March 27, 2009

Flynn runs as write-in for Caledonia Village Trustee

Caledonia resident Patrick Flynn today announced a write-in candidacy for Village Board of Trustee Seat 1.

“After watching the Caledonia Village Board’s interaction with the community over the last few months, I felt I could have a significant impact by becoming a member of the board” said Flynn. “I decided to run because I think we are headed down the wrong path. We need to limit our commercial and residential growth to maintain the quality of life that so many residents currently enjoy. We need to be more self-sustainable and help make sure our community continues to be a great place to live and raise a family.”

Flynn has been involved in franchise development for most of his career, helping hundreds start their own businesses. He is also the owner of AD-vantage Promotions, which provides custom corporate apparel, and franchise consulting services.

Since becoming a village, Caledonia’s elected officials have been focused on developing commercial growth in the community, Flynn says, adding that he wants to be a part of insuring that the village maintains an adequate balance of growth and development along with a high quality of life.

“We need to look at alternative ways to make our community more self-sustainable. The days of large commercial developments are gone. If we continue to focus on that, we are headed down the wrong path. We need less government, less overhead, and more self-sustainable efforts to make sure that our community can live within its own means. Families won’t be able to afford to live here if we don’t make efforts to lower property taxes,” Flynn said.

Flynn wants to preserve Caledonia's rural setting for future generations. “We live along the Root River in a very country-like setting. I would hate this to be destroyed by excessive commercial and residential development. There are numerous areas in Caledonia we need to preserve and protect and I do not believe our current board has that same vision.”

“I have a very difficult task ahead of me. No one has ever won an election as a “write-in” candidate. But if I can get the current board to change their way of thinking, just a little bit, then the effort is worth it, win or lose.” he said.

Flynn is a member of Young Professionals of Racine, St. Paul’s Catholic Church and the Franchise Brokers Association. He and his wife, Mindy, have two children Katelyn 15, Collin 11.

Flynn is running against Kathy Burton.

What others are saying about us...

We're not sure whether to get angry or not, after noticing today that we're the lead story on Milwaukee Decider's website.

Here's the gist of their coverage:
Racine is a dirty little metropolis where the pizza is cheap.
Wait. It gets worse, as they review our most esteemed pizzerias:
The decor is decidedly no-frills, and the waitresses are heavily hairsprayed and embittered. Since you might not head to Racine for any other reason...
Ah, but then Decider gets to the meat (and cheese) of their review, and well, it's almost dinnertime and we'd better get to our favorite pizzeria early to beat the out-of-towners...

(Feel free to fill the comments with your own pizzeria reviews.)

March 26, 2009

Sturtevant Village Board candidate Chris Larsen offers business experience; opposes KRM

Chris Larsen
Age: 40
Occupation: Traffic Manager, Butter Buds Food Ingredients, Racine
Previous public service: First Time running for office
Education: 1986 graduate of Horlick High School
Web site:

Why I am running for Sturtevant Village Board?

As a village resident for four years, I have a balanced understanding of what is needed in the village from my own observation, from attending Board and Committee meetings and talking with other residents. Part of my employment is to gather information and make decisions that will positively impact the business. I would bring these same skills to the village board. This is a challenging time for local governments and now more than ever Sturtevant needs fresh ideas with common sense. Residents need someone who will listen to them and advocate for them. My decisions would be based on what is best for the future of Sturtevant.

What I consider the biggest issues facing the village:

Insuring that Sturtevant remains a destination for business growth while preserving the small town neighborhood feeling people get when they move here. We must have a balance between what suits the business community and what will impact residents who have also invested in the village by planting roots here.

Sturtevant is a vibrant and independent village and must remain that way. While some consolidation in the past might have been necessary, any future encroachments must be viewed as what will be best for the village, not just the bottom line.

It is possible to be a village on the move while honoring and protecting the village’s traditions from the past.

I fully agree with and support the Village Board’s stand on the KRM.

Turner stalks out of mayoral forum...

We were unaware, until this morning, of a Realtors' forum last night for the mayoral candidates at City Hall.

But we've now heard from three four sources that whatever the candidates had to say was overshadowed by one candidate's refusal to participate.

Bob Turner, according to one of our sources, apparently "made a big dramatic statement" before insisting it was illegal to have a forum at City Hall. We doubt that's true -- the illegality part -- since there's another mayoral forum scheduled there next Monday night, by the Young Professionals of Racine and Leadership Racine.

We're also told that Mayor Tom Friedel offered the use of the City Council chambers to Community for Change, for its forum last Monday night, but that organization wisely decided it would be too small, and went to Gateway instead (and overflowed the much larger Great Lakes Room).

In any case, we're told second-hand, Turner was angry because Friedel refused to open City Hall on a Saturday for Turner to announce his candidacy for mayor. But that would have been a partisan event -- whereas a forum is equal treatment.

Turner reportedly said last night that he had called City Attorney Rob Weber about the forum's alleged illegality -- but Weber, we're told, knows nothing of the call.

Regardless, Turner refused to participate last night and stalked out, according to the three four folks we've talked to with knowledge of the event.

Our fourth source was there -- one of only five Realtors present, he said, out of 300 -- and he says Turner arrived while the other candidates were going over the ground rules with the moderator. "Turner said, 'I'm here, but I'm not going to participate because this is an illegal meeting. Things like this should not be held on city property. I don't like the idea that we're here for something that's not endorsed by the city.' "

Our source adds that Turner "ranted for a few minutes."

Candidates present were Pete Karas, Kim Plache, Jim Spangenberg, QA Shakoor II, Raymond Fay, Jody Harding, Greg Helding and John Dickert. Total attendance was about 40.

Update: Bob Turner returned our call when he returned to Racine from today's legislative session. Given a day to reflect on the incident ... he hasn't changed his mind one bit. "In my 28 years as an alderman on the City Council," he said, "they've never allowed a candidate forum on city property." (Note: Chris Terry of YPR says in the comments that his group held one in the Council chambers two years ago.)

Turner said: "Knowing what I know about the City Council, I would not participate in any political forum on city property, I will not attend any political forum at City Hall at taxpayers' expense." Turner asked what would happen if someone got hurt; "who's liable?" And, "Let's say another group, say the skinheads, wants to have an event... what's to stop any group?"

Turner also said, "A few years ago, John Lehman wanted to have a function at City Hall and was told no. Others have wanted to do candidate forums on city property and were told no." Turner confirmed that he'd called the city attorney and asked, "Has the City Council changed the rules to allow candidates to have events on city property?" Turner said Weber said he'd have to do some research on the question.

Medical College of Wisconsin shutting down its Racine Family Medicine program

Racine is losing one of its medical clinics.

The Medical College of Wisconsin is shutting down its Racine Family Medicine residency program on June 30.

The clinic, which trained doctors specializing in family medicine, is located in the former St. Luke's Hospital at 1320 Wisconsin Ave. It was started in 1981.

The clinic was located in a federally designated medically underserved area, according to the program's website.

The three-letter word our next mayor must focus on

Was there ever a question about what Racine's next mayor must focus on?

The number one issue, to paraphrase Vice President Joe Biden's gaffe while on the campaign trail last October, is "a three-letter word: jobs. J-O-B-S.”

No matter how you spell it, J-O-B-S should be at the top of each of our eleven candidates' to-do lists. Not crime, not solar power, not KRM, not diversity, not firewood, not doggie parks, not the Root River, not gas-powered buses, not...

For proof, just look at the latest unemployment rates released by the state Department of Workforce Development.

Racine County joblessness hit 10.2% in February, up from 8.9% just one month ago. Last year, the figure was 6%.

Unemployment within the city of Racine hit 15.6% in February, up from 13.6% a month earlier, and 9.1% one year ago.

No, those aren't the worst in the state: The city is in second place, behind Beloit's 16.9%; the county is "only" 30th worst out of 72.

As a whole, the state's unemployment rate is 7.7%, compared to the nation's 8.1%. During the Great Depression, unemployment hit 25%, so we're nowhere near that level; try using that trivia factoid to cheer up any of your 241,000 jobless neighbors (up from 139,200 a year ago).

I'm not faulting the candidates for mentioning all those other issues at recent forums; they were simply responding to questions. Still, if anyone needs a primer on what's important, well, it's a three-letter word: J-O-B-S.

Restaurant Review: The new London Broil on Washington Avenue

Rees Roberts, a good friend of RacinePost, recently checked out a new restaurant in Racine called London Broil, located in the former Country Kitchen on Washington Avenue. Here's his review:
My wife and I had just spent our annual time with our trusted CPA to do our annual taxes. Once done we wanted to find something to eat. We drove out Washington Ave. to find someplace we haven’t been to in awhile. To our amazement we discovered someplace new. It is called London Broil Restaurant and is located on the North side of Washington Ave. on Prairie Drive. It’s easy to find.

We drove into the parking lot and went in. Something looked new and clean to this place. We were shown to our table and sat down. We had wondered why there were few people in the restaurant. One of the first questions I asked was “how long have you been around?” The response was “we opened today”. This certainly had never happened to us ever before but it certainly explained why so few people were in attendance.

We were given menus and given a reasonable time to look it over. Soon people were around us helping us with all of our needs. Everyone from the owner to our waitress were quick to find out if everything was good. They meant what they said. They were really trying to keep on top of their services to us. My wife noticed that her salad actually had been served frozen. The manager wanted to make that right and due to my wife not wanting another salad the manager gave us a choice of either money off the meal or a free desert.

We had a couple really tasty meals. I had baby liver with bacon and my wife had beef stew. We really enjoyed our meals and had to have doggy bags to take home with us. Portions were large and prices reasonable.

If you are looking for a new place to eat out why not try the London Broil. It is at 1158 Prairie Dr. off of Washington Ave. They also have a take-out menu and you can reach them at 262-886-6509.

By the way, we decided to take home desert in addition to our doggy bags of our meals. We recommend them and will be dining there again soon.

Rees Roberts

March 25, 2009

Q: Why is Racine a movie desert?
A: Because we're small

Even the Joker wishes top movies came here sooner...

By Julie A. Jacob


At the Academy Awards ceremony in February, several critically acclaimed files were honored with nominations and awards: Doubt, Frost/Nixon, Milk, Rachel Getting Married, The Reader, Slumdog Millionaire, and The Wrestler.

All good movies—if you could see them. But for those of us who live in Racine, those movies were hard to find. Many of them did not appear at the Marcus Renaissance Cinema until weeks or months after they played in other cities. Others never made it here at all.

“The movies that the critics rave about don’t come to Racine,” is a complaint I often hear from family and friends. So what gives? Do the powers that be view Racinians as too rustic to enjoy complex, sophisticated Oscar-nominated movies? Do the Marcus Theatre executives think we’re only interested in blockbuster comedies and action films?

It turns out that the reason is much simpler: Racine is just too small to support the movies often referred to as “art house” or “indie” movies.

In the midst of the worst economic crunch since 1982, a slim choice of films in Racine may seem like a silly thing to notice. However, if you can resist the pricey, bathtub-sized servings of popcorn and soda at the concession stand, $6.50 for a ticket to a matinee showing of a film is good bargain in these lean times. That’s cheaper than a hamburger and a beer at a local restaurant and far less expensive than tickets to a concert or Brewers game. The price of a movie ticket, though, would be an even better deal if there were a wider range of films from which to choose. Unfortunately, that’s unlikely to happen.

During the 1930s and 1940s, the golden age of cinema, Racine had plenty of movie theaters and choices of movies for its residents. My 79-year-old father remembers going to see movies at the Rialto, Venetian, Crown and Capitol movie houses. He recalls that for 15 cents – 10 cents for a movie and five cents for popcorn – you could see a movie, a newsreel, and a cartoon. (Oh, and what movies they were: in 1939 — often considered the best year ever for movies — the roster of films playing in the theaters included such gems as Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.)

Nowadays, though, movie studies and distributors determine the number of prints to make and where to show the movie based on one thing, and one thing only: the film’s potential to make money. The bottom line is that Racine is not a moneymaking market for art house films, said Carlo Petrick, a spokesperson for Milwaukee-based Marcus Theatres.

“Many of these films are released by smaller companies that cannot afford to make a lot of 35mm prints like a major studio can,” said Petrick. “The major studios may also choose to limit the number of prints they produce. The Dark Knight may have 4,000 to 5,000 prints in the marketplace while Frost/Nixon had less than 500 for the entire country … the distributors choose to show their films in larger markets where their prints can earn more revenue. Then, the prints might be moved to smaller markets, but not always.”

Small, critically acclaimed films do better in large cities because urban cinemas that specialize art house, indie and foreign films have spent years building up an audience of loyal moviegoers, Petrick added.

When a print of an art house movie is finally available for the Marcus Renaissance in Racine, explained Petrick, the movie’s distributor often has no money left in the advertising budget to promote it, which is why the film often comes and go in a blink before anyone even realizes that it’s been here.

Prestigious awards boost the chances that an art house movie will play in Racine because those awards spark more awareness of the film, Petrick said.

“For instance, The Reader [opened] in Sturtevant … only after having won a major Oscar for Best Actress,” explained Petrick. “In this case the distributor decided to make additional prints to capitalize on Kate Winslet’s Oscar win. This does not usually happen.”

Racine has tried to attract additional cinemas to give residents more options, said Devin Sutherland, executive director of the Downtown Racine Corporation. The DRC attempted to interest a developer in building a movie theater downtown, but there’s not yet enough population density to generate developer interest, he noted.

So what’ s a dedicated movie buff in Racine to do? One option for devoted movie fans with free time on the weekends (i.e., no small children at home) is a day-trip to Milwaukee or Chicago to get their movie fix. The Landmark Theater chain operates movie houses in both cities that air films not often shown in Racine.

In Milwaukee, Landmark operates The Oriental at 2230 N. Falwall and The Downer at 2589 N. Downer. Landmark movie houses in the Chicago area include the Century Cinema, 2828 N. Clark, Chicago, and Renaissance Place, 1850 Second St., Highland Park.

In addition, some of the Marcus theaters in the Milwaukee area run smaller, art house films. Petrick suggests that moviegoers go to the Marcus website to check if the movie they wish to see is playing at any of its cinemas.

The University of Wisconsin-Parkside sponsors a foreign film series each year. Ticket information is available online. Downtown, the JavaVino coffeehouse, 424 Main St., periodically airs foreign and classic movies in conjunction with the Racine Public Library.

And, of course, there’s always Netflix

Yet even though many of the small, critically acclaimed movies bypass Racine, there’s another performing art genre that you can experience at the cinema here. The Marcus Renaissance is one of the movie theaters participating in a Metropolitan Opera program in which high-definition performances of its operas are shown at select movie theaters across the country. Times and dates are listed in the movie section of the Journal Times. The schedule is also posted on the Metropolitan Opera’s website. Usually the Met operas are shown on Saturday afternoons and Wednesday afternoons or evenings.

The response to the Met program should erase any doubts about the high level of interest among Racinians for the performing arts and films. Here's Dustin's report from last year.

“This is the second year we have been playing Met performances and reaction has been very positive,” said Petrick. “There is a very strong core of opera fans who have given great support to the series in Sturtevant and throughout our circuit.”

Ryan on the budget debate

Whether you've taken sides in America's budget debate or not, here's what our congressman, Paul Ryan, R-WI, 1st District, has to say. Ryan, Republican ranking member on the House Budget Committee, has strong opinions, and some of them are on video:

Ryan on the President's "gusher of new debt, new taxes, and more spending"

Ryan previews budget debate on CNBC's "Squawk Box"

Ryan’s opening statement at markup of FY2010 Budget Resolution: “We can do better. We must do better.”

Ryan’s Closing Statement at markup of FY2010 Budget Resolution: Asks Blue Dogs to stop fiscal train wreck, restore American ideals

As unemployment rises, don't forget to give

Remember when a 9.1 percent unemployment rate seemed high?

That would have been a year ago in the city of Racine, which saw its unemployment rate in February 2009 climb to 15.6 percent. That's a lot of workers. There's a good chance you know somebody who's out of work and looking for a way to support their family or keep a house.

We like to stay positive on the Post, but these numbers are bleak. So let's try and doing something. The Food Bank is an invaluable resource to the community and can always use donations. You can always try out our silly little "mayoral betting" game we've got going, but more important is to keep giving despite the tough times.

I also heard an interesting story last weekend from a woman who frequents second-hand shops. She said donations are way down and the selections are pretty bad. It makes sense. If people aren't buying new things, odds are they're not thinking about giving their old things away.

But we all have old clothing, furniture, home goods, etc. that are gathering dust somewhere. So when you get to your spring cleaning, try to make a point and get items over to Goodwill, St. Vincent de Paul's or other second-hand stores.

The same goes for donations to nonprofits, churches and schools. We can go two ways in a tough time: retreat and isolate, or share and connect. Since we're all in this together, we might as well try the sharing route.

March 24, 2009

In their own words... more from mayoral hopefuls

So much was covered at Racine's mayoral candidate forum Monday night. Here are a few more quotes -- some conflated from more than one answer -- from the ten candidates who attended:

Jaimie Charon: "I am new to politics, but I'm here because I believe it's time for a change. We've seen many of these voices and faces in the past. After two years I'll hold myself accountable. I don't believe this is a city in disrepair. There are a lot of good things going on. My main focus is the economy, I'd like to see more job development. There's a lot of opportunity here; this is a great place to be."

John Dickert: Racine's biggest missed opportunity was "to attack the bleeding out of jobs over the past 20 years, and to deal with it with a band-aid and not major surgery. Kenosha took it on head-on. We have all the components of a great city: lake, parks, etc. We haven't attacked the issue of job-letting... the next mayor needs to do that, be aggressive on housing, jobs and crime."

Raymond Fay: "I live and breathe Racine. I think we have a bright future." Asked whether he supports KRM: "I support it. It gives us the opportunity to travel the entire corridor, Chicago to Milwaukee. And the Regional Transit Authority will give us the opportunity to take the bus system off the property tax."

Jody Harding: The biggest problem facing Racine is "the sense of despair that hangs over our people. Young people don't believe they'll find a job when they graduate. To encourage job-providing businesses to come here, we must provide hope, an atmosphere of opportunity, and not smother them with over regulation. I want to put power in the hands of the community. We've spent far too long having power work its way down. It needs to flow upward. In 10 years I'd like to see the fruits of those endeavors; I would like to see the open smiles of our kids living in a safe and friendly town."

Greg Helding; Asked what would be on his poverty agenda, he said, "In a word, jobs. That would be the agenda and the first action item. I don't want to just do the status quo, where we manage our problems, I want to solve them. Take major steps to eliminate crime and gangs and drugs. We need to make major strides in that, not sending our police in the same untenable situations."

Pete Karas: "I have a strong sense of participatory democracy. I think out of the box. I come up with ideas others haven't thought of. If you want the status quo, don't vote for me." Asked how he defines diversity, he said: "It's coming together and respecting people who are not the same race, color, creed, gender, sexual orientation. We can start with the city commissions, boards and committees: right now, you see a lot of white males over 50 and that's unfortunate."

Kim Plache: "I offer strong, pro-active leadership, hitting the ground running with many more years than I look like I have. Our community has not fared as well as community to the south of us in federal and state resources."

QA Shakoor II: "When my relatives visit, they say, 'Man, this place is clean.' Some of us who live here, we don't recognize that fact. This is a clean, safe place. A lot of us don't recognize that, but I can guarantee you with me being mayor we will take care of that. We have a problem with the positive community image. I would schedule meetings with organizations on a regular basis to come up with plans. RCEDC is a good vehicle to use; they're a great resource. Racine is a wonderful place and we will turn it around."

Jim Spangenberg: Asked whether he'd support a "green" building ordinance: "I'd have to see the ordinance. We wouldn't want to limit our development in Racine. More than that, we need education in energy efficiency, in what it can mean to saving and protecting the earth, I'm not real big on putting a lot of ordinances in, unless people have time to adjust to them, and be educated."

Bob Turner: "I served the citizens of Racine over 32 years and only missed two meetings. I'd bring integrity back to the city council. I worked with over 80 alderman, served on every City Council committee. I can put Racine back on track. It's a great city. I would go and visit each business periodically and see what policies they need. I'd make sure Racine is the kind of city people have no problem moving to. Racine doesn't have to reinvent the wheel"

Place your bets!

Update: Our first bets (pledged cans of food to the food drive) are in ... we'll keep the tally updated below:

Updated Results: Helding takes the lead with the maximum donation of 20 cans! And another 20 cans!

Update 2: Former Alderman John Engel puts 10 cans on Alderman Jim Spangenberg. "Jim is a good guy and it comes through," Engel said. "He's also totally unaffiliated with special interest and political party people. Probably the only true independent in the fray."

Update 3: Here's a bet on 20 cans for Spangenberg, with this comment: "Jim's eight years as an alderman here in Racine along with his experience in running a successful business in the West Racine area for 30 years (Johnson Furniture) makes him an excellent choice for mayor."

Update 4: Here's 20 cans for Plache: "Though she plays a little politics she’ll be able to bring needed money to the area. She still has political connections/pull in a lot of the right places that could be useful to Racine, let’s face it anything would help."

Update 5: Ray Fay is in the race with a 20-can bet ... and Jim Spangenberg gets another 20.

Update 6: Twenty cans for Plache: "I think she has the highest score when you combine ability, reputation, connections, focus, and integrity. I'm also fed up with good ol' boy politics, loans, and back-room deals, and I believe that Kim would be great as Racine's first female mayor. I'm not suggesting that all of the male candidates are good ol' boys - I just think that Kim is well-qualified and the change would be good for us at this juncture."

Jim Spangenberg - 70
Greg Helding - 68
John Dickert - 55
Kim Plache - 45
Pete Karas - 25
Raymond Fay - 20
Jaimie Charon - 0
Jody Harding - 0
Leisia Hill-Driver - 0
QA Shakoor II - 0
Bob Turner - 0

Send your "bets" (see rules below) on who will win the mayoral primary to:

Original post: We're two weeks out from the mayoral primary election. Let's have some fun over the next 14 days and help out a nonprofit organization along the way.

We'd like people to "place bets" on who's going to win the primary election. But instead of money - we're pretty sure that'd be illegal - we'd like people to bet non-perishable food items for the Racine County Food Bank.

For example, if you believe Kim Plache is going to finish in the top of the April 7 primary election, you'd bet, say five cans of food on her. If QA Shakoor is your guy, maybe you bet three cans on him.

All of this is for fun and will be enforced on the honor system. We'll keep track of the total number of food items "bet" on a candidate and post the tallies on the site as a running tally of support for candidates. To keep things fair, and honest, people will need to write us at: to place their "bets." That way we can track "bets," to a degree, and hopefully prevent people from making outlandish pledges they have no intention of following through on. (Note on privacy: We'll never give out our use your email address for anything other than this little contest.)

In the end, supporters of the top two candidates are absolved from making their pledges to the Food Bank (though hopefully you'll follow through!) and betters on the remaining nine candidates are expected to make good on their wagers with donations.

Make sense? Let's review the rules:

1. Place your "bet" on the candidate, or candidates, you believe will win the primary election by sending an email to: The email should include your name, the candidate you're supporting and how many cans of food you're donating. (Note: If you'd like, and give us permission, also include a section on why think a certain candidate will win and we'll post those on RacinePost.)

2. We'll tally the results and keep track of the total number of food items donated to each candidate for all to see. It'll be an ongoing poll/gauge of conventional wisdom on who people are supporting for mayor.

3. Betters on the winning campaigns are freed of their bets and don't have to make their donations. Betters on the other candidates are expected to follow through on their donations to the Food Bank (though no one will enforce the payment - it's all on the honor system).

4. One bet per person with a max bet of 20 cans of food to the Food Bank.

So that's it. The betting windows are open and we encourage any and everyone to pledge cans of food for your candidates, and tell us why you backed the candidates you did.

Good luck to all candidates ... and may the most donations to the Racine County Food Bank win!

March 23, 2009

300 pack Gateway for mayoral candidate forum

And they say the Lincoln-Douglas debates are dead.

An overflow crowd of about 300 people attended Community for Change's two-hour mayoral forum Monday night at Gateway Technical College. The crowd was there to hear 11 candidates make their case to be the next mayor of Racine - or at least finish in the top two so they advance past the April 7 primary to the May 5 general election. Only ten appeared, however; Lesia Hill-Driver was attending a family emergency.

The candidate forum alone was an impressive accomplishment for organizers led by Kelly Gallaher. But the evening also included a cozy expo of local nonprofits (see the list here) that was effective in getting people to mingle and learn about the community. Groups ranging from United Way and the YWCA to Young Professionals of Racine and Crime Stoppers had representatives on hand to meet with attendees and candidates. It was a great way to create a community atmosphere before the forum.

The forum itself was carefully orchestrated to treat each candidate fairly. All variables were determined by random selection, from seating order on the stage to questions asked and who responded to the questions.

The format was a bit stilted given the sheer number of candidates and the limited timeframe organizers could expect the audience to handle. The candidates' responses to advance questions will be posted on Community for Change's website in a day or so.

The full forum will be shown on CAR25, so we won't/can't offer a full recap here. But here are some moments we found interesting (please add more in the comments):

* All candidates in favor of reducing crime and creating jobs.

* Pete Karas and Greg Helding differed on joint dispatch. While Helding felt it was worth exploring with neighboring communities as a way to save money, Karas said it may not result in the savings people expect. Karas noted Racine's efforts to combine its police and fire dispatchers didn't result in savings.

* Helding suggested the city take its old trees, turn them into firewood and sell it to make money. It was his example of an entrepreneurial approach to government.

* Jaimie Charon got a few laughs by saying he wanted to bring Salmon-A-Rama back (presumably meaning the old festival instead of the newer, smaller Big Fish Bash.)

* Everyone talked about creating jobs. Q.A. Shakoor II said the mayor needed to go out and bring businesses to Racine. Jim Spangenberg and Bob Turner said it was more important to work with existing businesses in the city.

* Karas gave the most original answer to lowering taxes. He supports a municipally owned power utility that could save clients 15-40 percent on the electricity bill and generate (pun intended) income for the city that can be used for property tax relief.

* John Dickert had a clever line in support of the LGBT Center in Racine: "The only things that should be discriminated against in Racine are gangs and drugs."

* Lots of ambitious environmental plans for the city (it was around this section I realized someone should start a list of all of the commissions, plans and projects the candidates suggested). Shakoor backed an energy audit for every city building and property. Charon wanted to look into hybrid buses and bike paths designed into city streets.

* Karas said he opposed development along the Root River in hopes of maintaining the river's natural beauty. Instead, he'd like a dog park.

* Kim Plache noted she helped get state money for the Root River Parkway.

* Spangenberg said the city considered natural-gas powered buses 10 years ago, but they weren't cost-effective. The buses now may be more affordable. He also wanted to examine customer-friendly bus routes.

* Helding flipped a question on connecting Racine to regional cities like Milwaukee and Chicago by asserting other cities should connect to Racine. The beach alone should draw people in, he said. "If you think you're isolated in Racine, that's your choice," Helding said.

* Raymond Fay said he supported KRM commuter rail.

* Dickert talked about taking KRM south to Chicago and seeing multi-million dollar developments at every stop along the way. Racine could attract similar development along the commuter rail line, he said.

* Dickert took a swipe at Helding's proposal to bulldoze apartments on Jacato Drive by saying crime problems of Jacato are a symptom of the city's problems. "You can't get at it by blowing your nose," he said.

* Jody Harding staked out the right side of the race's political spectrum by saying there should be no amnesty for illegal immigrants who approach police for assistance. Instead, illegal immigrants should have legal immigrant friends or family report crimes or tips to police for them.

* Dickert backed prevention as a cost-effective way to address crime, as long as there are jobs to help people leaving treatment programs or jails.

* Plache backed zero-based budgeting that forces city departments to start from scratch every year they prepare their spending plan.

* Spangenberg half-joked the the worst thing to happen to Racine in the last 10 years was losing the Piggly Wiggly grocery store. He said he's working on getting a new grocery store in West Racine.

* Karas said more minorities, women and young adults need to be appointed to city commissions, boards and committees. He talked about community engagement and participatory democracy throughout the evening.

Jaimie Charon, Bob Turner and Greg Helding

Kim Plache, Pete Karas, Jody Harding and John Dickert

Jim Spangenberg, QA Shakoor II, and Raymond Fay

Mason offers amendment giving vote to 17-year-olds

"Not by age but through capacity is wisdom acquired."
State Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, will introduce an amendment to the Wisconsin Constitution that would give 17-year-olds the right to vote in state and local elections. The amendment would allow most high school seniors in the state the right to vote during their senior year.

“If we are serious about encouraging citizenship in this country, we should make registering to vote and casting a ballot a rite of passage. Allowing people to vote for the first time in high school will start them on what I hope will be a lifetime practice,” said Mason.

Mason made his announcement Friday at the Wisconsin High School Model United Nations Conference at UW-Milwaukee.

The amendment would amend Section I of Article III of Wisconsin’s Constitution, which mirrors the 26th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. A change in the Wisconsin Constitution requires passage by two consecutive state Legislatures followed by majority support in a statewide public referendum. At least ten other states are considering or have already passed a measure allowing 17-year-olds to vote in some capacity.

Problems around Sixth Street?

We reported on the status of the Sixth Street reconstruction project last week. The word was merchants want Sixth Street shutdown so construction gets done sooner. Initial plans had called for one lane of traffic to remain open during reconstruction of the Downtown street.

The project is a bit more complicated. First, there hasn't been a meeting yet to set the schedule for the roadwork. Nothing can happen until that meeting happens.

Second, shutting down Sixth Street could open the city up to a lawsuit because it bid the work as requiring one lane of traffic to remain open. Switching the project after it was bid may cause problems. It may also require the contractor to give back money because the project becomes cheaper if it gets done in four months instead of eight.

Third, there's talk the road work could affect - even cancel - this year's Party on the Pavement. That seems like an odd idea given the popularity of the event and the fact that Main Street and Monument Square will be open. But more than one merchant suggested the Party could be canceled in October if the Sixth Street issue isn't resolved.

More on this as it develops ...

KRM supporters plan rally Sunday in Downtown Racine

The advocacy group Community for Change is planning a rally on Sunday, March 29, to support the KRM commuter rail.

Sandy Petrykowski, one of the event's organizers, said the rally is for people who want to show support for modern mass transit, particularly the commuter rail linking Racine, Milwaukee and Kenosha.

The Sunday rally is planned from 1-2 p.m. at the State Street train station, 1409 State St. Participants will gather at the station, ride a trolley through Downtown at about 1:15 p.m. and return to the station for speakers, including Mayor Tom Friedel, who will talk on the mass transit issue and urge folks to take actions in support of KRM and the regional transit authority (needed to pay for KRM).

The group is urging advocacy for commuter rail, which has been blocked in recent years by questions over cost. Opponents at least want local referendums on extending Kenosha's commuter rail trains to Milwaukee.

Community for Change's rally is being held in advance of Monday’s state budget hearing at JI Case High School, 7345 Washington Ave. Members of the Joint Finance Committee will be listening to public opinion as they work on the budget between now and July. The rally will show the swell of public in Racine for Governor Doyle’s RTA proposal with the addition of property tax relief. Racine’s common council recently voted unanimously in support of RTA/KRM and now the public will vote with their presence.

Inside the train station, members of Community for Change will provide a petition of support for citizens to sign and also collect letters to bring to the hearing on Monday, as well as ask people to come out to Case on Monday to testify before the members of the JFC.

For more information on KRM visit:

March 22, 2009

Democrats honor 3, hear Lt. Gov. Lawton

One year ago, last March, when Racine County Democrats held their annual banquet, the theme was "November is our turn." Or so they hoped.

Sunday night, as Democrats filled the banquet hall at Infusino's, they celebrated the results of that election -- and the work ahead. The party also honored three notable members, including:

Corinne Owens and Mike Shields
Corinne Owens received the the annual "Phyllis Dresen Spirit of Democracy Award" presented to an individual who has had a significant impact on the community through efforts to support the democratic principles of peace and justice. Mike Shields, county party chairman, described some of the 96-year-old Owens' accomplishments -- well known to the crowd -- and cited her motto: "Live to do good for others." Owens rose from a janitor's position, when she was refused a teaching job because of her race, to become chair of the Gateway Technical College Board, president of the NAACP, and a leader in the effort to pass the Fair Housing Act

John Lehman and Lenny Hand

Lenny Hand received the James Arena Award, for his long and continuing contributions to the Democratic Party of Racine County. The award was presented by State Sen. John Lehman, who wondered "why Lenny didn't receive this 15 years ago." Lehman praised Hand's activities on behalf of the community, unions and the Democratic Party, and noted that he has been involved in party activities so long, George McGovern crashed his wedding.

Jane Witt was named Democrat of the Year, for her efforts for the Democratic Party during the year. The award was presented by Judy Van Koningsveld, last year's winner, who noted that she and Jane "are the type of people who will never be candidates," but who will make sure the actual candidates get their messages across. Witt recalled being asked to make election calls late on election day in November, and cracked up the crowd by describing the results of one call, at 6:40 p.m. that evening: "Lady, are you a bleepin' idiot?" "I said, 'Yes, I am,' and went out and celebrated the election," she said.

The evening's keynote speaker, Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton, put the times in context, noting the "complexity of the moment in which we live" and "the importance of these people, celebrating the thousands of hours of community building in Democratic values."

She urged those present "to guide budget creation in both capitols," using the lessons they've learned to fight "the widening income gap that defines this moment, driven by the financial industry with two many people engineering financial derivatives that became toxic."

Corinne Owens
with Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton

Lawton said "the need for government regulation is indisputable," and she made no apologies for the tax increases coming in Gov. Doyle's budget. "A deficit situation is, by definition, bad." She said the "uncontrolled spending under George Bush" -- tax cuts for the rich and the costs of the Iraq war-- "brought the U.S. into this."

The only question, she said, using a medical metaphor, is "where to place the paddles on the heart of the economy."

At the same time, she said Racine is "uniquely positioned to offer leadership," praising our restored and attractive downtown and our "richly diverse population -- not just whites but also African-Americans and Hispanics." The city has "an embarrassment of riches in the strong field of mayoral candidates," she said.

She also decried the "inflammatory rhetoric which confuses the public," coming from Republicans Paul Ryan and Robin Vos. Referring to Ryan's "Road Map," Lawton said, "privatization is not innovation. What would have happened had we privatized Social Security, as he proposed? Health care savings accounts are not a solution."

ONE MINOR GLITCH: Ah, such a nice banquet, slightly marred at the end (after I'd left). Among the many Democratic dignitaries introduced during the evening were the four Democrats present who are running for mayor: John Dickert, Kim Plache, Q.A. Shakoor II and Robert Turner. Each was promised two minutes at the end to address the audience. But when it came to Shakoor's turn, he was denied the floor; seems he hadn't filled out an application form to formally join the party. The incident left a bad taste in some people's mouths...