As 2009 winds down the media is spicing its annual "Year in Review" lists by a multiple of 10. "Decade in Review" lists are now in vogue, and who are we to miss a passing fad? We reviewed 2009 here. Now we'll take a look at the last 10 years, which have seen some pretty cool stories.
Consider this story a work in progress. We'll add and subtract as needed, so feel free to jump in with construction/destructive criticism. Also, because dates run together in our brains, these stories are in no particular order of chronology or importance.
Alright then .... here we go:
We'll expand on this later, but the sewer deal between Racine and the surrounding communities east of I-94 was clearly a big deal. One of the clearest signs of its importance are, well, signs. Mount Pleasant and Caledonia each have their own signs along I-94; those signs used to only read Racine. The villages will be the engine for growth in eastern Racine County for the next decade.
North Beach revival
North Beach started the decade as a forgotten/ignored resource in the city. It ended the decade as one of Racine's jewels. Dr. Julie Kinzelman and her staff cleaned up the water for swimming in Lake Michigan, the community built a playground and supported the North Beach Oasis and the convention and visitors bureau brought in triathlons and volleyball tournaments. The result: North Beach may be the best beach on Lake Michigan.
Racine's astronaut was killed in a dramatic shuttle explosion on Feb. 1, 2003. The nation, even the world, turned its attention to Racine following the tragedy.
Former Mayor Gary Becker's arrest and guilty pleas belongs on this list. Becker was the most influential mayor of the decade - and also the biggest failure.
The county remained about as evenly split between Democrats and Republicans as possible throughout the decade. We voted for Presidents Bush and Obama, for Sens. Stepp and Lehman, for Rep. Paul Ryan and Sens. Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold. We're not red or blue. We're purple.
Unfortunately, the local economy is purple from the lumps it took over the last 10 years. The city's unemployment rate was among the top two in the state throughout the decade, the CNH tractor plant is now an empty field and several local manufacturers closed their doors. It wasn't all bad. SC Johnson remains a nationally celebrated employer, Ruud Lighting has some exciting things going on and Modine got its share of praise, among others.
But it wasn't all bad news. Downtown Racine made a remarkable turnaround over the last 10 years thanks to the new Johnson Bank Building, the reconstruction of Main and Sixth streets and an influx of restaurants, shops, businesses and events Downtown. We take some heat for focusing coverage on Downtown, but it really is one of the business success stories over the last decade.
Rep. Paul Ryan
Our congressman went from one of the youngest members in the House to one of the most powerful. He's being talked about as a presidential candidate some day, and it's hard to go a week without seeing him on national TV. It was a good decade for Ryan.
The Over Our Head Players created a 10-minute play writing competition that's drawn hundreds of submissions from authors around the world. It's an entirely original theatrical event that's only gotten better of with time. A great addition to Racine's rich theatre scene.
Park, St. Cat's win championships
On the local sports front, Park High's football team won a state championship in 2005 thanks to John Clay, whose gone on to star at the University of Wisconsin. (Interesting side note: Park is the only D1 school in Wisconsin to win a championship in football, basketball and baseball.) Racine basketball continued to be among the best in the state. St. Cat's was one of the state's top basketball dynasty after winning four titles in five years.