October 11, 2008
Trips to Swan's Pumpkins in Caledonia always seem to be frigid affairs. Fun, for sure, just be sure to dress in several layers. But not this year, or at least not today.
The weather was beyond perfect for a morning trip to the Pumpkin Farm. We went out to Swan's with several friends to walk through the corn maze, take a hay ride, feed goats, eat caramel apples and just about everything else you do at a pumpkin farm. (The one thing we didn't do was take home a pumpkin ... though that put us in the strong minority.)
Pictures are below. A quick note for families: It's a good deal. We bought wristbands for $6, which covered everything except pony rides and food. It's a nice deal for a half day of entertainment.
Swan's is located at Highway H and 5 Mile Road in Caledonia. Directions are here.
October 10, 2008
The denim worn next Friday will make a powerful statement for an important cause. As Lee National Denim Day moves into its 13th year, Girl Scout Troop 5780 is gearing up to participate in this grassroots program which has raised more than $70 million for breast cancer research. The troop has formed a team, The Pink Panthers, and is encouraging kids to wear pink, jeans and donate money to help cure breast cancer. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
The girls are working to get students at Wind Point Elementary to wear denim and pink on Friday, and to donate coins for a cause in their classrooms during the week. The classroom which donates the most will win a popcorn party. The Girl Scout Troop is also collecting $5 donations on their website, with a goal of $150. All proceeds will be donated to the Women’s Cancer Programs of the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF). Funds raised support some of the most promising treatment and early detection research in the country, as well as the grassroots advocacy work of the National Breast Cancer Coalition.
“Every year we are inspired by the number of people at thousands of organizations across the nation who join us in wearing denim on Lee National Denim Day,” said Liz Cahill of Lee Jeans. “The money they’re raising will be used to advance some of the most promising breast cancer research in the industry and we can’t thank them enough.”
The Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF), a leading charitable organization for the entertainment industry, has distributed hundreds of millions of dollars to support charitable initiatives addressing health, education and social issues. For information about EIF’s Women’s Cancer Programs and breast cancer, visit it's website or call 800-426-0010
OK, we'll admit the obvious up front: We didn't go downtown while ABC-TV was broadcasting its evening news show with Charlie Gibson from Downtown Thursday night. Instead, we stayed home and watched the broadcast, hoping to see Racine get some positive national publicity. Yeah, so much for that idea.
But we knew -- from the Journal Times' story -- that election partisans crowded the street in front of the building. Reporter Stephanie Brien described how only the Obama supporters could be heard up on the balcony where the broadcast was to be made, and how police closed two blocks of Main Street because ABC producers thought car horns would disrupt the broadcast, and how Police Chief Kurt Wahlen was "amazed" when the crowd acceded to his request for quiet during the broadcast.
But despite the JT's report of a chanting crowd -- perhaps as many as 300 Obama supporters and 25 McCainiacs, is what we've heard -- the newspaper didn't run any pictures of them. The local photographer who sent us these pictures said she asked the JT's photographer on the scene what he thought of the crowd, and he replied that he thought they were "rude."
So, lesson noted: If you want your picture in the paper, don't be rude... or carry an Obama sign.
But the new plan, which is similar to the one used in Great Britain, also amounts to the government buying a share of the banks. It's this government ownership that worries the free-market-minded Ryan. Here's his quote to the Wisconsin State Journal:
"It has to be non-voting stock and that's what we put in the (law). You can't get the federal government into the boardroom and start running these companies and I want to make sure that is adhered to."
The problem with Ryan's worry is that it may be too late. The initial bailout plan is being criticized as too complicated, slow and ineffective to impact the financial markets.
That could lead to the ironic result of the conservative Bush administration taking the ultra-liberal step of nationalizing an industry. It'll be interesting to see if Ryan sticks with his principles on this one, or goes along with the plan in an attempt to save the economy.
The one-time payment lasts through 2009, according to the company's press release. Modine's stock was up slightly today and closed at 10.01.
Ask a teacher at Starbuck Middle School, and they'll probably know Luigi Enriquez.
The eighth-grader from Racine is involved in several programs, plays several instruments, gets great grades and, above all, is a really nice person, according to school officials. He's also RacinePost's newest "Super School Star."
"Everybody knows Luigi," said Sandra Brandt, principal of Starbuck.
Beth Kapralian, a music teacher at Starbuck, nominated Luigi for a Super School Star Award.
Here's what she wrote:
"Luigi is an outstanding musician and student. He is extremely polite and courteous to peers and staff. He has been involved in orchestra, jazz band, peer mediators, study buddies, media team, engineering expo (I'm sure I am leaving things out!) to name a few.Congratulations to Luigi, and many thanks to Mrs. Kapralian and Mrs. Brandt.
He is very helpful to peers and staff and is willing to go the extra mile and always with a cheerful attitude.
He will be a success in whatever path he chooses in life."
Have someone you would like to nominate? Send us an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
A couple was charged today in the death of a 2-year-old boy in Racine. One of the suspects is the boy's mom. The criminal complaint released by police today details a pattern of severe abuse that led to the boy's death from strangulation. Here's the full criminal complaint, but be warned: It's horrible.
Also, please note the efforts of the police in this matter. It's a terrible thing to work a job that puts you close to the violent death - particularly of a child. The officers and investigators in this case deserve deep respect. They certainly have suffered through this case.
Come Join Us For A Staple and Stuff Party!
We are hosting a party for volunteers to staple yard signs and stuff envelopes at our downtown Kenosha headquarters. Help out two or more hours and get a free Krupp For Congress t-shirt!
When: 9 am - Noon on Saturday, October 11th
Where: Our new Downtown Kenosha headquarters:
920 61st St.
(Parking is in the back of the building, just off Sheridan Rd.)
Call (262)-909-9279 for directions, or visit www.kruppforcongress.org for details.
October 9, 2008
If this was Racine's big close-up, our exposure on national TV to the rest of the country -- well, thanks, but no thanks.
For the first half of Charlie Gibson's ABC-TV World News broadcast from Racine tonight, all we were was a lake backdrop and a place to park the program's bus. Charlie stood on a balcony of the Johnson Building downtown and if you looked closely you could see the lake behind his head. The entire first half of the broadcast was taken up with a report on the stock market decline, and a Milwaukee interview with John McCain, who once again told us of his "passion" and his "courage."
At the mid-broadcast commercial break came the first real reference to Racine, "a city with the worst unemployment rate in the state." That was it, except for a promise of a story about a program we have to deal with unemployment. But first, a report on gas prices -- they're down -- and a plug for an investigation coming up later in the broadcast about more government eavesdropping on American citizens.
Finally, at about 5:53, "Coming up, the unique way this city is matching jobs with the people who need them." But first, these messages...allergy medicine, Grey's Anatomy, etc. etc.
And then, "Finally, tonight..." it was our turn. Charlie referenced our 9.6 percent unemployment rate, gave Mayor Gary Becker a 10-second sound bite (under his face was a promo for Channel 12's 6 p.m. broadcast: GAS BELOW $3/GAL), and spent about 90 seconds at Gateway Technical College, talking briefly to three students in a CNC retraining program, Julie Langenfeld, Joe Lori and David Linda. "And we have heard a lot about job retraining here in the midwest..." Charlie summed up, closing the broadcast.
And that was it. Blink, and you coulda missed Racine.
The J-S carries the flag on this one in today's paper. The article is kindly headlined: "Ryan's vote for bailout went against his principles." That's a nice way of saying he's trying to have it both ways.
“This bill offends my principles,” the Janesville Republican said in an impassioned speech Sept. 29, before Congress’ first attempt to pass the measure. “But I am going to vote for this bill in order to preserve my principles, in order to preserve this free-enterprise system.”
Here's the local reaction from the J-S:
George Meyers, a member of the Racine Taxpayers Association: “It’s not going to help the people it’s purported to help,” he said, adding that he was disappointed by Ryan’s position. “It’s basically a bailout of some wealthy bankers who made some mistakes. . . . We’re going to get shorted on our money.”
County Executive Bill McReynolds: "I probably had the natural reaction the constituents in this area had from a layman’s sense," he said. Now, "I can understand why Congressman Ryan probably had to vote for it. This shows what type of courage he has."
Robin Vos, a Republican who represents Racine County in the state Assembly, also gave Ryan credit for trying to shape the rescue package, then taking a vote that could hurt his standing among some of his constituents.
"The easy answer would have been to say ‘That’s too hot a potato,’" he said.
BTW, anyone seen Marge Krupp lately? Rumor has it she's running for Congress ...
October 8, 2008
McCain and his vice presidential running-mate Sarah Palin will be campaigning together in Waukesha Thursday morning, before she then goes off to Ohio and he to Mosinee near Wausau. McCain will stay in the state overnight, holding a rally in La Crosse Friday morning.
Sometime Thursday, McCain will be interviewed by Charlie Gibson of ABC-TV's World News, who is broadcasting the 5:30 national news program from Racine. At least that's what we hear from Doug Nicholson, owner of the Ivanhoe Pub, who was scheduled to be interviewed by Gibson ... but has now been cancelled in favor of the presidential candidate himself. Oh, well. Doug tells us the McCain interview will take place in Milwaukee ... so no return engagement in Racine for McCain this time.
And now the three polls, all of which come up with a 10-point lead for Obama:
The WISC-TV poll, conducted Sunday and Monday, shows Obama 51% of the likely vote to McCain's 41%.
The Rasmussen Reports telephone survey puts the race at 54% to 44%.
SurveyUSA's poll for WGBA-TV in Green Bay has it 52% to 42%, with Obama leading everywhere except Greater Milwaukee and among Pro-Life voters.
But the change still appears to violate state election law and could be confusing for voters. Why not make this change two months ago?
The City Council is considering a last-minute change to one of its polling places less than a month before the Nov. 4 general election.
Based on the minutes from last night's council meeting, Mayor Gary Becker suggested moving a polling place from Knapp Elementary School to the Workforce Development Center. The council voted to send the idea to the Executive Committee for consideration.
But that hasn't stopped the city from listing the Workforce Development Center as the new polling site on its website.
There's some question that this may even violate state law. Here's the statute:
5.25 Polling places. (1) All elections under chs. 5 to 12 shall
be held at the polling places provided in this section. The places
chosen shall be public buildings, unless the use of a public building
for this purpose is impracticable or the use of a nonpublic
building better serves the needs of the electorate, as determined by
the authority charged with the responsibility for establishing polling
places under sub. (2).
(2) In cities over 500,000 population, polling shall be at the
places established by the board of election commissioners. In all
other cities and in villages and towns, polling shall be at the places
established by the governing body.
(3) Polling places shall be established for each September primary
and general election at least 60 days before the election, and
for each other election at least 30 days before the election.
But here's the real question: Why change a polling site less than a month before a major election?
The story actually developed on the JT's website three days ago when a reader posted a blog about a conversation she overheard in the beauty salon. Comments on the blog updated Kieana's status, and eventually her passing.
Wheaton-Franciscan isn't talking about the incident, and Kieana's mom is planning a lawsuit. It'll take years, but the courts will sort this one out.
October 7, 2008
Here's his response:
From: Donnie Snow
Re: Recent burial in Graceland Cemetery
Date: October 7, 2008
On October 7, 2008, the Racine Journal Times published an article concerning the burial of Mary I. Jeffries. The reporter’s assessment of the mix up with the burial of Ms. Jeffries is unfortunate and undeniably correct; Ms. Jeffries was buried in the wrong plot at Graceland Cemetery.
Ms. Jeffries was initially buried in the plot reserved for Artelia Collins, and vice versa. Both of the deceased were buried on December 21, 2007, both burials were scheduled for 12:30 p.m. that day and the same funeral home handled both burials. On the morning of the burials the funeral home contacted the cemetery to inform the cemetery personnel that one of the families was in route to the cemetery. The funeral home did not inform cemetery personnel that the other family was in route to the cemetery as well. The other family arrived first, and the cemetery director followed the notice that had been received by telephone from the funeral home on the morning of the scheduled burials.
Upon the Hamptons contacting the cemetery, the cemetery director, Steve Bedard, contacted the family of the Ms. Collins, and they have asked for privacy in this matter. Since the discovery of the incident, Graceland Cemetery has exhumed the caskets and placed them in their rightful locations. There are no indications that would lead the City of Racine to believe that anyone else is buried in the wrong location. I want to assure the public that this kind of mix up is in no way usual and customary as to how the cemetery is administered; this was an unusual set of circumstances that caused this occurrence. We try hard and do our best to avoid these kinds of mistakes. Nevertheless, however rare these kinds of mistakes occur, when they do happen they are unacceptable. Moreover, each hearse entering a city-owned cemetery will now be received at the gates of Mound and Graceland Cemetery where they will be required to identify the deceased before proceeding.
The City of Racine regrets this incident and extends its deepest sympathies to each of the families.
Report: Wisconsin girls, boys equal in math; 90% of girls graduate high school, but only 22% finish college
The Racine chapter of AAUW met Tuesday evening to discuss "The Status of Girls in Wisconsin" report. The 2007 report, headed by the Alverno College Research Center, gives insight to how girls ages 10-19 are faring in the state.
The report is divided into 11 categories which show both positive trends for girls and areas of concern. Below are a few findings from the report. Click here for the full report.
The Good News
- More than 7% of high school girls are taking Advanced Placement exams, up from 4% ten years ago.
- Over 90% of girls graduated with a regular high school diploma compared to 87% of boys.
- No significant difference was found in mathematics scores between males and females.
- Girls in WI are more likely to partcipate in at least one sport than girls on a national level.
- Only 23% of girls in WI watch 3 or more hours of TV on an average school day compared with 36% nationally.
- WI high school girls are less likely to have had sexual intercourse, 40.3% in WI compared to 45.7% nationally.
- Birth rates for teenage mothers aged 15-19 has decreased from approxiamately 41 per 1,000 in 1993 to 30 per 1,000 in 2004.
- High school girls who smoke has decreased from 38% in 1999 to 22% in 2005.
What Needs to be Addressed
- Only 65% of girls passed the Advanced Placement exam with a score of 3 or above compared to over 70% of boys who passed with a 3 or above.
- The majority of girls who drop out of school do so because they are pregnant or parenting. Females dropouts who do not have children are more likely to become teenage mothers than those who stay in school.
- Only 22% of women in WI have a four-year college degree even though 57% of female high school students intend to attend a four-year college.
- 34% of high school girls reported they had not been physically active for at least in hour in the past week and 73% did not meet recommened levels of physical activity.
- Nationally, 40% of girls say they do not play sports because they do not see themselves as skilled or competent.
- 16% say they do not feel like they belong at their school.
- 9% of girls reported they do not have a single person in their life they were comfortable seeking help from if they had an important question affecting their lives.
- 10% of high school girls used no form of birth control the last time they had sexual intercourse.
- There were 7,362 reported cases of STD infection for WI females ages 15-19 in 2005, with chlamydia the most prevelant.
- Only 51% of high school girls have spoken with a parent about HIV/AIDS.
- 23% of women who are sexually assaulted become pregnant by the perpetrator.
- 42% of girls age 15 or younger who are having sex report that their first sexual intercourse was not consensual.
- Infant mortality rates for babies born to teenage mothers under the age of 15 is 23.3 and 15.2 for mothers ages 15-17.
- 49% of high school girls report consuming one or more alcoholic beverages in the preceding 30 days.
- 10% of girls report they were 10 years or younger the first time they consumed alcohol.
- 30% of high school girls engaged in binge drinking at least once in the previous month.
- 33% of WI high school females reported feeling "so sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more in a row that they stopped doing some usual activities, but only 5% received any mental health counseling or care.
- For WI youth ages 10-17, self-harm is the leading cause of injury-related hospializations.
- 11% of girls reported at least one suicide attempt in the past year and 22% seriously considered suicide.
- Between 1999 and 2004, suicide was the 3rd leading cause of death among WI girls ages 10-14, and the 2nd leading cause of death among WI females ages 15-24.
- 62% of high school girls were trying to lose weight despite only 6% of WI high school girls are actually overweight.
- Over 60% of victims of child abuse and neglect are girls.
- The rate of violence a female experiences increases with age, mostly due to sexual abuse allegations.
- 13% of WI high school females report having been forced to take part in sexual activity.
If these numbers are alarming to you, get involved to be a positive influence in the life of a girl you know. The presenter stated that focusing on girls is not detrimental to boys. Rather, everyone benefits when the community addresses the concerns of girls.
The city vigorously denies all of Tingle's charges in the brief by attorney Mark L. Olson, of Davis and Kuelthau law firm, submitted this weekend to Christine Brunow, the civil rights investigator in the Equal Rights Division of the State of Wisconsin, Department of Workforce Development. We posted Olson's response yesterday.
Today we have more: all the gory details contained in the 126 pages of exhibits that accompanied the city's response.
The exhibits include:
- city employment policies
- copies of reprimands given to Tingle
- email exchanges between her and City Administrator Ben Hughes regarding job performance issues like confidentiality and whether meetings were being convened in a timely manner)
- memos, policies, even City Hall's telephone tree, as part of a detailed back-and-forth over whether phone calls were being answered or sent to voice mail
- details of two apparently bogus sick-pay claims by Tingle
- the letter and filing made by Nola J. Hitchcock Cross, Tingle's lawyer, in her initial Aug. 8 Discrimination Complaint submitted to the state
- the city's detailed 56-page investigator's report examining one-by-one each of the 47 allegations Cross and Tingle made
- and Atty. Cross' July 16 letter --"Confidential Settlement Communication" -- sent to Robert K. Weber, City Attorney.
Here are some of the points worth looking for look for.
-- Exhibit 6 (Pages 17 - 18), a reprimand from Hughes to Tingle from Jan. 14, 2008, regarding the makeup of the interview committee to fill the vacant MIS Director position. Hughes wrote that Tingle spoke to an alderman and questioned why he "was not selected for the committee and you expressed concerns to him about the overall ability of this 5-person committee to make an informed decision. Later that day, your husband proactively called this same alderman... to question the composition of this committee."
"On a related matter...I recently learned of conversations you had ... in November 2007 with more than one alderman concerning the Mayor's 2008 proposed budget. Evidently, you questioned the need and wisdom behind his proposal to establish a new Grant Administrator position...This is yet another example of possible insubordination. It is my full expectations that no such behavior is displayed by you in the future."
-- Exhibit 7 (Page 19 - 20) a reprimand from Hughes to Tingle from June 23, 2008, regarding the abuse of sick time.
The reprimand states that Tingle called in sick on May 5 and 6, and when she returned to work recorded the two days as sick time. "It has since come to my attention that you lied to me on both days and that you were in vacation with your husband in Florida during this period. Indeed, your husband, Frank Tingle, helped facilitate this fraudulent use of sick time."
The reprimand says Tingle also abused sick pay on Feb. 15, by attending a Milwaukee event for Obama and claiming sick pay for it.
-- Exhibit 8 (Page 21), the May 2 email exchange between Frank Tingle and city employee Kelly Graham. Graham wrote Tingle, "Just so you know, I will be making and bringing in a trifle on Monday for Sandy T's birthday, if you would care to come in and partake at some point. :-) She's going to be 29, right?"
And Frank Tingle's response: "Shhhhh... Ummmm...she is planning on being sick on Monday and Tuesday."
-- The largest portion of the Exhibit is the Confidential Investigation Report (Pages 29 - 85) submitted by Susan Love of the Davis and Kuelthau law firm. Love writes that she interviewed all individuals named in the letter by Tingle's attorney (Tingle herself refused to participate) "and searched thoroughly for corroborative evidence of any nature." In all, Love conducted 18 interviews.
More of the points discussed after the break:
Henry and Wanda's (Page 33): Hughes said he stopped attending the Friday evening socialization after, "On one evening, Ms. Tingle pointed out another female in the bar and stated that the female was going to be the Mayor's next mistress and would be hired for the new grant administrator position. Mr. Hughes stated he believed her comments were inappropriate. He left shortly after her comments. He never went to another Friday gathering at Henry and Wanda's."
Hughes denied he ever "sat uncomfortably close" to Ms. Tingle.... "He asserted, and several witnesses corroborated, that Henry & Wanda's is very crowded on Friday after work and everyone is generally in close proximity.... Other individuals who attended the gatherings stated they never saw Mr. Hughes act inappropriately toward Ms. Tingle and never heard any inappropriate comments."
Gifts (Page 35): The box of chocolates Tingle claimed Hughes gave her. He said it came from the president of a local bank and he told the banker he would share it with the office. "Witnesses verified" that "Hughes brought in the candy at Christmas for the office."
Tingle told a witness that Hughes had given her a "tote" bag. Hughes said it was the Mayor's 'tote' from a conference. "He believes he handed the Mayor's tote bag to Ms. Tingle. It contained conference materials. He expected she would give it to the mayor."
Harassment of city employee Liz DeWitt (Page 36): Tingle alleged that Hughes was harassing DeWitt "by repeatedly warming his coffee in her work area," in the City Attorney's office. Hughes and DeWitt both said there was no harassment, and she produced records of the number of visits he made daily to use the microwave. (Yes, it seemed strange to us that she kept track! For those of you not familiar with City Hall, Hughes' office is isolated, in a far corner of a large empty room away from the Mayor's office and the coffee pot.)
Alleged affair of Mayor Becker (Page 40): "Both the Mayor and the female employee identified as being involved in an affair deny there was ever an affair. The accused female employee and her husband have socialized with Mayor Becker and his wife... The employee has never travelled with Mayor Becker. She did not travel to Oshkosh with the Mayor. City records indicate the employee was at work in Racine on the days the Mayor was in Oshkosh."
Mayor's language (Page 41): "Witnesses stated that the Mayor has used profanity in their presence, generally in meetings in his office. Witnesses denied ever hearing the Mayor use the words 'bitch.' The mayor admits that he has used profanity when in his office. He admits that he may have used the word 'bitch' ... Mayor Becker alleges that Ms. Tingle also used profanity and refereed to women as 'bitch.' " (There's another nasty word in the brief, but you'll have to read it yourself...)
Performance issues (Pages 42-47): Three of the most contentious issues between Hughes and Tingle were her "releasing confidential information which she gained from her position as an employee," her allowing too many calls to go to voice mail, and the scheduling of meetings. Attorney Scott Letteney and Kelly Graham also met with Hughes and said Tingle "engaged in behavior (which) violated City policy: making inappropriate comments at work, accusing the mayor of embezzling city funds to pay for a trip to Italy, making disparaging remarks about Hughes' sexual orientation and referring to him as "a lapdog, like a Mexican Chihuahua," sending a YouTube video of a British television show about an elected official and his gay assistant with a message, "And now it's time for another episode of Ben and Gary," and more.
Exhibit 14 (Pages 89-93) is the back-and-forth email exchange between Tingle and Hughes about phone calls going to voice mail.
Analysis of Allegations (Pages 56-85). Each of the 47 allegations made by Atty. Cross in her initial Discrimination Complaint is examined. In each case the investigator finds no fault. For example: Allegation 44 which charges, "Respondent maintains a sexually hostile working environment in which some female administrative employees must maintain a social relationship with the City Administrator or be held to higher standards and threatened with discipline while those female administrative employees who agree to have a social relationship with Mr. Hughes are rewarded and held to lesser standards." The investigator concludes: "There is no evidence of a sexually hostile work environment."
Settlement Communication (Pages 110-116) from Tingle's attorney to the city. In it, she asks that Hughes be removed as her supervisor, that other secretaries must conform to the same phone call answering rules as she, that reprimands from Hughes be removed from her personnel file and not used against her, that other female employees be protected from Hughes' "quid pro quo sexual harassment and the sexually hostile working environment he has created," that the city investigate whether there were complalints against Hughes at his previous employers, in Wrightstown, WI, and New York, and that the city reimburse Tingle's attorney fees and costs. "In the event the city is unable or unwilling to take these steps, Ms. Tingle would consider a severance package as resolution of this matter."
Discrimination Complaint (Pages 117-126): The formal complaint filed with the Department of Workforce Development.
Click here for more info.
(Thanks to Rachel at NHS for the tip.)
Wait a minute - is this the same library that is cutting hours because of financial issues? I think libraries are great, but I guess I don't quite get this idea.
Reviewed by James F. Fisher, Carleton College
Readers who have followed Nick Cibrario’s fiction will recall the bizarre, blood-and-guts tale of adventure in Nepal set forth in his trilogy of novels, The Pomelo Tree, The Harvest, and The Shamans. Those stalwart readers who hung in there for the duration (dealing with witchcraft, drugs, organ harvesting, and death, they were not for the faint of heart) will be more than a little curious to see what he’s come up with for a sequel. His first books are a hard act to follow.
The setting for Secrets on the Family Farm could not be more different from that of his trilogy – nothing exotic (at least in the conventional, geographical sense) down on the Wisconsin farm. This time the characters are all people we can readily identify with (well….maybe not after we get to know them), because they are all right out of middle America. Not only are they inhabitants of the heartland, but they represent the quintessential rural backbone of the nation – the much-vaunted and much-praised family farm, and the core American family values it represents – or so we think before Cibrario lets us in on its dirty little secrets. O. Henry once said that every family has its own hidden drama. Secrets on the Family Farm reveals the inner workings of one such family.
As we move along through this novel, we discover a side of rural American life we don’t expect. As with the trilogy, the faint of heart need to beware of what they are getting into here also. If you are looking for stories about 4-H clubs and the dignity of tilling the soil through the sweat of one’s brow, you will be disappointed. At one time or the other in his 31 carefully constructed chapters, Cibrario treats in some depth - and with suspense because we don’t seem them coming - such topics as homosexuality, alcoholism, marital infidelity, adultery, child abuse, insanity, suicide, and murder. Not exactly traditional family values politicians like to talk about.
These somewhat unsavory topics are served up against the backdrop of the culture of those times which Cibrario evokes, for those old enough to remember them, with fondness and nostalgia. This essentially historical novel, set in the early 1950s, includes cameo appearances by such performers, athletes, and personalities as Loretta Young, Bing Crosby, Vivien Leigh, Micky Mantle, Clark Gable, Charlie Chaplin, Ginger Rogers, Doris Day, and the Lone Ranger. He also reminds us of such signs of the times as drive-in movies, Amos and Andy programs, and Nash and Studebaker cars. For those who are not old enough to have lived through this era, and this presumably includes most readers, this novel will serve as an excellent introduction to those bygone days.
What is revealing in all this is that the idolized family farm is riven with contradictions, which Cibrario sets forth in vivid and uncompromising detail: the onerous life of the farm wife, the pressures on and consequent drunkenness of men working off-farm, Catholic priests involved in affairs with women, as well as sexual exploitation of children, and most interestingly, the deleterious effects of World War II on both the men who left to fight it, and the women they left behind to somehow manage such things as the family farm. The war is portrayed as having changed people so dramatically that they cannot recover from its pernicious effects, and even if they have, the Korean War has moved in to take its place.
Thus the novel is both a fictive ethnography of middle American rural life – as it is really lived, according to Cibrario, not as it is imagined or portrayed in Norman Rockwell paintings – and a sobering account of the way the effects of the war continue for decades to form and distort the lives of those who were active in it. Cibrario’s novel reminds us that life with all its tawdry little secrets displayed is more interesting and arresting than the anemic caricatures we usually have to settle for.
Secrets on the Family Farm is Dominick Cibrario's fourth novel. He previously published "The Kathmandu Trilogy," which was written up in the Times of India. Cibrario lives in Racine and is a retired teacher from Horlick High School.
October 5, 2008
In recent years, Racine has made some significant progress in truancy reduction. In the 2000-'01 academic year, more than a third of Racine Unified School District (RUSD) students were habitually truant. By the 2006-'07 school year, that rate was down to only 8.5%.
Other Wisconsin communities have not done so well.
According to the “Best Practices Review, Truancy Reduction Efforts” by the State of Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau nearly half of Milwaukee Public Schools students are habitually absent from school. More than 9% of Wisconsin's students had at least five unexcused absences in one semester (the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction definition of “habitual truancy” in the 2006-'07 school year).
The roots of Racine’s success in reducing the numbers of truant students can be traced back to a collaborative effort known as the Aggressive Truancy Abatement Program (ATAP) that began before the turn of the millennium.
How ATAP started
On April Fool’s Day of 1998, some Racine Unified School District students were surprised to find that truancy no longer was being treated as a “joke”. Students on record as being truant, and those found outside of schools without permission were apprehended by Racine County Sheriffs deputies. Most of them were transported to SAFE Haven on large yellow school buses that day.
That was the start of the ATAP, a collaboration of the school system, law enforcement and human services, as represented by RUSD, the Racine County Sheriffs Department, and SAFE Haven.
Karen Albeck, Supervisor of Student Services at RUSD, wrote a grant application for Department of Justice funds administered by the State of Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance. Because of jurisdictional, financial and municipal ordinance issues, the mandated law enforcement partner was limited to the Racine County Sheriffs Department. Bill McReynolds, the current Racine County Executive, was the Sheriff at that time.
SAFE Haven was the only nonprofit entity licensed by the State to temporarily house minors separately from their parents, so the shelter for homeless and abused children became the social service provider. Maurice Horton of the Gang/Crime Diversion Task Force, then operated by the City of Racine Police Department, was hired by SAFE Haven to coordinate the social service programming.
How it worked
Pam Galati, an RUSD staffer, used the District’s Skyward database to generate a list of habitually truant students. This list was periodically forwarded to Sheriffs deputies, who traveled to the students’ homes in an attempt to locate them. Students who appeared to be out of school without permission and observed on the streets were also stopped by the Sheriffs squads.
Deputies conducted a “terry stop” on all suspect youth. A pat down search would be performed as needed, sometimes resulting in the discovery of drugs, knives, and on at least one occasion, a gun. In such cases, the youth would be arrested, but the vast majority of apprehended students were transported to SAFE Haven for assessment.
Each truant youth arriving at SAFE Haven underwent an evaluation that, as needed, appraised family issues, assessed alcohol and other drug abuse, legal issues, and of course, attendance and performance at school.
SAFE Haven provided information, referral, and human services as needed. On occasion, youth who were homeless or who had runaway were admitted to the shelter. Some returned to the agency for informal counseling sessions, others were referred to professional outpatient therapists.
Sometimes the issues were serious, such as hidden pregnancies or child abuse. Under such circumstances, Racine County Human Service Department social workers were contacted. “The most important part was the involvement of the social service system,” said Maurice Horton, the Program Coordinator. Horton stated that “Most of the time, our cases required the involvement of other social service providers.”
Many of the youth were already known to Maurice and his staff due to their prior involvement with the Racine Police Department’s Gang/Crime Diversion Task Force.
As the provider of the Racine Hotline since 1972 (now 2-1-1 Racine), SAFE Haven’s staff had an extensive knowledge of community services, which allowed youth to be appropriately referred to a wide variety of resources—including neighborhood community centers, the YMCA, YWCA and other faith-based organizations.
The job for SAFE Haven staff was to get to the root causes of each student’s truancy, such as undiagnosed or untreated disabilities, involvement in gangs, pregnancy, homelessness and addiction—either among the youth themselves, or many times, among siblings or even parents.
A number of high school students were late in arriving to school because they were expected to care for their younger siblings. Some students reported that they avoided going to school because they didn’t have the “right” clothing, and it was an embarrassment to show up without the latest fashion gear. (Interestingly, some RUSD schools have since enforced a uniform dress code.)
Regardless of the issues, an attempt was made to reach a responsible party for every child served by making a phone call to home, or as needed, to work. Some of those calls went unanswered, some were treated as a mere annoyance, and for others, it was a scenario to be remembered for a lifetime.
In the latter case, a parent would promptly arrive to retrieve the child, and most of those youth were never apprehended again.
“Some kids never returned. There were some kids I saw two or three times. Those were the kids that were referred to the court system,” said Horton.
When a parent or other responsible party could not provide transportation back to school, bus tokens were provided to the youth with parental consent. A phone call was made to the school to verify that the student had, in fact, returned.
In some cases, the target of the intervention efforts was the parent, rather than the child. On a number of occasions, deputies provided with a list of truant students would arrive at the youth’s house only to find the youngster at home watching television with his or her caregiver.
If it was deemed appropriate, parents could be cited under the truancy ordinance in effect at that time. However, some parents reported that, although they would drop a child off at school, he or she would walk in one door and right out the other.
Carrots and sticks
In addition to potential fines for parents, the ATAP had provisions that included fines for youth. The fines increased in amount for repeat offenses. The ultimate “stick” for many youth was a potential loss of their drivers license.
However, many youth and families were also provided referrals to counseling, therapy and social service programs. “It wasn’t all about suppression or locking up the kids” said Horton, who noted that his demeanor changed from “being real stern” to an attitude of “that’s messed up” during one particular “ride-along” with law enforcement. Maurice and the deputies encountered a situation where the parents were found at home using drugs. When caught in the act, the mother lit into the truant youth with a tongue lashing, stopping only when the law enforcement officer intervened.
Horton said that sometimes he would find cases where twelve people were living in a two bedroom apartment. The truant youth often slept on the floor, or wherever there happened to be room.
Success and failure
What made the ATAP approach unique was its deliberate design to address the whole family situation, not just the immediate truancy. Once the program was launched, it got off to a very quick start.
Horton commented that “We ended up with so many kids to deal with that we had to call in additional staff.” SAFE Haven personnel who worked at the Washington Avenue facility would assist in routing youth through the building and doing the initial steps of the assessment process.
Sergeant Bill Halliday, a key figure with the Sheriffs Department in the development and operation of the effort, reported a decrease in day time juvenile crime rates while the program was in operation.
One surprising outcome of the ATAP was a discovery that, in spite of a State regulation requiring the formation of a Truancy Committee for the County, none had been officially convened up to that point in time.
Horton said that what really made a difference was the collaboration and ongoing support.
Ultimately, the original grant funding expired, and despite SAFE Haven channeling some new federal grant funds into the effort, RUSD could not find enough additional financial support to replace the Office of Justice Assistance dollars. Thus, the program came to an end.
Karen Albeck was transferred to a new position, and then retired. Sheriff McReynolds became County Executive McReynolds. In 2000 the Gang/Crime Diversion Task Force was formally transferred from the City of Racine Police Department to SAFE Haven, and as the Program Director, Maurice Horton continues to focus his efforts on finding and counseling the most severe cases.
Truancy Reduction Today
Judge Dennis Barry’s involvement on Racine’s Truancy Committee was cited by Horton as a key factor in keeping local truancy abatement efforts alive. The Committee was chaired by Scott Lewis, the former City Attorney, and included a number of key figures who could muster the legal, fiscal and human resources needed to effectively address truancy’s root causes.
The City of Racine Police now issue truancy tickets. When these citations are not paid, they can result in the issuance of a warrant, and eventually—even if it is years later—an arrest. The City assigns two to three officers, who are provided with photos of students and their schedules, to find truant students and return them to their schools.
RUSD has worked with the Public Policy Forum to conduct comparative analyses—including those on truancy—the 11th annual report of which is to be provided on October 30 at Racine’s Wingspread Conference facility.
The Legislative Audit Bureau report collected best practices on truancy in Wisconsin. One effort cited was a partnership with community agencies that is being used in Appleton, where the school district works with a teen runaway center—that city’s counterpart to SAFE Haven.
Students in Prof. John Ward’s geography class will learn techniques and tools used for data acquisition. Their findings will be used to create an atlas of the River North district with the objective of publishing a neighborhood directory promoting River North community assets and resources.
For more information contact David Popoff – rootcom – 262.632.8055 – or Dr. John Ward, Department of Geography – UW-Parkside – 262.595.3327.
Something new and organic greeted visitors to Main Street's Party on the Pavement Saturday.
We're talking about a new retail outlet, a store called Upūrea, with the accent on the word "pure" in the middle.
The store, selling hair-care, makeup, beauty products and fragrances briefly opened its newly remodeled space Saturday to give us a quick glimpse of what's coming. Proprietor Michael Hefferon, a Racinian who has spent the past 20 years in Toronto, says Upūrea is the largest online purveyor of organic beauty products.
The store's mantra is, "Get gorgeous, get green." As its brochure says, "With Upūrea, green is glamorous. Like you, we thrive in a world where ingredients matter. Our cosmetics are pure, our fragrances are natural and our candles burn clean."
The store will officially open the first week of November. It's located at 304 Main Street, between Jo-Jo's Toys and the Main Street General Store.
with Janae Schimanski and 20,000 other party-goers
Here are more pictures of them enjoying themselves.
For just the second time, RacinePost brought out the PHOTOBOOF! -- our modern take on the old-tyme photo booths old timers may remember.
We had a ball -- and a line all day. And, as promised, we've posted all our BOOF! pictures online.
Here's just a taste. Above, two women look at the strip of photos the BOOF! has just taken. And below, are two shots from an afternoon of fun and fotography, PHOTOBOOF! style. (And, yes, since many of you have asked: The BOOF! is available for parties and corporate events. Just email us for details.)
Sixth Street took on a whole new look Saturday. Oh, the galleries and restaurants were still there, but the street itself was filled with artists -- selling, demonstrating, talking about their art.
The variety was stunning: carvers, including one with a chainsaw; painters; photographers; raku; clay turners. Artists who turned spoons into art, others who used found objects.
And there were lots of opportunities for kids to pick up a paintbrush -- or some other tool -- and make art, including Concordia University's "Paint With Us" mural project.
All in all, it was a lovely addition to the Party on the Pavement.