March 21, 2009

Edmands seeks third term as Mount Pleasant clerk/treasurer

Mount Pleasant's clerk/treasurer Juliet Edmands is seeking re-election this spring.

Edmands, seeking her third four-year term, is being challenged by Kim Forsman. Edmands has worked for the village since 1993 and is a certified municipal clerk and treasurer through professional organizations.

Edmands sits on the Racine County Convention and Visitors Board and was a key organizers of the Kids Connection Playground in 2000. The group raised $220,000 for the project in the Caledonia-Mount Pleasant Joint Park.

Edmands is a life-long Racine County resident interested in Community Beautification Projects. She's an advocate for Mount Pleasant receiving its own zip code and post office.

In her job, she edits the village's newsletter, handles records requests, manages the tax roll and runs elections. Part of her election duties include managing a staff of 120 election workers.

The Mount Pleasant clerk/treasurer election is on April 7.

March 20, 2009

RAM brings glass artist to Racine students

The Racine Art Museum will introduce glass artist Therman Statom to Racine students, beginning March 30. Statom will conduct a week-long series of workshops with second and fourth graders at Stephen Bull Fine Arts Elementary, and kindergarten through fifth grade at Janes Elementary. He will also work with the YMCA's Young Leaders Academy and students from Walden III Middle and High School at Wustum Museum. In these workshops, students will create artworks under Statom's direction for the upcoming exhibition Back to School with Therman Statom at Wustum from June 6 through July 26.

"Incorporating the exhibition with the workshops serves as a motivational force, both for the students and the artist. Having works exhibited adds a sense of responsibility to the students, which enhances their own personal experiences and involvement with the arts," Therman said. "The students will act as coordinators of their own conceptual ideas while I will act as a guiding facilitator."

In the artist's sessions, the students will engage in a series of drawing and movement exercises emphasizing basic principles and elements of art techniques. Some of those drawings may be used later in the exhibition installation. The students will work with glass pieces that will become part of a collaborative assemblage of mixed media to create the Wustum exhibition, Back to School with Therman Statom. Students may also be invited to observe and assist in the installation of Statom's second show in RAM's Windows on Fifth Gallery, Therman Statom: Outside the Box, that opens Aug. 1.

Statom's interest in studio glass began as a student in the 1970s at the Rhode Island School of Design. Throughout his career, Statom has challenged his audience to look at glass in new ways. He is a pioneer in the use of glass as a material for sculpture and room-size installation art. His works can be found in major museum collections across the U.S.

RAM members will be able to meet the artist at a member-only art preview sale on Thursday, April 2, from 5 to 7 p.m. RAM has commissioned Statom to create a work specifically for auction at RAM's Awesome Art Sale. Statom will be back in Racine on Sunday, July 26, for the closing reception of Back to School at the Wustum Museum. Families, students, and museum visitors are invited to a meet and talk with Statom about the exhibition. Hands-on art activities are planned and light refreshments will be served. Admission and parking are free at Wustum, at 2519 Northwestern Ave.

Want to be a Gateway College trustee? Apply now!

How'd you like to help run Gateway Technical College? Serve on its board, hire its president, make big academic decisions?

Well, here's your opportunity!

The Board Appointment Committee for the Gateway Technical College District Board of Trustees is accepting applications from district residents seeking appointments to the board. Deadline to apply is noon on April 7.

Those holding the seats up for reappointment are Ron Frederick, Rebecca Vail and Ron Jandura. The three-year appointments begin July 1, 2009, and end June 30, 2012.

There is one vacancy for Kenosha County, one for Walworth County and one districtwide seat. The districtwide seat must be filled by a school district administrator, and among the two remaining seats, one must be an employee member and the other an employer member.

That employee / employer distinction is interesting. The first refers to anyone who works for any business in the Tri-County District; the second refers to someone who is an employer in the district (with at least one employee); neither means someone who works for Gateway.

Jayne Herring, Gateway director of communications, further explained in response to my query, that, "The board make-up is an interesting formula where its members represent a county and a type of individual — a role one fills in their community (not at Gateway). Those types are employee, employer, superintendent of a school district with K-12 grades, elected official, and one 'additional' member."

Applications must be notarized and include two letters of reference; applicants must be present at the April 29 meeting of the appointment committee at the Burlington Center, 496 McCanna Parkway. Chairpersons of the Kenosha County, Racine County and Walworth County boards of supervisors make up the interview committee.

Those interested in applying can find forms online, at county clerks’ offices and at the various campuses.

EPA: Racine County cuts toxic chemicals by 53,000 pounds from 2006 to 2007

Here's a shameless request ...

The Environmental Protection Agency put out a report Thursday on the release of toxic chemicals in states and counties throughout the U.S., including Racine County.

The agency says toxic chemicals released into water or air dropped 5 percent nationally from 2006 to 2007. It also lists Racine County as average compared to other Wisconsin counties.

You can see reports on Racine County here and on Racine County businesses here.

So, here's the request. If there are any scientists out there, or people who like digging into these sorts of reports, take a look and let us know what this means for Racine County and Wisconsin. There's a lot of technical jargon and chemical names that really need an expert's view to be boiled down.

Here's some initial findings:

1. Racine County's total release of toxic chemicals was reported at 180,388 pounds. That's down 24 percent from 2006's total of 238,118 pounds, but up from 2005's total of 127,216 pounds and 2004's total of 110,813 pounds. You can see previous years using the form here.

2. Looking at "Total On and Off-site Disposal or Other Releases," the former Maple Leaf Farms in Raymond was the county's biggest polluter. The duck farm accounts for 77,821 pounds of toxic chemicals.

3. American Roller Co. in Union Grove was second with 29,300 pounds, followed by JohnsonDiversey at 24,044 pounds.

4. JohnsonDiversey reported 4,627 pounds of "point-source air emissions" and 8,937 pounds of "fugitive air emissions." It had the highest total of "fugitive air emissions" in the county, and was second in "point-source" emissions behind Fibertech Inc., of Franksville, which had 9,488 pounds of "point-source" emissions.

5. SC Johnson's Waxdale reported 14,413 pounds, including 500 pounds of "fugitive air emissions" and 2,101 pounds of "point-source air emissions."

If you have a minute, and are inclined to understanding these sorts of numbers, please take a look and report back. I'm interested in the context of the numbers - what's a lot of pollution? Or a little? Do any of the numbers jump out as unusual? Or is this a good sign that Racine County businesses are taking care of their toxic pollution?

You can send responses to:, or post them in the comments.

March 19, 2009

Wisconsin Green Party hosts economics forum Saturday

The Wisconsin Green Party is holding a forum Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. on how to grow an environmentally and fiscally responsible economy.

The event, at Blueberries Restaurant, 522 Sixth St., is a fairly transparent way for the state party to support Pete Karas' campaign for mayor. (Karas is a member of the Green Party.) But it's likely to bring up some interesting ideas on how a city with a decaying industrial core can rethink how it will create and maintain jobs.

Given how the city consistently has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state, it may be time for a new approach to how local leaders think about the economy.

That said, people need to ask tough questions at a forum like this. It's safe to say the city needs concrete actions to improve its economy - not more plans.

Here's a description of Saturday's event:
What: The Wisconsin Green Party will be hosting a local economics forum in Racine, March 21, with several experts from around the state of Wisconsin presenting on environmentally and fiscally sustainable methods for growing a local economy.

The agenda will be as follows:

1 p.m.: John Peck, Economist, Family Farm Defenders, Relocalizing a Community's Economy-from land trusts and local currencies for farmer markets and worker collectives

2 p.m.: Panel discussion on economic issues and solutions with Greg David- The Natural Step to Green Economies, and Michael Slattery- Energy-what you can do at the local level

3 p.m.: Amy Mondloch of the Grassroots Leadership College will lead an open discussion with the general public and membership toward an economic plan to take home to our respective communities.
Following the forum, there will be a "Party with Pete Karas" at Park Six from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. featuring Jim Schwall.

Earth Hour: Lights out on March 28

Mike P sends over a note about a March 28 international event called "Earth Hour." The World Wildlife Fund is calling on everyone to turn off their lights at 8:30 p.m. and spend one hour in darkness. The event is designed to make a global statement of concern about climate change and to demonstrate commitment to finding solutions.

My wife and I did this last year and had fun playing cards by candlelight. Check out a video here for more this year's event.

Thanks for the tip, Mike!

Sixth Street may close to traffic this spring

Sixth Street may shut down to traffic this year to help contractors rebuild the Downtown thoroughfare quicker, according to Rick Jones, the city's commissioner of public works.

The decision rests with general contractor AW Oakes & Son and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, Jones said. The contractor needs to submit its plans to shut down Sixth Street - technically a state highway - to the state before the change can be made.

Original plans called for one lane of traffic on Sixth Street to remain open throughout construction, Jones said.

City officials are now waiting for WisDOT to set a date for Sixth Street's pre-construction meeting, which brings together contractors and utility companies to schedule the project.

So what does all of this mean for Sixth Street businesses and customers?

First, it looks like traffic will be shut down on the street in hopes of completing the roadwork faster. That could cause some inconvenience with traffic, but Jones said businesses requested the change because they had a decent summer last year thanks to dedicated customers navigating the work zone. (Last summer, sewer and water pipes under Sixth Street were replaced.)

Second, there's a real effort to get Sixth Street done as quickly as possible. But as of now, there's no start date for construction.

Third, spring is near. Forget snow drops and robins. What better to signal the end of winter than road construction?

P.S. The road-building equipment now seen at the Monument Square end of Sixth has nothing to do with the rebuilding project; it's just Time-Warner replacing some cable.

March 18, 2009

Racine student activists seek license, tuition fairness

Horlick Social Studies teacher Al Levie, right, and Paul Lara,
a junior at Park HS, spoke during a rally at the State Capitol Wednesday

By John Heckenlively
For RacinePost

Over 100 Racine high school students and several dozen adult supporters piled into buses Wednesday morning to deliver a message to legislators in Madison.

Their demands: Remove unfair restrictions on tuition and drivers licenses that discriminate against undocumented workers in Wisconsin. Most of the students were members of Students United for Immigrant Rights, a group founded at Horlick High School in 2005.

For students, the high cost of college is even more difficult when faced with having to pay out-of-state rates, even though many have spent their entire lives in Wisconsin. Students are asking legislators to change tuition regulations so that children of undocumented residents can pay in-state tuition rates if they have been residents of Wisconsin at least three years and graduate (or receive a GED) from a Wisconsin school. They argue that if they live, study, work and pay taxes in Wisconsin they should be treated like other Wisconsin citizens.

Maria Morales of Voces de la Frontera, left, and Rafael Coronado, Horlick sophomore, in State Assembly chamber

The driver’s license restrictions are a result of the REAL ID Act sponsored by Rep. James Sensenbrenner, which requires states to verify citizenship status to issue drivers licenses and other state identification. Hispanic activists are asking the state to issue "driver certificates" which cannot be used for federal purposes, but are valid for driving and obtaining auto insurance. Their basic argument is that the roads are safer when the state certifies drivers (regardless of what the document is called) and when drivers can obtain insurance.

Students began by marching through the Capitol Building chanting "What do we want? Licenses. When do we want them? Now." Signs urged "Education, not discrimination."

At a rally in the state Assembly Chamber, several hundred activists from Milwaukee, Racine, Whitewater and several other cities heard a variety of speakers. Al Levie, Social Studies teacher at Horlick High School, noted that this was the fourth year he has been in Madison -- but nevertheless was optimistic about both issues.

Sen. John Lehman, D-Racine, has indicated he will introduce an amendment to the budget on the drivers license issue. Rep. Pedro Colon, D-Milwaukee, spoke to the crowd and said an amendment on tuition is all being introduced. Sen. Mark Miller, D-Madison, and Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, chairs of the Joint Finance Committee, have indicated they support both amendments. Activists are optimistic that after several years of fighting, the legislature will finally support them.

After their brief demonstration and rally in the Capitol, the group returned to Racine by way of Marty’s Pizza in Delafield.

Doyle's budget: $1.7 billion in tax, fee increases

Day after day, we're learning to read the fine print. (Those AIG bonuses, fer instance.)

Well here -- according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau -- is the fine print buried in Gov. Doyle's budget ... the extent of state tax and fee increases over the next biennium.

In a word: $1.7 billion.

Well, you knew all that money for state services had to come from somewhere, right?

Here's the key graf from a 25-page report released yesterday:
In summary, the changes included in the Governor's budget would increase net taxes by $1,469,989,300 ($685,919,000 in 2009-10 and $784,070,300 in 2010-11) and would increase net fees by $237,745,100 ($97,046,800 in 2009-10 and $140,698,300 in 2010-11). In addition, measures included in the bill to enhance the collection of current taxes/fees would generate an additional $61,262,000 ($46,519,000 in 2009-10 and $14,743,000 in 2010-11).
Bob Lang, fiscal bureau director, said the analysis was done because "a number of legislators have requested information concerning state tax and fee changes included in the 2009-11 budget recommendations of the Governor."

Details about some of the tax hike proposals have already been released -- a 75 cent per pack cigarette tax increase, higher income taxes for married couples earning more than $300,000 a year, $215 million levied against multi-state corporations and those of you who buy things online for a few examples -- but this is the first complete look.

You can read all the details here.

Believe it or not, there actually are a few fee cuts -- but look closely (Page 7), or you'll miss 'em.

No doubt, there'll be more negative reaction like this, from Rep. Jeff Fitzgerald, R-Horicon.

Top Modine exec resigns after six weeks in post

Wow, speak of your revolving door.

A top Modine executive -- promoted to vice president just six weeks ago -- has resigned.

Thomas Cromwell, a 16-year Modine Manufacturing employee, was named regional vice president, in charge of all Modine's operations in North and South America, on Jan. 14. He took office on Feb. 1.

Today, Modine announced that he has resigned. No reason was given. He'll be replaced by Scott Bowser, an 11-year employee, who most recently was managing director of the company's Brazilian operation.

Cromwell had replaced James Rulseh, who retired.

Former Sen. George Petak opens consulting firm

Former Racine Sen. George Petak is opening a new consulting firm in Madison. Interesting to see Petak embracing his controversial vote in favor of Miller Park. The vote placed a 0.1 percent sales tax on Racine County to help pay for the Brewers' stadium.
Former State Senator George Petak has opened a new consulting practice in government affairs and lobbying in Madison, Wisconsin.

Petak, elected to the Wisconsin State Senate in November, 1990, served from January, 1991 until June, 1996, when he lost a tough recall election called in protest of his casting the deciding vote for Miller Park in October, 1995.

Since 1998, Petak has established a prominent presence in the state capitol, having worked in significant public relations, government affairs, and lobbying practices in the Milwaukee and Madison markets. He also served as Deputy Executive Director for the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA), from 1996-1998.

He has developed a strong bipartisan approach to government affairs consulting, combining his years as an elected state senator with those of a seasoned lobbyist to best represent the interests of his clients in both the legislative and administrative arenas.

Petak said, “Tough economic times require that a capable, veteran voice be available to deliver a reasonable message to lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and at every level of government. I am excited about new opportunities to provide that voice to the broad array of client prospects in the marketplace.”

George Petak Consulting, LLC, is located at 106 East Doty Street, Suite 210, Madison, WI 53703. Email – Phone – 608-225-7218

Suds to ... suds on Sixth Street

It didn't take long for someone to snatch up 420 Sixth St. after a proposed laundromat fell flat. Instead of pushing laundry suds, a new business owner may be pushing the other kind of suds - beer (and wine and liquor).

Caroline Chun, of Lakeside Liquor, wants to open a new store in the former Horst Music Store. Her application for a "Class A" license is pending before the City Council's Public Safety and Licensing Committee. The committee will take it up at its March 23 meeting.

It'll be an interesting issue for the committee, which at the same meeting it takes up Chun's request will try to crack down on new liquor stores in the city. The committee wants to limit the number of liquor stores in Racine to a number less than presently exist. That means three existing business with "Class A" licenses would have to close before someone like Chun could apply for a new license.

But, the new ordinance isn't in effect yet. It hasn't even been approved. So the committee will have to consider Chun's request to open a liquor store in the heart of the key downtown thoroughfare.

Click here to see the committee's March 23 agenda.

March 17, 2009

UW-Parkside to allow Gateway transfer credits

Officials from Gateway Technical College and UW-Parkside will sign an agreement Thursday which will allow Gateway students to transfer a block of 30 general education credits to the four-year university.

The agreement will be signed at a Gateway Technical College Board of Trustees meeting at 1:30 p.m. in the Center for Bioscience & Information Technology, 3520-30th Ave., Kenosha. It is part of a board committee of the whole meeting in which transfer agreements will be highlighted.

This is the first time a block of general studies courses can be transferred to UW-Parkside without the student having completed a Gateway degree. The 30-credit General Studies Transfer Certificate offers students a less expensive way to earn their general education credits as they eye a bachelor’s degree at UW-Parkside.

Students would enter as a UW-Parkside sophomore if they completed the 30-credit general studies certificate at Gateway and met the admission requirements at UW-Parkside.

Nine mayoral candidates at Taxpayers' forum

L-R: Dickert, Shakoor, Charon, Plache, Karas,
Spangenberg, Helding, Harding, Fay (click to enlarge)

So many candidates, so little time.

The Racine Taxpayers Association threw a mayoral forum at the YMCA Tuesday, and nine of the eleven candidates showed up -- only six had RSVP'd -- forcing strict time limits on answers to a series of serious questions about the city's future.

Still, by the time the hour and a quarter was over, the 40 or so citizens in the room had a good opportunity to spot some policy differences and perhaps whittle down the field a bit. If my notes are correct, there were nine questions in all, and each candidate got a first crack at -- and a leisurely 90 seconds to answer -- just one. Each then responded in turn, with the first four getting 45 seconds, and the rest only 30. Then on to another question. (In each instance below, I'll start off with the candidate who led off the answering, and then add responses that caught my interest.)

Q: How can we create jobs when a lot of companies are laying off?

John Dickert: "We have to focus on what's out technology jobs. Tap into federal and state funds. Be aggressive. Can't sit back and wait."
Q.A.Shakoor II: "Good police department and public service are the key, along with RCEDC."
Kim Plache: "Work hard to control spending, to attract businesses."
Pete Karas: "Mayor has to be the lead marketer of the city. A public electric utility will give us an advantage over surrounding communities."
Greg Helding: "Focus on quality of life issues."
Jody Harding: "Racine has a very bad reputation (taxes and schools) and not a good workforce (lacking 'soft skills' like coming to work on time)."
Raymond Fay: "Should enforce our 'Racine First' policy."

Q. Do you support having a City Administrator?
Shakoor: "I do support it. The mayor should be working with federal and state, not tied to the day-to-day. Having one would free the mayor up."
Jaimie Charon: "I'm on the fence with it."
Karas opposed it in 2003 and says the position is "unaccountable." He favors a deputy mayor, paid less than the mayor and with a term of office tied to the mayor's.
Jim Spangenberg supports a city administrator, and says Karas' deputy mayor proposal would lead to "cronyism."
Plache, Helding, Fay and Dickert support.
Harding is against: "Mayor should be the city's administrator, not just a figurehead."

Q. Should the city join the countywide dispatch center?
Charon: "Yes, if it improves communication and services."

Plache: "This is one example of ways there can be collaboration."
Helding: "We need to get serious about intergovernmental cooperation. We need to give up ego."
Karas: "I'd (first) like to see a proposal from the county. I'm a little skeptical."
Spangenberg: "We've never gotten a firm proposal."
Harding: "It's a great idea: improves efficiency, reduces cost. No downside."
Fay: "Territorial issues are undone with new technology. Go for it."
Dickert: "Partisan bickering has to be put aside. Put it all on the table."
Shakoor: "I support joint dispatch, but it's got to be done right. Tear down that east/west wall."

Q. What have you done to bring new jobs?
Just about everyone has served on one or another development boards and talked about projects they've worked on: Plache mentioned CATI; Karas the facade grant program and brownfield grants; Spangenberg working with grocers for West Racine.
Shakoor talked about the Walgreens and Sav-a-Lot on State Street, and said they tell kids, "take that crack cocaine and replace it with a calculator."
Harding: "I have a great deal of experience from the business side; they do not need to be over-regulated."
Dickert: "We need to work on infrastructure and a long-term plan for Racine."

Q. The city is $180 million in debt. What will you do to reduce that?
Karas: "Much of that is for health benefits for retirees. Many communities have it. I'd go back to the public electric utility. It would produce $4, $5, $6 million a year; some could go to debt, some to reduce taxes, some to services."
Spangenberg: "It's really $104 million. We retire $X million of that every year, to stay with our A bond rating. We need to be conservative in spending."
Helding agreed with the $104 million figure, pointing out that it is well within the sate guidelines. "We borrow to build streets like the one you all drove on to get here."
Harding: "20% of our tax levy goes to debt service; that's much too much. I drive an old car. The city needs to postpone capital expenditures and bring debt down by half."
Fay: "It's fiscally sound but needs to come down. The key is spending."
Dickert: "The more development and building you do, the lower taxes will be."
Shakoor: "Control spending."
Charon: "There are definitely places we can cut, buy down debt."
Plache: "We need a complete reform of the budget process. Zero-based budgeting like Kenosha."

Q. Drugs, prostitution, gangs: what will you do about them?
Spangenberg: "Education is part of the problem. There are so many with no high school diploma. We need to get these kids trained, with GEDs. The long-range plan is education to get them jobs. Also: enough law enforcement on the streets."
Helding: "Take action to shut down public nuisances. Make it uncomfortable for drug dealers."
Harding: "Police do a good job; need to have the resources."
Fay: "I support the COP program, Neighborhood Watch, the DA's Victim Witness program."
Dickert: "We've been putting band-aids on this; Racine needs major surgery. The three legs: housing, jobs, crime."
Shakoor: "It takes collaboration." He said 40 organizations worked on State Street, "and in less than two years we reduced crime 94%."
Charon: "We need a task force. These folks are smart; we have to be ahead of them."
Plache: "The future is breaking the cycle of poverty."
Karas: "Community policing and engagement. Jacato Drive: nobody every goes there, nobody of authority. As mayor I intend to spend time in those neighborhoods."

Q. What about taxes downtown, fair assessments?
Helding: "We're shifting some of our assessments in the wrong direction." He cited a large brick building housing a bar where the assessment was just $40,000.
Harding: "A lot of assessments are out of whack; too high, or two low. We need to be at fair market value.
Dickert: "People are buying houses at much less than the assessed value. We're going to see lawsuits over assessments."
Everyone supported fair assessments. Karas declared that moving from every year to every-other-year assessments last fall was a mistake; the move was done to reduce expenses in the assessors' office.

Q. Can we get back the stadium tax and use it for KRM?
Harding: "We can't get it back; we'd be stuck with another .5% for KRM. KRM is not a good investment. Metro-rail is not the answer. It will cost a tremendous amount of money, and the number who'd use it is minimal."
Fay: "KRM is important, but we need an elected Regional Transit Authority. Twenty years down the road, KRM is important, as important as the North Shore Line used to be."
Dickert: "We're spending $1 billion to expand I-94. Infrastructure is the key to growth. Take Metra to Chicago: at every stop there are multi-millions in growth."
Shakoor: "Sunset the stadium tax; make it happen. KRM is a good, positive thing."
Charon: "I am not for KRM. There are other alternatives. This is a beast of a rail service and will be a big tax burden."
Plache: "It's 100% unlikely we can get the stadium tax for rail. KRM will connect Racine to the largest economy around us."
Karas: "It's 101% impossible. KRM is important; we have to do it. The sales tax should be on everyone in the county, not just east of the I."
Spangenberg: "We have to look to the future. Getting rail service to the city makes us part of one big region. I'm really for KRM."
Helding: "The Hiawatha is busting at the seams, which shows the demand. A small sales tax is a reasonable funding source."

Q. The final question concerned the "criminalization" of garage sales -- referring to the ordinance passed last July to limit the number of rummage sales a resident may hold each year (four, of three days maximum) and the number of signs that may be put out for each (two).
Fay: "I have no problem with it."
Dickert: "Don't we have bigger fish to fry?"
Shakoor: "I voted against that measure. People intermingle; sales are positive."
Charon: "Let the rummage sales season begin!"
Plache: "When it becomes an off-line business that runs full-time, that's what's being regulated. "
Karas: "It's not that big of a deal, unless you live next door. They should be regulated; they create havoc for neighbors."
Helding: "Sometimes there are small fish that need to be fried. They become problems for neighbors."
Harding: "We already have ordinances against littering, selling from home. We don't need the city telling us we can have three sales, with three signs."

Rep. Turner invites Miss Wisconsin to Legislature

State Rep. Robert Turner, D-Racine, announced today that Miss Wisconsin 2008, Briana Lipor of Racine, has accepted his invitation to address the State Assembly as a special guest.

Miss Wisconsin will give her remarks at the start of floor session in the Assembly Chambers at the State Capitol on Tuesday, March 24, beginning at 11 a.m.

(Bob, you old dog! Now I understand why you were one of only two mayoral candidates who did not appear at the Racine Taxpayers Association forum at noon today -- it was taking place just about the same time you were sending me an email with this announcement! For the record, the other no-show at the forum was Lesia Hill-Driver.)

Horlick dismissing early Thursday, for state tourney

Horlick High School will dismiss at 11:55 a.m. on Thursday, March 19, to allow students and staff who wish to travel to Madison to support the Horlick High School Boys' Varsity basketball team in the WIAA State Tournament.

Horlick plays Eau Claire North on Thursday at 3:15 p.m. in the State Division I Basketball Tournament at the Kohl Center in Madison.

Ticket information HERE

Jameel Ghuari endorses Pete Karas for mayor

Al Haj Jameel Ghuari announced today that he endorses Pete Karas for mayor.

"I’ve looked at each candidacy in some detail. I know Pete is the best choice for Racine," Ghuari said.

When asked how he will field questions from among the African American leadership and a community who have been described by some pundits to be divided among three African American candidates, Ghuari stated, "I am moved by spirit and principle, and not by ethnicity or any other surface attributes. Pete Karas is best suited to bring what is best for Racine because he is a man of principle and vision. He’ll be a Mayor who will finally bring transparency and accountability to City Hall."

Ghuari said he has no qualms about dealing with the possible attacks against him for this choice.

"This isn’t about me," he said. "It’s about what I believe is best for the City of Racine. Pete Karas is my choice."

Ghuari is a former candidate for the Racine City Council. He is also executive director of the Bray Center, a nonprofit social service organization in Racine's central city.

March 16, 2009

Straw Poll 3/16: Who's getting your vote for Racine mayor?

Update: John Dickert, Pete Karas, Greg Helding and Jim Spangeberg continued their strong showings in RacinePost's straw polls. They were the top four vote-getters in the March 16 vote. Watch for our next poll coming soon ...

Original: RacinePost's second mayoral straw poll is now up. Just like last time, we'll leave the poll open for 24 hours. This is an invitation to candidates to rally their supporters and try and take Round 2. Good luck, candidates!

Letter to the Editor: Ron Thomas endorses Bob Turner for mayor

Ron Thomas and Bob Turner in 1986.

To The Editor:

My first introduction to Mayoral Candidate Bob Turner was at a community rally at the Racine Labor Center December 4, 1980. It was a rally called for the purpose of keeping Massey Ferguson in Racine and to save hundreds of jobs.

Alderman Turner and I met again in the early 1980’s as he stood by the working men and women again and again as plant after plant closed. So it was not a coincidence that I supported Alderman Turner for Mayor in 1987 as he had time and time again stood up for keeping family supporting jobs in Racine.

As a member of the City Council from 1989 to 2003 I watched my friend Bob, as chairman of the Finance and Personnel Committee, oversee dozens of critical economic decisions that greatly impacted the development of our community.

I support Representative Bob Turner for Mayor because when candidates talk about jobs and the economy, they are an echo of Bob Turner.

Ron Thomas
1429 Grange Ave.
Racine, WI 53405

Plache disqualified -- but only from voting on Feb. 17

UPDATE: Kim Plache responds below. And Janice Johnson-Martin corrects the record

There's a delicious rumor making the rounds today that says Kim Plache will be disqualified from running for mayor because she voted illegally in the Feb. 17 election.

Well, consider it debunked. Urban myth, not gonna happen. That's the word from City Clerk Janice Johnson-Martin, who should know, since it is she who would have to declare the disqualification. Those other ten mayoral candidates will have to beat the former state senator at the ballot box, not in the Clerk's office.

Here's what actually happened, as Johnson-Martin describes it. You remember the Feb. 17 election? That's the one in which five statewide candidates vied for State Superintendent of Schools, and five local candidates competed for Racine's 1st District aldermanic seat. Turnout was in the single-digits, yawn.

Anyway, Kim Plache hied herself down to Festival Hall to vote, bearing a lease for her new Eighth Street apartment to prove residence in the district. The lease was dated Feb. 13; the election inspectors took a look at it, noted that the address is within that district and gave Plache a ballot.

Which she took into the booth, marked with her choices, and inserted into the vote-counting machine.

Ooops! At some point after that, everything hit the fan. The rule is you need to live in the district for 10 days before being qualified as a resident allowed to vote there. By the time the election officials realized that Plache's lease was six days' short, "she had already put her ballot in the machine," said Johnson-Martin.

The city clerk was called down to Festival Hall to decide what to do.

"I told the election inspectors they had to mark down on their inspectors' statement that the lease hadn't been correctly considered."

And this is where procedures get interesting. Johnson-Martin said there is just one thing that can be done in this situation: a ballot has to be removed from the voting machine, and its votes "minused" from the count. "Two election officials had to pull out one ballot... they took off its votes, and noted it on their inspectors' statement.

"And Kim was not given credit for voting."

I know what you're thinking: "What if that was my ballot they pulled out of the voting machine, and not Plache's?" Well, look at the 1st District election totals; they weren't even close. One vote, or 10, or even 30 wouldn't have made any difference.

(Update, 3/17: Johnson-Martin called me today to correct the record. "I gave you incorrect information yesterday. I talked to my inspectors today, and they said, 'We did not pull out a ballot; there were no minuses. You just told us to log it on our inspector's statement.' ")

There's one further way Plache could be disqualified from becoming mayor from this incident, according to word I got from the Government Accountability Board: If she were convicted of a felony for voting in the wrong district. "That would be a District Attorney question," said the official I spoke to. "But let's say they decide to prosecute... it won't happen before the election."

We called Racine County District Attorney Mike Nieskes and read him the gist of our story. Mike said, "Ethical obligations require that I state the matter has not been referred to the District Attorney's office. The responsible determination is for me to look into the situation to determine if any of the election laws have been violated. And that's what I'll do." He said he will call Johnson-Martin and review the matter.

Nieskes added that an individual is only prohibited from holding office if he or she is not a legal voter or has a felony conviction. "I don't know whether this would be (a felony) or not; I'm not going to speculate at this point."

Efforts to reach Plache were unsuccessful... until about 6:45 p.m.:

Kim Plache said she knew nothing about her vote being disqualified until shortly after 5 p.m. today, when Johnson-Martin told her what happened after she left the polling place on Feb. 17.

"Janice Johnson-Martin told me this today after the session at City Hall for mayoral candidates," Plache said. "She told me they discovered that I shouldn't have voted there after I had left the polling place. I'd voted just before the polls closed." Plache had no idea what transpired after that discovery was made, but said her vote disqualification and the voiding of a ballot from the voting machine was the correct response.

"Normally when this this sort of thing happens, they don't even know who the person was. It could have been Jane Doe; they wouldn't normally contact the person," she said.

Plache said she has a perfect voting record. "I never miss an election. All I did was go in good faith to vote. I presented my lease information and said, 'Can I vote?' and they gave me a ballot. If the poll worker had said, 'You can't vote here,' I would have gone to my previous polling place" (in Mount Pleasant). Plache said she had moved into the apartment on Eighth Street in Racine on Feb. 13 or 14.

Cory Mason: Sunshine in Capitol is still a good idea—especially in the majority

Guest column by Cory Mason

Open Government. Everyone says they are for it. To illustrate the importance of openness and transparency in government, in 1933 Supreme Court Justice Brandeis observed, “Sunlight is said to be the best disinfectant.”

This week is Sunshine Week, where we acknowledge the virtue of open government in our democracy. It’s part of a national initiative to open dialogue about the importance of open and transparent government. This session, I am once again introducing a bill (AB 143) that would apply the open meetings law—a foundation of democratic government—to closed door meetings in the Legislature.

On days the Legislature is in session, both parties in both houses of the Legislature split into groups to discuss the day’s calendar. It is in these meetings that most of the real legislative debate occurs. Members suss out their positions, cajole people to a certain view, and reach a general consensus. We employ shuttle diplomacy, devise strategy, and argue passionately for our respective positions. In other words, it’s where the action happens.

In and of itself, this is a useful exercise. It lets members pose questions to each other, discuss possible amendments, and ensures that Legislators are better informed before they create new public policy.

The objectionable part, in my view, is that we close these meetings to public view.

Under Wisconsin’s Open Meeting Law, citizens have the right to watch the deliberations of Government at any level; however, the Legislature exempts itself from this law when we go into our closed door session meetings. The public, the press, Legislative staff, and anyone who is not a state Legislator has to leave the room.

Because I introduced a similar bill as a freshman in the minority last session, I have been asked if I still feel the same way about opening these meetings to the public now that Democrats are in the majority. I continue to believe that transparency is the best policy. If a democracy is to have the trust and confidence of its citizens, the deliberations of its elected representatives must be open to the public.

Now that Democrats are in the majority we have the opportunity to lead in a different and better way—I hope we rise to the challenge. We face the toughest economic climate since the Great Depression, the largest deficit in state history, and the task of sorting out billions of dollars in federal stimulus support. The very least we can do is open all of our debate to public view.

Cory Mason (D—Racine) represents the 62nd Assembly District. He serves on the Joint Committee on Finance & the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources.

Less is better: A Journal Times preview?

Today we have a video tour of the kind of changes the Journal Times may offer us in a month.

It's conducted by Dick Johnston, former publisher of the JT (he left Racine in November 2007), who's now leading the Bloomington Pantagraph.

The Pantagraph right-sized itself today, cutting 1 1/2" off the width of all its pages ... a cut many Lee Enterprises newspapers are undergoing to save newsprint (i.e., money). The Journal Times will similarly shrink on April 14, according to a memo from the advertising director.

Of course, Johnston and his "presentation editor's" video did not mention that the paper is getting, um... smaller. Instead, the focus was on "we've redesigned the paper without losing any material but giving you everything in a more easier to read format." The video is heavy on "easier to find," "better," "quick and easy" statements (I counted eleven in the 2 1/2-minutes); light on "the page is smaller" (um, none).

Here's the video; see for yourself what the JT may be telling us in less than a month.

Early reviews on the Pantagraph's website were not positive. Five scathing comments were posted by readers -- or one reader? -- shortly after the video went up.

Forsman running for Mount Pleasant clerk/treasurer

Kim Forsman is challenging incumbent Juliet Edmands for Mount Pleasant clerk/treasurer in the April 7 spring elections.

Forsman is running on these issues:

1. The village's election process needs to be more efficient.
2. The village's records Management system is broken, important records are lost.
3. Village records don't seem to be open.
4. Customer service needs to be a priority.

If elected, Forsman said she would develop and document processes and procedures for records management, the election process and customer service by:

1. Streamlining the election process to make it more efficient.
2. Utilizing technology already in place to publish and maintain records, making it easier for residents to locate the information needed.
3. Developing and documenting processes so records don't get lost.
4. Developing and documenting procedures to save time locating records by utilizing technology already in place.
5. Working with the County Clerk and Village/City Clerks within Racine County and the State of Wisconsin.
6. Working with the County Treasurer.
7. Creating a welcoming atmosphere. "We are here to serve."
8. Using her gifts and talents to help people.

Forsman is a life-long Racine resident who has lived in Mount Pleasant for the last 13 years. She has an associates degree in business management. She is married and has two children.

For more information about Forsman's campaign: visit

Ten puppies available! Try to choose just one

Why adopt just one puppy when you could adopt ... um, ten?

OK, ten might be a bit much (look at all the flak the Octomom is getting just for eight!), but when it comes to a litter of puppies, it's almost impossible to choose among them.


Countryside Humane Society has a litter of ten 8-week-old Treeing Walker Coon Hounds. Their mother is a Treeing Walker in residence at the shelter; their father ... well, he's somewhere, the cad.

The pups are social and playful, who will grow up to be large sized, active dogs. The shelter also has three German shorthair mixed puppies available.

The fee for adopting a puppy is $150, which includes spaying or neutering, vaccinations, worming, microchip and more. With any animal adopted under four months of age, a deposit is required, which is refunded when the animal is brought in a four months for neutering.

Countryside Humane Society is located at 2706 Chicory Road, or call (262) 554-6699.

And for those of you who already have a female dog, keep this in mind: Spring is often the season for the births of puppies and kittens. Countryside Humane Society has a "Prevent a Litter" program: Racine County residents may bring in their eight-week-old litter of kittens or puppies and surrender them for $10 -- and the shelter will spay the mother for free, as long as she is current on vaccinations.

March 15, 2009

West Racine Farmers Market expands; opens May 15

The first West Racine Farmers Market of 2009 will take place on Friday, May 15.

Here's an update on what 9th District Alderman Terrence McCarthy and 13th District Alderman Jim Spangenberg have been working on to enhance the market:
- Adding a third day this year. In addition to Tuesday and Friday mornings, the market will now be open Wednesday afternoons. Looking at possibilities for entertainment on Wednesdays.

- Fresh-cooked foods. We're upgrading the electricity at the request of the farmers so they can use grills to prepare their food.

- Picnic tables will be put out by the Parks department at Erskine Park (catty-corner from the market near the cannon).

- Working with Park High School on a community garden at the disused tennis courts. They are investigating having a stand at the Farmers Market.
"We're building on the success of last year's West Racine Farmers Market. We want to make it a staple of the community and a draw for the area. This is a great use of the land until we find the right development. Even then, we'll find a way to continue the Market," McCarthy said.