September 30, 2009

'Building on success': Mayor seeks millions for clean beaches center

Zumba is just one of many activities attracted to North Beach in recent years.

Mayor John Dickert is pursuing a multi-million dollar water research laboratory that will build on Julie Kinzelman's work in cleaning up Racine's beaches.

The new clean beaches center would give Kinzelman a $2 million to $3 million laboratory and training facility for her work, Dickert said. He hopes the city can build the facility entirely with federal money. The federal government has committed $5 billion to the Great Lakes and recently released $475 million for clean water programs. Dickert, a former lobbyist, is traveling to Washington D.C. in October to fight for the money. (He has a location in mind for the center, but declined to say where because the city doesn't own the land.)

Dickert said he's pursuing the consortium for two reasons:

1. To keep Kinzelman happy. She's traveling to Ireland soon to lead a seminar on clean beaches (just her latest international presentation) and is well-known throughout the Great Lakes region for her ground-breaking work. Many other cities and organizations would love to lure her away from Racine. Dickert said he won't let that happen.

2. It's a chance for Racine to "build on its success," Dickert said. Clean freshwater is poised to become a major industry and Racine's location on Lake Michigan creates a great opportunity to become a leader in that industry, Dickert said. A laboratory focusing on Kinzelman's work would be a good start, he said. Dickert noted Kinzelman is traveling to Ireland in a few weeks to lead a seminar on beach sciences. If Racine had a world-class facility, it could bring scientists from around the world into the city.

Kinzelman at North Beach

"This might be the way to keep her," Dickert said of Kinzelman. "She deserves her own center."

On a wider scale, Dickert said a clean beaches center would be an example of the city building on its strengths. Racine, thanks to Kinzelman, is already an international leader on cleaning up beaches. Now, it needs to turn that work into opportunities.

"She's the best in the world. Why wouldn't I build on that?" Dickert said.

Kinzelman, who works in the city's Health Department, would use the new building to continue research on cleaning up beaches and to train interns and water quality scientists from around the world on water quality issues, Dickert said.

It's a natural extension of Kinzelman's world-renown work. She's considered an international expert in cleaning up beaches, with Racine's beaches as the best example of her work. Racine's North and Zoo beaches didn't closed this summer because of poor water quality, which is a major change from 10 years ago when the beaches were frequently closed by high bacteria counts. It's also far better performance than beaches in Milwaukee and Kenosha have shown in recent years.

Kinzelman is a leader in the use of "fast-track" testing methods that return water-quality results in as little as four hours. Previous tests, which took three days, did little to determine if beach water was safe for swimming because they returned results after the fact. Long lag times meant beaches were open when water was a health risk and potentially closed when the water was clear.

She also helped clean Racine's beach water by working with other departments to groom sand differently, to clean up water runoff, to ban dogs and feeding seagulls at the beach and to plant native grasses that help clean up water runoff. The result: Racine's beach water was so clean this summer it qualified as drinking water.

Racine's clean beaches has had a significant economic impact. Pro volleyball and an elite triathlon came to the city because of its beaches. The North Beach Oasis has also thrived and a few small businesses renting recreational water and beach equipment cropped up this year.

With water an increasingly valuable commodity, Kinzelman's research may be Racine's best shot at creating a high-tech industry and attracting new jobs and businesses.


  1. Green Racine9/30/2009 11:21 AM

    We COULD build on the movement for a food council/Urban Gardening and small acreage organic farming as well.
    However to do that some in City Hall (Department of Development)would need to get the clue, but truly soon they will be simply allowed to fade away, because the idea of build, build, build, will be seen as not sustainable.
    Right now in Racine there is a aquaculture business being tested and another being planned.
    A Farmers Market being look at for the West 6th st Area and another by The old Danish Home.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. 1:39

    To me it looks like Becker is still in charge.

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. Cindy -

    We know who you are. The health department and the city are better off without you.

    Now that you are gone, do us a favor and stay out of things. What you don't know could fill a book.

  6. Thank goodness for all that federal money. I'm so glad to pay so much in taxes!

  7. The plan dickert....the plan! WHERE IS the PLAN? This is what you've been working on? Are you kiding me? Where are the jobs you've promised? Dickert is in so far over his head...this is just ridiculous

  8. Hey anon 2:12. He said it would be in the budget.

    The election is with it

  9. 2:16

    The fact is he has no plan! Excuse me he does its build! build! build!
    The last election might be over but there is a new one coming.
    I have heard he is one phone call from Obama, does he need the number?

  10. If this works what a win for Racine. This is something Racine can build around and become a hub for the water industry. Way to land this catalyst.


  12. forget it 3:14, you won't get an answer. This kills me - taxpayers in Racine and Kenosha counties pay for these people to get their mail-order degrees while collecting big salaries (getting the degrees thay should have had to collect the big salAries in the first place) and to fly all over to build their own resumes. What does that do for the taxpayers? It is nice that a certain college pres has time to be on dozens of national committees and boards as well as fly all over the place. That doesn't help a single young person get the nursing class they've been trying to get for three years. That doesn't help a single person get a new job. It sure builds one person's resume though.

  13. A good guess might be the land in question is the former Pointe Blue-Walker/Pugh site. Have the names John Dickert and Pointe Blue been connected before?

  14. 4:43

    Or Dickert with the properties that KRM would have to buy.

    A good part of the 10 year plan is I think,how to get rich

  15. Party on!! To everyone who voted for Dickert. Party on I say!! You should be proud of yourselves.

  16. She is not flying to Ireland on Racine Taxpayer dollars.

  17. To hear she has been helping Becker is so disapointing - he has hurt so many people, he deserves no charity.

  18. I can not believe that Dickert is saying "she deserves her own center" and "we do not want to lose her". There are many hard working and deserving city employees that the city would not want to lose and could use their own center to do their work. I do not think the City of Racine should be paying for someone to do research and build their resume. Why aren't Parkside or Gateway stepping up to the plate?

  19. Julie Kinzelman interesting that she may get her own center. Why not part of The U.W. Fresh Wather School in Milwaukee?

  20. The beaches aren't closed every other day in the summer anymore.

    Let's say thanks.

  21. If we "can build the facility entirely with federal money." That would be good for the city. It wouldn't raise local taxes, and would be reasonable use of federal funds.

    I'm not a supporter of Becker, but I don't see how bringing "him food one day on her lunch break" is our business. There is even something to be said for providing some support for friends when everything turns bad.

  22. 9:42

    Dr. K knew first hand how Becker operated, treating city employees like garbage. The guy was out of control way before the pictures popped up. His hard times are his own doing. Why she would continue to associate with him is a GOOD question.

  23. and four years from now when she gets a beter gig?

    How many jobs does this create?

  24. People, geez. I'm all for skepticism, but let up for a second. Racine has some of the cleanest beaches on the Great Lakes and Kinzelman is one of the main reasons why. Dickert was vague on the details, but it makes a lot of sense for the city to capitalize on its success and location to create a new, high-tech industry.

  25. Yes the beaches are not closed all the time like they used to be - but does that mean Kinzleman deserves her own center? Apparently she is able to do her job well enough where she is.

    I see a comment was deleted regarding Kinzleman going on trips with former mayor becker.

    Dustin - why was this deleted? It is common knowledge it was true - if you do a little checking you can verify that. Ask anyone in the Health department. I don't remember there being any profanity or name calling, etc. Why would the Racinepost try to hide this information?

    And yeah I heard she's also still meeting up with the former mayor. Both she and Alderman Weidner still do.

    Someone posted that her trip is not being paid by the city - can the racinepost verify that?

  26. Why was CW's comment deleted?

  27. Concerned Citizen10/01/2009 6:20 AM

    Pete and Dustin are closet Becker backers. Plain and simple. And yes, Weidner still hangs with the mayor. There are no ethics and morals when it comes to Racine City Government.

    Why was the comment deleted fellas??? We are waiting for an explanation. There was NO profanity used. This should be good. You're credibility as journalists is going south REAL fast.

    I prefer the OLD Post that used to bring the tough questions/stories to light. For instance, the articles about J-Wax months ago were absolutely fantastic. What happened since then?? I think I know, but I won't speculate. With me, it's all about facts.

    As a wise man always says "Party On!!!"

  28. The amount of "editing" Dustin and Pete do depend entirely on their personal opinions of the person/people in question. If they don't care for the person, they let anything go. Must make them feel so all-powerful.

  29. Still no answer to the question of funding for the many trips - and what this does for Racine. I'm sure the taxpayers also paid for the online courses she took, and the single trip to the "school" in England, to get her "PhD" for crying out loud.

  30. If the beaches are cleaner, I'd like to hear the story explain specifically how that happened. As far as I know Milwaukke is still dumping their raw sewerage in Lake Michigan!

  31. If the City is going to do this there has to be a better reason than "we do not want to lose her" or "she deserves her own center".

    What is the benefit to the City of Racine. What are the on going costs and how will they be paid? There has to be a lot more thought and planning done before something like this can be justified to the tax payers.

    Sounds like something our mayor thought up just to spend some federal dollars.

  32. As an Alderman, I took an interest in Dr. Kinzelman's work when I first joined the City Council. North Beach is one of our greatest assets and water is important for any community. Racine's long term survival depends on both of these being clean and plentiful. My first reaction was "why are we re-inventing the wheel?" Surely Racine does not need its own scientist. There have to be established ways of keeping beaches clean.

    I spent some time looking into this and it turns out I was wrong. We were not re-inventing anything - we were working to invent something in the first place. Dr. Kinzelman, and others around the region and the country, have been working for years to establish the best practices for keeping beaches and water sources as clean as possible.

    There is some serious misinformation in the above comments.

    Dr. Kinzelman paid for all of her tuition and her travel to and from the University in England. While she performed her research here, she was on salary. For the many trips she made for classes in England, she was on vacation or her own time. Any extra expenses related to the research (personnel & materials) were grant funded and not funded from city taxes. She is not going to Ireland soon on taxpayer money. She went to Ireland in the past and those costs were not covered by the city. She is going to England soon to teach a portion of a course at the University. She will cover her own expenses and take vacation time.

    Dr. Kinzelman has attended some conferences at city expense. Sometimes she is learning, sometimes teaching. She has turned down speaking engagements in the past because the groups were unwilling to pay expenses.

    While there is a serious lack of respect coming from these blogs, Dr. Kinzelman's work is widely respected. She holds academic positions at three Universities and is sought out because of the work done here.

    The work done by Dr. Kinzelman has been very important for Racine and the region. When the EPA announced the newly created beach sanitary survey standards, they did so in Racine because of the role our research played in forming the new standards.

    This is not just about Dr. Kinzelman. Julie would be the first to tell you that she is one piece of the puzzle. DPW Commissioner Rick Jones and Water Dept. Manger Keith Haas, as well as others in and out of City Hall, have worked together with Dr. Kinzelman to bring about these great results. Beach grooming, detention ponds, sewer work, the English St. outfall - all of these have led to the improvements at our beaches. These collaborative efforts in Racine are the subject of conference presentations and classes taught here and overseas.

    I can't tell you what Milwaukee has done, but I can tell you that Racine is getting a lot of attention because of our results. Milwaukee has talked to Dr. Kinzelman about the methods used here. A year or so ago, a portion of her salary was covered by an outside entity while she applied her research methods to assist in cleaning beaches in South Milwaukee. I also know that the work done here has helped form guidelines under consideration by the Canadian EPA. In addition, environmental agencies from the UK have recently contacted us about our work. The EPA is hosting a "stakeholders meeting" in Chicago to discuss Great Lakes water quality and Dr. Kinzelman was invited as a panelist.

    If we can get a clean beaches research center started here, people will come here from all over to participate in the research and learn how to improve their communities. A serious academic center is an asset to any community.

  33. Is everyone at city hall entitled to earn their degree on city time like she did? Wow, she earned her doctorate while on city salary on city time. Nice gig. Good for her.

    But now everyone at city hall should be given the same opportunity, shouldn't they?

  34. Perhaps I wasn't clear. Dr. Kinzelman paid her tuition and fees. While she was employed by the city, she was paid to do grant-funded research that benefited the city and performed work that needed to be done (beach bacteria and water quality testing).

    She spent personal time and money studying, writing and defending a thesis, and traveling to and from England for classes. She spent some of her paid city time doing research that benefited the city and went toward her degree requirements.

    She wasn't being paid to research fruit flies or mink mating habits - this was work that cleaned up one of our greatest assets and was a catalyst to increased tourism and economic development on our lakefront. If any other city employee was willing to fund their own education, secure grants for research assistants, and perform work relevant to their job while improving the city in a major way, I for one think the city should at least consider it.

  35. People are being very cynical if they think this research center will not bring more jobs to the area. Having cleaner water already has brought more revenue into Racine, as the article pointed out, through events like the triathlon.

    "Jobs" are not just factories for people with no education. Building more professional and research based opportunities in the area will prevent the "brain drain" that Wisconsin already suffers from when its most educated leave the area for professional jobs elsewhere.

    Having things like our beautiful beach in Racine is part of what keeps me here.

  36. When she first started her eduation and research at the city, nobody could have known that she would make such progress. How did she get the ok's by city admin in the first place with no track record?

    Any employee could come up with ideas and hope for the best, but would they all be given the green light before they are able to prove their worth?

    If I worked for the City of Racine, I think I would explore this very seriously. If one can do it, then everyone should be given a fair chance. Some may make breakthroughs, but others may not. Then what?

    I would have to guess there is much resentment by her coworkers and other employees.

    However anon 11:17 - I do agree with everything you've said.

  37. Thank you Alderman Helding for a very informative comment. I concur that "A serious academic center is an asset to any community." My only concern is the people who already own the copyright on the environment in Racine will run this place like they already run City Hall. While I believe that academics are the path to self-sufficiency and true sustainability, it's obvious that Racine's elitists believe that such a direction should be available only to them and theirs.

    Will there be a plan in place to mentor locals who desire to study and/or work at the center? Or will it just be another fly-by opportunity for the select graduates of Cornell to point out to their wealthy friends?

    Racine projects and programs for residents of Racine! Why is that so difficult to figure out? I say fill the lakefront with universities and colleges, as long as we fill those with Racine residents. I am all for attracting new business and new people to Racine, but please, please, please, there are thousands of locals dying out here. You can erect all the fancy-schmancy institutions in the world here but they won't benefit Racinians in the least unless they're staffed by Racinians for Racinians.

  38. Right now the world is focused on oil and that is what is what more than one war has been fought over. There seems to be a general agreement by those that predict the future that after oil the next big world wide issue will be water. Fresh water to be specific. There are some that feel there may even be future wars fought due to access to fresh water.

    If Racine can facilitate a center to continue Julie's work on water at no cost to the City taxpayer how can we lose. Look at the successful communities in this country. Most have found a niche that they can use to their benefit. If water can be that spark plug for Racine why all the grumbling.

    Doing nothing has never served a community well. Doing something is the only way to improve things for both Racine and the world's thirst for fresh water.

  39. How many trips to England to complete the mail-order degree? My understanding was a single two week trip. And Greg, you haven't the faintest clue about how true academics works. Your comment about studying minks seals it. Graduate students spend years working through a classes then a thesis question and the experiments to prove/disprove it. They DON'T get to collect a big salary while sliding the work they are ALREADY DOING into a real degree. These mail order degrees and certificates are killing this country. She might be talented and smart and nice but hse IS NOT a real PhD.

    As for the "three academic positions", what are they? Again you are clueless because one cannot have faculty positions at more than one institution - I suspect that you might be allowed to have multiple addunct positions, but this isn't the way this is spun.

    No worries, she isn't the only one around here.

  40. Urban Pioneer10/01/2009 6:58 PM

    Congrats Julie..I heard most of your interview on "All about Racine" last Saturday. I am thrilled that our Beach is now one of the best in the Great Lakes. Bravo..

    But keep in mind 2 words Zebra Mussels..have done a tremendous job filter and cleaning all of the Great Lakes. They have brought problems as well but 20 years ago I came from the Detroit area where the Detroit River, Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie were undergoing a miraculous clean u. It was learned later on it was the Zebra mussel. Of course the Water works here in Racine has been diligent in redoing our drainage for the City. as have many other cities around the Great Lakes. Milwaukee still needs to step up to the plate. But also the ideas Julie has contributed have no doubt helped.

    But should the City of Racine build a 3-10 million dollar center for her work??
    Mr. Mayor I happen to be one of the very best in my field will you and the tax-payers please build me a state of the art studio??

    And finally the center if it's built should be incorporated into the Gateway complex.

  41. If Kinzleman gets her own center, she could hire Gary Becker down the road when he gets out of jail, IF he goes to jail.

    She may be smart when it comes to beaches, but not very smart in other ways, like still spending time with Becker.

    I wouldn't be at all surprised if she helps to get him a job. Especially if she gets her very own center. After all, he does have experience since they used to go to all the meetings and funtions together right?

    Then, they can pick up where they left off, going to events together etc. Soon, everyone will forget Becker's dark background and he'll be welcomed back into the community because he'll be doing great and important things for our beaches.

  42. Chief Wahlen -

    You officer her lives on Kingston and has nothing better to do than spread rumors should get his ass back to work.

  43. I still have not heard one specific thing she did to clean up the beaches! Milwaukee continues to dump raw sewerage that continues to make its way here. I'm betting she knows David Letterman.

  44. Anon 12:30: Before posting character assassination, read this.

    Long-time residents of the city remember how often the beach was closed due to contamination, vs. how rarely it is today. Somebody deserves the credit; many believe that somebody is Julie Kinzelman.

  45. Pete - maybe, maybe not. The point being, keep your personal opinions off the website if you want to be taken seriously as a news source. It's always easy to tell by reading any article here which side of the fence you and Dustin are on.

  46. Pete....please post the details on how the beaches were cleaned up by the lady....or at least post one detail......maybe its just the way the lake currents run....or maybe its because the recession reduced pollution....

  47. Pete.....give us a break, don't cite yourself as the proof....the nonsense about reducing the gull population is just about a dog poop survey?

  48. Anon 1:58 Read the link I posted at 12:49.

  49. Anon 2:03 No, no, once again you mistake the messenger for the message.

    I'm not citing myself; I'm citing the experts who said the stuff about how our beach just happened to get cleaned up. If you've got a problem with the facts, or an alternate explanation, go to them. If you want to propose an alternate theory -- dog poop? -- feel free to post the research.

  50. Pete....down in Kenosha, the DNR is on a dog poop clean-up kick, apparently the beaches are pretty bad down seem confused about what real facts is your chance to get the lady to give you an exclusive and detail something believeable....right now your only blowing smoke!

  51. Pete likes to jump on the blogs and defend those people whom he likes. He also likes to delete posts if they are not supporting those he likes.

    Watch the next article involving someone or something he does not like and observe what happens (or should I say does NOT).

    A true news reporter should not let his personal opinions show - the facts should speak for themselves.

    And why were there a couple posts deleted? I noticed racinepost has been silent about that. I saw the posts, there was nothing wrong with them other than the people posting were not great fans of Julie Kinzlman. They had a right to their opinions.

  52. The questions that should be asked are: With a budget in the billions, why isn't the DNR taking care of this issue? Why would we pump millions into anything like this without investigating the facts? Wisconsin has a new Great Lakes Consortium, Why aren't they running the show?

  53. Gee, Pete is suddenly concerned about character assassination? Oh yeah, that's right, he must approve of Ms. Kinzelman.

  54. Josh- Right on.

    I don't live in Wisconsin anymore, but am always glad to hear when something good is going on back in my home town.

    (I never could understand why these response areas had to so devolve into meaningless drivel of personal attacks made by anonymous posters. The site doesn't even require any kind of verification of the poster's name/etc.! If you can't say it with your name attached, maybe it shouldn't be said.)