March 23, 2009

300 pack Gateway for mayoral candidate forum

And they say the Lincoln-Douglas debates are dead.

An overflow crowd of about 300 people attended Community for Change's two-hour mayoral forum Monday night at Gateway Technical College. The crowd was there to hear 11 candidates make their case to be the next mayor of Racine - or at least finish in the top two so they advance past the April 7 primary to the May 5 general election. Only ten appeared, however; Lesia Hill-Driver was attending a family emergency.

The candidate forum alone was an impressive accomplishment for organizers led by Kelly Gallaher. But the evening also included a cozy expo of local nonprofits (see the list here) that was effective in getting people to mingle and learn about the community. Groups ranging from United Way and the YWCA to Young Professionals of Racine and Crime Stoppers had representatives on hand to meet with attendees and candidates. It was a great way to create a community atmosphere before the forum.

The forum itself was carefully orchestrated to treat each candidate fairly. All variables were determined by random selection, from seating order on the stage to questions asked and who responded to the questions.

The format was a bit stilted given the sheer number of candidates and the limited timeframe organizers could expect the audience to handle. The candidates' responses to advance questions will be posted on Community for Change's website in a day or so.

The full forum will be shown on CAR25, so we won't/can't offer a full recap here. But here are some moments we found interesting (please add more in the comments):

* All candidates in favor of reducing crime and creating jobs.

* Pete Karas and Greg Helding differed on joint dispatch. While Helding felt it was worth exploring with neighboring communities as a way to save money, Karas said it may not result in the savings people expect. Karas noted Racine's efforts to combine its police and fire dispatchers didn't result in savings.

* Helding suggested the city take its old trees, turn them into firewood and sell it to make money. It was his example of an entrepreneurial approach to government.

* Jaimie Charon got a few laughs by saying he wanted to bring Salmon-A-Rama back (presumably meaning the old festival instead of the newer, smaller Big Fish Bash.)

* Everyone talked about creating jobs. Q.A. Shakoor II said the mayor needed to go out and bring businesses to Racine. Jim Spangenberg and Bob Turner said it was more important to work with existing businesses in the city.

* Karas gave the most original answer to lowering taxes. He supports a municipally owned power utility that could save clients 15-40 percent on the electricity bill and generate (pun intended) income for the city that can be used for property tax relief.

* John Dickert had a clever line in support of the LGBT Center in Racine: "The only things that should be discriminated against in Racine are gangs and drugs."

* Lots of ambitious environmental plans for the city (it was around this section I realized someone should start a list of all of the commissions, plans and projects the candidates suggested). Shakoor backed an energy audit for every city building and property. Charon wanted to look into hybrid buses and bike paths designed into city streets.

* Karas said he opposed development along the Root River in hopes of maintaining the river's natural beauty. Instead, he'd like a dog park.

* Kim Plache noted she helped get state money for the Root River Parkway.

* Spangenberg said the city considered natural-gas powered buses 10 years ago, but they weren't cost-effective. The buses now may be more affordable. He also wanted to examine customer-friendly bus routes.

* Helding flipped a question on connecting Racine to regional cities like Milwaukee and Chicago by asserting other cities should connect to Racine. The beach alone should draw people in, he said. "If you think you're isolated in Racine, that's your choice," Helding said.

* Raymond Fay said he supported KRM commuter rail.

* Dickert talked about taking KRM south to Chicago and seeing multi-million dollar developments at every stop along the way. Racine could attract similar development along the commuter rail line, he said.

* Dickert took a swipe at Helding's proposal to bulldoze apartments on Jacato Drive by saying crime problems of Jacato are a symptom of the city's problems. "You can't get at it by blowing your nose," he said.

* Jody Harding staked out the right side of the race's political spectrum by saying there should be no amnesty for illegal immigrants who approach police for assistance. Instead, illegal immigrants should have legal immigrant friends or family report crimes or tips to police for them.

* Dickert backed prevention as a cost-effective way to address crime, as long as there are jobs to help people leaving treatment programs or jails.

* Plache backed zero-based budgeting that forces city departments to start from scratch every year they prepare their spending plan.

* Spangenberg half-joked the the worst thing to happen to Racine in the last 10 years was losing the Piggly Wiggly grocery store. He said he's working on getting a new grocery store in West Racine.

* Karas said more minorities, women and young adults need to be appointed to city commissions, boards and committees. He talked about community engagement and participatory democracy throughout the evening.

Jaimie Charon, Bob Turner and Greg Helding

Kim Plache, Pete Karas, Jody Harding and John Dickert

Jim Spangenberg, QA Shakoor II, and Raymond Fay


  1. oh...... this is going to be interesting.

  2. Is Jody Harding serious? Need I say more?

    Dickert is the only person presenting a real plan if you pay close attention, folks. Everyone else has bandages to cover the wounds, but Dickert has a plan to get to the root of the disease. Listen carefully.

  3. Would be nice if we had a transcript.
    I don't get CAR25, and I imagine that there a lot of people who don't that will be denied the opportunity to hear these words as well.

    The City needs to stop feeding the monopoly of Time-Warner!

  4. Dickert said nothing about nothing tonight. He was however, well spoken about his nothing.
    Listen to what he does/doesn't say before voting for his polished looks and presentation.

  5. I actually thought Kim Plache was head and shoulders above the rest tonight. I came into the forum thinking I would vote for Dickert, but left supporting Plache. Her answers were clear and well thought out.

    Well Done!!

    Also, Jody Harding is DEFINITELY crazy...

  6. What plan? Dickert talked about a plan, yet he did not even present one piece of it in any of his answers.

  7. Sounds like Dickert is a wise guy smart mouth. Kind of reminds me of his friend Gary Becker. No thanks.

  8. Harding just confirmed our suspicion - a few loads short.

    Dickert - said nothing, but nicely

    Plache showed expertise.

    Helding gets some pats on the back but still not sure.

    Karas has a vision and actually pretty realistic.

    Still leaning to Karas, Plache, Dickert. Shakoor has stirred some interest in what he said. I hadn't considered him at all before.

  9. it appears dickert thinks he is cute with his "witty" (or what he believes to be witty) one-liners. How about this one-liner mr. dickert "Dickert is all sizzle and no sausage". No real plan. Why didn't dickert or any of these other candidates challenge Becker in the last election? This is what troubles me.

  10. Dickert loves his money and I think use ours to help him make his.

  11. I went into the forum thinking I was going to vote for Kim Plache. I left asking for a Pete Karas yard sign.

    I still like Kim a lot, but feel that Pete is truly the candidate to bring the community together, something we desperately need.

    I thought all the candidates did very well. It was great to see ten people committed enough to Racine to run to mayor. And 300 people attending? That was great!

  12. Kim with al your comments happening at the same time I know when you got up this morning. You were mad at Dickert...did he give you nightmares? To me he looks and sounds like a mayor.

  13. Worth mentioning that Greg Helding did not say he wants to sell the city's old trees for firewood, as your article states. He said that our city currently gives away the wood from city-felled trees, and then he suggested that the city take payment from entrepreneurial firms who would fell designated trees at their own expense and could then re-sell the wood.

  14. West Side Willy3/24/2009 9:01 AM

    The biggest thing I realized out fo this debate (and I was there in the back)was the fact that all the other candidates latched onto what Dickert said at the last debate and has been saying in his speaches. They are usiing his own words and his platform, talking about going after business aggresively, attacking drug dealing and gangs, and revitalizing the housing stock. These are all things Mr. Dickert has been saying since the beginning of the campaign, or at least as long as I have been listening. These people seem like a bunch of coat tail hangers who can't have an original thought. I made up my mind last night to voe for Dickert, he is the only true leader amongst them.

  15. call me claire3/24/2009 9:31 AM

    With eleven candidates it is a difficult primary election. I'm hoping that we have a clear choice between two people in the general election.

    I feel that the candidates that would give voters the clearest choice on the direction of Racine would be Greg Helding and Pete Karas.

    They are both well-spoken and qualified and they definitely have distinctly differing visions of Racine.

  16. Interesting how people are trying to tie Dickert and Becker together. Sure they used to be friends, but like many of Becker's friends he kicked them to the curb after he was elected and Dickert was no exception.

    The stronger tie between Becker and all the other candidates would have to be Helding.

    As far as ties to disgraced former politicians go, how about Jim Smith and Bob Turner? Rumor has it Jim and Joyce are out helping Turner on his campaign.

  17. Okay, If you can stop being rude and petty, What did Jody say that was crazy?

    She answered the questions very well. She explained that she could not give amnesty to illegal immigrants. No matter her personal feelings because she swears to uphold the law as mayor. What is wrong with you people? Illegal immigrant. (not legal) Now we can pick and choose which laws are relevant as mayor? If you are concerned about illegal immigrants, the best place to handle that is to make them legal. Otherwise all the feely good policies that were talked about are not trustworthy and nuts. Put yourself in a illegal immigrants shoes. Do we really expect them to trust in a policy that says no harm will come to me? Please. The rest of the candidates were suggesting breaking the law and I am not impressed.

  18. Can Plache's relatives quit posting on here?

  19. Jijm and JOyce Smith ARE helping Rob Turner with his campaign - you can see their picture at Turners events on Turner For May website.

  20. Can John Dickert's relatives stop posting on here?

    BTW: West Side Willy -- I'm not sure what debate YOU were watching lest night, but the one I saw had nothing to do with Dickert's ideas. He sat up there and answered his questions like everyone else. The only other candidate whose ideas were discussed were Heldings (the Jacato Drive ideas.) As a matter of fact, Dickert took a swipe at Helding on that issue. It is a shame that Helding is the only candidate actually putting ideas out there for us to review. All that Dickert said was "I have a plan". Great -- what are some of the specifics of that plan? You aren't running for State House John, you are running for Mayor.

  21. Fighting Bob3/24/2009 10:26 AM

    "Can John Dickert's relatives stop posting on here?" not relatives
    staff is posting to make Dickert look like he has more backing then he does.
    Not only is IMHO Dickert = Becker
    but I think He would have forced the West Racine to happen and sold homes to those then leaving West Racine.

  22. Besides the whole child porn scandal and personal issues of womanizing in bars, Becker did some positive things for Racine. Too bad he couldn't control his personal life. Sad.

  23. I just finished reviewing the candidates' websites. Helding has actual proposals on his site, not just bullet points. I want someone who is willing to put their ideas out there, even if other candidates and bloggers will try to knock them down. It seems like the others are afraid to say anything.

  24. Dickert is overrated....Big Time!

  25. I read a comment somewhere that insinuated that Karas' plan for a municipal electric utility for Racine was sort of "whacky" or something along those lines.

    so, I Googled Municipal owned utility companies and it turns out there are quite a few and they seem to be providing a lot of cost savings to their customers. As a matter of fact there are 82 communities in Wisconsin alone. I checked -- I hope trying to make a hyperlink works here --link and found it to be very interesting. I don't know about you people in the city but I would really love to stick it to WE energies and save 30 or 40 bucks a month on my bill.
    These are the ideas the city needs. Why keep trying to juggle around a system that is failing us in so many ways and not be looking at true alternatives?

  26. Helding has talking points, period. I agree about the municipal owned utility. I'm sick of WE Energies and their constant approved rate hikes. We have to think outside the box and not be afraid to try new things. Some people say Pete Karas is "way out there", but I disagree. I believe Pete has some good ideas. I'm not sure about Dickert. From what I'm reading and finding out about him, I believe he would be another Becker (ideas and the way he would go about doing things). Don't want Turner, because Jim and Joyce Smith, Keith Fair, Craig Oliver, and Mike Shields are behind his campaign. Don't care for how those people deal with things, and to me that says something about Turner having them in his corner. Someone in an earlier blog said Jody Harding reminded her of Leona Helmsley. She's right - she does. Saw Part I of the forum on CAR25 last night. Don't believe there's a clear front runner yet.

  27. Pete isn't telling you how much it will cost to purchase the local electrical grid from WE energies. He isn't telling you where we will get power. If we pay for a power plant, that will cost big money. What kind of power plant will it be? Where will it go?

    If we buy off the open market, we will get into the same kind of trouble that California did when they had their brownouts. Ask former Governor Davis how that worked out.

    So many expensive and unanswered questions.

    Here is another question. Pete has been "working" on this proposal for years. He has proposed nothing to the city and made no progress. A pipe dream is not a campaign platform.

  28. You know, Leona Helmsely is just a nasty comment that does not make sense. Leona was jailed for tax evasion and is known for being quite mean. Jody is nice, she is not a lobbyist or current politician. She is not rehearsed in PR. She is the only one who announced she would take on Becker and run against him,before it was popular. Not one of the other candidates did that, one was even in another race. Now everyone is going to fix Racine. Jody can straiten out the financial mess we are in. Stop being mean and make valid points.

  29. "Don't want Turner, because Jim and Joyce Smith, Keith Fair, Craig Oliver, and Mike Shields are behind his campaign."


  30. Okay, Anonymous 10:05, you want to know what Jody Harding said that makes people think she's crazy? Expecting illegal immigrants to get a neighbor to call the police for them when they need help or have tips is nuts, if you ask me.

    Hola, amigo, would you call 911 and tell them that somebody just robbed me at knifepoint and stole my wallet? Oh, and keep my name out of it. Just tell the police you heard it happened to someone you don't know, and the robber was a 5'8" white male with brown hair, a goatee, and a scar on the left side of his nose, wearing a "You Want It When?" t-shirt and khaki shorts.

  31. Okay, so what is the solution for an illegal immigrant to feel safe? Jody did not make the law. All mayoral candidates are going to be sworn to uphold the law. I think none of them will do anything to help illegals. Not even the feely good policy someone talked about "no harm will come to them". That is an illegal policy. We are going about this illegal issue the wrong way. We cannot sidestep the law. We need to change the law. Not easy, but that is what is needed in order for them to feel safe. Seriously.

  32. Wasn't Jody the one who suggested that if you receive any sort of government aid, in any form, that you should not be allowed to vote? If that isn't unconstitutional I don't know what is.........
    As for me, I like the constitution and think we need to follow it and amend it if needed. But, to just throw out one of the foundations of it is sheer lunacy.
    As far as turning to municipal owned utilities, well, if it's as bad as you say why isn't that all over the web? The cities that have them sure aren't complaining. You seem like you just want to hang on to the status quo because change scares you.
    Isn't some of that stimulus money supposed to be used for upgrading utilities? And, it would produce jobs for people living in Racine since Karas has already said that new hires to the city should be Racine residents.