December 13, 2008

Muralist Zagar says Racine got a bargain

Philadelphia muralist Isaiah Zagar laughed heartily Saturday morning when told that Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn included Racine's Uptown murals among the worst federal waste of the year.

"That's just wonderful," Zagar guffawed into his cellphone, "because the amount of money I received was $5,000 to do two murals that would have cost $250,000!" The picture at left shows him working here on Uptown's mosaic murals, on June 13, 2008.

In fact, Zagar recently received $100,000 for a single mural -- much smaller than Racine's -- "that was received to great acclaim" with the opening of a new convention center in Phoenix, Arizona. It was a project that took three years from commission to completion -- unlike Racine's that was done in a weekend. The piece is called "The Earth Dreaming," and is described on the convention center's website as "a colorful mosaic of tile murals which creates Phoenix and Arizona-specific imagery."

"I have no idea what set the man off," Zagar said, adding, "politicians don't have a very good reputation these days. They're not doing very well; they all seem to be on the take. Whereas my 'take' was just $5,000 for two murals ... and the money came, some of it, from the business people in the area who paid $250 so high school students could benefit from the teaching."

Referring to this week's events in Chicago, with the arrest of Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Zagar said, "They did a report on NPR this week that was so beautiful. Quotes from all sorts of politicians, 'I deny it,' 'I am above suspicion,' 'Not me' ... and they're all in jail. Whereas your mayor, Gary Becker, he drives an old car, he came to the airport himself to pick me up, he was down at the mural site every day."

Zagar also pointed to Richard Florida's book, "Who's Your City?: How the Creative Economy Is Making Where to Live the Most Important Decision of Your Life," and noted that "the young, the bohemian, the artists -- these are the people who recreate a city, get it going agian, the engine."

Not -- he left the thought unsaid -- politicians like a certain Oklahoma senator.

Racine's mosaic mural named 'worst waste' of federal spending

Racine's mermaid mosaic in Uptown is getting national attention - but that's not a good thing.

Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn included the $6,000 project in a report of what he considers the worst use of federal dollars in the past year. The mural was paid for with federal Community Development Block Grant dollars, which are distributed to local governments for use on community projects.

Coburn didn't comment on the Racine project in the report titled, "2008: Worst Waste of the Year." The 49-page report simply recounted the story of the mural using a photo and story from RacinePost (left: Pete's photo in Coburn's report), and stories from The Journal Times.

Coburn documented $1.3 billion in wasteful government spending this year. Noticeably absent was any mention of the $700 billion bailout for banks (Coburn supported it) or the billions spent this year on the Iraq War Coburn supported, but later described as "probably a mistake."

Coburn did find some odd uses of government money in the past year. Some include:
  • $188,000 for the Lobster Institute of Maine to promote the lobster industry
  • $367,000 spent by a school board in Texas on such things as an inflatable alligator and an under-the-sea waterslide.
  • $300,000 disbursed by the Agriculture Department to a potato farm in Idaho to help the farm advertise specialty potatoes it sells to restaurants such as Russian banana fingerlings, red thumbs and ruby crescents.
  • $9.4 million spent by federal agencies to search for aliens from outer space
  • $784,000 doled out for training classes for casino workers
  • $32 million in small business loans to liquor stores.
  • $1 million for bike paths on Louisiana levees that are still awaiting basic repairs
  • $2.4 million for a retractable shade canopy at a park in West Virginia
  • $3.2 million on a blimp that the Pentagon does not want
  • $5 million for a bridge to a zoo parking lot in St. Louis.
  • $24.6 million to celebrate the National Park Service's 100th birthday in 2016.
At least one project on the list is fighting back. Bicyclists in Minneapolis are upset a federally funded bike center made the list.

"It's a good thing we don't have Oklahoma senators figure out what projects Minnesota needs to do," John Schadl, spokesman for U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar, told the Star-Tribune.

Coburn seems to have a thing against bikes. A "bike library" in Fort Collins, Colo. made the list even though the program was popular in the city. Coburn's own report noted the $66,000 program was so successful there often weren't enough bikes to lend.

December 12, 2008

Kohl, Feingold disappointed with auto bailout failure

Wisconsin Senators Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold, both Democrats, expressed disappointment today with the Senate's rejection Thursday of the auto bailout, a rejection engineered by Senate Republicans despite the fact that the White House had structured the program. Both issued statements:

Feingold said he was "greatly disappointed" by the action:
“I supported this plan to help the U.S. auto industry because without this assistance, millions of American jobs, including tens of thousands in Wisconsin, will be jeopardized. In these tough economic times, allowing our auto manufacturers to fail could be catastrophic for our economy and could send already increasing unemployment levels skyrocketing. I am greatly disappointed that some Senators didn’t hesitate to bail out Wall Street, but decided not to help millions of working class Americans.”
Kohl said he hoped Congress would reconsider the package:
"We regret that the rescue package didn’t pass. Especially because the auto industry is so important to our economy. We hope Congress will have another opportunity to provide a bridge loan in January or that the Treasury will act."
When the bill was considered by the House, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan voted yes.

Racine's Girls Inc. offers leadership camp, volunteer mentor program

UPDATE: Registration extended; see first comment below.

Girls Inc. is a program run by the YWCA to inspire elementary and middle school girls to be strong, smart and bold. The nonprofit is offering two exciting opportunities for girls this month.

The first is a leadership camp on Dec. 22-23 for girls who attend Gilmore, Jerstad, Mitchell and McKinely middle schools.

The second is a volunteer mentor program for high school students who would like to help elementary and middle school girls. Details for both programs are below.

BOLD University
Girls Inc. at the YWCA of Racine in partnership with Lighted Schoolhouse offer middle school girls attending Gilmore, Jerstad, Mitchell, and McKinley Middle Schools in Racine the opportunity to discover a new camp. Middle school girls will participate in Girls Inc. leadership development, group games and activities that encourage them to be their strong, smart and bold selves. A field trip is included. Lighted Schoolhouse has contributed a $45 scholarship for every registrant. The remaining cost is only $10 per participant. BOLD University will be held on Monday, December 22nd and Tuesday, December 23rd 2008 from 9am to 4pm at Assembly Hall at The DeKoven Center, 600 21st Street. Please contact your school’s Lighted Schoolhouse coordinator or Marie Block at or (262) 989.2272 for a registration form or more information. Deadline to register is Friday, December 19. Download the registration form here!

She Volunteers
Attention all high school girls! Would you like to be a mentor for young girls? Do you need volunteer hours? Want to increase your leadership skills and opportunities to earn college scholarships? Girls Inc. at the YWCA of Racine invites you to apply to be a She Volunteer. If you can commit to 2 hours, once a week, after school next semester to help facilitate groups at elementary and middle schools, join us for the She Volunteers Winter Training. The mandatory training will be on Monday, December 29 and Tuesday, December 30 from 9am to 3pm at The DeKoven Center, 600 21st Street. Please contact your school counselor or Marie Block at or (262) 989-2272 for an application or more information. Deadline to register is Friday, December 19th, 2008.

Racine Gladiators' youth football teams rock the 'Rocky Top'

Vinnie Scacco, of Racine, writes to tell us about the Racine Gladiators, a youth football organization that had success this fall. The Gladiators traveled three teams to Knoxville, Tenn., to compete in the "Battle in Rocky Top" youth football tournament.

Here's Scacco's report on the event:

The Racine Gladiators Youth Football Organization is a youth football program that hopes to provide unique opportunities for the young people of our community. We hope to provide youth with the opportunity to travel to new places while playing the greatest game on earth! With the support of the residents and businesses in the community, we look forward to having great success for years to come.

We are an all-volunteer, not-for-profit organization. We rely on the generosity of our participants, sponsors, and members of the community.

On the weekend of Nov. 21-23 we took three team down to Knoxville to compete in the "Battle in Rocky Top" tournament. All of the teams fared well and the trip was a SUCCESS!!!

Two finished 2-1 (Our U-12 and U-13 teams) and our U-9 team competed very well and gave it their all in finishing 0-2.

Our goal to instill sportsmanship and pride in the city really shined through. We were told by coaches around the country what a great talent level we have in Racine and that the sportsmanship the Gladiators showed was second to none.

The boys got to travel to a place that many of them had never been, playing some of the top teams in the country and came out really making a name for themselves.

We always hear about the bad stories involving our youth; these young athletes are not only winners on the field but they are winners in the classroom.

Positively Racine: Peace Learning Circles

By Bill Griffiths

Imagine a busload of active, boisterous 4th graders heading for a five-hour workshop that transformed them…for a significantly calmer ride home. This is exactly what one bus driver reported after picking up a class from a session with Peace Learning Circles of Kenosha & Racine. The students had simply been introduced to peace education.

Supported by grants and donations, and working under the umbrella of UW-Parkside’s Center for Community Partnership, Peace Learning Circles is staffed by a small group of dedicated volunteers. The workshops (offered at space made available by Educators Credit Union and Kenosha Parks Department) are designed to teach peaceful living skills, how to be a peacemaker, and how to resolve conflicts peacefully. Nearly 2500 students in Kenosha and Racine have been trained in these methods since the program was launched in May of 2006.

Modeled after similar programs in Indianapolis and Milwaukee, Co-Founder and Co-director Sue Hollow came to this program as part of a personal mission after September 11, 2001. “I had started a program called “Pass It On”, which focused on passing on kindness and acceptance of all people. While we created our workshops using the Indianapolis model, our three follow-up sessions (to reinforce what is taught in the workshop) are based on my original program. Research (done by the Indianapolis group) has shown that 4th and 5th grades are the optimal time to provide training about peace and conflict resolution. To change to a culture of peace, we like to have everyone speaking the same language…we encourage the whole school staff to come. Parents are also welcome to come, so groups of people who spend time with one another learn together.”

Workshops are pre-scheduled and typically conducted from 9 AM to 2 PM, and each student gets a workbook to share with his or her family. This helps parents learn what “makes the peace learning circle connection” and reinforces the program at home. The program teaches resolving problems before they grow and ways for students to avoid violence with one another.

For those trained in the skills of peaceful conflict resolution, a hand signal like the one above offers students a way to back away from a fight without losing face.
“Peace Learning Circles works to empower students to integrate their new skills into their daily life in the classroom, in their family and wherever they might go,” says Ms. Hollow.

If you’d like to sponsor a workshop, volunteer with the organization, or would like to find out how your child’s class could receive peace education, contact Sue Hollow at 681-0135.

December 11, 2008

United Way campaign tops $5 million again

Catherine Powell, campaign chair, accepts congratulations from Dave Maurer

For the second year in a row, the United Way of Racine County raised more than $5 million.

Roma Lodge was the setting Thursday where more than 300 people helped celebrate the official conclusion of the 2008 campaign with a total of $5,007,000 raised.

Catherine Powell, corporate counsel of Modine Manufacturing led this year’s campaign with the help of more than 20 community leaders in her campaign cabinet and eight loaned employees. In addition, hundreds of people volunteered in their workplace campaigns throughout the county.

Though the campaign fell short of last year’s record $5.1 million and this year's goal of $5.4 million, Powell was grateful for the generosity shown by the community. “We worked hard in reaching out to the community and their response, in spite of the economy, was once again tremendous. We commend the communities of Racine County for stepping up, giving so generously and providing opportunities for a better life for all.”

Theresa Barreto, a recipient of the Families and Schools Together (FAST) program, which uses a family-based approach to strengthen parent-child relationships, shares her success story at United Way's victory celebration

“The community has shown that the new United Way message, LIVE UNITED, is truly being embraced by the people of Racine,” said Rod French, emcee of the Victory Celebration and longtime United Way volunteer. “Tonight we heard stories of local people who give of their time, talent and treasure and from people who benefit from United Way programs. They exemplify the thousands of people who share a common goal with United Way to provide the building blocks of a good life to all people of Racine County. United Way is the organization that leads the community in advancing the common good.”

Dave Maurer, executive director of United Way said, “We are a generous and a resilient community. While it would have been wonderful to have met our ambitious goal, we are deeply appreciative of the hard work of so many volunteers and the generosity of thousands of people.”

More than 340 companies and an estimated 12,000 individuals throughout Racine County have contributed to the 2008 campaign thus far. There is still time for people to give and a few campaigns are scheduled to run after the Holidays.

Update: Julia Burney is ABC's Person of the Year

Screenshot from the ABC World News broadcast

Julia Burney-Witherspoon is no longer "just" one of ABC-TV's Persons of the Week.

As of tonight, she's Person of the Year!

World News anchor Charlie Gibson gave Julia and her Cops 'N Kids reading program and book giveaway his special designation on Friday's broadcast. She shares the honor with Central Christian Church's Piecemakers Quilting Group of Henderson, NV.

Gibson quoted Julia saying, "When people think of poverty, they think of no food, no shelter, but they never think no books," and he used photos from Saturday's book giveaway, noting that the 40,000 books handed out were only a small part of the more than 250,000 books Cops 'N Kids has given away. Not to mention the 70 additional communities where the program has been copied.

You can find ABC's writeup of the story online.

And here's VIDEO of the segment in September when Charlie Gibson first named Julia Burney-Witherspoon Person of the Week.

Original post:

ABC News expected to spotlight Cops 'N Kids again

ABC World News with Charles Gibson is about to shine a positive spotlight on Racine -- again.

A film crew was in town Thursday to interview Julia Burney-Witherspoon about Saturday's Cops 'N Kids book giveaway. The event was the most successful in Cops 'N Kids history, giving out more than 40,000 books to more than 2,000 kids.

This will be Julia Burney-Witherspoon's second appearance on World News in just a few months: On Sept. 26 she was Charlie Gibson's Person of the Week honoree. You can read the transcript here.

Burney-Witherspoon said a two-person film crew came to the Cops 'N Kids Reading Center at 800 Villa St. to interview her for Friday night's ABC News broadcast, which is seen at 5:30 p.m. here on Cable Channels 7 and 12. She was interviewed by Alice Maggin, a producer in New York.

Burney-Witherspoon is excited, because each time Cops 'N Kids gets publicity like this more communities express interest in the program, providing books to more children. "There were so many e-mails when they did us as Person of the Week," she said. "We were bombarded with calls and e-mails and books and people wanting to duplicate the program." A National Education Association article says Cops 'N Kids "is now in about 70 cities and towns across the country. The program was adopted by the service organization Quota International, whose local chapters are busy planting new Cops 'N Kids programs in their communities."

Jim Eastman, whose Merchants Moving and Storage Company hosts the book giveaway each year, says he hopes the broadcast will "plant some seeds" in other communities. Eastman said he'll move the book giveaway to a larger warehouse room next year, to "improve the flow: more space and no stairs." In addition to books, kids got treats, a visit with Santa, a chance to make some crafts, an opportunity to be photographed, videotaped and fingerprinted for SafeAssured ID. In addition, police and FBI agents were present to talk with the kids and autograph their new books -- all part of former police officer Witherspoon's initial goal of teaching kids that cops are friends and not to be feared.

(P.S. We here at RacinePost are especially excited, because ABC has borrowed some of the pictures we took at the book giveaway Saturday.... Who knows, we may be on the teevee, too!)

Another Festival Hall show has moved out...

More bad news for Festival Hall: Another long-time event has left the building.

Last summer, it was HarborFest that deserted the grounds, taking at least a year off (and following Salmon-a-Rama's shrinkage).

Now it's the Journal Times' Home Show that's leaving. The event has been a fixture for years, filling both Festival Hall and two floors of Memorial Hall, with shuttle buses hauling showgoers back and forth.

Word has come that the Home Show will take up residence this year in Regency Mall, utilizing -- for just one weekend -- the space vacated by Linens and Things. That store was filled in October by a Halloween retailer, and is now occupied by Giant Book Sales, a discount book seller here for just three months (unless it chooses to move across the corridor into the space Steve and Barry's bankruptcy will leave empty after Christmas).

Everybody's scrambling in retailing, doncha know.

It appears that the Home Show -- scheduled for March 13 - 15 at Regency Mall, will have approximately the same space it had at the Civic Center. Linens and Things' store has 27,500 sq. ft., just a hair less than the amount offered by Festival Hall's 16,700 sq. ft. plus Memorial Hall's 4,800 upstairs and 8,095 downstairs.

Update: Nativity Scene is up ... pyramid in doubt

Update: The Nativity Scene is up. Here are a couple of photos:

And, I just talked with Al Sorenson, who built last year's atheist pyramid. He wasn't aware the creche had been built this year, and wasn't sure if his group would respond with the pyramid. It cost $700 last year to insure the pyramid, and the pyramid itself is warped. So it would take some work, and some money, to rebuild the display at get it back up. Sorensen said he wasn't sure his group was up for it again.

Update: We're told the Nativity Scene was built Monday night and is up. We're heading down this morning to check it out.

Monument Square, December 19, 2007

The single most read post in RacinePost's brief history was on Dec. 19, 2007. Pete wrote about the ideological battle between a Nativity Scene and an atheist group's pyramid on Racine's Monument Square.

The symbolic dispute gained national attention. TV stations interviewed Racine's Al Sorenson, who built the pyramid. It made the JT and papers around the country, and it drew over 10,000 readers to this little website thanks to a link on

So what's going on this holiday season? Did the two sides renew their public dispute?


There's no sign of either the Nativity Scene or the pyramid on Monument Square this year. The only sign of Christmas is the city's Christmas tree on the square's southeast corner.

December 10, 2008

Ryan votes for auto industry bailout funds

On Wednesday night, the U.S. House of Representatives approved H.R. 7321, “The Auto Industry Financing and Restructuring Act” by a vote of 237 – 170. The measure would provide $14 billion in loans to U.S. automakers -- if passed by the U.S. Senate, where Republicans are opposed to the compromise brokered by the White House.

The Washington Post described the conflict this way:
At the heart of the conflict is a debate over how to best help the car companies not only survive the deepening recession, but rid themselves of a legacy of debt, high production costs and plush worker benefits that have left them unable to compete with their more nimble foreign competitors. GM, Chrysler and Ford have already moved to streamline costs; along with the UAW, they have offered to make additional concessions.

But many Republicans believe their problems could be more efficiently resolved by a bankruptcy court with legal power to dissolve existing contracts than by a government "car czar" whose actions could be swayed by Washington politics.

"Instead of the car czar, this ought to be titled the president's puppet," complained Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), echoing the concerns of many of his GOP colleagues.
Following his vote in favor of the bill, Congressman Paul Ryan, R-1st District, issued this statement:
“It is clear that the mounting hardships throughout Southern Wisconsin have been downright gut-wrenching. In addition to the imminent closure of the GM plant in my hometown of Janesville and mass layoffs elsewhere, hard-working Wisconsinites are finding it increasingly difficult during this recession to cope with strained credit markets, rising health care costs, and making their monthly mortgage payments.

“The American automotive industry is under considerable distress, and various proposals have been put forth to provide aid to those in need. I’ve maintained that any assistance to the domestic auto industry should be drawn from previously approved funds from a U.S. Department of Energy loan package, rather than divert resources from the financial rescue package or rely on additional taxpayer dollars. H.R. 7321 cuts through the bureaucratic red tape and expedites these previously appropriated funds. Because no additional taxpayer dollars were appropriated, I was able to support this legislation.

“At the forefront of my mind are jobs in Southern Wisconsin and the retiree commitments to workers that could be placed in jeopardy under certain bankruptcy scenarios. To be clear, this bill is not intended to save the American auto industry and makes no guarantees that layoffs in this industry will end. Congress must stop overselling what it can do. At the very least, I am hopeful that by extending these loans to the American auto manufacturers, bankruptcy will be avoided in the near term and protections for retirees will remain intact.”

Chris Larsen running for Sturtevant Village Board

Another solid press release from a candidate running for public office. This time it's Sturtevant's Chris Larsen, who is making a bid for Village Board. (Are you running for office? Let us know!)

Here's Larsen's press release:
Sturtevant resident Chris Larsen, is running to be your voice on the Sturtevant village board.

Sturtevant is a growing and vibrant community that is trying to maintain it’s small town feel while competing in the 21st century. My goal is to make sure that happens. We need to ensure that Sturtevant will remain a destination for business and job growth while preserving the neighborhood feel one gets walking the village, or attending a festival.

People here have strong feelings and long planted roots. In talking to people around the village, they expressed that the village needs to keep taxes as low as possible while providing the services they have come to expect. They also expressed that Sturtevant needs to remain an independent village. They don’t want us to become Racine west, or an extension of Mt. Pleasant.

While I have only been a village resident since 2005, my wife Terri is a lifelong Sturtevant resident, and I have fully immersed myself in the history of our village, and will use that history to shape the future of Sturtevant.

There are challenges forthcoming in the next two years and I pledge to listen to the people of Sturtevant and make decisions based on what is best for the future of the village. I want to offer new ideas for addressing the issues Sturtevant faces. My vision for Sturtevant is to be a place where you would want to raise a family and a place that is attractive to new business of all sizes. I am very excited about the opportunity to serve the citizens, residents, taxpayers, businesses, and employees of our community. I would appreciate your support on April 7, 2009 and am asking for your vote.

Please stay tuned to for campaign updates.

December 9, 2008

Goodbye, Dewey; hello, 'neighborhoods' at Library

If you haven't been to the Racine Public Library lately, you may have missed some improvements in library service.

Easier to find materials: Library staff are creating "neighborhoods" within the adult collection, keeping keeping all related materials from the collection in one area. Where books may have been previously shelved in a variety of areas according to Dewey numbers, some will now be found together under one general section.

The first neighborhood is the Travel Section, which now includes information on hotels, motels, bed-and-breakfasts, etc. Mystery and Romance books have been organized the same way, with collections of short stories, hardcover and paperback books now all in one area.

Video movies have also been reorganized, with VHS and DVD videos now shelved alphabetically together rather than by separate format.

Wireless printing now available: Patrons who regularly use the Library's wireless service on the second floor, will now have wireless printing options available as well. With the simple download of the virtual printer driver, users can send their print job from their personal computers to the Library's public Internet printer and print copies for 25 cents a page. For an instruction sheet on how to proceed with wireless printing, visit the Adult Reference Desk.

Coyote, with trap on its leg, wanders Mount Pleasant

A Mount Pleasant neighborhood is buzzing about a wild coyote spotted Tuesday -- dragging a trap and chain attached to a front paw.

It's been seen by at least two residents, and was photographed Tuesday afternoon by David Fabian, of 3816 Pleasant Lane on the shore of Hansche Pond, east of Lathrop and south of Taylor.

"I was amazed. I just couldn't believe it," he said of the "little guy roaming the area," which stayed on his property for about half an hour, seeking shelter. It then headed to a neighbor's house, and then toward the lake.

David's wife, Barb, said the coyote "looked very tired, dragging the trap around." She said the coyote was about the size of a German Shepherd dog, "clogged with ice and snow."

The Fabians said Mount Pleasant Police have received numerous reports of the coyote. There is some question about the trap. The municipal code says it's illegal to set traps, unless the person has written approval from the village board. An officer told the Fabians that the trap appeared to be "a legal one," in that in didn't cut the animal's foot and could be released with just a stick -- if anyone dared get that close to the animal.

The officer also mentioned a "chicken farm" in the area, and pointed vaguely toward the intersection of Chicory and Lathrop, but wouldn't be more specific. Someone who raises chickens would have the right to place a non-damaging, humane trap on their property to protect their chickens, the officer said.

David Fabian notes wryly, "This person may know how to raise chickens, but they certainly don't know how to trap an animal, as this one is now loose and dragging the trap with it."

Anyone spotting the coyote is urged to call the Countryside Humane Society at 554-6699 or the DNR at 884-2300.

Chris Larsen running for Sturtevant Village Board

Chris Larsen has announced his candidacy for the Sturtevant Village Board, in the April 7, 2009 election.

Larson, 40, is a warehouse coordinator at Butter Buds Food Ingredients. A 1986 gruaduate of Horlick High School, he is married and has a daughter. This is his first run for office.

His campaign statement says:
Sturtevant is a growing and vibrant community that is trying to maintain its small town feel while competing in the 21st century. My goal is to make sure that happens. We need to ensure that Sturtevant will remain a destination for business and job growth while preserving the neighborhood feel one gets walking the village, or attending a festival.

People here have strong feelings and long-planted roots. In talking to people around the village, they expressed that the village needs to keep taxes as low as possible while providing the services they have come to expect. They also expressed that Sturtevant needs to remain an independent village. They don’t want us to become Racine west, or an extension of Mt. Pleasant.

While I have only been a village resident since 2005, my wife Terri is a lifelong Sturtevant resident, and I have fully immersed myself in the history of our village, and will use that history to shape the future of Sturtevant.

There are challenges forthcoming in the next two years and I pledge to listen to the people of Sturtevant and make decisions based on what is best for the future of the village. I want to offer new ideas for addressing the issues Sturtevant faces. My vision for Sturtevant is to be a place where you would want to raise a family and a place that is attractive to new business of all sizes. I am very excited about the opportunity to serve the citizens, residents, taxpayers, businesses, and employees of our community. I would appreciate your support on April 7, 2009, and am asking for your vote.
Campaign updates will be posted on his website.

Bombardier cuts 98 jobs in Sturtevant

Bombardier Recreational Products Inc., a Canadian company that makes Evinrude outboard engines at a plant in Sturtevant, said Tuesday that it will reduce production by 20 percent and eliminate 550 white-collar jobs worldwide.

The Sturtevant plant will lose 20 white collar employees permanently, and 78 blue-collar factory positions that it hopes to rehire "when the market picks up," according to a spokeswoman.

The cuts are effective immediately.

The move follows the layoff of 370 blue-collar employees in the third quarter by the Montreal manufacturer of the Ski-Doo, Sea-Doo and Evinrude brands of sports equipment. Another 430 blue-collar workers have received notices of temporary layoffs to occur in the fourth quarter.

The work force reduction involves all BRP divisions, the company said.

BRP is merging the engine divisions, BRP-Rotax and Outboard engines, into a new division called the “Powertrain” division that will be responsible for the manufacturing and engineering activities of Evinrude and Rotax engines. The Rotax engines will continue to be manufactured in Gunskirchen, Austria, and in Juarez, Mexico, while the Evinrude outboard engine manufacturing will remain in Sturtevant and in Dalang, China.

Woodward running for Caledonia Village Board

Here come the spring elections ... Caledonia resident Curt Woodward announced today he's running for Village Board. (Potential candidates take note: Sending a well-written press release to the local media is a good way to start your campaign. If you're running for office, let us know.)

Here's Woodward's announcement:
Caledonia resident Curt Woodward announced his candidacy today for the Village Board of Trustees.

“Caledonia is such a wonderful place to live,” said Woodward. “I decided to run to help make sure our community continues to be a great place to live, work and raise a family.”

Woodward has been involved in the community for many years and is the owner of Retail Fixture LLC, a small business providing custom fixtures to retail industry world wide. Woodward and his wife Lisa founded the firm over 15 years ago and have grown it from a few employees to now over 100. In addition Woodward recently opened Artistry Furniture and Gift Gallery in downtown Racine.

“My parents always said that if you want to keep something great you have to work hard to make it happen,” said Woodward. “My lifelong dream was never to run for public office, but after being encouraged by many, many community leaders, I felt it was my turn to step up.”

Since becoming a Village, Caledonia elected officials have been working hard to move our community forward. Woodward wants to be a part of insuring that the Village maintains an adequate balance of growth and development along with the high quality of life so many residents have come to love about the Village.

“We need to make sure that our community grows but we also have to remember that families won’t be able to afford to live here if we don’t keep property taxes in check,” Woodward said.

Curt is an avid outdoorsman and lover of nature, along with the four acre pond he had dug, one of his proudest accomplishments is that his property contains hundreds of trees planted by him and his family.

“I look forward to running an aggressive campaign going door to door in every part of the village. I want everyone to know that I intend to work hard to earn their votes,” Woodward said.

Woodward is a member of RAMAC, Grace Lutheran Church LCMS, were he is a Trustee and usher captain, ARE (Association of Retail Environments) NFIB, Downtown Racine Corporation, RCEDC and has coached youth basketball for over 8 years.

Curt & his wife Lisa have five children Jade 19, Andrea 18, Joseph 15, Samantha 11 and Jack 5.

Woodward is running for seat #5, currently held by Bob Bradley.

December 8, 2008

50 cents: Buy a newspaper, or a share of Lee stock

Was it really just last Friday that the following comment appeared on our blog:
RhymesWithClergy wrote: By Christmas, I expect the cost of a copy of the Journal Times to be more than the cost of a share of Lee stock. -- 12/05/2008 2:10 PM
His comment came in response to Dustin's suggestion that everyone go out and subscribe to the Journal Times because -- despite its faults -- we need a local daily newspaper.

Well, RhymesWithClergy was right about the price, but wrong about the timing: It didn't take until Christmas. The price of a share of Lee Enterprises stock fell Monday to 47 cents on the New York Stock Exchange, before closing at 50 cents, the same price as the daily paper. You be the judge which is worth more.

The plight of the JT was made even clearer by a court filing in Delaware on Monday. The Tribune Company -- owner of the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, ten other newspapers, two dozen television stations and the Chicago Cubs -- filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. That, hopefully, will give the company time to restructure its $13 billion in debt. Owner Sam Zell has tried to reassure readers, advertisers and employees, but employees who became partial owners or who are owed deferred compensation can kiss that money goodbye.

Tribune, with big city papers that could actually be losing money, is different from Lee, with mostly mid-market papers that probably are still individually profitable -- if freed from the $1.4 billion debt the corporation incurred when it bought the Pulitzer chain and its flagship, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch four years ago.

Lee does not release profitability figures for each paper, but the numbers for the nation's largest newspaper chain, Gannett, leaked out last week. The figures (somewhat dated: from the first nine months of 2007) showed most Gannett papers earning solidly double-digit profits. Highest was the Green Bay Press Gazette, chugging along at a 42.5% profit margin (at one time fairly standard for isolated newspapers but these days truly incredible). Only a handful of Gannett's operations were down in single digit profitability territory, and only one -- at the time -- was losing money: the Detroit News, which has problems of its own that Congress may at least partially fix if it bails out the hometown auto industry.

Despite its overall profitability figures, Gannett last week fired more than 2,000 employees systemwide, including more than 90 from its 10 Wisconsin papers. Even Green Bay made cuts and will be combining news sections to save newsprint.

What is Lee doing? Good question. We've seen some layoffs; seven at the Journal Times in July, coupled with newsprint savings here from the disappearance of features like stock listings and the weekly TV tabloid. (Reader complaints about the latter brought the daily listings back to Page 2, thus cutting into daily newshole.) Lee's Montana papers did layoffs all at once, but otherwise we've seen no corporatewide bloodletting like Gannett's last week. Lee also suspended its stock dividend, reduced payments into employee retirement accounts, and cut payments for retiree health benefits (earning itself pickets outside the Post-Dispatch Monday) -- all those cuts coupled with changes in Lee's credit terms that further mortgage the farm.

Will it be enough? Probably not enough to save the remaining stockholders. Lee's total market cap today was a mere $22.5 million -- less than some mediocre ballplayers are paid in one year -- and a far cry from its $2 billion market cap in 2004. Delisting from the New York Stock Exchange is a certainty if the stock price remains below $1.05 for the rest of the year, a further blow to those stockholders.

But that doesn't necessarily mean much has to change at the Journal Times... beyond death by one thousand cuts. One thing is certain: it's going to be a long, cold winter outside, but especially at 212 Fourth St.

Turner heads committee on criminal justice

State Rep. Robert Turner, D-Racine, has been appointed chairman of the Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice.

"Despite a lack of money for new programs, there are many emerging issues that do not necessarily require additional spending,” Turner said.

Turner, a former military policeman in the Air Force in Vietnam, has served on the Criminal Justice Committee during the past two legislative sessions. Turner said he actively sought the appointment. "I welcome the opportunity to foster effective and fair criminal justice policies," he said.

In 2007-08, Turner served as the ranking Democrat on the Criminal Justice Committee. His term as chair starts in January.

Racine 17-year-old helping homeless kids find jobs

David Sanchez

Here's an impressive program from a Racine teenager ... vote daily to help him out!
Hello, my name is David Sanchez. I am 17 years old and a junior from Racine, Wisconsin . Recently, I founded the organization Job-Link Racine in which I am linking homeless teenagers in Racine County with part-time job opportunities. (You may be surprised to know there are more than 1,000 homeless kids in Racine Unified School District .) Not only will a job provide these kids with valuable life skills such as responsibility and punctuality, it will also act as an extra source of income in an effort to help their families become self sufficient.

Now here's where I need your help. Job-Link Racine was recently named 1 of 30 finalists in the @15 Best Buy Challenge. The winners will be decided by an online vote between December 1st and January 9th. At the end of the competition, the top 15 teams with the most votes will each receive a $10,000 grant to help them with their project. For Job-Link Racine, this means being able to provide bus tokens, work clothing, work permits, workshops, and possibly even subsidize the first hours of employment as an incentive for potential employers.

Please, send a text message BBYV7 to 32075 every day until January 9, or go to and vote online for Job-Link Racine. (When you vote online, you are required to vote for 2 groups). There may be a limit to the number of online votes from your office or school, so you might have to do this from home or just text. Email me if you have any questions.

Please vote every day until January 9, and feel free to share this with as many people as possible.


David Sanchez

December 7, 2008

Watercolor Wisconsin exhibit opens at Wustum

Flowers and still lifes at the 2008 Watercolor Wisconsin exhibit
(Photos by Julie A. Jacob)

By Julie A. Jacob

The outside palette in winter may be limited to gray and white, but on Sunday the inside of the Racine Art Museum’s Charles A. Wustum Museum of Fine Arts was awash in color. Watercolors, that is.

On Dec. 7, the museum hosted the opening reception for the 2008 Watercolor Wisconsin competition, and attendees at the free event were treated to the sight of 106 watercolor paintings created by 93 artists throughout Wisconsin, including 18 painters in Racine. The watercolors spanned a spectrum of subjects: people, flowers, fields, cafes, mushrooms, a beach, a diner, Hong Kong lights, a New York street, and much more.

The Wustum Museum has sponsored the Watercolor Wisconsin juried competition for 42 years, and over the years the museum has gained a respected reputation for watercolor painting excellence.

...and some abstract paintings

This year’s entries were especially impressive, said Bruce Pepich, the museum’s executive director and curator, during the awards ceremony. Not only did this year’s competition draw more artists and entries than last year (317 entries by 185 artists), the entries chosen for exhibition form a “diverse, exciting, and interesting show,” Pepich said.

The paintings chosen for the exhibition, as well as the award winners, are picked by a non-Wisconsin judging panel. This year’s judges were Frank Paluch, a Racine native and director of the Perimeter Gallery in Chicago, and Martha Tedeschi, curator of prints and drawings at the Art Institute of Chicago. The winners include 16 merchandise award winners, who received various art-related merchandise; three merit award winners; and three other award winners. In addition, the museum will purchase five pieces from among the entries for permanent display

The top winners of 2008 Watercolor Wisconsin are:
First place: Three Gourds and a Skull by John Wickenberg
Second place: Nina Nebraska by Richard Berns
Third place: Wild Garden in Fall by Jean Crane
The watercolors will be on display at the Wustum Museum until April 25. For more information, go to

Bruce Pepich congratulates first-place winner John Wickenberg