April 18, 2009

RCEDC opens its mayoral forum to public, press

This just in: RCEDC is inviting public and press into their previously members-only mayoral forum Monday morning. The organization sent out the following notice shortly after 5 p.m.:
To Whom It May Concern:

The Racine County Economic Development Corporation (RCEDC) mayoral forum to be held on Monday, April 20, at 8 a.m. will be open to the public overall and the press.

The meeting will be at the CATI building in the Renaissance Business Park.

Gordy Kacala
Executive Director
Racine County Economic Development Corporation
Kacala told us, "The community has asked us to do this, so we will. There was never any intent to do it clandestinely." The auditorium at CATI holds just 110; so far, 55 RCEDC and RAMAC members have said they will attend.

Far be it for me to assume that Dustin's editorial had anything to do with this change of heart, but, hey, nobody else was asking them to make the change and let the public in.

No decision has been made by RCEDC about whether Jody Harding, Racine's new write-in candidate for mayor, will be invited to participate. The candidate said Friday that if she is not invited, she will hold her own event on the steps of Memorial Hall at 7:30 a.m., and take questions from anyone.

Leadership Racine Brings Art to HALO

By Marie Block

On Saturday afternoon, children and adults celebrated the newly formed Racine Inner City Art House at HALO. The arts and culture committee of Leadership Racine's 2009 class had a vision to "give kids something to say 'yes' to," as Raquel Freeman, a member of Leadership Racine, stated. Their goal is to have HALO host a children's art center for residents and the surrounding community. The center will expose children to visual and performing arts that are not a part of most school curriculum, including dance and martial arts, to instill confidence and creativity in all children.

The day's festivities began with Victor NiƱo, an instructor at the Racine Athletic Club, along with Heather Sampson, leading both children and adults in Zumba, a combination of Latin and Reggaeton dances with a focus on fitness and fun. The group then went into HALO's "The Room to Grow." Children's hands were colored with bright paints and placed onto a tree painted by Chris Stretenovich and Becky Mantenfel. Stephanie Kober, HALO's Family Program Manager, wrote the children's names next to their handprints... handprints of future artists.

Harding not invited to Community for Change forum

Community for Change is sticking by its initial decision not to invite write-in mayoral candidate Jody Harding to its candidate forum... um, debate.

But the organization which put together the most successful of the pre-primary forums -- certainly from the standpoint of audience size -- is willing to accommodate all official write-in candidates to a certain degree, by posting on its website their answers to the same questions posed to the two primary winners.

Community for Change issued the following statement this afternoon:
Write-In Candidates who have submitted State Elections Forms EB-1 and EB-162 are invited to respond to any or all questions from Thursday's Debate. Community for Change will be happy to post them on our website in their entirety so the public may compare their answers and ideas to the candidates at the Debate.

Official Write-In Candidates may receive a copy of the questions by submitting a request to the Community for Change email address.

Community for Change as a grassroots organization celebrates the initiative of all people to become active participants in electoral politics. However in the interest of fairness, our forum was announced and planned for the candidates who won the City of Racine Primary Election. We acknowledge the support Jody Harding has in the community and we invite her to add her voice and ideas by responding to the questions in writing.
Harding won't be participating in RCEDC/RAMAC's forum Monday morning either, as far as we know. But, of course, we aren't allowed there, either... (so much for being a former RCEDC board member.) UPDATE, 5:30 p.m: See HERE.

As we noted in an earlier post, Harding filed the requisite paperwork with the Racine City Clerk on Friday. As she said at the anti-tax rally at City Hall Saturday afternoon, it won't matter whether voters write in Jody Harding, or even just "Jody" ... all such votes will go to her.

Tax protesters show up in force at City Hall

If it was a beautiful day for an anti-war rally (see earlier post), it was equally fine for an anti-tax rally.

... and an anti-Doyle rally, an anti-Obama rally, an anti-the-two-guys-on-the-ballot-for-mayor rally, an anti-liberals rally... I'm sure I'm forgetting some of the targets.

Racine's version of the nationwide onslaught of tea bag rallies -- harking back to the Boston Tea Party and standing for Taxed Enough Already -- was eclectic, all right; a well-organized event on the lawn of City Hall that drew upwards of 250 sign-waving, slogan-cheering protesters. Almost all were from one side of the political spectrum, except for a small handful of Obama Democrats who wisely kept mostly to themselves.

Lora Halberstadt, one of the organizers, started things off by leading the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance, and concluded it 45 minutes later by promising, "we'll gather again and again, until they get it."

In between, speakers held forth.

Jayne Siler, from the Racine Taxpayers Assn.:

"I thought I was the only person in Racine concerned about taxpayers' rights," she said, acknowledging the large crowd, even more impressive for the speed in which the rally was put together. Siler ripped some of the larger local budgets spent without adequate taxpayer input: $63 million spent by the Gateway Technical College Board; $30 million that Racine Unified took from reserves under previous superintendent Tom Hicks.

The crowd was with her, offering shouts of "No taxation without representation" and "They work for us, we don't work for them."

Fred Dooley, whose RealDebateWisconsin blog is a conservative bastion:

People are struggling and have to make cuts, he said; government should do the same thing instead of raising taxes. "This isn't about left and right, it's about doing the right thing so we have something left in our pockets. It's about the ridiculous expansion of our budget," a 10% increase on the state level, he said.

He also ridiculed the city's plan to spend more than $1 million on four 20-passenger hybrid buses -- $350,000 apiece -- which will be used on routes that often carry only three or four passengers. "Let 'em buy a minivan for $7,000" he said.

Jody Harding, write-in candidate for mayor:

She started by pointing out that the Journal Times announced her candidacy in a four-sentence story on the obituary page (here's ours), but quickly aimed her rhetorical guns at John Dickert and Bob Turner, the two candidates on the ballot for mayor. "Both are for big government, and more taxes. There's no difference between them," she said. "But you do have a choice, and her name is Jody Harding!"

"I came to talk about taxes. It's not just about our money, it's about our liberty. The enemy is apathy, helplessness and despair. We will not turn over our future to a mindless and mostly inept government."

Harding, by the way, filed her Campaign Registration Statement with the Racine City Clerk's office on Friday, so she is an "official" write-in candidate for mayor.

Cathy Stepp, former State Senator:

"There's no better country than this, where you get up, go to work and pay your own bills."

"We need to send a message to this governor who thinks raising taxes at this time, when we each have less, is the right way to go."

She also took a shot at President Obama for regulating carbon dioxide emissions. "My own breath will be regulated?" she asked.

Pastor David King of Milwaukee:

He started by asking if there were any liberals in the crowd... "The ones that are for taxes. Can you come up and pay mine?"

"Our country is going to Hell in a wastebasket. First we take God out of our government; now our government sucks. Then we take God out of our schools, and our schools suck; they took God out of everything, and after 9/11 they asked, 'Where is God?' "

"Rise up, take your city back. Kick out those liberals," he said.

Also noticed in the crowd were State Rep. Robin Vos, who got a shout-out from Stepp; and two members of the Racine City Council. Greg Helding, one of the eleven mayoral candidates in the primary, said the event "sounds like a Jody for Mayor campaign rally." And Jim Kaplan noted, "This is what makes America so great; in other countries, police would come out with machineguns to shut the thing down."

A peaceful morning for a peace rally

It wasn't a big rally, as anti-war rallies go, but it was ours.

A dozen protesters brought together by the Racine Coalition for Peace and Justice, brought their monthly peace message to Monument Square this morning, marching with home-made protest signs about war in general, health care, Gaza.

The group's usual venue for its monthly Stand for Peace has been the corner of Highway 20 and Route 31, but this month was moved to Monument Square -- for more intimate engagement with the public.

And indeed, people did stop to chat, cars on Main Street slowed down, often honking in support. And the dozen placards were carried around the Square for an hour, beneath the watchful gaze of our Civil War monument, as various conversations took place under sunny -- dare we say peaceful? -- skies.

Oliver leaves Turner campaign

Here's some "insider baseball" from the mayoral campaign trail. Craig Oliver is no longer working for Robert Turner's campaign. Oliver, a local political activist, worked on Turner's campaign in the primary. But now, depending on who you ask, he's left the campaign or was asked to leave the campaign.

Who really knows what this means in the larger picture of the May 5 special election, but it may be a sign Turner is getting serious about the race. Opponent John Dickert has two hired political guns working on his campaign, and Turner has hired a new campaign organizer for the special election.

Let's hope both teams realize the mistake they're making by attending a secret meeting with business leaders on April 20. (Incidentally, Pete questioned my characterization of the meeting as "secret." After all, we reported the meeting is happening, so it can't be that big of a secret. But I stand by the description because organizers are purposely excluding the public. It's almost worse. If they held it in secret, no one would know. But this meeting everyone knows, they just can't attend. They're keeping the content of the forum secret. In other words: "What happens in Sturtevant, stays in Sturtevant.")

It's about time the JT weigh in on this story. Hello, editorial board! We know you don't like to get involved in messy endorsements, but you can certainly stand for campaigning in public. Then again, the JT is a member of RAMAC so they can just attend. Let's hope they plan to send someone - maybe Publisher Rick Parrish or Editor Steve Lovejoy? - and report on what happens. Or perhaps our daily paper should resign from the organization in protest of their secret forum. At the least, Parrish should resign his seat on RAMAC's board.

April 16, 2009

Five apply for three seats on Gateway board

Five candidates have applied for the three Gateway Technical College Board seats up for appointment, including three seeking re-appointment.

Current board members Rebecca Vail (Lake Geneva); Ronald Frederick (Kenosha); and Ronald Jandura (Burlington) are seeking re-appointment. R. Scott Pierce (Kenosha) and Roger Zacharias (Kenosha) are candidates, as well.

Appointments begin July 1 and end June 30, 2012.

Peter L. Hansen, chairperson of the Racine County Board of Supervisors and chairperson of the Appointment Committee for the Gateway Technical College District Board, said the appointment committee will meet at 5 p.m. on April 29 in Room 100 at Gateway’s Burlington Center, 496 McCanna Parkway, Burlington. The committee will hold a public hearing on the nominations, review the plan for representation and begin the appointment process.

One open seat is for an employee; one for an employer and one for a school district administrator -- a district-wide seat. In addition, one member must come from Kenosha County and one from Walworth.

Harding rejoins the mayoral race, as a write-in

UPDATE: Jody Harding made it "official" with a press release at 7:19 p.m. today: she will register as a “write-in” candidate in the mayoral election to be held May 5.

One of eleven candidates for mayor in the primary on April 7 -- she came in 7th with 6.5% of the vote -- Harding says she believes her message "got lost amid the noise of so many, predominantly liberal candidates."

“People were confused,” Harding says. “They were overloaded with information and given almost no time to sift through it. Many voters gave up and just marked the name they recognized, which is how we wound up with Dickert and Turner on the ballot. Politically, there is almost no difference between them, but they are both well known.”

The rest of her statement follows:
Harding believes that, with the primary over, voters will be able to see a clear difference between herself and the remaining candidates. “I am the only contestant,” she says, “who understands the damage over-taxation and over-regulation has done to this city. I am the only one with the qualifications to cut the waste from the budget, fight unnecessary regulation and make this a truly business-friendly town. I am the only one who sees that the KRM cannot possibly bring prosperity to a city where individuals and businesses leave every day because of our violent crime, poor schools and staggering tax burden.

“Finally,” she says, “I am the only candidate who brings a CPA’s skills and unassailable character to a position badly tarnished by ineptitude and scandal.”

Harding claims she is not trying to draw votes from either remaining candidate. “Many people don’t consider either candidate an acceptable choice for mayor. My goal is to give them a better option.”

As a registered write-in candidate, Harding says her supporters don’t even have to spell her name correctly. “The vote-counters will be on the lookout for any variation of ‘Jody Harding’ or just ‘Jody’,” she says. “They’ll know that’s me.”

Harding says she has been inspired to continue the fight by the dedication of taxpayers attending the TEA Parties being held across the country. She attended one of the rallies yesterday in Madison.

“The enthusiasm and conviction of the people at these events is amazing,” she says. “The taxpayers of this country, the backbone of America, aren’t ready to roll over and let Big Government take away our liberty, our prosperity and our children’s future. The silent majority is starting to make itself heard. I’m thrilled to be part of that movement.”

Harding suggests that anyone interested in more information about her stand on issues visit her website. Asked if she really believes a write-in candidate can upset two of the best-known names in Racine, Harding replied, “’Write in! Right on! Right now!’ People voted for Obama in 2008 because they wanted to be part of history. We can make history here in Racine on May 5th.”

Harding is a CPA and a member of the Racine Taxpayers’ Association. She will be speaking at the “Taxpayer Tea’d Off Party” being held Saturday, April 18, at noon at City Hall.
Harding added that if she is not invited to participate in RCEDC's members-only forum Monday at CATI in Sturtevant, then she will be on the steps at Memorial Hall, April 20, at 7:30 am, coffee in hand, and will welcome questions. "Watch the sun come up on Racine! It's time shed light on the office of Mayor!!!" she said.

Original post:

The Journal Times reports this afternoon that Jody Harding has declared herself a write-in candidate for mayor.

Declaring and filing, even as a write-in, are two different things, however. According to Assistant City Clerk Donna Deuster, nobody has yet filed the necessary paperwork, Campaign Registration Statement Form EB-1, to become an official write-in. But there is no deadline, so Harding can still file in plenty of time for the May 5 special election.

Harding, who more than a year ago announced her intention of running against then-mayor Gary Becker, came in 7th out of 11 candidates for mayor in the April 7 primary. She garnered 658 votes, out of 10,127 cast -- or 6.5%.

Since the primary, the blogosphere has been full of suggestions that she, or one of the other so-called conservatives on the non-partisan ballot -- Jaimie Charon or Greg Helding -- mount a write-in campaign to oppose John Dickert, who came in first in the primary, with 2,308 votes, and Bob Turner, who came in second, with 1,673.

Others have wondered whether Harding will be invited to participate in already scheduled candidate forums. Before her write-in candidacy was announced, we asked that question, as a hypothetical, of Kelly Gallaher of Community for Change. No, we were told, since anyone can declare themselves a write-in candidate.

Harding's message during the campaign was one of "cut spending, cut taxes, increase efficiency, do more with less." She is also an opponent of KRM.

Editorial: Candidates must end secret forum

Racine's two mayoral candidates will participate in a secret mayoral forum outside of the city on April 20.

John Dickert and Bob Turner both plan to attend the forum hosted by Racine County Economic Development Council and Racine Area Manufacturers and Commerce at CATI in Sturtevant.

The audience is limited to the first 100 members and board members of RCEDC and RAMAC. There are no plans to make anything discussed at the forum public or to allow media access to the meeting, according to an organizer.

Participating in a closed forum is an endorsement of secrecy and privileged access to a limited few. It's troubling that our candidates, and future mayor, agreed to attend this forum, and that our business leaders set about organizing it. Both apparently think little of public participation in the democratic process.

Holding the forum in CATI is a bizarre twist on the secret forum. Have the candidates and business leaders forgotten we're electing Racine's mayor? Unless they plan to discuss moving CATI to one of Racine's vacant industrial parks, it makes no sense to hold this forum in Sturtevant. Symbolic reasons aside, the location is simply inconvenient for Racine business owners/residents - the ones who can actually vote May 5 - who would like to attend.

The candidates must demand changes to the forum or refuse to participate.

We suggest RCEDC, RAMAC and the candidates move the forum to a public location in the city and open it up to the community. At the very least the organizations should invite the media and post video of the forum online and CAR25.

Business leaders may argue they want to have a "candid" conversation with the candidates. Our response: the public doesn't want honest, straight-forward answers from our next mayor?

Holding secret forums with a select few is no way to run a city and certainly no way to campaign for elected office. The candidates must correct this mistake or risk eroding public confidence in the mayor's office before they're ever elected.

Like any mistake, it's an opportunity to lead. Both candidates should prove their words of open government and open this forum to public review.

No more Bud at InSinkErator! Um, gimme a Corona.

There's an old saying: When corporate executives fight, it's the workers on the shop floor who suffer.

OK, I just made that up -- but it's no less true. For proof, look no farther than InSinkErator, where Anheuser-Busch products have been banned, according to a scorching memo from company parent, Emerson Electric.

Yes, banned! No more Budweiser or Bud Light on the shop floor? How will we survive? There goes quality control. There goes the company picnic!

The corporate memo to all "Division Presidents" is quite specific: "Effective immediately, we will not use Anheuser-Busch products at the Emerson world headquarters complex, Winfield Conference Center, on Emerson planes, or in Emerson suites at Busch Stadium (Cardinals), Scottrade Center (St. Louis Blues and concerts) and Edward Jones Dome (Rams). We want all divisions to comply and not purchase or stock any Anheuser-Busch products..." For emphasis, the memo underlined that last sentence.

What shall we do? Ah, but the corporate execs have thought of that (That's why they get the big bucks.): "We suggest you use Coors, Miller, Modelo (Corona, etc.) or Heineken products," says the memo from R.M. ("Bob") Cox Jr.

For those of you who work at less-enlightened companies -- those without a beer policy, for example -- let's trace this tragic dispute right to its beginning: Brewer Anheuser-Busch has long had a business relationship with Emerson, buying its manufacturing products and paying its bills within 30 days. But last year, InBev -- a Belgian brewer best known here for Beck's beer -- bought Anheuser-Busch for $52 billion ... and started taking 120 days to pay its bills.

And that is what has the Emerson executives up in arms and banning Bud... a freakin' extra 90 days' on receivables! As I said, it's always the shop floor that suffers, while the inhabitants of Emerson's skybox are drinkin' Heineken!

The full story is HERE, the internal memo from Emerson is HERE and the response from the president of Anheuser-Busch is HERE.

No word yet whether InSinkErator is taking this as seriously as the top execs at corporate ... but I'd be careful about the beverage in your lunch bucket until this blows over.

(Postscript: For what it's worth, Emerson's stock is up almost 2% today on the news.)

April 15, 2009

Photo winners picked by Racine Camera Club

Rust on the Root River, by Jason Madson

The third photo competition this year for Racine Camera Club members, awarded top prizes in the digital category to Rigo Alcala for "Winter Day" and Jason Madson for "Rust on the Root River."

Earning awards in the print category were Jim Charnon for "The Heart of the Matter" and Taylor Mackey for "Teton Scene."

Honorable mention winners for digital photos were Pam DeGrace for "A December Dinner Hour in Phoenix" and "Minus 15 Frosted Whiskers In Heber, Utah"; Kathy Brand for "Sunstruck Day Lily"; and Nancy Burke for "Showing Off."

Honorable mentions for prints were given to Taylor Mackey for "Castle Valley, Utah" and Liz Gengozian for "Fall Mist."

The April competition was judged by Jim Georgeson, Ron Doerring and Marc Wollman.

The public is invited to the club's photographic exhibit, "Racine Camera Club's Point of View," beginning April 18 at the Racine Arts Council, 316 Sixth St. A reception will be held on Gallery Night, April 18, from 5 to 9 p.m.

The next RCC meeting will be on Thursday, May 14, at 7 p.m. at 316 Sixth St. For information, call 681-3219.

Jim Charnon's The Heart of the Matter

Kathy Brand's Sunstruck Day Lily

Pam DeGrace's December Dinner Hour in Phoenix

Showing Off, by Nancy Burke

Winter Day, by Rigo Alcala

Three mayoral forums confirmed

The mayoral forum situation continues to change. We've just received word (below) that Leadership Racine Alumni Association and Young Professionals of Racine have cancelled their previously scheduled mayoral forum, and will partner with Community for Change at that organization's forum, April 23, 6:30 p.m., at Gateway Technical College.

Furthermore, that "forum" is now being called a "debate." As in, "Let's get ready to rumble."

At the same time, we heard this morning from Bob Turner's office that he has agreed to participate in two other forums, one at CATI with RCEDC/RAMAC (April 20; the meeting begins at 7:30 a.m. with the forum scheduled for 8 a.m.; space is limited to 100 RCEDC members) and the other at the Veterans' Center (April 27 at 6 p.m., at 820 Main St.). We have asked John Dickert's organization for confirmation that he plans to be at those as well... UPDATE: Dickert has confirmed his appearance at both.

Here's the note from Leadership Racine and YPR:
Due to unforeseen circumstances, the Mayoral Forum originally scheduled for April 20 at Memorial Hall will no longer occur. Representatives from Leadership Racine Alumni Association (LRAA) and Young Professionals of Racine (YPR) feel that the best manner to serve the community is to move ahead in a different direction. Both campaigns have been contacted and YPR and LRAA wish them well in their endeavors.

In order to assure that the voices of the organizations are represented and heard, LRAA and YPR will be partnering with the Community for Change forum on Thursday, April 23. We will work together to establish a forum to best inform the Racine community.

Dickert campaign releases campaign message, makes clean campaign commitment

John Dickert's campaign put out a press release announcing its campaign message and making a "clean campaign" commitment to Turner. Here's the release:
John Dickert announced today that his campaign will focus on the central theme of “Top Ten in Ten,” a concept devoted to the notion that Racine has all of the elements in place to become a top ten US city in which to live and work within ten years or less.

“Our city’s lack of family supporting jobs, high crime and poor housing are all problems that can and will be resolved when we as a community set the ambitious long-term goal of Racine as a top ten city in ten years,” said Mr. Dickert, currently a successful Racine-based real estate agent and redevelopment specialist. “It is my feeling that our decisions in the past were based on a culture of ‘band-aid’ approaches to governing without a central, cohesive plan with measurable goals for success.”

John Dickert finished first in the 11-way mayoral primary. Dickert believes this was achieved by focusing on a positive message and stressing the need for a long-term city-wide strategic plan, which serves to direct both the planning efforts of the city department heads as well as focus independent community organizations.

“I’ve spoken with Representative Turner who indicated that he shared my goal for a clean, issues-oriented campaign.” Mr. Dickert continued. “In order for this city to be able to move forward on the positive track to a bright future, it is essential that we set aside the old, tired ways of “politics as usual” and focus on the issues that are critical to our city.”

About John Dickert:
As a community member, John Dickert has worked to make our neighborhoods a better place. As our mayor, John will do the same for the city of Racine.

As a community activist, real estate agent and redevelopment expert, John Dickert worked to clean up Racine’s neighborhoods by converting former drug havens into family homes.

In the private sector, John has brought more than $28,000,000 in new development and dozens of new jobs to the city of Racine.

As a former congressional aide and government relations director, John has extensive and successful history working with agencies in both Madison and Washington DC, which is critical to bringing new resources both public and private into Racine.

Turner confirms he'll resign Assembly seat if elected mayor

We asked Bob Turner's campaign to clarify if or when Turner will leave the Assembly if elected mayor. Here's their response:
If elected, Bob would stay until the budget is finished and then would resign from his Assembly seat. He is committed to being Mayor and understands the time it will take if elected. His knowledge and experiences allow him to lead on day one.
So when will Turner be a full-time mayor? Gov. Jim Doyle signed the state's 2007-09 budget on Oct. 19, 2007. He signed the 2005-07 budget on July 25, 2005.

This year's state budget should finish early because the Democrats control the budget process. So it's likely Turner, if elected, will fill both the mayor's job and his Assembly job for about two months.

Turner's statement is consistent with the statement he made when announcing his run for mayor. On Feb. 22, Turner said:
I am committed to the job of mayor. If the people of Racine choose me to serve as their mayor, I will resign my position in the state assembly as soon as the state budget is passed.

April 14, 2009

Turner has n't yet agreed to attend mayoral forums

UPDATE, 4 p.m.: Settle down! There will be at least two forums, and Bob Turner will participate, along with John Dickert.

Turner campaign coordinator Josh Stephany says final details have been arranged for Community for Change's forum, which will be held, as planned, on Thursday, April 23, from 6:30 to 8:30 at Gateway Technical College. (The timing originally had been announced as 6:30-10:30, but surely that was a placeholder.)

Turner also has agreed to attend YPR's forum, but not at City Hall, so that organization will find another venue. For the moment, the date is still Monday, April 20, but could change if no suitable venue is available.

Original post:

Will there, or won't there, be any mayoral forums before the May 5 election?

That's the question Kelly Gallaher, who put together Community for Change's pre-primary forum, at Gateway Technical College, is asking. She says representatives of Young Professionals of Racine and the Racine Taxpayers Association -- both of which also held pre-primary forums and scheduled mayoral forums -- are also wondering about the status of their scheduled forums.

Everybody is waiting for word from State Rep. Bob Turner, who came in second in the primary on April 7. So far, he has not responded to calls from the forum-sponsoring organizations to confirm whether he will appear. His opponent, John Dickert, who came in first out of the 11 candidates in the primary, has confirmed his appearance.

We spoke this morning to Turner's new campaign coordinator, Joshua Stephany, who joined the campaign just last Friday. Stephany said he's "making all these calls today," and promised us -- and the forum sponsors -- an answer by the end of the day.

Both Community for Change and YPR are said to be considering cancelling their forums if word from Turner doesn't come quickly. YPR's, may be more in jeopardy, since it is scheduled first, on April 20, and its location would be in the City Council Chambers at City Hall, a site Turner twice refused to appear in during the primary campaign, saying political events held at taxpayers' expense would be illegal.

An opinion by City Attorney Robert Weber, issued afterwards, disputed Turner's position.

Community for Change's mayoral forum is scheduled for April 23, at Gateway Technical College. The organization has offered to collaborate with both the Racine Taxpayers and Young Professionals, if all the forums are conflated into one.

Karas endorses Turner for mayor

Let the endorsement race begin.

Former mayoral candidate Pete Karas endorsed Bob Turner for mayor on Tuesday. It's the first of a series of endorsements likely coming from the nine candidates who didn't make the May 5 general election.

Here's the formal statement from the Turner camp:

Bob Turner, candidate for Mayor of Racine, received the formal endorsement today of Pete Karas, former alderman and mayoral candidate.

“Bob is the right candidate for the job,” said Karas. “We need a mayor who is ready on day one, and Bob is the guy. His long-time relationships with the citizens of Racine, as well as with government officials at all levels, will allow him to turn this city around."

Karas, former 9th District Alderman and an outspoken progressive voice in the community, received 9% of the vote in the Mayoral Primary on April 7th.

“It is going to take everyone, regardless of party affiliation, to face the challenges ahead,” Turner stated. “I am honored to have Pete's support as we work together to get Racine back on track.”

In addition to his endorsement, Karas will host the grand opening of the Turner for Mayor campaign's new office space on Thursday, April 16th at 7:00P.M. Karas will be joined by Speaker Mike Sheridan and Sen. John Lehman. For more information, contact 262.939.9255 or visit www.turner4mayor.com.

Bob Turner represents the 61st Assembly District in the Wisconsin State Legislature, where he has served for more than 18 years. Turner also served for nearly three decades on the Racine City Council, as well as numerous local boards and committees. The special election for mayor will be held on May 5th.

April 13, 2009

Feuding departments convince committee to settle $20,000 claim

Two departments fighting over the cause of a sinkhole convinced a committee to settle a claim against the city for $20,000.

The city's water utility and public works department disagree over which is responsible for the collapse. The sinkhole caused a backup in the home at 3019 Chatham St., resulting in $28,500 in damages.

Usually the city would deny the claim and settle the case in court. But this time interim City Administrator Scott Letteney recommended the city settle the case rather than pay for lawyers to defend the water utility and the public works department.

The committee agreed after Letteney said the city would probably end up settling the case anyway. Members voted unanimously to settle the claim.

Committee rejects Sixth Street convenience and liquor store

Michael Choi (left) with the Chuns at Monday's Public Safety and Licensing Committee meeting.

A proposed convenience and liquor store on Sixth Street failed to win support of the City Council’s Public Safety and Licensing Committee.

Caroline Chun and her father applied for a license to sell alcohol in the former Horst Music Store at 420 Sixth St. The store, named Lakeside Pantry, would have been about 75 percent grocery items and 25 percent alcohol.

But the proposal met strong opposition from neighboring business owners. Several spoke Monday night and told the committee they’d support a convenience store, but not one that sells alcohol.

The Chuns tried to placate the opposition by agreeing not to sell single cans of beer, including malt liquor. But the gesture didn’t sway the committee, which voted unanimously against their proposal.

Michael Choi, who owns the restaurants Shogun and Asiana and helped open Olde Madrid, owns the building the Chuns wanted to use for the convenience and liquor store. Choi helped the Chuns addressed the committee, translating questions for them and answering some for them.

Aldermen Terry McCarthy, Aron Wisneski and Jim Kaplan spoke against the liquor store after about 20 minutes of questions about the business plan. The aldermen each said they felt the store selling alcohol on Sixth Street jeopardized an area that the city has worked hard to clean up in recent years.

“I am concerned this would create a lot of foot traffic in what is one of the major thoroughfares in and out of Downtown,” Wisneski said.

Kaplan said he supported 75 percent of the plan, but not the 25 percent involving alcohol. He added he couldn’t support the plan “knowing the history of Sixth Street.”

McCarthy said he was happy with the Chuns’ answers to the committee’s questions, but had to listen to the business owners’ concerns.

“I just have a hard time supporting a full liquor license in this area,” he said.

Janelle Grammer now on 'administrative leave'

Here's a fraction of a story, the gist of which came to us after City Hall closed for the day.

The notification, from Scott Letteney, Deputy City Attorney (and -- we didn't know this! -- "Interim City Administrator") says only:
Effective April 13, 2009, City of Racine Public Health Administrator Janelle Grammer is on an administrative leave. Because this is a pending personnel matter, the City cannot further comment.
Grammer, you'll recall, the city's Health Director since 2005, hasn't been at work, as far as we know, since some time early in December 2008. Originally, she was due back at work Dec. 22, but soon after what we've heard was a negative personnel review (based partly on a two-week unexplained absence in September), she filed for a Family and Medical Leave, and her return to work had been successively postponed, from Jan. 22, to Feb. 17, to some time in March.

In the middle of all that, of course, came the city's loss of a $60,000 United Way grant aimed at assisting at-risk families with children under the age of five, administered by the City Health Department under Grammer; problems with a program aimed at fighting infant mortality, supported by a $500,000 state grant; and her FMLA discrimination complaint against City Administrator-at-the-time Ben Hughes. Hughes resigned in mid-February, and Grammer's complaint was dismissed by the state Equal Rights Division in March.

So now Grammer's FMLA leave is an "administrative leave." Hopefully, we'll learn shortly how that changes things. In the meantime, we assume that Marcia Fernholz is continuing to fill in ably as the city's interim public health administrator.

UPDATE: The Journal Times reported late Monday that Grammer was told the leave is "involuntary" and will last until May 4, during which time she'll remain on the payroll.

If you want more history, click HERE to search our archive on the matter.