September 16, 2009

Council hears neighbors and unions support Tousis

Everyone in favor, please stand...

The first half-hour of Tuesday night's City Council meeting was mostly taken up by one issue, as 17 of the 19 speakers during the public comment section of the meeting spoke in favor of Tom Tousis' plan to build a grocery store, restaurant, bank and gas station in West Racine, on the corner of Washington Avenue and West Boulevard.

Most of those who spoke represented the various construction unions. Tousis announced last week he would use only union labor on the project, estimated to cost $5 million dollars.

Here's a sampling of what was said:

Karen Sorenson of ReMax: "It's a great project for West Racine."

County Board member Van Wangaard: "I spoke with more than 150 neighbors; the residents of West Racine want a sit-down restaurant; the sale of gas is a bonus. The project would produce 40-50 permanent jobs."

Tom Reiherzer of Building Alliance contractors: "This is about jobs at the prevailing wage, apprenticeships, family-supporting jobs. Local people and local jobs; it would produce 75-100 construction jobs." Reiherzer asked everyone in the Council Chamber's audience who was in favor of the project to stand up; almost everyone did.

Dan Doperalski, business agent with cement masons, said the project would produce "good jobs."

Keith Kemper, a sheet metal workers' representative, said it's a "good project."

Steve Juzenas, president of the plumbers and steamfitters, said it would be a shame "if that money goes out of town."

Al Johnson, a local union worker said, "I have many buddies sitting on the bench who could use this job."

Dean Bonanf, another plumber, said he'd been laid off for a year, and supports the project.

Josh Garner, an organizer for the sheet metal workers, said "this is a great opportunity."

Rich Fistler, business rep of the carpenters' union, said, "local jobs for local people."

Wesley Gable, president of Teamsters Local 43, said, "The council should support local people. It seems the Council likes to support people from out of town. I've seen no new businesses coming; I've seen business leaving."

Aaron Hansen, a bricklayer who lives within a mile of the site, said, "It would be nice to see this not a vacant lot."


  1. Ok, so we get it, people want union jobs.

    However, what about the end result?

    The jobs created to construct his project won't last forever. What will it take, a few months?

    Somehow, I don't see a restaurant attached to a gas station as too appealing for that location. But then, I guess I've never eaten at a restaurant attached to a gas station.
    What sort of restaurant is this going to be? Or will it be more of a serve-yourself sandwich/deli place with a couple tables?

  2. How much did Tom pay for such great reporting?
    Wishing the best of luck to little Vegas as this project goes forward
    2:49 I never had lunch at a place where I see folks playing slot machines three deep.

  3. I find these comments a bit bitter and ridiculous.

    Thanks Tom for keeping quality work in Racine by using union members.

    It is heartwarming to see the support at the council meeting, good pictures and thanks for covering this important local issue. Having some new construction in West Racine can only be a plus!

  4. Of course we want and need jobs. But development for the sake of development is short term thinking that isn't going helpful. How many nice 20 year old gas stations can you name? Lose the gas station, the 5 or more video poker machines, and the bright lights of the canopy over the pumps and more people may fall in line. Those parts don't fit here. There are gas stations less than one mile in any direction of this site, no need for more. The grocery, diner, and farmer's market will draw plenty of business without the controversy. Look at the details before you decide to get on his slick marketing of this plan! I am hopeful, but cautious.

  5. Well West Racine I hope your happy with your Gas Station (is there not one closed right up the Street) I know that me and mine have no reason to come to West Racine any more. We have a Gas Station and restaurant.

  6. The majority of the speakers were from out of town.

  7. So what? Construction workers approve of construction jobs. Propose a landfill there and dump workers will approve. Propose a crack house and crack addicts will approve. How many of those workers live in west Racine? What percentage of West Racine's community do they make up?

    Please bring back the Racine Post, the alternative news source. Dustin & Pete's Downtown Racine Blog is okay, but sometimes I like the news without an opinion.

  8. Orbs - The story reflects what happened at the City Council meeting. As for alternative media, sorry to disappoint, but this is it. We put stories out there we feel are important to the community, people react and we keep reporting.

    Per the Tousis project, it's about the only thing going in city development right now. $5 million is on the line in a prominent city neighborhood. We're going to cover it from beginning to end, and that includes taking a hard look at the proposal itself.

    Unfortunately, this legitimate debate has been devolving into nasty, personal attacks unrelated to the project or West Racine. Our endless hope is civility will take hold, but that may be asking too much of anonymous commenters.

  9. I don't understand why people would prefer a gravel pit to this plan. They have been complaining for years they want a grocery store - now they would have one and they still complain. What is it you don't understand. A grocery store will never make it financially alone - that is why the addition of the resteraunt and gas station. In addition it will provide construction jobs and long term jobs in the gas station, store and resteraunt - isn't 17% unemployment alone justify this plan. Quit whining and wake up - West Racine is dieing, and this will pump some life into it and help the local merchants with foot traffic.

  10. Anon 2:49 - Plans call for a 165-seat sit-down restaurant called "Gus's Diner" that will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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

  12. 8:19 meant restaurant

  13. Anon 8:35 - If you oppose Tousis's project, say you oppose it. But we can't allow slanderous comments (ie. 'illegal') and we're tired of your fascination with young women's T-shirts. Let it go ... move on.

  14. I was in the drug store across the street from the proposed project.
    It was pretty tacky. It was dirty and cluttered. I do not plan on going back to this store. Is tgh new project going to be the way of the drug store. Just another tacky operation in West Racine? The location on Douglas Ave sounds like another tacky operation. I have not been there, but I read the blogs. Tight T shirts and risque sayings.
    Good luck to the West Racine residents.

  15. 8:50 - Don't comment if you have not been there. The gas station on Douglas is impeccable and the food is great. Tell me a restaurant does not have T-shirts similar to the one's worn there. Get over it!

  16. Tim the Shrubber9/16/2009 9:08 AM

    "I know that me and mine have no reason to come to West Racine any more. We have a Gas Station and restaurant." what? Do you currently come to West Racine and visit the vacant lot? Did you really come to West Racine before to shop in the stores that used to occupy that lot? I didn't think so.

    This is not my ideal plan for the area (does it really need the slot machines?), but it is better than what we have currently.


    "Good luck to the West Racine residents."

    1. I would say thank you, but I don't think you are sincere.

    2. If you don't live here in West Racine, why do you even care enought to comment about the development?

  17. For the person complaining about the lights: The fuel pumps are going to use state of the art 3rd generation LED lights from Rudd Lighting and they are using this project as a test site for their products. In addition to being less intrusive on the neighborhood when they are on they are attached to motion detectors and will only be one when someone approaches the pumps. The canopy is also going to be as least intrusive as possible and on the corner that is as far away from the neighbors as possible. In fact, there are no houses that border this property.

    The property in question has a number of, for lack of a better word, weird problems that make it very difficult to use. As a result, this project combination is the only way West Racine is going to get a grocery store on that site. Every grocery store operator that the local Alderman has paid to come in to look at the site has spent less than 5 minutes and come to the obvious conclusion that the site would never meet their needs.

  18. Tacky t-shirts, video poker, all night pay at the pump options are germaine to the conversation. These are new to this family centric area. Has anyone ever even noticed what anyone at Wilsons, Larsons, Bendtsens, Nelsons, CVS, or the Red Bell was wearing? Ever loiter there to play poker?

  19. 75% of the buildings in West Racine need a major overhaul. The area is a nice part of town that used to be much nicer. The area is fading fast and the crime level is rising even faster. The do nothing attitude of the neighborhood elders is pushing this part of town right into the crapper. If you really are tired of driving, get your hands off the wheel open the door and step out of the car and let someone that wants to drive get in the driver's seat and take us where we want to go.

  20. Tim the Shrubber9/16/2009 9:40 AM

    "The property in question has a number of, for lack of a better word, weird problems that make it very difficult to use."

    What are these? I really want to know.

  21. C'mon Dustin - you delete comments when you want to, but you are not the least bit consistent as to why.

    Depending how you personally feel about the person in question depends on how much you allow on your blogs.

    It's your blog of course, but at least be honest about why you delete some comments without consistency.

    But now back to the story - the construction jobs involved will not last long, I'm guessing 6 months? The more important issue is, will this be a good fit for West Racine?

    Regarding the jobs that will be made available in the gas station and restaurant, those types of jobs are not in demand and do not pay well, so please don't use that as a selling point.

  22. 71% of the positive comments at the meeting (made, apparently, mostly by people who don't live in West Racine, or even Racine) are reported in the above story. 0% of the negative.

    The headline refers to neighbors supporting Tousis, but I read reference to only one neighbor, the union bricklayer.

    You cannot be that blind. If you are, I recommend my low vision specialist. He's the best in the state.

  23. 9:49 - with 17% unemployment, any job is better than no job.

  24. I love Tinos, especially because those guys are so nice. I'm going to tell them that they need to begin wearing muscle shirts and thongs to compete with the girls' T shirts at Gus's -

  25. You may be tired of the t-shirts but it makes a difference. No the rest of the restaurants are not doing the same. Women, married couples, families and retired folk are not going to sit and relax for breakfast, lunch and dinner in a hooters style restaurant. The slogans make it worse. It makes me uncomfortable.

    I am also concerned that we build this big modern monstrosity like the one on Douglas, when there is an empty grocery store across the street and an empty gas station down the road. Why can't those spots be used? The environmental impact of more gas tanks is not good.

    What sort of restaurant in Gus's diner?

    The poker machines bring in the worst of people. Just what a high unemployment area needs.

    Of course he went to the unions for support. Of course they support it. We have to live with it.

  26. The T-shirts are demeaning and insulting to women.

    The messages on the outdoor sign at Douglas Ave. were demeaning and insulting to his neighbors.

    Enjoy, West Racine.

  27. Orbs 9:50. There were no negative comments, as the story states. More than one neighbor spoke; I just didn't quote everyone. A "sampling," get it?

  28. In other words, Pete supports this project and therefore reported in a positive manner, avoiding any "sampling" of the negative. What don't you understand?

    By the way, if anyone really wanted a waitress job, you could find one. Those aren't the types of jobs that people are looking for.

  29. Tim the Shrubber- There are two nasty easements that bisect the property north to south into one third and two third plots and cuts off the corner at Washington and West Blvd east to west. There is a deep sewer tunnel that runs north to south that is only 35 feet down. The second is the really nasty one. There is a large power conduit that is just to the west of the sewer tunnel that runs south and then makes a 90 degree turn to the west about half way down West Blvd. This is the power conduit that fees the hospital. WE Energies has forbidden any structure from being built on top of it. In addition, We Energies forbids any changing of the grade on the entire property.

    If you look at the original drawing on the first article you can see the shaded areas. Those are the two easements.

  30. Ooops. That should be 90 degree turn to the EAST.

  31. Anon 10:35 THERE WERE NO NEGATIVE COMMENTS! Why is this such a difficult concept for you to understand?

    As for Pete's support/opposition to this project: Pete hasn't decided either way, and I challenge you to find any evidence to the contrary.

    To quote the great philosopher Sigmund Freud: Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. It's just a factual story about what happened at the City Council meeting. Listen to the tape! Then tell me what was selectively left out...

  32. The size of the property is also not large enough for a large national corporation to come in a build on it. Those companies have one or two building designs they use and the size of the site and the easements would not allow them to build what they want.

    It is not a full city block.

  33. Anon 7:16: "The majority of the speakers were from out of town."

    Racine: 8
    Somers: 1
    Caledonia: 1
    Pleasant Prairie: 1
    Kansasville: 1
    Kenosha: 2
    Mt. Pleasant: 1
    Burlington: 1
    Sturtevant: 1

  34. This is a good fit for the area. Tom and his family have run respectable businesses in Racine for over 30 years. I have personally worked on past projects for Tom and his family and have found that they are honest and respectable business people. This would take the tax burden off of the cities books and create both short term and long term jobs. Spankenberg does not like this idea because it is not his own and he wont be able to brag about it when he runs for mayor in 2011. He has held secret meetings regarding this property with other alderman and city officials in atendance. Isnt that against the law (open meeting records)? Where are the minutes from the meeting? Maybe the Racine Post should be asking that.

  35. "Tell me a restaurant does not have T-shirts similar to the one's worn there."

    Blue Diamond
    Douglas Ave Diner
    George Webb
    Corner House
    Taco Bell
    Mi Jacalito
    Main Moon

    Shall I continue...?

  36. Hey Orbs - if these girls choose to wear T-shirts that you think portrays them as sex objects, who are we to tell them not too.

  37. As a resident in this area we are in TOTAL SUPPORT for this project.
    The Tousis Family is an estabilished GOOD business owner over many years in Racine. Plus he wants to build using Local contractors that pay living wages plus benefits. When this happens it will help our Racine Community. There are still others with there self motivated intrest that want to continue this tax burden property and continue draging down racine. Its time to move foward....

  38. Maybe there weren't any negative comments to report this time (I wasn't there so I don't know), but it doesn't change the fact that both Dustin and Pete have issues when it comes to writing non-biased articles. I'd guess though that Pete must be supportive of this project or he'd have made some sort of remark or slanted the story otherwise.

    It is usually very obvious what their personal opinions are. Wonder if either of them actually took a journalism class?

  39. Did someone actually comment that they were worried that this project may bring people to West Racine?

  40. Concerned Citizen9/16/2009 6:50 PM

    Look at the Post's Main Page... Scroll down...You will see a picture of a young female working at Gus's Gyros wearing that "Creamy Sauce" T-Shirt. I'm sure that

    (A) This post will be deleted
    (B) The picture will be removed
    (C) Both

    Before any of you get a chance to see the disgusting, tasteless T-Shirt.

  41. Jesus, get your mind out of the gutter. Sometimes a shirt is just a shirt.

  42. How quaintly Racine: Discussion involving unions, gas stations, revealing and offensive t-shirts, and video machines. Oh and a restaurant - a "diner."

    Blue collar and classless all the way.

    Racine - West Racine - hell, any area of Racine - will never improve if people don't reach for something better.

  43. I was at the council meeting with about 15 other residents of West Racine that support this development. We did not know that we had to sign up to speek so those of you saying it was only the Unions that were there you are wrong. And to those of you that continue to complain about the sayimng on the T-shirts, I ask you "Are TV commercials today not more sexually explicit than his sayings!" Grow up people.

  44. 6:36

    Do not believe you there are sign up sheets and a sigh that you can not miss.
    Hate to say this (well no I do not) Tom Tom is out of there!

  45. 9:24 - you need a grammer lesson. Do you even read what you write?

  46. 10:59 - You need a spelling lesson. It's grammar, not grammer.

  47. Please let us all support the unions!
    Look at all they have done for our Auto industry, our steel industry....Oh wait one of them is dead already and the other we own!

    Unions had their time, but that has long passed.

    I support non-union labor, same quality at a reasonable rate!


  48. Keith W.Deschler9/17/2009 8:33 PM

    Well well well,is all this negativity really necessary? Lets get the facts on this straight.A local businessman wants to build a 10,300 sq.ft grocery store (with storage and offices on the second floor so it does not take away from actual store floor space) add to that,a sit down restaurant with a seating capacity of 150 inside,with additional seating outdoors.additionally, it calls for a bank.Last but not least,it includes selling gas.I almost forgot,the grocery store will have both a meat market and a deli.The entire facility is being designed to keep the enviornmental impact to a minumum.For exaample,third generation LED lighting activated by motion detectors,solar panals on roof tops,food waste generators that will allow the neighbors to use,that will in turn provide an additional source of renewable energy.sounds like a sound and attractive development to me,who by the way I am a West Racine resident.I would also like to let everybody know the original proposal had a car wash inserted in it but due to concerns of some residents,it was ommitted in leu of a bigger grocery store,if that doesn't reflect character what does.Soooo it is going to use union labor for construction,what,union workers don't deserve to work? As for permanent employees does anybody know what he's planning on paying them? I can assure you it's more than min.wage.I myself have a 20 18 and 17 yr old at home who would give anything to find a job at any wage.These are just some of the FACTS it would be in everybodys best interest to get the facts before basing an opinion,any questions? Stop by better day BP on the corner of Douglas and Goold and I know both Tom or Gus would be glad to give you honest answer to any of your questions.

  49. I am not a big union guy either, but if a private developer elects to use union labor to his benefit or detriment that is his choice. IF he gets permission in time to move forward, he will have to comply with the Redevelopment Authority rules. How he does that is his call.

  50. SECRET WEAPON9/17/2009 11:09 PM

    Mr. Deshler, you sound like you would be a great replacement for Alderman Spangenberg. The lining of his pockets and self serving motives are sure to finish him. If I remember correctly he didn't take his own district during the last mayoral primary. So, I am sure that it wouldn't be difficult to replace him.

  51. Union all the way Baby! I assume he'll require the employees of the Mini Mart (including himself and family) to join the Grocery Union?

  52. Jim Spangenberg is Anti-Union. If I remember right, Spanky got rid of the Teamsters from his store so he could pay substandard wages to his drivers and pocket more money. He is a greedy man. His father would never have done so.

  53. Anon 9/17/09 12:46 Ihave been a proud member of my union for 20 years now, like that of my Father and his Father before him. Union wages have allowed me the ability to afford such things as Private Schooling for my 3 children, ahouse and two cars. Unlike those of you that believe us unoin boys and girls are under worked and over paid, and that we single handedly killed the two industries you mentioned think again. It was people such as yourself that helped with those industries demise. What kind of cars do you drive? I own 2 GM products. Where do you most often shop? I know Walmart. The steel industy and the auto industry have been mismanaged for years with millions and millions in corperate bonus', the management of these industries have helped in thier own demise. RThe union of modern day work with owners making concessions to ensure all can live a quality life. In reference to "same quality cheaper price" I feel that the union trades are far superior in quality as well as they are trained in safety giving them the edge. Union trades also have insurance not health but workmans compensation, and liability. In Racine about 48% of the non union trade contractors do not have the proper insurance. In closing 12:46 I would have to ask you to think about what I said and take it to heart. Good luck to this young man in his venture, I live in the 1400 block of Hayes Ave. and will be at his side to show my support.

  54. I think that women should be covered from head to toe and only be able to expose their eyes. There are many countries that have implemented this dress code for women and I believe that the women of the country do feel liberated. I also believe they enjoy walking five feet behind their owners, I mean husbands. Think how much more liberated they would feel if we prohibited them from going to school and driving.