August 6, 2009
The mayor finds his mantra
Last September, we presented the first of what since then has grown to half-a-dozen articles, each highlighting a positive aspect of the community. We labeled them Positively Racine, something focusing on the community's strengths, assets and accomplishments.
A couple of months ago, Dustin played around with some bumper sticker designs to help promote RacinePost. One of the iterations he created is above. We didn't forget about the idea; it's just simmering on the back burner.
Later, as work on our new website progressed, he added the tag line to our masthead, and it's been online ever since, in the version at right, as we test and refine our new software.
Well, Wednesdeay our little slogan got a big boost: Mayor John Dickert was the featured speaker at the Downtown Rotary Club, where he pretty much encapsulated his much-mysterious 10-year plan in just two words.
Yup. Those two words were "Positively Racine," he said, pointing out that citizens "forget" how good we have it here.
He began with a short anecdote. Dickert said he went into the Groundskeeper coffeeshop one morning, and there was a woman sitting at the table by the window, reading. She looked up as he came in, and he said, "Hi."
The woman, a stranger, took that simple greeting as an ephiphany. "We don't do that in New Jersey," she said.
Dickert replied, "I know. But you're in Racine."
The woman said, "You're the third person to come in here and say 'Hi' to me. You're all so nice."
"I know," said Dickert. "You're in Racine."
The conversation went on a little longer, with the woman finally stating she would have to think about moving here... which led the mayor to another story, about a visiting couple wanting to go to dinner here for some exotic cuisine. "What do you want to eat? We have it all here," Dickert says he told them. "We have every kind of restaurant," and he said that no matter what the couple named, Racine had a prime example. "We're the smallest big town in the world, the largest small town," is how he put it.
And then he got to his larger point: "I want us to start talking positively about Racine."
And to his 10-year plan: "I know what every block, every street will look like in 10 years, every component of this town..."
Then he told of his experience at the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Providence, R.I. "They all said to me, 'If I only had a lake...' 'If I only had a river...' 'If I was just located between two metropolitan areas...'"
At each "If I only..." Dickert's smile got wider. "Well, I have a lake!" "I have a river!!" "I'm between Milwaukee and Chicago!!!"
And then they would say to Dickert, "You must have no unemployment in Racine..." Well, that wiped the smile off. "Eh... we have some issues there," Dickert admitted.
Still, he says, "Why not more museums? Why not a children's museum, an ice skating rink, a..." The list went on faster than my fingers could take them all down.
"I'm going to create that. We're going to start looking positively. The future's not about us, it's about Racine, if we start now with positive attitudes."
Dickert said we'll soon see a change on CAR 25. "You know what?" he said. "CAR 25 stinks! We're going to put positive programming on it, focusing on what we're doing that's right. We have the best city in the country."
And then our two-months-in-office mayor's capper: "I know what Racine will look like in 10 years. Do you?"
Well, no... not yet, anyway. I remember arriving here in 1995 and, shortly thereafter, giving Mayor Jim Smith a piece of my mind about the many-years-vacant lot on Main Street, the entire block east of Monument Square. It was used as a parking lot by the Post Office then, and stayed that way seemingly forever until the Johnson Building finally was built: a better outcome than anyone could have imagined, far better than the McDonald's that had once been proposed for the site. It just took too long to happen.
I think many of us share Dickert's passion and positive view of what Racine has to offer. We're here by choice, after all. The part I think he's missing -- or intentionally ignoring -- is that we want a roadmap and benchmarks so we can keep track of progress -- or the lack of it. I don't want to wake up in 10 years and say, "Darn... that parking lot's still there." I want to see the significant mileposts along the way ... yes, so we can change direction, and drivers, if necessary.
P.S. Want a Positively Racine bumper sticker for $1? Send us a a buck for each you want, and a self-addressed, stamped envelope, and if we get at least 100 orders we'll print 'em up. If not, we'll send your money back. Mail to: RacinePost, 3315 Pleasant Lane, Racine, WI 53405