April 25, 2009

Art in an hour: Arts Council fund-raiser

Tom Ward and his detailed drawing of a hawk

OK, it wasn't Michelangelo -- but he took four years to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

Instead, this was Quick Draw, a fund-raiser for the Racine Arts Council, in which a dozen artists created art on a smaller scale in just one hour. Art which then was auctioned off to contented art lovers who'd spent the evening watching, interacting with the artists and, not incidentally, sampling wines, beers and hors d'oeuvres Saturday night at Uncorkt!

We're hoping to get the results soon, but in the meantime, here's a look at some of the work the talented artists were painting, sewing, drawing and creating.

Postscript: The top three voice auction items came from different media: a drawing by Jerry Belland, shown below; Toby Prioletta's sterling silver swizzle stick/martini pix, shown in progress below; and Amanda Paffrath's blown blown glass -- which was still cooling at her furnace when auctioned off. Auctioneer was Ron Halverson of the Racine Theater Guild, who led spirited bidding. Top auction items sold for between $80 and $100 each -- can you spell b-a-r-g-a-i-n? Attendance was well over 100. The event drew rave reviews, and organizer Denise McKee has already been asked about next year's party...

Toby Prioletta works on a sterling swizzle stick

Robert Andersen fills in some early details on a tree

Ellen Deering sews a flower on a ladies purse

Anthony Weber finishes his creation

Jerry Belland puts finishing touches on his cautionary tale

Jane Cascio works on her painting

Attention gardeners: 'Wild Ones' promotes native plants,

Wild Ones is a wonderful group in town that promotes native plants and helps people connect with our natural areas. Below is a description of the organization in its own words. Be sure to check out their plant sale on June 6!
The Root River Chapter of Wild Ones will hold its fifth annual native plant sale on June 6, 2009 at the Kenosha County Center at Highways 50 and 45 from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM. This will be southeastern Wisconsin’s largest native plant sale.

We have nearly 5,000 native trees, shrubs, woodland, prairie and rain garden species available for purchase. Chapter members will be on hand at the sale to provide expert advice and suggestions as to plant selection and planting requirements.

Wild Ones, a not-for-profit environmental education and advocacy organization, was established in 1979 and has over 50 chapters in 12 states.

Wild Ones promotes the establishment of native plant communities around homes and businesses, using ecologically sound practices. Through preservation and restoration of our natural areas, we are dedicated to the conservation of biodiversity.

Our Seeds for Education Fund provides grants for educational projects using native plants. In addition, we present talks at conferences and chapter meetings and provide a number of publications.

Our newest Ecoscaper Certification Program provides members an opportunity for self education about native landscaping and a chance to apply that knowledge as an advocate for native plants and native landscaping in their neighborhood and community.

The No Child Left Inside Act of 2007 advocates more environmental education for children and seeks to reconnect children with nature through outdoor learning experiences.

Our local service projects include on-going sponsorship of the Janes School Wildflower Garden, invasive plant removal and stewardship of local parks and nature centers, and native plant donations for establishment and restoration of local natural areas.

The Root River Chapter includes members from all areas of southeastern Wisconsin, mainly from Racine and Kenosha counties and welcomes new members at any time.

Additional information can be found at the Wild Ones website, www.for-wild.org. or by contacting Root River Chapter President, Nan Calvert at 262-681-4899 or Vice President Sue Borger at 262-552-8598.

1st District Dems holding annual convention here

Democrats of the 1st Congressional District will hold their annual convention in Racine, on Saturday, May 2 at Infusino's. Registration begins at 9 a.m.

Top item on the agenda: Picking a new chairman, to replace Ray Rivera of Kenosha, who has held the post for the past four years and has said he is not seeking re-election. (At other times he has said he will run again, so that point is somewhat up in the air.)

Running for the post are two men:
  • David Corey of Burlington, a retired Chrysler legislative committee chair for Local 72. He was campaign manager last fall for Larry Zamba, who ran unsuccessfully for the 66th Assembly District.
  • Mark Pienkos of Walworth County, a school principal who was county chair for seven months before moving to Florida... from which he has returned.
The convention is open to the public, but only delegates can vote. To be a delegate, you must be a paid party member and have signed up with your county chairperson.

Number one issue for the 1st CD Democrats: How to beat Paul Ryan, the Republican congressman who has soundly won the seat in each of the past six election cycles. The candidates for chair were asked a series of questions about the race. Here's an excerpt from each of their answers:

Corey: "As the 1st CD chair, I would ask that we become more aggressive with letter writing campaigns, attend 'listening sessions' held by Paul Ryan, organize protest marches on things like the Employee Free Choice Act and CEO stock options, bonuses and salaries." In looking for a candidate to run against Ryan, Corey wants: "First and foremost is any prior political office they have held. Second, the ability to raise money. Third, a firm grasp of the issues facing our country and Ryan's voting record. Fourth, have a thick skin and have the ability to debate Paul Ryan on an open mike."

Pienkos: "We need to field a candidate who is energetic, positive, has fresh ideas and is able to articulate ideas well. What we have had over the past several elections are people who are idealistic, yet have had little or no political experience at the grassroots level... These are good people, but, they don’t know how to run a congressional district race... We must shake off the past five disastrous elections when we paid lip service to the congressional race. We must begin to truly believe we can win the seat." He offered a five-part strategy that included getting distict Dems more tech savvy, and publicizing Ryan's positions on such issues as privatizing Social Security.

Kay has given us a link to the candidates' full responses.

April 24, 2009

Middle school girls take 'Action for Animals'

By Marie Block

Girls continue to amaze me. When a group of girls at Gilmore Middle School's Girls Inc. were asked what they would like to do for the community action segment of their leadership group, Girls in Action, they said they wanted to help animals. Then a group of girls at Jerstad-Agerholm Middle School were asked the same question. They responded that they want to do something about animals that are abused and neglected. Neither group had any knowledge of the other school's idea, yet they all expressed empathy for creatures unable to defend themselves.

Out of the girls' concern and compassion for creatures smaller than they, an event began to take shape. Action for Animals fair. Girls from both Gilmore and Jerstad have been working diligently all semester to raise donations for a raffle, organize activities, and spread the word about their mission to keep animals safe and healthy. Read below for info about Action for Animals and a story written by one of the key organizers of the fair.

Action for Animals
presented by Girls in Action
of Girls Inc. at the YWCA

Saturday, May 2nd
1-3 p.m.
Chavez Community Center
2221 Douglas Avenue, Racine
Face painting, games, raffle, and more!
Pets welcome!
(Just clean up after them please!)

By Mackenzie
Gilmore Middle School
Grade 6

Girls in Action is a new middle school program this semester for Girls Inc. Girls in Action is about understanding leadership and community service. Girls in Action created “Action for Animals”, which is about helping abused and neglected animals. Girls Inc. is always willing to help animals and our community.

“Action for Animals” is important to us because animals are being hurt. It’s also important because neglected and abused animals should be helped. Other people should help too because how would you feel if you were being abused and couldn’t do anything about it.

You can help too. If you find any abused animals, report it. Every little bit counts. You can also help by donating money for our program to help the animals.

We are having a fair on Saturday, May 2 at the Chavez Community Center, 2221 Douglas Avenue, from 1-3 pm. We will have games, a raffle, face painting, crafts, and a photobooth. Any profits will go to local animal shelters.

Thank you for
your support!

Cold Case: Police ask for help finding missing man

Real life isn't like TV, where the cops almost always get their man before the hour is up.

Racine police re-sent today the appeal for information they made more than a year ago, about a Racine man missing since March 26, 2008. Dale Jensen, 51, was dropped off at an AA meeting by his father, Russ -- and hasn't been seen since.

Dale is about 5'10" and weighs 160 lbs.; he has brown hair and blue eyes. According to Dale's sister Dawn, his legal guardian, he suffered extremely serious injuries in a motorcycle accident 20 years ago and "hasn't been the same since."

Dale got around by bicycle, but his bike was left at home, and he easily gets disoriented. There have been unconfirmed sightings in the Door County and Chicago areas, and hospitals have been contacted, with no results.

Police are asking anyone with information to call the Racine Police Department Investigations Unit at 635-7756 or Crimestoppers at 636-9330 or to test to CRIMES (274637) and referring to Tipsoft I.D.# TIP417 with your text message.

Racine artist's sculpture adorns Mason's office

State Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, today unveiled an impressive piece of metal ribbon art made by a Racine-area artist and hung in his office at the State Capitol.

The piece, entitled "American Glory," is an original design by Deborah Isaacson, commissioned by Mason and displayed in his Assembly office, Room 321 Est.

“It’s truly an honor to have Racine artwork showcased at the State Capitol,” Rep. Mason said, “This piece of art is a direct reflection of the talent, creativity and American spirit of the people who reside in the 62nd Assembly District.”

Isaacson, shown here with Mason and the sculpture, runs her custom workshop, Metal Ribbon Art, out of her home in Sturtevant. Her artwork is also displayed at the Artists’ Gallery on Main Street. She will also participate in the “Monuments around Racine” festival on June 13 and 14. More information about her artwork is on her website.

P.S. Mason assures us that no taxpayer money went toward the commission of the artwork.

Unraveling the charge of push polls

Last night's mayoral forum started with a bang.

John Dickert accused Bob Turner's campaign of spreading lies with robo-calls about the campaign. Dickert asked Turner to stop the "push polls." Turner said he didn't know about the calls and asked the campaign to stop them, if they're happening.

But let's unravel this a bit.

1. Turner's campaign didn't make the calls. The Greater Wisconsin Committee is running the robo-calls.

2. We haven't heard the calls, but there are suggestions that both candidates are hit during the call. We'll withold judgment until someone comes forward with a transcript or recording.

3. Here's the key, though. Even if the ads favor Turner, he can't stop them. A political campaign is not allowed to coordinate activities with a private group. That includes ordering a group to stop running ads.

4. This is why push polls are effective. Candidates can distance themselves from the tactic but still benefit from the message. That's politics today. Third-party groups can do whatever they want, and neither candidate can stop them.

5. So what's to make about the "push poll" accusations? Dickert attacking Turner at the forum Thursday night bordered on unfair. Dickert knows the rules, and he knows Turner can't work with the Greater Wisconsin Committee to start or stop the ads (that's against election rules). So calling on him to stop the ads is like asking Turner to stop commenters on RacinePost from attacking him. Turner can't control the ads.

6. I say "bordered on unfair," though, because it's hard to believe Turner or Dickert have no control over negative ads. If either was adament, they could stop a third-party group with public statements alone.

7. Regardless, it's just the latest chapter in the Turner-Dickert feud. Many will recall in 2002 it was Turner's campaign accusing Dickert of push polls.

8. So what does any of this have to do with the mayor's race? Hopefully nothing. But it could be the start of things getting a whole lot uglier ...

Note: We have a call to the Greater Wisconsin Committee to ask about the phone calls. If anyone has received a call, post what was said in the comments. If anyone happens to record the call, send it over!

April 23, 2009

Happy Birthday, Shakespeare

What's in a name? by Diana Ferrell
“A dish fit for the Gods.”
-- From Julius Caesar, by William Shakespeare
A hearty crowd turned out Thursday to celebrate William Shakespeare's 445th birthday with the Racine Literacy Council.

Among the festivities was an Edible Book contest in which participants were asked to create a Shakespeare-themed cake. The cakes were then auctioned off to raise money for the RLC’s adult tutoring programs. Winners were:

  • Most Creative: “Double, double, toil and trouble” from Scott Lema, The Confectioneer
  • Best Representation of Theme: “What’s in a Name?” from Diana Ferrell, Larsen’s Bakery
  • Best of Show: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Ashley Olesen, O&H Bakery, at right
Kay Gregor, executive director of the RLC said, “This has been a lot of fun. What better way to celebrate a 445th birthday? We also wanted to use today to bring attention to the work that the Racine Literacy Council is doing in this community. We are fortunate to be able to read Shakespeare’s beautiful words, but one in five adults in this country do not have the basic literacy skills needed to fill out a job application or read to their children. We’re trying to change that.”

The party raised money for the RLC and for the Shakespeare Urban Garden project, planned for Lake Avenue between 7th & 8th Streets. It also started the sign-up for Summer Read, the RLC’s annual read-a-thon in which participants read a number of books to gain pledges. Summer Read takes place over three months, from June 8 – September 8, and is open to all ages. The RLC is looking for people to take part. Call the RLC at 262-632-9495 or check their website for more information.

Double, double, toil and trouble, by Scott Lema

Live-Blog of Mayoral Debate

John Dickert and Bob Turner stayed on different sides of the issues, too

Mayoral candidates Bob Turner and John Dickert drew clear differences between each other Thursday night during a contentious forum at Gateway Technical College.

Turner defined himself as the experienced candidate with strong connections to the state Legislature. Dickert countered Turner's experience by saying he was the candidate for change.

The two opened the forum with sharp blows over campaign tactics. Dickert accused Turner's campaign of spreading lies through phone calls. Turner said he was unaware that any negative campaigning was taking place and asked his campaign to stop.

On the issues, Dickert repeatedly referred to himself as the "aggressive" candidate who would fight for jobs. Turner tried to paint Dickert as naive, saying Racine faces the same problems as every other city in the country and city officials haven't done a bad job along the way.

On the issues, debate over the need for a city administrator summed up the differences between the candidates. Turner stood by his opposition to hiring a city administrator, saying he had the experience to run City Hall. Dickert said a city administrator was needed so the mayor could be freed of day-to-day activities and work on big picture issues.

The debate, organized by Community for Change and the Young Professionals of Racine, drew about 150 people. It was also webcast. Organizers estimate 400 people watched the debate online.

The special election to choose Racine's next mayor is May 5.

Here are our notes from the debate:

We're here in the Great Lakes Room at Gateway Technical College, it's 6:30 -- and Bob Turner is running "a few minutes late." When he arrives... the debate will begin. There are about 150 people here.

6:35 Bob Turner has arrived from Madison; and both he and John Dickert are in the house...

6:40 But first, a short film made during the primary... which starts with a few words from all the candidates who started this campaign some two months ago. Has it really only been that long? Mayor Gary Becker resigned in January, if I remember correctly... yup, on Jan. 20.

6:45 Kelly Gallaher of Community for Change welcomes the audience... the room is not nearly as full as it was during the primary. Moderators will be Ryan Gleason, Lesia Hill Driver and Bonnie Prochaska. Questions will come from the moderators in the first half, then from the audience in the second.

6:50 Opening statements.

John Dickert used his hands to make his points...

John Dickert: First, you have to understand the respect I have for Bob Turner... but wants to clear up "blatant lies" coming in phone calls from Madison... sponsored by two special interest groups supporting Turner have got to stop. "They're lying to our people. Got to get the garbage out of the road...my mother got one of these calls."

We have to talk about the issues of unemployment and crime. Bob, please, call these people and ask them to stop this.

Bob Turner: Ignores Dickert's question... I've been in office 32 years... you do it because you have a love for the community. This is my first time hearing about this. It would have been nice for you to call me first.

I'm running not against John Dickert, but because I want to be mayor of Racine. It's not coming from my committee...but if anyone from my committee is doing this, stop it. (Dickert says thanks.)

6:55 First question: Gleason, to Dickert
Many people believe you are virtually identical on the issues. Name ways you're different.

Dickert: The aggressiveness of the position. Next mayor must talk not only to companies, but also to the people here. We've got a great pool of employees losing their jobs daily...I meet two people a day who've lost they're jobs. People are hurting, and hurting badly. It's time to stop talking about jobs and do it aggressively.

Turner: The city doesn't need an administrator because I have the experience to run the city.

Dickert rebut: This is the stark difference. We've had a 20-year decline in manufacturing. If you want day-to-day operations, that's fine, but we know what that's gotten us here. When you're at 16 percent and rising unemployment, the mayor can't sit there.

Turner: We have a lot of tools in place. What's wrong with having these people in Madison and Washington coming to Racine? If I go to Washington, I'm just another body. Besides, only ex-legislators have access to the floor in Madison, so I have access Dickert doesn't have.

...and so did Bob Turner

Q: Turner, when would you leave the job in Madison?

Turner: I'll leave the Assembly after the budget is passed. The mayor will not take office until the third week in May, and the state budget will be passed in June. I'll be in Racine until I have to go to Madison to take a vote.

Dickert: After election on May 5, I'll get a team together on May 6. The fact is, the mayor has to be there on Day one, running, on May 20. The budget doesn't always end on June 1. It's gone until September and October.

Question: Dickert, what are the specifics of your 10-year plan?

Dickert: If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there. I'll get groups together to focus on the areas where we have the largest problems. I'll call it The Riverview area (instead of "Census Tracts 1-5.") I said Top 10 because if I said Top 250 nobody would be excited about it.

Q: Will you privatize the community centers?

Dickert: That's the first time the word "privatize" has been used. I never said I would privatize the centers. What we want is a public-private partnership in those community centers. People don't feel safe going into their own community centers. I want to bring the public into them, and tell me what's working, what's not working, do we need to be cleaned up, modernized. I can't do all this alone. We need to be sure we're getting the best value for your dollars.

Turner: I've been involved with the community centers for more than 20 years. We can work with the county and other communities to build safe community centers.

Question: Dickert, how does your plan work with other plans?

Dickert: There is no comprehensive, long-term plan. Just neighborhood plans. We don't have a comprehensive plan; the Workforce Development Plan is a good one ... but doesn't go far enough. We need to work with the city and the county to make it better.

Turner: You're never going to have a mayor who has all the answers. You want a mayor who will sit down and hear your plans. I want to take citizen input to make this city great; I will be that kind of mayor.

Q: Dickert, define a Top 10 city.

Dickert: Quality of life, education, job force. They look at various criteria. They work off of something... a plan, or leadership. Cities don't make this by saying we want this... they're rated. Last time city was rated we were 283 of cities our size. Business ask: What's your long-range plan, infrastructure, crime, education?

Turner: I'd be appalled if we don't have a long-range plan. Want to talk about city administrator: Madison doesn't have one, Green Bay doesn't have one... (and named other cities). Reason Antaramian goes to Madison is he's a former legislator.

Question: Provide examples of what you've done.

Turner: I bring more experience than any mayor in Racine history. Other mayors, one thing they had in common, willing to listen. I was a sergeant in Army for four years; had top military clearance.

Dickert: With all due respect, Bob has a lot of experience. But we need leadership. Racine has consistently been one of the worst-rated cities for crime and jobs in Wisconsin. When we saw problems around St. Cat's, me and Uncle Jim went in and rehabbed houses... ditto on Sixth Street. It's not about what we talk about, it's what we do.

Follow-up to Turner: What are the specifics of your experience?

Turner: I have been a part of all decision making in Racine for past 28 years....finance chairman, lakefront development, when St. Mary's was moved, most all improvement downtown started years ago. I've been a part of every decision made in Racine over the past 28 years, the good and the bad. I can't be any clearer.

Is limit of 60 Class A liquor licenses good for business?

Turner: It's important we don't allow too many liquor licenses in one area, but without knowing all the details I'd have to look at it.

Dickert: Not sure about putting a strict number on licenses.

Question: Turner, why is it important to have access to the Assembly floor?

Turner: Only reason a mayor would go to Madison is if he has a budget concern. Why would a mayor go? You have three legislators... they can go on the floor, talk to other legislators and talk about the concern you have. In my time in Madison, I only received about two calls from the mayor.

Dickert: Proactive vs. reactive.... by the time it gets to the floor, most of the work is already done. If you know how to work the process, that's how things get done. My experience, I do know the process and I do know the players.


How will the candidates work out the KRM funding issue?

Turner: I support KRM 100%. I've been involved in the issue for 30 years. When they get it started, I hope they call it the "Turner KRM." (Audience chuckles.) Anyone spending on KRM needs to come from the county of the whole, not just the citizens east of I-94. Turner says he won't support any taxing that just affects the city of Racine.

Dickert: I've worked on KRM since 1993 with Peter Barca. My uncle and I had $40 million in development lined up around the KRM station two years ago, but the Legislature failed to pass it. That cost the city $880,000 per year. You need to think long term on KRM: Yeah, it may take a tax, but the benefits outweigh the tax.

Follow up question about Sen. John Lehman's stance against a sales tax to pay for KRM.

Turner: Lehman's district stretches out into Racine County and he has to think about all of his constituents. If people want it, they have to pressure Lehman to support it.

Dickert: Mayor has to lead on the issues and work out the problems. Dickert says he constantly argues with State Rep. Robin Vos on KRM, even though Vos opposes the plan. "You have to fight for your city," Dickert said.

Observation: Turner stood with his hands at his side while Dickert answered questions, a relaxed look. Dickert looked a little more wired, at times taking notes.

Dickert repeatedly said he respected Turner and credited his experience. Turner did the like to Dickert, but it was that kind of night. These two were in a street fight, so platitudes may not have been called for.

At the end, they managed a quick -- very quick -- handshake

1,500 job cuts, 'right-sizing' coming to CNH

Today, the other shoe dropped at CNH.

For the past few weeks, the news has all been about its parent, Fiat, which was said to be trying to buy Chrysler. Today, that changed. Fiat reported 1st Qtr losses of $536 million and its subsidiary, CNH, reported its own losses, of $126 million.

And the news switched to talk about whether Fiat would have to sell its "jewel" -- yes, that's CNH -- to whether it can buy Chrysler at all. Or whether it would try to buy some of Opel from GM.

And, closer to home, to talk about job cuts at CNH.

Early this morning, an article from Agence France Press said Fiat planned 4,600 job cuts at CNH. This afternoon, that number was changed to 1,500 job cuts. The change was explained this way: A spokesman said Fiat is planning to cut between 10 and 15 percent of CNH's "administrative" jobs; the earlier number came when another spokesman "said earlier that the percentage applied to a total of 31,500 jobs."

The CNH earnings notice contained numerous references to cutbacks, personnel reductions and right-sizing. As in:
  • "$250 million to be invested in reorganization."
  • "CNH also announced that it will invest approximately $250 million over the next 12 months to reduce costs and improve operating efficiency. "
  • "The magnitude and speed of industry declines leads us to believe that such actions are not sufficient. Accordingly, we are today announcing a $250 million global industrial consolidation and reorganization plan to further adjust cost and operating levels," said Harold Boyanovsky, CNH president and chief executive officer.
  • "To right-size CNH's structure ... these plans include further personnel reductions, cost reduction initiatives, re-organizations, and/or restructurings."
You get the picture. An unconfirmed source tells us that buyouts -- one year's pay -- are being offered to workers with 30 years' tenure at the company who are 55 and older. (Note: Commenter below says the buyout is being offered to employees age 55 with just 10 years continuous service.)

Property Transfers: Union Grove manufacturing building sells for $2.8 million

In the largest real estate transaction of the month, a manufacturing building at 1560 15th Ave. in Union Grove sold for $2.8 million. The factory is the former home of Bardon Products Rubber Co. It's now home to Absolute Distributors Inc.

A storage business at 1630 Wisconsin St., listed as Badger Self Storage, in Sturtevant sold for $1.6 million.

And, the Napa Auto Parts store at 4201 Durand Ave. in Racine old for $835,000.

Here's the property transfers for April 6-9.

April 22, 2009

Missy: A cat with extra toes and special powers

OK, after finding homes for a litter of 10 puppies, Countryside Humane Society now has something for the rest of you: How about a kitty with special powers?

Up for adoption is a sweet, playful 2 1/2-year-old cat named Missy. She is gray with faint tiger stripes. But wait, there's more!

There is something really cool about her, we're told: She is Polydactyl. Oftentimes called a Hemingway cat, Missy has extra toes on every foot!

Polydactyl are believed to be more intelligent than the average cat. Ship captains used them on their boats as they believed them to be more balanced on board and the best at catching vermin. Maggie Skovera of Countryside says, "My grandmother, a dairy farmer, always called their extra toes 'mousing toes' and also believed them to be the best at catching vermin and smarter than the average cat."

Hopefully, whoever adopts Missy will let us know -- in six months or so -- whether all this is true!

To check out Missy, and to count her toes yourself, visit the Countryside Humane Society at 2706 Chicory Road, or call (262) 554-6699.

Rotary scholarships going begging?

We hear that the Racine Founders Rotary Club is having a problem: The club gives away five scholarships to graduating high school seniors -- a total of about $8,000 -- but this year has had very few applicants.

The annual awards are made to seniors who show academic improvement and a positive attitude toward education over the course of their high school years, and who plan to attend Southeast Wisconsin Colleges and Universities. There is no grade point requirement; in fact, preference is given to those not in the top 10% of their graduating class.

Recipients of the Rotary Strive Scholarships receive checks mailed directly to their college for tuition; the second payment is credited on condition that the student earned passing grades during the fall 2009 semester.

High school students who are interested should contact their counselor for additional information or contact Ahmad K. Qawi, Racine Founders Club Rotary Vocational Director at 262-619-1001 for a copy of the application.

The Strive Scholarship Fund was established by Attorney John Barry Stutt.

Mozol proposes three-year terms for City Council members

A few notes from the City Council meeting:

* Alderman Robert Mozol wants the City Council to consider extending aldermanic terms from two years to three years. The proposal was referred to the city's Committee of the Whole, which is the entire City Council meeting as a committee.

* Mayor Tom Friedel wants to adjust staffing at the city's CAR25 TV station. He wants to switch from three part-time employees to one full-time employee and one part-time employee.

* The Council voted to send a collective bargaining agreement with Local 430, AFL-CIO, Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, back to the Personnel and Finance Committee. The proposed agreement runs from Jan. 1, 2009 to Dec. 31, 2010. The Personnel and Finance Committee had voted in favor of the agreement at its April 13 meeting.


April 21, 2009

Can a state loan help end Miller Park tax earlier?

Maybe so, but we have our doubts. The end date of this onerous tax imposed on Racine to pay for Milwaukee's baseball stadium just keeps moving into the future. Nonetheless, the possibility of it ending sooner rather than later was raised today by State Sen. John Lehman. His office sent out the following statement, about an amendment adopted by the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee, on which both he and Rep. Cory Mason serve:
A motion authored by State Sen. John Lehman and Rep. Cory Mason, both D-Racine, that could help lower the cost of paying off the Miller Park baseball stadium was adopted by a 13-2 vote of the Joint Finance Committee today. Lehman’s amendment would allow the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands (BCPL) to make a low-interest loan to the Miller Park Stadium District, helping retire the debt and more quickly and end the 0.1% sales tax levied in Racine, Milwaukee, Waukesha, Washington and Ozaukee Counties to fund the project.

Lehman noted, “The national recession has led to a slowing of sales tax collections. Consequently, the Miller Park debt is being paid off more slowly and that could mean the sales tax may not expire as originally projected. My amendment will help provide some savings and retire the debt as quickly as possible.”

Under current law the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands manages a program that provides low-interest loans to municipalities. The interest repaid on the loans is then used to help fund public school libraries. It is estimated that the BCPL currently has approximately $70 million to loan.

By adding the Miller Park Stadium District to the list of entities eligible to receive BCPL loans the district could – if the interest rate offered by the BCPL were lower than rate currently paid by the stadium district – refinance a portion of the debt. The reduced debt repayment costs could result in the entire debt being paid off more quickly and the sales tax being discontinued.
Lehman concluded, “This amendment isn’t going to pay off Miller Park tomorrow but it could help offset the slowdown in tax collections and end the tax more quickly. That’s a win, win, win situation – the stadium district borrows at a better rate, school libraries benefit from the interest paid on the loan and taxpayers in Racine and the other four counties could see the sales tax end more quickly that it would have otherwise.”

No check, but governor brings bus money anyway

Mayor Friedel, Gov. Doyle and County Exec. McReynolds

Gov. Jim Doyle came to town Tuesday afternoon to deliver more than $2 million to the city for new buses -- but as a photo op the event was a big letdown.

Oh, everybody was there at the historic State Street train station, which now serves only city buses. Mayor Tom Friedel was there; County Executive Bill McReynolds; City Council members Jim Spangenberg, Ray DeHahn and Jim Kaplan. Mayoral candidate John Dickert, RUSD Superintendent Jim Shaw, Police Chief Kurt Wahlen...

But there was no check!

Not even one of those big, fake checks used at all the best here's-your-stimulus-money photo ops. Oh, there was an easel set up for it -- but that was quickly taken down as the governor arrived.


Not to worry, said Friedel. "Wire transfer."

Well, OK, then let the party begin!

Doyle was welcomed first by Curtis Garner, executive director of the Belle Urban System, who noted that the money "doesn't solve all our long-term needs, but we've been on kind of a starvation diet for the past eight years under the Bush Administration."

But buses were far from all that was on the minds of local officials. Mayor Friedel made that clear as he welcomed the governor, thanking him for "the dedicated funding source you included in your budget" for a Regional Transit Authority. "I can't wait for the day we can get on a high speed train in Milwaukee. All we need is the opportunity for Racine to join the regional job market."

While the money Doyle brought today will buy buses, Doyle, too, was looking beyond local transit. "The stimulus act is a real opportunity to improve life in our state, for years and years to come," Doyle said. "It is very important that people are able to move around and get to work, and to move from one city to the next..." But he did also say, "This is not all about rail; the bus system will be the heart."

The money Doyle -- part of $34.5 million in funding given the state from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act -- will go to:
  • Four hybrid buses ($1.04 million). Doyle said these four buses will save the city about 20,000 gallons of diesel fuel per year.
  • Three clean-diesel buses (($1.08 million). These will replace older buses and are 40% cleaner than older diesel technology.
  • Magnetic swipe card system ($185,000). This will allow passengers to pay using credit or debit cards. Doyle also said it would tell drivers whether students using the card were allowed to be out of school, say for work-study programs.
But Doyle spoke with most enthusiasm about the half-cent sales tax proposal in his state budget -- now going through the legislative process -- that would fund a Regional Transit Authority. "We will finally enter the modern era," he said.

While most define regional transit as KRM commuter rail, an RTA should also provide better local transportation, as Mayor Friedel sees things. He noted that the BUS is a Racine construct: paid for with Racine tax dollars, and therefore meant to serve only the city. But with a Regional Transit Authority "we can wipe the slate clean," he told me. "We can start with some big spokes" -- out to the movie theatres in Sturtevant, say, or to I-94. "Now we have a city system; under an RTA we can have a regional one."

P.S. For what it's worth, the governor's black Suburban limo also stopped in Kenosha today, and dropped off more of those federal greenbacks. Kenosha got:
  • Five new 35-foot replacement buses ($1,800,000).
  • Security cameras in buses ($143,500)
  • Plow truck, snow removal equipment and roof snow guards. ($229,000)
  • Radio tower and repeater, to enhance communication between buses and the station. ($125,000)

Dickert no longer agent on Tingles' house

Mayoral Candidate John Dickert is no longer the real estate agent selling the home owned by Sandra and Frank Tingle, the couple suing the city over allegations of sexual harassment.

Dickert, a Realtor with First Weber, was listed as the agent for the Tingles' home at 1740 Park Ave. But his campaign said Tuesday real estate agent Erin Manders is now the agent on the home.

It's a smart move by Dickert, and likely one of several instances where he'll have to hand over real estate listings if he's elected mayor. He estimates he sold over $5 million each year for the last two years. Dickert has said he'll leave behind all of his real estate dealings if elected mayor.

The Tingles are interesting because Sandra filed a complaint against the city alleging former City Administrator Ben Hughes sexually harassed her. The state threw out the complaint, but Tingle can appeal the ruling until May 2010.

April 20, 2009

UW-Parkside tries again to pick a new chancellor

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

And so it is at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, where the second crop of chancellor finalists was named today, to replace Jack Keating who retired last August after leading the campus for 10 years.

UW-P watchers may recall -- Parkside's announcement doesn't mention it at all -- that the previous search concluded last June camethisclose to installing a new chancellor just one week before a federal criminal probe sent the university's choice packing. He awaits trial on multiple theft and fraud charges. The gory details are HERE.

Now 10 months after Robert Felner's sudden withdrawal, here we go again, with a new search committee naming five new finalists and scheduling campus visits for them.

L-R: Keon, Folkins, Ford, Langland, Williams

The five finalists and the dates of their campus visits are:
  • John Folkins, Professor, Communication Disorders, College of Health and Human Services, Bowling Green State University: April 21-23
  • Thomas Keon, Dean, College of Business Administration, University of Central Florida: April 26-28
  • Deborah Ford, Vice President of Student Affairs, University of West Florida: April 28-30
  • Elizabeth Langland,University Vice President and Dean, New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, Arizona State University at the West campus: May 3-5
  • James Williams, Dean, Seidman College of Business, Grand Valley State University: May 5-7
Here is the location of each finalist's campus community forum.

Pictures of each finalist and links to their curriculum vitae are here, (Let the Googling begin!), along with their detailed campus itinerary.

The 19-member search, chaired by UW-Parkside Professor Greg Mayer, recommended the finalists to University of Wisconsin System President Kevin Reilly and a committee of the UW System Board of Regents.

Reilly and the Regents committee will interview the finalists in Madison on May 19. The final appointment of a new chancellor must be confirmed by the full Board of Regents. I'm guessing they're gonna be verrry careful.

Sheridan, Lehman endorse Turner

Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan, D-Janesville, and State Sen. John Lehman, D-Racine, have endorsed State Rep. Bob Turner, D-Racine, in his race for mayor. Both were present at the opening of Turner's Sixth Street campaign office last Thursday.

A press release from Turner's campaign today quotes Sheridan saying: “Bob has dedicated his life to serving the people of Racine -- both at City Hall and in the State Capitol. With more than 30 years of experience governing at the state and local level, Bob Turner will serve as mayor with great ability, integrity and innovation.”

It quotes Lehman saying: “Bob Turner has so much experience to offer to the City of Racine. Bob is the only candidate that has the knowledge and relationships to work cooperatively with everyone. He connects so well with the citizens, labor organizations, and businesses here. Electing Bob Turner will assure that all Racinians, not just select groups, will have a part in restoring the city of Racine.”

The special election for mayor will be held on Tuesday, May 5. Turner came in second in the April 7 primary, to John Dickert. Also running, this time as a write-in, is Jody Harding, who came in seventh in the primary.

Live Blogging: Mayoral forum at CATI

We're live this morning at the mayoral forum sponsored by RAMAC and RCEDC. Thanks and kudos to both organizations for opening this forum up to the media and the public. Not only did we attend, but the JT and WGTD were there too.

Here's my summary of the forum. John Dickert threw out some specific proposals - no impact fees for 18 months for new businesses - and looked comfortable with the business crowd. Basically, these were his people.

Bob Turner did a nice job of staying on his campaign message. He said at least three times, probably more, that he has 32 years of elected political experience, he's made the tough decisions and that he's ready to step in and lead. That's probably Turner's best line, and could be effective on May 5. After all, the candidates who offered specifics in the primary election - Helding, Karas, Harding, Shakoor - finished behind the candidates who spoke more in generalities - Dickert, Turner, Plache and Spangenberg.

Here's our recap from the event:

Bob Turner and John Dickert are upfront and ready to go.

And we're off ...

8:08 a.m.
Dickert goes first. He says he respects Turner, but there are differences between the candidates. Dickert brings up his "10-year plan" and says it's focused on jobs, crime and housing. He also emphasizes his ties to the business community.

"The next mayor has to blend public and private," he said.

Dickert talks about changing the direction of Racine. "We cannot afford to stay on this path," he said.

Then he talks about his philosophy of working hard and getting up after you fail. "Are you going to worry about falling down, or are you going to get back up?"

He ends with a story about a woman who lost her job and realized she was going to lose her house. Dickert says that's why he's running for mayor, to help people like her.

8:14 a.m.
Turner is up ...

He launches into a high-energy talk emphasizing his experience. He notes he's served in elected office for 32 years, and worked on every city committee.

He talks about delegation and setting policy. "The mayor doesn't go out and find jobs, they work with folks who know how to do it," Turner said.

Turner, as a state representative, also played up his access to Madison and state government. "I have the ability to go to Madison and have access to the floor," he said. "If you don't have access to the floor, you can't get anything done. You're just another person who went to Madison."

8:18 a.m.
First question is about how the candidates would reorganize city government, if elected. They're asked to specifically address the city administrator.

Turner and Dickert have a good clash on the administrator issue.

Turner says he wouldn't need a city administrator and would return to a "mayor-cabinet" style of government with the department heads advising the mayor.

Dickert says he would bring in a city administrator to handle day-to-day issues and handle the business side of City Hall. "The city is an $83 million company that serves people," he said.

Dickert also says he would propose eliminating impact fees on new business for the first 18 months.

Turner is given a chance for rebuttal. He gets in a dig at Dickert saying if he was new to city government he would need a city administrator. But since he has experience, he doesn't need an administrator.

8:24 a.m.
This question is on education. The candidates trade answers on plans and supporting schools. Dickert gets the last word and says the city can help by improving safety around schools.

8:29 a.m.
How does the city attract new businesses since it can't annex surrounding land? The candidates are asked to address redeveloping brownfields and improve existing business districts.

Turner goes first and says he supports the sewer agreement that landlocked Racine, but gave the city a portion of the tax base created by development in Mount Pleasant, Caledonia and Sturtevant. But he also says he would try to revisit the agreement to see if improvements can be made.

Dickert says everything is regional these days and everyone needs to work together. He also says he worked on a brownfield redevelopment that failed. But in failing he learned what didn't work and is ready to give it another go.

He talks specifically about Pointe Blue failing, but says he's already talking with a Texas company about a new project for the site.

He also said he wanted to work on a microlending program with local banks.

8:35 a.m.
The next question notes Racine has lost about 4,000 residents over the last 18 years and asks how would the candidates attract families back to the city.

Dickert says it's a marketing issue. The city needs to sell itself to young professionals and families. He also will talk with businesses now to keep them from leaving.

Turner also says it's a marketing issue. He blames the city's troubles on the economy and says Racine needs to be ready for the economic turnaround. "As mayor, I'll sit down with the business community and get their ideas," Turner said.

Dickert attacks Turner on the rebuttal, saying it's not the economy. "You don't get into this situation over night," he says, explaining it was a series of long-term decisions that led to current problems.

8:41 a.m.
Good question on public transportation. Would the candidate support a sales tax for a Regional Transit Authority to pay for public transit and KRM?

Turner says public transit has been a problem for a long time. He supports a sale tax to pay for transit, but only if it includes the whole county.

Dickert says he's been working on Metra since 1983, and that people need to "step up to the plate" to get this taken care of now. Dickert says he and his uncle, Jim Dickert, had $40 million in development lined up for the area around Racine's proposed KRM station. That would total $880,000 in property taxes for the city. He also wants to make sure people have access to jobs along I-94.

Turner says in his rebuttal he doesn't have a problem making "tough decisions." He supports regional public transit.

8:47 a.m.
The sixth question asks what the candidates will do to improve student performance in Racine Unified.

Dickert says people need high school diplomas. He also wants to sit down with Gateway and make sure their classes line up with local jobs. He then talks about zero tolerance for crime in schools and says his wife hopes to teach in Unified next year. He closes by asking for the business community's help in mentoring students and teaching them skills.

Turner gets personal, saying he grew up surrounded by people who didn't go to school. But he was taught that going to school was critical, and that you need education to succeed. He says he knows how to talk with young people and emphasize the importance of going to school.

Dickert gets the rebuttal and takes on the state's "unfunded mandates" on education. He says the system needs to improve to help teachers.

8:53 a.m.
Questions from the audience ...

First is about teacher accountability and the candidates say, basically, we need high-quality teachers.

Second is also about education and they agree we need good schools.

9:00 a.m.
Third question is about business and what can the city do to bring business to Racine. Dickert re-emphasizes his 18-month, zero-impact fee proposal. He says one new business wanted to come to Racine, but faced a $100,000 fee to hook up water. Turner says the city needs to work with business.

9:03 a.m.
Fourth question is about the Workforce Development Center. Turner says the existing Workforce Development Center is a good example. Dickert agrees and then points to former Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian who spent a lot of time in Madison improving his city. Racine needs to do the same.

9:06 a.m.
Fifth question is about consolidation. Dickert says it's a good idea if it serves the city's interests. Turner agrees.

9:08 a.m.
Closing statements ...

Turner goes first. He reemphasizes his 32 years experience. He says he's been involved in every decision affecting Racine over the last 29 years. He says he's running for mayor to give something back to a city that's given him so much. He'd bring more experience than any other mayor in history. "There's nothing wrong with the city of Racine," Turner said. "We need to talk positive about the city of Racine." But he also said the city is a car running on three wheels and needs the fourth wheel of people involved.

Dickert says the time for talk is over. He says there's been too many closed door sessions and too much partisanship. He then talks about the need to get "wins" for the city (instead of losing). Once that happens, he said, it gets easier to keep on winning because you've learned how to win.

He gets in a jab at Turner noting in the first month on the job the mayor needs to go to the Great Lakes Conference and the National Conference of Mayors. Turner has said he'll keep his Assembly seat through the state budget process, which will probably end around mid-summer.

April 19, 2009

Our million-dollar Congressman (again)

It's often apples and oranges when trying to examine a Congressman's donations. The collection period may differ; definitions of what a "small" donation is may differ.

But with U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-WI, 1st District, one thing is crystal clear: We're talking big, big dollars. Again.

Our six-term Congressman from Janesville, who out-raised and out-spent his 2008 "opposition" by more than 10-1 (and has received between 63% and 67% of the votes in each of his past five elections), today reported having more than $1 million in his campaign treasury. I'm not sure why that is "news" -- after all, Ryan raised just shy of $2 million in the past two-year campaign cycle, and had $878,794 on Dec. 31. (Clearly, he didn't invest it in the stock market.)

But Ryan, in reporting having $1,012,961.32 on hand at the end of March is making the point that 43% of his individual contributions in the past three months have come from 1,970 new campaign donors.

His three-month summary Campaign Finance Report (Jan. 1, 2009- March 31, 2009, the first of the 2009-2010 campaign cycle, at right), reports raising $222,070, with equal amounts coming from individuals and PACs. Ryan says 75% of the individual donors gave $100 or less.

Look here for Ryan's most recent campaign receipts, and check the links within it for yourself to see who gave how much.

Ryan's 2007-2008 summary

We also reviewed Ryan's report from the two-year campaign cycle just ended, listing all donations from 2007 and 2008: That report, excerpted in the graphic above, shows donations of $1,988,141. Some 51% came from individuals: by our rough count, there were about 700 donors who contributed no more than $100; 400 o gave between $500 and $1,000; and 240 who gave $1,000 or more. Another 43.4% came from PACs.

At the end of 2008, Ryan reported total disbursements of $2,367,725 during the two years. He had $878,794 on hand on Dec. 31, 2008, and owed $18,719.

Start here to see Ryan's 2007-2008 donations, along with his opponents' in the last election. It, too, will let you see exactly who gave how much.

Here's Ryan's complete press statement, issued last night:
Following a surge in donations from new donors over the past year, First District Congressman Paul Ryan reported having $1,012,961.32 in his campaign treasury at the end of March.

“People know in these dire economic times that the federal government cannot spend, tax and borrow our way to prosperity,” said Ryan (pictured right, at Kenosha listening session this week). “Citizens who have felt left out of the political process have told me they are responding because they want their money and decision-making power taken out of Washington and returned to them.”

Over the past 12 months, 43 percent of Ryan’s individual contributions have come from 1,970 new donors to his campaign. During that period, 75 percent of the donors gave $100 or less.

“These supporters want to make sure the message I have for keeping jobs in America, guaranteeing access to health insurance, simplifying the tax code and fixing our entitlement programs is heard by all voters,” said Ryan

Ryan said the remarkable number of first time contributors and small donations are an indication that his ideas are resonating with people who have not participated in campaigns previously.

“The reforms I have proposed are common sense solutions. When our business taxes are the second highest in the world, it is no wonder jobs move overseas. With health care, patients should know up front what procedures cost and who gives the best care, so competition drives prices down. And, we need to give taxpayers and seniors better choices in how they pay their taxes and receive their retirement benefits,” said Ryan.

Impressively, 95 percent of Ryan’s individual contributions came from Wisconsin residents during the last election cycle.

“I believe the way to generate support for solutions is to practice principled representation, which means saying what you are going to do and then doing it,” said Ryan. “The support I’ve received from Wisconsin small business owners, unions, seniors and working men and women shows my number one priority is looking out for the best interests of the constituents I was elected to serve.”

“My opponents will attack my record and attempt to portray me in a negative way,” said Ryan. “The voters of this district are showing with their donations that they want me to have the resources to defend the work I am doing on their behalf.”

In keeping with his promise of full disclosure of campaign contributions, a link to Ryan’s Federal Elections Campaign report is available on his campaign website.
We will, no doubt, be labeled as churlish for reporting here that the GM plant in Janesville, Ryan's home town, is shutting down this week, putting out of work the last 100 of more than 1,300 employees at the 90-year-old truck assembly plant, and hundreds more in the community. But Ryan's statement above about "the message I have for keeping jobs in America" seems to make that reminder mandatory.

Artists, art-lovers mingle at year's first Gallery Night

There was a lot of politics Downtown Saturday morning, but that gave way to art and music by evening.

The year's first Gallery Night brought its usual crowd of art-lovers wandering from gallery to gallery, and in and out of shops, to see new exhibits and to meet the handful of artists opening shows of their work. Some of the galleries were downright crowded when we visited.

We snapped the following pictures.

Jeannette White was at Monfort's, opening a show
of her Jazz Series paintings

The Racine Camera Club opened an exhibit
at the Racine Art Council's Sixth St. gallery

Alex Aviles used 'tagger's' spray paint to make art
outside the Mitchell Wagon Factory Lofts

Other exhibits opening this week and continuing for a while include metal sculptor Dan Van Eimeren at the Artists Gallery, photographer Craig Brandt's luminous landscapes at Northern Lights Gallery, and enamels by Jamie Bennett at the Racine Art Museum. A full list of what you missed is here.

Protests in perspective: Wisdom from the comics

Timing is everything.

The late Charles Schulz drew the following Peanuts strip, 'way back on April 15, 1962, and it turned up today in the Journal Times and hundreds of other newspapers that subscribe to "Classic Peanuts." This is just part of the Sunday strip; I edited out the non-essential bits.

The whole strip is HERE. And just to make things perfectly clear, nobody stood on his or her head during either of Racine's two protest rallies yesterday... at least not while we were watching.