May 23, 2009

Casting call for local horror movie, 'Haunted 2'

A couple of southeastern Wisconsin screenwriters are casting for their new horror movie, "Haunted 2."

Brent Allen Caputo and Matt Romano are looking for men, women and child actors for their short movie, which is scheduled to start filming late summer or early fall. Open positions are listed below. E-mail your resume and recent photo along with the description of ONLY the character you would like to audition for to the following e-mail address:

All positions are unpaid. Film credit is given to those who are cast and sign a release form.

Here are the parts in the movie:

Hanson - (Brent Allen Caputo) Already Cast
Greg - (Matt Romano) Already Cast
Luke Arton – (Kelly Maxx) Already Cast
Vince – (Kyle Berg) Already Cast
Eddy – (Daniel J. Hunt) Already Cast

Cassy – Female- (Age range 21-28) (Caucasian Between the height of 5’4” and 5’ 8”. She is an adventurous girl that wears cargo pants white tank top and sports a crimped hair and wears a beanie. She is the assistant to the character named Luke Arton.

Evil Patrol Officer #01 – (Male, BIG body build)(open to all race) 6’ 1” and above. Age range 32-40. This character is seen in the film as the leader of the group of Officers and answers to Hanson.

Evil Patrol Officer #02 - (Male, BIG body build)(open to all race) 6’ 1” and above. Age range 27-35. This character is seen in the film as one of the two followers of the group of Officers and answers to Officer #01 at all times.

Evil Patrol Officer #03 - (Male, BIG MUSCLE body build)(open to all race) 6’ 1” and above. Age range 27-35. This character is seen in the film as one of the two followers of the group of Officers and answers to Officer #01 at all times.

Grule(demon) – Someone (Male, Age Range 24 – 29) height between 5’ 10” and 6’ 1”. A Skinnier kind of guy with somewhat of a high pitch voice but not to high as to take the focus from the scene away from the other characters.

Ava – (Female, Caucasian, Age range 19 – 22) Pale skin, blue eyes, pretty, black hair, must be a good singer. Prettier than your average girl next door character. Height between 5’ 4 and 5’ 8”.

Jonathon Halavac – (Male, Dark eyes, Caucasian, Age Range 19 – 24), Buzz cut hair. Always wears a Bitter attitude and looking face. Not really belonging to anyone in particular and he is known for going after women and children. Athletic body tone.

Child #01 – (Male, Age Range 4-6) (open to all race). This child has tiny parts in and out of the film but plays an important role which will allow for some face time.

Jamaal – (Male, African American, Age Range 18-22). Athletic build. Height between 5’ 5” and 5’ 10”. Jamaal is Friends with Max and Heather and considers Max to be someone he looks up to no matter good or bad. The three of them tend to do and go everywhere together.

Max- (Male, Caucasian, Age range 18-22). Max is the leader of the trio. Max feels something for Heather but it never goes beyond that for either of them. They see each other notice that they are feeling something yet both walk away and don’t really talk about it because their friendship as is means more.

Heather – (Female, Caucasian, Age range 18-22). Girl next door look for sure. Medium to long hair. Open for color. Height between 5’4 and 5’ 8”.

Front Desk Lady – (Female, pale skin, Age range 25- 32). This clerk has dark sockets and is a mysterious character that is important to the film.

Samantha’s Father – (Male, Caucasian, Age range 38-45). Height between 5’ 08” and 5’ 10”. This character has taken over the father role as Samantha has lost her parents as mentioned in previous film. He plays a straight and narrow step-father who really cares a great deal about what Samantha needs and wants and doesn’t lie to her at all because life is short and he feels there is nothing to gain out of telling a lie.

May 22, 2009

Downtown trolley route now includes the Zoo

The Downtown Trolley will begin service the day after Memorial Day, making continuous loops covering Downtown Racine from the zoo on the north to 7th Street on the south and west to City Hall. A temporary detour to 5th Street and Water Street will be used as required by 6th Street construction.

The trolley will operate from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday; and 10 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday. There is no trolley service on Monday. The fare is 25 cents per person.

Since the trolley started in 2000, residents, downtown workers, visitors and boat owners have used the shuttle service to get to a variety of destinations, including restaurants, pubs, shops, the art district, the library, museums and now the Racine Zoo.

Brochures containing a route map, a schedule of trolley stops and scheduled Downtown events are available from merchants, the Racine County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau at Hwy 20 and I-94, the Downtown Racine Corporation at 425 Main St. and from the Belle Urban System (BUS) Operations Center, at 1900 Kentucky Street, or by calling the BUS at (262) 637-9000.

“The trolley is a fun, open-air, inexpensive adventure for all ages,” says Curtis Garner, executive director of Professional Transit Management of Racine, which manages the trolley and the BUS. “And this year, for the first time, it stops at the entrance to the Racine Zoo.”

Summer trolley service ends Sunday, September 6, the day before Labor Day.

Birds of a feather give kids a treat at Zoo's aviary

The official, vine-cutting, speechifying grand opening of the Zoo's new Norco Manufacturing Corp. Aviary is at 10 a.m. Saturday, but that didn't stop the early birds (owww, couldn't resist) kids from enjoying it today -- and proving immediately that this will be one of the zoo's top attractions.

An open air bird cage, big enough for hundreds of colorful Budgies and scores of kids all at once, the aviary allows visitors to get up close and personal with the birds: you can feed, them, hold them, stand perfectly still as they fly around you. We're not exactly sure how much the birds enjoyed all the attention, but it was clear that the kids did -- as they held their feeding sticks aloft hoping to attract, say, a hungry cockatiel.

Parents will enjoy the experience as well, especially if they bring a camera and plenty of film -- er, digital space on the memory card. Below, just a few of the pictures we snapped -- and none of these were our kids, either!

Does this qualify as a bird's eye view?

May 21, 2009

Four in court for 2007 drive-by killing of 12-year-old

Four men will be charged with the fatal shooting of 12-year-old Marize Jones here in 2007.

Alan Johnson, 27, will be in court tomorrow; LaQuinten Wilson, 23, Jimmie Green, 27, and Tarrance Banks, 28, are due to be arraigned today by the Racine County District Attorney. All four are being held in the Racine County Jail.

Police say the April 22, 2007, incident occurred in front of 1618 Albert St. when four persons were shot in a drive-by shooting, leaving Jones dead.

Dartavis Shelton, 25, pled guilty to his role in the shootings in 2008.

Dollar store proposal on Washington Ave. sent back to committee

Proposed Family Dollar at 1130 Washington Ave.

The Common Council voted unanimously Tuesday send a proposal for a dollar store at 1130 Washington Ave. back to the Redevelopment Authority for further review.

The RDA had voted to grant Minneapolis-based developer Abdo Markethouse a 90-day option to buy the land near Tino's for $70,000. The developer wants to build a 9,180 square-foot Family Dollar with 4,900 square-feet of additional retail space. (Read the proposal here.)

But the plan failed to pass the full Common Council. Alderman Jeff Coe motioned to send the proposal back to the RDA, which will reconsider the development at its June 3 meeting. The RDA voted 5-0 at its May meeting to grant Abdo Markethouse an option on the land.

Jim Puma, the owner of Puma's Custom Cycles Inc., which is across the street from the proposed development site at 1129 Washington Ave., said he opposes the dollar store.

"A better choice can be made to utilize a great piece of land for the future of midtown," said Puma, referring to the area just north of Uptown. "This a great opportunity. It shouldn't be wasted on a strip mall."

The use of 1130 Washington Ave. is an early test for new Mayor John Dickert. In an interview during the campaign, Dickert said one of the strengths he'd bring to the job was his understanding of real estate. He criticized city officials for supporting developments that may not have been in the city's best interests.

“The biggest problem we had is the former mayor didn’t understand real estate,” Dickert said in April. “Just because a developer comes in doesn’t mean it’s a good thing.”

Puma said the city shouldn't be in any rush to use the vacant land in the 1100 block of Washington Ave, which is the site of the former Schaefer Pontiac. The Schaefer family donated the land, five lots in all, to the city.

The parcel could be a unifying site between Downtown and Uptown, if used correctly, Puma said.

"It doesn't cost them (city officials) a dime to get the right people in," he said. "They can wait. Time is on their side."

The Family Dollar proposal is the third time the RDA has given a developer permission to buy the land. Two gas stations proposed for the site, both by local developers, fell through before they settled on Abdo Markethouse's plan.

Notebook Dump: Leftover notes for this story

Puma said business was slow for the American V-Twin motorcycles he sells. "The economy is affecting us all," he said.

One pitch for anyone interested in motorcycles: They're good for the environment, Puma said. They use fewer materials than cars and get high gas mileage. The high-performance V-Twin gets 35 miles-per-gallon, while some scooters Puma sells get up to 100 mpg.

"Any motorcycle is environmentally sound," Puma said. "Plus, they're a whole lot of fun."

State bill would extend Racine tax district 10 years

A proposed state law would keep a good thing going for the city.

The special tax district the city created in 1983 to build its marina is set to retire next year. The district worked, creating $84.5 million in new development and $1.1 million a year in additional property tax value.

But so far, all that new money has gone toward paying off the loan needed to build the marina (and other tax incremental districts in the city). None of it has gone to pay for schools or government services.

That's set to change next year when all of the $1.1 million of development in "TID 2," as it's known, is scheduled to go onto the general tax rolls. That would mean $343,200 to Racine Unified, $147,400 to the county, $58,300 to Gateway and $542,300 to the city itself.

The state law proposed by Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, would extend the life of TID 2 by 10 years - and prevent all that tax revenue from going to other local governments. That may seem crazy, especially after the city has waited 27 years to benefit from this development. But there's method to this urban planning madness.

Mason said the city is looking at redeveloping the former Walker Manufacturing site along Lake Michigan and an area along the Root River, which all falls into the existing TID 2. But to get the property ready for a developer, the city needs money to clean up the land. That's where Mason's law comes in.

Extending TID 2 would give the city money to clean up the land and it get it ready for development, Mason said. The alternative is to retire TID 2 and create a new tax district for the Walker site and north of the Root River. But that district would be in effect for another 27 years.

In other words, the city is looking to extend TID 2 for 10 years to avoid creating a district for nearly three times as long, Mason said.

The proposal is targeted specifically at Racine. It's supported by State Reps. Bob Turner, D-Racine, Josh Zepnick, D-Milwaukee, and Peter Barca, D-Kenosha. Sens. John Lehman, D-Racine, Jeff Plale, D-Milwaukee, Spencer Coggs, D-Milwaukee, and Bob Wirch, D-Kenosha.

The bill has a good chance at passing, Mason said. Four or five similar bills pass the Legislature every year, he said.

The problem with TIDs is the delayed payoff. While the city benefits by corraling all of the tax dollars, other local governments are cut out of the tax picture. Racine Unified will lose a minimum of $3.4 million over the life of Mason's bill.

May 20, 2009

Historic gavel's owner had an unsavory past

Don't read too much into this, but there's a fascinating backstory connected to the 160-year-old gavel given to John Dickert last night, immediately after he was sworn in as Racine's mayor. What we were told, and reported, is that it originally belonged to "historic Milwaukee Mayor Byron Kilbourn."

But who was Byron Kilbourn, and why is he "historic"?

A reader tipped us off: "Wow. I hope the gavel gift is not symbolic. Kilbourn was one of the most crooked politicians that ever served in Wisconsin. He was disgraced when it was revealed that he gave almost $1 million in bribes to secure land for railroads."

And he gave us a link to a video of Mike McCabe, director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, presenting a few details. Speaking at the Sixth Annual Fighting Bob Fest on Sept. 8, 2007, McCabe outlined the bribes Kilbourn paid to get free land for railroads, the $300,000 in graft -- another website says it was $631,000 -- he gave to crooked legislators (remember, this was 160 years ago, when a dollar really was a dollar!), and the governor who was thrown out of office as a result.

But wait, there's more... Let's not forget Kilbourn’s involvement in the “Bridge War of 1845," when the rivalry between the east side (Juneautown) of what is now Milwaukee and the west side (Kilbourntown) led Kilbourn, who later became Milwaukee's third mayor, to drop a bridge in the river to keep the two towns separate, and his own on top. You can read all about that glorious chapter in our history here.

The reader who tipped us off to all this notes, "Okay, I know that this probably means nothing, but I thought I would share it anyway…..It just peeves me that people like Kilbourn continue to get glorified. I fear that in 100 years will we have Chuck Chvala parkway."

And now you know the rest of the story...

More information on Kilbourn is HERE and HERE.

Jail investigation

With so many questions surrounding the investigation of a baby's death in the Racine County Jail, it's hard to wrap around any truth with the story.

In case you missed it, the Racine County Sheriff's Department held a press conference Tuesday alleging that the mother, Melissa Woten, may have intentionally caused herself to deliver a baby in her jail cell. If true, it would contradict Woten's claims that she called for help, but was ignored.

But the JT tracked down Wolten's attorney, who is sticking with the original story that jail officials ignored Woten's labor pains, which resulted in the premature birth.

Here are two documents the Sheriff's Department released Tuesday:
  • The Racine County Sheriff's Department's investigation of the circumstances (Note: The original report we posted was missing two pages. The Sheriff's Department provided the full report today.) surrounding Woten going into premature labor, which led to the death of her daughter.
  • The Kenosha County Sheriff's Department one-page letter clearing jail officials of wrongdoing.
A RP reader wrote to note an odd omission from stories about Woten: Why was the 20-year-old pregnant woman in jail?

The answer: She was given a suspended jail sentence on Sept. 12, 2007 for obstructing an officer after stealing $438 worth of items from Kohl's Department Store. She gave the officer a false name, according to court records.

Woten did not meet any of the conditions of her parole, including maintaining a stable residence, getting a job, paying toward her financial debts, and working toward a high school equivalency diploma or other treated. She also lied to her probation officer, according to court records.

Judge Richard Kruel sentenced her to nine months in jail. She started serving the sentence on Jan. 9, 2009.

The Sheriff's Department also released photos and video of Woten in her jail cell during the night before her baby's death. The grainy, dark video shows Woten doing headstands in her cell.

If you want to see the video, checkout the JT site here. They also have one of the photos distributed by the Sheriff's Department here.

May 19, 2009

John Dickert takes over as Racine's mayor

Video of Mayor Dickert's inauguration

John Dickert fought back tears Feb. 23 when he announced his candidacy for mayor in St. Catherine's Alumni Building he helped seize from drug dealers.

"That's passion," one supporter in the crowd said while leading applause for Dickert, who at the time was just one of nine candidates trying to replace disgraced Mayor Gary Becker.

Dickert's tears were back Tuesday - and so was the passion.

The Racine real estate agent and former lobbyist teared up during his inauguration speech after mentioning his late father. But the pause in his speech proved a touching moment for the capacity crowd, which erupted in applause after Dickert took the oath of office.

"The city is facing major challenges," Dickert said during his inaugural address. "Rising crime, high unemployment and deteriorating neighborhoods. Now is the time to make an active commitment to not hide under the cover of indecision but rather face these issues directly. Together we will not look at our challenges with hesitation but with resolve and we will resolve them with decisive action."

City Clerk Janice Johnson-Martin swore in Dickert, who replaces Tom Friedel as the city's third mayor in 2009. Dickert was elected May 5 to finish out the final two years of Becker's four-year term. That gives the new mayor even less time than normal to set up his staff, get acclimated to the job and work on his ambitious promise to make Racine a "Top 10 city" in 10 years.

Dickert said he held a strategy meeting Monday night with people to begin work on his 10-year plan.

In an interview prior to the ceremony, Dickert said he'd get to work on day one - in Madison. The city is fighting for every dollar of shared revenue the state can muster, he said. Gov. Jim Doyle has already warned about cuts in state money to cities because of the down economy and declining state revenues.

Dickert said the biggest, immediate change people would see out of City Hall was an effort to connect with state and federal officials. "It's something the city hasn't done a good job with," Dickert said.

Dickert also announced one staffing hire. Greg Bach, a lead worker on Dickert's campaign, will join the city as the mayor's assistant. Bach was at Tuesday night's inauguration.

As for other positions, including the vacant city administrator job, Dickert said he wasn't in a rush to make a hire. "We'll look for the best candidate at the right price," he said.

Dickert wasn't alone in dealing with emotions. Former Mayor Tom Friedel was feted for running the city while an election was organized. The audience and Common Council gave him a standing ovation, and Friedel fought back his own tears while thanking City Attorney Rob Weber and Interim City Administrator Scott Letteney.

Dickert's first act as mayor was to call for a motion to reappoint Friedel alderman of the 10th District. The motion passed unanimously. Dickert also named Friedel vice chairman of the Personnel and Finance Committee, a committee Friedel chaired until becoming mayor.

Dickert said in an interview he'll embrace the public by creating groups to address major issues in the city. "We'll let them go and get out of the way," Dickert said of the groups. "I'm not going to micromanage them."

Following Dickert's speech, Alderman Jim Kaplan said he supported the new mayor's vision.

"What he said is what I would say," Kaplan said. "Optimism (for the city) has to be clearly picked up and brushed off. Pessimism has to be sent packing down the road."

Following the Common Council meeting, Friedel said he was dealing with lots of emotions, including pride for the work the city did in pulling through a difficult chapter. "We made it," he said. "A lot of people made that possible."

Perhaps the biggest sign of a change in City Hall were a half dozen children, Dickert's son, Riley, and daughter, Eleanor, running around the council chambers following the inauguration. Dickert's wife, Teresa, said her husband's campaign was built around uniting the city. "We can change Racine if we all have a vision," she said.

She added not much will change around the Dickert household. "We're pretty grounded with our kids," she said. "They come home and do their homework like anyone else."

Monte Osterman, a Dickert supporter from Day 1, presented the new mayor with a 160-year-old gavel (right, in the above picture) used by historic Milwaukee Mayor Byron Kilbourn. Osterman received the gavel as a gift after serving as master of the Kilbourn Masonic Lodge in Milwaukee. "It's a gift to John," Osterman said. "Some day he'll pass it on."

Osterman said he supported Dickert because of the new mayor's ability to inspire people.

"Now, Racine has one of the best leaders it's had in a long time," Osterman said.

WSJDD? (What Should John Dickert Do?)

John Dickert will be sworn in as Racine's mayor Tuesday night in the Common Council Chambers. Dickert was elected two weeks ago, beating out Rep. Bob Turner by a 55-45 percent margin.

Dickert will serve the final two years of former Mayor Gary Becker's four-year term. Another mayoral election will be held in 2011.

So let's help the new mayor out with some advice (like he hasn't gotten enough of that in the last two weeks).

Post your comments below on what our new mayor should address first. Crime? Jobs? Taxes? City funding for online newspapers? (ha, ha)

Seriously, what deserves the mayor's attention? What should he set aside? Post away ...

May 18, 2009

Two summer contests for local photographers

Two new photo contests opened in Racine this week.

The first is the Journal Times' "Give us your best shot," which seeks photos in three categories: nature, people or place. Top prize in each category wins $100, and the JT will publish the winners as part of its annual community calendar. Photos can have been taken anytime in the past two years. Submission deadline is June 5.
Moon over the monument,
by Nancy Burke

But there's a catch: It costs $10 to enter a photo, and there will be three "voting rounds" in which votes cost 50 cents apiece. Is this a photo contest or a money-raiser? You be the judge. Last year's Journal Times photo contest, Pet Idol, raised $19,000 for the JT's Newspapers In Education project which supplies daily papers to schools.

Full rules are here. Be sure to read the FAQ.

The second photo contest is a photographic Scavenger Hunt run by the Racine Camera Club. It seeks photos in 12 categories: lighthouse, insect, leaves, sky, sand, bridge, nature in the city, boat, lawn chair, shadow, reflection and flower.

Rules are not yet online, but all submissions should be photos taken this summer; they should be sized no bigger than 1024 pixels and they must be submitted by Sept. 6. Images should be named this way: lastnamefirstinitialtitle.jpg and emailed to or mailed on CD or DVD to Jason Madson, 3040 Michigan Blvd, Racine, WI 53402.

There is no entry fee, and members of the camera club will choose the winners at their September meeting; prizes haven't been determined yet. Some previous Racine Camera Club competition winners are HERE, HERE and HERE.

Walden School goes green(er)

Walden students creating garden mosaic / Photo by Thomas Aviles

The green revolution continues at the Walden III School. Certified "green" two years ago, and already sporting solar panels on its roof, the school took another step forward today as students began creating a rain garden where cement used to be.

The high school and middle school -- its first building dates from 1863, and its so-called "new" addition erected in 1909 -- will soon boast a 160' by 40' garden area, planted with trees, grass and bushes, and boulders brought in from Franklin. It's a garden with a purpose -- well, three or four purposes, to be precise.

One third of the garden will be a rain garden, located directly in the path of a four-foot wide river of polluted water that pours off the school's roof whenever it rains. The rain garden's plants are specially chosen to open up the soil and create a filter that will trap those pollutants and keep them from going into the water table.

Another third will be a prairie garden, planted with native Wisconsin plants.

The final third will be an outdoor classroom, with places for students to sit and teachers to teach. Well, sorta: "It won't be the teachers teaching, it will be the students teaching; that's the idea," said Alex Mandli, who has taught art at Walden for 10 years.

The garden, and storage building, from a third-floor window,
as the track team runs by

The garden area replaces a former tennis court, and long before that, a street that ran through the building site. Franklin Street actually ran through what is now Franklin Park, next to the school, but which until the 1960s housed a sheet metal plant, railroad tracks and roughly 16 houses, long since bulldozed (although the remnants of some are buried under a big mound of dirt).

The park is part of the city's park system, so tying all this together with the school took some amount of political pull (Thank you, Alderman Jeff Coe!). But the work and cost are being borne by the students themselves; it is the kids who raised most of the $12,000 necessary for the garden installation: the 13 truckloads of dirt, the three loads of compost, the $6,000 worth of trees due to be delivered and planted in the next few days.

Adjacent to the garden is a Parks and Recreation Dept. storage building, until today painted brown (and a graffiti magnet). But it now has a new look: it is covered with hand-made art, a garden-centric mosaic designed and constructed by 28 students from Mandli's elective art class, which has spearheaded the garden installation as well.

Directed by Jane Hobbs-Cascio -- an artist, Main Gallery instructor and Wustum teacher who also worked on the Uptown, Zoo Beach and North Beach Oasis mosaic projects -- students today transformed the building with the mosaic installation. On close inspection you can see the outline of flowers and bugs; by tomorrow, after grout and paint are applied, the mosaic will truly shine.

"It's a non-traditional mosaic," Hobbs-Cascio said, "They painted the design first, then outlined it with mirror shards. Then every other space was filled with tiles." All that on the first day; tomorrow, she and the students expect to grout the entire piece, which covers three sides of the building, and then add colorful paint -- so you don't have to look closely to see the garden motif.

"The building is something pretty to attract people to the garden in a neighborhood where you don't expect it," Mandli said. "Moth to flame."

Besides their fund-raising, Walden's 500 students have long worked to bring green information and practices to their neighborhood. The solar panels, in just their first few months of operation, have kept an estimated 5,000 pounds of pollutants from the atmosphere -- the benefit of solar power over coal-generated electricity. Walden students also have sold energy efficient lightbulbs to their neighbors. "We're trying to get all the people in the neighborhood to do stuff in their own homes," Mandli said.

Eventually, it is hoped that the savings the solar-generated electricity brings may be used to make the building more energy efficient... perhaps replacing some of those Civil War-era windows with storm windows.

But even before that happens, the storage building mosaic -- only half-finished Monday -- is having the desired effect. Mandli said he was stopped by some men sitting on a nearby porch this afternoon, who said to him, "Man, we really love what you're doing."

And, hopefully, there's more to come. An essay by Walden student Bria Kaufman is one of ten finalists (out of 2,000) in an America's Greenest School contest that could win Walden a hybrid school bus. Voting on the essays took place last week; the winner is expected to be named shortly, here.

Artist Jane Hobbs-Cascio and students' half-finished mosaic

Summary of SC Johnson tax-exempt stories

We've written a few thousand words about SC Johnson's Administration Building, Research Tower and roughly half of its new $39 million Project Honor going tax-exempt thanks to an executive order from Gov. Jim Doyle and a deal with former Mayor Gary Becker.

Here's a timeline of our stories:
  • First, we reported SC Johnson's Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Administration Building and Research Tower were exempt from property taxes. That turns out to be about $40,000 per year.
  • Then, we learned that Becker and SC Johnson made a deal. SCJ gets the tax-exempt status and Becker gets $500,000 over five years for Uptown. (We filed a records request with the city to gain documents surrounding this deal, but are still waiting to hear back from the city attorney's office.)
  • SC Johnson responded to our story noting it was still expected to contribute $166,942 in property taxes from the new Project Honor to the city's Uptown tax incremental district. The money will be used to rebuild streets and buildings.
  • We then reviewed SCJ's Project Honor building permit and found the project was expected to cost $39 million to build. The company then estimated it expected to save between $150,000 and $200,000 in property taxes for Fortaleza Hall, the tax-exempt portion of Project Honor that will honor the late Sam Johnson.
That brings us up to today (when WTMJ's Charlie Sykes credited us with a "flagrant act of journalism"). Neither Mayor Tom Friedel nor Mayor-elect John Dickert returned our calls on this situation. It's not surprising. Little can be done to reverse the governor's executive order, and maybe nothing should be done. SCJ is a pillar to Racine's economy and a great local employer.

Our concern with these stories was Becker's backroom dealings. Decisions like this should go before the Common Council and get a public airing before they're finalized. No doubt SCJ and Becker could have made a strong case for approving the tax-exempt properties and moving forward with Uptown. But the fact that they never made that case suggests they knew they some would raise objections - and possibly nix the deal.

I do believe SCJ is getting unfairly tarnished in the comments. It's a good, smart company that makes good, shrewd business decisions. They found a state law that applied to their property and they used it to save money. It's those decisions that will, hopefully, keep local residents employed for years to come.

Becker should be taking heat here, but the former mayor's reputation is so in tatters that a questionable tax deal seems hardly worth mentioning. Let's hope Mayor Dickert and our new cast of city leaders know enough to conduct these deals in the open, if only to minimize the suspicion.

Letter carriers collect 70,000 pounds of donations for Food Bank

Local letter carriers collected 70,000 pounds of food donations on Saturday.
All of the donations went to the Racine County Food Bank.

Here's some good news from the Racine County Food Bank. Local letter carriers' 17th annual "Stamp Out Hunger" food drive raise more than 70,000 pounds of donations for local food pantries.

The total poundage was down from last year, but targeted donations increased the overall value of this year's collection, according to a press release from the Food Bank.

Here's the summary of the food drive:
On Saturday, May 9th, local Letter Carriers and the Letter Carriers Auxiliary banded together with the Postmaster, Station Supervisors and many volunteers to collect 70,084 pounds of food for the Racine County Food Bank during the 17th annual “Stamp Out Hunger” food drive.

The “Stamp Out Hunger” food drive is the largest of the year and provides the Food Bank with almost 10% of the food that they need to supply their affiliates for the entire year.

The total weight was down about 7% from the 75,644 pounds collected last year; however, because of the Food Bank’s emphasis on its “Super Six Most Needed Items” list, volunteers collecting and sorting food from the drive report that the majority of the donations seem to be of higher value this year.

Volunteers included individuals and families along with representatives from the U.S. Postal Service, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Racine Founders Rotary Club, Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 767, the Racine Community Action Agency, Two Men and a Truck, Pro-Build, Pioneer Products, Schmidt Industrial Truck, Great Northern Corporation and American Express Business Travel. They all donated their time, and in many cases, vehicles and equipment to assist the Food Bank in this huge undertaking.

The Racine County Food Bank is a United Way Partner Provider that provides food assistance to pantries, shelters and meal programs throughout Racine County, who, in turn, provide an average of over 60,000 meals each month to those less fortunate in our community.

May 17, 2009

When Racine throws a party, everyone comes...

After putting on Racine's Post Prom for more than half a century, you can bet that Racine's Rotarians did it right again. What a party it was!

More than a thousand of the city's high school seniors and their dates showed up at Festival Hall -- arriving in fancy cars, buses, limos, you-name-it and wearing their best outfits for a night of dancing, karaoke, Guitar Hero, music and more. "Get Crunk Racine," said one of the DJ's slides; we have no idea what that means, but we're sure they did. And here are the pictures to prove it.

They came in Hummer limos...

...and whatever kind of truck this is.

Fancy glasses ... and flip-flops?

Mom finally got her picture...

Horlick grad / actor B.D. Freeman did the opening interviews with Lutheran's Royalty

There were professional portraits...

...and do-it-yourself ones.

At the end of the obstacle course, a slide...

...or jousting with your date

Guitar Hero attracted a crowd
Prom theme was Fire and Ice

Karaoke was ever-popular...

...small groups grew exponentially...

Those are Horlick singers on the left, Case on the right

Inside the TV truck, the live broadcast took shape