October 4, 2008

And what a party it was...

Main Street from the top of the Ferris Wheel

What can we say about Party on the Pavement?

A feast for all the senses: Food, music, art, a dunk booth, smiling kids, a Ferris wheel with a 50-foot line all afternoon, art and craft demonstrations, llamas and a camel and too many goats and ponies to count.

Did we mention the funnel cakes, beer, brats, pizza, stuffed baked potatoes and corn on the cob?

Princess Leia, those tiresome Storm Troopers and a personable eight-foot-tall Wookie?

How about a Maserati? Just $127,200 or a very reasonable $1,599 per month. Why the salesman thought he could put me into one, I'll never know.

All that just to celebrate the completion of a street remodeling project? Well, Main Street was torn up for two years! And, what the heck, it's a great excuse for a great party. Long after we forget the rationale, the party should continue.

There was too much going on by far to put all the pictures in one post. So I'll sort them into topics. For the moment, here are pictures from the Main Street portion of Party on the Pavement. And here are photos from the Sixth Street Art Walk portion, moved to this Fall date because -- history repeats itself -- Sixth is in the midst of its own two-year rebuilding project. And here are some more photos of the kids having fun. And, of course, our very own PHOTOBOOF!

The Academy of Dance put on a Mooo-ving show

Hans Meyer trains his backup singers

Every Main Street benefits from a Ferris wheel

Jessica Stewart and Linda Martinich, balloon clowns

Olivia Negris of the Silver Knights, Glendale Heights, IL

The Sweet Tarts rocked Monument Square

Megan Taleck and Carly Fox comfort a Dairyland greyhound
seeking adoption ('Can we, Mom, please?')

Ah, yes, that Maserati, here promoting Passion on the Pavement:
Who knew that Fiat, CNH's owner, also owns Maserati and Ferrari
-- and would love to put me in the driver's seat?

The Sidewinders

The view from Main Street store's rooftop

One shake isn't enough, when you also can taste someone else's

Joanne LaBre of Dover Flag, and her new best friend

Parents founds lots of places to take pictures of their kids

Ed and Rosanna McGuire posed by Doug Wick's 20x24 graphic arts camera

Musicians in Transition, after their performance

Jeff Ward brings his Irish stylings to Main Street

As darkness fell, the Ferris wheel lit up Sixth and Main

October 3, 2008

Ryan: Bailout bill 'moves us in the right direction'

Shortly after the House today passed H.R. 1424, the so-called Wall Street bailout, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-WI, 1st District -- who voted yes this morning, as he did on the original bill last Monday -- issued the following statement:

“The Bush Administration offended the American people with a three-page request for a blank check from Congress. ‘Trust us’ simply wouldn’t do. I personally fought to make sure that taxpayers were protected. I fought to make sure that once these troubled institutions start making profits, the taxpayers benefit first and foremost. I fought to make sure Wall Street executives don’t profit personally as a result of their irresponsible decisions. I wrote the provision to ensure that Wall Street shares in the cost of their own recovery. I got in the arena these past two weeks and fought for a better deal for the American taxpayer and those I serve in Wisconsin.

“Our communities in Southern Wisconsin have endured devastating economic hardships as of late, and I could not sit idly by with so much at stake. At the end of the day, this package is about the American taxpayer and American jobs. Failing to act on a viable alternative would have been devastating to American families and American workers. To stabilize our economy and to preserve American jobs, this bill moves us in the right direction. We are facing a Wall Street crisis that is now becoming a banking crisis – a Main Street crisis. There are still many difficult days ahead. This bill is not designed to prevent a recession, but rather to prevent a crash. This bill is about protecting working families’ access to credit – so students can secure college loans, farmers can make their needed investments, seniors can secure their retirement, and businesses can pay their employees.

“I am outraged that we find ourselves in this situation, and we must hold those responsible to account. I will continue to push for additional reforms, working to modernize the regulatory framework and increase the transparency of our financial system. As Congress works to address our current financial crisis, reforms must be put in place to prevent this situation from being repeated in the future.”

Read here what Ryan said Monday, invoking the ghost of Herbert Hoover, when the first bailout bill lost in the House.

Festival Hall executive director suddenly replaced

There's been a change at the top at Festival Hall.

VenuWorks, the Ames, Iowa, company hired by the city four years ago to manage Festival Hall, Memorial Hall and Festival Park "accepted the resignation" of Jim Walczak, executive director, on Tuesday. Ben Hughes, Racine city administrator, said the city had nothing to do with Walczak's sudden departure; "VenuWorks came to us with it," he said.

Doug Kuhnel, senior vice president of VenuWorks, is in Racine to serve as interim director until a permanent replacement for Walczak is named. Mayor Gary Becker and Hughes interviewed three candidates for the job yesterday, all from outside Wisconsin. The new director will be an employee of VenuWorks, not the city, but "VenuWorks cares about our comfort level," Hughes said.

Jim Walczak during installation of the ClearSpan building

Walczak accomplished much during his four years as executive director, including cutting $200,000 in costs from the facilities' operational expenses and spending funds on necessary capital improvements. Most noticeable is the ClearSpan tent building erected in June over the old ice rink.

Hughes said, "We appreciate the service that Jim gave to the city."

He added, "It's time for a fresh look at Memorial Hall and Festival Hall. We're looking forward to a new chapter. We will be more assertive than ever at having the executive director go out and market the city. We know we're never going to get a Bruce Springsteen to come to Memorial Hall, but we think we have two wonderful facilities that can be marketed even more aggressively." He suggested "musical acts, comedians, children's' shows. We think Memorial and Festival Hall can be used by local businesses... In Memorial Hall there are wonderful rooms on the second and third floors that can be marketed even better."

Walczak had said some of the same things back in April (see HERE), but since then Festival Hall lost big when HarborFest was cancelled. Two years ago it lost the Downtown Racine Corporation's Festival of Trees, which filled Festival Hall for 10 days.

Under the city's management, Festival Hall had a deficit anywhere from $300,000 to $500,000 a year. Said Hughes, "Jim did a very good job in the transition from a city-run facility to a privately-run facility. There were savings in maintenance fees, private contracts for setup and events. He did turn it around and we're grateful for that."

But the deficits continue unabated. "We were hoping at some point we'd eliminate the deficit and run these facilities at break-even," Hughes said."It's been a challenge. 2007 and 2008 were very challenging."

Racine's Terry Lynch publishes groundbreaking book on eldercare

Update: Lynch will be signing his new book at Wilson's Coffee & Tea, 3306 Washington Ave., on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Terry Lynch

Racine's Terry Lynch, an expert in helping older people remain self reliant, has a new book out that's being published around the country.

Lynch's book, "But I Don't Want Eldercare!" is promoted as a "groundbreaking guide" to caring for aging parents in ways that maximize independence will providing compassionate assistance.

Lynch, who can be seen working daily at Wilson's Coffee and Tea on Washington Avenue, specializes in helping older people remain self-reliant and involved in community life. He has been advancing the independent living cause since 1977, first in Washington, D.C. and then as an independent living consultant in Wisconsin. Lynch is a member of the AARP-Wisconsin Executive Council and was appointed to the State Board on Aging and Long-Term Care by Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle in 2006.

Here is the full press release from his publisher:

Groundbreaking Guide Offers Unique Strategies for Parents' Premature Dependency on Eldercare Services — and on Their Children
In this myth-shattering guide to aging in America, author Terry Lynch unveils a compelling and effective counterpoint to the traditional "caring for your aging parents" theme. "We have more control over the future than we realize," says Lynch. "Dependency and the burden of caregiving are not inevitable – far from it. It is urgent that people understand why."

A remarkable personal journey underlies Terry Lynch's eye-opening "But I Don't Want Eldercare!" ─ Helping Your Parents Stay as Strong as They Can as Long as They Can, from his work with the White House Conference on individuals with disabilities, to a decade as his mother's caregiver. Lynch's approach to self-reliant aging is based on Eight Rules or "counter-myths" that Lynch says we must know in order to make the best possible decisions and avoid disastrous mistakes.

Lynch's creative strategies, learned through years of trial and error, also set this book apart. "Many helpful books tell people what they should know and where to find it," says Lynch. "I take it further by showing readers how to use this information to achieve sometimes unconventional goals. I find that my approach is liberating for older people and their families." Lynch also draws on personal experience to provide compassionate and practical assistance to adult children who are already overwhelmed by their caregiving responsibilities.

"'Caring for your parents' implies passive acceptance of an inevitable decline and burden," says Lynch. "My message is about vitality, hope, and control, even in difficult circumstances. Helping older people live as they wish is not just a good thing to do. If you do it right, your life will be easier and better, too."

Lynch knows this because he has done it himself and helped many others do the same.

"I am filled with renewed hope," said Pam Cord of Kindred Connection, a home-life assistance organization in Atlantic, Iowa. "Just the introduction will help me be a better daughter." U.S. Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) calls "But I Don't Want Eldercare!" "a wise and informative guide to decisions that generate a sense of optimism, control, and better well-being."

"But I Don't Want Eldercare!" will be published by The Legal Center of Denver, Colorado on October 15. It will be available for purchase at www.thelegalcenter.org and www.amazon.com.

October 2, 2008

Dominicans open HOPES Center on Sixth Street

Ann Pratt OP, Lisa Kane OP, Melissa Taylor and Linda McClenahan OP

The Racine Dominicans opened their new coffeehouse and fair trade store on Sixth Street this week, just in time for Party on the Pavement and the Sixth Street Art Walk this Saturday.

Located in the space formerly occupied by the Racine Arts Council -- 505 Sixth St. -- the sisters have turned the storefront on its head, installing a service bar and coffee shop on the right, and a retail store on the left. It is an attractive, open space, with brick walls on either side. And it's much more than meets the eye, with a focus on alleviating poverty here and around the world.

The Just Trade retail store and the Cup of Hope coffeehouse serve double-duty. Yes, they are both what they seem -- but they are also an extension of the Racine Dominicans' ministry that began here in 1862 when the first sisters taught German immigrants.

"We are very aware of the needs and concerns here; we have a long-term interest in the city," said Linda McClenahan O.P., executive director of what is called the HOPES Center. "Today we have people living in poverty, and we have skills to help people move beyond poverty. We are also very aware that 20- and 30-year-olds are searching. We want to create a space where they might find answers to their questions. Spirituality, poverty, education are each a piece of it."

And so, underlying the store and coffeehouse is the foundation of a social entrepreneurial ministry. "People want their work to have meaning, something that brings about good," said McClenahan.

The HOPES Center -- it stands for
  • Healing
  • Opportunity
  • Peace and Justice
  • Ecology
  • Spirituality
-- will also have a counseling office, for mental health and substance abuse issues, and will offer Reike, Yoga, massage, Tai Chi and other healing arts as an adjunct to traditional counseling. And there's a classroom for Fair Trade education and for local groups to meet. "We encourage all of that because we are very interested in building community. As a society, we're in need of hope," she said.

The retail store and coffeehouse each have paid managers, but both will be staffed as well with volunteers. "Giving people the opportunity to do meaningful volunteer work benefits the community," McClenahan says.

Casual customers may be unaware of the Racine Dominicans' role in the store. "People are not as aware that there are sisters these days," she said. "We're not running around in habits. But we want to be engaged with people, bringing God's love into the world." There are 145 Dominican sisters in Racine, and about a third of them live out in the community where the problems are. She herself lives on 13th and Villa.

A lot of effort -- and knowledge -- have gone into creation of the Hopes Center. McClenahan, for example, is a "second-career" sister: before she became a Dominican eight years ago, and added the Order of Preachers designation to her name, she had a career in retail and restaurant management. Lisa Kane O.P. is another second-career sister working on the project; she was an inventory control specialist for 20 years who also has retail experience. And, as a non-profit, the center has received CBDG and HUD grants (and was also supported by two "humongous" rummage sales this summer that raised almost $3,000.) The center has a "mentor store," in Bloomington, IL, that has carried out the same mission for 30 years.

There's also a board of directors; its chair is Carol Wester O.P., former principal of St. Catherine's High School. McClenahan is also an Americorps/Vista volunteer working on poverty issues.

But what you'll see when you visit the store is home-baked treats and a coffee maker in the coffeehouse half, and colorful hand-made goods from around the world in the retail store. Each of the items for sale has a story:
  • Bright and cheerful greeting cards were made by children orphaned by the Rwandan massacres;
  • Baskets, above, were made by women in Ghana who gather the straw, dry it, make it into artistic baskets;
  • Purses, when examined closely, turn out to be made from old juice boxes, carefully woven by women in the Philippines;
  • Bath salts and soy candles were made by women in a Chicago homeless shelter;
  • Angels of Hope, like the one below, come from Guatemala.
"Anything we can do to benefit the world, benefits us," McClenahan said, noting that she's trying to get products from all over the world: Thailand, India, Africa, South America , Cambodia -- and closer to home: "The women of HALO, Racine's Homeless Shelter, make pillow cases," she said. "We can sell them, too."

Fair Trade certification is carefully monitored. First, there's Equal Exchange, an international company for the fair trade of coffee, tea and sugar, which helped the Hopes Center with technical support. It works to be sure the people who grow the crops are treated with dignity, and make a living wage. And the International Fair Trade Federation has a list of 200 certified vendors all over the world. McClenahan has done her homework.

The retail store isn't fully stocked yet, but already has had customers -- and positive feedback. Someone walked in this week and said, "There's just tremendous energy here."

And they've barely opened...

2 more school bomb threats; 13-year-old held in one

Racine Police arrested a 13-year-old Gilmore Middle School student today, after bomb threats were received at the Red Apple School and Gilmore.

Police said the Gilmore threat was bogus, but the juvenile accused of making it was held on a felony charge of making bomb threats. No motive was immediately determined.

Investigators are following up on leads for the Red Apple School incident. The two threats today are not believed to have been committed by the same suspect.

These threats come one day after Racine Unified School District officials announced a similar threat at Horlick High School for today. Student attendance at Horlick High School was down dramatically today because of it.

Today's threats are possibly "copy cat" threats that will often occur after a widely reported incident such as the Horlick High threat, police said. All threats are evaluated by Unified staff and law enforcement to determine to the best extent possible if the threat is credible, or more possibly a hoax for someone to get out of school early.

Racine's Festival of Trees pruned

2007 Festival of Trees at the Masonic Center

After 19 years as Racine's premier Christmas season event, Festival of Trees is being cut back.

The Downtown Racine Corporation -- which both stages Festival of Trees and uses the proceeds to help fund its operation -- this week announced "a series of new and improved holiday Winterfest activities ... to replace what was formerly known as Festival of Trees."

Festival of Trees, once a 10-day event, filling Festival Hall with close to 100 beautifully decorated Christmas trees, music, events and holiday merchandise, has been on a six-year decline, said Devin Sutherland, DRC executive director. Two years ago it moved from Festival Hall to the smaller Memorial Hall -- suffering from one weekend of 65-degree weather and another with a 13" snowfall.

Last year, when it was presented at the Masonic Center for eight days, there were at most 65 trees, wreaths and garlands. No attendance figures were announced, but Sutherland said it was down from the previous year.

"After surveying, talking to sponsors, we felt it needed a true transformation. Time for a change, keep it fresh. This is the 20th year; events run their course," Sutherland said.

So, while events like the Princess Ball, the Sugar Plum Ball and Mother-Son Night will still be held -- again at the Masonic Center -- the reduced-size Festival of Trees itself will be held for just three days at the new ClearSpan tent building at Festival Park. It will run from Nov. 14-16. Some 30 trees are expected.

Sutherland noted that there still will be special events alongside the trees -- he mentioned games and a new chili cookoff among others -- and said that everyone who attends the ticketed events held at the Masonic Center will be given free admission to the Festival of Trees portion of the new Winterfest.

Three Winterfest events and ticket information about them are listed here.

Our pictures from the 2007 Festival of Trees are here.

October 1, 2008

Sen. Kohl votes yes on bailout; Feingold votes no

The Senate approved the economic bailout by a vote of 74 to 25. Only Sen. Ted Kennedy didn't vote. Here's CNN's report.

HERE'S the Senate Roll Call with Sen. Herb Kohl's aye and Sen. Russ Feingold's nay vote.

Shortly before Wednesday night's vote, Kohl explained his aye vote this way:
"The bailout plan is far from perfect, but failure to act would be disastrous. We cannot allow this crisis to worsen and bring down the country’s economy and ordinary Americans whose jobs, life savings, homes, college funds and retirements are on the line. As we move forward, we must put stronger regulations and oversight in place so we avoid a similar crisis in the future."

Feingold explained his nay like this:
“I will oppose the Wall Street bailout plan because though well intentioned, and certainly much improved over the administration’s original proposal, it remains deeply flawed. It fails to offset the cost of the plan, leaving taxpayers to bear the burden of serious lapses of judgment by private financial institutions, their regulators, and the enablers in Washington who paved the way for this catastrophe by removing the safeguards that had protected consumers and the economy since the great depression. The bailout legislation also fails to reform the flawed regulatory structure that permitted this crisis to arise in the first place. And it doesn’t do enough to address the root cause of the credit market collapse, namely the housing crisis. Taxpayers deserve a plan that puts their concerns ahead of those who got us into this mess.”

Jesse Jackson Jr. gives credit to his father for Obama's nomination

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. - the son of the famed civil rights activist - stopped in Racine Wednesday to rally Barack Obama's campaign volunteers. The Illinois rep is co-chairman of Obama's national campaign and has been touring the nation on behalf of Obama for 18 months.

Jackson's visit was meant to pump up supporters heading into the final month of the campaign. Before he spoke to a crowd of 75, Jackson met with local reporters to discuss the campaign. Here's a few of comments:

Why stop in Racine?

"The campaign asked me to stop here," Jackson said. But that short answer aside, he noted that he campaigned in Wisconsin with his father in 1984 and 1988. Jackson said he felt comfortable in the state, and was impressed at an early age with the working class families he met. He had one memory of visiting with striking Kenosha auto workers in the early 1980s.

Any connections between his father's campaign and Obama's?

Yup. Jackson said his father gave a speech on the campaign trail titled, "Where are my delegates?" At the time, all Democratic primaries were winner-take-all races. Jackson finished second in early races, but received no delegates. The party later changed its rules to proportionally award delegates based on statewide vote totals.

The result: Obama finished second to Hillary Clinton in several early primaries, but remained close enough to continue his campaign - and eventually win the nomination. (You can read Jackson Jr's account of this here.)

"He never got too far away," Jackson said. "Barack never had to give a speech asking the question, 'Where are my delegates?'"

Is race going to be an issue in the final month of the campaign?

"There's never been an election where race was not a major issue," Jackson said. But he added that Obama directed his campaign advisers to "focus on issues" and "take the high road" at all times.

"Our campaign is making every effort along the way to choose the high road," he said.

Does Obama have enough experience to be president?

"No one who has run for president of the United States has ever been president of the United States," he said. "We don't have an incumbent, we have a vacancy. They have the same experience - none."

What does he think of Thursday's vice president debate?

"She (Palin) is going to be formidable," he said.

County Executive's budget avoids layoffs, funds Zoo and library

Given the economic times, County Executive Bill McReynolds' 2009 budget is something of a surprise.

The budget includes a modest tax increase, no layoffs, funding for the Racine Zoo and Racine Public Library and some innovative programs to cut health care costs for employees and taxpayers. Not bad considering the doom and gloom we've all been seeing in the national media. It could have been much worse for county employees and services.

One of the most interesting ideas highlighted by McReynolds was the county's approach to people who need psychiatric care. It's expensive to send people to state mental health institutes, so the county is working on reducing that need. They're helping low-income residents afford medications they need to control mental illness and training sheriff's deputies how to respond to people with psychiatric distress. The county is also working with Wheaton-Franciscan All Saints to help people decompress rather than be admitted to the hospital.

All in all, it seems like a decent plan. The County Board will have its look now, and may find some problems (McReynolds basically challenged the board to find any "hidden" costs). It's too late to do much now, but it's interesting that the county is using its newly expanded jail to house inmates from outside of the community. Money is money, but aren't we trying to reduce the number of criminals in Racine?

Here's the full text of County Executive Bill McReynolds' budget address.

September 30, 2008

Crime Stoppers have a new tool: Text messaging

The text-messaging generation has just become a new crime-fighting tool.

The Racine Police Department announced a new partnership with Crime Stoppers of Racine County, utilizing text messaging to report crimes. People who used to call law enforcement agencies with crime tips can now text them -- using a high tech server system based in Texas that serves police agencies throughout the U.S.

It's called Tipsoft, and Racine Police say it features built in firewall systems to ensure that the sender of a text tip will remain anonymous.,

Four billboards around the city will announce the program this week. People who want to provide tips just need to text their message to the Tipsoft address -- CRIMES, or 274637 -- and reference the Racine County Tipsoft ID number: TIP 417. The information goes to a clearinghouse in Texas before being forwarded to the Racine Police Department. Tips are then distributed to appropriate law enforcement agencies in Racine County.

Police in cities like Los Angeles and Chicago are already using the new technology. Racine County law enforcement agencies hope members of the community will use the system to provide tips about crimes here, including several unsolved Racine homicides and the hit and run death of bicyclist Patricia Blundon in Caledonia.

Crime Stoppers tips can still be phoned in by calling 262-636-9330, or emailed to the Crime Stoppers web page.

September 29, 2008

County's 15th barn quilt is hung

Ohio Star Variation on Nicholson Road

And then there were fifteen.

The 15th and final "quilt" to be hung on a Racine County barn this year was put up Monday morning, successfully completing the hard work of the first year of Racine County's exciting Quilts on Barns project. All that's left to do now is party, on Oct. 11 at the Racine County Convention and Visitors Bureau. Details of the celebration are HERE, along with links to pictures and stories of the other 14 barn quilts.

The final quilt was hung on the Jim and Laurel Helding barn at 4638 Nicholson Road. The 8'x8' quilt square in the Ohio Star Variation pattern was painted by the Quilts on Barns Committee, and sponsored by Design Quilting.

There's an amusing backstory to this final quilt -- amusing now that it's over and there's been a happy ending. See, the red, green and cream star quilt above is actually the second one to be hung on the Heldings' barn. The first one hung there, on Sept. 9, is shown at right. Depending on who you ask, this blue and yellow pattern is called either the Drunkard's Path or the Vine of Friendship. They really are similar designs, but since this one was painted by Girl Scouts we'll say it's Vine of Friendship, OK? Regardless, there had been a mix-up; Quilts on Barns organizer Kathi Wilson agrees she gave the Heldings a drawing of the quilt their barn was getting beforehand -- but it didn't turn out to be the quilt that was actually installed.

Maybe it was the colors that didn't agree with the barn owners, or that name, Drunkard's Path. Regardless, the quilt went up on Sept. 9 -- and it immediately came down. And then the fun began, as Donna Newgord of the Quilts on Barns Committee was given a quick assignment: paint a new quilt in the Ohio Star Variation pattern for the Heldings' barn. The two 4'x8' panels were delivered, along with cans of paint and a hurry-up order. Donna got it done in a week: the priming, taping and multiple coats, completed in odd moments night and day.

If you're a quilter, then you know the first rule of quilting: nothing gets wasted. The Drunkard's Path ... er, Vine of Friendship barn quilt will be used for the ribbon-cutting celebrating completion of the project's first year on Oct. 11, and then will be hung on a barn next year. All's well that ends well. And if anybody asks, don't forget: It's the Vine of Friendship pattern, not that other name...

Garrett, a Shih Tzu waiting for you

Winter's coming, and you need a dog! Trust me, much better to get it trained and acclimated to you and your home before the cold and snow comes.

We've had a run of larger dogs for a while, so this week's adoptable pet is a departure from that, just perfect for someone with a small apartment (or a large purse). Garrett is a 2-3-year old male, black and white Shih Tzu mix. As I write this, he's not yet neutered, but like all the pets adopted through the Countryside Humane Society, he will be by the time he's ready to go home with you.

Shih Tzu is/are -- the word is both plural and singular -- a breed originating in China. The name means "Lion Dog," and the Shih Tzu is the oldest and smallest of the Tibetan holy dog. Luckily for you, Garrett does not have the fancy-schmancy show coat that requires a lot of maintenance and a retinue of servants.

You can check out Garrett -- who's a sweet-natured guy recommended for all ages -- at Countryside, 2706 Chicory Road, or call (262) 554-6699.

Sad to say, Agnes, the lovely Abyssinian/brown tabby we had up for adoption last week, still hasn't found a home. If you're interested, check out our posting and call Countryside asap.

Super School Star! Kathie Hobbs

"Kathie Hobbs is the most organized, knowledgeable, efficient secretary I have worked with," wrote Pam Wolff in her nomination of Hobbs for a Super School Star Award. Hobbs and Wolff both work for North Park Elementary School in Caledonia.

"The school could not function without her. She knows all the teachers, students, and parents. She can answer any question, find any item or info, and make it look easy. She manages to keep the office clean and germ free every day. She is never flustered, even when the rest of us are."

Wolff, who has worked for two other schools, added this final comment about Hobbs:

"Kathy is truly our school's heart and soul. She doesn't get recognized nearly enough."

RacinePost's "Super School Star 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: dustin.block@gmail.com. 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.

Ryan invokes Hoover as House rejects bailout

Was there any suspense at all about how U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-WI, 1st District, would vote on Wall Street's economic bailout bill?

Well, just a teeny bit. He had, after all, opposed the three-page, no-oversight-just-gimme-the-damn-money proposal originally put forth by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. But at the same time, Ryan's votes throughout his career are in lockstep with the Bush administration.

So how'd he vote? He voted yes. Here are some quotes from Ryan this morning, prior to today's vote, and at bottom his reaction to the House's failure to pass H.R 3997, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, which failed 205 - 228. BE SURE to read the final sentence of Ryan's statement, the one where he refers to "the horrendous failures of the Bush Administration." (Ryan said that? Yup. Who would've thunk it. Is he trying to have it both ways: For the bill but against the administration that brought it forth?)

"In an impassioned speech on the House floor this morning, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said he was "offended" by the Bush administration's original three-page bill that asked Congress to give Paulson a $700 billion check without any oversight.

"Ryan urged Congress to vote on a compromised version of the bill today, "Because this Wall Street crisis is quickly becoming a Main Street crisis."

Ryan said, "We added 107 pages of taxpayer protection to this bill." The additional provisions will ensure that taxpayers will be the first to be paid back when the economy recovers and that Wall Street will share the risks, Ryan said.

If the emergency plan is not approved, businesses may lose access to funds to meet payroll for their employees, students may lose access to loans for college and seniors may lose have access to their savings, Ryan said.

Ryan said, "This is a Herbert Hoover moment," referring to the Republican president who was in power as the nation plummeted into The Great Depression. "I think the White House bumbled this thing … We have to deal with this panic. We have to deal with this fear. We're here. We're in this moment," Ryan said. "If we fail to pass this, I fear the worst is yet to come … I believe in all my heart, as bad as this is, it could get a whole lot worse."
Politico quoted Ryan saying:
“This sucks,” Ryan told his colleagues, according to people in the room, before telling Republicans that one of his local banks failed shortly after he withdrew money for his campaign.

(RacinePost finds nothing about any "local" bank failure. We contacted a Racine banker who suggested: "I don't know of any local banks that have failed. He may have had money in WAMU or Wachovia, though." WaMu is Washington Mutual, which was acquired last week by JP Morgan Chase in a governement-assisted takeover. Wachovia was acquired today by Citigroup.)

Politico also said Ryan fielded phone calls in recent days from President Bush and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.
Nebraska TV had this additional Ryan quote:
He adds that lawmakers are worried about being voted out of office if they vote for the plan. Ryan says the general attitude among his colleagues is, "I want this thing to pass, but I want you to vote for it, not me."
The website Donkelephant ("Big teeth. Huge Ass. Surprisingly reasonable.") had Ryan's Herbert Hoover quote this way:
“This bill offends my principles but I’m going to vote for this bill in order to preserve my principles… to preserve [the free enterprise system]. This is a Herbert Hoover moment.. he made mistakes during the Great Depression… Let’s not make those mistakes… If we fail to do the right thing, heaven help us—if we fail to pass this I fear the worst is yet to come.”

This is the same Paul Ryan who was against the bailout a few days ago and led the House revolt that McCain gave credence to. Well, that is until he eventually backed away from the House Republicans.

So what happened?

Well, note that Ryan says the bill will “preserve [the free enterprise] system.” There’s really no other way to read that than Ryan has realized that the free market has failed in this instance and the government needs to save it.

What’s more, while he says the bill “offends” his principles, he probably also now understands that the vast majority of these mortgages are actually really good investments and the taxpayers could ultimately benefit quite a bit if we can buy a bunch of these perfectly good mortgages for 40 to 50 cents on the dollar.

In the end, he was probably just scared $#!+less that he and 99 other Republican House members would be blamed for the worst financial collapse since the Great Depression. Because I don’t think his invocation of Herbert Hoover was on accident.
Paul Ryan issued the following statement after voting in favor of HR 3997:
“It is with deep disappointment and a heavy heart to have witnessed Congress’ failure to address the grave financial challenges we face as a nation. With an election looming, my colleagues in Congress thought first and foremost of their own jobs at the expense of the jobs of those they serve. I could not and did not accept last week’s proposal by the Bush Administration – an Administration that totally mishandled this situation. But instead of pointing fingers and standing idly by – as would have been the politically expedient thing to do – I worked to secure concrete protections for the taxpayer.

“Today’s vote was about stopping the Wall Street crisis from creating a banking crisis in our communities. The Bush Administration’s proposal was unacceptable, and the American people demanded an alternative solution be brought to the table. I joined my colleagues in putting forth an alternative economic rescue proposal and secured these taxpayer-protections in the final bipartisan agreement. I fought to make sure that once these troubled institutions start making profits, the taxpayers benefit first and foremost. I fought to make sure Wall Street executives don’t profit personally as a result of their irresponsible decisions. I wrote the provision that ensures that Wall Street shares in the cost of their own recovery.

“I supported this bill in order to stabilize our economy and to preserve American jobs. It is about Main Street – that Wall Street’s crisis doesn’t become Main Street’s crisis. It is about protecting working families’ access to credit – so students can secure college loans, farmers can buy feed, seniors can secure their retirement, and businesses can pay their employees.

“I am outraged that we find ourselves in this situation, and I have grave concerns for the state of our economy. In light of the political expediency of my colleagues and the horrendous failures of the Bush Administration, we will have to roll up our sleeves and go back to the drawing board to enact a meaningful solution to our financial crisis.”

September 28, 2008

Quilts on Barns project near first-year conclusion

Quilt pieces readied for a Burlington Township barn

Criss-crossing the county -- from Haban Park in Racine to Waterford -- Quilts on Barns volunteers hung "quilts" on five barns Sunday.

The marathon began at 8 a.m. and wasn't finished until after 3 p.m., thanks to various challenges -- like soft dirt into which its borrowed bucket truck started sinking. But they persevered, and completed the task. There are now 14 barns with 8' x 8' painted quilts, one short of this year's goal. The final barn quilt will be hung Monday, and the official ribbon-cutting ceremony, party and quilt raffle will take place on Oct. 11.

Kathi Wilson interviewed by WGTD as barn quilt is hung at Haban Park

Sunday began with the relatively simple hanging of a quilt at Haban Park, on a storage barn overlooking the ballfields where scores of youngsters were playing (and supervised by the caretaker's rooster, who walked around imperiously). The quilt square is Lady of the Lake in blue and white. It was painted by the Monument Square Art Fair board of directors, and sponsored by the Racine County Public Works Department.

54-40 or Fight as seen from the highway

Then it was off to Bill and Betty Weis' barn, the heart of a 283-acre dairy operation with 125 head in Burlington Township. Hard to say how old the barn is; their farmhouse dates from 1906, but it replaced an earlier home constructed when the barn was built. Betty jokes that if it weren't for the hay and corn stuffing the barn it would fall over; Bill was hoping the plywood "quilt" helps hold the barn up. In any case, the long red barn received a colorful green, white and black square in the 54-40 or Fight pattern, painted by Main Gallery and sponsored by Johnson Bank.

What did they think of the barn after the quilt was hung? "It's finer than frog's hair," said Bill.

Ed Stone gives Amigo a treat as their barn is quilted

Next was Bonnie and Ed Stone's barn on Maple Road in Rochester. Their 199-acre farm was once home to 100 steers and the same number of pigs -- while Ed was also juggling a career as a CPA. Ed is now retired and the land is rented to hay, corn and soybean production. The barn is a spacious home for Amigo, a very smart donkey -- "he can open a rope knot with his teeth," says Ed, who adds that Amigo likes to eat apples and Oreo cookies. In this election season, I had to ask whether the donkey represented a political preference, but Ed recoiled in horror. "God no," he said. "I should have an elephant!" Turns out he's owned Amigo for about 10 years, after the animal repeatedly wandered over from his former owner's farm across the highway, and was finally formally adopted by the Stones.

Amigo's barn is now graced with a colorful Log Cabin quilt, painted by the Boy Scouts and sponsored by Accounting and Business Services.

Indian Trails pattern on a Norway sheep barn

From there, the volunteers drove to Tom and Diane Oberhart's 68-acre farm on Big Bend Road in Norway. Their home dates from 1878 and their barn is now home to six Suffolk sheep, who munched contentedly in the adjoining pasture as the barn quilt was hung. Their white barn received a dramatic blue and black pinwheel square in the Indian Trails pattern, painted by the Rainbow Quilt Guild and sponsored by the Racine County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Wild Goose Chase at 22020 West Seven Mile Road

Sunday's final quilt was affixed to an old barn next to a new house belonging to Adrienne and Richard Kessler, set back from West 7 Mile Road. It proved the most difficult to hang, as the truck with the bucket that lifts volunteers and the quilt to the top to the barn kept sinking into soft sand. Its outriggers were finally braced with four-by-fours -- they quickly cracked -- and cement slabs and the job was completed with trepidation but without further incident. The grey barn now sports a red, white, green and black Wild Goose Chase square, painted by AOA Employees, sponsored by O & H Bakery.

The complete Quilts on Barns project will be officially unveiled on Oct. 11 with a 9 a.m. ribbon-cutting by County Executive Bill McReynolds at the Racine County Convention and Visitors' Bureau on Hwy 20 by I-94. (The ribbon will be around one of next year's barn quilts.) Maps with the locations of all 15 barn quilts will be available, and there will be a party from 4 to 6 p.m., with food, and the band Rusty Horses. Raffle tickets will be sold all day -- the prize is a quilt, of course: The Best of Rural Art, done by The Friends of Ozella. The raffle drawing will be held at 5:30 p.m.

Also, Racine artist Bob Anderson has created a pencil drawing collage of all 15 of this year's barn quilts; prints will be available.

Capping the event will be the hanging of a specially designed 4'x4' quilt pattern on the RCCVB building itself, a square combining the look of a Frank Lloyd Wright window with a Flying Geese pattern.

Another 30 barns will receive quilts over the next two years, as the project conceived by Kathi Wilson transforms the rural landscape.

Stories and pictures of the rest of this year's Quilts on Barns are HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE.