June 21, 2008

BOOM went the cannons...and the kids all smiled

The Air Force Band serenaded, and Civil War re-enactors in authentic wool uniforms were present, as Racine's two Civil War cannons officially returned to their rightful place -- since 1889 -- at the center of Monument Square.

Although the fireworks display was cancelled at the last minute by the two vendors, plenty of noise was provided across Main Street on Sam Johnson Parkway by re-enactors from Battery A, 3rd Ordinance, and Battery B, 4th U.S. Artillery, both of which were present at Gettysburg and at Lee's surrender at Appomattox. Both brought field cannons smaller than our two 30-lb. Parrott cannons -- one was a bronze field cannon actually used in the Civil War, the other a replica -- but when fired with 6 ounces of powder (a normal charge would have been 16 ounces) they made one hell of a bang.

In any case, as you can see from the top picture, the kids present last night at the rededication ceremony understood perfectly well that the city's cannons, reinstalled last Thursday, are back by the monument for them.

Below, Battery B readies its 10-lb. "Napoleon" cannon for firing, and then, bottom photo, fills the air with a loud BOOM and smoke as it fires. It was a reasonable substitute for the missing fireworks and a fitting welcome for our cannons, back after a three-year hiatus.

Pictures from the 2008 Lighthouse Run

Complete results are posted HERE.

The winner of the 10-mile run is David Williams, who also won in 1998. The JT's story is HERE. (Dave is the runner on the far left of our picture below.)

The Best Start First: Fastest runners led off the 10-mile race

Holding their ears for the cannon 'start' that never came

Everybody needs a cheerleader

The rest of the 10-mile field...

...followed by the larger 4-mile scrum

Crossing the Main Street Bridge

Passing the Wind Point Lighthouse, today's raison d’ĂȘtre

One of the younger runners, just 3 1/2 years old

Home stretch, coming to the Main Street Bridge

And, finally! the Finish Line

Bananas and Miller Lite: "But it's 9:30 a.m.," I said.
"It's Beer:30," she replied.

Something to tell the kids about...

...and the grandkids!

(Ditto, that grandkids thing)

June 20, 2008

Are they talking about the same FISA bill? Sadly, yes

And speaking of marginally-competent telephone companies -- as Dustin was in the previous post -- let us take note of Congress' action today, retroactively granting the phone companies a free Get Out of Jail card for cooperating with dozens of warrantless surveillance projects conducted by the government after 9/11.

OK, it was for a good cause, but still... Or, as the bumper sticker asks, "Feel Safer Now?"

Passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments of 2008 (FISA) basically enables the government to intercept the international communications of Americans without a court order. A case can, of course, be made in wartime that this is a good thing. Or maybe not, since it's been prohibited until now (but done anyway; go figger).

The House passed FISA today by 293-129. Senate approval is expected next week.

Sen. Russ Feingold, D-WI, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has been a strong and vocal opponent of FISA. Here's what he said about the measure yesterday:
"The proposed FISA deal is not a compromise; it is a capitulation. The House and Senate should not be taking up this bill, which effectively guarantees immunity for telecom companies alleged to have participated in the President’s illegal program, and which fails to protect the privacy of law-abiding Americans at home.

"Allowing courts to review the question of immunity is meaningless when the same legislation essentially requires the court to grant immunity. And under this bill, the government can still sweep up and keep the international communications of innocent Americans in the U.S. with no connection to suspected terrorists, with very few safeguards to protect against abuse of this power. Instead of cutting bad deals on both FISA and funding for the war in Iraq, Democrats should be standing up to the flawed and dangerous policies of this administration."
Today, however, Feingold is in the minority. Here's what Rep. Paul Ryan, R-WI, 1st District, had to say after voting in the majority today:
“While we should have closed the gaps in our intelligence laws a long time ago, today’s bipartisan compromise will serve as a significant blow to radical terrorist networks seeking to do us harm. This bill protects telecom companies that stepped forward in the days following 9/11 to assist the government in keeping us safe. Those acts deserve admiration – not lawsuits.

“Congress has repeatedly failed in its attempts to modernize the tools to combat terrorism. Since the expiration of the Protect America Act over four months ago, America has been fighting terrorism with pre-9/11 intelligence capabilities. Today, Congress has taken a significant step forward in giving our intelligence community the tools they need to keep America safe, while upholding the treasured freedoms and civil liberties that we hold dear.”
Ryan noted that under the original 1978 law, the U.S. Constitution and the FISA Court, the monitoring of suspected foreign terrorists still must gain approval ... after the fact. As his press release notes, "Rather than waiting for court approval before taking action – a delay that would put American lives at risk in the post-9/11 world – intelligence officials can seek court approval within a week of emergency eavesdropping on foreigners. To be clear, this bill strengthens current protections for U.S. citizens against unlawful monitoring by U.S. intelligence agencies."

Not to put too fine a point on it: the eavesdropping is not just on "foreigners;" telephone calls have people at both ends of the line, and in the U.S., most likely, at one end of the call is an "American."

As Feingold said: "Under this bill, the government can still sweep up and keep the international communications of innocent Americans in the U.S. with no connection to suspected terrorists, with very few safeguards to protect against abuse of this power."

The bill sunsets in 2012, unless renewed by Congress.

Further details on the bill can be found HERE, as written by Sen. Kit Bond, R-MO, ranking Republican member on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and printed in the Wall Street Journal yesterday.

Sprint struggling to activate new Samsung Instinct

Update: It's working now ... took a couple of hours. So far, it's a great phone. I love the unlimited video and Internet access. Sprint nailed the price points for this type of phone - everyone else will be following suit.

Original post:

So I bought Sprint's new Samsung Instinct today - the first day the iPhone competitor was available. It's a cool phone ... except tech support just told me they're having trouble activating it. I've been trying to make a call for a couple of hours, but keep getting Sprint's customer service. All they could tell me was they're working on the problem and it will be resolved as soon as possible. I figured no problem (it is the first day, after all), until the tech support guy said they may have to work something out on a future date. Uh oh ...

This is my only phone, and I do a lot of work over the phone. Usually these activations take an hour, tops (Verizon shifted me over in about a minute). So if this goes on for day, it's going to be a real problem for a lot of people.

It is a cool phone, though. I've been cruising around on Sprint's network, watching Comedy Central and checking out websites. Early reviews are saying it's not as good as the iPhone, but at $129 (after a $100 rebate) it's a step up from my old phone. Plus, Sprint has a great "everything" plan for $99 a month, which includes unlimited Internet, GPS, text and talk.

They're selling fast in Racine. The Sprint store on S. Green Bay Road is sold out, and they're hoping to get more tomorrow. While I was there, three other people bought the Instinct and a fourth asked for one (but they were gone).

How you can help flood victims

Update 2: Here are the local dropoff points for donations:

Racine Area
Holy Communion Church
church on the hill on 6th Street
Mon - Fri 7:30 am - 4 pm
Sun 6:30 am - noon
Sat by appt only - call Pastor Jeff 497-7576

Milwaukee Area
Cardinal Stritch University
Main Campus - 6801 N. Yates Road
Mon - Fri (hours unconfirmed)

Kenosha Area
Cardinal Stritch University
Hwys 50 & H - 9080 76th St
Mon - Fri 10 am - 6 pm

Update: Good news for local relief efforts for flooding victims. The United Way has agreed to back the efforts of Christina Mueller and Mystical Listrom. They're collecting contributions and donating to relief efforts. Here's the full explanation from Listrom:
Hello everybody! I have outstanding news that I can't wait to share!!
United Way of Racine County is backing us 100% & we have their 100% guarantee ALL MONEY will be given to directly to the flood victims!!
They are setting up the trust fund account for money contributions. Details are not set yet, Christina and I will be meeting with United Way this weekend to finalize the details.
Not only that, but the United Way of Racine County is donating to our fund!!
They did not realize these people were not being helped by any other organization and were getting the run around. Christina and I were the only ones pushing this drive with the help and support of everyone who reads this mail and has participated as well.
I do plan on sending more information later in the evening or tomorrow when I have a minute to breathe from all the excitement.
Contributions can be made to: United Way of Racine County
write on the memo line: ARAYA HOPE FUND
That makes the name of our efforts official. "ARAYA HOPE FUND"
(Sounds like "A ray of hope".)

Original post:

We received an email yesterday from two Racine women who are working together to help Racine's flood victims. They're getting the word out on what people need, and how people can make donations. Here's their emails, which explain the situation best:
UPDATED: Need help for Racine flood victims

Well, after our walk today, the hot ticket items needed are:
  • **Washer/Dryer**
  • **Dehumidifier**
  • **Lawn mower**
  • Laundry Soap
  • Sanitizing Cleaners and supplies
  • Holiday Decorations & Christmas tree
  • Clothes from babies-adult
  • Children's toys
  • Yard furniture
  • Food
  • Money
  • Dog/Cat food and supplies

The family featured in The Journal Times were in the middle of their kitchen remodel project and lost most kitchen items because they were stored in their garage. Those items needed are: dishes, toaster, blender, pots/pans, FOOD (their refrigerator is in the garage). They also lost their shed, it actually was floating in their yard only held in by their cyclone fence, which is also destroyed.

The majority of the people all listed these same items over and over again.

The insurance companies are giving them the run around. A few people have $5,000 deductibles, so even if the insurance covers the water heater and furnace, they can't afford to replace them. The insurance companies are telling them they need a Structural Engineer or Certified Housing Inspector with flood knowledge to prove structural damage and prove the damage was directly caused by the flood. The money for the inspection is not covered by the insurance company. If anyone is licensed and willing to volunteer their time to help with these inspection, it would be a BIG appreciation to the homeowners!

Carpet shampooing would be a blessing as the contaminated water was trekked through the house during removal of basement items.

Manpower would be another blessing. A lot of items have been removed, but people are still in need of some muscle or a handyman. Governor Doyle assigned jailers to help remove damaged/destroyed items; however, most people refused their help for fear of future unseen problems. Certainly there are elderly who could still use assistance as well.

Regarding the trust fund being set-up, Christina and Mystical visited Educator's Credit Union today and found out the details needed in order to start it. We are getting the ball rolling with that. We intend to purchase gift cards for Wal-mart for immediate needs like food, water, etc. with this money. If you are interested in side-stepping the trust fund and would like to donate the gift cards, that is acceptable too. Contact us directly to do this so they can be distributed immediately to residents (hardest hit first, of course), rather than being lost in the shuffle of things.

We also noticed a few laundry mats posting "Free washing today" or "Free drying today". If you happen to catch these, please email us so I can get the word out to people.

Holy Communion Church (the church on the hill on 6th St) is the donation drop-off/pick-up site. Please clearly label the items "FLOOD" because they have more than one charitable event in-process.

Both Kenosha and Milwaukee Campuses of Cardinal Stritch University will have donation bins available.

If anyone in our flood area happens to get this e-mail, please notify us so we can be sure to keep you updated on key issues (like the laundry postings) we come across to help spread the word in your direct area.

If any businesses are willing to donate items (even scratch & dent), perform a benefit, or anything else they can think of that may be of use to our flood victims, please contact us.

I would like to keep everyone updated from time to time. If you do not wish to receive these emails, please let us know. If anyone would like to be added to the list, please advise.

Again, if anyone has any questions or comments, please feel free to contact us.

Thank you,
Christina Mueller
Mystical Listrom

Mystical Listrom wrote:
Christina Mueller and Mystical Listrom are together in the process of organizing help for Racine's flood victims. So far, their insurance policies only cover furnace, air conditioners, and water heater replacements. The Red Cross is only donating sanitizing supplies. FEMA has yet to come through. The Salvation Army and United Way are not helping.

The water is contaminated with sewage. The children are running around while the parents struggle to clean up the mess. School is out and there are 43 children on the one street that Christina helped out in alone. Their toys were either trashed or washed away.

These people lost washing machines, dryers, clothes, toys among other items. With the electricity and water supply turned off, they also lost shower availability, food spoiled, cook pizza on grills for dinner, divide their time running from the laundry mat to wash clothes and cleaning sewage damaged items from their homes.

We are in the process of looking into the legalities of setting up a trust fund to help pay for baby food, diapers, rental of equipment (power washers), contractor help, etc. We're also looking into having a benefit, food drive, and other events.

Wednesday evening Christina and Mystical will be going door-to-door to make lists of who needs what.

Details aren't set in stone at this point, but we could definitely use all the help we can get. If anyone is willing to help, whether it be manpower, donations of time/food/money/clothes/toys/other items, or if anyone has ideas or contacts, please respond to this email.

Every little bit helps. Any remaining items will be sent to other area flood victims.

Christina Mueller
Mystical Listrom

County still not meeting on Superior Linens

Here's a story from a few months back ...

The county's Health & Human Development Committee will meet for the first time since we wrote an article on March 19 noting the committee canceled a meeting where they were scheduled to discuss Ridgewood's supply contract with Superior Linens.

This was news because some pretty serious questions were being raised about Superior Linens and the claims they made to win a contract from the county. County officials said the mistaken claim - Superior said they were accredited, but they're not - did not factor into the company winning the contract. Superior simply offered the lowest and best bid.

It's not the first time questions have been raised about Superior. Dane County canceled its contract with the company after employees came forward with some disturbing allegations.

It's also the story where the county's corporation counsel launched a bizarre and personal attack on Supervisor Diane Lange at a County Board meeting while the rest of the County Board sat by and let it happen. Lange was the supervisor to ask questions about the contract.

So, is the county going to address the issue? As of now, the answer seems no.

Property Transfers, June 20

Here's last week's property transfers ...

Property Transfers

June 19, 2008

Civil War cannons are back on Monument Square

Gently lowered into place, hopefully for the last time

The Civil War cannons are back on Monument Square, where they were originally placed back in 1889.

Despite all the Sturm und Drang accompanying the debate over their removal three years ago when Monument Square was refurbished, they returned to their place alongside Racine's 61-ft. tall Civil War monument this afternoon, with nary a skirmish.

Alderman Jeff Coe was present, seemingly making amends for his advocacy of the proposal the cannons be sent to Kenosha to take up residence in that city's new Civil War Museum.

"The only thing we did stupidly was put them into storage," he said today. "We should have given them to Kenosha. I just thought, what better way to honor them than to give them to a museum, where they could take care of them?"

But as they returned to their place today, he said, "I'm OK with their return. I'm just glad the city got it resolved."

Coe recalled playing on the cannons as a child, and admitted to bringing his daughter to the square when she was young to also play on them. Today, he brought Heather, now 17, to Monument Square to help remove the paving bricks to make room for the heavy granite bases on which the cannons will sit. "Maybe in 100 years they'll debate this again," Coe said philosophically.

Both cannons were placed aiming north. Nobody could recall why, except that's the direction they faced originally. Coe showed a picture to prove it.

Today's reinstallation operation was led by Monte Osterman of Osterman Granite and Tile, assisted by David Carbajal. The crane from Meyers Racine Monument Works was operated by Jim Anspaugh. First they gently lowered the 3,300-lb. Mesabi granite bases into place, and then the two cannons themselves, one weighing 3,650 lbs and the other 3,530 pounds -- according to the engravings on their barrels. One is RPP No. 228; the other RPP No. 53; RPP stands for Robert Parker Parrott, the designer, who apparently also oversaw their construction personally. See HERE for more on their historical background.

Under each of the bases, Osterman put his traditional good luck pieces. He had wanted to place a 2008 Wisconsin quarter under each -- to tell some future generation when the cannons were reinstalled -- but had to settle for 2004 Wisconsin and 2008 New Mexico quarters; Johnson Bank across the street simply didn't have the right coinage on hand. No doubt, this will confuse the heck out of whoever moves the bases in 2108!

Jeff Coe shows picture with cannons aiming north

Lehman, Becker, Vos on Regional Transit committee

State Sen. John Lehman has been appointed to a legislative committee charged with making recommendations on changes in state law to allow local governments to create, fund and operate Regional Transportation Authorities (RTAs). The twenty-two member Special Committee on Regional Transportation Authority will, in addition to Lehman, include Mayor Gary Becker and Rep. Robin Vos. (Two out of three ain't bad, if you get my drift.)

“Racine County is at the forefront of the debate on how we fund mass transit develop transportation alternatives. I’m looking forward to working with representatives from our area and from across the state to figure out how we can develop and fund a 21st century transportation infrastructure that offers people effective alternatives and respects their interests as taxpayers,” Lehman said.

“Our KRM commuter rail project has great potential to bring needed jobs and economic development to Racine County and give people alternative transportation as they deal with high gas prices and an upcoming freeway reconstruction. I’m committed to protecting the progress we have made and to moving forward on funding issues.”

June 18, 2008

Tractors on parade: All the way across Wisconsin

One by one, the tractors' front tires kissed Lake Michigan

Some time Thursday morning, 68 antique tractors from around the country will cruise through Racine, most likely coming up Sheridan Road from Kenosha. Well, "cruise" may be the wrong word; these tractors travel at about 13 miles an hour.

In some ways, their visit here is an anticlimax. Their mission was to drive all the way across Wisconsin, having started out in Dubuque, Iowa, on June 15. They completed that journey last night, in Kenosha. A little after 7 p.m. Wednesday, the tractors -- the oldest dates from 1936 -- formed a colorful line from their hotel and drove to a boat ramp on Lake Michigan.

One by one they drove down the ramp into the lake, touching the front tires of each tractor into the water.

This has been the 2008 Tractor Cruise USA tour across Wisconsin, a roughly 400-mile round trip. These tractor collectors have made this kind of trip before: in 2006, they went across Iowa east to west; and in 2007 they went across Iowa, north to south. This year they branched out in our direction. All the tractors, many dating from the 1950s, made the trip on their own power, although some owners trucked them from their homes to the starting point in Dubuque. I spoke to one owner who came all the way from Oregon to make the trip.

Thursday's agenda calls for the tractors to leave Kenosha at 7:30 a.m. and drive to the Case/New Holland tractor plant in Racine for a two-hour tour followed by lunch, and then a leisurely drive to Lake Geneva. They're due back in Dubuque Saturday afternoon.

While their 7:30 a.m. start each morning may seem reasonable, keep in mind most of these tractor collectors are really farmers at heart: breakfast is served each morning starting at 5:30 a.m.

Photo Op by the lake in Kenosha

Note the driver's cheesehead!

What the well-dressed Tractor Cruiser wears

is the Kenosha News' story of their arrival.

And baby makes...

The Racine Zoo has had its share of babies this season: meercats, lion cubs and a tur (a form of goat).

Here are some pictures of the kids, from smallest animal to largest.

First, the meercats, a small mammal and member of the mongoose family that comes from South Africa. Mom Sydney had her four babies on April 3.

Here's one of the babies, already alert for predators.

Next, the West Caucasian Tur, which Wikipedia describes as a mountain dwelling goat antelope found only in the western half of the Caucasus Mountain range. Ours was born on May 18 to mom Daisy and dad Tarek.

Daisy leads the way for the unnamed male baby

And finally, here are three of our four new lion cubs, born back in September. The babies -- three males and one female -- now weigh about 150 pounds each. They may be napping, but mom was alert, pacing back and forth.

Look up, and say hello to the Zoo's newest arrivals

Bosephus, above; Mac is pictured below

Singer/songwriter Paul Simon must have been thinking of the Racine Zoo back in 1967 when he wrote:
It's all happening at the zoo
I do believe it
I do believe it's true
Couldn't be more true, in fact. We've got four new lion cubs, a new tur, four baby meercats and, just this week, two new arrivals that everyone has to look up to: a couple of young giraffes.

We knew the giraffes were coming from a story last week on a Cleveland blog that said the Cleveland Zoo was sending two of its giraffes on a road trip, one to Wisconsin and another to Kentucky, all part of efforts by the International Species Information System (ISIS) to maximize the gene pool and breed healthy animals from the U.S.'s limited population of these animals, who came originally from North Tanzania or South Kenya in Africa.

Cleveland's loss is our gain. They sent papa giraffe Walker, an 18-ft. tall Masai who had fathered 11 calves while in Cleveland, to Louisville, and his son, Mac, a 14-ft. tall youngster -- he'll be three in August -- to Racine. At the same time, we received Bosephus from Louisville; he's another male, who will be four in July.

Meanwhile, the game of giraffe genetics musical chairs sent Twiga, the female giraffe who's been here since 2002, to the Ellen Trout Zoo in Lufkin, Texas. Twiga, by the way, is Swahili for "giraffe." She brought a calf with her when she came to Racine.

All these moves were overseen by Laurie Bingaman Lackey, the wildlife biologist with ISIS who is the custodian of the reproductive history of all 68 living Masai giraffes in North America. It is she who will decide in two or three years whether Racine will get a female giraffe from some other zoo to mate with one of our males, or whether one of ours will go somewhere else. Racine does not "own" any of these giraffes. "We are just the caretakers," said Jay Christie, director of the Racine Zoo. Walker and Twiga originally came from the San Diego Zoo.

Racine has room for just two adult giraffes and one youngster, Christie says.

For the moment, the two giraffes are being held in quarantine, their fecal matter continually tested for parasites and disease. Cydney Peterson, the zoo's animal care specialist in charge of the two new arrivals ("But I don't look at their poo -- it's not my job," she says emphatically.) is busily involved in socializing the two animals, who have very different personalities.

Zoo director Jay Christie and Bosephus

"Bosephus was hand-raised, socialized with people," she says. "Given a choice, he follows a person not another giraffe. Bo is a people-lover." And, indeed, when visitors to their pens came close to the railing, Bosephus stuck his head over and gently nuzzled an offered hand. Mac, in contrast, was visibly unsettled and nervously paced at the far end of his pen.

The two will be kept separate for 30 days, although individually they will be let out into the zoo's outdoor enclosure for public viewing starting on Monday.

More excitement is coming to the zoo this summer. Christie says two female zebras are due here shortly, from Peoria. And on July 30, the zoo will open its new restaurant, gift shop and admissions area, now under construction at the south end of the campus. The $2.2 million project was financed with $250,000 from Racine County, $300,000 from the city and the rest from donations from the business community and zoo members.

Here's a picture of Jay Christie in front of the new gift shop.

Rep. Turner running for re-election

Rep. Bob Turner is running for re-election this fall. He was first elected to the Assembly in 1990, and has coasted to re-election since then. The one exception came a few years back when John Dickert challenged him in a primary. Turner won the Democratic nod and cruised in the general election.

Here's Turner's full announcement:

Turner Announces Re-Election Bid

RACINE, WI – State Representative Robert Turner (D-Racine) announced today that he plans to seek re-election to the 61st Assembly District in the State Legislature. Turner was first elected to the seat in 1990.

“I am grateful for the support I’ve consistently received from my 61st Assembly District constituents,” said Turner. My service in the Legislature has always been challenging and fulfilling. However, the past few years have been the most challenging, as we have dealt with the change in our state’s fiscal scenario due to falling tax revenues and a decrease in federal funding for state programs,” said Turner. “There has been reluctance in the Legislature to address the priorities that most of our citizens support,” he added.

“I want to help people listen to each other, so we can all work together in encouraging state solutions that are workable, yet cost effective,” Turner stated. Representative Turner said he hopes the voters will allow him to continue working to shape state policy in the areas of health care, education, tax fairness, crime, and the environment.

“My job begins with the individual, and then requires determining how state programs, policies and legislation can improve the lives of each resident of my district. Whether it be people in need, those who require assistance with tax forms or the Division of Motor Vehicles, or people wanting to advance new ideas for consideration in the Legislature, I thoroughly enjoy working on behalf of all the residents of the 61st Assembly District,” Turner emphasized.

“I once again look forward to hearing from my constituents as we discuss the well being of Racine, and how those of us at the state level can strengthen and encourage what’s best in our community. I trust in my constituents’ views and opinions, and I want to carry on with the task of communicating those concerns to my colleagues in the Legislature,” Turner concluded.

June 17, 2008

80% of us say country is on 'the wrong track'

70% of Wisconsinites give President an unfavorable rating

There's good news for Barack Obama in poll results released today by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Political Science/ WisPolitics.com. If the presidential election were held today, it would not be the squeaker it was in 2000 and 2004. 50% say they would vote for Obama; 37% would vote for John McCain; 10% say they are undecided.

George Bush can take solace only from the fact he isn't running again. Seven out of ten Wisconsinites have an unfavorable impression of the President.

Five hundred and six "likely voters" were questioned between June 8-10. Here are some of the results that caught my eye (keep in mind that 38% of the respondents identified themselves as Democrats; 24% as Republicans and 29% as Independents):

Wrong track: 80% responded that the country is not going in the right direction, but is on the wrong track. 51% think the state is on the wrong track.

Barack Obama:
64% give him a favorable rating, with 33% "strongly" favorable. 74% feel he "shares my values;" 43% feel he is "experienced."

John McCain: 53% favorable, with 16% "strongly" favorable. 46% feel he "shares my values;" 84% feel he is "experienced."

George Bush: 30% favorable, with 9% "strongly" favorable; 70% unfavorable, with 50% "strongly" unfavorable.

Jim Doyle: 57% favorable, with 14% "strongly" favorable.

Wisconsinites split right down the middle on the question of jobs vs. the environment. Asked: "Some people say that it is important to protect the environment, even if it costs some jobs or otherwise reduces our standard of living. Other people say that protecting the environment is not as important as maintaining jobs and our standard of living. Which viewpoint comes closest to your own?" the respondents split 45% in favor of protecting the environment, and 44% for maintaining jobs.

No such agreement on whether the war with Iraq was worth fighting: 66% said no; 31% said yes. Only 19% felt strongly it was worth fighting, while 52% felt strongly it was not.

I was interested in how people get their news. 30% said they watch network TV news every day; 25% said they watch cable news every day; 32% watch local news every day; 34% read a local newspaper every day; 23% get news from the internet every day.

There's lots more. If you want to see how your neighbors feel about abortion, how often they go to church, what they think about African-Americans' work ethic, what their priorities are for both state and national government, read the full results of the poll HERE.

June 16, 2008

Final touches to cannon bases precede reinstallation

Just a few finishing touches need to be completed, and Racine's two Civil War cannons will return to Monument Square.

Reinstallation is scheduled for Thursday, but the cannons' official welcoming ceremony will be held on Saturday, heralded by the U.S. Air Force Band of Mid-America, Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, fireworks and all the accoutrements. Details of the ceremony are HERE.

Before then, however, Monte Osterman of Osterman Granite and Marble, who designed the bases for the city and ordered them from a quarry in Cold Spring, MN, has a little more work ahead of him. See, the 3,650 lb. cannons don't fit perfectly onto their new 3,300 lb. granite bases. The fit is a tad too tight, so Osterman has directed his crew -- led by master craftsman Asael Torres, assisted by apprentice Kyle Perroni -- to widen the semicircular bed just a hair -- an eighth of an inch here, another eighth there.

"Some CNC work (computerized numerical control) is involved," Osterman said, "but it's mostly hand work."

Osterman and Torres were hunched over the cannons this afternoon, carefully measuring, then transferring those measurements back to the bases, which arrived in Racine last week. At first, the tools involved were no more complicated than squares, rulers, duct tape (Yes!) and a propane torch, but soon would involve the delicate application of gentle cuts from a 12" diamond saw blade, grinders and elbow grease. All to ensure that the two cannon barrels fit perfectly onto the Mesabi black granite bases. The cannons themselves have been given a coat of an epoxy-type black paint, which makes them look far newer than their 1863 origins.

The cannons were originally installed on Monument Square in 1889, about five years after the monument itself. (Inflationary note: The 61-ft. tall monument cost $8,000 in the 1860s; some 140-years later, the two cannon bases cost almost $15,000.) The cannons stood sentinel alongside the monument until 2005, when they were removed during the renovation of Monument Square ... almost to be lost to Kenosha's new Civil War museum, until a public outcry and the deliberations of an Ad Hoc committee brought them back permanently.

I learned more about our cannons from a Civil War buff named Michael Haynes, in Victoria, TX:

Our guns, he says, are 30-pounder Parrott rifles, with a 4.2 inch caliber tube. The initials RPP engraved on the rear end of our cannons "indicate that the ordinance officer who proofed them was none other than the inventor of this cannon design, Robert Parker Parrott." The following item appeared in the April 30,1864, issue of Scientific American:
"Parrott Guns.--A 30-pound Parrott gun, in Fort Putnam, Morris Island (off Charleston S.C.) was recently tested by firing until it burst. The weapon threw 4,615 shells into Charleston, five miles distance, at regular intervals of five minutes, before it burst. Such endurance is unprecedented."
The writer might also have noted that shelling the civilian population of Charleston was illegal, but that would have led to the magazine being shut down by Lincoln's military censors and quite possibly jail time for the publisher

Here is an article about Parrott from the Civil War Artillery website:
One famous U.S. inventor was a former West Point graduate and ordnance officer named Robert Parker Parrott. Robert Parker Parrott In 1836, Parrott resigned his rank of captain and went to work for the West Point Foundry at Cold Spring, New York. This foundry was a civilian operated business and Parrott, as a superintendent, was able to dedicate some forty years perfecting a rifled cannon and a companion projectile. By 1860, he had patented a new method of attaching the reinforcing band on the breech of a gun tube. Although he was not the first to attach a band to a tube, he was the first to use a method of rotating the tube while slipping the band on hot. This rotation, while cooling, caused the band to attach itself in place uniformly rather than in one or two places as was the common method, which allowed the band to sag in place.

What our cannon looked like on the battlefield

The 10-pounder Parrott came out in 1860 and was patented in 1861 and the 20- and 30-pounder guns followed in 1861. He quickly followed up these patents by producing 6.4-, 8-, and 10-inch caliber cannons early in the war. The Army referred to these as 100, 200, and 300-pounder Parrotts respectively. By the end of the conflict the Parrott gun was being used extensively in both armies.

Parrott's name is also associated with the ammunition fired by his cannon. The elongated Parrott projectile employed a sabot made of wrought iron, brass, lead or copper that was attached to the shell base. When the projectile was fired, the sabot expanded into the rifling of the tube. In 1861 Parrott patented his first projectile with the sabot cast on the outside of the projectile.
Our earlier story about the designing of the cannon bases is HERE.


On Saturday there was a wedding going on at the DeKoven Center under dark skies. Then, befitting our odd spring weather. the clouds parted, blue skies poked through and a double rainbow appeared over the lake. Wedding guests ran to the front of the DeKoven building to take pictures and marvel at the site. One person asked the groom (not pictured): "How'd you make this happen?" The lucky guy could do little more than laugh.

Homicides cast shadow on community's shining weekend

Sometimes, Racine just can't get out of its own way. After a weekend of wonderful events and beautiful weather, we're left Monday morning with two homicides to report.

The first was near 11th and Hilker streets at 10:50 p.m. on Friday. Twenty-year-old Jamaal M. Stanciel was killed in the shooting.

Early Monday morning, a 29-year-old Racine man was shot and killed in the 900 block of Hamilton Street. The homicide occurred around 12:53 a.m., according to police.

Both shootings are new tragedies for our community. But as a commenter wrote yesterday, how does Racine want to identify itself? By events like the new mosaic in Uptown and Caron Butler's bike giveaway, or by random violence in the middle of the night?

Too often the latter drowns out the former. Cliche as it is, it's a media problem The JT does sell more papers when they put a murder, fire or some other sort of tragedy on the front page. But to sell those extra 500-1,000 papers, they pretty much ignore their daily subscribers - many who don't want to see the community's newspaper focus on crime and violence.

Think about it just from a numbers perspective. Thousands of people visited Uptown or drove through the area to see the mosaic. Thousands more attended Juneteenth Day and Caron's events on Saturday.

The community is energized by positive events, which are just as newsworthy as any sort of crime. So, it's a matter of choice for all of us. Where do we want to focus our attention? On the bleak and negative? Or the hopeful interactions of our community?

June 15, 2008

Neighborhood Watch group receives gardening grant

First District volunteers Annabelle Rohleder, Gloria Oliver, Josephine Wilson, Polly Carter, Mary McIlvaine, Johnie Woods. Photo by First District Volunteer Annette Harpole

Mary McIlvaine of Neighborhood Watch sent over news that the First District Friends Neighborhood Watch group received a grant to improve the gardens at the city's COP Houses. Here's the news ... congratulations!

Racine Neighborhood Watch, Inc. announces a grant award of $1,500 from the Sustainable Racine Fund within the Racine Community Foundation. The money is to be used for enhancing the gardens at the Thelma Orr COP House, 1009 Davis Place, and the newest COP House, 1146 Villa St.

"That is good news," said First District Friends chairperson Cleveland Scaife, upon hearing of the grant award. "Know that we appreciate it."

The First District Friends Neighborhood Watch group also thanks the Racine Police Department and the Racine Community Outpost, Inc. for allowing gardening activities at the COP Houses.

First District Friends Neighborhood Watch volunteers have maintained foundation plantings and vegetable gardens at the Thelma Orr COP House for several years. They have received previous funding from the Sustainable Racine Fund. The First District Friends Neighborhood Watch volunteers are joined by area high school students from Walden III and St. Catherine’s High School, in gardening projects at the COP House and neighborhood parks.

Milan Meyers (in the purple hate), Gloria Oliver (in the black shirt) and Johnie Woods (in the brown hat) garden with Neighborhood Watch.

The perennials planted at the Thelma Orr COP House have been divided and shared in the past, and are being divided and shared again, for replanting at the new 1146 Villa COP House, and for interested neighborhood gardeners.

The grant will allow for the purchase of soil amendments, gardening equipment, annuals, additional perennials and shrubs, to beautify both COP Houses in 2008. The partnership of neighborhood and student volunteers, educators, police, and the property owner demonstrate what can be done when the community unites. The generous grant from the Sustainable Racine Fund within the Racine Community Foundation has made this a reality.