April 11, 2009

Spangenberg for mayor in 2011?

It looks like Alderman Jim Spangenberg is planning another run for mayor.

Spangenberg, who finished fourth in the April 7 primary, has an announcement on his Web site that reads: "Thank you for your support! Look for me in 2011."

It'll be interesting to see if a big field of candidate joins the 2011 race. Current Mayor Tom Friedel, who will leave office in May and return to the City Council, hinted he may run in 2011. Jody Harding had been planning to run in 2011 before the special election popped up, and Greg Helding likely will be interested.

Plus, Jeff Neubauer, who owns Kranz Inc. and was a big supporter of Kim Plache, may be in a position to jump back into politics.

Property Transfers: Family Dollar Store sells for $600K

The Family Dollar Store at 3919 Washington Ave. in Racine sold for $600,000.

The 16,500 square-foot store has a net operating income of $68,425, according to a property listing. It also includes a PayDay Loan and an apartment upstairs.

Acumen Design-Build LLC, of Racine, sold its building at 2501 Eaton Lane for $533,000. There's no indication where the business moved.

The highest-priced home sale of the week was in Waterford, where a five-bedroom house at 6422 Blue Heron Pointe Drive sold for $600,000.

The highest-priced Racine home sold was at 1632 Michigan Boulevard. It went for $212,000 after being listed at $342,000.

April 9, 2009

Open air aviary will open at Racine Zoo

A new aviary will soon open at the Racine Zoo -- an exhibit in an open air structure featuring over 200 Australian birds including budgies, rosellas and cockatiels.

"It will be the largest interactive aviary in the Upper Midwest,” said Jay Christie, president of the zoo. The public will have direct contact with many of the birds as they enter the open-air structure. Additionally, feed sticks will be sold to encourage the birds to land on the hands of visitors.

Norco Manufacturing, a Racine company that makes aircraft hanger doors, donated the funds for the aviary, which will be named the Norco Aviary.

The aviary will open unofficially on Thursday, May 21, at 5:30 p.m. at the Zoo's annual member appreciation event. The grand opening will be Saturday afternoon, May 23, with events for kids.

The aviary will replace the existing petting zoo.

San Juan Diego teachers kiss a goat for charity

Teacher Elizabeth Graver collects her 2nd place prize kiss

Nobody asked Clarabelle, the goat, what she thought of San Juan Diego Middle School's kiss-a-goat project.

But there she was, smack-dab in the middle of it, having to kiss teachers no less! "Ah, the things we do for charity," she BAAA-ed repeatedly. (At least I think that's what she was saying.)

A kiss with Clarabelle was the prize the Catholic school's 70 students were working for during Lent, traditionally a time for fasting, prayer and almsgiving. They brought their coins and dollars to school week-by-week in their handmade Lenten containers, in an effort to raise enough money -- $120 -- to buy a goat for a farming family through Heifer International.

And, oh, yes, the classrooms that raised the most money got to send their teacher forward to kiss Clarabelle.

With that incentive, was there any doubt they'd succeed? Well, they did, raising $180.17. That brought three teachers forward Thursday morning to smooch the not-very-into-it Clarabelle, provided by Sister Janet Weyker from the Racine Dominican Eco-Justice Center, which partners with the fifth through eighth grade school for environmental lessons.

As the third-place winner, her classroom having raised $29, Marybeth Zuhlke went first, tasked with only a quick peck. Second-place winner, Elizabeth Graver, whose classroom raised $40, had to give the goat a three-second kiss. Katie Hills, left, had the unfortunate distinction of leading the classroom that raised the most money -- $80 -- and she and Clarabelle kissed for five seconds, as students cheered and cameras clicked.

Teacher Richard Mathews, who organized the project, also got to kiss Clarabelle. She was no more pleased with him than with the others.

Heifer International provides training and animals to families in developing countries who wish to support themselves through farming. The goat San Juan Diego's students bought will go to a family in Mexico, quite appropriate for many of the school's Hispanic students.

San Juan Diego, a private Catholic middle school serving children from Racine's impoverished neighborhoods, relies nearly completely on public contributions for its funding. Besides its 70 students, it supports its 55 graduates through high school with homework assistance and mentoring support. For more information about the school, contact Laura Sumner Coon, executive director, at 619-0402 ext. 235.

Project organizer Richard Mathews gets in his licks, too

April 8, 2009

Roundabout one of three options for Seventh Street

Here's a zoomed out map of the Seventh Street project set to be built in 2011. It will start at Washington Avenue and Ninth Street and continue to Seventh and Main streets.

State officials laid out three options Wednesday for rebuilding Seventh Street from Main to Ninth streets. (See them here.)

The key part of the project is the tangle of an intersection between Sixth and Seventh streets in front of City Hall. Designers laid out three options for the intersection, including a roundabout, at an Open House held in Memorial Hall.

But state officials were cautious not to play up the roundabout, noting design work on the Seventh Street project is only 30 percent complete and any final design will factor in feedback from citizens.

The caution comes from fights across the state over the use of roundabouts, which often draw significant opposition from people who prefer more traditional layouts. The city does not have to build a roundabout between Sixth and Seventh streets if they don't want to, officials said.

Two of the three options for the City Hall intersection included signalized intersections with one or two lanes of traffic. The big difference between those options was the two-lane proposal would reduce parking in the area.

State plans also factor in space for bikes. Designers don't call the space "bike lanes" anymore, but they will leave about five feet of room along the street that can be used for bikes.

The state is involved with the Seventh Street project because it's technical Highway 20. This is a good thing for the city because federal money will cover 80 percent of the project's cost. The city will pick up the rest.

State and city officials will make some decisions on the project in coming months, and WisDOT will prepare it for bid in December 2010. Work is scheduled to begin in Spring 2011.

The project is estimated to cost $5 million.

Plache will serve on the Racine Unified School Board

Update: Fourth-place-finisher Stella Young tells the Insider News she wants the School Board seat.

Original: Kim Plache lost the election she was trying to win and won the election she wasn't trying in at all.

The former state senator finished third in the Racine mayoral race behind John Dickert and Bob Turner, leaving her out of the May 5 special election to elect the city's new mayor.

But Plache also finished third Tuesday in the race for Racine Unified School Board. That was good enough to earn her a three-year term on the board along with incumbents Don Nielsen and Gretchen Warner.

Plache said Tuesday she'd accept the School Board seat.

"I'm honored to have been chosen and I will serve," she said.

It's something of a change of heart for Plache, who had declared her candidacy for School Board in January only to switch her focus in February to the mayor's race after Gary Becker was arrested and resigned.

Plache said when she launched her mayoral campaign that she tried to take her name off the School Board ballot, but couldn't.

"If I didn't have to die to get my name off the ballot, I'd take it off," Plache said on Feb. 18. "I'm completely focused on running for mayor."

But now that the votes have shaken out, Plache said she would accept her elected seat on the School Board. She replaces former School Board President Tony Baumgardt, who did not run for re-election.

Stephanie Hayden, director of communications for Unified, said Plache is entitled to the seat. Once she put her name on the ballot, Hayden said, it became the voters' choice.

"If she wants the seat, it's hers," Hayden said.

Plache received 7,747 votes for School Board and outpaced fourth-place finisher Stella Young by about 700 votes.

Plache said Wednesday she's always been committed to public service and supporting public education. Her daughter is a sixth-grader in Racine Unified, which Plache said gives her extra motivation to join the board.

She described the support she received for School Board as "heart warming," if unexpected.

Plache did not campaign for the School Board and publicly declared she was only running for mayor. But Unified voters jumped at her name recognition and experience as a state senator and representative and elected her anyway.

New face on the Mount Pleasant Village Board

There's a new face on the Mount Pleasant Village Board.

Ingrid Tiegel, who received 1,626 votes, retained her seat, which she was appointed to. Sonny Havn also retained his trustee seat with 1,903 votes. But it was newcomer Karen Albeck with the high-vote total at 1,906.

Albeck ran on the platform of controlling spending. She pointed out that while Mount Pleasant taxes went up 9% in the last two years, in the same time period Mount Pleasant debt went up 18%.

Robert Strausser, Matthew Stehling and previous Mount Pleasant trustee Robin Garard finished in the bottom three and were not elected to the board.

Village President Carolyn Milkie ran unopposed and was re-elected for another two-year term.

Kim Forsman, who gave Clerk/Treasurer Juliet Edmands competition for the first time. Edmands defeated Forsman 2,068 to 1,313.

The above results as well as the following are unofficial totals from Tuesday night:

Stehling 874
* Havn 1903
Strausser 1178
* Albeck 1906
Garard 1565
* Tiegel 1626
write in 13
Village Clerk/Treasurer
Edmands 2068
Forsman 1313
Village President

Milkie 2530
write in 78

Breaking down the mayor's race

Here's the start of a breakdown of the mayoral primary by aldermanic district:

District 1 (Alderman Jeff Coe) - Turner

This is roughly the downtown area. Turner won this district with 128 votes followed by Dickert with 103 votes and Pete Karas with 62.

District 2 (Alderman Bob Anderson) - Turner

This near south-side district (roughly the "Towerview District") is one of those "battleground" areas for the candidates. The district is split between some of the richest and poorest homes in the city, and the vote reflected this divide. Turner won the district with 170 votes, followed by Dickert with 162 votes. But if you look at the wards, there's a huge discrepancy. Turner won Ward 4 (which is the west edge of the district) 99-8 over Dickert, while Dickert won Wards 5 and 6 over Turner 134-71. Plache finished third in this district with 92 votes.

District 3 (Alderman Mike Shields) - Turner

The district includes Uptown and neighborhoods to the south, and provided another big win for Turner. He carried 185 votes to Dickert's 60 votes. Greg Helding finished third with 43 votes.

District 4 (Alderman Jim Kaplan) - Turner

This district jumps to the near northside, running from the Root River to English Street, with some lakefront property mixed in. Turner and Dickert were evenly split in wards 9 and 10, but Turner carried Ward 11 by a 38-2 margin. He won the district 135-79. Karas finished third with 34 votes.

District 5 (Alderman David Maack) - Dickert

This district includes the Racine Zoo on the city's northside. Dickert won this one easily with 208 votes. Plache took second with 98 votes followed by Turner with 80, Karas with 77 and Helding with 68.

District 6 (Alderman Sandy Weidner) - Dickert

It's Dickert and Turner 1-2 again in this northwest side district bounded by Rapids Drive, Northwestern Avenue and Eaton Avenue. Dickert took 216 votes followed by Turner with 101. Plache and Helding tied for third with 74 votes.

District 7 (Alderman Ray DeHahn) - Dickert

Dickert easily won this district on the northside near 3 Mile Road and Green Bay Road. He pulled down 231 votes to Turner's 103 votes. Helding finished third with 94 votes.

District 8 (Alderman Q.A. Shakoor) - Turner

Turner easily carried this Central City district with 132 votes. Dickert struggled here, pulling only 24 votes and finishing behind Pete Karas and Q.A. Shakoor, who each had 29 votes. Incidentally, if you needed a sign that Shakoor's campaign never took off, this would be it. He managed fewer than 30 votes in his home aldermanic district.

District 9 (Alderman Terry McCarthy) - Dickert

West Racine was a battleground in the primary, and it may be the best example of why Dickert finished first. Despite strong efforts in this area by Pete Karas (his former district) and Jim Spangenberg (who representsa neighboring area), Dickert still finished on top with 159 votes, followed by Karas with 136 and Spangenberg with 119. Turner struggled in this area, finishing fourth just ahead of Kim Plache who took 78 votes. Greg Helding also had 59 votes, so there's lots of room in West Racine for Dickert or Turner to gain ground.

District 10 (Alderman Tom Friedel) - Dickert

Mayor Tom Friedel's district on the far southeast side was another competitive area. Dickert won with 174 votes, followed by Plache with 160 votes and Turner with 135. Helding pulled a strong 116 votes, Spangenberg took 89 votes and Jody Harding had one of her best showings with 67 votes.

District 11 (Alderman Greg Helding) - Helding

Helding dominated his home district, which speaks well for his political future. The city residents who know him best turned out and gave him 199 votes, compared to 102 votes for Plache, 99 for Turner and 82 for Dickert. Helding's endorsement could sway some votes here, but it wouldn't be a big surprise if he passes on that opportunity. It's may be safer for City Council members to play it neutral so they can work with the new mayor.

District 12 (Alderman Aron Wisneski) - Spangenberg

Jim Spangenberg won this district with 299 votes, the second most any candidate received in any district. Spangenberg was boosted here by the support of the district's former Alderman John Engel, who played an active role in Spangenberg's campaign. (For the record, Wisneski backed Helding.) Dickert finished second with 260 votes, Plache third with 184 votes and Helding with 150 votes. Turner did terrible in this district, finishing seventh behind Harding and Karas.

District 13 (Alderman Jim Spangenberg) - Spangenberg

No surprise Spangenberg won his home district in West Racine with 160 votes. He outpaced Dickert's 99 votes and Turner's 82 votes. The big surprise here is Karas' anemic showing. He managed just 35 votes in an area not far from the district he used to represent. It's also worth noting that Spangenberg, like Helding, could swing some votes with an endorsement. But since he's already looking at running for mayor in 2011, it probably doesn't make much sense for him to formally support either candidate.

District 14 (Alderman Ron Hart) - Turner

Turner had a nice showing in this far west side district. He took 108 votes, outpacing Plache's 106 votes and Dickert's 99 votes. This was Turner's best showing outside of the central city, and a sign he can carry votes throughout the city. A Plache endorsement would certainly help.

District 15 (Alderman Bob Mozol) - Dickert

Dickert dominated this north side district, winning 355 votes compared to 132 votes for second-place-finisher Jim Spangenberg. Dickert's total was the most any candidate received in any district. Turner pulled 90 votes here, falling behind Plache and Helding.

McCarthy wins full term, endorses Dickert

Alderman Terry McCarthy wrapped up his third election in three years Tuesday night with a fresh two-year term to represent the city's ninth district. Now he actually gets some time off.

McCarthy ran three years ago against Pete Karas and narrowly lost. He then ran in a special election after Karas resigned his seat because of an obscure state law that threatened his job. This spring he easily defeated challenger Christian De Jong.

Now, he gets to put away the campaign signs and take some time off from elections.

McCarthy said at Dickert's victory party Tuesday night that he was endorsing Dickert in the May 5 mayoral race. The two have been friends for a long time, he said.

City voter turnout at 13 percent

Well, we can't blame the weather.

It was a perfect day Tuesday, but slightly more than one out of eight city voters turned out to vote in the mayoral primary. The 13 percent turnout gives credence to the theory that voters would stay home because there were too many candidates to choose from. Candidates said they were hearing people didn't have time to sort through the field, and instead planned to vote in the May 5 general election.

Another factor could be political fatigue. After President Obama's victory in November, people may be tired of voting.

And then there's the plain old "ick" factor. After former Mayor Becker's fall from grace, people may have lost interest in City Hall until someone steps in and returns a sense of normalcy to the place.

No matter the explanation, voters stayed home. Amazingly, turnout was higher - 16 percent - throughout the county where presumably there were not the high-profile races like the mayor's race.

A bummed out Pete Karas mused Thursday night about an old political slogan from 1996 that explained low turnout for the Clinton-Dole presidential election. The bumper sticker read: "If God wanted us to vote, he would have given us candidates."

Let's see how things go May 5.

April 7, 2009

Incumbents sweep Council, RUSD contests

And in other races of interest...

  • Racine 1st District Alderman Jeff Coe easily defeated his nemesis, Keith Fair, 267 to 182
  • Racine 3rd District Alderman Michael D. Shields beat John Guion, 231 to 183.
  • Racine District 9 Alderman Terry McCarthy beat Christian C. De Jong, 506 to 114.
  • Racine District 11 Alderman, and unsuccessful mayoral candidate Greg Helding, beat a write-in attempt by Gloria Rogers, 474 to 51.
  • Racine District 15 Alderman Robert Mozol defeated William J. Leverson, 650 to 248.

Former State Sen. Kimberly Plache, who withdrew from the Racine Unified School Board race to run unsuccessfully for mayor, woulda/coulda won a seat. She actually came in third in the five-person race, with 7,747 votes, despite dropping out too late to get off the ballot -- "If I didn't have to die to get my name off the ballot, I'd take it off," she said at the time she announced for mayor -- all for nought. She did not campaign for the school board seat and said she would resign if she finished in the top three. So, taking her at her word...

Incumbents Don J. Nielson and Gretchen L. Warner led the field, with 9,550 and 8,440 respectively. With Plache out of the picture, fourth place is good for a board seat, and was won by former board member Stella A. Young, with 7,041 votes. Last was John Leiber, with 6,176.

Now, does Plache have to stand by her word? She was certainly recruited to run for the School Board in the first place ... We're waiting to hear from the School Board how it plans to proceed.


Incumbent Juliet Edmands defeated Kim Forsman, 2,068 to 1,313.


Roger Mellem defeated Glenn Knudsen 73-48. We're told this was a very active campaign in the final stretch, and it deserved mention.

Dickert, Turner ready for rematch

Robert Turner and John Dickert will revive their fierce political rivalry this month after they both advanced to the May 5 general election to become Racine's next mayor.

The two candidates easily out-paced the 11-candidate field. Dickert led the way with 2,308 votes, or 23 percent, followed by Turner with 1,673, or 17 percent.

Vote totals from the County Clerk

They were followed by Kim Plache and Jim Spangenberg (each with 13 percent). Greg Helding (12 percent), Pete Karas (9 percent), Jody Harding (7 percent), Q.A. Shakoor II (4 percent), Lesia Hill-Driver (2 percent), and Raymond Fay and Jaimie Charon (each with 1 percent).

But it was Dickert's and Turner's night, setting the stage for a rematch of the 2002 primary election for Turner's Assembly seat. Dickert ran aggressive campaign seven years ago to try and break into the Legislature, but couldn't overcome Turner's strong base of support.

The election ripped the local Democratic Party in half, a rift that's arguably never healed.

Both candidates played down the past election at their victory parties Tuesday night.

Turner celebrates with his wife and supporters

Turner, celebrating at his campaign headquarters on Washington Avenue, said he didn't see a rivalry with Dickert. Instead, he focused on the voters choosing him for his 32 year of local political experience.

"I have the experience, skills and know-how to put Racine back in place," he said.

Dickert and his wife arrive at their campaign victory party

Dickert, surrounded by upbeat supporters at Olde Madrid on Sixth Street, described Turner as a "strong candidate" with solid support in the community. But he was also quick to contrast himself with Turner's experience.

"Bob's the history, we're the future," Dickert said.

But the candidates' shared past is likely to revive old wounds, like allegations Dickert used a push poll in 2002 against Turner and that Turner's supporter intimidated businesses to take down Dickert signs. Then there's this incident involving Democratic Party furniture.

Turner won the campaign by 275 votes and has cruised to re-election ever since.

What's your prediction?

Update: See the results of my analysis below. It's not pretty.

Original: As we wait for the results, make a guess on the candidates' order. Post your guess in the comments below. If anyone gets it exactly right, send me an email and I'll buy you a coffee.

Here's a few things to consider as we wait for results tonight ...

* In 2003, the city's last competitive mayoral race, 13,481 people voted. Becker won the race with 6,076 votes.


* Who knows where turnout will be today, but if it's roughly 13,000 voters that would be about 1,200 votes per candidate if evenly distributed. Let's assume every candidate is guarantee 250 votes, just from their core group of supporters. That leaves 10,250 voters up for grabs. Taking a quarter of those votes - roughly 2,500 - probably means a candidate is advancing to the next round.

False. 9,991 people voted Tuesday for a city turnout rate of 13 percent. Nobody topped 2,400 votes and the bottom three candidates failed to get 250 votes.

* So, in short, if anyone cracks 2,800 votes they're probably moving on to the general election.

Accurate, but too high. Number should have been 2,300.

* Of course, that's assuming an even race with multiple candidates stealing votes from each other. It'll be interesting to see if a handful of candidates pulled away from the pack in the campaign.

They did. Dickert and Turner totaled 40 percent of the event. The other nine split the remaining 60 percent.

* I'm guessing we'll start seeing results between 9:30 and 10 p.m., but it could be earlier if turnout is light.

JT had the first results up at 9 p.m. Great job to the 212 Fourth St. folks for their nifty web results tonight.

* We'll post results in all area races as we get them. You can also check for yourself at the Racine County Clerk's website.

* My guess on the order after the polls close ...

OK, never got to those, but let's assume I had it perfectly right.

Good luck on your guesses!

Ryan favors paying executives excessive bonuses

I thought that headline would get your attention. But how else can you explain our congressman's vote on a bill to repeal earlier provisions exempting bonuses at companies receiving bailout funds from executive pay regulations? (Yes, the vote took place on April Fool's Day, but that was just a coincidence. I think.)

HR 1664, which came up for a vote last week, prohibits companies receiving money under the Troubled Asset Relief Program and other bailout programs from paying any executive or employee compensation that is "unreasonable or excessive," or any bonus not based on performance-based standards. The definition of how much is excessive, or what performance standards are reasonable, would come from the Treasury secretary.

HR 1664 passed 247 to 171. It is aimed, among other targets, at undoing the payment of such goodies as the "retention" bonuses -- first pegged at $165 million but later at $220+ million -- given to those AIG geniuses who later received $180 billion to keep their company (and presumably what's left of the economy) from going under.

Paul Ryan, R-WI, 1st District, who bills himself as a fiscal conservative, voted no in the roll call, which was mostly a party-line affair. In other words, he voted to retain the controversial provision in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that exempted bonuses promised in existing employment contracts. Leave those bonuses alone!

The House vote voids that provision, and also imposes a level of transparency, requiring companies receiving bailout funds to disclose the compensation of their highest paid executives, and require the Treasury to post the information online.

Reporter Mark Hofmann of businessinsurance.com quoted Rep. Barney Frank, D-MA, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, saying: "Given the legislative process and the administration's desire to get this bill done before the recess to speed funds into the economy, Congress made a mistake. We have, fortunately, a process for correcting mistakes, which is subsequent legislation. We have now acted very promptly, and if this bill becomes law then the mistake will have had no effect." The measure now goes to the Senate for its approval.

We asked Ryan's office for an explanation of his vote on HR 1664 and received this reply: "Congressman Ryan introduced his alternative budget on April 1, and did not issue a public statement on HR 1664."

April 6, 2009

Community for Change plans its mayoral forum

Update: YPR has a forum scheduled for April 20.

Original post: We're not even through the primary election and there's already a forum scheduled for the mayoral race. Community For Change is planning its next forum for the two finalists on April 23 from 6:30 to 10 p.m. at Gateway Technical College in Racine.

Organizers are planning to bring in some local experts to grill question the candidates on the issues. Attendees are encouraged to bring a non-perishable item for the Racine County Food Bank.

Contact Ryan Gleason at rgleason3@wi.rr.com if you would like to be on the planning committee or are interested in volunteering.

YPR seeking new program director

YPR Program Director Dana Grueter is leaving the organization after three years on the job. Here's the message she sent out to members Monday:
YPR Members & Friends,

After 3 years with Young Professionals of Racine, I have decided to make some changes in my life. I am planning to go back to school this fall for a Global Studies Masters Program in Europe! Prior to that, I've decided to spend the summer in Italy with my boyfriend (who is stationed there in the Army), and with all these plans I am announcing my resignation as Program Director of Young Professionals of Racine. My time with YPR has been rewarding and challenging and I'm so grateful for all the lessons I've learned and friends and colleagues that I've met. Thanks to all of you who have been part of this time in my life! With that, please see a job description for a part-time program director position here.

Sixth Street's Oct. 31 completion date
won't stop Party on the Pavement on Oct. 3

Sixth Street at last year's Party on the Pavement

The rebuilding of Sixth Street has begun, not to be completed until Oct. 31. But despite all the previous sturm und drang about that lengthy schedule forcing cancellation of Party on the Pavement, Racine's annual street celebration will take place as well. On Saturday, Oct. 3.

How's that, you ask?

Well, it's like this: Although work to construct a new roadway and sidewalk on Sixth from Main Street to Grand Avenue may not be finished by that first weekend in October, the roadway itself will be done. All that may be left to do is landscaping, streetlights and what-have-you. So, as the mayor and public works director have said in the past, the party will go on.

If you don't believe me, then feel free to attend a pre-construction meeting with A.W. Oakes & Son, the contractor, along with representatives from WisDOT and the City of Racine at an informational meeting on April 9, at 3 p.m. in Room 130, City Hall Annex, 800 Center St.

We talked to Devin Sutherland, executive director of the Downtown Racine Corporation -- the celebration's unofficial partymeister -- who reminded us that the Main Street project itself hadn't actually been completed at the time the city held its first Party on the Pavement. "The first one, we still had 4-way stop signs sandbagged at all the intersections because the traffic control signals hadn't arrived yet." Sutherland said the complete Sixth Street project "may not be done until sometime in November, but they will not hinder Party on the Pavement."

Kris Martinsek, public information officer for the Historic Sixth Street Project, sent out the first newsletter about this year's effort today. She notes that, "Although Oakes had floated ideas for alternatives, only one construction work plan and schedule was submitted for approval. As proposed, the project begins April 6, and must be completed by Oct. 31." Those "floated" alternatives talked about closing the entire street for months, to expedite the project. Instead, one lane of traffic will remain open throughout the project's construction, with the exception of five days for the installation of a storm sewer main during Phase two, sometime in May or June.

Below is the city's first construction report and project timetable:
With installation of utilities completed in 2008, the work to construct a new roadway and sidewalk and to install the planned streetscape elements along Sixth Street west to east from Grand Avenue to Main Street has begun.

Time Warner Cable and AT&T have been doing some advance work to alter utilities for the project. AT&T began work near College Avenue and Time Warner Cable began work near Wisconsin Avenue. Their work should be completed by April 10.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) has awarded a construction contract to A.W. Oakes & Son of Racine. On April 3, Oakes and their subcontractors met with representatives from WisDOT and HNTB, the firm hired to oversee construction, to review the project scope and schedule. Although Oakes had floated ideas for alternatives, only one construction work plan and schedule was submitted for approval. As proposed, the project begins April 6, and must be completed by October 31, 2009.

► Stage One begins immediately and includes traffic control and mobilization by the contractor who will deliver equipment, materials, construction trailers, etc. and set up on the jobsite. Construction begins on the north side of the street where a portion of the sidewalk will be cut back to create 100 foot long temporary loading zones. The loading zones will be restricted to delivery vehicles and short term parking (up to 15 minutes) from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Longer term parking is allowed evenings, after 6 p.m. and all day Sunday. The south side of the street remains open to one lane of westbound traffic.

► Stage Two is scheduled to begin late April and continue to mid June. The south side of Sixth Street will be closed to traffic, old concrete removed, the storm sewer main installed, and the new roadway constructed. The temporary loading zones on the north side and five feet of sidewalk on both sides will remain open. The north side of the roadway will be open to one lane of traffic during this stage with the exception of five days when the storm sewer main is installed. Its location in the middle of the roadway necessitates a full street and loading zone closure while the work is done.

► Stage Three sees traffic returning to the newly completed south portion of the roadway as work begins on the north portion. This stage should run from approximately mid June to late September.

► Stage Four begins when the roadwork is complete in late September with a deadline for completion of October 31, 2009. Sidewalks will be constructed with brick pavers, new signals and lights will be installed, and streetscape work completed. (Some sidewalk work will overlap with the other stages where possible.)

Racine's Greatest Election

Racine should be proud.

If there was a way to clean away the embarrassment Gary Becker brought to the city, this was it. 11 candidates. Packed forums. Volunteers. Donations. Heated debates. If anyone wondered, it's clear now: People care about this city and its future. We'll be fine with Mayor Becker. We are fine without him.

What's remarkable about the field of 11 candidates up for election on Tuesday is that any of them could be mayor. I believe that. These are smart, dedicated, experienced political, business and community leaders who would do well to fill the chair at City Hall. Perhaps most importantly, there's a general decency to the field.

And while only two of the 11 candidates will advance, we may look back on this race as the launching point for elected offices. Are there aldermen, County Board members, a County Executive, state representatives, state senators even a Congressman in this mix? Quite possibly.

In my 10 years in Racine, this is hands down the greatest election I've been part of. Racine's 2003 mayoral race was a great campaign. Becker defeated Ron Thomas with incumbent Mayor Jim Smith launching a write-in campaign after sleeping through the primary.

But this year it's been beyond impressive to see groups like Community for Change and YPR draw hundreds of people to hear and meet the candidates. Thousands of people will go to the polls Tuesday as informed voters with a plethora of choices for what they want this city to become. Let's not forget this.

In 2007, Becker ran unopposed and the city was worse for it. Elections are a time to reflect on our community and hold candidates accountable for their promises and actions. When an incumbent runs unopposed, it can be a sign that everyone is happy with the direction of the city. More likely, it's a lack of courage among challengers unwilling to put themselves on the line.

This spring, we have candidates who took the risk. Every one of them has a vision for the city, and, regardless of outcome, every one of them deserves a voice in city decisions. Nine candidates will lose on Tuesday, and a 10th on May 5. But the eventual mayor - and the City Council - would do well to recognize the wealth of talent that's emerged this spring.

As a community, we are fortunate to have this many choices. Now, it's our job to weigh in on these choices and decide how we wish to proceed. Don't miss your chance to participate in what may well go down as Racine's greatest election.

Vote Tuesday and remind a friend to vote too. With this many candidates, a handful of votes could mean the difference between second and third place - the difference between advancing to the general election or getting left behind.

As a personal note, thank you to the candidates for being accessible and open throughout the campaign. Without exception, all of the candidates have been a pleasure to work with and we're looking forward to the future mayor running an open and transparent government.

Good luck to all.