September 27, 2008

Review: Racine Art Guild's annual Invitation Show

Carol Madsen - "Florida Madsen"

By Nick Cibrario, author & artist

The public is invited to attend the Racine Art Guild's annual Invitational Show on Saturday, Sept. 27, at The Avenue Frame Shop, 402 Main Street in Racine, Wisconsin. The gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for the event. The reception is 1 to 3 p.m.

Let's begin our tour with Dee Dee Dumont's painting , "Northwester Comin'. " Her dramatic seascape was created along the shore of Lake Michigan in Kenosha after a storm. A band of glowing sunlight separates the sky from the lake. A ponderous bearded fisherman holding a net and wearing a heavy coat gazes upon the turbulent tide as it crashes against the gray rocks, the breakwater, and the boathouse. Dumont's subject complements Pablo Picasso's statement, "Art washes away from the soul, the dust of everyday life."

Jerry Belland - "Angel in the Tree"

Next is Marie Skowronski's charming painting, "Dusk." Her acrylic was created from a photograph taken in Shawano, Wisconsin. She said, "While sitting in a restaurant overlooking the small lake, my husband and I were looking at the geese. People would buy corn and throw it to them. Some of the geese are watching and waiting; others are stretching their necks eager to eat." Skowronski's geese stand in the rays of the setting sun as darkness embraces the background.

Adele Wheeler used pastels for her spring floral landscape, "Back to the Future." She said, "The sketches were done while sitting inside a car parked on the shoulder of the road. The setting is the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad tracks, with a field of gorgeous flowers reflected in the side mirror. My painting is dedicated to my grandfather, an engineer for 45 years on the Santa Fe Railroad."

While travelling from Duluth to Canada, Pat Wiskerchen photographed numerous rivers and waterfalls from which she painted "Temperance River." She said, "I have an affinity for birch trees. To me they represent purity and grace. I even brought one home from Finland, Minnesota and planted it in my yard."

Nancy Greenebaum - "Harvest Gold"

Let's take time to admire Janet Mrazek's original illustrations for a children's book, "Jasmine's Courage." Her sister, Claudia Kalinoski, wrote the story about her cat. When Jasmine was a stray kitten, she experienced a single act of courage that changed her life forever. Mrazek used felt tip markers and oil pastel crayons to make the illustrations. She was influenced by Kevin Henkes, the winner of the 2005 Caldecott Award.

John Falk studied Art History last spring at Parkside, which included the Medieval Period. His skillfully constructed composition, "The Traveler," suggests a pilgrim from Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales," heading toward the cathedral. Falk's watercolor depicts the traveler holding a staff. He wears a leather hat, scarf, and cloak in preparation for his arduous spiritual journey. This painting is a study using Gary A. Lippincott's technique and subject.

Mary Ann Logic says she's "an expressionist interested in depicting emotion in her work." She was influenced by the German printmaker Kothe Killwitz. Her print "Touched by the Hand of Compassion…" deals with a lost child sitting near a busy city street. A compassionate hand descends and offers help to the abandoned boy. "My picture is an original, hand carved, pressed and pulled relief linocut that is oil based. It is a response to the Aids crisis in South Africa."

Pat Wiskerchen - "Temperance River"

Janet Hoffman's painting is based upon a photograph sent to her in 1944. Her composition is "a sentimental journey involving a bright young man (I would later marry and live with for 30 years) astride a Harley Davidson motorbike. He's an M.P with a sidearm at the U.S. Army's motor pool in Manila, Philippines."

The subject of Sandra Nowicki's "Spirit Horse" is a leaping mustang, outlined in blue acrylic on a diamond shaped collage. It is splashed with turquoise, yellow, and rose paint. She wove layers of yarn embedded in her own handmade paper. Strings of beads and feathers complete the Native American motif. Nowicki's equestrian image is modeled after the spirited horses on her farm in Kenosha County.

Phyllis Weber's "Untitled "landscape was influenced by Andrew Wyeth. She said, "I have always loved the North Woods, where I spent as much time as possible when I was younger. The woods make me want to sit and reflect on God, who made this beautiful and restful place. "

David Gaura & Candice Hoffman - "Welcome" - sculputure

The focal point of Ellen Cardwell's whimsical watercolor, "Anglican Communion," is the vicar, welcoming his congregation to the Eucharistic Service in a pink stucco church on Harbor Island in the British West Indies. Cardwell said, "I was enchanted during my painting workshop by the local ladies and their colorful outfits. The dogs, cats, roosters, and children roam freely on the terraced lawn while well dressed families ascend the stairs for Sunday worship. This study was done in plein air."

Thanks for joining us. Come again during Party on the Pavement on Oct. 4.

Kate Proeber- Garden Girls I -Glenda

September 26, 2008

Ryan wanted tighter regulations of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

As I was reading about the financial crisis today, I recalled early in his career Rep. Paul Ryan served on the House Financial Services committee, including a subcommittee that dealt with banking issues. (As a reporter at the JT, I wrote stories about Ryan receiving campaign contributions from banks.)

I've been taking a look back at Ryan's record on banking issues. One the assertions is that lax oversight of the banking industry by Congress led to the current meltdown. I have no idea if that's true; it certainly could be a Democratic talking point trying to blame Republicans for the mess. (But then again, someone was asleep while Lehman Brothers, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, AIG, etc. were tanking.)

One of the first articles I found was a Wall Street Journal piece on Ryan proposing greater oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. This makes some sense, because conservatives like Ryan hate the quasi-public nature of the mortgage giants. Ryan would much rather private companies handle home mortgages.

Here's the WSJ piece. And here's the part involving Ryan:
Or consider the experience of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, one of the GOP's bright young lights who decided in the 1990s that Fan and Fred needed more supervision. As he held town hall meetings in his district, he soon noticed a man in a well-tailored suit hanging out amid the John Deere caps and street clothes. Mr. Ryan was being stalked by a Fannie lobbyist monitoring his every word.

On another occasion, he was invited to a meeting with the Democratic mayor of Racine, which is in his district, though he wasn't sure why. When he arrived, Mr. Ryan discovered that both he and the mayor had been invited separately -- not by each other, but by a Fannie lobbyist who proceeded to tell them about the great things Fannie did for home ownership in Racine.

When none of that deterred Mr. Ryan, Fannie played rougher. It called every mortgage holder in his district, claiming (falsely) that Mr. Ryan wanted to raise the cost of their mortgage and asking if Fannie could tell the congressman to stop on their behalf. He received some 6,000 telegrams. When Mr. Ryan finally left Financial Services for a seat on Ways and Means, which doesn't oversee Fannie, he received a personal note from Mr. Raines congratulating him. "He meant good riddance," says Mr. Ryan.

In the meantime, there's more out there on Ryan's record on banking issues. It seems like most of the major banking deregulations came before Ryan took office, so there's a good chance he wasn't involved in the underlying causes of our current mess. But he's our Congressman, and it's worth checking.

September 25, 2008

Kohl: Wisconsinites are furious, and I don't blame them

'No, no; this time you can trust us.' (with apologies to Charles Schulz)

This afternoon, as Barack Obama and John McCain were reportedly sitting at different ends of a White House conference table, talking (arguing? posturing?) with President Bush about the economic bailout, Sen. Herb Kohl was scheduled to address the Senate on the same issue.

Here's the advance text of what Kohl said:

Today we are facing a historic economic crisis. We have been told by the Secretary of Treasury and the Chairman of the Federal Reserve that we stand on the edge of a financial cliff – and we are looking down on a potential disaster that this country hasn’t seen since the Great Depression. We have seen historic financial firms and banks with household names swept away in a matter of weeks. These massive changes have left the American people confused, angry, and worried.
"We were told
to hand over the money
and get out of the way."

In the wake of this chaos on Wall Street the Administration has come to Congress with a plan that they believe will calm the storm. They came to us with few details – only three pages. They told us we need to move immediately, that delay was dangerous. We were told that oversight of the bailout would be a burden and just slow everything down. We were told to hand over the money and get out of the way.

The Administration asked the American people for a $700 billion dollar blank check. Wall Street and the Administration asked hard working Wisconsinites to bail them out, to buy assets that no one wants, to go further into debt to China so that banks and financial institutions can avoid bankruptcy. My constituents, the people of Wisconsin cannot understand how we got to this point and why they should foot the bill. They are furious – and I don’t blame them.

I share their anger. As a former businessman I am shocked and appalled that the supposed best and brightest on Wall Street allowed their companies to purchase dangerous assets that they didn’t understand. That these people gambled with the money of millions of Americans, and now they expect those same Americans to come to the rescue.

These supposed titans of Wall Street owe the American people an explanation. We are being asked for the staggering sum of $700 billion, but not one CEO has come to Capitol Hill to apologize for their part in creating this mess. And to add insult to injury, when Congress tried to limit CEO compensation for firms who would benefit from the plan the Administration resisted. They had the nerve to ask my constituents - who make about $48,000 per household - for money while they keep their multi-million dollar salaries.

I think these CEO’s need to come before Congress and explain how we got in this mess – and explain their role. I know they are not solely to blame. Regulators were asleep at the switch, the Administration believed in letting markets run wild, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac over extended themselves and Congress failed to do adequate oversight. But as a businessman who firmly believes in markets I am stunned that Wall Street engaged in the behavior that led us to this point.

I hope that Congress will call some of these CEO’s who were most involved in this meltdown to testify. The American people want to hear from them. I think they owe us all an apology. They should also explain what they plan to do in the future to make sure we never end up in this kind of crisis again. They should tell us what kind of regulations they think are necessary to avoid another crisis. It is the least they can do in exchange for the risks the American people are about to absorb on their behalf.

We have yet to see the details of the final bailout package. I am reserving judgment. I understand the delicate situation we are in, and the risks we face, but I am wary of being rushed into a decision. I would prefer a solution that does not provide the $700 billion all at once but provides part of it now and more later if necessary. We can reconvene Congress and raise the amount at any time with short notice – so I don’t see the necessity of providing everything up front. Any bailout plan needs rigorous oversight, and it should also give the taxpayers a chance to share in any profits that result.

This is not our money we are handing to Secretary Paulson – it is the taxpayers’. I never forget who I am working for - and the people I serve are furious that they are being asked to give $700 billion to the very investors who have made such bad decisions. No one wants to plunge the economy into chaos but we need to make sure we take our time and get this right – because if we don’t we will be back here again and the stakes could be even higher.

Meanwhile, the WISC-TV poll confirmed Kohl's read about Wisconsinites opposed to the bailout. Six-hundred likely voters were polled between Sept. 22 and Sept. 23 on a variety of issues. Here are the results that pertain to the economic bailout:

"As you may know, the federal government has announced that it will be intervening in order to protect several major financial institutions in trouble because of high-risk mortgages that failed. Taxpayer money will be used, with the price tag estimated to total at least $500 billion. We'd like to ask you a few questions about the government's actions."

QUESTION: Overall, do you approve or disapprove of the government's action?
32% approve; 61% disapprove; 7% not sure
QUESTION: Should taxpayer money be used to protect private companies from financial losses?
15% yes; 77% no; 8% not sure
There was no appreciable difference between Republican and Democratic respondents.

The complete poll is HERE.

Local video game radio show focuses on sports games

Tazz and Keg's video game Internet radio returns this week and runs from 9-11 p.m. The two Racine-based gaming experts take calls, award prizes and talk all things video games through their website. You can hear the show here

Here's Tazz's summary for the week: 
This week Keg and I will be bringing our top 5 sports titles of all time to everyone.  Topic of the week is Microsoft closing down Ensemble Studios.  Touching on current game releases.  Also make sure you download Skype if you would like to call in live to the program.
Alright, we'll bite ... here's our top 5 sports game of all time: 

1. NHL Hockey '95 - Genesis - This game was was competitive without being boring, and didn't take an hour to finish a game

2. Madden - Can't pick one, they've all been great over the years. Later versions with updated rosters is a great feature.

3. SSX - PS2 - One of my first games for PS2, played this game silly. 

4. NFL Street - PS2 - OK, this really isn't a great game, but it's pretty fun with a bunch of friends. The animation is well done, and it's a nice twist on a football game. 

5. Baseball Stars - Nintendo - What a great game. You could win money and power up your players, keep stats and win titles. I wish they would have kept developing this game through the years ... it's the best baseball game evr. 

Honorable mention: Dodgeball, Tiger Woods golf, Decathalon (Atari), Mike Tyson's Punchout

September 24, 2008

Charles Gibson bringing World News broadcast here

Charlie Gibson, the ABC-TV news anchor who two weeks ago tripped up Republican VP nominee Sarah Palin with a trick question about the Bush Doctrine ("Do you agree with the Bush Doctrine?") will broadcast his show from Racine in two weeks.

Be on guard! He may interview you!

ABC announced today that World News with Charles Gibson will come to Racine as part of the network's Great American Battleground Bus Tour. He'll broadcast the 5:30 p.m. newscast from downtown Racine on Oct. 9, from the Johnson Building.

Communities on ABC's Bus Tour include:
• Orlando, Florida on Oct. 2
• Valdosta, Georgia. Oct. 3
• Dayton, Ohio on Oct. 6
• Bowling Green, Ohio on Oct. 7
• Kalamazoo, Michigan on Oct. 8
• Racine, Wisconsin on Oct. 9
• Davenport, Iowa on Oct. 10
In each city, the network said, Gibson will examine key issues facing local voters, and will speak to some for a "first-hand account."

The traveling newscasts are part of ABC's effort to visit all 50 states during the 50 days preceding the Nov. 4 election. They have created an elaborate website with demographic data and presidential election history from each state. Their page on Wisconsin -- cleverly (?) headlined Wisconsin a Battleground in Race for Big Cheese -- is HERE.

The evening news, broadcast by NBC, CBS and ABC at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time, draws a daily audience of about 25 million these days, half what it attracted before CNN made its debut in 1980 and taught the rest of Cable TV about 24-hour news. Gibson's broadcast (that's an old picture above, by the way, before the name of the program was changed) is usually No. 2 in the ratings to Brian Williams on NBC, although it won the week when it broadcast the Sarah Palin interview. Charlie and Sarah drew 8,880,000 viewers that week, to NBC's 8,360,000 and CBS's 6,210,000.

Library changes hours it's open

The Racine Public Library Board of Trustees has voted to change the hours the library is open each week, from 56 to 57. Beginning Sunday, Oct. 5, the library will be open four evenings per week
instead of three. Friday and Saturday hours will be extended, and Sunday hours will start earlier.

The full schedule:
Monday-Thursday, 9am to 8pm;
Friday and Saturday, 11am to 4pm;
Sunday, 1-4.
Sunday hours will begin October 5, 2008, and go through Sunday, May 17, 2009, with the exception of the two Sundays before and after Christmas, December 21 and 28, 2008. This change will not affect the Mobile Library schedule.

The board is responding to patron requests that the library be open four evenings per week and stay open Sundays into May. By shuffling staff schedules, and by closing the Sundays before and after Christmas, the staff arrived at this proposal.

Theron Snell, Library Board President, said "The real impact will be the consistent hours the library is open. Public response to a library survey has been overwhelmingly in favor of this new schedule. I am impressed with the creativity, thoughtfulness and willingness of the library staff to adjust to patrons' needs, without increasing costs in these tight budget times."

The last time the hours were changed, in 2004, the library had to close twelve hours per week. Health insurance costs had been shifted from the city to the library, creating a deficit that was impossible to overcome any other way. Since then, with funding not increasing and costs rising, both staff and library materials have been cut.

The budget for 2009 will essentially wipe out the library's operating reserve. The City of Racine by state law must fund the library at no less than the average of the three previous years. Racine County is bound by the same state law for funding the five Racine County libraries. This means very little funding change from year to year.

Because of the stagnant funding and increasing costs, the Racine Public Library Foundation was created to begin raising funds for operations through bequests. This is in addition to the generous
endowments left to the library for specific purposes, and the donations that have been saved for the library board's top goal, a second library location. If you would like more information about the
RPL Foundation, please call 262-636-9170.

Positively Racine: San Juan Diego Middle School

Editor's Note: Positively Racine is a series of stories focusing on our community's strengths, assets and accomplishments. Do you have a Positively Racine feature you'd like to share? Send it to:

By Bill Griffiths

San Juan Diego Middle School: An interesting place to learn about, an exciting place to learn, a great place to volunteer in Racine

· The adults who work with this school really care about me.
· The adults who work with this school listen to what I say.
· The adults who work with this school challenge me to do my best.
· The adults who work with this school encourage me to do well in school.
· Being involved in this school makes me want to learn more about new things.

These are only five of 20 statements students at San Juan Diego Middle School (SJDMS) are asked to evaluate each year. On these issues and others, students rated their own San Juan Diego experiences very favorably.

I don’t know how many of us would grade our experience in middle school as positively. I am pretty certain, that 15 or more years ago, nobody was asking students these sorts of questions.

But students are asked at San Juan Diego,, a nonprofit, Catholic middle school at 1101 Douglas Ave. The school, with about 70 students, has just started its sixth year. Its mission is to serve those with economic challenges, and to help develop the students personally, socially, spiritually and academically. Students of any ethnic or faith background are welcome.

The five questions above come from a survey based on research conducted by the Search Institute of Minneapolis. The Search Institute identified 40 developmental assets that experts determined are necessary in the healthy growth of a child. The S.C. Johnson Fund first conducted a county-wide survey on youth development about 12 years ago and repeated it in 2006 to gauge how the Racine Community is faring in supporting children. Students at San Juan Diego take the survey annually, so that school officials can better understand how well the organization supports its students’ growth.

According to Laura Sumner-Coon, the Executive Director of the school, "Students in poverty, in general, are lagging years behind their more affluent peers academically (as shown by standardized testing with the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination (WKCE)."

"We’ve created our program to provide as many resources as possible in order to help make the students successful. It’s very experiential learning. There is cooperative learning among students and more connection in the community to learn classroom concepts as they exist in the community."

"Apart from our small class size and experiential learning, we also have an extended day. Three days a week, we have Afternoon Curriculum, which offers students opportunities to learn something new, identify a new talent, or develop a skill they didn’t have (like swimming, martial arts, step dance, digital photography, etc.). Pretty soon the students develop a confidence that they can build a skill from not knowing it…to accomplishing something. You can see their confidence grow and you see that translate into their academics."

"One of the most profound aspects of the program, started four years ago, is Evening Study. One day a week students come back for Evening Study, with a mentor. Last year we had 55 people from the community involved in mentoring. Mentors meet with students one night a week, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. to help them with homework. In exchange, mentors learn what it is to be a child in poverty in Racine. As much as the evening program is about helping students with their homework, it's about encouraging them to do well, and letting them know the community cares about them."

Right now the school is seeking mentors for middle school students and high school students in its Graduate Support Program. The goal of the school is to match every student with a mentor. Many are needed. The school is searching not only for individuals who may want to mentor, but also for service groups who may want to take on mentoring as a project.

This is a terrific opportunity to be "an adult who works with this school"; to be a mentor to one of these motivated students by volunteering for 90 minutes once each week. To volunteer or get more information about mentoring, you can contact: Laura Sumner-Coon, Executive Director, at 619-0402 extension 235.

Bill Griffiths does industrial market research, is a volunteer mentor, and is always on the lookout for new things to appreciate about Racine.

September 23, 2008

Reactions to passage of Great Lakes Compact

The U.S. House of Representatives today gave final approval to the Great Lakes Compact, by a vote of 390-25. The Senate has already passed the Compact, and President Bush has said he would sign it into law.

Here are some reactions to the passage:

"This is great news. The people of Wisconsin rely on the Great Lakes for drinking water, jobs, energy, shipping and recreation. By taking this final step to ratify the Compact, we will protect the health and welfare of the Great Lakes for ourselves and future generations."
--Sen. Herb Kohl

"The environmental health of the Great Lakes is a top priority of mine and to the people of Wisconsin. I was proud to help pass the Great Lakes Compact today and protect this vital natural resource for future generations of Wisconsinites. The Great Lakes Compact represents a bipartisan commitment from legislators and governors throughout the Midwest, and I am hopeful that today’s timely passage of this Compact will help ensure the safety of the Great Lakes for future generations.

"I’ve long been a vocal advocate in defense of the Great Lakes. In addition to my work as co-chair of the Congressional Sportsmen Caucus and my efforts to control the growing threat posed by invasive species, I am a proud cosponsor of H.R. 6577, the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact, as well as H.R. 1350, the Great Lakes Collaboration Implementation Act, which includes measures to prevent pollution and curtail the loss of wildlife habitats.

"The protection of shared natural resources requires shared responsibility across state lines and across various levels of the public and private sectors. The Great Lakes Compact represents this all-inclusive partnership, and I was proud to stand in strong support of today’s passage."
--Rep. Paul Ryan

"The Great Lakes Compact is critically important for Wisconsin. Last year we saw the Great Lakes reach historic low water levels, which impacts Wisconsin commercially and environmentally. The passage of the Great Lakes Compact means these incredible natural resources will be defended against increased water withdrawals, one of the biggest threats to lake levels. I was proud to chair a key hearing in the Senate on the Compact in July, and to work with my colleagues from Wisconsin and other Great Lakes states to pass the Compact just days later. Now I’m very pleased that the House has passed the Compact as well. The Compact now goes to the President for his signature, and I hope he will take immediate action to ensure that the Great Lakes, which are such a precious resource for Wisconsin and the nation, get the protection they deserve."
--Sen. Russ Feingold

"For close to a decade, the Great Lakes States have been negotiating and then building support for a compact that would protect the amazing waters that define this region.

"Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Great Lakes Compact. This has involved a lot of hard work, and I want to thank everyone who has gotten us this far.

"This Compact will protect the lakes against long-distance water diversions and, just as critical, it will give our region the framework it needs to sustainably manage this world renowned resource. These are waters that define us, and now we have defined a legal framework to make sure that all that they offer us can be protected.

"One of our greatest competitive advantages in a 21st Century global economy is our water – water that will help Wisconsin businesses grow and attract new businesses to our state. These lakes drive our economy. They drive our recreation. They drive our transportation and industry.

"I applaud the members of Congress for their leadership in protecting the Great Lakes. Today’s action reflects a successful partnership—one that we hope to build on in order to take even bolder steps to protect our Great Lakes. We look forward to continuing to work with Congress and other partners toward this shared goal."
--Gov. Jim Doyle

September 22, 2008

County Bar holds memorial, enrolls new members

Judge Allen Torhorst administers the oath to six new county attorneys

The wood-paneled courtroom on the fourth floor of the County Courthouse was packed with judges and lawyers yesterday afternoon, enough to staff a a month of trials.

Instead, they were there for the Racine County Bar Association's Call of the Calendar, a memorial service for deceased members followed by the enrollment of new members of the county bar. Five members were memorialized, and six of fifteen new members were present to take the oath administered by Chief Circuit Judge Allen B. Torhorst.

First the memorials:

Morris Shovers, a Racine attorney for more than 50 years before his death at 91, was remembered by James J. Fetek.

Arthur Morrisey was a World War II aviator before becoming an attorney, said Frank J. Feil Jr., who said he had a practice that occasionally took as its fees food and produce from his clients' gardens.

Robert Michelson, a lawyer and then municipal court judge, was recalled by William Honrath, who went up against him early in his career, and noticed during Michelson's closing argument that members of the jury and the judge were nodding in agreement with his points. And so was Honrath, who lost the case. He also mentioned Michelson's penchant for writing letters to the newspaper -- a habit novelist Evelyn Waugh described as mentally unbalanced. "Yes," said Michelson, "but there is good unbalanced and bad unbalanced."

Thomas Finley was described by Racine City Attorney Robert Weber as "a big man with a big heart," who assisted in many organizations' fund-raisers and liked to play Santa Claus. A woman he helped was so impressed by his representation she had his name tattooed on her shoulder.

Matthew McVey, the youngest Racine lawyer memorialized, died at 36, a victim of brain cancer. He spent his career in government service, in the Racine County Child Support Department and the county Corporation Counsel's office, and will be remembered for supervising 300 volunteers who built Kid's Cove playground at North Beach, said Robert Henzl.

Robert Dehring Jr. leads off in signing the County Bar's Roll book

The six lawyers admitted to practice in Racine County were Eric Aschenbrenner, Kris Bartos, Robert Dehring Jr., Anisa Dunn, Daniel A. Gruhn and Matthew Johnson. They each signed the Bar Association's Roll, a book with the signatures of every attorney who's practiced here since the mid-1800s.

Eric Aschenbrenner adds his signature to the Roll

Police investigating 2-year-old boy's death

Sad news from the Racine Police Department:
On Monday, September 22, 2008 at approximately 0925 hours, the Racine Police Department received a call of a possible deceased child at 3421 17th Street.

Responding police officers and Fire Department Rescue personnel discovered a 2 year old male deceased inside of the home.

Investigators believe the death to be suspicious and an autopsy will be performed tomorrow to determine a cause of death.

No additional details will be available until the autopsy is completed.

Super School Star! Keonte Watson

During a school trip on Sept. 10, eighth-grader Keonte Watson and his classmates at Gilmore Middle School were canoeing at the REC Center in Racine.

A canoe with three girls in it tipped over and knocked them into the water. Keonte, who was on the shore at the time, noticed one of the girls wasn't tall enough to reach the bottom of the river. Dressed in nice clothes, he still ran into the water and helped her to the shore.

The selfless act impressed his teachers and led Gilmore Principal Kevin Brown to nominate Keonte for a Super School Star award.

"He was very nonchalant about it," Brown said about Watson's heroic act. "He just said, 'Mr. Brown, it made my clothes all stinky. I had to throw them all away.'"

"But he ran in without anyone asking him to," Brown added. "He really did help that girl."

Keonte is the first winner of RacinePost's new, "Super School Star Award." The award honors positive and uplifting stories from our community's schools. It's open to any student, teacher, staff, administrator or anyone else associated with our schools.

Have someone you would like to nominate? Send us an email at: All you need is a paragraph introducing the person you feel is a Super School Star and a contact number so we can follow up with you. We'll write up a story about award winners, take their picture and give them a certificate. The more the better ... we hope to run them throughout the school year.

Another air quality alert issued by DNR

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has issued an Air Quality Watch for Particle Pollution for Racine and 13 other counties, taking effect at midnight Tuesday and lasting to midnight Wednesday.

Other counties in the watch area are Columbia, Dane, Dodge, Jefferson, Kenosha, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Rock, Sauk, Sheboygan, Walworth, Washington and Waukesha.

The watch is being issued because of the forecast for elevated levels of fine particles in the air, composed of microscopic dust, soot, liquid droplets and smoke particles that are 2.5 microns or smaller. These fine particles come primarily from combustion sources, such as power plants, factories and other industrial sources, vehicle exhaust, and outdoor fires.

The Air Quality Index is forecast to reach the orange level, which is considered unhealthy for people with heart or lung disease, asthma, older adults and children. When an air quality watch is issued, people in those groups are advised to reschedule or cut back on strenuous activities during the watch period.

People with lung diseases such as asthma and bronchitis and heart disease should pay attention to cardiac symptoms like chest pain and shortness of breath or respiratory symptoms like coughing, wheezing and discomfort when taking a breath, and consult with their physician if they have concerns or are experiencing symptoms. Fine particle pollution deposits itself deep into the lungs and cannot easily be exhaled. People who are at risk are particularly vulnerable after several days of high particle pollution exposure.

We *Heart* Racine

Things we love about Racine (and the Racine area!) ....

The lake
Root River
River Bend
Sixth Street
Regency Mall
Johnson Park
Shoop golf course
The Courthouse
City Hall
Pancake Days
Post Prom
Racine Zoo
Lockwood Park's sledding hill
The Wind Point Lighthouse
Racine Theatre Guild
Sixth Street Theatre
Jo-Jo's Toys
Dunn Bros.
Sticky Rice
Los Mariachis
High school football
Johnny Clay
Caron Butler
SC Johnson
Twin Disc
Johnson Bank
Walden III
Buona Vita
Wilson's Coffe & Tea
Dragon Boat Festival
Thoughts for Food
Racine County Food Bank
Cops N Kids
Frank Lloyd Wright
Zoo Beach
Siena Center
Eco-Justice Center
Wells Brothers
Ham 'n' egger
Raiders football
DeKoven Center
Driving past the lake on the way to the library
First Fridays
Party on the Pavement
Greek Fest
Italian Fest
Resale shops
Racine Public Library
Laurel Clarke Fountain 
Historic homes on the south side

To be continued ...

27 help cleanup Myers Park beach

Chris Flynn sent in this report on a beach clean-up at Myers Park Beach on Saturday. Thanks, Chris:
I'm sorry I didn't let you know in advance, but yesterday morning (Sat 9/20), 27 of us met at Myers Park (Dragon Boat Race site, 11th & Lake Michigan) for the International Coastal Cleanup. We picked up 85# of trash, consisting of plastic odds & ends, cigarette butts, diapers, bottles, a couple of tires, etc. The list of what was collected was submitted online to The group included members of Rotary, St. Cat's students and teacher, Hoy/Audubon members, and a young couple who were visiting from St. Louis and wanted to help. We'll be down there again the morning of 10/25 for Make a Diff Day.

Have a community event you were involved in? Send it in ... HERE!

September 21, 2008

Mayor, Police Chief give Hispanics reassurances

Police Chief Wahlen and Mayor Becker hear a Latina's plea

Latinos' emotional tales -- about the cost and difficulty of getting legal IDs, the humiliation of racially profiled arrests, aggressive police procedures, houses lost when one spouse is sent back to his or her country of origin -- fell upon sympathetic ears Sunday, as the Racine Interfaith Coalition brought 200 Hispanics together with Mayor Gary Becker and Police Chief Kurt Wahlen.

Parishioners filed out of the Sunday's Spanish Mass at St. Patrick's Catholic Church shortly after 1 p.m. and filed into the gym, behind the 84-year-old beautiful and architecturally historic church, which is listed on the National Register. There they joined the mayor and police chief on folding chairs for a bilingual session, punctuated by immigrants' tears, and by frequent applause for what the mayor had to say.

Three women laid out the problem Hispanics face here:

Martha -- a mother of 10 children, including a disabled child needing dialysis weekly -- described her family's hardships when she was forced out of the country. "It was very hard for my husband. My son got worse, he lost his sight. We are homeowners, small business owners; we've lived here for 15 years; we pay our bills. Somehow we got through with the help of God." But she said her son cannot have a kidney transplant because he's not a legal permanent resident -- and "you have to wait 12 years to become a citizen." She thanked the mayor for writing several letters on her behalf.

Julia described an arrest. "When the police pulled us over, my husband didn't have ID on him. He was handcuffed, they searched the car. He gave his name, but the cop couldn't find it (it was hyphenated) in the database. The car that passed us, speeding, they got nothing. Me, being born and raised here, I didn't expect this. It's just not right." She believes they were treated that way because they are of Mexican descent. Police said they were stopped because their car had tinted windows.

Maria told a similar story. "The words 'racial profiling' leave us with a bitterness in our heart." She described a young man's arrest: "Police were very aggressive with him, knocked him to the floor, kicked him and put him in handcuffs.They took him to jail for three days. His mother took him his medication in jail. When he went to court, he was found not guilty." But she said his asthma was exacerbated by the arrest, and led to a heart attack, and the need for a pacemaker.

"His only sin was his skin color," she said.

All that was preamble for Mayor Becker, who addressed the crowd under a Racine Interfaith Coalition banner proclaiming "Peace in our Neighborhoods, Peace in our Schools, Peace in our Hearts."

Mayor Gary Becker, and translator Sonia Tellez

"It's an honor to be your mayor. Nothing would make me happier at City Council meetings than to look at the aldermen's desks and see some of the faces I see here," he said, adding -- with a smile and a nod to the two aldermen present, Jim Kaplan, District 4, and Greg Helding, District 11 -- "Nothing personal, guys."

The mayor, who has been a vocal proponent of immigration reform, said there are two reasons it is needed. "The first is moral: We're doing it because it is what any loving God would want. The second is common sense. It's self-serving from a city perspective. Unfortunately, some politicians have demogogued this issue to convince voters immigrants are a threat, the source of all evils. Unfortunately, immigrants have always been a target for politicians who want scapegoats.

"But I'm here to tell you, I value and respect the contributions you make to our cities....Racine is better off because of immigrants."

The mayor described the resolution passed by the US conference of Mayors in June, at their meeting in Miami, a resolution that urges suspension of raids, responsible immigration reform and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Becker explained, "Mayors don't get to write immigration laws, but the US Conference of Mayors does carry some influence with the members of Congress." The statement was met with applause.

Questions from the audience concerned similar issues. Asked what can be done about the cost of getting legal ID, the mayor responded, "There's no law we (mayors) can pass. The best I can tell you is we will continue to push them on the issue."

A young woman described to Chief Wahlen how she, and a black man in her car, were stopped on the way from the beach. She said she asked the policeman why they were stopped, and he reportedly replied, "Well, you looked suspicious."

Wahlen, who has spent 32 years on the police force, began by telling the audience two things they don't know about him: he has an Hispanic sister-in-law, and he has been on 20 Christian missions in Central America. He said racial profiling is a term used very loosely, and defended his officers, saying that in the case of the woman pulled over for having excessively tinted car windows, "Probably the officer couldn't see into the car," and thus didn't stop it because of the race of the occupants. "Our officers must have probable cause to make a traffic stop," he said.

He described the process citizens should follow when they believe racial profiling has been invoked: "There is a process to investigate racial profiling. Citizenship is not a factor in the investigation. Simply come down to the police station and ask for a complaint form. We may interview you. I am involved in all complaints. I can assure you, I take them all seriously."

Wahlen told the crowd, to applause, "I want an aggressive police department. But there is no place for unprofessional conduct."

RIC will hold another meeting on Oct. 21. The mayor has agreed to attend.

Sunday's Spanish Mass at the beautiful St. Patrick's Catholic Church

A great night2 of music for a great cause

The night's music started with a wrist band...

After sixteen years, Thoughts for Food, Racine's great night of music to benefit the Racine County Food Bank, simply outgrew a single night. So Saturday night was Part II of this year's event...a continuation of the musical pub crawl that began in March if you're a stickler for that sort of detail. Organizers called it the 1st Annual Thoughts for Food Fall Harvest Benefit; I preferred Thoughts for Food2. Fits into a headline better.

Suffice it to say that 13 venues hosted 42 bands and performers last night -- all for the benefit of the food bank, which distributes an average of 70,000 pounds of food every month. Those who made it from bar to bar to hear the various musicians were treated to a variety of music -- and the knowledge that they were doing good at the same time.

Early Sunday morning, Dan Tailvalkoski, director of the food bank, reported the results: Attendance was about 1,000, including band members, their guests and volunteers. Paying customers donated 1,500 pounds of food, and cash receipts were $5,300. Not as much as the March event usually brings in -- but it's a start. In its 16-year history, Thoughts for Food has produced $284,000 and some 67,000 pounds of food for distribution.

Here's a small sampling of what attendees saw.

Rasor's Edge was rocking at the Pub on Wisconsin...

Rasor's lead singer without his hat

Night Wing's delightful sister act at Evelyn's

Fell Boyzs competed with LSU football at Ivanhoe's

Titus, Rench and Wheary at Casablanca

Acoustic Horizon at the Blue Rock

Jim Bednarek and Friend at Timothy York's Bistro

Saturday Night Preachers at McAuliffe's Pub

Unlikely Hero at Joey's on Sixth...

...brought its own fan club

From the outside looking in at OCD at Schillings Pub

Dancing to Mean Jake at Eveyln's

Mark Paffrath and his new guitar at Casablanca

Carl Allen loads food donations for the Food Bank

Dan Taivalkoski, director of the Food Bank, rounding up the cash