year ago today.

Picking up the newspaper I saw the strangest headline of all.

"The Ministry of Electricity announces that the hours of lack of electricity will be increased as a result of scarcity of fuel and some technical issues."

This is something I cannot understand. How less electricity?? How fuel scarcity??

We have one hour of electricity in every twelve - How can it be less? And how in any scenario could there be a scarcity of fuel in Iraq ? !

We have despaired of warm homes.

We have despaired of hot water.

We have forgotten how to sit relaxed in our homes. I walk into the living room looking for my son and couldn't find him. I looked for him in the other rooms, but he was nowhere to be seen.

I called out for my daughter and asked her whether she knew where he was - but no luck.


In my room, the mound moves, and from under four blankets put there to go to the cleaners emerges a face with still-asleep eyes - IT IS HE ! ! "What are you doing there under those blankets? I went crazy with worry looking for you!", "Oh, mum, I just wanted to revise my computer skills exam in comfort, but I fell asleep." Getting up and pulling the blankets to one side, I saw that he had my laptop, a plate of nuts, a can of juice and his fresh-from-the-apple-store in LA-ipod with ear plugs still plugged in, underneath.

Is this sweet?? Or is it really sooo sad? But more important - Why is it like this? Countries march forward - why have we been forced back into the pre-electricity age?

And more important still - WHERE IS OUR OIL GOING? In five years, couldn't the government crawl back to square one? To zero? To what the tyrant used to give us?

Saddam was executed one year ago today - I wonder how many people who condemned him during his rule would give their fingers to go back in time. And how many people who thought that a foreign power would be the answer - regret that too.

January 1, 2008

Regret The Error finds the Journal Times

The story was wrong.

Then the correction compounded the error.

Finally, the correction of the correction began ungrammatically.


The perfect confluence for Regret The Error, the international (Hey, it's based in Canada!) journalism website that publicizes egregious newspaper errors -- in hope of improving the breed. And whose error does RTE pick to start out the new year?

Yes, our own local paper. HERE.

Nor was this the first time RTE has looked at Racine. "Gentle dogs and children: Cute and good for you!" was a classic from 2005. (In fairness to the Journal Times, let it be duly noted that some papers appear on Regret The Error far, far more often.)

Splash and Dash draws hundreds for icy (if brief) swim

It was 21 degrees this morning; the wind was from the northwest at 14 miles an hour. Snow covered every bit of North Beach, as far as the eye could see.

None of that deterred the hundreds of Splash and Dash participants intent on stripping to their bathing suits and running into Lake Michigan at noon.

These were not just kids; these were mature adults -- old enough to know better, as we used to say. Roger Keland, 60, was with his wife, Sue. "She's the macho one," he said.

Roger was Sue's support team -- "Like in football, you need someone to hold the ball for the kicker," he said. She had her bathing suit on under her track suit. "It's amazing," she said as she headed for the beach. But then a note of reality came through: "Last year, it was 45 degrees and there was sand on the beach..."

As the clock ticked down to noon -- with about 10 minutes to go -- the beach filled with hundreds -- yes, hundreds -- of people. Some in bathing suits; more were dressed for arctic winters in parkas and boots, usually carrying cameras and towels and dry clothes for the others. Announcer Mark Eichorst warned of ice, of a dropoff at the lake's edge, of keeping kids out this year. "If you don't want to go in, don't go," he said. "I'm sure your pledge people will still honor their pledges."

Two tents stood back from the water's edge, testament to the Ruud Lighting team's preparation: about 20 Ruud-ers were present, some with painted faces.

This year's Splash and Dash was the 19th running of an event that began in 1990 with eight firefighters. The last few years have raised more than $20,000 per year for charity; this year's recipients are the HALO homeless shelter, the Racine County Food Bank and the Kiwanis Foundation Scholarship Fund.

Jim Jedlicka of Racine, is 62, and wore a "Bucket List" cap -- a reminder of the new movie with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman as a couple of terminally ill friends off on an adventure, trying to do all the things a man should do before he kicks the bucket. Crossed off Jedlicka's list today: swim in Lake Michigan on New Year's. "The question marks painted on my face are because I have no idea why I'm doing this," he said, to the encouragement of his wife and nephew.

Natalie Zierten of Racine, is 21, and convinced her friends Jenny Brantsen of Muskegon, MI, and Anna Kolber of Gurnee to join her. Anna participated last year, but this was to be Jenny's first time, "because Natalie said this is amazing!"

Splash 'n' Dash is not for procrastinators. It begins and ends in a frozen heartbeat. Given the "GO" command, the crowd rushes in, this year through the bottleneck of a small landing cut into the icy shore; a few brave souls dive into the water, most run into the lake about 50 feet, turn and immediately run out. Then the next wave takes their place. But when it was all over I looked at my watch: 12:05.

Melissa Udovicic, 32, happily displayed her participant's t-shirt after drying off and dressing again for winter. Going in was sort of an afterthought, she said. "I was here to watch friends ... and I had a swimsuit in my car, so I did it too."

And finally, there was Jim Contreras, 49, of Racine, standing toward the back of the crowd, holding a frozen red pair of boxer shorts on a flagpole; a marker for his team of Spash 'n' Dashers to look for after their dip in the icy waters ... to find their dry clothes. "This is the seventh year this flag has participated," Jim said.

And what about Jim himself, I had to ask. How many times has he made the plunge? "To be honest, none," he said. "I did go in last July ... "

December 31, 2007

Tax payment burning a hole in your pocket?

So there you were Monday, check or cash in one hand, city tax bill in the other, eager (?) to fulfill your civic obligation and pay the damn taxes early for once. You and a steady stream of Racinians.

And City Hall was closed! Nor was there a drop box.

All you wanted to do was pay next year's property tax in 2007, so you can claim them on your income taxes this year, right? Well, don't despair. The flyer taped to City Hall's door says that if you bring the taxes in personally on Wednesday, they'll stamp 'em received in 2007. Doesn't sound legal to us, but maybe the city has a special working relationship with the IRS (wink, wink).

Don't try the postmark trick, though ... the city will take those at face value.

$1 million in claims filed over accident involving medical examiner

Lawyers have filed three claims totaling $1 million against the county for an automobile accident involving the county's medical examiner.

Attorney John Becker filed claims on behalf of Jeffrey & Kristin Adam for damages resulting from an automobile accident with a Racine County employee in the amount of $250,000 each for a total of $500,000, according to the agenda for the Jan. 3 Finance and Human Resource Committee meeting.

Also, Attorney James Carney filed a $500,000 claim for Eric & Shelly Winter for damages resulting from an automobile accident with the medical examiner, according to the agenda.


Friedel running for fifth term on City Council

Alderman Tom Friedel will seek his fifth term on the City Council this spring.

He's being challenged this election by Charli Smith. Here's Friedel's announcement:
Tom Friedel has announced his candidacy for the 10th aldermanic district in the City of Racine. First elected in April 2000, Friedel is currently chairman of the city’s Finance and Personnel committee. He serves as president of the Library Board of Trustees, president of the Water Commission and chairman of the Economic Development Committee. He is also a member of the Wastewater Commission, Community Development Committee and Executive Committee.

“Public service has been a rewarding and fulfilling way for me to give something back to the community. I look forward to the challenges and opportunities confronting our city and the tenth district and will continue to put forth the effort necessary to make knowledgeable decisions that are in the best interest of all city residents.”

Racine makes the funny pages -- but don't blink!

Here we are again: Racine makes the big time, but you have to be alert or you'll miss it.

Luann, created by Greg Evans in 1985, throws props to Racine in today's comic strip, published in more than 300 newspapers.

Poky Little Puppy, for those of you living under a rock, is a classic from Racine, published in 1942 by Western Publishing, one of the first 12 Little Golden Books. Says Wikipedia: "As of the year 2001, it was the single all-time best-selling hardcover children's book in English; according to Publisher's Weekly it had sold nearly 15 million copies."

If you've forgotten the story, a synopsis (caution: plot spoiler alert!) is HERE.

Cartoonist Evans won a Reuben award from the National Cartoonists Society for Luann in 2003 -- cartooning's highest award, also won by Charles Schulz (Peanuts), Milton Caniff (Terry and the Pirates) and Bill Watterson (Calvin and Hobbes) and a host of greats like Matt Groening, Will Eisner, Gary Larson and Garry Trudeau. Frankly, I don't put Evans anywhere near that pantheon -- but maybe I just don't relate to the trials and tribulations of high school girls. Give me a beagle or a stuffed tiger any day!