February 23, 2009

John Dickert running for mayor

John Dickert addresses supporters Monday evening at his campaign kick-off event.

Add John Dickert's name to the packed field for mayoral candidates. The First Weber Realtor and former state Assembly candidate launched his campaign Monday in the former drug house on Villa Street he helped restore. Part of the building is now used as the St. Catherine's Alumni Building.

Dickert gave an emotional speech to a crowd of about 70 people. He said the city needs a long-term plan focused on the city's positives.

"We have assets people dream about," Dickert said.

Dickert is perhaps best known as one of backers / developers of the Riverbend lofts at 730 Marquette St. The $15.3 million project turned the old Badger Uniform building into 51 condos. But he focused his announcement on the former drug house - and three other homes that now have families living in them - he helped restore as an example of the work that needs to be done to help the city.

Red "Dickert" signs hung on the walls of the building. The signs were remnants of Dickert's 2002 attempt to unseat State Rep. Bob Turner in a Democratic primary for the state Assembly. Turner won the race 52-48 percent. The two will have another chance to run against each other this spring. Both Turner and Dickert are running for mayor.

Dickert's announcement Monday increases the field to at least nine candidates. The field will be narrowed to two candidates on April 7, and a new mayor will be elected on May 5. (Right: Dickert talks with Alderman Ray DeHahn.)

With such a large field, it will be interesting to see how the campaigns develop. This is obviously a sprint to the primary (it's seven weeks away), and money could play a big role in determining who gets their name out to the public.

But with so many candidates poised to split voters into so many camps, it really could be anyone's race. If anyone knows a political science professor, you may want to tip them off to what's happening in Racine this spring. It's shaping out to be one of the more unusual elections in recent history.

For a glimpse at how Racine's election may play out, watch the news from Detroit on Tuesday night. Fifteen candidates are running to replace disgraced former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who pleaded guilty in a corruption probe.

The current mayor - who took over for Kilpatrick - and a former Detroit Pistons basketball player are the expected winners. Name recognition, more than policies, may win the day in a crowded primary.
Dickert looks out the window with his children.

42 comments:

  1. Hey Dustin - do you live in the City? Want to throw your hat into this circus ring? I think you're about the only one left NOT running!!

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  2. I wonder if the fact that the majority of the candidates are democrats or liberals will split the vote.

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  3. Dickert is a walking democratic talking points memo.

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  4. My home was Racine2/23/2009 4:40 PM

    John was my real estate agent when we sold our house. He was thorough and attentive to every detail. If he handles the city business with as much enthusiasm and professionalism as he did the sale of our home, I know you all will be in good hands.

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  5. A four way war:
    Q.A.
    Turner
    Dickert
    Kim The Great.
    This all helps Pete.

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  6. A good candidate, good businessman, he will do good for Racine...Dickert, that is.

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  7. Colt, Don't assume QA is a democrat. He's not.

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  8. Little do people know there is another African-American who's thinking about running.

    Kenneth Lampkin ran about five years ago and is trying to drum up support.

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  9. If QA is not a Dem what party is he?

    Lumpken running for MAYOR got to be kidding. How does he win in the primary?

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  10. I think this is the answer to Racine's problems!! I know John will pick us up and help Racine get back on the right track, I want to be able to come back with my kids later on in the future and actually have a city to come back to and i know he will make this possible for me!

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  11. Finally someone with business experience. That is what Racine needs.

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  12. Finally someone from Racine and who's family is actually from here and knows what this town needs! I found who I'm voting for this election!

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  13. As a former st.catherines alumni to another, you have my vote

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  14. Colt -

    You really do not have a clue about local politics.

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  15. Come on 8:02 how does Lumpkin even comes close to beating Kim or Bob?
    Helding gives him a smack down now way he finishes in the top 5. But keep wishing

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  16. Wishing For Answers2/23/2009 8:51 PM

    Are you serious? This is the best news I've seen during this entire election process. I have had limited contact with John Dickert but was impressed with his professionalism from the moment we first starting working together. If his personality is any clue, he will be the best mayor we have seen in a long long time. I have faith that he can lead us out of this depression we find ourselves in. He may not be perfect in the beginning but I am willing to bet my financial future on him in the end. Good luck John, you have my vote.

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  17. Wow, we're up to 9!

    This is definitely a sign of the times. The mayor's job pays almost $70,000 in salary and another $20,000 in bennies. Pretty decent security for four years. Looking at the candidate list, it would seem like this would be a big step up money-wise for a lot of the candidates. Even real estate barons must be facing a lot of uncertainty.

    So here's a gig that doesn't appear terribly difficult, as long as you don't mind people calling you names in blogs. Considering the economy, especially in Racine, I'm surprised the field is a small as it is.

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  18. BUT all, this is ONLY for two years. There will be another mayoral election in 2011; the normal one. THEN, they'll have the four-year term.

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  19. John Dickert does have a great spin machine going to post all the comments on the blogs. Too bad they not votes.
    Are we sure we want a Developer as Mayor? Or maybe turning the parks say to Condo a good idea? Where did he stand on the West Racine slum idea?

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  20. Love That Lake2/24/2009 9:02 AM

    Every time I have heard John Dickert speak, either on the radio or when he was a member of the planning commission it always sounded like he had unique ideas and a certain intuition for what the right course of action was. I am going to think about this, but so far he is the best name I have seen

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  21. Missy New Shoes2/24/2009 9:31 AM

    YES YES YES!!! I just saw this and thank you Dustin and Pete for getting better information out there on these candidates than the Urinal Times. John Dickert has done more for Racine than any of the other people. He has the ability to motivate people to get involved and do things to create to better Racine. I for one am loving the idea of Dickert for Mayor.

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  22. Let's take a look at this "horse race."

    Jody Harding and Greg Helding only conservatives on ballot. Jim Smith was a conservative, but Gary Beck squeezed him out by claiming to be a moderate. One of these two could make the ballot. Name recognition would lean towards Helding.

    Minority choices include - QA, Turner, Hill-Driver, and Rodriguez (so far). Will the minority vote turn out or will it become diluted amongst these five.

    Democratic choices include - Turner, Dickert, Plache,Hill-Driver and QA (he will be whatever party is convenient for him). Again, this vote will become diluted and may not bring a victor to the May election.

    Good guys - Ray Fay and Jim Spangenberg. Both elected/former elected officials. I do not see any traction here.

    Green guy - Pete Karas. A little outside of the box for the average voter. Not seen as a businessman or outside. Knows how to campaign. He could build a constituency.

    Females - Plache and Hill-Driver. Both are political has-beens who seem to be opportunists. How will we know that Hill-Driver is not campaigning while on the city payroll. Is there going to be a strong female voter turnout who are convinced that a female leading this city is the best choice? Don't see that happening.

    Business Experience - Dickert, Karas, and Spangenberg. Not that the business community is going to coalesce around a candidate in the primary. Here, Dickert looks the most promising.

    So, who will be the final two candidates? That's anyone's guess. But here are my picks as to who will be in the top-4.

    Dickert, Helding, Karas and Plache.

    Only time will tell. Dustin, did you say that there is still a "dark horse" who has yet to submit his/her declaration of candidacy? Can that tip the applecart?

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  23. 10:30

    Great thinking!

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  24. Thanks, Colt!

    Great Minds Think Alike!

    Unfortunately, I don't think you or I can vote in this race (unless Plache sublets a room in her apartment to us).

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  25. Ask our neighbor to the south whether they fared well with a "developer as mayor". Kenosha was a depressed industrial park with no jobs in the early 1980s. John Antaramian turned it around with what? Development. Take a look at KABA. They're online. Statistics related to business development and other forms of development in the city. I grew up in Kenosha and love that the place has improved so much. I now live in Racine and would love to see it experience that kind of turn around and John has the vision to do it.

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  26. Great!
    As Kenosha had the old AMC area to work with. As Racine does not let's use the Parks! Cut down Dekovon Woods as well. Force West Racine to take that slum project. Build build build, green space is over rated.

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  27. I was THRILLED to hear that John Dickert finally decided to throw his hat in this election. Of this entire pack, Dickert is the only one with any kind of history of long term vision and execution of vision that this city really needs. We’ve been too many years, DECADES of addressing one short term problem after another without ANY kind of cohesive long term plan and vision in place. I’ve literally received a half dozen calls from other Racine business owners today expressing the sentiment, “Did you hear? There may be hope for us after all.”

    As Dana said, look what Kenosha has been able to accomplish over the last 15- 20 years as a result of long term planning and vision while Racine has languished from one crisis to the next.

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  28. Racine has the potential to become a big well known family friendly town and I know with John as Mayor this will be true!

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  29. John is worried about 2 things.
    (1). Himself
    (2). Making Money

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  30. John at least has many folks who can post all day. Can I get in on that?

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  31. Sure Ray, you are free to post as often as you like for John Dickert.

    Can he have your endorsement on April 8th?

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  32. I am new to this blog thing and not sure what to do here, but I am moved enough by John Dickert's announcement that I feel the need to comment. There is nobody, and I mean nobody, in this field of candidates who can accept and overcome the challenges we are facing in Racine - except for John Dickert. I have no problem promoting him, especially since my future depends on the right mayor, and John will be the right one.

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  33. So all John Dickert been able to do is prove he can get folks to post (perhaps for a view of Pacific Sands) we have no clue where he stands on the issues.
    If his actions in the race with Turner is any idea of what he is like Dickert will go to almost any length to win (IMHO.
    AS much fun as that will be to watch the in fighting in the Democratic party, will it do Racine any good?

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  34. West Side Willy2/26/2009 8:58 AM

    Wolrf,
    I know John Dickert will do Racine good. He has already accomplished a great deal, with his own time own money. He refurbished 1/2 dozen properties around St. Catherine High School, brought in a large development to the downtown area, served on housing and planning commissions, helped build the playground, the list goes on. He has always been a community activist and you try to paint him as a typical politician. He is anything but that, John is an honest hard worker with a love of Racine at the center of his heart.

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  35. West Side

    When we get to know where stands on the issues?

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  36. I have to disagree with the commenter that says that Jim Spangenberg has no traction. As far as I am concerned, Jim is the only candidate who actually has business experience as well as city government experience. He has owned and run a successful furniture business in the city for over 30 years. He has been chairman of the finance committee as well as council president. I think you are underestimating him in this race. Does John actually own his own realty company?

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  37. John only has folks who can blog for him.
    Oh yes he can start civil wars in the Democratic party (fun for all)
    Kim or Bob will steam roll John. Payback John Payback

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  38. John only has folks who can blog for him.
    Oh yes he can start civil wars in the Democratic party (fun for all)
    Kim or Bob will steam roll John. Payback John Payback

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  39. http://www.journaltimes.com/articles/2009/03/05/local_news/doc49aef0ecaee65056524920.txt

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  40. I think the people of Racine have the right to know where candidates raise their support in terms of contributions. As a real estate professional/developer I do not believe John Dickert, a local real estate broker with First Weber (N. Christensen) should be our Mayor. There is an ethical problem and conflict here from a legal standpoint. The City attorney and County Corporate counsel can chime in here to back me up. If it is true per newspaper reports that a lot of his funds are coming from out of town business relationships then he is not the Mayor for the "people" of Racine. Those out of town business relationships are Real Estate Developers who want a Mayor they can get favors and kickbacks from in the form of easy approvals and Tax dollars at the expense of the Tax payers in Racine. Most cases they don’t need the TIF money but they will take it all they can. Look closely at Dickert's development plan and you will notice it mimicks the Racine County's master plan. All he is doing is endorsing it and claiming it is his vision.
    It is corporations, retailers and restaurants that determine where to locate.
    John Dickert's fundraisers list people on them that I know are not Racine residents like Mark Irgens of Irgens Development in Waukesha. We have to take a look at the dynamics of Mr Dickert's ties. He works for First Weber. Will he be relieving himself of his real estate license or will he still work or keep his license held with First Weber. It legally must reside somewhere. If it resides with First Weber this allows Mr Dickert to collect commissions from First Weber on any projects First Weber and Mr Dickert are involved with within the City. How many projects is Mr Dickert currently working on that have obtained tax financing (handouts) or tax credits from the city or state. A few downtown and the failed Pointe Blue where Mr Dickert and his developer friends talked the old Mayor into giving them a couple Million dollars to clean up part of the land. Of course they wouldn’t have been able to make any money otherwise with Condos in the asking price of $850,000. Mr Dickert's commissions on those at 5% would have been $40,000 a condo. Not bad! So you can see there is a large gain here for Mr Dickert, his firm First Weber and any of his developer friends looking to make more profit. Mr Dickert under state and City laws would have to excuse himself and abstain from voting on an proposal on any property involving First Weber, himself or any company he has ever represented. At the end of the day this would mean conflict of interest and a Mayor who wouldn't be able to meet on many real estate proposals and that is not effective. Mr Dickert and landlords: Take a close look at the properties Mr Dickert's signs reside on. Especially on Main Street it’s apartment buildings. An easy place for a real estate broker to get sign placement because real estate agents know all the landlords. I have asked residents of these buildings if they put up the signs or favor the candidate. They say no and that their landlord agreed to placement of the signs. What does that mean? Landlords would love to have a realtor in office. Then they can get away with things. If we want a tough stance on run down rental properties or high crime properties then a Realtor in the pockets of landlords is not what the City needs. Think of this, if Mr Dickert is tough on landlords and chases them out they surely wont hire his firm to sell the properties. On one mailing list I saw some Journal Times staff on it. I sure hope the Journal Times is not in bed with John Dickert and has an unbiased view.

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  41. Kenosha comparison.
    The Mayor of Kenosha is only a minor part of the equation. I know because I develop in Kenosha and saw a lot of what occurred in the mid 1990’s. The Development in Kenosha is actually in the Village of Pleasant Prairie. Thank WE ENERGIES and their economic development arm called WISPARK Corp. They purchased 2,000 acres surrounding their Power Plant between Hwy 31 and I-94. They petitioned the Governor for an interchange and got it. It was all about selfishly developing to have more customers to sell power to. The filled the park with Illinois companies and brought them over the border. It worked. Lakeview Park and its retail is a successful draw as well being between Milwaukee and Illinois. Wispark also built Grandview Park at I-94 and Hwy 20. This year Pleasant Prairie’s Lakeside Business Park has landed Abbott Labs with an 80 acre complex and Uline.com. All of those people have been building homes and that has spurned development into Kenosha which then developed the need for restaurants, stores and services along Hwy 50. In all the years of working with the City of Kenosha on high profiles projects it was rare to have the Mayor’s involvement. The City was more there to control development and make sure it was happening in an orderly fashion. Demand and demographics drove retailers and services and jobs into the area.

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  42. THE MAYOR & REAL ESTATE
    Racine’s Real Estate issues. I know because I work on a national level for many corporations and I have a Bachelors in Finance and Real Estate Development. Businesses developing don’t care much who the Mayor is or the name of the town. It is simply demographics overlaid on maps. Racine is a C class City based on demographics in the Real Estate industry. Population, traffic counts, income levels; etc. It’s the reason we get C class restaurants and C level mall stores. It’s the reason John Dickert cant get retail into his downtown projects including Pointe Blue. They don’t just come because you want them. It means Racine residents don’t spend enough money to eat out other then Derangos and Infusinos where you can get a full sit down meal with bread and a salad for $6. We were 10 years behind on getting our first Starbucks and fast casual restaurants such as Panera’s or Noodles and Co. We get the C class version or the really downsized versions with limited seating. Tough to sell retailers on the demographics since you can’t change the people, their jobs and their incomes. Retailers also have 1, 5 and 10 mile rings. Sad to say but those are filled by Oak Creek and Kenosha most of the time. Both are within 5 miles. Ask Lowes why they are in Kenosha and Franklin and not Racine. We put it there because they felt they could cover Racine from Franklin and Kenosha. It’s also the same reason when working with Chili’s that they went in Kenosha and Franklin. Racine was too close in the middle of the 5 mile ring. We also have the lake within the 5 and 10 mile ring. Whether the Mayor has any real estate background doesn’t make a difference. The City of Racine is an $80 million company with union employees and tons of services to oversee. Would you hire a Real Estate broker, just because he smooth talks, to run your business with an $80 million budget. I don’t think so. Real Estate will be the smallest portion of the Mayor’s job. And if the John the Real Estate broker thinks he is going to do it all without a professional Administrator he will spend all of his time on HR issues as I see it from watching and working with other cities. I have seen far smaller communities running with administrators who have degrees in that stuff. The alderman on the council have also spent years implementing the plan to get water and sewer to the freeway with a revenue sharing agreement since Sturtevant and Mt Pleasant owned the land. This is real progress and Dickert was not any part of it. Development and investment of that scale takes years of work. The two alderman candidates played a large roll in that and people don’t seem to give them any credit because they don’t understand that part of it. Once the economy shows signs of life developers will build on all that land along Hwy 20 as they are all sitting on it. Commercial Firms like MLG Commercial which owns the Renaissance Business Park and I-94 Partners and WisPark find tenants nationwide. Those are commercial brokers with national connections that have a lot at stake and financial risk in their projects. If they don’t find companies to come in they are eating the property taxes to the City while they sit on the land. That gives them incentive to work hard at pitching the City to out of town businesses. The Renaissance had hundreds of acres of land that isn’t selling and the new buildings that just went up near I-94 are still vacant and waiting. The State and County also have economic development staff trying to recruit companies to the state and land the types of businesses we seek. Hiring a Mayor with a Residential Sales background isn’t going to take over what is in place. It takes teams of high level Real Estate and Economic Development specialists to attract these types of deals and negotiate them.

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