January 19, 2008

Peace sign projects sprouting all over

Racine formed its peace sign with volunteers holding 200 lighted candles this week. Now a Madison artist plans to construct "a giant" peace sign with 53 Weber grills manned by brat-loving peaceniks on Feb. 2. Huh?

The event, called Grill'n for Peace, is a fundraiser for a local group that feeds the needy in Madison once a week. Details HERE.

MEANWHILE, our Racine peace sign photos have joined thousands of others on the blog and website of two Wyoming folks (by way of Madison) who are attempting to collect one million peace sign photos. Zoey Lily and Lolo wrote about their inspiration:
Snowed in on Jan. 1, 2008, in the Middle-of-Nowhere Wyoming, we decided that collecting One Million Signs of Peace for a website would be a fine New Year's Resolution. Crazy? Probably. Possible? We think so! Since then, people from all over the world have sent us their Peace Sign Photos, Peace observations, and "go for it" encouragement. We've also added Clark, our resident guru and Real Life Superman to the mix. 'Tis awesome, and we thank you all!
The screenshot above is from their photo site. Go there and look at more than 2,500 pictures they've already collected.

And when you're done there, check out this site: P.E.A.C.E. Scooter. It chronicles the journey of a young woman, Alix Bryan, who spent the summer criss-crossing the U.S. on a small motorscooter, a Buddy 125cc with an engine smaller than your lawn mower's. (It's a clone of my beloved Vespa, if you must know.)

Alix's goal was to travel 9,000-plus miles, drawing a huge Peace sign on the U.S. map tracing her route. She started in June at the White House, and finally reached Crawford, Texas, in October. Her mission was, and is, to collect one billion definitions of the word peace, by talking about peace everywhere she went. She, too, has blogged about Racine's peace sign and posted a few of our pictures. But don't go there for that; rather read and enjoy the inspiring tale of her single-minded journey around the U.S.

January 18, 2008

Plastic fetus mailing garners bad publicity all around

"There is no such thing as bad publicity," Irish author Brendan Behan once said.

I'm guessing he never received 44,000 plastic fetuses in the mail.

Since the little reminders of the 35th anniversary of Roe v Wade -- sent to 44,000 Racinians this week by Dave Obernberger (president of the Meadowbrook Country Club) and the Racine Chapter of Wisconsin Right to Life -- started showing up and making the news, the publicity, at least on the Blogosphere, has been negative all around.

Negative toward the city, to those who didn't appreciate the mailing, and especially to the group that sent it out.

Wonkette, the Washington, DC, blog that usually gets its jollies by bashing politicians -- today's victims include Hillary, Huckabee, Chelsea Clinton, George Clooney, a Congressional candidate from Texas you never heard of (Dean Hrbacek, satisfied?) and Mitt Romney -- honored us with this headline: Plague of Plastic Fetuses Reminds Racine of Its Sins.

"Even if you have to sadly target your dead baby mailings next time, Dave, keep up the good work. It’s totally people like you that are keeping the abortion rate down in this country for sure and a grateful nation thanks you. Also, residents of Racine: please send some little plastic fetuses to Megan so she might give them out as Valentines this upcoming St. Valentine’s Day. Thanks."
Almost 100 comments were equally dismissive.

RedRover wrote (once I cleaned up his spelling): "My family is from Racine. Way to make that place look like a bunch of wackos."

Lazy Media chimed in: "BTW, this is the first time Racine has been in the news since John Dillinger's gang robbed it in 1933. Congrats! See you in 75 years!"

Many other blogs chimed in.

The Freedom Eden blog opined: "People in Racine flipped out when they received a little plastic model of a fetus in the mail... Maybe they're more comfortable believing the stork brings babies."

The blogger at Outchurched wrote: "I think an appropriate response to this propaganda would be to mail everyone in Racine a bit of plastic dog poo with a letter explaining how this is a bunch of Christianist Crap. (He thoughtfully provided a picture.)

Doin Time In Eire, PA took on Wisconsin Right to Life: "In what way is mailing a plastic fetus to someone of whom you know nothing about, personally, politically or otherwise, considered a positive act?"

Dreams in a Badger -- who listed her current mood as "aggravated" -- wrote "who are you to tell me what to do with my body?"

Burke Williamson of Hattiesburg, MS, wrote "The Racine Chapter... taught us they have no sense of decency and lack both common sense and manners."

The blogger at Retractiones, an evangelical Protestant blog, asked: "What's in poor taste and so offensive about sending a plastic fetus? Is someone's conscience sensitive here?" Referring to a Racine woman who said she recycled the plastic fetus, the blogger wrote: "Me, I'm more offended by folks disposing of real fetuses, which, IMHO, is going too far."

At Wonkette, by the way, a number of bloggers were concerned about the cost of the mailing.

Floraway wrote: "Think about the economics of this activity. Let's say the company gave him a bulk discount of 10 cents each. That is $4,400, plus the (at least) 41 cents to mail each one. That would make this a $22,440 project. That woman shouldn't be upset about getting it. He wasted nearly $25,000-- just laugh at him."

But after searching the internet, Floraway found an online source for the little dolls, and the price was much more than a dime: $1.99 to $1.15 (for bulk orders of at least six). "Okay, I take that back. He spent $52,360 on the dolls -- which brings the total to $70,400. He could have put a kid through school, or helped a single mom buy a condo with that money. I think he made the right call though."

We'll give the last word to Chicago Bureau, writing on Wonkette: "Racine? Huh. Everyone knows that Kenosha is truly a den of iniquity."

By Friday night, the Wonkette post had drawn 2,860 views, and 92 comments.

Fraud at the gas pump? ... with UW-Parkside implications

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has a story today about possible gasoline fraud, of interest to all motorists.

But it is of even more concern to the University of Wisconsin-Parkside because the man at the center of the investigation, Darshan Dhaliwal, is a major donor -- with a $4.5 million pledge at stake.

The headline says:

Suit alleges dishonesty at the pump: Oil giant accuses Mequon man of selling unbranded gas under BP name, prices at stations
A Mequon gas station magnate with deep political ties is being sued in federal court on allegations of swindling customers out of brand-name gas at as many as 120 stations nationwide, including a handful in Wisconsin.

Oil giant BP alleges that Darshan Dhaliwal, a longtime friend of former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson and owner of Bulk Petroleum, knowingly sold - and continues to sell - unbranded gasoline out of BP stations, charging brand-name prices and sticking unsuspecting customers with gas not formulated with the promised protectants and detergents designed to extend the life of your car.
Read the entire story HERE.

Bulk Petroleum Corp. owns 65 gas stations in Wisconsin. Here are the only ones in this area:
Marathon, 3024 Rapids Dr., Racine
Marathon, 9001 Durand Ave., Sturtevant
BP, 224 E. Washington St., Burlington
Marathon, 704 75th St., Kenosha
And now back to Parkside. The penultimate graf of the Journal Sentinel's story says:
In 2006, Dhaliwal pledged $4.5 million to the University of Wisconsin-Parkside to expand its communication arts building...
Darshan Dhaliwal, right, with President Bush

Lenny Klaver, UW-P vice chancellor, university relations and advancement, said this afternoon that Dhaliwal's pledge "is on track under its schedule to be paid," but he wouldn't disclose how much has been received or how many years the pledge involves. ("As a private foundation we don't disclose...")

Although he said, "When I saw this story this morning, I knew I would get a call today," he didn't express concern about the pledge, which is in its second year of payment. "It wasn't a pledge made by his business, it was a personal pledge made by him."

The money is for an expansion and renovation of UW-Parkside's Communication Arts Building; planning is under way with architects. The project's total cost is estimated at $34.5 million; groundbreaking is expected in 2009.

A few years ago Dhaliwal contributed $200,000 toward UW-Parkside's modern language lab.

His connection to UW-Parkside goes back several years, according to Klaver, "when he steered some potential students Parkside's way, several international students from India who have received degrees from Parkside."

A biography of Dhaliwal, says he grew up the eldest son of a successful farmer in India. He met a Peace Corps volunteer and decided to come to the U.S. for college in North Dakota, where he was the only Indian and felt out of place. But he took a bus trip that stopped in Milwaukee. Someone he knew gave him a tour and Dhaliwal decided he was in "God's country."

He married a Wisconsin girl in 1974, leased his first gas station -- for $300 a month -- in 1977, and bought his first station, for $30,000 in 1979. Today he owns nearly 1,000 gas stations, according to the NRI International website. (NRI stands for non-resident Indian)

NRI says of Dhaliwal: "He's one of the quietest human beings. He does not like to talk in public. He won't give a speech."

DRC will present program on innovation

The Downtown Racine Corporation is bringing a speaker on innovation to Racine.

Cheryl Perkins will describe how to make your organization an innovation leader at the Golden Rondelle on Wednesday, Feb. 20. The program is called, Delivering Game-Changing Innovation.

Perkins is the founder of Innovationedge, based in Appleton. She was vice president and chief innovation officer for Kimberly-Clark, and holds eight U.S. patents. She has been named one of the “Top 25 Champions of Innovation” by Business Week.

The program is free and open to the public. Doors open at 5 p.m. with the program from 5:30 – 7 p.m. Reservations can be made by calling the Golden Rondelle at 260-2154. This presentation is part of The Sustainable Community Series and is presented by SC Johnson, in partnership with DRC.

January 17, 2008

UW-Parkside chancellor retiring in August

UW-Parkside Chancellor John Keating announced Thursday he would retire in August.

Keating has led the campus in Somers for the past 10 years. He made the announcement at UW-Parkside's Spring Convocation breakfast.

"I am very confident in retiring because I know how well positioned this campus is to achieve the next step," Keating said. "And whoever comes here to take the leadership reins, I know you will support that person as you supported me."

UW System Regent and UW-Parkside alumnus Mike Falbo will chair a special committee of regents who will work with Reilly to select the new UW-Parkside chancellor.

“Our challenge is to identify a new campus CEO with the right skills, experience, and drive to keep alive the positive momentum established here during Chancellor Keating’s tenure,” said Falbo.

Since joining UW-Parkside as its fifth chancellor on July 1, 1998, Keating said he developed a strong attachment to the campus and its people.

"I love Parkside. I've worked hard for 10 years here but it's been worth it, every day has been worth it. Not every day has been terrific," he said to appreciative laughter, "but some of the less terrific days have led to even greater expectations and greater success."

Keating added he would devote the remainder of his tenure here to increasing scholarship funding to help the neediest students.

A South Sider's Memory of Post-War Racine

A RacinePost reader sent this wonderful list of memories from Racine in the late '40s to mid '50s. Enjoy!

1. Fourth of July Fireworks at Washington Park Golf Course and the swaying bridge crossing Root River -AND COUPONS FOR CRACKER JACK AND ICE CREAM FROM THE SCHOOLS

2. Parades with Racine’s musical units -- the Elks Band, Boy Scouts, Kilties and Boys of ’76, Johnson’s Wax Band, Park Board Band

3. Sun bathing at North Beach during the day and bonfire beach parties at night

4. Reggie’s Roller Rink at North Beach

5. Swimming au natural at the quarry on Northwestern Avenue-AND THE SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT WITH THEIR MACHINE GUNS....

6. Rialto and Venetian, Uptown, Capitol, Crown, Badger, Main Street Theaters DON'T FORGET THE GRANADA

7. Radio station WRAC and Saturday Morning Teen Time Program-AND THE TEDDY BEARS' PICNIC IN THE MORNING

8. Ethnic programs such as Peder Bach’s Danish hour and the Kurier Polski Programma on WRJN

9. Fibber McGee and Molly radio program (sponsored by SC Johnson’s Wax) broadcast from Memorial Hall

10. Downtown stores -Zahns, Fantles, Racine Dry Goods,(had elevators) and Penney’s, Sears, Fish Furniture, Eitels, Thrifty Mac, Gosieski’s Music, Lulevich Jewelry, Mezinis Photography, Ace Pool Hall, AND THE 3 DIME STORES

11. Reflecting ponds on Monument Square

12. A&W Root Beer stand and carhops on 12th Street

13. Kewpies hamburgers for 25 cents and root beer for a nickel

14. Dutch Maid ice cream shops on Wisconsin Ave and Washington Ave

15. The “Spot” ice cream store at 11th and Herrick, Cho-Cho’s ice cream push-ups, “Sammy” ice cream bars

16. Public Fruit Markets on Main, 6th Street and Washington Avenue

17. Telephone numbers that began with Jackson and Prospect

18. Operators who connected calls before dial phones

19. Racine Zoo concerts by the Park Board Band on Sundays in the summer AND THE ALLIGATORS IN THE POND

20. The UW-Racine Extension Center Student Union in Memorial Hall

21. Post Prom Dances with big bands such as Stan Kenton and Count Basie

22. Friday night dances with Jim Froseth’s band at the Y at 4th and Wisconsin after high school football and basketball games

23. Formal dances at South Hills Country Club

24. North Shore Metroliners and the Chicago NorthWestern “400”-AND THE NORTH SHORE

25. Interurban from Kenosha to Milwaukee operating along Wisconsin Ave., Main Street, State and Douglas

26. Railway Express Agency delivery trucks

27. Wind Point “submarine races”

28. Perch fishing off the north or south piers

29. Horlick Field football games on Saturdays between the four junior high schools-McKinley, Washington, Mitchell and Franklin

30. Ice skating in the Park bowl and warming shed at end of Valley Drive

31. Tobogganing at Washington Park, sledding down “devil’s hill”

32. Tennis courts behind Park High

33. Park Center Swimming Pool

34. Washington Park ski jump

35. Pizza restaurants Charlie’s, Brusha’s (pencil sketches courtesy of Flint Morrison) and Natales

36. All you can eat chicken at Kilbourn Gardens

37. “Scooping the loop” down Main Street and turning around after the bridge at W. H. Pugh station

38. The Three-mile Reef Lighthouse and harbor fog horns

39. Blue suede shoes or bucks, charcoal trousers (pegged at 14 inches), pink shirt and blue sport coat

40. Old Horlick’s Dam/ Horlick’s Malted Milk plant

41. Water tower along Chicago NorthWestern tracks at 9th Street

42. Howell and Franklin Schools

43. Friday night dances for junior high students at the Washington Park recreation center, admission 10 cents

44. Two-way traffic on Sixth and Seventh Streets

45. Nash, Crosleys, Packards, Studebakers, Kaiser, Frazer, Hudsons, Plymouths, Metros, Edsels and fins on practically every car in the late 50s

46. Old Abe Eagle atop a post at the J I Case Clausen Works

47. Herrick Mansion, Herrick Avenue and Herrick Hill to Uptown-AND TAKING YOUR DRIVING TEST THERE

48. Danish Beer Gardens and Chris, the bartender, on Four Mile Road

49. Tony Rondoni’s bar with musical wine bottles-AND "DAGO RED" FOR 25CENTS A GLASS

50. Bricks on Washington Avenue, College Avenue

51. Smelt fishing by lantern light off Herrick Ave. bridge

52. Shadow of a nude from a tree near Villa

53. Elk’s Lodge on 6th Street overlooking Lake Michigan

54. Don Hutson’s Chevrolet dealership at the foot of 5th Street

55. Coal boats unloading at Pugh’s dock

56. Coal trucks and dusty coal bins in basements

57. Horse drawn milk wagons from Progressive Dairy, also Mari Gold and Harmony dairies AND SEVERAL OTHER DAIRIES-ALSO MARIGOLD DAIRY RESTAURANT IN WEST RACINE

58. Student nurses' dorm at the Bendstead Mansion across from East Park

59. Pokorny’s Drug Store at 4th and Main

60. Durango’s Pizza on Main Street

61. Journal Times paperboys

62. Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s speedy visit through Racine in 1952

63. Wisconsin Highway 42 re-named to Highway 32, three lanes wide (passing lane was also called “suicide lane.”)

64. Gasoline at 16 cents a gallon

65. The cannon at Washington and 12th “to keep the Danes in West Racine” and the band shell for weekly concerts in the summer

66. Horse drawn rag collectors going up and down alleys-AND ICE MEN WITH THEIR WAGONS TO FILL YOUR ICEBOX

67. Garbage incinerator behind City Hall

68. City dump on Lake Michigan at foot of 6th Street

69. Police Headquarters on 3rd Street

70. Natural gas storage tanks and coke factory on lake front

71. The Egyptian mummy in the museum located in the court house

72. Manufacturing jobs at Hamilton Beach Osters, Andis Clippers, Rainfair, Massey Harris (later Massey Fergusen), Young Radiator, Western Printing, Jacobsen, Belle City Malleable, Hamilton Beach, Haban Mfg., Gordon Machines, Hartman Mfg. Co., Dremel, Lakeside Malleable Castings Co., Racine Boiler and Tank, Jacobson-Lawn Mowers, Green Mfg. AND MODINE

You have to be older than 60 to remember many of these events and milestones!

Rich leprechaun wanted to lead St. Patrick's Day parade

Wanted: One leprechaun with a pot of gold to be Racine's St. Patrick's Day Parade Grand Marshal.

The Downtown Racine Corporation will award the position to the individual or group that pledges the largest “pot of gold” to the St. Patrick’s Day parade, which takes place on Saturday, March 15, beginning at noon.

The honorary Grand Marshal will preside over the parade and and other St. Patrick's Day activities. The Grand Marshal will:
· Lead the 2008 Downtown St. Patrick’s Day Parade
· Lead the judging committee which selects the parade's best entry, and present the award.
· Act as Master of Ceremonies for the activities at Monument Square after the parade
· The Parade Marshal will be profiled in The Journal Times and on the DRC website

St. Patrick’s Day Parade Grand Marshal applications are available at the Downtown Racine Corporation Office at 425 Main Street or you can download an application, which must be completed and returned to the DRC by Feb. 8. The highest bidder will be awarded the position of Grand Marshal. The announcement of the Grand Marshal will be made on Sunday, March 2.

All donated funds, i.e., the "pot of gold," will help offset parade expenses such as street closings, marketing and banners.

January 16, 2008

Supervisor hires document expert to challenge opponent's papers

In what may be a first for local elections in Racine County, a candidate hired a hand-writing expert to challenge the nomination papers of his opponent.

Supervisor Ken Hall called in the expert to challenge signatures on challenger Brian Dey's nomination papers. Dey turned in his papers with 103 signatures - three over the required 100.

Hall challenged the signatures and three were tossed out, leaving Dey with valid papers. Hall then hired hand-writing expert Jim Ferrier, a former Milwaukee police captain, to review Dey's signatures.

Hall reported Wednesday that Ferrier found two additional duplicate signatures, which would bring Dey's total under the minimum.

"Accountable government begins with respect for the election process, its laws, and deadlines," Hall said in a press release. "This matter is back 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 qualify for the election ballot."

Dey is a former member of the Racine Unified School Board and Caledonia's weed commissioner. He is challenging Hall for the County Board's 15th District.

State's first all-electric car not legal in Racine -- yet

Green only goes so far. Despite Mayor Gary Becker's plans to turn Racine green with solar arrays, rain gardens and compliance with the Kyoto Accords, don't rush out to buy that all-electric car the Wisconsin Department of Transportation licensed for sale here Friday.

The one from Canada that gets 35 miles on a fill-up of ... um, electricity from any household outlet. The ZENN is its name, and it's cute as a button, smaller than a Mini-Cooper and costs $12,700. ZENN stands for Zero Emissions, No Noise.

You could buy one in Janesville, from Green's Auto, the state's only ZENN dealer. Just don't plan on driving it home: It's not allowed on Janesville's streets. It's not allowed on Wisconsin highways either(top speed is just 25mph). And even if you got it home, you can't legally drive it in Racine anyway.

Did we mention how cute it is? How cheap to run? Holds two adults and a few bags of groceries.

Truth is, however, it's not officially a car, although it looks like one: It's a Neighborhood Electric Vehicle, an important distinction that marks a compromise between efforts to go green and federal safety standards. The ZENN has a full complement of headlights, turn signals and brake lights -- unlike electric golf carts, for example -- but what it doesn't have are air bags.

While the state is allowing the Department of Motor Vehicles to register the ZENN (providing a single turquoise license plate), it is not mandating that municipalities allow them on city streets. Rather, the state is allowing communities to pass ordinances permitting them.

So far, according to a story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the ZENN can be driven in 35 Wisconsin communities, including Glendale, Green Bay, La Crosse, Eau Claire, Beloit, Rice Lake, Eagle River and Waupun. Just don't try to drive it from one to another.

As Sgt. Bernie Kupper of the Racine Police Department told me, "If you live in the city, you stay in the city. If you're in a subdivision, you have to keep it in the subdivision."

Kupper said the city had a request about an electric vehicle last year, but nothing came of it. City Attorney Rob Weber quickly produced a copy of Green Bay's ordinance, which limits Neighborhood Electric Vehicles to streets where the speed limit is no more than 35 miles per hour.

Will the ZENN someday be legal on Racine streets? All it will take is someone wanting to be freed forever from the pump. And a city ordinance.

ZENN Motors' website is HERE.

Vos pushes referendums on KRM, but opposes direct legislation

So is Rep. Robin Vos interested in direct legislation? Last week it seemed he was when he announced his support for Regional Transit Authorities that would be created through referendums. In short, if communities want to increase their sales tax to fund buses and commuter rail, they can vote to do that.

Throughout the debate over KRM, Vos supported sending the issue to voters instead of implementing a tax increase on rental cars to pay for the system. It was a courageous stance given the pressure from the business community and the fact that his district would be one of the primary benefactors of a commuter rail line connecting Kenosha to Milwaukee with stops in Racine and Caledonia.

While Vos supports voter input on KRM, he opposes it on most other issues. That became clear this week when he voted in favor of AB363, which would significantly limit the state's direct legislation law.

Under current law, people who live in cities and villages can force a referendum on an issue by circulating petitions and collecting signatures equal to 15 percent of the number of people who voted in the last election for governor. Residents in Appleton used the law to ban smoking in the city, while several other communities used to limit municipal spending and to voice disapproval of the Iraq War.

AB363 would allow local governments to ignore direct legislation petitions if the proposed resolution does not "substantially relate" to a local governmental function or responsibility, or if the proposal is primarily "ceremonial or aspirational."

The bill passed the Assembly 50-46 on Tuesday. Reps. Cory Mason and Bob Turner, both D-Racine, voted against the bill.

It's hard to say how the bill would be used, but as it's worded, it seems local governments could ignore direct legislation on smoking, Iraq and ... commuter rail, which one could easily argue doesn't "substantially relate" to local government.

It's easy to understand the need to limit direct legislation. The petitions are an added expense for local officials, and likely a nuisance, especially for smaller villages and cities.

Based on the 2006 governor's election, it would take about 10,650 signatures to force a county-wide vote. In Racine, it would take about 4,736 signatures. In Caledonia it would take 1,715. In Elmwood Park it would take 40.

But it's interesting to see Vos support a referendum on legislation he's working on, while opposing a process that encourages a swell of voter participation. If legislators are concerned about frivolous referendums, increase the number of required signatures.

It's also odd that the vote was partisan, with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed (meaning it won't get through the Democrat-controlled Senate). Are Democrats more likely to push direct legislation? Who is pushing the need to shutdown this process?

Mystery at the library

City Librarian Jessica MacPhail ponders the message spray-painted in purple on the library, trying to solve its meaning ... if any.

While everyone else was taking cover from the tornadoes that swept through Wisconsin last week, somebody was busy painting "help we are being hurt with chemotherapy," and variants thereof, on the library's brick wall, cement retaining wall and sidewalk.

So far, nobody has been able to explain the message. Hopefully, it's short-lived; as soon as the Department of Public Works fixes its power washer it will be removed. In the meantime, if you know what it means ...

MacPhail does wonder whether it might be related -- somehow -- to the most important thing that ever happened on Jan. 8: In case you missed it, she points out that was Elvis' birthday.

Racine Police Dept. gets funding for two more officers

Racine's Police Department is about to grow by two beat patrol positions.

The department now has 199 badge-carrying officers -- everyone from the chief to the four newest patrolmen.

Thanks to a grant from the Office of Justice Assistance, the department will grow to 201 officers. Racine is one of ten Wisconsin cities given a share of nearly $2 million to put more uniformed police officers on the street.

The Racine Police Department grant is for $191,000, although only $143,750 of that is outside money; the rest is the city's 25 percent matching share.

This state-funded program was established in 1995 and recipients are determined by a formula that includes population and violent crime figures. Besides Racine, grants are going to Beloit, Green Bay, Janesville, Kenosha, Madison, Milwaukee, Stevens Point, Wausau and West Allis.

The city has qualified for funding for three years; however, the funds are guaranteed only for one year. Future years' funding will depend upon the availability of state and federal money.

Racine Arts Council hosts Wustum's Adult Student Show

By Dominic J. Cibrario

Now that the rush of the Holidays is over, take time to view the Adult Student Show sponsored by Ram’s Wustum Museum, held at the Racine Arts Council at 505 6thStreet. In this show the instructors along with 25 students are exhibiting their 2D and 3D creations until Jan. 26, M,T,W,F, noon-4 p.m.

Let’s begin our tour with Tom Hoffman, a graduate of Milwaukee Institute of Art and the painting instructor at Wustum. He takes us into the depths of the
Mediterranean Sea in his oil painting “Under Waterworld" (bottom right). He uses chiaroscuro, a technique developed by the Renaissance masters involving the interplay of light and shade. A solitary fish is suspended between the threatening tentacles of an octopus and a reddish squid, which lingers above glistening seashells. His symbolic masterpiece suggests the insecurity of our global society. This dramatic composition slightly resembles a certain Roman painting excavated from the ruins of Pompeii (79AD), located in the Naples Art Museum. Hoffman has been strongly influence by Michelangelo (1475-1564) and Francis Bacon (1910-1992).

Inspired by a photograph taken in her cousin Gil’s backyard, Linda LePoidevin created her magnificent “Paddock Lake,” similar to Pine Island on the Menominee River in northern Wisconsin. The viewer’s eyes move from the shadows along the shore to the light of the leaves on the opposite bank of the tranquil lake. The bark of LePoidevin’s trees are sun-drenched in warm colors.

Using purple and yellow hues to enhance the beauty of her mountains, Marilyn Hughes invites the viewer to enjoy the grandeur of her landscape “Along the ‘Tracks,’ Arizona 1.” A saguaro cactus, prickly pear, and sage brush grow in the foreground with only a trace of railroad tracks visible.

On the opposite wall is Wendy Olsen’s “Untitled” acrylic, containing vibrant orange, red, and yellow poppies rising from a brown vase that looks like a Greek amphora. Her floral arrangement is set against a background of blue tones.

Fenced in by a rustic wooden frame, a white cow turns her head to gaze at the viewer while standing in front of a buffalo in Bob Bagley’s “Kansas City Cow.” Other cattle forage on the golden plain, where a windmill and a budding tree stretch toward the spacious sky.

David Schweitzer ‘s “Early Grey” is a skillfully crafted painting of an enormous U.S. Air Force plane on a runway, where a crew is loading the cargo destined for Bosnia. A brooding sky filled with turbulent clouds predicts an uncertain flight. Schweitzer will donate his painting to the U.S. Air Force Art Program. His oil painting was photographed in Germany while he was traveling to Turkey.

Bill Anderson, the instructor of the ceramic department, introduced raku to Milwaukee and Racine. His sculpture (middle right) is a transcendent cosmic loop using gilded porcelain. The inner golden circle contains a Biblical quotation which invites contemplation, ”Does Your Right Hand Know What Your Left Hand Is Doing?” Anderson said that he uses this quotation when his students work on the potter’s wheel. He encourages them to use both hands equally.” Notice that the black hands forming the base, anchors his unique creation to the white pedestal. Bill has been influenced by the spirituality of Diego Rivera (1886-1957) and Salvador Dali (1904-1989).

Marie Abbott has created a whimsical assortment of porcelain figures entitled “And Who’s Been Sitting In My Chair?” (top right). You’ll immediately recognize Baby Bear, staring at his potty chair. Nearby are the chairs of Mama and Papa Bear, placed on a black and white checkered floor. Don’t miss Abbot’s triplet of “Leaves” created from hand carved porcelain and raku.

Let’s end the show by enjoying Ney Collier’s fine sculpture consisting of tubular stoneware with painted glazes. Four flattened tubes serve as a base, supporting an erect pair of tubes while a final pair reclines.

County librarian helps pick Caldecott medal winner

It sounded like Green Bay after a Packers victory.

Instead, the cheering came from librarians, happy and surprised (Dare I say raucous? Shhh!) when the American Library Association named The Invention of Hugo Cabret as the winner of the Caldecott medal for the most distinguished American picture book of 2008. Listen to NPR's report HERE.

Brian Selznick's 544-page "novel" was an unusual choice. For one thing, it's not a traditional children's picture book. While it's mostly a series of pencil drawings artfully telling a story about a boy's efforts to restore a mechanical automaton salvaged from the ruins of a museum in Paris, it also has many pages of text. The kid in me could hardly put it down.

The award was announced Monday at the ALA's winter meeting in Philadelphia. One of the librarians present was Rhonda Puntney of the Lakeshores Library System, which serves 15 libraries in Racine and Walworth counties, including the Racine Public Library.

Rhonda, it turns out, admits to being "one of the cheering librarians mentioned on NPR." She also was a member of the committee that selected The Invention of Hugo Cabret. "And after the overwhelmingly positive response to our choice, a very pleased committee member!"

The Caldecott winner is chosen by a 15-member committee of the Association for Library Services to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association, from among 700-800 books sent by publishers.

So back to Monday's announcement. Rhonda says, "The committee met at the convention center at 6:30 a.m. and called the winners of the medal and honor books. One of the highlights of being on the committee, is that we are the first to notify the winners. And they were all gracious and very pleased to win. Later we were brought into the ballroom where the announcements were held, right in the front. I have to say, I think the audience's enthusiastic response to Hugo Cabret was overwhelming! (Several of us even held hands for support during the announcements!)"

Rhonda has been the youth services and special needs consultant at Lakeshores Library System, which is headquartered in Waterford, since 2000. Before that, she was children's librarian in Burlington. (For fun, she sings bass with the Riverport Chorus, a Sweet Adelines women's barbershop chorus.)

When politicians bet on football games...

Six-packs and money rarely change hands when politicians bet on sporting events. The bet between New York Sen. Charles Schumer and Wisconsin Sen. Herb Kohl is no exception.

Only cheese and cheesecake are on the line.

If the Giants win the NFC Championship game Sunday, Schumer will receive a block of Wisconsin cheese. More likely, when the Packers win, Kohl will get Junior's Cheesecake.

Even their trash-talking is somehow off:

“The Giants will only feel the heat against Green Bay at Lambeau Field,” Kohl said.

“Brooklyn may have sent Green Bay a gift in Vince Lombardi, but the generosity ends there,” Schumer said.

Still, Wisconsin beer and New York cheesecake: Life doesn't get much better.

Racine Family Club collecting donations for tornado victims

Dear Readers,

The Racine Family Club is holding a supply drive for the victim of the Wheatland Tornado. Here's the email we received from organizer Amanda Desonia:
The Tornado Relief Headquarters informed us that they are in most need of the following things:
Shaving Cream
Disposable Razors
Cleaning Supplies including sponges, dishcloths
Gift Cards for Displaced Families

Here is the link to the web site that gives more updates on the recovery efforts and a list of other needed items.

Would you be willing to post something on your blog about our efforts to collect supplies? We are asking anyone in the community to donate who might be willing. Donors can call Amanda at 898-0211 or e-mail me at adesonia@gmail.com

I am also available to collect supplies at the parking lot behind the now closed movie theater on Washington Ave in the area next to the driveway to Christ Church on Thursday, Jan 17th between 9:30am-11:00am

Please donate if you can, and good luck to Amanda on her collection efforts.

January 15, 2008

A word to the wise: Hurry!

Remember Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year issue? You know, the one you missed when it first came out. Then you missed again when SI went back to press and distributed another 50,000 in Wisconsin. Yes, that one: SI went back to press a third time, putting out another 100,000 copies for Packers fans. And still you missed out?

Well, tomorrow you face another crisis: SI's first Snowman of the Year issue comes out, with Brett Favre on the cover again. Trust us: It will be a sellout, a collector's edition. Run, don't walk, to your nearest magazine seller on your way to work. Don't cry on our shoulders later.

BUT if you miss again ... you can still score a copy of the cover from Sports Illustrated. Just $19.95 ... or framed for just $69.65. Just get out your credit card and click HERE. Heck, that's a LOT cheaper than the tickets you were outbid for on eBay. And, you get to keep your firstborn.

A history of the Packers vs. the Giants is HERE.

Hundreds come together to stand against violence

The aim was to form a peace sign with hundreds of Racinians holding candles against the cold and the mindless violence that has gripped Racine. And although it would have taken a helicopter to truly appreciate the visual that resulted, they succeeded -- old and young, white and black, men and women, even a couple of County Board members -- coming together in a defunct fast-food restaurant's parking lot.

For an hour or so, they made the point that all can work toward a common objective, peacefully. A simple message perhaps, but important to the high school students who organized the event, and to the kids and adults who helped realize it.

Just a block away, as if to re-emphasize the need, four police cars, lights flashing, had a young woman in handcuffs for 15 minutes as they searched her car -- fruitlessly, it appeared -- and then released her without incident.

More pictures after the break.

Organizers Brienna Elam and Jamel Garrett

Journal Sentinel covers the event HERE.
Our earlier story is HERE.

Help pick Unified's next superintendent

Racine Unified has retained PROACT Search, a firm that specializes in helping school boards find a superintendent. To identify the characteristics that the community is looking for, the school board is seeking the input of students, parents, staff and residents.

To provide your input, attend one of the following Community Forums:

Tuesday, Jan. 29:
7:30 a.m. - 9 a.m.,RUSD Administrative Service Center, 2220 Northwestern Ave.
7:30 a.m. - 9 a.m., Gilmore Middle School Auditorium, 2330 Northwestern Ave.
7 p.m. - 8:30 p.m., Horlick High School Theatre, 2119 Rapids Drive
Wednesday, Jan. 30
7:30 a.m. - 9 a.m., RUSD Administrative Service Center
6:30 p.m. - 8 p.m., RUSD Administrative Service Center
If you are unable to attend any of the forums, you may complete and return the Superintendent Search Survey to any district school (mark ATTN: Office of Communication) or mail or fax it directly to the address/fax number indicated on the bottom of the form. You may also e-mail your completed form directly to PROACT Search. The survey will be available on the district's website beginning on Monday, Jan. 28. All surveys must be returned by Friday, Feb. 8.

Somewhere, Woody Allen is smiling...

As the great political sage, Woody Allen, once said: "Ninety per cent of life is showing up." *

Nobody can fault Wisconsin's two senators, Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl, on that count: Both showed up for every one of the Senate's 442 votes in 2007. Wisconsin and Maine are the only two states where both senators had perfect voting attendance records.

(OK, you Republican nay-sayers with your cavils about a do-nothing Congress: how they voted is important, too. But at the very least our guys showed up, giving us at the minimum what we paid for.)

Feingold and Kohl were two of only ten U.S. Senators who did not miss a single vote during the first session of the 110th Congress. The average senator made about 420 of the 442 votes cast in 2007.

“Wisconsinites depend on the people they elect to show up and represent Wisconsin in the Senate to the best of their ability,” said Feingold, who has only missed ten votes in his 15 years as a senator, an attendance record of 99.81 percent.

“I take my responsibilities as a Senator seriously and know Wisconsinites expect me to ensure their voice be consistently heard in our nation’s capital,” Kohl said.

The other eight senators with nothing better to do than show up and vote (not a presidential candidate among 'em) were: Max Baucus (D-MT), Bob Casey (D-PA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Harry Reid (D-NV), Ken Salazar (D-CO), and Olympia Snowe (R-ME).

* OK, maybe Woody said, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” The mighty internet waffles. but the point is the same.

Public hearing tonight on Artist Relocation Program for Racine's Uptown

The City Council will hold a public hearing tonight at 7 p.m. on Mayor Gary Becker's Artist Relocation Program for Uptown in Racine.

The program would rehab buildings in Uptown and encourage artists to move into the neighborhood in hopes of reviving Washington Avenue from Phillips Avenue to 10th Street. So far, the city has bought two buildings and is renovating one of them.

Last week, the city received a $196,000 federal grant to assist the program. It's based on a program in Paducah, Kentucky.

The public hearing is a chance to voice support or opposition to the program, which has been approved by the city's Plan Commission. It's likely to pass the full council.

Our earlier story on this grant is HERE.

Racine library hosts King Day event for children

RACINE – Before he was our nation’s greatest civil rights leader, Martin Luther King liked to play baseball.

He also liked riding his bike and doing many of the same things today’s kids enjoy.

“The kids get excited when they learn that,” said Mary Frienly, outreach manager for the Girl Scouts of Southeastern Wisconsin and founder of the annual Martin Luther King Celebration at the Racine Public Library.

In its third year, the library celebration on Jan. 21 – Martin Luther King Day - is designed for children and their families.

Organizers use hands-on activities and stories of King throughout his life to inspire kids to learn more about his message of love, peace and non-violence.

Frienly created the celebration after realizing there were no King events specifically for children. Given the Girl Scouts long-standing commitment to equality – King himself acknowledged the organization as a “force for desegregation” – Frienly decided to act.

“There were things for adults, but nothing for kids,” she said about King celebrations. “That was a big oversight.”

The theme of this year’s celebration is “Hands and Voices in Unity,” and will include learning about how spiritual and protest songs merged during he civil rights movement. Three songs chosen for this year’s program include “Blowing in the Wind,” “Had A Hammer,” and “Freedom Land.”

Children will also be able to participate in a creative project to design hands that will stretch across the library’s windows as a symbol of the peace marches for civil rights.

The program will run from 6-7:30 p.m. at the library, 75 Seventh St., in Racine. It’s free and open to the public.

Frienly said even though the celebration is aimed at children, it’s the adults who end up wanting to learn more about King.

“The last two years it’s the adults who go into the stacks and want books about King, or ask the reference librarians for recording or speeches on CDs. It’s amazing everything the library has.”
For more information about the celebration, or about Girl Scouts, contact Frienly at (262) 598-9190.

Candidates seek diversity on School Board

Diversity will be an important issue in Racine Unified’s School Board election this spring.

Pastor Melvin Hargrove, who was appointed to the board in November, is seeking a full-term on the nine-member board. He’s joined by the Rev. Karen Norton, who is also seeking one of the three open seats.

In all, seven candidates are competing for the three-year terms. Incumbents Brian Dey, Randy Bangs and Russ Carlsen are not seeking re-election. That paves the way for new faces on the board, which will select a new superintendent and address several key issues in the coming year.

Norton said she was running to “open lines of communication” between the School Board and the community. In particular, she said the board lacks the diversity needed to reach out to the families and students who are struggling the most in Racine’s schools.

“It’s known one of the issues facing the district is African Americans poor showing in schools,” said Norton, who has had three children graduate from Unified and has two more children in school now. “The people who are struggling are coming from the community where I live.”

She added that while most School Board members and candidates would agree it’s important to reach out to the community, few understand how to connect with minority families.

“I see there’s a disconnect from the community,” Norton said. “I would bring a very different perspective to the board.”

Hargrove said he’s learned how the School Board works in first months on the job. He was appointed to replace Dey, who resigned for personal reasons.

The School Board adopted a “policy governance” system that has the board oversee the superintendent, who is responsible for running the district. The system removes the board from day-today decisions in the schools, but Hargrove said there is still an opportunity for board members to get involved at a fundamental level. He’s toured schools and asked questions, which gives him the insight needed to work on Unified’s issues.

“If we really do this right, we’ll see some changes,” Hargrove said. But, he added, no one candidate will be able to come in and help everyone.

“I don’t have a John Wayne or Superman attitude to change things,” he said. “I’m joining a group of leaders on the School Board that's going to meld together.”

This article first appeared in the Insider News.

January 14, 2008

'Getting into this jam will be really good news'

Racine County yesterday announced a new program to help keep youth from returning to juvenile detention.

The program, known as JAM, is administered under contract with the county's Human Services Department by Juvenile Aftercare Ministries, Inc., a non-profit corporation.

It may well be a good program -- let's face it, we spend so much on punishment it's always a surprise to see anything left over for prevention -- but my first reaction was to marvel at the press release author's chutzpah for concluding with this "quote" from County Executive Bill McReynolds:
"Most of us don't like getting into a jam. But for some of our youth, the chance to get into this JAM will be really good news."
Mac said that? Yeah, right.

Anyway, the county lists JAM's three phases this way: The first begins while the youth is serving in detention. The second phase continues after release, and the third phase is a one-on-one accountability relationship with a community mentor for a year. Similar programs in Boston and Memphis have radically reduced recidivism.

(Yeah, not much in the way of specifics, or cost. And I discovered the release online too late to make a clarifying phone call. News as it happens; film at 11.)

Another McReynolds quote: "I have always said that the juvenile justice system, especially its secure facilities, is like the farm team system for the adult criminal justice system. (That doesn't sound like Mac, either.) I don’t want to see youngsters unnecessarily in juvenile detention, and I sure don’t want to see them, as adults, coming into our jail. For some youth, juvenile detention is crucial to helping them mend their ways. But, once they’re out of detention, some of them need extra help to keep from repeating their past mistakes. In some tough, large cities, the kind of program JAM offers has been that extra help."

Uh, yeah; that too.

The JAM program joins, among others:

• ACE (Alternatives to Corrections through Education), which permits Racine County youth to remain near home, while receiving an intensive educational opportunity in juvenile detention;

• ARC (Afternoon Reporting Center), which provides a structured post-school environment for young persons with alcohol and drug abuse issues;

• TEP (Transitional Education Program), in cooperation with Racine Unified, which smoothes the return of young people from corrections or detention back to the school environment; and

• Alternatives to Detention, which permits young persons to report for Saturday programming rather than entering the detention facility for certain minor violations of court orders.

The Artistic Family Danowski

For the next two weeks, Perspective on CAR 25 will be airing a one-hour documentary about a talented Racine family: The Artistic Family Danowski.

Ed and Mardell Danowski have five natural children and two adopted daughters, all of whom have some kind of artistic talent. Artistic and theatrical talent runs deep on both sides of the Danowski and Bohn families, and has expressed itself in water colors, crafts, writing, interior design and sculpture. Their son, Jeff, has just released his third book, In Flying Colors, and Ed has just released another book, The Green Turkey. They have been running from book signing to book signing this winter.

Ed and Mardell's second son, Don, is a water color artist who has followed his father with a love of nature, blending realistic animal features and impressionistic mood.

Ed and Mardell have been married almost 50 years and Perspective covers most of that time. Ed was a top executive with S.C. Johnson through the '70s and '80s. Their three youngest children, Cheri, Dan and Greg, all excelled at art: Dan specialized in metal work and cartooning at St. Catherine's, while Greg and Cheri sell their water colors at art fairs.

Their path to finding two adopted daughters is explained on Perspective, which is produced by John Polodna, and airs on Wednesday at 10 a.m. and 9 p.m., and also on Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. on CAR 25, channel 25 on the Time Warner network. This episode will run through Jan. 27.

FYI Unified parents: Some important dates

Schools start two hours later Thursday: All schools in the Unified district including Janes Elementary School will start two hours later than normal. Families with students in the half-day programs are asked to contact the individual sites to confirm starting and ending times.

Other delayed-start days for the 2007-2008 school year are: Feb. 14, March 13 and May 8. For more information, parents should contact their child's school or visit the District's Web site www.racine.k12.wi.us ( http://www.racine.k12.wi.us/ ). The delayed start days are a substitute for former early-release days.

Records Day is Jan. 28: There will be no school on Monday, Jan. 28 due to Records Day, marking the end of the first semester. Students will return to school on Tuesday, Jan. 29. Janes Elementary School is also closed.

Magnet school enrollment dates: To be eligible for the lottery or waiting lists at one of Unified's magnet schools, parents/legal guardians must attend that school's orientation program. Parents are welcome to apply to any or all of the magnet programs; application forms will be passed out at the completion of the orientation program. Parents may attend either the evening or the morning meeting at a particular school. Orientation is for parents and legal guardians only, and parents are asked to make arrangements for the care of their children. Questions may be directed to the individual schools.

The magnet school orientation dates are:
815 DeKoven Avenue
Thursday, Feb. 7, 7 p.m.
Friday, Feb. 8, 9:30 a.m.
(262) 664-6800

1722 West 6th Street
Monday, Feb. 11, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, Feb. 12, 9:30 a.m.
(262) 664-6900

914 St. Patrick Street
Thursday, Feb. 14, 7 p.m.
Friday, Feb. 15, 9:30 a.m.
(262) 619-4500

Property Transfers, Dec. 27-Jan. 4

Here are the property transfers for Racine County for the past two weeks. Lots of interesting sales in here ... we're working on a couple of stories this week.

And lifts her leafy arms to pray ...

It was born who knows how or when. Fifty years ago, one hundred? A seed dropped by a bird or the wind, or left by a squirrel? The details don't matter.

However it began, the sapling pushed unceremoniously through the soil and quickly established pride of place in the land around Hansche Pond in Mount Pleasant, if not the tallest then at least one of the tallest walnut trees in the area.

When the land finally was subdivided, and homes sprouted some 25 years ago it stood proudly in front of its home on Pleasant Lane, providing shade and substance to the property; watching over its family, growing as they grew. But unlike trees -- constant and without wanderlust -- when families grow they move on and new families take their place.

Now the home has been sold, and before the new owners even moved in they made a fateful decision: the tree had to go. Don't judge them too harshly. It was not a majestic tree: its trunk split near the ground into five not-so-straight, not-so-perfectly-vertical arms, pointing helter-skelter upward. Twenty-first Century Joyce Kilmers -- do they even exist? -- would not be writing any poems about this tree; not even a quatrain.

And so, two men with chainsaws arrived Saturday, noisily cutting, trimming, chipping away. By Sunday afternoon, the tree was cut into pieces, stacked mostly neatly. Smaller limbs in a pile over there; big round chunks of trunk, two- and three-feet across, over here. Beautiful grain; strong, solid bark.

A small sign stuck in the ground on Lathrop Avenue proclaims the end of the tree's life story: "Free Wood," it says.

Winter Jazz concert Thursday at Park High

The Washington Park High Music Department will present a Winter Jazz Concert on Thursday, Jan. 17 at 7 p.m. in the Park High Theater. The concert will feature Park High's Jazz Bands I and II and the Jazz Vocal Ensemble.

The program will include: "Beyond the Sea," "Endless Love," Glenn Miller's "In The Mood," "Fly Me To The Moon," "Frankie and Johnny," "Chattanooga Choo Choo," "As Time Goes By," "The Look of Love" and "Witchcraft."

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the cost is $2 for adults and $1 for senior citizens and students. Children under six years of age are admitted free. For more information, contact Edward Bergles at 619-4437.