May 23, 2008

Baby boom at the Zoo!
Meerkats and Tur kits now on exhibit

The Racine Zoo is pleased to announce the birth of four meerkats and one west caucasian tur. The meerkats were born April 3 and are now on exhibit with their parents after spending the last eight weeks in quarantine and becoming mature enough to handle chilly weather.

The tur was born on May 18 and is also on exhibit.

Meerkat kits are incapable of moving around on their own and hairless at birth and will wean when they are between seven and nine weeks old. At two days old, the meerkats weighed 30 – 40 grams (1.4 ounces) which is average. Currently, the meerkats weigh 160 -190 grams (6.5 ounces). Zoo officials have not yet identified the sexes of the babies, as they are not yet developed enough to distinguish.

On average tur kids weigh between 3,500-4,200 grams ( seven to nine pounds) when they are born. Young are generally steady on their feet within a few hours after birth and are agile within a day. At about one month old, they will start to sample grass and wean at three to four months old. The sex of the kid has not yet been determined.

The Racine Zoo is open daily. Hours through Labor Day are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. The admission price is $4 for adults, $2 for children 3-15, $3 for seniors and children under three and Zoo Members are free.

Sad tale from another Racine

An unhappy story from one of the "other" Racine's caught our eye this morning.

In the little town of Racine, OH, which is located about 100 miles southeast of Columbus and close to the West Virginia border, a 60-year-old woman, distraught over her fiance's death, killed herself and her 99-year-old mother.

The story is HERE.

Memorial Day fun!

Happy Memorial Day weekend, everybody! Here's a few ideas for things to do this weekend:

Forecast looks OK for the weekend. 65 and sunny on Saturday, thunderstorms Sunday and Monday, but at least the temps may reach the low-70s.

Yup, Burlington's annual festival of chocolate (in honor of the city's Nestlé chocolate factory built there in 1966) is going strong. Here's an article on the festival. And one on a nearby boat race and art fair.

It's still chilly, but we should be free of any frost warnings. So hit the garden stores, stock up on annuals and get your pots, flower boxes and garden beds planted. Do it Saturday, and you'll have to days of rain to get things nice and settled in!

Memorial Day services
We get Monday off for a reason - to honor our fallen soldiers. Here's a list of area services.

Racine Zoo
Always a fun outing.

Running Club
Take a jog with the Racine Running Club.

It may be too cold for swimming, but the North Beach Oasis will be open.

Canoe the Root River
You can rent canoes at kayaks through the REC.

Check out Theatre Schmeatre at the Sixth Street Theatre and Guys and Dolls at the Theatre Guild.

We'll add more as we think of them ... add your own in the comments.

Senate passes Kohl bill helping state vets buy homes

Last night, the Senate passed Sen. Herb Kohl’s legislation that would help 600 more veterans in Wisconsin receive low-interest home loans by increasing the state’s volume of tax-exempt mortgage bonds to $100 million. The provisions were included in a larger veteran’s tax relief package approved by the Senate.

“This Memorial Day, as we commemorate the men and women in our armed services who made the ultimate sacrifice, it is essential we honor our veterans with real actions of gratitude, not kind words alone,” Kohl, D-WI, said. “Many veterans from Wisconsin who have bravely served our nation face great difficulties affording a home and providing for their families."

Currently, Wisconsin, Alaska, Texas, Oregon and California have the ability to issue federally tax-exempt bonds, the proceeds of which are used to finance low-interest mortgage loans to veterans. In 2006, Congress eliminated the pre-1977 active duty requirement for veterans in the state and reduced the financing window for those individuals to 25 years for Wisconsin, Oregon and Alaska. But Congress dramatically reduced the bond volume-limit for these three states, capping it to $25 million.

While the expanded program eligibility has helped the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs and the other states’ veteran service agencies reach a broader group of individuals, the lower bond caps hampered their ability to assist veterans with low-interest financing. Last year, Kohl introduced bipartisan legislation to correct this problem by raising the state volume cap limits in Wisconsin, Alaska and Oregon.

Once enacted, Kohl’s measure would increase the volume cap for these bonds in these states from $25 million to $100 million. The Qualified Veterans Mortgage Bond program has been a critical tool for veterans seeking financing to purchase a home, especially given the current credit crisis and instability in the housing market.

On Tuesday, the legislation, as part of the larger relief package, was passed unanimously by the House of Representatives. The legislation now goes to the President’s desk.

May 22, 2008

'Mind the Gap,' Lehman tells top graduates

The Downtown Racine Rotary Club on Wednesday honored the top students from this year's graduating class -- the top-ranked female and male from each of Racine's high schools. Each of these kids named the college they are going to, and the degree they are tackling next: biophysics, pre-med, language, law, you name it. Well known schools, important careers; an impressive group of young ambassadors from Racine.

State Sen. John Lehman, chairman of the Senate's Education Committee and a high school teacher before he entered the Legislature 11 years ago, congratulated these soon-to-be graduates, and gave them the following advice, which we thought worth reprinting here:

I picture the students we are honoring today waiting at a station, standing on a solid, well-built platform. Surrounded by family, friends, a whole community of well-wishers. They are about to board a shiny express, The Future Unlimited. Headed with confidence into an unknown future. (I’m thinking train platform, I guess, because we have been focusing so much on trying to get the KRM train to connect us with Milwaukee and Chicago.. We could think of these successful students on their launch pad as well. )

We have built the platform on which these young people stand today. We in Racine have invested about $10,000 a year in these students over the last 12 to 13 years. In total, it amounts to about a million dollars for the formal schooling of each group of eight students soon to be crossing the stage at graduation ceremonies throughout our community. What a great investment we have made; we have gotten a full return on our investment in these young people! They have done everything we have asked of them and more. These high-ranking scholars have proven themselves very hard-working and consistently mature beyond their years. We are just so very proud of them.

And we should be proud. We in this community have been solidly behind them. We have provided the educational platform as strong as the departure area …at, say, the Sturtevant Amtrak or (hopefully again some day)… State Street depot. Their bags are carefully packed with all the skills and knowledge they take from high school; they are ready to go.

But as I look out over this room and see success personified in these wonderful young people I can not resist the temptation of a person who has already taken at least part of the journey these kids face, leaving Racine for college as I did 45 years ago now.

As you step from the train platform into the Silver Express of Life…I must offer one piece of advice: MIND THE GAP. You know, that little gap between the platform and the train.

It is so easy to overlook when you are successful and forward-looking. But, as you move into the future, MIND THE GAP.

For in truth all the high schoolers, all of our society is not as successful as you.

As you move forward in life, don’t forget to look down. MIND THE GAP.

You started high school if you went to Case, Park or Horlick with about 600 students. About 400 are making it on time. Of those, about 200 are like yourselves, just like the 1950’s “Beaver Cleaver” generation, doing everything we asked, taking advantage of every opportunity, now ready for the future, very proficient by world standards even.

You have generally spent your young life with your successful friends, but there is a gap.

Certainly, some of America and some of your age group is on the other side of the gap.

“…by age five children living in poverty lag behind their peers in cognitive skills including reading readiness, numbers skill, problem solving, creativity and memory.” (WI Council on Children and Families, Inc, 2008)

Senator John Edwards called it our “Two Americas.”

Years ago Michael Harrington dubbed it “The Other America.”

I am talking about the biggest domestic public policy challenge we have now and the biggest challenge ahead in your lifetime. I won’t suggest to you where you go or what you do with your life’s journey…I can only offer some simple advice, MIND THE GAP.

Hispanic school drop out rates are almost twice and Black dropout rates are more than twice the White rates.

Wisconsin Black poverty is four times White. That’s the biggest gap in the nation, tied with Maine and Iowa.

About 95% of White students graduate, about two-thirds of Black. There is a shameful gap.

Black male incarceration rates are 10 times White, rates of poverty for children 6 times.

Coming out of school, about two thirds of Whites are proficient or better on standard tests. It’s a little over one-third for Hispanic and less than one third for Blacks.

Much of this Black-White-Hispanic gap can be attributed, of course not to race, color or ethnicity, but to the main culprit, poverty, and a “culture of poverty.”

So, as you board the train to the future, MIND THE GAP.

Join folks who believe, in the words of St. Matthew, “Inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of these, my brethren, you have done it unto me.” I say this translates into something like, wherever you go, find a way to live in, and for, your whole community, not just in a cocoon.

You have two choices, whatever career you choose. You can be the guy or gal who heads to Wall Street with a focus only on career, wealth and success. You can make a bundle.

Or you can go to Wall Street (or wherever) and remember the likes of Andrew Carnegie, Bill and Melinda Gates, the Johnson’s here in Racine who tried to MEND the gap. Remember as you go the wonderful, giving folks in Racine who have stood behind you, like the Rotarians volunteering at your post-prom….for over 50 years….with the safety of others in mind.

You are very talented. Give back. MIND THE GAP.

Wherever you go, get yourself a good education---pack your bags, the future is arriving, jump aboard, MIND THE GAP, and, with all the school success you have already had, we know you will have a wonderful journey.

20% of Racine firefighters eligible for retirement

Twenty-nine of Racine's 144 firefighters will be eligible to retire next year, but only four or five are planning to leave, Fire Chief Steve Hansen told the Police and Fire Commission this week.

"They're sticking around and contributing to the community," said Hansen, adding: "That's a good thing for the department."

But it also means a great deal of turnover is coming. Fortunately, there appear to be enough people looking for firefighter jobs. The department received 228 applicants for its current openings, Hansen said.

The department is holding its physical ability test on June 12-13. Everyone who passes that test will take a written test in August.

PHOENIX (NOT) RISING: The city's Phoenix records system, used to track police and fire data, ran into some problems in recent months. The errors were so bad Hansen couldn't compile a monthly report for the commission. "We're still verifying information," he said. The good news: recent upgrades to the system seem to be working better.

JOINT SERVICE: The city and Mount Pleasant are starting to talk about joint responses along their shared borders, Hansen said. The talks are preliminary, but could result in village firefighters and paramedics responding to calls in the city. Mount Pleasant officials have long wanted to be able to handle calls at Regency Mall - a property that's in the city, but about a block from the village's fire department.

"It's just an exploratory issue," Hansen said.

NORTH BAY: The Village of North Bay's fire contract with Caledonia is coming up soon, and the city will make another bid to bring the village back under its coverage, Hansen said. North Bay dumped the city as its fire service provider a few years ago after it felt slighted in negotiations over an expansion of the sewer plant. They went with Caledonia, even though a city fire station is closer. The contract is up at the end of the year, Hansen told the commission.

"It just makes sense," he said. "It's a common sense thing."

VIDEO CONFERENCE: Rising gas prices could lead to the rise in a new technology: video conferencing. Hansen said the fire department is already using video conferencing for training between its own fire stations, and to bring in trainers from outside communities.

"It (video conferencing) gives us a much bigger world," he said.

FITNESS TEST: Here's an interesting idea: Appleton pays its firefighters 1-2 percent of their gross wages to pass an annual agility test. The commission liked the idea as a way of keeping firefighters in shape. Hansen noted the department is already bringing in a coordinated wellness program.

Property Transfers, May 12-16

Here are the county's property transfers for May 12-16. There's one big sale for $10.5 million at 1202 N. Green Bay Drive. That's the new Pick N Save ... we're checking with Roundy's on the sale.


Robert Felner recommended as next UW-Parkside chancellor

UW-Parkside sent out this release on their likely next chancellor, Dr. Robert Felner:

MADISON, Wis.— Dr. Robert Felner, dean of the College Education and Human Development at the University of Louisville, has been recommended as the next chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Parkside.

UW System President Kevin P. Reilly and the Board of Regents’ Special Committee for the UW-Parkside Chancellor Search announced the recommendation today. The full board is expected to act on the appointment in June.

“Dr. Felner’s distinguished career and significant academic leadership experience will no doubt accelerate the forward momentum the institution has achieved over the past decade,” said Reilly. “He will be a strong leader in a part of the state where we expect the population to grow significantly in the coming years.”

Felner has been a dean at Louisville since 2003, and co-chaired that campus’ University-Community Partnership Board for two years. He previously served as professor and director of the School of Education at the University of Rhode Island for seven years. With more than 30 years of experience in higher education, Felner has held faculty appointments at the University of Illinois, Auburn University, and Yale University, in addition to those at Louisville and the University of Rhode Island.

“I was impressed with UW-Parkside in a number of ways,” said Felner. “I am particularly excited about the institution’s commitment to providing excellent educational experiences for all students, to its commitment to equity and social justice, to being deeply engaged in the community, and to creating partnerships with business, industry, the schools and government to enhance the lives of the people of the region. I also have a strong personal connection to the institution’s focus on first-generation college students and those from diverse backgrounds. If not for a strong, student-centered institution like Parkside, I would never have imagined myself in college, to say thinking of being a chancellor.”

“When I was younger, for family reasons, I had to leave high school, go to work, and finally get a GED. I was fortunate to find a university that allowed me to translate my GED into the opportunity for a quality college education. As are the faculty at UW-Parkside, my professors were strong scholars who were still deeply committed to offering me the personalized attention I needed to succeed, and I did because of them. I look forward to working with my new UW-Parkside colleagues who share those values of preparing generations of Wisconsin’s citizens for today’s global community and are committed to enhancing the economic and social well-being of our communities, the region, state and nation.”

Felner earned his master’s and doctoral degrees in psychology from the University of Rochester in New York. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut.

“The campus is enthusiastic about the arrival of Dr. Felner,” said UW-Parkside Professor Chris Evans, chair of the UW-Parkside search and screen committee. “We are looking forward to the exciting, hard work ahead of us all.”

“Building on the campus’ longstanding commitment to equity and social justice, and its strong connections to the community, we must work together to make UW-Parkside a truly spectacular place—a destination of choice for students across the state,” said Felner. “This campus will have a transformational impact on the lives of our students and all our community neighbors, offering educational opportunities that are equal in quality to that which they might find anywhere else in the world.”

Felner was one of four finalists for the UW-Parkside chancellor position recommended by the campus committee. The other finalists were: Dr. T.J. Bryan, Fayetteville State University; Dr. Gloria J. Gibson, Arkansas State University-Jonesboro; and Dr. Maurice C. Taylor, Morgan State University.

“It was clear that Dr. Felner emerged from this competitive national search with broad support from our local community and the campus,” said Michael J. Falbo, chair of the Board of Regents Special Committee and a UW-Parkside alumnus. “It’s equally clear that he has the right skills to help this campus play its part in the growth and development of a vibrant Southeastern Wisconsin. To boost our economy, we must help more Wisconsin residents from all walks of life attain their college degree. The campus must work in partnership with local businesses to create more high-paying jobs. Dr. Felner is the person to lead us in that direction.”

Serving with Falbo on the Regents’ Special Committee were fellow regents: Jeffrey B. Bartell of Madison, Eileen Connolly-Keesler of Oshkosh and Judith V. Crain of Green Bay.

Felner will succeed Chancellor John P. (Jack) Keating as the UW-Parkside’s chief executive. Keating announced in January that he would step down in August 2008 after leading the campus for more than a decade.

As one of 11 comprehensive universities within the UW System, the UW-Parkside campus enrolls more than 5,000 students from 55 Wisconsin counties – the most diverse student body in the system. Leading approximately 500 faculty, academic staff and classified staff members, the UW-Parkside chancellor is responsible for operation and leadership of the campus.

Racine PD gives out its officer awards

The Racine Police Department gave out its annual awards last week Below is a list of the winners. Not to take away from the officers who did receive recognition, but there wasn't a single female officer deserving of an Award of Excellence or Exemplary Officer Award? Really?

OK, on to the winners:

Award of Excellence
Investigators: David Rybarik, Theodore Schlitz (3), Todd Yde (2)
Criminalist: James Yoghourtjian (2)
Officers: David Arvai, Peter Boeck (2), John Hetland (2), Scott Leslie (3), Andrew Matson, Frank Miller (2), John Pomeroy (2), Walter Powell, Richard Ropiak (2), Donald Veselik (3)

Outstanding Police Service Award
Sgt. Brian Neubauer

Exemplary Officer Award
Investigators: David Derks (12), Randal Kuzia (6)
Officers: Hanns Friedel, Kevin Kupper, Neal Lofy, Donald Nutall (3), Michael Smith, Chad Stillman, Robert Thillemann

Chief's Leadership Commendation
Officer Larry Ivy

Civilian Employee Police Service Award
Daniel DeMatthew

Unit Citation - Gang Unit
Sgt. Todd Schulz (2)
Investigators: Robin Jacobsen (2), Daniel Langendork (2), Todd Morschhauser (2), David Rybarik (2), Todd Yde (3), Donald Nuttall (2)

Congratulations to all!

May 21, 2008

Summer school for the above-average kid, too

This summer, the Jerstad-Agerholm (J-A) Lighted Schoolhouse Program will provide average and above-average middle school students in Racine a unique opportunity to take accelerated math and reading courses.

Pre-Collegiate Math and English courses will be scheduled June 23 to July 31, Monday through Thursday, from 10:40 a.m. to 12:50 p.m. Parents of middle school students who qualify for the courses have received letters to inform them that their child may enroll in the class.

Parents who haven't received an invitation but who think their child qualifies should contact James Beaulieu at 664-6075 or the Lighted Schoolhouse Program office at 664-6990. Also, students and parents may find a College Now Lighted Schoolhouse Program Registration Form - Summer 2008 at all RUSD middle schools.

Traditionally, Racine Unified School District provides summer school programs for public and private school students who are achieving below grade level in math or reading. RUSD also offers classes to bilingual, special needs, and other teacher-recommended students as well as enrichment classes. In recent years, the district has used Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) RIT scores to identify students who are eligible.

This year, J-A's Lighted Schoolhouse Program is using RIT results from middle school students throughout the district to identify average and above average students who can benefit from J-A's accelerated learning. According to Sherrie Hopkins, J-A assistant principal, the pre-collegiate courses give students a much-needed boost that will help them do better in high school and, later, in college.

To qualify for the math classes, seventh graders need a RIT score above 225, and eighth grade students need a RIT score above 230. Math students will work on pre-algebra or algebra skills.

To be eligible for the English courses, seventh and eighth grade students need a RIT score above 220 in reading. Eighth graders will study classical and contemporary literature and work on the analytical writing process. Both seventh and eighth grades students will be exposed to advanced skills, better preparing them for high school.

Afternoon LSP Classes at J-A

In addition to the academic pre-collegiate courses, middle school students may participate in afternoon LSP courses at J-A from 1 to 4 p.m. Courses will reflect the interests of the students and are similar to clubs and extramural activities on a college campus. Courses will include beach volleyball, Frisbee golf, drama, art sculptures, gardening, bicycle courses, kayaking, sailing lessons and cooking class. A summer school brochure is available at all middle schools.

Le Tour de Racine? The cyclists are coming!

Racine will look like a leg of the Tour de France for one exciting day this summer.

The Racine County Convention and Visitors Bureau is bringing a smaller version of the fabled bicycle race downtown on Thursday, July 24, with 500 to 700 cyclists zooming around city streets for a full day of races. Ours is a leg of the International Cycling Classic.

Dave Blank, president and CEO of the RCCVB, told downtown merchants on Tuesday, at their Downtown Connections meeting, that the event will consist of a series of four or five criterium-style bicycle races ranging from 25 miles to 62 miles. He has mapped out an 8/10ths of a mile course around downtown: Main Street from State to Sixth, Sixth to College Avenue, College to Water Street, Water to Wisconsin Avenue, Wisconsin to State and State back to Main. The Start/Finish line will be on Main Street at the intersection of Fifth Street.

A criterium or 'crit' (according to those know-it-alls on the 'net) "is a timed race over a closed looping course. The loop can be any distance but is usually under a mile. The cyclists ride road bikes. The racers race for a determined amount of time, usually around 45 minutes, then, after the bell, there are five laps left to go all out." In other words, for most of the race the cyclists are together in a bunch, zooming around the city's streets. The longest race here is expected to last about two hours.

The RCCVB sent a letter this week to Mayor Gary Becker asking the city to close off the necessary streets from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on July 24, although the races themselves will last from approximately 10;30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. The rest of the time is for setup and takedown. There will be time between races for vehicular traffic to enter and depart the area, Blank says.

The RCCVB is also considering having a live band on Monument Square from approximately 5:30 to 8 p.m.

Blank says: "The RCCVB has signed a three-year contract to host a leg of the International Cycling Classic. The International Cycling Classic (also known as SUPERWEEK) is celebrating its 40th year. It consists of a variety of bicycling races over a 17-day period in southeastern Wisconsin and northern Illinois at multiple venues. It is one of the three largest multi-day cycling events in the country and attracts riders from around the world. I believe that the last time that it was in Racine was 1997. Their very successful annual stop in Kenosha the following night (July 25) is part of “Food, Folks and Spokes.” Our intent is to grow this event over time to rival its success there."

A marketing brochure from Breakaway Events Productions, LLC of Milwaukee, the company the RCCVB has signed a contract with, describes the International Cycling Classic this way:
The 2008 International Cycling Classic will celebrate its 40th year with 17 consecutive days of high-caliber racing from July 11 - 27. The event series, also known as "SUPERWEEK," will feature races in 12 city centers throughout Wisconsin and Illinois including seven full days of racing in the Greater Milwaukee area. Host cities to the International Cycling Classic have used the races as centerpieces for popular and successful community events.

In 2007 nearly 250,000 spectators lined the streets and country roads to cheer on over 6,400 race entrants representing 42 states and more than 20 foreign countries - all battling for their share of a $120,000 prize purse. The schedule of racing in 2008 will be highlighted each day by the Superweek Pro Tour featuring the top professional and elite amateur cyclists with races beginning at 6 p.m. on most days. From July 11 - 27 the Superweek Women's Pro Tour will draw the top female cyclists for a double-dose of exciting racing action.

The International Cycling Classic features spectator-friendly races on courses of approximately one mile in length through commercial and residential districts. These criterium races offer constant action all along the course. The Classic also includes a small number of road races through Wisconsin's scenic countryside and along Milwaukee's scenic Lake Michigan shoreline.

The International Cycling Classic began as a single race at Milwaukee's Summerfest in 1969. In 1985, the event added several races in cities to the north of Milwaukee to become the two-week-long International Cycling Classic. In 2002, the event began expanding southward with the addition of races in the Chicago area. The Classic is now the oldest and longest-running multi-category cycling race in the United States and has a long-running tradition of international participation. Each year a European contingent travels overseas to compete in the races, adding a uniquely cosmopolitan flavor.
Here's the full schedule of this year's races:
Friday, July 11 Chicago, IL
Saturday, July 12 Blue Island, IL
Sunday, July 13 Homewood, IL
Monday, July 14 TBA
Tuesday, July 15 Bensenville, IL
Wednesday, July 16 Bensenville, IL
Thursday, July 17 Shorewood, WI
Thursday, July 17 Milwaukee, WI
Friday, July 18 Ripon, WI
Saturday, July 19 Waukesha, WI
Sunday, July 20 Evanston, IL
Monday, July 21 Hartford, WI
Tuesday, July 22 Cedarburg, WI
Wednesday, July 23 Hales Corner, WI
Thursday, July 24 Racine, WI
Friday, July 25 Kenosha, WI
Saturday, July 26 Milwaukee, WI
Sunday, July 27, Whitefish Bay, WI

Police cameras won't be available to the public

The JT wrote today about the police department's new policy on use of surveillance cameras. The department is planning to install five new cameras in the inner city, and allow officers to access the cameras from squad cars and the PD. One line stood out toward the end of the article (emphasis added):
The goal is to have police watch the cameras through screens in their cars or have private residents watch cameras from home, Wahlen said in his presentation.
I took that to mean residents will be able to go online and watch the cameras - not a bad idea, actually. Why limit use of the cameras to police? If they're already online, let anyone take a look.

But, that's not what Wahlen meant. Here's an explanation from Sgt. Bernie Kupper, who responded to my email asking about private residents using the cameras:
I spoke with the Chief about the quote. He has no intent on providing the access to the general public. His point was that there will be key personnel outside of the department that may be given access to the camera system such as members of the Common Council. Alderpersons often call asking about crime in certain areas, so it would make sense to offer them the opportunity to view the camera coverage themselves. They are already privy to information necessary to handle complaints from constituents as well as information necessary to manage government that we don’t put out there in the public eye.

Police chief no fan of Racine's Post Prom

Don't count Police Chief Kurt Wahlen among the supporters of Post Prom. From his perspective, the annual event is a security nightmare.

"It worries me," Wahlen said Tuesday during the Police and Fire Commission meeting. "We can't cover all of our bases."

During this year's Post Prom, an 18-year-old man was arrested after shooting a handgun in the air below the YMCA. Another teenager got a citation for carrying a BB gun into the bleachers outside of Post Prom.

Wahlen invited members of the commission to watch next year's Post Prom from the police and fire departments' command vehicles outside of Festival Hall.

"It's a life-changing experience," Wahlen said. "It's depressing. I think it's depressing."

He said girls, in particular, act inappropriately. Two young women were taken from the scene in ambulances. At least one of the incidents involved drinking; paramedics found a teenager lying under a picnic table, abandoned by her friends.

"There's no ladies there, that's for sure," said Marie Black, a member of the Police and Fire Commission.

May 20, 2008

Ryan promises 'bold plan' to transform federal government;
also sets listening sessions in 35 communities

Update 3: Dem candidate Paulette Garin has something to say about Ryan's plan. Here it is:
Healthcare: Basically, Ryan is still promoting his Health Savings Account plan. His proposal segregates the high-risk, chronically ill, and those with pre-existing conditions to be subsidized by the individual states. So the burden of cost shifts, but is not diminished. You may derive some benefit from this plan provided nothing serious ever happens to you. It does not appear that his plan does anything to reign in the disproportionate influence of the insurance industry. Why would it? Take a look at his list of campaign PAC donors – BIG Pharma and the insurance industry.

Medicare: On the surface, this appears to be a "privatization" of Medicare, which we are already experiencing with Medicare Advantage. It appears to be another plan where the insurance industry will get to "cherry pick" amongst the healthiest. His proposal limits your choice of providers to a pre-determined list. ou really are not free to choose. Better check out which companies are on that list, what relationships they have with our congressman, and who really stands to benefit.

Social Security: Another move toward "privatization." If this is the same type of plan that he has been advocating for years, you would be limited in your choices as to where you could invest your personal retirement funds. Once again, who stands to benefit – the investment managers on Wall Street? What relationship do they have with our congressman? Better check out his PAC contributions and personal assets. Always be suspicious of "privatization" until you carefully examine what constraints are put upon the program and who will actually gain.

Taxes: Ryan is pushing a "Taxpayer's Choice Act," which would basically create a flat tax system. he highest tax rate would be 25% as compared to the current 35%. While paying lower taxes appears attractive, how does the government make-up for the $840 billion revenue shortfall created by this proposal? We already have a staggering deficit, driven by defense spending, AND that does not even include the cost of the Iraq War. We have placed an overwhelming financial burden on our children and grandchildren.

If Ryan were truly a fiscal conservative, what has he done to balance the budget, to eliminate the government’s ‘no bid’ contracts, and to end expensive sub-contracting to private companies? Better check out his PAC donors once again.

Ryan claims government is wasteful and inefficient, yet he continues to promote layers of bureaucracy that would now get intermingled with private enterprise. My overall impression of Rep. Ryan’s plan is that it is just more GOP spin to complicate matters and mislead people into actually believing that he is working for his constituents and not for the special interest groups who are funding him.

Update 2: Here's Ryan's plan in his own words, written as a Wall Street Journal editorial page column. Basically, he's trying to reform every major government (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, tax code, health insurance) program at once. Could it be a play for the vice presidency? It'll be interesting to see if McCain responds/embraces this. Here's a link to the full plan.

Marge Krupp, who is running as a Democrat in the First District, responded to Ryan's proposal Wednesday morning. Here's here statement:
Later today, Congressman Paul Ryan is planning on announcing an 88 page proposal on Healthcare and Social Security, and his Democratic challenger, Marge Krupp issued a key question in regards to his plan, "Why does Paul Ryan want to hurt the senior citizens of Wisconsin?" Krupp, Democratic Candidate for Wisconsin's First Congressional District, challenged Ryan's proposal was working against the financial security of those that she wants to represent, "The seniors of this district count on a monthly Social Security check as part of their income and Paul Ryan is trying to undermine that." Ryan's plan calls for a privatization of Social Security services that some say could lead to a destabilization of the program.

Also proposed in Ryan's plan is a health insurance tax credit that would allow Americans to purchase a healthcare plan of their choice. Krupp again asked why Paul Ryan would issue such a plan, "This is the same kind of proposition that the Bush Administration has been giving the American people the past eight years, why is Paul Ryan trying to punish our working families and seniors?"

Krupp also noted that Ryan receives tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from private insurance companies and is at the will of these individuals when it comes to issues of Healthcare or Social Security.
Original post:

Give U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-WI, 1st District, credit: He sure knows how to keep us in suspense.

On Tuesday he sent out a media advisory promising "to unveil a plan to transform federal government."

But we have to wait until tomorrow to learn what it is!

The press release, with details of the Washington event, and a teleconference we Wisconsin media types can dial into, says Ryan "plans to introduce his bold new initiative to solve America’s looming fiscal and economic crisis. Ryan’s plan, titled A Roadmap for America’s Future, takes a comprehensive approach to fixing the current health care crisis, restoring the promise of Medicare and Social Security, and simplifying the outdated tax code."

The event will take place at 10 a.m. our time; no doubt we'll have news about it later Wednesday.

Ryan also announced an extensive schedule of district listening sessions from May 27 – June 16. Ryan will visit 35 communities. Go to any one of them, and ask him about his new initiative that "seeks to transform our domestic priorities to strengthen American society for future generations."

His full schedule is after the break:

Tuesday, May 27

WALWORTH: 11:30am – 12:30pm, Village Hall, 227 North Main Street
CLINTON: 1:30 – 2:15pm, Village Hall, 301 Cross Street
JANESVILLE: 4:15 – 5:30pm, City Hall, Council Chambers, Room #417, 18 N. Jackson St.

Wednesday, May 28

RACINE: 4:00 – 5:00pm, Gateway Technical College, Racine Building, Great Lakes Room
#110, 901 Pershing Drive, use parking lot D
OAK CREEK: 5:45 – 6:45pm, Police Department, Courtroom, 301 West Ryan Rd.

Thursday, May 29

DELAVAN: 8:00 – 9:00am, City Hall, 123 S. 2nd Street
FONTANA: 9:30 – 10:15am, Village Hall, 175 Valley View Drive
WILLIAMS BAY: 10:30 – 11:15am, Village Hall, 250 Williams Street
LAKE GENEVA: 12:15 – 1:00pm, Public Library, 918 West Main Street
GREENDALE: 2:00 – 2:45pm, Safety Building, 5911 West Grange Ave,
GREENFIELD: 3:00 – 3:45pm, City Hall, Council Chambers 7325 W. Forest Home Ave

Friday, May 30

DARIEN: 8:00 – 9:00am, Village Hall, 24 North Wisconsin Street
EAST TROY: 9:30 – 10:30am, Village Hall, 2106 Church Street
NEW BERLIN: 11:00am – 12:00pm, Citizens Bank of Mukwonago - New Berlin Branch, 5450 S. Moorland Road
HALES CORNERS: 1:00 – 2:00pm, Village Hall, Meadows Room, 5635 S. New Berlin Rd
MUSKEGO: 2:30 – 3:30pm, City Hall, Muskego Room, W182S8200 Racine Ave.

Monday, June 2

SHARON: 8:00 – 8:45am, Community Center, 125 Plain Street
GENOA CITY: 9:30 – 10:30am, Village Hall, 715 Walworth Street
TWIN LAKES: 11:00am – 12:00pm, Village Hall, 108 East Main Street
SILVER LAKE: 1:00 – 2:00pm, Village Hall, 113 South 1st Street
PADDOCK LAKE: 2:30 – 3:15pm, Village Hall, 6969 236th Avenue
PLEASANT PRAIRIE: 4:00 – 5:00pm, Village Hall, Auditorium, 9915 39th Avenue
KENOSHA: 5:30 – 6:30pm, Gateway Technical College, Science Building, Room S137,
3520 30th Avenue

Friday, June 13

MILTON: 8:00 – 9:00am, The Gathering Place, upstairs dining room, 715 Campus Street
EAGLE: 10:00 – 10:45am, Village Hall, 820 East Main Street
NORTH PRAIRIE: 11:00am – 12:00pm, Village Hall, 130 North Harrison
MUKWONAGO: 1:00 – 2:00pm, Village Hall, 440 Rivercrest Court
BIG BEND: 2:30 – 3:15pm, Village Hall, W230S9185 Nevins Street
FRANKLIN: 3:45 – 4:45pm, Police Department, Courtroom, 9455 West Loomis Road

Monday, June 16

ELKHORN: 8:00 – 9:00am, People’s Bank, Community Room, 837 N. Wisconsin St.
BURLINGTON: 9:45 – 10:45am, Gateway Technical College, Rm 100, 496 McCanna Pkwy
WATERFORD: 11:15am – 12:00pm, Village Hall, Council Chambers, 123 N. River St
ROCHESTER: 12:45 – 1:30pm, Municipal Hall, 203 West Main Street
UNION GROVE: 2:00 – 2:45pm, Community State Bank, 1500 Main Street
STURTEVANT: 3:15 – 4:00pm, Village Hall, 2801 89th Street

Police give two citizens public service awards

Two Racine residents received Citizen Public Service Awards from the Racine Police and Fire Commission on Tuesday. The award winners were:

Ben Peterson and Police Chief Kurt Wahlen

Ben Peterson
Ben, 17, is a junior at Horlick High School and a lifeguard at North Beach. On Aug. 17, 2007, he was off duty when a man went under water about 75 yards off shore. After two police officers pulled the victim to shore, Ben used his life-guard training to give CPR to the man. Sgt. William Macemon, of the police department, said Ben earned the public service award because it is rare for a citizen to jump into a rescue situation and try to help. Though the victim died, Ben did everything he could to help him, Macemon said.

William Scharding and Wahlen

William Scharding
Mr. Scharding is the owner of Feiner Plumbing in the 600 block of Sixth Street. On Dec. 8, 2007, Autumn Ford was shot and killed near Scharding's store. After the shooting, Mr. Scharding reviewed a security camera in his store and realized he had footage of the incident. He contacted investigators, who used the footage to identify and arrest Darius Monroe for the crime. He has been charged with Ford's murder, and four additional felonies. Macemon noted that investigators did not even know the video existed before Mr. Scharding came forward. Police Chief Kurt Wahlen added that investigators had few leads in the case before obtaining the video, which showed a suspect wearing a bright orange hat. When police called Monroe in for an interview, he was wearing the same orange hat as the man on the video, Wahlen said.

After two years, nonprofit sells two homes

It took two years, but two homes in the 1000 block of LaSalle Street are close to being sold.

The homes were built by Racine Housing and Neighborhood Partnership, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting home ownership in the city.

RHNP put four homes next to each other on the block up for sale two years ago. The three-bedroom homes were priced at $110,000, but hit the housing market at the wrong time and went unsold. Some grant restrictions on the properties also scared away potential buyers, though the restrictions were relatively minor, said Joe Heck, the city's assistant director of city planning.

The organization dropped the price to $99,900 and launched an intensive marketing campaign to sell the homes. Two of the four houses are scheduled for closing this month, Heck said. The other two shouldn't take as long to sell.

"The Realtor told us, if you get one or two sold, the rest will sell right away," Heck said. "People are leery about being the first one."

The sales are good news for RHNP, too. It frees up money the nonprofit had tied up in the home, and should help their financial standing.

The organization is between executive directors at the moment. Former Director Joaquina Winfrey resigned.

Heck said RHNP is going strong.

"The president (Gai Lorenzen) and the rest of the board have been very proactive since the director resigned," Heck said. "They're doing things to keep afloat and moving ahead."

Sixth Street could be done a full month early!

Looking west: Utility work done, almost ready for paving

Work on this year's portion of Sixth Street's rebuilding could be completed a month early.

You read that right: A full month!

The newsletter sent this week to Sixth Street merchants offered the good news -- work to replace ancient utility lines, including some wooden water pipes, isn't just going well, it's going very, very quickly. Here's a portion of what the newsletter said:

Work has been completed on the first phase of the utility construction in the 200 through 400 blocks of Historic Sixth Street, and the contractor is ahead of schedule with work in the 500 and 600 blocks. If work continues at the current pace, the project could be completed nearly a month ahead of the July 3rd target for completion.

Sidewalk restoration in the 500 and 600 blocks should be completed this week, and if all goes well, road restoration, paving, and striping will occur after Memorial Day the week of May 26. Barricade removal and cleanup is planned for the first week in June.

John Rooney, City of Racine’s Assistant Commissioner of Public Works could not be more pleased with the progress. “We knew when we bid out the utility work on Sixth Street that it was important to minimize the disruption to property owners and businesses,” said Rooney.

“ I thought the March 3 start date and the two-phase, four-month construction schedule was very aggressive, but Globe Contractors has done an excellent job.”

Work began on schedule March 3, crews were undaunted by the Good Friday snow storm that resulted in nearly a foot of snow, and they went on to complete work through the west side of Park Avenue in phase one. That gave Globe a jump start on phase two work and allowed Park Avenue to open to traffic earlier than anticipated.

New two-way streets will cost at least $19,000

It'll cost the city $19,000 to study turning Marquette Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive into two-way streets, an official said at Monday's Traffic Commission meeting.

John Rooney, the city's assistant engineer, said the study may just be the start of the cost. Converting the one-way streets to two ways may require construction that could run the bill into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

None of the costs are budgeted, so any change would mean finding money in the city budget - not an easy task these days.

Mayor Gary Becker asked the commission to consider the idea.

The commission voted unanimously to defer action. Commissioner of Public Works Rick Jones said he would meet with the mayor to talk more about the idea.

STOP SIGN: There won't be new stop signs at Carlton Drive and La Salle Street, but a homeowner may be pulling their pruning shears out soon.

A city study found no reason to add stop signs at the intersection, Rooney said. There were eight accidents at La Salle and Carlton in the past five years, well below a level of concern. Traffic levels were also too low to warrant new stop signs, Rooney said.

The city studied the issue after a complaint from Terry Martini, who lives in the neighborhood. Alderman Ray DeHahn, who represents the area, agreed with the study's findings.

The only change out of the report involved a shrub. One of the homes had a shrub that was more than 30 inches above the curb level - technically a violation of city code. The city will require the homeowner to prune the shrub.

WARNING LIGHTS: The city will review flashing lights near the police and fire departments to make sure they alert traffic when emergency vehicles are leaving for scenes. Alderman Robert Mozol raised the concern. The commission deferred action until they could contact the fire chief.

STOP SIGN II: Alderman Bob Anderson wanted the commission to consider a four-way stop at 18th and Villa streets. The intersection doesn't warrant the four-way stop, but Anderson hoped it could demonstrate to neighborhood residents that the city is responsive to their concerns. The commission denied the request, but agreed to ask police to post the speed limit trailer in the neighborhood.

Traffic Commission: Commission members Alderman Greg Helding, Jones, Assistant City Attorney Nicole Loop, Lt. James Dobbs and Charles French attended the meeting. Chairman Martin DeFatte didn't attend. Dobbs ran the meeting.

First of 75 wondrous spheres arrives...

The spheres are coming! Or call it Sphere Madness, its official name, suggested by Lauren DeMorrow of Racine, winner of a contest to name the event.

Racine's downtown summer art project put on by the Downtown Racine Corporation is just days away from transforming Main and Sixth Streets into a kaleidoscope of colors, a cacophony of creativity -- at least that's my impression after seeing the first of the completed spheres to be delivered to DRC.

Done by Tammy Easton of Racine, it is called Hemispherium. It's an intricately crafted mosaic...thousands of tile and glass pieces of every hue. Besides being beautiful, it serves a useful purpose: it's also a working sun dial! The sphere was sponsored by Dr. Michael Westman, DDS.

Seventy-four additional 32-inch spheres -- each transformed by a different local artist -- will make their first appearance on street on Monday, June 2. But first, they will show off at a preview party at Wingspread on Saturday, May 31, from 5-8 p.m.

Terry Leopold, DRC's director of special events (above with Hemispherium), said the spheres will be delivered to DRC next week, in preparation for the party, where they'll be displayed outdoors on Wingspread's lawn. The preview party and '50s sock hop! -- called Goodness Gracious, Great Balls of Art (with apologies to Jerry Lee Lewis, I suppose) -- will be from 5 to 8 p.m. at Wingspread. The $125 per person ticket price includes food, open bar, live entertainment.

This is the seventh year in a row that DRC has conducted its public art project. The spheres will be on display Downtown through Labor Day. In September, they will be auctioned to the highest bidders.

May 19, 2008

City sells two homes seized from Southside Revitalization Corp

We're about a year late on this story, but it was news to us. The Southside Revitalization Corp. is no longer in existence. The nonprofit organization started about 35 years ago to improve housing conditions in the city ran out of money and disbanded about eight months ago.

The city was the organization's main creditor and essentially foreclosed on six properties owned by the nonprofit, according to Brian O'Connell, director of city development.

"There was a management lapse in the organization," O'Connell said. "The bottom line is they didn't stay on top of thing things the needed to do to run that organization."

"Costs got away from them," he added.

Joe Heck, assistant director of city planning, said the city (working with Hinsman Realty) has sold one of SRC's homes and another is set for closing this month. Habitat for Humanity is also committed to building a home at 1112 Villa St., in the same block as the new COP House built by Community Outpost.

Despite their troubles at the end, Heck noted SRC made an impact on the city. About 10 years ago, the organization focused its resources on the 1100 block of Villa Street. It built two new homes in the block and moved a third home to a vacant lot. With the new Habitat home and the COP House, the area is becoming a solid neighborhood in the inner city.

"The legacy lingers on, you bet," Heck said. "They did a lot of good work, no doubt about it."

But management issues hurt the long-standing organization.

"They ran into a rough patch 2-3 years ago," Heck said. "They made some decisions that didn't work out for them."

City officials file economic interest reports

City officials are required to file a statement of “economic interests” each year with the city. These files are open for public inspection, so RacinePost went and reviewed the documents. Here’s a summary of the reports:

Sam Aiello, purchasing agent for the city of Racine
city employee

Bob Anderson, second district alderman
Century 21 Savaglio and Cape, Racine, Wis. – sales agent
Gateway Technical College - education/instructor
DOT Endocrine Center, health care/FNP
Sunrise Change, Racine,Wis. - Health Promotion Marketing, LLC

Gary Becker, mayor
City of Racine- government
Wheaton Franciscan- health care (wife’s job)
Valet Dry Cleaners Inc., Racine, WI, dry cleaning, C-corp

Alliance of Cities, vice president, Madison, WI
GLSLCI, Chicago, chair
WI Brownfields Association, president
St. Catherine’s High School, board member
US Mayor’s Conference, Washington, D.C., ex-board member

Dave Brown, finance director for city of Racine
city employee

John Christensen, city of Racine, plumbing inspector
city employee
Christensen and Associates, Racine, plumbing consulting, sole proprietorship

Jeff Coe, first district alderman
Acro Metal Stamping, Milwaukee

Raymond DeHahn, seventh district alderman
Retired - retirement money from Teamsters

Thomas Eeg, assistant commissioner of public works/operations for city of Racine
city employee
American Family Insurance, insurance rep
Owns rental property at 805 Cleveland Ave.

Kathleen Fischer, assistant finance director
CR Bard, medical device manufacturer, Murray Hill, N.J.
eHealth Global Tech, Rochester, N.Y., medical records
city employee

Thomas Friedel, alderman
Twin Disc
Wheaton Franciscan

Janelle Grammer, public health administrator
city employee

Keith Haas, general manager water and wastewater
city employee

Steven Hansen, fire chief,
Racine Unified Schools, education
Visiting/Distributing Fireman, Racine, WI publication (annual)
Owns a rental property at 2616 Blaine Ave. in Racine

Ron Hart
Auto Excellence, Racine, WI, auto repair
S&R Consulting, safety consultant, partnership
Owns properties at 4420 Republic Ave. and 1901 Carter St.

Gregory Helding
Wisconsin Internet Inc., ISP
Q Research, Newark, NJ, product research
City of Racine

Richard Heller, chief building inspector
city employee
Racine Unified School District

Richard Jones, commissioner of public works
city employee
Director of the Transportation Development Association of Wiscosnin, director
Human Capital Development Corporation, director

Jim Kaplan, fourth district alderman
Wheaton-Franciscan – infection control assistant

Scott Letteney, deputy city attorney
city attorney
Elected municipal judge for Town of Geneva (wife's job)
Big Foot High School (wife's job)
Wisconsin Air National Guard
owns home in Walworth County

Jessica MacPhail, city librarian
city employee
St. Luke’s Church
John MacPhail Renovation, construction and carpentry

David Maack, fifth district alderman
Racine County – emergency services coordinator
Wisconsin Technical College
Chairman of Leadership Racine

Terry McCarthy, ninth district alderman
Volkswagon Credit, Libertyville, Ill., Automotive finance

Robert Mozol, 15th district alderman
None listed

Brian O’Connell, director of city development
city employee
Greater Milwaukee Foundation, charitable foundation

John Rooney, assistant commissioner of public works/engineering
city employee
Midwest Airlines, commercial airline

Jerry Scott, human resources affirmative action officer
city employee
Cardinal Stritch University, Milwaukee
Ottawa University, Brookfield,
Board member, OIC
$800 honorarium from UW-Milwaukee

QA Shakoor II, eighth district alderman
Twin Disc

Michael Shields, third district alderman
Racine County – social services
Community Economic Development corp., board member
Salvation Army, board member
Racine Democratic Party, chair

Donnie Snow, director of parks, recreation and cultural services
city employee
829/831 Valerie Court, rental
934 Grand Ave., rental, own
Sickle Cell Foundation, president

Jim Spangenberg, 13th district alderman
Owns Johnson Furniture store in Racine with his wife, Elizabeth

Aron Wisneski, 12th district alderman
Atlantic Search Group, Cary, NC, recruiting and outsourcing
Assent Consulting, Cupertino, CA, recruiting and outsourcing
UW-Milwaukee, university

Sandy Weidner, sixth district alderman
Racine County, human services

Robert Weber, city attorney
city of Racine

May 18, 2008

Prom-goers robbed early Sunday morning

Here's a press release from Mount Pleasant police:
On May 18, 2008 at 2:25 am, Mount Pleasant Police were called to the 6000 block of Larchmont Drive for a report of an armed robbery that just occurred. Upon arrival officers spoke with the victims who advised they were robbed at gunpoint after attending the prom celebration at Festival Hall.

The victims claimed that offenders pointed handguns at the victims and robbed them of their possessions. None of the victims were hurt in the armed robbery. The victims were able to get a good description of the vehicle and suspects in the robbery. This information was relayed to other officers. The vehicle was observed traveling west bound on Durand Avenue where officers followed the vehicle and conducted a felony stop on the vehicle in the area of Washington Avenue and Oakes Road. Three juvenile males and a 30 year old female driver were taken into custody.

During a subsequent search of the vehicle evidence from the robbery was recovered including a handgun, clothing and money taken. Mount Pleasant Investigators are investigating this robbery. Charges are pending against four parties.

Sturtevant Police assisted Mount Pleasant officers during the felony stop of the vehicle.

Anyone with information on this incident should call the Mt. Pleasant Police Investigative Bureau at 262-884-0454.

Scenes from Post Prom 2008

Racine Post went to its first Post Prom this year and learned a few things ... (see over 100 photos from Post Prom here and here)

A LOT of work goes into this event ... great job by Rotary to pull this event off year after year. Students and adult volunteers worked on decorating Festival Hall.

Rotary's Chris Leberfing was chairman of the Post Prom committee. He started working on this year's event last October.

The theme of this year's Post Prom was "Around the World." Time-Warner cable was there interviewing members of the different schools' prom court and showing students as they walked down the red carpet.

It rained off and on throughout the night. A tent outside helped keep students dry as they were arriving. A few umbrellas helped, but most dates didn't seem to mind getting a little wet.

The crowd outside didn't mind. They cheered as the different schools entered, creating the Hollywood red carpet treatment that makes Racine's Post Prom famous.

Students, parents and even children took in the event.

People arrived in limos, cool cars and even a few boats.

Inside, couples were not shy in front of the TV cameras. White tuxes were popular this year. Time-Warner will be rebroadcasting Post Prom on Wisconsin On Demand Channel 1111 through June.

Mayor Becker made an understated appearance.

A few more pretty images from Post Prom ... great job Rotary! Good luck on next year's event!

2008 Post Prom!!!

Post Prom-goers sing karaoke on Saturday night.

We were at the world's best prom tonight - the 2008 Post Prom sponsored by Rotary. We posted dozens of photos from the event. See them here and here. More are coming tomorrow, plus a write-up of the evening. Racine, be very proud of this event ... it's an amazing tradition.

High-schoolers pose for the cameras while entering the 2008 Post Prom. Time-Warner televised the event, which will be rebroadcast May 22 at 7 p.m. on Channel 96 and on its Wisconsin On Demand (Channel 1111) beginning May 23 and running through June.