July 12, 2008

Sun, sand, bikinis and ...

Sun, sand, cold beer, girls running around in bikinis. All this in addition to the Dragon Boat races and festival this weekend.

Life doesn't get much better.

Oh, and there was volleyball, too. Or so they tell me.

Here are some shots from the third annual Racine Open, a stop on the Extreme Volleyball Professional Tour held Saturday at North Beach. If you missed it ... well, it continues Sunday. Life really is good.

Saturday was for the pros; Sunday is for amateurs. But the competition should be just as interesting to watch. And admission is free.

Spectators doing the wave; why else run it?

Dragon boat races bring excitement to lakefront

The Pearl Division final with Red Hot Rebels in front


Diamond Division:
1st: Angelfish, 1:38.35
2nd: Kenosha West Row-tarians, 1:38.62
3rd: People Powered Propulsion, 1:46.39
4th: Calvary Clippers, 1:46.79
Jade Division
1st: Pale Ale Paddlers, 1:43.01
2nd: Wet Kennels, 1:43.17
3rd: Team RFD, 1:44.26
4th: WIN Dragons, 1:52.68
Pearl Division
1st: Red Hot Rebels, 1:46,58
2nd: Rowing Stones, 1:49.01
3rd: Aquaholics, 1:53.75
Race Director Jessica MacPhail congratulates Cap'n Hook

For those of you who keep track of these things, take note: This is the second year in a row that St. Cat's (Angelfish) has won the fastest division.

Original Post: Dragon Boat racing isn't as easy as it's cracked up to be -- not with rough waters, mud and fog to deal with even before the races begin.

Today's Dragon Boat races at Samuel Myers Park -- they'll continue through most of the day, weather permitting -- dealt with all three problems, and adjusted somewhat by reducing the number of people on each boat to 16, from the original 20, and after two races they even took off the dragon heads. Oh, sacrilege!!

Still, a good crowd was lined up to watch on the The Hill, and the food and entertainment at Samuel Myers Park are as good as ever.

Teams board for their heat...

Great view from the cheap (free) seats on The Hill

And, of course, an exciting photo finish

Pictures of the parade that opened the festival are HERE.

John Polodna has two slideshows set to music: HERE and HERE.

July 11, 2008

Smoke-free celebration set at Shillings Irish Pub

The Racine on the Lake Tobacco Free Coalition (try to say that fast three times) is holding a celebration in honor of smoke-free air. Fittingly, the party will be held at Shillings Irish Pub, 611 Wisconsin Ave., the city's first -- and only -- smoke-free bar. Shillings banned tobacco on May 1 of this year.

The event, on Tuesday, July 22, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., will feature smoke-free air, smoke-free clothes and smoke-free food. Oh, and door prizes, special giveaways and a 10 percent discount to everyone who brings the flyer we've printed here. (Click on it to enlarge, then print it.)

Although Shillings is the only Racine bar to have gone smoke-free (the lounge in the Mariott Hotel also doesn't permit smoking, but it's located in Mount Pleasant), the coalition has issued a Smoke Free Restaurant Guide listing a number of family and fast food restaurants, as well as some other businesses, that have gone smoke-free.

"All restaurants and bars should be smoke-free," the brochure states. "This is a health issue. Secondhand smoke exposure is dangerous to staff and patrons. Secondhand smoke causes the same diseases in non-smokers as it does in smokers: heart attacks, asthma attacks and lung cancer.

"Restaurant and bar workers are affected too. They inhale enough secondhand smoke everyday to suffer from the same health effects as pack-a-day smokers. Only completely smoke free restaurants and bars are safe. Ventilation systems and non-smoking areas do not protect you and your family."

After the jump, we've printed the Racine on the Lake Tobacco Free Coalition's list of smoke-free establishments.

The Grounds Keeper, 327 Main St.
Wilson’s Coffee and Tea, 3306 Washington Ave.

Family Restaurants:
Salutes, 314 Main St.
Salinas, 1221 Douglas Ave.
Piglets Ham and Egger, 1401 N. Main St.
La Condesa, 1743 State St.
The Charcoal Grill, 3839 Douglas Ave.
Old Country Buffet, 4901 Washington Ave.

Shilling's Pub, 611 Wisconsin Ave.

Fast Food:
Arby’s Roast Beef, 3048 Douglas Ave
Chick-Fil-A, 5802 Durand Ave.
Taco Bell, 3358 Douglas Ave.
Subway, 5538 Durand Ave.
Subway, 520 Monument Sq.
Chicago Style Subs, 1536 Marquette St.
McDonalds, 2100 Lathrop Ave
McDonalds, 1520 State St.
Rocky Rococo, 6631 Washington Ave.
Quizno’s, 205 6th St.
Domino’s Pizza, 5100 Washington Ave.
Domino’s Pizza, 3743 Douglas Ave.
Burger King, 13348 Washington Ave.
Hardee’s, 1235 S. Green Bay Rd.
Pizza Hut, 5000 Washington Ave.

Yellow Ginger, 2300 Rapids Dr.
Lee’s Deli, 2615 Washington Ave.
St. Mary’s Medical Center, 3801 Spring St.
Wilbur’s BBQ and Catering, 318 6th St.
O&H Bakery, 4006 Durand Ave.
Skate Town, 1825 Sycamore Ave.
The Market, 1949 Racine St.
Ye Olde Cheese Box, 3315 Washington Ave
Sausage Kitchen Deli & Restaurant, 1706 Rapids Dr.

What the well-dressed dragon boat oarsman wears...

Lion from Whitefish Bay Kung Fu club led the parade,
and performed its Lion dance to kick off the festival.

Oh, yeah ... dragon boats, ready for Saturday's races

Full schedule HERE.

Lee's second-largest investor bails...

Speaking of the stock market -- as we were in the previous post -- there's more bad news today for Lee Enterprises, parent of the Journal Times and 50 other dailies, including the Wisconsin State Journal in Madision.

Yes, Lee's stock is still down -- it's at a 28-year-low -- although unchanged this morning at $3.34 per share, up from its $3.16 low earlier this week. But the news is that Lee's second-largest shareholder, FMR LLC, a Boston investment company that had held a 13.12% stake in the company, has sold all but 1.2%. Putting those percentages against Lee's 44.9 million outstanding shares, means FMR has sold approximately 5.3 million shares. Just a year ago, those shares were worth $112 million; today, they'd bring just $17 million. Ouch!

(Of course, the stock market being what it is, somebody had enough confidence in Lee to buy all those shares FMR sold... )

Lee is, by no means, the only newspaper company having an
annus horribilis, as the Queen might put it. Two other chains also hit all-time lows this week, and three more are at their lowest point in over a decade. Newspaper junkies go HERE for the details. The rest of you, go out and buy a paper, even if just for the horoscope and crossword puzzle, or to train the puppy on.

Ryan to co-host Squawk Box on CNBC

If you get up early Monday morning, you can catch Rep. Paul Ryan, R-WI, 1st District, on national TV.

Well, cable, but it's practically the same thing. Ryan will be co-hosting CNBC's Squawk Box (Brings Wall Street to Main Street.), talking about the country's economic challenges -- "both our current economic uncertainty and our looming fiscal crisis," as an aide put it -- and, no doubt, also bringing up his Roadmap for America's Future proposal.

CNBC is Channel 47 on Time-Warner cable, for those of you who, like me, ignore the financial channels in times when the stock market is tanking -- the Dow's down 184 as I type this. Ryan will be on from 6 to 8 a.m. For more about the show, visit its website.

July 10, 2008

Superintendent Shaw? Strong candidate emerges for Unified's vacancy

WEAC President Stan Johnson (left) presents the Friend of Education Award to former Menomonee Falls School District Superintendent James Shaw in 2001.

Geez, where was this guy a few months ago?

Dr. James Shaw, a professor at UW-Madison, is the surprise front-runner for Racine Unified's vacant superintendent's job. He also looks like the best candidate yet to apply for the job. Shaw has been a teacher, administrator and researcher, served as head of the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators and was named state superintendent of the year. (Click here to download his CV.)

Plus, a quick check on Google turned up no skeletons in his closet - already a big improvement over previous finalists. The funny/sad part of this: Shaw contacted Unified for the opening. Go figure, you post a job opening and candidates apply without hiring a search firm for $30,000.

Dr. Shaw, welcome to Racine.

Here's the full release from Unified:
RUSD School Board to Interview Superintendent Candidate

The Racine Unified School Board will be interviewing Dr. James Shaw for the Superintendent of Schools position on Monday, July 14. Dr. Shaw contacted the district's attorney last month to inquire about the vacancy and to discuss if his leadership would be mutually beneficial. After a review of Dr. Shaw's qualifications, the school board has agreed to interview him next week. The School Board will update the parents, staff, and community on the next steps, if necessary, in the process after the interview.

Dr. Shaw currently serves as a clinical professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he views his role to better connect University research and leadership practice to improve public education. His goal is to advance leadership practices that promote equitable, high quality student learning, as well as systemic organizational and professional learning. His leadership experience at the University includes serving as Director of the Wisconsin Idea Executive PhD Program and Coordinator of the Master Administrator Capstone Certificate Program.

Dr. Shaw's leadership experience in K-12 public education includes serving as CESA Agency Administrator, Superintendent of Schools, School Business Manager, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Director of Pupil Services, School Psychologist, and Social Studies Teacher. Before joining UW-Madison, he served as Agency Administrator for CESA #2, which provides programs and services for 72 school districts and has an annual budget exceeding $8 million. He served as Superintendent of Schools for the School District of Menomonee Falls for 10 years before joining CESA. He also worked for the School District of Kettle Moraine for 17 years serving as Assistant Superintendent for Business, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, Director of Student Services, and School Psychologist. He began his education career as a Social Studies teacher in Waukesha.

Dr. Shaw received his BA in Psychology and Philosophy from Marquette University; his MS in Educational Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; his PhD in Educational Administration from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has been recognized for his work in education by many organizations. Some of Dr. Shaw's recognitions include the Distinguished Service Award from the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators, Distinguished Achievement Award from the University of Wisconsin-Madison's School of Education, Friend of Education Award from the Wisconsin Education Association, and Wisconsin Superintendent of the Year from the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators and the American Association of School Administrators.

Dr. Shaw has several published works including: Doubling Student Performance: A School Leaders Guide to Closing Achievement Gaps and Improving Learning for All Students, Comprehensive Leadership Development: A Portrait of Programs, The Master Administrator Capstone Certificate: Professional Development for Advanced K-12 Educational Leaders, and Instructional Leadership and Technology. He also serves on the Board of Directors for Phi Delta Kappa's University of Wisconsin chapter, a member of the American Educational Research Association, an advisory board member for the Wisconsin New Teacher Project, and a member and former president of the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators.

Racine's Obama HQ will open July 16

The Barack Obama campaign opened its Kenosha headquarters today, and Racine's will open in less than a week.

The campaign headquarters for the Democratic presidential nominee will be located in the former Historic Century Market, 522 Sixth Street. It will have its grand opening celebration on Wednesday, July 16, at 6 p.m. (Update: Among those expected to attend: State Sen. John Lehman, Reps. Bob Turner and Cory Mason, and Mayor Gary Becker.)

Meg Andrietsch, a trustee in the Democratic Party of Racine County, said the office will have room for phone banks, offices, places for people to prepare literature drops.

Andrietsch, an Obama delegate to the Democratic National Convention in August, in Denver, said she has sent out an email call for volunteers to get the space cleaned up, and for furniture. "And food -- brownies, cookies, whatever -- these young volunteers always need food!"

Modine raises parts prices 15% ... you're not immune

Modine Manufacturing Company announced today that it is raising prices for all parts by at least 15 percent.

That's the second recent major price increase from a major Racine manufacturer; last week, Case New Holland announced a 5 percent price increase for all its agricultural tractors.

"These actions reflect the reality of the current business environment," said James R. Rulseh, Modine Regional Vice President - Americas. "They represent one of the ongoing steps necessary to ensure the viability of both our current production and legacy businesses."

Modine's stock dropped 68 cents -- almost 4.5% -- after the price hike announcement, but by the end of the day's trading had recovered more than half that loss, and was down only 29 cents, 2.2%. It finished the day at $12.92 per share, compared to its 52-wk. high and low of $29.95 and $11.62 respectively.

Just because you don't buy Case or Modine equipment, don't think you are immune from these price hikes. I was in Home Depot today, and struck up a conversation with a local handyman/ contractor who was buying 2x4's for a client's basement remodeling project.

"Last year, the woman would have paid $1,000 for the materials," he said. "This year, it's close to $3,000." He pointed to the stack of 2 x 4's as he pushed the handcart out to his truck. "Last year, these were $1.04 apiece. Today, I paid $2.39 each -- and they're not even top grade."

Dragon Boat Festival and races take over lakefront

This is an oar and it works like this...

It was not a pretty sight. The sixteen prospective Dragon Boat oarsmen could barely form two straight lines, much less lift their arms in unison.

This can't end well, I thought to myself, fearing what might happen when they actually sat in a boat ... in the water!

Sixty rowing teams from all over the community -- with names like Bank of Elmwood Turtles, Rowing Stones, Insured Hangover, Drag'n Ass -- have been spending time on Lake Michigan, learning how to row as a team... oh, and not tip the boat over.

Ninety minutes after they began Wednesday night, barely able to paddle up the Root River and under the Main Street bridge on the count of "One, Two Three" from their steersman, the team from Drewco Corporation returned to the dock adjacent to the Chancery.

It looked and sounded like a different team entirely. Mostly synchronized, they paddled in unison. Gone was the lame count; now they stroked to the experienced oarsman's chant: ONE ... MORE ... BEER! they yelled, as the Dragon Boat zipped through the water. (More practice sessions are scheduled this afternoon, from 4 to 7 p.m. by the Chancery.)

We'll be seeing a lot of that this weekend, as the Great Midwest Dragon Boat Festival launches here again, beginning Friday night. It all takes place at Samuel Myers Park. Saturday's races are best viewed from "The Hill" alongside South Main Street between 14th and 16th. Thirty-two four-team races are scheduled, before the championship series late in the afternoon.

Here's the schedule:


5 p.m. Gates open and food and beverage service begins.
6:30 p.m. The teams parade from Festival Hall to Samuel Myers Park.
6:30 p.m. Entertainment from the Fun Factory
7:30 p.m. Opening ceremony in the Main Tent


8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. Racing! Samuel Myers Park; best viewing from The Hill
Noon Entertainment by Hale O Malo Polynesian Revue at Samuel Myers Park Main Tent
5 p.m. Entertainment by Twang Dragons, in the Main Tent
5:30 p.m. Presentation of awards and closing ceremony, Main Tent

Meet the performers:

Twang Dragons provide a rip-roarin', down and dirty, greasy good time. They’ve been tearing up stages big and small with self-penned tunes that fall somewhere between Johnny Cash and Tom Petty. Or think maybe John Hiatt or Steve Earle meets Chrissie Hynde if she sang all twangy-like.

Hale O Malo Polynesian Revue has over a decade of experience delivering high quality and authentic Polynesian entertainment. All of their authentic island dancers are professionally trained by Hawaii's best every year.

The band Fun Factory, fronted by Gary Lekas, has been serving the southeastern Wisconsin area since September of 1996. Armed with the motto: "It's about musicians serving musicians,” Gary has done just that – built a music store in the heart of downtown Racine, filled with musicians, ready, willing, and able to serve the local music community.

Felner search committee chair faces disciplinary action

All this Felner folderol at UW-Parkside. At least none of it affected the students, right?


The Kenosha News had an interesting story yesterday -- alas, not online -- that described the fallout to one group of students, the 106 enrolled in, of all things, a geology class. And now their professor -- not coincidentally the head of the search committee that recommended Felner -- faces disciplinary action.

Here's the start of reporter Gary Kunich's story:
The head of University of Wisconsin-Parkside's search committee faces disciplinary action for not teaching one of her classes during the search process and leaving 106 students in a lurch.

Professor Christine Evans, the department chair for geosciences, repeatedly did not show up for a Wednesday evening Geology 108 course, causing students to complain repeatedly to the dean, Don Cross.

Cross said he had no choice but to cancel the class a few weeks shy of the completion date and give most students an "S" for satisfactorily taking the class instead of a normal letter grade... "This is my 40th year working as a university teacher, and I've never seen anything like this," Cross said.
The complete name of the course, by the way, is "Geology 108: Dirt Appreciation," which seems appropriate as the Felner scandal unfolds.

We're told that there may be some mitigating circumstances -- a broken leg. But other teachers have hobbled to class on crutches (as have some students).

Keep in mind that the search committee was aware of Felner's receiving a "no confidence" vote taken by the majority of his staff at the University of Louisville, but didn't bother passing that information on to UW President Kevin Reilly.

Bicyclist killed in hit-and-run; companion injured

One of two bicyclists hurt in a hit-and-run accident Wednesday night in Raymond died at 1:30 a.m. this morning.

According to an e-mail we received from a friend of the cyclists: "Nancy Sellars died early this morning. She and her friend Tom Chopp were hit by a car when biking Wednesday evening. The driver left the scene; police are investigating. Nancy suffered traumatic injuries... Tom Chopp has several significant injuries including a broken pelvis.

"...As many of you may remember, Nancy just completed Race Across America with a team of Wisconsin cyclists. She was also involved with the Lakefront Marathon, having been in-charge of merchandise for the past couple of years. Nancy had run several ultras, including Ice Age."

The Journal Times' story of the accident -- which went to press earlier in the evening -- is HERE.

July 9, 2008

Vos makes it official

State Rep. Robin Vos is having so much fun in Madison, he'd like to go back this fall. The Caledonia rep put the cherry on the sundae of the news that he's seek re-election with a press release Wednesday.

Before we get to the release, we'll note that Vos is having a remarkable impact on the Assembly. Though relatively young and inexperienced, he's already one of the top Republican politicians in the state. If Paul Ryan ever leaves the First Congressional District, I'd be surprised if Vos didn't make a run for Washington.

He'll have a fight on his hands this fall. Dem challenger Linda Flashinski has name recognition, and I'm sure the state party would love to take out Vos. Vos will have some opposition from pro-KRM voters, but should run very strong west of Highway 32. The district leans Republican, and Vos is probably safe. The only wild card: business interests pushing for commuter rail dump a ton of money into the race.

Alright, enough armchair politicking ... here's Vos' announcement:


Nomination paper circulators collect 1,506 signatures

Racine - Robin Vos (R-Caledonia) announced today – one day after the state filing deadline for all candidates running in November's election – that 1,506 signatures have been gathered in support of his re-election effort to the Wisconsin State Assembly. This is over seven times the amount needed to be placed on the ballot and officials at the Government Accountability Board believe that this is the most signatures collected by any candidate for the Assembly this election cycle.

"I am extremely pleased with the overwhelming support I have received from every part of the district," said Vos. "This outpouring of support for my campaign indicates that Racine County residents are in favor of our message of lower taxes, improving the economy, better schools, and stronger families."

In April, Vos launched his door-to-door campaign to ask his constituents what the most important issues are to them. So far, almost 5,000 homes have been visited, and Vos hopes to knock on every door in the district at least once before the November election.

"Door after door, I hear the same thing," explained Vos. "Families are extremely concerned about the current state of our economy and want us to work on fixing it by lowering taxes, making health care more affordable, and reducing government waste."

Vos said he is not only thankful for the support of those that signed his nomination papers, but also to those that circulated them. Ninety six supporters of Vos personally circulated his nomination papers, collecting signatures from every part of the district, to assist in his reelection effort. Additionally, Robin has the endorsement of almost every town and village official in the 63rd Assembly District.

"One of the most enjoyable parts of my job is talking with the residents of my district," said Vos. "I look forward to having more important conversations as the summer goes on, and also, I look forward to continuing to take these concerns back to Madison to fight for solutions to make Racine County an even better place to live, work, and retire."

Vos officially turned in 400 signatures to the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB) – the maximum allowed by law.

Vos will be opposed by Linda Flashinski, who also earned the right to be placed on the ballot, after submitting 219 signatures – collected only in Caledonia and Mount Pleasant.

The election will be held on November 4.

Library at 21st Century Prep renamed to honor Jack Keating

After 51 years as an educator, Jack Keating finally has a library named after him.

Not at UW-Parkside, where he retires as chancellor in a month, but rather at the 21st Century Preparatory School in Racine, a charter school he helped create and nurture.

Greg Anderegg, president of 21st Century Prep's board, said the school has had "no better friend" than Keating, "who urged us to achieve greatness, opened up the doors of Parkside to us and has been our champion."

Keating's involvement with the school began seven years ago, as the state legislature was debating whether a charter school could come to Racine. When the dust settled, Parkside was "allowed" to create one. Anderegg recalled that UW-Parkside wasn't seeking this permission, "it was thrust upon them by the legislature" after a grass-roots charter school movement arose in the community.

Other colleges have been given similar permission to create charter schools and have done nothing. But within months, Keating "put out a call to the community," Anderegg said, "and a few months later he went before the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents to get 21st Century approved," to serve as "a catalyst" for better schools here.

Dedication of 21st Century Prep School's library in Keating's name is an effort to thank him "for his belief in us, for his unwavering support" since then. Anderegg told Keating, "you will forever be our hero."

The ceremony this morning in the school's library, attended by a group of kindergartners and third graders on-their-best-behavior, as well as by school administrators and board members, included the unveiling of a portrait of Keating and a plaque in his honor.

The kids were told by Dr. Robert Morelan, school superintendent, that they were attending "something very special." Dr. Kelly McFatter, assistant dean at Parkside, who works closely with the school's teachers, taught them a word "for special occasions" from her Louisiana heritage: lagniappe, which she taught them to pronounce lawn yup, and said means "something extra."

Dr. Keating, she told the kids, wanted to leave something extra in Racine when he helped start the school. "Now we want to do something extra for him."

Dr. Carole Johnson, vice president of the 21st Century Prep board, recalled that even before the charter school came about, Keating had talked about bringing Parkside closer to Kenosha and Racine. "Only later we talked about how Racine needed a very special school with a strong relationship to Parkside, teaching students how to be teachers, giving back to the community." She told Keating, "I don't know how we can thank you enough."

Dr. Keating told the kids that when Rod Paige, President Bush's first Secretary of Education, visited 21st Century Prep a few years ago, he said it was "the best charter school in the country." Keating also recalled that when the school was first discussed, he wanted to locate it on the Parkside campus, and offered land for that purpose -- but Sam Johnson, whose SC Johnson Foundation put up $10 million to start the school, said it had to be in the city.

Keating said he was proud to have the library named after him, because "libraries are the center of all learning."

The plaque reads: "This library is dedicated to Chancellor John P. Keating for his outstanding support and commitment to 21st Century Preparatory School. Dr. Keating was instrumental in the creation of this school and his untiring efforts have been sincerely appreciated by the students, staff, administration and board of directors. In appreciation of his service to education and devotion to this school, we dedicate this library in his honor on July 9, 2008."

Kenosha AFL-CIO splits with United Way

Update: The fight here is over a staff position with the United Way. The organization missed its fundraising total and eliminated its labor liaison. The Labor Council didn't like that move and asked its member to withdraw funding from the United Way. Nobody had reliable numbers, but one person estimated labor accounts for 30-40 percent of the United Way's annual donations.

The liaison works with unions to encourage donations to the United Way. The Labor Councils still wants its members to make donations, just not to the United Way.

Original post:

The Kenosha County United Way and the Kenosha AFL-CIO Central Labor Council have split company, according to a letter to union members released today. The announcement marks the end of a four decade relationship between the two organizations.

The letter, written by Central Labor Council President Ronald Frederick, blamed the split on United Way.

"We did not walk away from the forty-plus year relationship with the United Way of Kenosha County," he wrote.

Specifics of the split were not included in the letter, and the reasons behind the separation were not readily available.

From what we can tell, this has no impact on the United Way of Racine County and its labor supporters.

July 8, 2008

The $865,193 check is in the mail, for bridges

Gov. Jim Doyle handed out almost $2.3 million yesterday to five cities to help cover the cost of maintaining and operating 10 lift bridges on Wisconsin's highways -- and the lion's share of the funds went to Racine.

Soon we'll find in the mail a check for $865,193 for the Main and State Street bridges.

Other cities that received lift bridge aid are:
Green Bay, $550,615.72, for one bridge
Manitowoc, $210,811.16, for two
Milwaukee, $667,653.40, for four
Two Rivers, $126.72, for one
The Governor's "Grow Wisconsin" plan calls for strategic investments in the transportation network to spur economic development.

The Lift Bridge Aids program reimburses cities for costs associated with maintaining and operating lift bridges on highways that provide connections to the state trunk highway system. The program is administered through the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, and funded through the Transportation Fund from state-collected highway user fees, motor fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees.

It's down to the wire... filing period ends today

Update 2: The Janesville Post-Gazette interviewed Thomas, who told the paper: "I just decided not to run this year. There are some good people running this year. I probably will run again. I hope to.” Full story

Update, 6:30 p.m.: Jeff Thomas is nowhere to be seen!

The state Elections Board database was updated at 5:26 p.m., and it appears there was no candidacy filing by Dr. Jeff Thomas of Janesville, the Democrats' last four Congressional elections' sacrificial lamb to Republican Paul Ryan. Only the candidates mentioned below in our original post are listed as having met the requirements for a place on the ballot. Marge Krupp filed 1,525 signatures, and Joseph Kexel filed 1, 277. The other Congressional candidates' totals are below in our original post.

If it turns out to be final that Thomas is not running, his departure will be a relief to many Democrats unhappy with his non-campaign campaigns over the past eight years. Party leaders were loath to take sides publicly during spring and summer's run-up to today's filing deadline, but it was clear most wanted Thomas to step aside to make room for a more active and hopefully better-financed candidate.

In other races:

In Racine's 61st Assembly District, only incumbent Democrat Robert Turner and Libertarian George Meyers have filed.

In the 62nd Assembly district, it's incumbent Democrat Cory Mason and Libertarian Keith R. Deschler.

In the 63rd Assembly District, it's incumbent Republican Robin Vos and Democrat Linda Flashinski.

For Racine County District Attorney, only incumbent Republican Michael E. Nieskes has filed.

The complete list of filings is HERE.

Original post:

The filing deadline has arrived for the Nov. 4 general election.

By tonight, depending upon how quickly the Wisconsin State Elections Board database is updated after 5 p..m., we should know exactly who has filed for each race -- and who has not -- and which contests will require a Sept. 9 primary.

For example, in the 1st Congressional District, as of this writing shortly before noon, six candidates have submitted the necessary nomination papers.

Six, including Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican incumbent, and Joseph Kexel of Kenosha, a Libertarian. Wait a minute, shouldn't there be seven candidates? Haven't five Democrats been making the rounds most of the summer?

Yup. So far, Paulette Garin, John Mogk and Mike Hebert, all of Kenosha, have filed papers and the necessary signatures. Marge Krupp of Pleasant Prairie has filed, but her signatures total is not yet listed. Each candidate needs 1,000 -- but it's tradition to submit a number closer to the maximum allowed, 2,000. Ryan, in fact, submitted exactly that number; Garin, 1,986; Mogk, 1,971; and Hebert, a measly 1,223.

Missing in action so far this morning is perennial Congressional candidate Jeff Thomas of Janesville. But he has until 5 p.m. to make yet another run for the office he sought unsuccessfully four times already.

P.S. Am I the only person who wonders why Kenosha produces so many Congressional candidates, and Racine does not?

Arts funding gets short shrift in Wisconsin

How much should the state of Wisconsin spend on the Arts?

The New Economy Funding Initiative calls for an investment of $1 per capita for the Arts Board, the state agency dedicated to culture.

We fall far short. In 1992, the state invested 59 cents per person. And those were the good ol' days. In 2008, the state ranks 43rd, allocating only 44 cents per person. Meanwhile, Minnesota provides $1.97 per person in arts support; Illinois provides 83 cents per person.

We found all this information on ExposeKenosha.com, which has more in an article announcing a free community meeting and luncheon to discuss funding for the arts and arts education in the Kenosha/Racine area. Co-hosted by AHA! (Arts and Humanities Alliance!) Kenosha, the meeting will be held on Wednesday, July 23, from 12–1:30 p.m., at the Kenosha Public Museum.

To register, contact Tamara Merfeld by Wednesday, July 16.

More information is HERE.

14 businesses cited for under-age tobacco sales

Are you under-age? Fear not, you can still buy cigarettes in Racine. You just have to know where to look.

Racine Police reported yesterday on three rounds of compliance checks they made between April and June, seeing whether clerks at 67 businesses would sell tobacco products to minors.

Investigators working with Focus in the Community and the City of Racine Health Department found 53 businesses in compliance with local ordinances and state law which prohibit the sale of tobacco to minors.

Fourteen were not in compliance. They could have their licenses revoked by the City of Racine License and Welfare Committee if there is a pattern of failure, but for now they were fined $550 for each violation -- whether for selling a pack of cigarettes or, in the case of one store, a single cigarette.

Here's a list of the 14 businesses that unlawfully sold tobacco products; four of them passed when rechecked during another visit:
Akash Food & Liquor 3945 Erie St (Passed on Re-check)
M + M Douglas Park 2101 Douglas Ave (Passed on Re-check)
MJ Food Mart 1347 Lathrop Ave
Magic Dollar Plus 1007 Washington Ave
Metro Petro 4301 Washington Ave.
Neighborhood Pantry 1511 W. 6th St. (Passed on Re-check)
Nick’s Supermarket 1407 Superior St.
Open Pantry Food Mart 2731 Durand Ave.
Sausage Kitchen 1706 Rapids Dr. (Passed on Re-check)
Super Mercado Jimenez 2210 16th St.
Taqueriz Arandas Restaurant 1501 Prospect St
Three Mile Citgo 600 3 Mile Rd.
Timers Beverage Center 3800 Northwestern Ave
Total 24 930 Washington Ave

July 7, 2008

Two More Years: Ryan announces bid for re-election

With all of this talk about Paul Ryan for vice president (including the subtext of him running for president in a few years), it's easy to forget he's up for re-election this fall. Yup, even golden U.S. reps only get two-year terms. To that end, Ryan went through the formal process of declaring he is running for another term. He did it with a three-page press release that we've posted below. Here you go:

JANESVILLE – Paul Ryan officially declared his candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives today in Wisconsin’s First Congressional District. His campaign submitted 2,000 signatures to the State Election Board, 1,000 more than needed to place his name on the fall election ballot.

“The legacy of our country is that each generation leaves the next a better America,” said Ryan, “Everyday I am working to prove to my employers, the residents of southeastern Wisconsin, that I am fighting for them and their future.”

In May, Ryan became the first Member of Congress to introduce comprehensive legislation to reform the nation’s retirement, health care, budget and tax systems. His plan, titled, “A Roadmap for America’s Future,” (www.americanroadmap.org) has received widespread acclaim for its ambitious and bold vision.

“It’s time we start to tackle the challenges facing our country, or they are going to start tackling us,” said Ryan. “Our problems are not Democrat problems or Republican problems: they are America’s problems and we must fix them together.”

Ryan’s “A Roadmap for America’s Future” includes three objectives:

* Fulfills the mission of health and retirement security for all Americans;
* Lifts the burden of debt from the shoulders of future generations; and
* Ensures American jobs and competitiveness in the 21st century economy.

“The consultants and pundits in Washington say, ‘Don’t do anything controversial in an election year; you might not get re-elected,’ but in Congress every other year is an election year—so nothing ever gets done,” said Ryan. “I didn’t come to Washington just to be a Congressman. I came here to do something. The people of Wisconsin expect me to solve problems, not ignore them.”

In addition to addressing the nation’s most pressing fiscal issues, Ryan said Congress must act now to address gas prices, job losses and out-of-control government spending.

“With more proven oil reserves in the U.S. than the entire Middle East, we need to tap our own supply of energy rather than spending $1.5 billion dollars a day on foreign oil,” said Ryan. “We are all forced to pay more than we have to because Congress has declared our own oil fields off limits. Meanwhile, we send our money to dictators and countries that are hostile to America.”

Ryan has proposed opening domestic sources of oil to drilling and using the royalties paid by oil companies to the federal government to fund a “Manhattan Project” to develop alternative and renewable fuels to replace oil.

“We need to drill for oil today, to be oil-free tomorrow,” said Ryan. “By drilling for oil now, we can reduce gas prices while investing the revenues generated from drilling into research that would get us off of our dependence fossil fuels. At the same time, we can create U.S. jobs by building pipelines and refineries to process the oil. And, we can build research facilities, wind and solar farms and nuclear plants to power our future.”

Continuing on the jobs front, Ryan said the tax code is pushing jobs overseas. Currently, American- made goods are taxed by the U.S. government before being shipped overseas; however, no tax is applied to imports entering the U.S. Conversely, foreign governments lift the tax on their exports and impose taxes on American-made goods entering their countries. This puts U.S. products at a competitive disadvantage against foreign competitors and makes it harder to keep jobs in America.

“We need to export U.S. products, not U.S. jobs,” said Ryan. “Our tax code should level the playing field for U.S. products by lifting the tax on our exports and applying a tax of foreign goods sold here. The tax reforms included in my Roadmap would do just that. We can beat our international competitors and create jobs here by simply making our tax code fair.”

On spending, Ryan is recognized as a fiscal hawk in Congress for his efforts to ban earmarks and control government spending. His bipartisan efforts have included the introduction of legislation to create a line item veto with Democrat U.S. Senator Russ Feingold and amendments to cut farm subsidies to millionaires with Democrat U.S. Representative Ron Kind of Wisconsin.

“Washington doesn’t have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem,” said Ryan. “Every dollar spent by Congress is a dollar taken from families. We must hold the federal government accountable for every, single one of those dollars.”

Besides his extensive public policy work, the 38-year old Ryan has been recognized as a tireless advocate for constituents dealing with federal government agencies.

“My priority is to be an advocate for anyone having a problem with the federal government,” said Ryan. “Helping constituents fight the red-tape and bureaucracy is my job. I’ll get answers to their questions and lead them through the maze of the federal government.”

Since taking office, Ryan has responded over 220,000 times to constituents seeking assistance with the federal government, or offering opinions about issues before Congress.

To let constituents know he is their link to the federal government and to hear their concerns, Ryan has hosted over 400 constituent listening sessions and toured more than 200 local businesses, repeatedly visiting every incorporated community in the 1st Congressional District.

Ryan said his accessibility to constituents is further demonstrated through the continued operations of three full-time Constituent Services Centers in Janesville, Kenosha and Racine. Also, Ryan’s Mobile Office travels on a weekly basis to communities – making nearly 2,000 visits since Ryan took office.

“Although we face serious domestic and foreign challenges as a country, I believe we can rise to meet them by working together as a nation. I believe our best days as a country still lie ahead of us,” said Ryan. “In my mind, every day is another opportunity to work to the best of my abilities to make a difference, for the better, in the lives of the people I was elected to serve.”

To that end, Ryan has a challenge for all other Members of Congress.

“Join me in a bipartisan way to spur Congress to move beyond simply rehashing the problems of toady and tomorrow and instead have a real debate, and implement actual solutions for all Americans,” said Ryan.

For the recent Federal Elections Commission reporting deadline at the end of June, Ryan said his campaign account will show $1.8 million dollars cash on hand. More than 96 percent of his individual donors are Wisconsinites.

77 percent of the individual donors gave $100 or less this election cycle. 38 percent of the individual donors from this quarter were first time contributors to Ryan’s campaign.

“Voters know that I say what I’ll do, and then do what I say,” said Ryan. “I work for everyone who lives in the First Congressional District. They are my employers. I’m very thankful for the support I’ve received from small businesses, unions and working men and women, who live in Wisconsin.”

Union support for Ryan this election cycle has come from law enforcement and firefighter unions, as well as unions representing carpenters, operating engineers, painters and tradesmen.

Ryan said the impressive number of first time donors and small donations are an indication that his reform message is resonating with people who have not participated in the political process previously.

“Voters who had felt out of touch with the election process have told me they are responding because they don’t want finger pointing, they want results. I know the political attacks are coming, but I’ll fight them with solutions.”

Ryan and his wife, Janna, have three children: daughter, Liza; their sons, Charlie and Sam. The Ryans, who attend St. John Vianney’s Parish, make their home in Janesville, where, prior to his election to Congress, Ryan worked for his family’s earth moving business.

A Janesville native and resident, Ryan is seeking his sixth term in Congress after winning impressive victories in 1998 with 57 percent of the vote; and with more than 63 percent of the vote in each consecutive election since 2000.

Chicago-to-St. Paul peace march will pause in Racine

The Witness Against War 2008 peace march will stop for two days in Racine. Organized by Voices for Creative Nonviolence (VCNV), the march will begin in Chicago on July 12 and conclude in St. Paul, MN, on Aug. 31 in time for the start of the Republican Convention. Marchers will arrive in Racine on Thursday, July 17, participate in various activities on Friday, and leave for Milwaukee on Saturday.

Marchers will be the guests of the Racine Coalition for Peace and Justice and of the local community. All are invited to participate in at least a portion of the march.

The agenda for Racine is:
Thursday July 17

4 p.m. Welcome walkers at John Bryant Community Center, 601 21st Street

4:30 p.m. Begin walk to Belle City Senior Center, Goold & Main

6 p.m. Meet host families at Belle City Senior Center, 201 Goold

Friday, July 18

10:30 a.m. Presentation by members of VCNV at Sam Johnson Parkway (in case of
rain, Olympia Brown Unitarian Universalist Church annex, 7th & College)

11 a.m. Rally at Congressman Paul Ryan’s office, 216 6th Street

11:30 a.m. Sack lunch downtown Racine on Monument Square

2:30 p.m. Meet with walkers at Wilson Coffee and Tea, 3306 Washington Ave.

5:30 p.m. Potluck picnic supper at Siena Center. Please bring a dish to pass. (Indoors
in case of inclement weather.)

7 p.m. Presentation by Kathy Kelly and walkers from VCNV at Siena Center, 5635 Erie Street, Racine

9 p.m. Bonfire at Siena Center

Saturday, July 19

9 a.m. Blessing of people, at Siena Center, as they continue the walk to St. Paul, MN
Witness Against War 2008 is organized as a bipartisan campaign of active nonviolence to challenge and to nonviolently resist our country’s continuing war in and occupation of Iraq. Witness Against War calls for:

An end to all economic and military warfare against Iraq.

The complete and immediate withdrawal of all U.S. military forces from Iraq.

The complete end to all U.S. military action against Iraq, whether that action be from air, ground, or sea.

An end to any further funding for U.S. military action in or against Iraq.

Full funding for the highest quality health care, housing and education for U.S. veterans and their families; the end of stop-loss orders in the military; and the end of stop-move orders.

Provision of full funding by the U.S. for the reconstruction of Iraq following the damage caused by these past 18 years of economic and military warfare waged by the U.S. upon Iraq.

The unconditional cancellation of the remaining odious debt incurred by Saddam Husseins’s regime and the reparation imposed by the U.N. against Iraq following the Hussein regime’s 1990-91 invasion and occupation of Kuwait.

Redirection of the U.S. financial resources away from waging war and towards providing for the Common Good in the U.S.--universal health care; free public education at all levels; affordable housing; etc.
Voices for Creative Nonviolence has long-standing roots in active nonviolent resistance to U.S. war-making. Begun in the summer of 2005, Voices draws upon the experiences of those who challenged the economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. and U.N. against the Iraqi people between 1990 and 2003.

The Racine Coalition for Peace and Justice is an initiative to promote citizen understanding, raise public awareness, and encourage participation in the democratic process for the purpose of achieving peace and just relations among peoples and nations and protecting civil liberties.

For further information:
Voices For Creative Nonviolence: Call Dan Pearson: 773 878-3815 or e-mail.

Information: Ann Pratt: 262.633.0751 (h), 773 405 9154 (c) or e-mail.

To volunteer: Sr Alice Rademacher: 262/639-4100 or e-mail.

July 6, 2008

I Got the Hiawatha-to-Chicago Blues...

OPINION: A train commuter's lament
Next stop: Glenview... and then Chicago

By Julie Jacob
For RacinePost

This is getting ridiculous.

That's what I thought, w
hen I spied, through the open restroom door, the man in the business suit perched uncomfortably on the closed toilet seat on the 5:08 p.m. Amtrak Hiawatha train from Chicago to Milwaukee. He looked miserable, but I suppose he was trying to make the best of the only available place to sit that day in early June.

Like almost every other weekday evening lately, every seat was filled on the train. Passengers who could not find a seat perched on the luggage shelves, sat cross-legged on the floor, or, like this man, staked out a place in the restroom.

I have been a daily commuter on the Amtrak Hiawatha since last September. Many times over the past nine months, I have wondered why a $1.9 billion bill to repair and expand I-94 from Mitchell Airport to the state line can breeze through the Wisconsin legislature, but finding the money to increase the number of daily Amtrak Hiawatha trains and expand the service to Madison seems an impossible task for our state and federal legislatures.

I am not an expert on passenger rail service. But I can tell you this: During the 15 years that I lived in Chicago, I often took the Amtrak Hiawatha or Metra train to Wisconsin to visit my family in Racine. Years ago, the Hiawatha and Metra trains were half-empty. Over the years, however, I saw the trains become steadily more crowded as more and more people who worked in Chicago moved to Wisconsin, attracted by the state's lower housing costs and more relaxed lifestyle.

When I moved to Racine last fall, and began commuting daily to my job in downtown Chicago, I discovered that those almost-full Hiawatha trains had become jam-packed trains. According to the Amtrak website, Hiawatha ridership is up 24% compared to last year. Ridership has climbed every year for the past several years, in fact.

The morning train is already pretty full by the time it gets to Sturtevant, after just two stops -- the start in downtown Milwaukee and Mitchell Airport. The conductor usually has to make an announcement asking passengers to move their laptop bags, coats and briefcases from the adjacent seat. (I lived in Chicago for 15 years, and after years of using the CTA, have no problem asking people to move their belongings, but people who have never lived in a big city are more reticent.) So, anyway, sometimes it's a challenge finding a seat in Sturtevant! The train is always crowded when I ride it, except for days just before or after holidays, when a lot of people take off from work.

Now I have read many blog posts from rail opponents who think trains are useless things, a drain on taxpayer money that should be used instead to build more highways. They are entitled to their opinion. But this is my observation, based on months of riding the Hiawatha nearly every day. The train arrives in Sturtevant early, at 6:43 a.m. It’s dark and cold in the winter, but cozy and warm in the sparkling new passenger depot. On beautiful summer mornings, it’s lovely to wait up on the platform.

By 6:30 a.m., the lot is filled with cars, while a line three or four deep waits to get through the two gated entrances to the parking lot. (Parking is $2 a day, or $30 for a monthly pass.) Riders stand silhouetted against the morning, sipping coffee out of stainless steel mugs, chatting on their cell phones, yakking with their fellow commuters or flipping through the newspapers. About half to two-thirds of the passengers are regular commuters, while the rest are leisure travelers – families with children headed to Chicago for a day of sightseeing, students on their way back to college, people on their way to catch a connecting train at Union Station or the El to Midway or O’Hare.

The commuters are a mixed group. Some are married with young children; they want to work in Chicago but want to raise their families in quiet Racine County. Others, like me, have moved back to Wisconsin to be closer to family. Others are people who simply prefer living in Wisconsin, but have careers that require them to work in Chicago.

The train rolls into the station, and people climb aboard. The regulars nod greetings to the conductors. “Hey, Bucky,” they say. “Nice day today.” As soon as they get on the train, the regulars are all business. They flip open their laptops, turn on their Blackberries, or recline their seats and close their eyes. Meanwhile, those new to the Amtrak Hiawatha marvel at the speed and convenience of the train. Kids peer out the window and adults test the reclining seats and overhead reading lights. “It sure beats driving,” is a phrase I have heard uttered again and again by passengers.

It’s a pretty ride into Illinois. The Hiawatha glides past farm fields and red barns. As the train crosses into Illinois, the landscape gradually morphs into townhouse subdivisions and well-scrubbed suburbs. The first and only stop before Chicago is Glenview, where more people pile on the train – good luck finding seats on the crowded train. Then the Hiawatha chugs on past the dense building clusters of the inner-ring suburbs and slips into the city. Old Industrial buildings turned into upscale lofts line the tracks. Chicago’s majestic skyline looms in the distance; the Sears Tower juts into the clouds. One hour after the Hiawatha leaves the Sturtevant station, it pulls into Union Station and people stream off and hurry off to jobs, schools and tourist attractions.

Not many choices... and a long wait between trains

That’s what I see every morning. This is what I hear: Wistful comments from the regular who say, “Oh, if only there were another train in the morning between the 6:43 a.m. and the 8:23 a.m.” Or “I wish there were another train between 5:08 p.m. and the 8:05 p.m.” or “Why isn’t there a late night train so people can take Amtrak back after an evening baseball game or dinner or festival?” Or, “Why doesn’t the Amtrak Hiawatha run every hour?

Actually, there once was a train service that ran every hour between downtown Milwaukee and downtown Chicago from early morning to midnight. It was called the Chicago North shore and Milwaukee Road, and for decades the electric train zipped along at 80 miles an hour between the two cities. The North Shore was fast, cheap, and reliable.

Now the anti-rail crowd will be quick to point out that the North Shore shut down in 1964 due to dwindling ridership and financial losses. It’s true the North Shore went out of business after more than 50 years of service — but that was in an era when gas cost pennies per gallon, no one worried about carbon emissions, and road rage and gridlock were unheard of.

My 78-year-old father, who remembers the North Shore, tells me that the best thing about it was that it truly linked Milwaukee and Chicago. Back then, Chicago wasn’t a distant city reached only by a stressful drive on the Edens Expressway. It was quite feasible then to live in one city and work in the other, and to easily shuttle between the neighboring cities for shopping, baseball games and festivals. At a time when the entire Midwest is struggling through a recession, doesn’t it makes sense to increase our ties to Chicago, one of the few bright economic stars in the region? While the Amtrak Hiawatha can’t completely duplicate the old North Shore (for one thing, the Amtrak station is about eight miles west of Racine, instead of in the middle of the city), increased daily service would almost match the North Shore's convenience.

Now I imagine anyone who does not take the train may be thinking: Why should I support expanded passenger rail service? What’s in it for me? What’s in it for you is that better passenger rail service will help everyone in southeastern Wisconsin. Convenient public transportation is a drawing card for businesses looking to expand or relocate, as well as for well-educated “creative class” looking for a place to call home. Good passenger rail service, therefore, is an important piece in transforming southeastern Wisconsin into a more attractive place to live and do business, which, in turn, generates more jobs, increases tax revenue, and boosts the quality of life for everyone.

Congress is currently considering a bill, HR 6003, that would provide increased funding for Amtrak, along with matching grants to states that want to improve Amtrak service. According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, the state has set aside $80 million in grant money to increase Amtrak Hiawatha frequency and expand the line to Madison. If Congress approves HR 6003 by a veto-proof margin and Congress appropriates the funds, the Wisconsin Dept. of Transportation will apply for a matching grant to do both.

If you support better Amtrak Hiawatha service, please contact your state and federal representatives – State Sen. John Lehman, Sen. Herb Kohl, Sen. Russ Feingold, and Rep. Paul Ryan. Write the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and Amtrak. Let people know you support increased passenger rail service.

And if you don’t do it for yourself, at least do it for the poor passengers scrunched on the luggage racks on the standing-room-only 5:08.
Julie Jacob, who works as a communications professional in Chicago, recently moved back to Racine after 15 years in the Windy City.