January 12, 2008

Ice carvers take over downtown Saturday

Meet the carvers HERE.

ExposeKenosha posted Joe Barr's photos of the event HERE.

VIDEO of carvers in action, by John Polodna, is HERE.

January 11, 2008

Pilot plant at CATI ... here's the rest of the story

Earlier today, we wrote about the new R&D pilot plant being constructed within the existing CATI building to produce a healthy milk product without cholesterol called Benelact.

Well, as Paul Harvey might have said, here's the rest of the story... the way this project touches area high schoolers, collegians and even Girl Scouts.

The project is loaded with academic linkages -- opportunities for students throughout the area to learn, work and participate in the creation of this new product. Alliance Enterprises, the company creating this start-up, sees its $1.5 million project both as an exciting new business, and as a way "to work in our values and give back to the community," said Brandon Malacara, Alliance's dairy division marketing director.

And so, Alliance is working with Therese Fellner, Gateway Technical College's director of business development -- she's the on-site manager for the business incubator that's part of CATI -- to find ways to provide both professional employment and student employment as part of the project. And boy, have they come up with a bunch of opportunities across a wide spectrum! For example:

Burlington High School has an R&D chemistry class that creates personal care products. Fellner already has spoken with Burlington's superintendent and principal to find ways to get their students working in the plant, getting experience with R&D and perhaps getting school credit at the same time.

Burlington is a good match in another way: Alliance -- which is minority-owned by Edward Salinas -- can be a role model for the district's Hispanic students. "The superintendent sees this as an opportunity to get his Hispanic student population excited about science and math, get some experience and get some of those kids to start altering their course selection," Dr. Fellner said.

Gateway Technical College has a culinary arts program, and the aim is to get students involved in nutrition to work on R&D and marketing -- with both internships and jobs.

Carthage and Parkside have chemistry departments that may be a source of chemistry assistants as well as a chemist with gas chromatography and sample preparation experience.

Even Girl Scouts may be involved as this patent given to CATI by Kraft is developed for market. Fellner has applied for a grant through the General Mills Foundation's Champions for Healthy Kids project. They fund organizations with innovative programs that help youth develop good nutrition and fitness habits. "We're working with the Girl Scouts of Southeast Wisconsin, Gateway and Parkside in proposing that girls 11-14 deliver a program that will focus on nutrition and health and this innovative technology. Alliance would be able to come in and provide experience and products, menu planning and taste tests."

Fellner also said the Humana Foundation is interested in funding organizations that promote new technology and tools that lead to a healthier community. Alliance and Gateway will work with the Culinary Arts Department on the Racine campus to help them understand and use this new, lower-cholesterol product.

Matthew Wagner, CATI executive director, is looking forward to an expansion of programs for students in the natural sciences catalyzed by the Alliance project. "This is a chance to teach them about business and entrepreneurship, to create mentorships and project-based learning. So very many educational institutions are playing a role in this."

"We're all thrilled to have Alliance here," Fellner said. "This is an environment that facilitates this kind of networking.

Comments on Pointe Blue

Here are quotes from the city's statement on Pointe Blue:

"It is not feasible to leave the project in limbo for an indefinite period."
-Mayor Gary Becker

"The work that (Scott) Fergus has done on this project to date has so many good elements that we will continue to work with Key Bridge."

"We are reopening. All the facilities are still in place at the marina. We are renting slips for the 2008 boating season."
-William Pugh, president of W.H. Pugh Coal Company. Pugh closed his business in fall 2007 when construction of Pointe Blue looked imminent.

"I believe we will eventually have residential development on the site. But for now we need to decide how to manage the city-owned property in the interim and when and how to redevelop it in the future."
-Brian O'Connell, director of city development for the city

Pointe Blue sleeps with the fishes

Pointe Blue is dead. We predicted as much several times over the last few months, but the official word came Friday. (Note to a certain tipster who said word would come by Jan. 10 ... you were off by a day.)

Our big question following the news was simple: What happened? We called Brian O'Connell, director of development for the city, and got the answer. It's not real exciting.

The bottom fell out of the residential real estate market in the past year and no one is willing to loan money for condos people may not buy, O'Connell said. You know the sub-prime mortgage crisis that's in the news on a daily basis? That's the assassin of Pointe Blue.

"The project was viable two years ago, or so," he said. "Unfortunately, some pieces of it took time getting together and the financial market turned."

The same story is being told around the country, like here, here, here, here, here, here, here ... and those are all just in the past month.

The reason Pointe Blue failed now is because the developer needed another extension from the city to retain his rights to the lakefront property. He'd already been given several extensions, and this time the city concluded the project wasn't going to happen, O'Connell said.

"Keeping this particular agreement going didn't make sense," he said.

So what's next?

No one is really sure, O'Connell said.

The good news is Racine still has a prime piece of real estate along its lake front that someone is going to develop. When, who, how, what ... are all at the mercy of the financial markets.

O'Connell, the mayor and other city officials will meet with financial advisers to consider next steps. Scott Fergus, the developer behind Pointe Blue, wants another shot at developing the lake front portion of the property. But O'Connell said it was too early to comment on that idea.

Another option is to bank the land and wait for the economy to turn around. Then again, that may be the only option at this point.

Molbeck's adds something new: Parking!

Molbeck's Health and Spice Shop -- "doing business in Racine for more than 50 years" -- has something new for its customers.


Yes, the little shop located for so many years at 2703 Washington Ave., across from the Washington Park Golf Course -- chock full of such healthful necessities as whole grains, nuts, dried fruits, seeds, spices, pasta, herbs and myriad vitamins and diet supplements -- has been lacking in that one customer convenience we all demand: a place to park.

No longer! Can you hang on for a few more weeks?

Molbeck's will close its present location on Thursday, Jan. 31, and open its new store, at 3212 Washington Ave. on Monday, Feb. 4. With a parking lot in the rear! The new location is just west of where West Boulevard intersects Washington Avenue, across from Arthur Shattuck's Roots and Legends (and just a few doors down from the temptations of Bendtsen's Bakery.)

Parking isn't all the new location will provide. Molbeck's also has a new owner. Judy Reinhardt, who owned the shop for 19 years, sold it on Jan. 1 to Rhonda Masilian, an employee for the past four years.

As one store opens, full of optimism, another closes. The storefront Molbeck's is moving into is now occupied by Tony's Western Wear, (50% Off, proclaim the window signs) run by Tony Martinez. "It just hasn't worked out," Tony says, wishing he'd chosen a location closer to the Interstate.

A Case retiree 15 years ago, Tony is also a bailiff at the Racine County Courthouse. When he opened the store two years ago, he tried to quit that job, but was told, "Go run your store for a month and you'll want to come back here." He did, and he did, and has been serving as a trial bailiff part-time ever since ... and he'll continue to do so.

Pilot plant for dairy product being built at CATI

A 4,000 sq. ft. pilot plant for the research and development of a new, healthy dairy ingredient based on patented technology licensed from CATI is under construction in Sturtevant.

The Center for Advanced Technology & Innovation (CATI) announced that Alliance Enterprises of SE Wisconsin will use the plant, located in the CATI center, for initial production of Benelact, according to Brandon Malacara, Alliance's dairy marketing director.

“We are excited to be located in the CATI Center. Technological innovation and the economic growth of Wisconsin are as important to us as they are to them,” Malacara said. Alliance's existing facility,on Four Mile Road, is, according to the company's website, "a single-source assembly, custom contract packaging, warehousing, distribution and fulfillment facility." Benelact is the centerpiece of a new division.

CATI licensed the proprietary process now known as Benelact to Alliance Enterprises four years ago. The all-natural process extracts cholesterol from milk to create a healthy milk ingredient without altering the taste, texture, or properties of the milk. Matt Wagner, CATI executive director, said the technology was originally developed by Kraft Foods and donated to CATI.

The Benelact process removes up to 80 per cent of cholesterol and saturated fat from milk, resulting in a healthier product that can function as milk in a variety of food products. It will be marketed to dairy and bakery markets as an ingredient providing "healthy consumer options while still retaining the taste, texture and consistency that consumers desire,” Malacara said.

The project represents an estimated $1.5 million investment, Wagner said.

Blogging can be hazardous to your health

From xkcd.com

Oh, sure: blogging is relatively safe, especially when compared to skydiving (which I also survived, at least until my wife found out about it.)

Still, the news today from China and Saudi Arabia casts a different light on this (presumably humorous) cartoon. The cartoon predates the following stories, so perhaps there are now four casualties. Read on:
China blogger beaten to death

(CNN) -- Authorities have fired an official in central China after city inspectors reportedly beat to death a man who filmed their confrontation with villagers, China's Xinhua news agency reports.

... On Monday Wei Wenhua, a 41-year-old construction company executive, happened on a confrontation in the central Chinese province of Hubei between city inspectors and villagers protesting over the dumping of waste near their homes.

A scuffle developed when residents tried to prevent trucks from unloading the rubbish, Xinhua said.

When Wei took out his cell phone to record the protest, more than 50 municipal inspectors turned on him, attacking him for five minutes, Xinhua said. Wei was dead on arrival at a Tianmen hospital, the report said.

... An international press freedom group, Reporters Without Borders, protested the killing.

"Wei is the first 'citizen journalist' to die in China because of what he was trying to film," the group said in a statement.

US concerned for Saudi blogger

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Bush administration has brought its concerns about the detention of a well-known blogger to the Saudi Arabian government at "a relatively senior level," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Thursday.

... Fouad al-Farhan, 32, was arrested December 10 "because he violated the regulations of the kingdom," a spokesman for the Interior Ministry told CNN Wednesday.

In an e-mail posted on his Web site since his arrest, however, al-Farhan told friends that he faced arrest for his support of 10 reform advocates the Saudi government accuses of supporting terrorism.

In the e-mail, al-Farhan said a senior Interior Ministry official promised he would remain in custody for three days at most if he agreed to sign a letter of apology.

Al-Farhan, who blogs at alfarhan.org, is one of the few Saudi Web commentators who uses his own name, according to the U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists.

January 10, 2008

The Surge, after one year: Russ Feingold's response

“One year ago today, the President announced he would escalate our military involvement in Iraq despite the clear desire of the American people to end the war. At the time, he said the strategy would give Iraq the time and space it needed for political reconciliation.

"Sadly, 2007 was the deadliest year for Americans in Iraq and so far this year, reports are that at least 15 servicemembers have been killed. Iraqis do not appear to be any closer to national reconciliation than they were a year ago. The surge may buy time, but it has done little to help bring about a sustainable resolution to Iraq’s problems. Without a political solution, our massive, open-ended military presence could be merely postponing an inevitable resurgence in violence, and providing a rallying cry and recruiting tool for al Qaeda and its allies.

“Congress has the power to end this war. If those of us in Congress who want to end this war don't take every opportunity to push back against this administration, we will be just as responsible for keeping our troops in Iraq. Congress should act to safely redeploy our troops from Iraq and end funding for the war so we can focus on what should be our top national security priority – waging a global campaign against al Qaeda and its affiliates.”

Senator Feingold has introduced legislation, along with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, to safely redeploy the vast majority of U.S. troops out of Iraq within nine months of enactment, after which funding for the war would end.

January 9, 2008

Unified referendum? Blogosphere quick to say no

The Journal Times has a short story based on the agenda for next Monday's Racine Unified school board meeting: "The board will discuss the possibility of getting a referendum on the April ballot ... The board will have roughly a month to adopt a resolution by a state-imposed deadline of Feb. 16," reporter Paul Sloth wrote.

You might think seriously about this potential referendum for building maintenance funds ... unless you read the paper's website.

The story was posted on the internet Wednesday at 5:23 p.m. By 5:24 -- yes, it took a whole minute! -- the JT's bloggers started weighing in. "Let me be the first to say no," said "DropZoneSurplusNGuns."

At 5:39, "Winger" wrote: "Ummm... nope." "RWWackoStu," "Cartman" and "Head Shot" all wrote variations of: "NO NO NO, Vote No and Vote often."

There were 13 responses in the next four hours, all but one negative.

The one proponent, "Farm&FleetRapper," pointed out: "These buildings are from Lincoln's administration. What do you want them to do? At my child's school, stairs are falling, ceilings collapsing, mold everywhere... The foundation is crumbling to the point where water leaks like a river in the basement classrooms. Paint is chipping everywhere (lead)... Dripping faucets. Doors are so warped, snow comes in between the door and the door jamb."

His/her plea fell on deaf ears, drowned out by references to former Supt. Tom Hicks, the contract with the Public Business Consulting Group, PBCG co-owner Nick Alioto, the incomplete investigation of that contract, and so on.

Does blogosphere venom mean anything? Unfortunately, yes. Regardless what anyone thinks about anonymous bloggers, Unified is in that awful space where everything it does is met by a negative knee-jerk reaction. The board realized this last May, when it canceled an earlier referendum, and it obviously is hoping that the passage of time has provided healing. Alas, no; the PBCG sore is still an open wound. And the news this week that Unified's chief academic officer Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard -- on the job for barely a year -- has applied for the superintendent's post in Madison, doesn't help either.

Is there anything Unified can do to get past this in the short term? There had better be ... or there won't be any long-term.

Nor is it just the blogosphere that bad-mouths the district's finances. Rep. Robin Vos, R-63rd Assembly District, told the Downtown Racine Rotary Club Wednesday that "Unified used to say it was underfunded, but now it's at the median" (in per pupil spending) of all districts. Vos reminded his audience that he proposed extending school choice and vouchers into Racine County, and that his arch-enemy on that issue, Sen. John Lehman, D-21st Senate District, (they have an "over my dead body" relationship) is supported by the teachers' union.

Vos is not sympathetic to calls for more money anyway, having said during the last campaign: "Spending more money on Wisconsin schools isn't necessarily the answer." And maybe it isn't necessarily, although logic would seem to indicate that fewer teachers, bigger classes, fewer librarians, fewer music, art and language courses and hundred-year-old leaky school buildings might, at some point -- we're not necessarily near that point, of course -- prove self-defeating.

Maybe if we close our eyes and click our heels together three times, Glinda the Good Witch will wave her magic wand and our schools will shed their old and wrinkled skin, textbooks will regenerate, computer labs will sprout and ...

Robin Vos' KRM initiative ... gets icy reception

UPDATED, 01/11: The reaction to Vos' proposal was chilly enough to reverse global warming. "If you were trying to author a bill that would not succeed, that's maybe how you would draft it," said Karl Ostby, RTA chairman, as quoted in the Journal Times. Dave Eberle, RAMAC chairman, said, "Most people in the room were fairly disappointed."

Admit it: You thought this post would be blank!

"Many people think the answer to Racine's future is a train," State Rep. Robin Vos said today. "I have not said KRM would not be a good thing ... the only thing I've said is that the funding mechanism was wrong."

With that preamble, Vos, R-63rd Assembly District -- characterized by some as the Darth Vader who single-handedly killed the Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee rail initiative -- announced his plan to fund KRM: a sales-tax-supported Regional Transit Authority. As opposed to the $13 car rental tax plan that was effectively pronounced truly and fully dead earlier this week.

Vos is meeting tomorrow with the boards of directors of the Racine County Economic Development Corporation (RCEDC), Racine Area Manufacturers and Commerce (RAMAC) and Forward Racine to get their input -- and support? -- for his proposal, a bill still being drafted that he hopes to introduce in the Legislature next week.

The as-yet-untitled bill (Vos laughed when I suggested it be called the "Robin Vos Doesn't Really Hate Trains Act") would allow the establishment of Regional Transit Authorities anywhere in Wisconsin, if local voters supported the idea through a referendum. "This is not necessarily the easy way," he said, defining that "easy way" as "just allowing a politician to raise taxes."

Vos' RTA proposal "would allow communities to band together" in two ways. He outlined a two-tier system:

Tier 1 would allow two communities to put a sales tax in place to support a "mobile" transportation system -- i.e., buses running between two cities.

Tier 2 would allow "fixed mode" transportation systems -- i.e., rail on a fixed route -- to be supported. This larger, more capital-intensive plan would require a population threshhold of at least 375,000 with favorable votes in at least five communities, each with at least 10,000 citizens. (Because Milwaukee County already has a Regional Transit Authority, it would be counted as one entity of the necessary five, Vos said.)

Details still to be worked out include the wording of the referendum question, Vos said.

Vos took issue with those who say KRM would, single-handedly, lead to economic recovery. "To grow the economy, you need college-educated families with children." And when you ask those families what they want, he said, they respond: "a safe community and a good school system."

"KRM is a single part of an economic strategy," Vos said, disagreeing with "those who say it's all we need."

January 8, 2008

Racine Interfaith Coalition sponsors mentoring summit

“Building Relationships for Peace: The Mentoring Connection,” is the title of a mentoring summit to be held on Sunday, Jan. 20, at 3 p.m. at St. Richard Church, 1501 Grand Ave. The summit, sponsored by the Racine Interfaith Coalition (RIC), will feature ­17 local organizations explaining their programs and their needs for mentors.

RIC customarily holds prayer vigils at murder sites in Racine. Participants and sponsors often asked, “Is there something else we can be doing?” The summit is a partial answer to that question.

Interviews with individual RIC members and community leaders revealed that supporting youth and teens through mentoring projects is a priority. Mentoring often makes a difference in a person’s life and “builds relationships for peace.” No matter where we live in Racine, violence affects us all. We need to work together to address this community problem

At the summit, participants will be able to: learn about mentoring and mentoring needs in Racine, visit with groups in need of mentors and join a mentoring group.

A chart, showing the needs and requirements of various organizations, will be shared. There is a mentoring connection for nearly everyone: long-term and short-term commitments; age-specific programs; religious- or legal-based mentoring; team, individual or group mentoring; mentoring for academic achievement or to reduce anti-social behavior and develop specific skills.

Keynote speakers are Hector Vergudo and Joseph Holguin from Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, the largest gang diversion program in the U.S. They will explain how mentoring changed their lives, moving them from violence and aimlessness to productive lives of peace. Hector says he “owes his rehabilitation to community elders and educators, who gave him his first real chance at life.”

As Joseph’s bio says, “he didn’t know any other way of life, and had a lack of positive guidance” before his association with Homeboy. The summit is open to everyone in the community; plenty of free parking is available. For more information, contact the Racine Interfaith Coalition at 635-9532.

Burlington Coat Factory coming to Regency Mall

It's like musical chairs at Regency Mall, with half a dozen stores moving hither and yon.

When they stop, the mall will have a big new addition: Burlington Coat Factory.

The national retailer, with over 360 stores in 42 states -- the one nearest to Racine is off I-94 south of College Avenue, Milwaukee -- is moving into the big space at Regency Mall now occupied by Steve and Barry's t-shirt and sweatshirt emporium.

Burlington Coat Factory will use 80,000 sq. ft. on two floors, space that originally was a Bergner's. Then H.C Prange. Then Younkers. Steve and Barry's, which moved in when Younkers moved out a few years ago, has just used the first floor.

Burlington Coat Factory has grown from its start in 1924 selling coats in Burlington, N.J. to become a more complete department store and is in the process of rebranding itself. It is seen as competing with JC Penney, Target and Kohl's. The company has won a number of awards as "best place to work," "best in class," "a company of compassion," and its Light the Night campaign has raised $2.3 million since 2001 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Other stores at the mall will be relocating to make room for Burlington. Steve and Barry's is moving to the northwest corner of Regency Mall, next to JC Penney. Its new space is under construction now.

All the stores that were in that corner are moving and will reopen. They are: the Dollar Store, Attitude, Kitchen Collection, Gold's Fruit Smoothies and GNC. The smaller stores should reopen in a couple of weeks; Steve and Barry's by April or May; Burlington Coat Factory in late Spring or Summer.

Mall Manager Curt Pruitt said that once the stores are open, the mall will be at 96% occupancy -- the most full it's been in a long time.

Downtown ice carving festival is a family affair

Notwithstanding Monday's tornado, I think it's safe to say that nobody in Racine is paying more attention to the weather than Mary Osterman, organizer of this weekend's downtown ice sculpture festival.

Having been "global-warming-ed" out of last year's festival (Think Wizard of Oz: "I'm melting, I'm melting!"), Osterman is nervously watching the forecast. And, despite Tuesday's mid-50s, the weatherman is predicting a great weekend for Downtown Racine Carves Its Niche.

The forecast for Saturday, Jan. 12, is "Partly sunny, highs in the upper 20s," perfect weather for the outdoor ice sculptors Mary and downtown merchants have attracted.

This year's festival is something of a family affair -- almost a soap opera, even.

The group of ten carvers has been rounded up by Andy Haas Schneider, a Waterford graphic designer who has a family much more talented -- at least in terms of ice carving -- than yours or mine.

"We are a close group of friends and family who enjoy a bit of friendly competition. In the end, we all end up better carvers by sharing tricks, tools, techniques (and a bottle of Advil).

"Eight of us carved in Green Bay last year, and we had a blast! Maybe next year I can get the whole family signed up for Racine '09," Andy told us. She and her husband have three children.

We'll let Andy introduce you to the other carvers, after the break:

"Dick Emmerich is a friend of the family who works with my brother John in Waukesha; he's a metallurgical engineer from Jefferson.

"My brother John Haas lives in Pewaukee and works in management at MetalTek in Waukesha. He got me into carving six or seven years ago.

"Joe Haas, our nephew is from Oconomowoc, a VP for a legal placement service in Milwaukee. He really thinks outside the box when carving.

"Bob Langenhohl is an engineer in Waukesha and a shirt-tale relative of some sort: He's is the son of my dad's cousin's wife's sister. No lie!

"Sarah Lephardt is my niece, Joe's cousin; another engineer: HVAC for Johnson Controls in Madison.

"Scott Johnson is her friend, also from Madison.

"Emily Lechtenberg is my niece, Sarah's sister. She is in graduate school at UWM.

"Her husband Bob Lechtenberg is another engineer. Bob's father, Mike, is also carving. He's yet another engineer."

If you haven't figured it out yet, Andy's family is large: there were 10 kids (she's the baby of the family). The eight who carve participated in Green Bay's ice festival last year "and it was a hoot. We get a bit competitive among us, but that makes it fun. It won't take long Saturday for the good-spirited trash-talking to start. Usually one of the older ones sends a friendly spectator down to where I am and asks if I'm carving a penguin or the Pillsbury Doughboy -- or will tell me that the sculpture down the block is much better than mine.

"It never takes me long to ask what the carver looks like; I'm so on to them!"

The group has decades of carving experience, and all carve three to eight times a season. "They are my inspiration and often my muses (little do they know)," Andy says. "The carving season is pretty short -- mid-December through mid-February -- and most of us carve as much as we can, nearly every weekend. Some are competitions and some exhibitions.

"Racine allows only hand tools (chisels and chippers and scrapers), but at others we are allowed to use chainsaws, grinders, propane, Dremels and any other tools we can think of to make the ice into something beautiful. We've all had our ice mishaps (breakage, melting) and the art is fleeting, but it is sure a fun way to pass the winter and spend a few hours in the outdoors meeting new people and having fun on a weekend in Wisconsin."

Saturday's festival will begin at 10 a.m. and end about 3 p.m. The ice sculptures will remain on display downtown until Mother Nature melts them away.

The stores participating in the festival -- i.e., those who helped pay for the 300-lb. blocks of ice and the sculptors' honorarium -- are: Northern Lights Gallery, Funky Hannah's Beads, Main Street General Store, Copacetic, Sheepish, Martha Merrell's Bookstore, Monfort's Fine Art Gallery, Ivanhoe Pub & Eatery, Inside-Out, Seams Unlimited, EYE OpenerZ, Molly MaGruder, Dover Flag & Map, Art Metals Studio, Avenue Gallery & Frame Shop and Moxie Child. Look outside their shops for the sculptors.

Tornado: Damage leads quickly to repair efforts

Tornado hazard: Shots hit man on Sixth Street

As if a tornado weren't enough, Racine Police had a shooting to deal with last night.

Jose Da Vila, 20, of Chicago, was visiting friends in the 1800 block of Sixth Street. At 5:50 he and others stepped outside to look for the tornado, when shots were fired from a passing car. Da Vila was shot in the upper left chest, and taken to St. Mary's for treatment.

Dey responds to Hall's challenge

Brian Dey posted this statement in the comments on our story about Ken Hall challenging Dey's nomination papers. We're elevating the comments to a full post so both candidates have equal say. Note to JT: This could be one of the most interesting local elections in years ... anyone going to cover it?)

Here's Dey's comments:

Once again, Ken Hall has resorted to cheap tactics and mudslinging to try to distant himself from opponents. He tried similar tactics in the County Executive race last year.

The process asks for 100 signatures, which I surpassed and stand by 100%. Mr. Hall , in his first campaign for County Supervisor misled the people of his district that I endorsed him by placing my name in an endorsement ad, which I had previously told him after a visit to my home that I would not endorse him.

As in his failed bid for County Executive in which he employed similar tactics, the people of the 15th District will not tolerate such disrespect for the political process.

I can only hope that the County Clerk does not fall for such cheap tactics. Rest assured, if he is successful in this stunt, I will not go away and will continue to run with a write in campaign.

My only hope is that the people that signed the nomination papers are not disenfranchised by Ken Hall.

January 7, 2008

Colorful currency? There's a catch...

U.S. currency is changing, and the new $5 bill has some light purple on it. But some bills floating around Mount Pleasant may have even more than that: the money was taken Monday in a bank robbery and then stained when a dye pack exploded.

Mount Pleasant Police responded to a robbery this morning at the Guaranty Bank, 6031 Regency West Drive. According to the police, "a female/black suspect implied she had a weapon" and got away with some money. But a dye pack exploded.

The suspect got away in a car driven by a second woman, who later turned herself in to the Racine Police and was not charged with anything. Angie V. Ford, 44, of Racine was subsequently arrested for robbery.

But more about that stained money: "It is believed that some of the money from the robbery had been either dropped or lost from the suspect auto, near the bank, and may still be stained from the dye pack explosion. Anyone locating any of the money, or any witnesses to this incident are asked to contact the Mt. Pleasant Police Department Investigative Bureau, 884-0454."

Finders, keepers? Not hardly.

Hall contests Dey's nomination papers for County Board

County Board Supervisor Ken Hall is challenging the nomination papers submitted by Brian Dey, who is challenging Hall for the board's 15th District seat.

Hall alleges that Dey, a former Racine Unified School Board member, did not submit the required 100 signatures to appear on the ballot. The 15th District is based in Caledonia.

Here is Hall's statement on challenging Dey's signatures:
“On behalf of the qualified electors in District 15 and Racine County and in order maintain the integrity of the election, as prescribed by Wisconsin law, I have submitted a complaint today to County Clerk Joan Rennert contesting the sufficiency of Brian Dey’s nomination papers for the District 15 County Supervisor seat,” said Ken Hall, incumbent County Supervisor for District 15 in a statement released today.

The complaint alleges that the nomination papers certified by Mr. Dey contain 9 invalid signatures including duplicate signatures, signatures signed by persons other than the elector, invalid addresses, and other irregularities. Mr. Dey’s nomination papers list 103 nominating electors, but when the irregularities are taken into account, these papers are unlikely to meet the minimum standards under Wisconsin law for Mr. Dey to earn a place on the ballot. The minimum standard is 100 valid signatures from eligible electors.

“Accountable government begins with respect for the election process and its laws. This matter is up to the County Clerk to decide, but serious candidates easily avoid issues like this by planning, scheduling, and doing the work needed to gather far more nomination signatures than the minimum in order to ensure they actually do qualify for the election ballot,“ stated Ken Hall.

Congressional delegation wants more Vet Centers

What Wisconsin congressional unanimity looks like

Wisconsin's 469,000 veterans have only two veterans centers offering counseling in a non-medical setting, and both are in the southern part of the state. Approximately 40 percent of Wisconsin veterans do not have a Vet Center close enough for them to go on a regular basis, says Sen. Russ Feingold.

Feingold and all nine other members of Wisconsin's congressional delegation are urging the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) to open two additional Vet Centers, in La Crosse and Brown counties. In a letter to the VA signed by all of them, the delegation expressed its disappointment that none of the 23 new centers the VA plans to open this year would be built in Wisconsin, which ranks seventh worst in the nation for veterans’ access to these centers.

Other states with similar veteran populations have more than double Wisconsin's two centers. Maryland has fewer veterans than Wisconsin, and is one-fifth the size, but has four Vet Centers. Massachusetts is about one-eighth the size of Wisconsin, and has only a slightly larger veteran population, but it has seven Vet Centers.

If Vet Centers were established in La Crosse and Brown, roughly 82 percent of Wisconsin veterans would be within an hour drive of a Vet Center, the delegation wrote:

“We are very concerned that over forty percent of Wisconsin veterans do not currently have reasonable access to a Vet Center. Servicemembers are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with alarming rates of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and other mental health and readjustment issues. Additional Vet centers are urgently needed to ensure that Wisconsin veterans and their families have reasonable access to necessary counseling in the welcoming, non-clinical environment that Vet Centers offer.”

Santa's still on the job ... for Olympia Brown Unitarian Church

We found this note from Santa, who is vacationing at the sunny South Pole, on the Olympia Brown listserv, and wish his elves success in this project:

Santa seems to have overlooked an important stop in Racine – the old, wonderful and historic Olympia Brown Unitarian Universalist Church building. Santa understands OBUUC's heritage, the use of the flaming Chalice, and celebratory use of candles, but is concerned about the potential risk of fire.

Therefore, Santa (the Board of Trustees, and the Finance and Building Concerns Committees) has identified the purchase and installation of an active fire and smoke detection system as the recipient of the annual congregation Christmas gift. The integrated system is expected to cost about $5,000 installed. Elf Rich Wilson will be available and providing contribution forms and envelopes at both services on Sunday, Jan. 13.

You can also forward your contributions (checks only, please) using U.S Postal Mail services to:

Attention: 07 Christmas Gift
419 6th Street
Racine, WI 53403

Please enter "07 Christmas Gift" on your check memorandum line. Please help protect this wonderful and historic building.

Comfortably resting … Santa

January 6, 2008

Paulette Garin kicks off campaign to unseat Ryan

Paulette Garin and 'campaign manager' Holly, 5

Paulette Garin of Kenosha kicked off her campaign to unseat U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-WI, 1st District, with a fund-raiser Sunday at the Boat House Pub, attended by more than 50 supporters.

She has set her sights on the Sept. 9 primary, which could be a crowded field. Already Marge Krupp of Pleasant Prairie has announced her candidacy, and many Democrats expect to see Janesville surgeon Jeffrey Thomas -- a four-time loser against Ryan -- to run again.

Ryan has more than $1.5 million in campaign funds -- money hardly needed in the past, given that Thomas refused to raise money for a campaign to avoid being beholden to anyone.

That won't be the case for Garin and Krupp. Krupp has already said she expects a campaign against Ryan to cost $2 million. Garin would not guess how much would be needed, but said -- citing her recently acquired CPA license, and her campaign treasurer's experience as a union treasurer for 30 years -- that she would raise and spend what's needed. (Her treasurer, by the way, is her father, Walter.)

Pointing to the results of last week's Iowa caucuses, Garin noted, "the candidates with the most money may not be the hands-down winners."

"This won't be a campaign about money," she said, "but rather about relationships." She defined that in two ways: first, the relationships her grassroots organization will form with voters; and, second, the relationship of Ryan to President Bush.

"Ryan is Bush's congressman," she said, "not ours. I am running against Bush and Ryan. I will be your next congressman."

She promised voters "courage and hope," just as her mother, who lost a battle with cancer in February, provided her own family. "I looked at our nation as a metaphor for the family. Every family needs to be healthy, educated and financially secure. We will be strong and resistant to the politics of fear. We will not end up in impossible situations like the war in Iraq.

"Our infrastructure is crumbling, our institutions re failing, and our precious civil liberties are at stake. Our less-than-credible leaders continually attempt to manipulate us with the age-old politics of fear. Our country is being deconstructed through greed and arrogance," she said. "2008 is the year we unseat our Republican incumbent. We simply attach him and his voting record to the failed president he has blindly chosen to follow."

Providing campaign advice to Garin is a Racine native with long-time Washington experience: Linn Mack, retired now, was chief of staff to Vance Hartke, U.S. Senator from Indiana from 1959-1977. Mack said he has run eight federal campaigns, and agreed to help Garin after a three-hour meeting to discuss the issues with her.

Sunday's campaign event was attended by a number of prominent Democrats from Kenosha and Rock County, including State Sen. Bob Wirch of Kenosha. Garin also introduced her "campaign manager," five-year-old niece Holly, who right on cue announced to one and all, "Auntie Paulette for Congress!"

For more on Garin and Krupp, see our earlier story HERE.

Human peace sign to be a stand against violence

Jamel Garrett wants to take a symbolic stand against violence in Racine. And he'd like you to join him.

The 17-year-old Park High School senior is organizing the creation of the city's first "human peace sign" -- not as a political statement but rather a stand against the kind of gang violence that killed a friend last year.

Jamel, who is president of Youth Against Violence, hopes to gather at least 200 people on Jan. 15 at the old J&W drive-in parking lot (1701 12th St.) to line up and form the peace sign. Jamel plans to climb a ladder, or stand on the drive-in's roof, to take an aerial picture of the event, which will run from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

A stand against violence