July 5, 2008

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the fattest of them all?

HEY, lard-ass! No, not you, Cheesehead: Wisconsin isn't even in the top ten when it comes to obese state populations.

For the third year in a row, Mississippi has been named the fattest state, while Colorado again is the thinnest.

Wisconsin? Why, despite our love of beer and cheese -- and the calories they contain -- we're right smack dab in the middle: No. 26, in fact, with only 25.6% of our population obese, and only 62.3% obese or overweight. Last year, we were 22nd. Mississippi comes in (Burp!) with 32.6% obese and 68.1% obese or overweight. Only 19.3% of those skinny Coloradans are obese, and only 55.7% obese or overweight.

These computations come from an analysis by CalorieLab, Inc., based on the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System database maintained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rankings use a three-year average in order to smooth out statistical fluctuations.

The full report can be found HERE. Grab a six-pack, some Big Macs and a few bags of pretzels and chew on ... the data.

In another study, by the way, Forbes magazine named Milwaukee the 9th most junk-food obsessed city, of 52 metropolitan areas, ranked by Category Development Index (CDI), "which is the percentage of category sales in a market divided by the percentage of all commodity volume for a market, times 100. An index between 80 and 120 is generally considered average ... and blah blah blah." In layman's terms: they count how much junk food we buy from supermarkets.

The magazine said of our neighbor to the north:
Pizza is a favorite in many markets--out of 52, 18 have an above-average CDI--but Milwaukee reigns as the frozen pizza capital of the country, with a CDI of 244, about 2.5 times the average. Maybe that's because pizza goes so well with beer, particularly Pabst, Schlitz and Miller, which are all brewed in the area.
Forbes' story is HERE, and brief explanations of who overeats what, where is here.

And if you're still hungry for information on this topic, here's an article listing Men's Fitness magazine's rankings of the fattest and the fittest cities.

Air quality alert, over high ozone levels, issued

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is issuing an Air Quality Watch for Ozone for Racine and the seven other lakeshore counties -- Door, Kenosha, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Milwaukee, Ozaukee and Sheboygan. It will take effect at midnight tonight through midnight Sunday.

The watch is being issued because of the forecast for elevated levels of ground level ozone, formed when pollution from power plants, factories and other industrial sources, vehicle exhaust, and volatile organic compounds chemically reacts with hot temperatures, high humidity and atmospheric stagnation.

The Air Quality Index is predicted to reach the orange level, which is unhealthy for people with respiratory diseases like asthma, older adults, active children and those engaged in strenuous outside activities. When an air quality watch is issued, people in those groups are advised to reschedule or cut back on strenuous outside activities during the watch period.

People with lung diseases such as asthma and bronchitis should pay attention to shortness of breath, or respiratory symptoms like coughing, wheezing and discomfort. Ground level ozone can irritate the respiratory system, reduce lung function, aggravate asthma and chronic lung diseases, and, over time, cause permanent lung damage.

The perfect ending to a picture-perfect Fourth

That's the old Coast Guard station in the foreground

While waiting for the fireworks, a time exposure of the harbor

July 4, 2008

Above all, parades are for kids

One small sidelight to the parade shouldn't be overlooked. As the first of a number of military contingents came up Main Street, Doug Wick -- owner of Common Scents, Pack 'n Ship, and Wick's Photo Studio on the corner of Third -- sprang into action.

He would have been hard to miss, dressed as he was in a red bandleader's jacket (admiral's? maitre d'?), with gaudy gold epaulets, a flag bowtie, red-white-and-blue dickey and blue slacks covered with large white stars. But then he pulled out 22 large American flags -- one for each year he's been in business on Main Street -- on 8-ft. tall flagpoles. And, with his portable microphone he directed an ad hoc color guard to stand on either side of the street with the flags to welcome the marching soldiers.

The soldiers saluted as they walked by, while the crowd rose and cheered them all.

But, of course, a Fourth of July parade, while stressing patriotic themes, really is no different from other parades to its key audience: kids. They react to the noise, the movement, the almost constant assault -- I mean that in a good way -- on the senses. And so it was with FourthFest.The biggest reaction I saw from a group of kids came for ... Tigger, who was riding atop a Realtor's float, if memory serves. There wasn't even any candy involved. So let's wrap up with a few more pictures -- of kids enjoying themselves during the parade.

Silly String, doncha know!

Racine's FourthFest Parade: Outstanding!

The crowds cheered whenever soldiers or the flag passed by...

Horlick High's pom-pon squad

Was he really as tall as the Monument?

Trumpeter from the Lighthouse Brigade

Modine's hydrogen fuel cell-powered float...

It was elephant-powered as well...

A colorful reminder: Dragon Boat races are coming soon!

Too many battles to remember, too many soldiers to mourn...

Iwo Jima


The Revolution

Women fought and died in Vietnam, too

A few of the parade celebrities...

Mayor Gary Becker and Mayor Hector Alveraz Conteras
of Zapotlanejo, Mexico, our new sister city

FourthFest President Jim Deibler, and Make-a-Wish child

Parade Marshal, Marcus Hanel of the Brewers

Laura Kuzia, Miss Racine

Racine's own, Briana Lipor

And here are some more photos ... just click on the picture below for a slideshow.

Racine's Fourth of July Parade

And finally, some pictures of kids enjoying the parade are HERE.

July 3, 2008

In Racine, celebrating the 4th starts early...

Our first big parade: June 22, 1917

And so it began... Racine's tradition of July 4th parades.

Above is a picture of perhaps Racine's first big parade, from 1917; not on July 4 of that year but rather on June 22. What were they celebrating as they marched down Washington Avenue? No idea, and neither did Sally Orth of the Racine Heritage Museum, who welcomed me Thursday night during First Friday, while a video loop of old celebrations played.

And, yes, we knew it was neither July 4 nor the Friday of First Friday ... but in Racine the celebration of Independence Day starts early and supercedes newer traditions like Downtown's art gallery walk. Even before the community paraded for the reasons we all know today, Sally explained, Racine celebrated for another: the parade below, from July 4, 1941, was the Goodwill Parade -- established to foster good will between the city's employers and employees. Whatever, right? (Headlining the show at the Venetian: I Wanted Wings, starring Ray Milland and Veronica Lake. "Story follows the training and personal lives of three recruits in the Army Air Corps --- a wealthy playboy, a college jock and an auto mechanic. Love interest is supplied by a female photographer and a sultry blonde." Sharing the double bill in those days of two features for one quarter: The Cowboy and the Blonde, starring George Montgomery and Mary Beth Hughes.)

Today, of course, it's patriotism front and center. Friday night was its usual blend of shopping, wandering into art galleries, and a variety of music on Monument Square and Main and Sixth Streets -- and in some of the stores as well. But this week's event carried an extra fashion dimension: flags everywhere... in window displays, in children's hands and on clothing. Below, some of the folks we spotted enjoying First Frid... um, July 3 in Downtown Racine.

Cheryl McCrary sang patriotic songs and hymns...

This visitor was dressed in flags, head to toe...

Brad Harring wore one of his patriotic shirts ...
(don't worry: he has another for tomorrow)

Annette Bottoni with red, white and blue-ornamented hair

If you weren't already feeling poor, read this...

Neither of these yarns is about Racine, but still....

1. Rush Limbaugh signs a new eight-year radio talk show contract for $400 million, including a $100 million upfront bonus.. Geez, imagine what he could've gotten if you and I ever listened to him! More HERE.

2. In Abu Dhabi, where some of your $4/gallon gasoline money is going, the young and rich have a new obsession to go with their Ferraris and BMWs: low-number license plates. A plate with the number "1" sold for $14 million; the number "5" went for $9 million; "29" was a bargain at $530,000. More HERE.

Racine's float builder: Jerry Treiber has been working his parade craft for 33 years

Jerry Treiber

By Pat Metzker
For RacinePost

Months in the planning, Jerry Treiber has made final touches to the Star Wars costume float of the 501st Legion: Vedas Fist. For the past 33 years, Treiber has built floats for the Racine 4th of July Parade. I talked with Treiber this week while looking at the 48-foot float depicting the utility cargo skiffs used in "Return of the Jedi."

“Surface utility vehicles used to transport passengers and cargo" that float about on anti-gravity field, Treiber explains. Members of the Midwest Garrison will ride on the float in the parade. The group of costume enthusiasts are devoted to fundraising, charity work, and volunteerism.

Treiber, born in Racine and Graduate of Park High School estimates he's entertained a million Racinians over his career in float building. Studying graphic arts at Gateway and UW-Parkside, Jerry had Charlie Arnold (1936-1975) as a mentor. Arnold who built 80% of the parade floats from 1936 to 1974, motivated Jerry to start Laughing Giant Design in 1975 dedicated to float design and fabrication. In addition to floats, Jerry has also participated each year with the Summer Art Project of the Racine Downtown Association.

One of Treiber's floats ...

In the early 70’s when Jerry started there were 17 major commercial floats in the Fourth of July parade: Johnson Wax, Walker, Twin Disc, Rexnord, Modine, Jacobson, Western Publishing, and Case to name a few. Floats in those times were contracted for around $3,000, where float entries today can exceed $40,000.

According to Treiber, in the commercial division today SC Johnson builds the only true float. Jerry’s definition of a float is a motorized type design from a vehicle such as a bus or truck chassis. Vehicles were stripped down to the engine, drivers’ seat, and chassis and then floats are built around and upon them. Drivers would have small sight hole and radio contact with spotters outside for safety. Others define a float as a decorated platform towed behind a vehicle. Jerry’s vehicle type float designs have placed in the top 3 award categories each year, except the last two when his floats were not involved in the commercial category.

Many companies that participated in the ‘70’s and 80’s would use their floats for the Racine and Kenosha parades. The two communities would coordinate the dates of two days together. With the Racine parade falling on a Friday, then the floats were driven to Kenosha taking up to a 3-hour drive for the average 15-mile trip. One year, one of Jerry’s floats was 90’ long and 16’ high which would be larger than today’s standard semi-truck and trailer. Logistics of movement of the floats required a police escort, public utilities planning for power line height, and then a staging area for the next day at the host community.

Another ...

The large commercial floats were used not only for two parades in July, but often once again in summer for company picnics and again at Christmas time for the Downtown Christmas parade. The floats were stored wherever the sponsoring company could find room, especially by November or December when Azarian would need space for boat storage. Many of the components of the floats were stored, recycle, or reused for the theme of the current years float design.

The change in popular float design to a “trailered” type display is what you see most on the parade route today. This has caused a reduction of commercial float encased vehicle type float entries. Fewer volunteers volunteering their time and concerns over the liability of employers are also reasons mentioned by Jerry. Prior to the recession, companies are choosing to spend precious marketing and promotion dollars on the most urgent of needs to generate sales nationally and internationally rather than on community exposure.

Jerry sees the trend in parade floats continuing to be quicker, cheaper and less intricate in design. Since Racine is noted in USA Today as one of the “10 Great Places to Your Patriotic Colors” and having one of the largest parades in the Midwest, the tradition of float building and design will continue. Thousands of people for years to come will enjoy Treiber’s creative talents.

And another ...

United Way coordinates flood donations

After meeting with flood victims from the Lincoln and Island Park areas to better understand their needs, United Way of Racine County is now asking people to bring donated items to Lutheran High School, 251 Luedtke Ave.

Desperately needed items include clothing for all ages, towels, bedding, laundry soap, sanitizing cleaning supplies, animal food, toys, dehumidifiers, washers and dryers. Drop-off times are Wednesday, July 9, from 8 a.m. to noon and Thursday, July 10, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Please enter the back parking lot of Lutheran High School and look for signs indicating the entrance.

Families in the area affected by the flooding will be notified early next week of the distribution date and time. Identification and proof of residency will be required.

“It was alarming to see how devastating this flood was and how much people have lost,” said Tiffani Pinkerton, Community Impact Manager of United Way. “As we spoke to families, everyone was so thankful for the tremendous support offered by the community.”

For more information on how you can help or to arrange for donations of large items, please contact Ron Thomas, Community Services Director of United Way at 262-635-7499, ext. 112.

July 2, 2008

Property Transfers, June 23

Here are this week's property transfers ... nothing big stood out this week. Let us know if you see any important sales.

Property Transfers, June 23

Mason raises $64K for re-election; Krupp breaks $100K

State Rep. Cory Mason, 62nd Assembly District, D-Racine, is doing his best to scare away Republican challengers. The first-term incumbent announced Wednesday he's raised $64,000 for re-election. Here's the full release (and an update on Marge Krupp, below):

Racine- State Representative Cory Mason (D-Racine) announced today that he has raised over $64,000 for his re-election campaign. In addition, Rep. Mason has built a broad coalition of financial support from over 600 Racine County residents.

In making this announcement Rep. Mason said, "It is important to me to not only raise the resources I will need to run a vigorous campaign, but to do it the right way. The majority of my donors are from Racine County, and my average donation is less than $55. I want my campaign to reflect the interests of those that I serve, so it is very important to me that I continue to build grassroots support from around the community."

Rep. Mason is in his first term as a state Representative. He serves on the following committees: Natural Resources, Education, and Jobs and the Economy. Mason is a graduate of Case High School and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is an active member of the River Alliance of Wisconsin and serves as a commissioner to the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Racine.

Mason filed his campaign finance report with the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board today.
Filing period for candidates ends on July 8. So far, Mason has one opponent: Keith Deschler, who ran unsuccessfully for the seat in 2002 and 2004.

Marge Krupp, one of five Democrats vying for the nomination to run against Congressman Paul Ryan, R-1st District, announced today that she broke the $100,000 barrier of credibility. It's looking like she has a shot at winning the Democratic nomination. That'd be a major accomplishment for First Congressional Dems who haven't been able to overcome the cross-dressing Republicans who nominate Doc Thomas every two years.

p.s. (pre-emptive strike): Yes, dear commenters, we'll post Vos' totals as soon as they're available.

The Saving Energy Bill ... who isn't for that?
And who's against oil price gouging...

In this day of $4 gasoline (Someday all-too-soon, we'll look back on these parlous times as the good ol' days of cheap fuel.), who could oppose saving energy through public transportation?

Let's get Congress to pass a bill called the "Saving Energy Through Public Transportation Act of 2008."

The findings of said bill could have such neat bullet points as:
-- In 2007, people in the U.S. took more than 10.3 billion trips using public transportation, the highest level in 50 years.

--Public transportation use saves fuel, reduces emissions and saves money...

--The direct petroleum savings attributable to public transportation use is 1.4 billion gallons per year (and when secondary effects are taken into account... more than 11 million gallons of gasoline per day)...

--Households that use public transportation save an average of $6,251 every year.
And so on.

Why, such a bill could include grants to improve public transportation in urban areas, say $750 million in 2008 and 2009; and another $100 million a year for non-urban areas.

The money could be used to reduce bus fares, acquire clean fuel equipment, expand commuter services, expand public transportation or maintain intercity service.

There's even a provision to establish up to five vanpool pilot programs -- whatever thy are.

And "Increased federal share for end-of-line fixed guideway stations," which is reimbursement for purchase and construction of park-and-ride lots serving "a commuter bus route that is more than 20 miles in length." (My favorite provision is in this section: The grant, it says, "shall be for 100 percent of the net capital cost of the project unless the grant recipient requests a lower grant percentage." Oh, yeah; I bet that happens often!)

The bill, according to its author, Rep. James Oberstar, D-MN, "provides much needed support to states and public transportation agencies and also increases incentives for commuters to choose transit options, thereby reducing their transportation-related energy consumption and our nation’s reliance on foreign oil."

Further explanations of what the bill would accomplish are HERE, written by Oberstar and Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon.

And so on and so forth. Who could be opposed to such a bill? Not many. The House passed HR 6052 last Friday (read it HERE) and sent it on to the Senate. The vote was 322 to 98, and somewhat bi-partisan with 231 Democrats in favor, none opposed; and 91 Republicans in favor, 98 opposed. (Roll call HERE.)

Paul Ryan voted no.

No word from Ryan on why he opposed the bill -- although I would bet its $1.7 billion price tag had a lot to do with it.

But wait, there's more!

Last week, the House dealt with another apple-pie-and-baseball-titled bill, the "Federal Price Gouging Prevention Act." Actually, the full title is even better: A bill to protect consumers from price-gouging of gasoline and other fuels, and for other purposes. Full text HERE.

Who could be against that, you ask?

Not to put too fine a point on it, the bill prohibits anyone from selling gasoline during a presidentially-declared energy emergency "at a price that is... unconscionably excessive; and... taking unfair advantage of the circumstances related to an energy emergency to increase prices unreasonably."

You'd be for that, right? Well, Ryan wasn't. The measure received 276 yeas (225 Democrats and 51 Republicans) and 146 nos (1 Democrat and 145 Republicans) -- not enough yeas for the necessary two-thirds majority. Roll call HERE.

July 1, 2008

Two retail chains with stores here talk of closures...

The new Starbucks taking shape on Green Bay Road

The retail landscape may be changing soon. Two major chains with stores in Racine talked about closure plans today, although neither gave any definitive information about the stores here.

First up, Starbucks, the Seattle coffee retailer with 7,950 outlets in the U.S., announced plans to close 600 of them, those that are "underperforming." No details were forthcoming. Meanwhile, Starbucks is proceeding with plans to open a new store in the former location of Jo to Go, a drive-in coffee purveyor. Remodeling has been under way at the site for a couple of weeks. (Picture above taken on June 18.)

And then Steve and Barry's, the $10 logo sweatshirt and apparel retailer with 270 large mall stores around the country, is said to be on the brink of bankruptcy, desperately seeking $30 million to keep operating for the rest of the year.

Steve and Barry's occupied a premiere part of Regency Mall until last January, when it gave up its place for Burlington Coat Factory and made plans to move into somewhat smaller space next to JC Penney. The new Steve and Barry's opened a few weeks ago.

Regency Mall Manager Curt Pruitt said, "our company is working closely with them," and no plans for closing our new Steve and Barry's have been discussed.

Steve and Barry's before the move within Regency Mall

SCJ products: Why you can feel good about them

'Companies must take the lead.' -- Fisk Johnson

“When you reach for any SC Johnson product, you can feel good about it.”

SCJ Chairman Fisk Johnson says that in a TV commercial, and his words are supported by data reported today in the company's 2008 Public Report, its 17 year of reporting progress on its sustainable development objectives.

Some of the highlights:
--SCJ gets nearly 40% of its global electricity from renewable energy
--It removes more than 61 million pounds of volatile organic chemicals from the environmental footprint of the company's products since 2001
--It is reducing, reusing and recycling a record 95 percent of the solid waste at Waxdale
--The company launched nearly 175 new products in 2007
--It has donated $168 million to the communities it serves in the past 10 years.
Some of the "smaller" sustainability factoids are stunning:
--Lighter pallets reduce diesel fuel consumption by 80,000 gallons a year
--Lighter-weight bottles eliminate 1 million pounds of plastic annually
--SC Johnson reuses nearly 20% of the plastic recycled from its Ziploc bag manufacturing plant
--A new wind turbine in the Netherlands will produce 6.1 million kilowatt hours of green electricity every year
--SCJ's efforts in South Africa have brought malaria-prevention information to 1.12 million people.
In keeping with the company's conservation goals, SCJ limits distribution of the printed edition of the report -- preferring the internet -- and makes a contribution to Conservation International to help offset the carbon emissions of printing and distribution. This year's contribution supports the restoration of degraded lands in southwest China, producing timber and fuel wood for local communities, fostering employment and providing a habitat for the red panda and the Bengal tiger.

Download the full 56-page report HERE.

"As a business leader, a scientist, a citizen and a father, I believe that companies must take the lead," Johnson wrote in the report's cover letter. "We can’t leave it to watchdog groups or federal regulators. The government can’t test everything or monitor everyone. And we should not want it to — companies should understand the science and have the sincerity to do what is right. We all must be responsible...

"For us, responsibility is both a holistic and continuous process that extends beyond the products we make. We’ve been reducing our use of fossil fuels for almost a decade. We’re helping protect families from diseases like malaria and dengue. We invest annually in the communities where we operate, to help make them better because we are there.

"That, above all, is what SC Johnson is all about. We are 12,000 people in more than 70 countries around the world, working each and every day to set the pace. To live up to very high standards. To take the lead and do what’s right."

Racine Unified implements four-day work week

Racine Unified School District is switching to a four-day work week for the rest of the summer, "in an effort to conserve energy while reducing district costs as well as decrease commuting expenses for employees."

The district will be "piloting" a summer hours program for summer clerical and administrative staff from Monday, July 7, through Aug. 1. During this time, district departments will be open longer Monday-Thursday and closed on Fridays. The extended Monday through Friday hours will be determined by the individual departments, and families are encouraged to contact departments in advance for available hours.

The longer hours Monday-Thursday will also assist working families as many district departments will be open later so parents may receive services after normal working hours. Families that have a need on Fridays should call the district's main number at (262)635-5600.

LEE's roller coaster ride continues...

(Updated below at the end of the orignal post.)

Ya gotta love some financial analysts. After the barn door has opened and the livestock escaped they tell you it might rain next week.

And so it goes with Deutsche Bank and its analysis of Lee Enterprises (NYSE:LEE), parent of the Journal Times, which we told you yesterday was having a particularly bad year (and in April, and in January, and...)

Today Deutsche Bank downgraded its recommendation of Lee to "hold." In other words, kids, don't rush out and buy any ... even though the price OMG! OMG! OMG! has just fallen through the floor again! Yesterday, it dropped 41 cents, to yet another historic low of $3.99 a share. (Remember, it had been at $49 four years ago, and at $21 last year at this time.)

Well, that was so yesterday. This morning, Lee fell another jaw-dropping 53 cents; it's down to $3.46 a share as I write this. (A 27-year low, according the Associated Press.) There was no apparent reason for today's decline, except for Deutsche Bank's downgrade, which is plenty.

Deutsche Bank has lowered its price target from $14 (good luck with that!) to $6 (ditto).

StreetInsider.com writes today:
Deutsche Bank cited a difficult ad environment, no foreseeable positive catalysts, and concerns over the company’s leverage as justification for the Hold rating.

In addition, the firm said, "Lee is trading at 6.4x FY08 EV/EBITDA, slightly above the newspaper peer average of 6.2x. We believe a premium to the group is warranted due to the company's small/mid-sized market portfolio, which gives LEE a superior growth profile. Our DCF suggests a $6 value, while our ROIC analysis points to $7. Nonetheless, the increasing possibility that LEE may have to obtain covenant relief, cut/suspend its dividend, or take other emergency actions leads us to conclude that the shares will continue to trade below fundamental value."
Lee wasn't the only newspaper stock hammered yesterday. MediaGeneral also fell 9%, and McClatchey -- stumbling over its purchase of Knight-Ridder much as Lee has suffered from its acquisition of Pulitzer newspapers -- fell 5% and was kicked off the Russell 1,000 list of America's largest publicly traded companies. Editor & Publisher magazine's story of yesterday's declines is HERE. No doubt there'll be more to say tomorrow...

Overall, the value of 11 major newspaper companies has dropped $23 billion in the past six months, according to an industry blog, Reflections of a Newsosaur. Now, don't you feel guilty for having taken two papers from that newsrack when you were a kid? Here's the chart they prepared. As always, click to enlarge:
Update, 7/2: OK, it's now the tomorrow we were talking about yesterday. LEE opened badly, dropping to $3.19 a share before climbing back to around $3.40. More speculation came from an article in the San Diego Reader, where Don Bauder wrote about "Newspapers' debt dilemma." Here's what he had to say about Lee:
Lee Enterprises... was supposed to feast on its collection of smaller papers with little competition... But Lee piled up a lot of debt to buy a big paper, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, along with too many smaller ones. In its most recent quarter, Lee lost $713 million. In the quarter a year earlier, it had made $11.2 million. A year ago, the stock was above $20; now it’s around $4. The dividend yield is above 17 percent. Obviously, that won’t remain. “Lee Enterprises’ financial health is poor,” says analyst Tom Corbett of Morningstar, a stock-rating firm. “Lee has assumed a substantial debt load from its earlier acquisitions, and the company is closing in on the upper limits of its debt covenants.” That is a polite way of saying that it could default on its debt.
As have other reporters, Bauder notes that some other newspaper chains are in worse shape than Lee. He cites Gatehouse Media, an upstate New York chain:
GateHouse’s stock has plunged 85 percent. It’s now below $3. Astonishingly, the company has not dropped its dividend. The yield is almost a staggering 33 percent. I asked the company’s vice president of investor relations, Mark Maring, if he gets any questions about that yield. “Every day,” he joked. Don’t expect that dividend to last.
As LEE climbed to $3.38 this afternoon, its dividend yield is 22.3%. GateHouse Media, at $2.41 per share, is holding at 33.2%...

Career Industries collects items for soldiers in iraq

Careers Industries’ Racine and Burlington CARE (Careers Advocates Representing Everyone.) committees are collecting items for the soldiers in Iraq, now through Aug. 1.

Items needed are travel-size personal care items such as deodorant, non-aerosol shave gel, shampoo, hand lotion, toothpaste and brushes, hand sanitizer, and Carmex SPF 15.

Non-perishable snack items in their original packaging are also being collected. Examples are canned chips and dips, crackers, chicken or tuna salad kits, microwave popcorn, single bag coffee, hard candy, or canned beef stew.

Other needed items are white socks, small travel games, batteries for small electronics, new and used DVDs and CDs, books, writing tablets and envelopes.

Donations for the soldiers can be brought to the Racine facility at 3502 Douglas Ave or the Burlington facility at 161 Industrial Dr. weekdays between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Careers Industries enriches the lives of people with disabilities through work, care and community. For more information about the collection, call Nicole Herman at 752-4100. For more information on Careers Industries, go to their website.

Supreme Court rules that county can outsource social workers

Below is County Executive Bill McReynolds' statement on the state Supreme Court ruling that the county can outsource its social workers rather than use union employees. The ruling allows the county to save money by paying its social workers less, and is a significant loss for the social workers' union. McReynolds, certainly no fan of unions, "expressed pleasure" at the ruling.

Here's the statement:


Racine – Racine County Executive Bill McReynolds expressed pleasure at today’s Wisconsin Supreme Court decision in a case involving social workers for the Racine County Family Court. The Court rejected a challenge by the union representing county social workers, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 10, to using contract social workers instead of county employees.

Said McReynolds: “The Supreme Court’s decision recognizes two very important principles. First, the Family Court Commissioner, as a member of the judiciary, has broad powers with respect to selecting staff members. Second, in public employment cases, arbitrators must consider all relevant laws, including those that may affect the applicability of collective bargaining agreements.”

“But,” McReynolds added, “What’s more important is that this is a victory for the people of Racine County and for the hard-working social services professionals who work for the Family Court Commissioner.”

To provide social worker services for families, the Family Court Commissioner can decide whether to hire county employees or contract with independent individuals. In 2004, the decision was made to contract with persons who had provided these services as county employees, but who were eligible, by age and length of service, to retire under the Wisconsin Retirement System.

The shift to contracting with these retirees was intended to ensure that Racine County families would continue to have access to the services of dedicated, experienced social service professionals, but at the same time, to save Racine County taxpayers some employee compensation costs. The union objected.

A state arbitrator found for the union, but that decision was overturned by a Kenosha County circuit court judge who heard the case because all Racine County circuit court judges recused themselves. That circuit court decision was reversed by the Wisconsin Court of Appeals; and, in turn, today’s Wisconsin Supreme Court decision reverses the Court of Appeals.

McReynolds observed: “This case was brought by the union; it was not supported by the individuals who retired and then provided contracted services. This decision, rejecting the union’s position, is good news for those retirees and for the people of Racine County.”

June 30, 2008

140+ bands, floats and groups in July 4 Parade

You don't have to take USA Today's word for it, you can see Racine's Fourth Fest parade for yourself this Friday. We're confident it will live up to pre-billing as one of the best in the country.

This year's July 4 parade has 140 bands, marching groups and floats scheduled!

The parade will march a 2.6 mile route, from its starting point at Goold and Main Streets. Marchers will head down Main to 14th Street, then west to the Golden Rondelle.

The pre-parade will begin at 8:15 a.m., with the parade itself starting at 9 a.m. Don't forget, fireworks on the Lake Michigan shoreline, near North Beach, will begin about 9 p.m. to end Independence Day with the proper bang!

Fourth Fest president is Jim Deibler of Sew'n Save; Mr. Fourth Fest, selected each year by the parade committee in recognition of volunteer efforts to make the parade a success, is Mark Chaffee. Honorary parade marshal will be Brewers' bullpen catcher Marcus Hanel, a 1989 graduate of Horlick High School and a resident of Racine (with his wife and three young kids).

Theme for this year's parade is "A Day at the Circus.” In keeping with that, of course we need clowns. Here are five, including trainer Janis Kaser, retired Ringling Bros. Circus clown "Sneakers." Also pictured are Paige Macemon who wanted to be a clown, and had to have her mom, Heather Macemon, join to bring her to the workshop... and along came grandma, Shari Poulsen -- three generations. Then we have Sister Alice Rademacher, a nun who happened to have a costume her mother had made her quite some time ago that she wanted to put to good use.

Our 72nd annual Independence Day Parade is sponsored in part by Racine on the Lake, CNH, Johnson Bank, Twin Disc, SC Johnson, In-Sink-Erator, Time Warner Cable, Modine Manufacturing, Tommy’s Chicago Dogs, Norco Inc., Central States Mortgage, Bank of Elmwood, Purath-Strand Funeral Home, Racine Dental, Andis Company, Great Northern Corporation, Putzmeister, Ace Stamping, The Blood Center of Wisconsin, and Wal-Mart.

The fireworks along the Lake Michigan shoreline are sponsored by Frank Boucher Chevrolet, and a special ground-display of fireworks is sponsored by the Hispanic Business Professionals Association. Educators Credit Union is sponsoring the barrel campaign, where parade-goers can donate to help offset expenses.

After the break we've listed the complete parade marching order:
1 Fourth Fest President - Jim Deibler
2 Golly Giants Stilt Walkers
3 Agerholm-Gross Det. #346 Marine Corps League
4 Racine Concert Band
5 Mayor Becker & Mayor Hector Alveraz Conteras,
Zapotlanejo, Mexico
6 La Tapatia
7 Hispanic Business and Professional Asociation
8 Dignitaries from Sister City Zapotlanejo, Mexico
9 Miss Latina Racine Scholarship Corp.
10 Mr. Fourth Fest - Mark Chaffee
11 Honorary Parade Marshal - Marcus Hanel
11A Koos for Kids - Britany Michna
12 Racine Youth Sports
12A Alderman David Maack
12B Alderman Anderson
12C Alderman DeHahn
12D Alderman Mozel
12E County Executive Bill McReynolds
12F Jim Ladwig - Register of Deeds
13 Racine County Clerk of Courts, Rose Lee
13A Miss Racine Scholarship Pageant, Laura Kuzia
13B Dream Girls USA & Miss Junior Racine
14 Congressman Paul Ryan
15 State Senator John Lehman
16 State Representative Robert Turner
17 State Representative Cory Mason
18 WRJN - Don Rosen
19 Racine Scouts Drum & Bugle Corps.
20 VFW Post 1391
21 S.E. Wisconsin Red Cross
22 First Team Troopers Color Guard
23 Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 767
24 336 Firefighters U.S. Army Reserves
25 Boys of 76 Colorguard
26 American Legion Post 310 Bronze Float
27 Rainbow Corner Childcare
28 Otto Last - Model T Ford
29 Racine 4th Fest Calliope
30 Honorary Society 40/8 ET
31 The Baby Boomers Bikers
32 Care Bear Child Care
33 The Martial Arts Center Inc.
34 American Professional Driving School
35 Lighthouse Brigade of Racine
36 Boy Scouts of America, SE Wis. Council Inc.
37 Racine Studio of Performing Arts
38 Harbor Light Yacht Club
39 Blood Center of Wisconsin
40 Debbie Hahn - Miniature Horses
41 Knights of Columbus 697/Assembly 207
42 Prospect Heights Community Living
43 Modine
44 Atonement Lutheran Church
45 Old Timers Athletic Club
46 Donald Dinges - 1946 Tractor
47 Celtic Nation Pipe & Drums Band
48 R/K CAA Head Start
49 Racine P.H. Club of Zembo Temple #70
50 Wisconsin Wildcats Sport Organization
51 Roma Lodge
52 Vittoria Colonna- Italian Women
53 Horlick High School - pom-pons
54 Horlick High School Student Government
55 Horlick High School Cheerleaders
56 Wisconsin Lutheran School
57 McMynn Tower Apartment
58 City of Racine Parks, Recreation & Cultural Services Dept.
59 St. Patrick's Church
60 First Friends Animal Rescue, Inc.
61 Camp Anokijig
62 Milwaukee Alarm
63 Trinity Lutheran Church and School
64 Junior Lighthouse Brigade
65 Racine Chapter DeMolay
66 Job's Daughters International
67 Racine Bell City Lodge #18
68 Masters of Movement Arts
69 501st Legion- Midwest Garrison
70 Nerds on Site
71 Greg Mandala & Family
72 Leadership Racine Alumni Association
73 Alicia Villa Realty Inc.
74 Cancelled
75 American Diabetes Association
76 Wells Fargo Bank NA
77 Big Fish Bash
78 UW-Parkside Alumni Association
79 United Way of Racine County
80 Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare-All Saints
81 Christ Church
82 Sturtevant Memorial Post VFW 9948
83 Church-Iglesia Canaan Temple de Restauration
84 It's All About Racine Radio Show - Mr. Racine Mark Eickhorst
85 American Legion First District
86 New Day Drum & Bugle Corps
87 U-Bake
88 Racine Area Soccer Association
89 Trinity Lutheran Church of Caledonia
90 New Star Discovery Contest
91 Jesus Alive Ministries Inc.
92 Johnson Family of Companies
93 The Ultimate Kid Fest Company, LLC
94 Park High School Pom-Pons
95 Park High School Cheerleaders
96 Racine Zoo
97 Racine Public Library
98 Hispanic Business Alliance
99 Penguin Players
100 Academy of Dance
101 Rocky Rococco Pizza & Pasta
102 Love Park Shrine Club Revolving Carousel
103 Racine Montessori School
104 Marie Oliver Realty
105 The Gospel Lighthouse
106 John Paul II Academy
107 Blue Star Mother's of Southeast Wisconsin
108 Boy Scout Troop 203 Drum & Bugle Corps
109 Racine Yacht Club Youth Sailors
110 Navy Club Ship 60 of Racine
111 Cancelled
112 Lincoln Lutheran
113 5th Street Yacht Club
114 Shadows of Life Band
115 Carthage College
116 Girl Scout Troop 5822
117 Caledonia Baseball/Softball
118 Gamma Alpha Omega Sorority Inc.
119 Designated Driver/Safe Ride
120 Southeast Gateway Group of the Sierra Club
121 Gentile Scion
122 Black Belt Karate Studio
123 Cancelled
124 Papa Murphy's
125 Cheryl McCrary & Heir-Born Praise Band
126 Century 21 Savaglio & Cape
127 Hunterz Bar & Grill
128 Racine Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution
129 The Junior League of Racine & Racine Kenosha Builders Assn.
130 Charles DeDyne
131 DeDyne Dance Group
132 Racine Raiders Football Club
133 Racine Gymnastics Center
134 Racine Moose Family Center #437
135 Racine Rotary West
136 Telstar Racing & Wayout Willard's Wild World of Motorsports
137 The World of Bridal Fashions "ANAHI"
138 Kilties Drum & Bugle Corps
139 Red Apple Elementary
140 Acme General Purpose Band

Bucket still a friendly puppy, despite mistreatment

Bucket is a 8- to 10-month-old male pit bull puppy.

He got his rather strange name when concerned citizens found him tied up on a highway with only a single bucket of water. His spirits were still good but his poor feet where in terrible shape: the hot pavement burned the pads off poor Bucket's feet. He is recovering well and does not hold anything against people even though someone treated him so poorly.

He is a happy, friendly pup, light brindle and white, who will need training and walks on soft surfaces until the skin grows all the way back on his feet.

He can be seen at Countryside Humane Society, 2706 Chicory Road, or call (262) 554-6699.

Countryside is full of very adoptable dogs, cats and kittens. Maybe it's time you stopped in to save one today.

Our last adoptable dog, Cody, a coon hound, has been adopted by a woman whose last hound died recently after 15 loving years. I'm told he now lives somewhere near me, but haven't heard him baying at the full moon yet...