August 8, 2009

Ryan's listening session earns a threat on HuffPo

Rep. Paul Ryan's upcoming Racine listening session promises to be a doozy.

That's not necessarily a good thing.

Around the country, union officials report receiving "a barrage of threats" after AFL-CIO President John Sweeney called upon labor unions to participate in the town hall meetings traditionally held by members of Congress during the August recess. According to an article on Huffington Post Thursday, Sweeney "makes clear that Obama allies view the town hall forums as ground zero of the health care debate."

Ryan, R-WI, 1st District, has scheduled 17 listening sessions in this Congressional District between Aug. 24 and Aug. 31, including three in Racine County on Thursday, Aug. 27: at 9:45 a.m. at Rochester Municipal Hall; at 11:15 at Sturtevant Village Hall; and at 1:30 in Racine, in the Great Lakes Room at Gateway Technical College. (Complete list here.)

That last listening session -- the one in Racine -- is featured prominently in a follow-up article on Huffington Post Saturday, and not in a good way. Union officials say the threats they've received "are punctuated by warnings that if organizers were sent to counter-demonstrate at health care town halls, they would be met with violence."

An official with the Service Employees International Union said she had received 50 threatening emails, including the following one, supposedly from a Marine, about Racine's session. (It's been cleaned up for publication.):
You socialist f---s have the nerve to say stop the violence at the town hall meetings when they weren't violent until you p---ies showed up because your n----- leader obama said to?????? When we have ours in Racine, Wi, I want you there. I want one of your little b----- to put his hands on this Marine. I want one of you to look or talk to me wrong. I'll be the last thing your ignorant faux body guards will remember for a very long time. You can f---ing guarantee that.
Huffington Post has roughly 5 million readers, so the Racine threat is getting wide exposure, even before it is picked up by other sites like ours, and this one in Lake County (where the first response says, "the e-mail most likely was made up. Just more liberal BS.")

The unions say they are planning to attend Congressional town hall meetings "to balance out anti-Obama demonstrations being waged at local Democratic forums."

Local Democrats are concerned about the threat. One I spoke to -- who wished to remain anonymous to avoid attracting the threatener's attention -- said, "Oh, great; the most profane threat comes against us in Racine. I don't think I'm a wildly cautious person, but this sort of thing makes me nervous, makes me afraid that it's not particularly safe. In Wisconsin we're friendly. Here, particularly in Racine, we're capable of having calm reasonable conversations. I don't understand this anger."

Meanwhile, at the other end of the political spectrum, another group is also concerned about the town hall meetings, and plans to attend -- to balance out Democrats. We found a website called the 912 Patriots of Southeast Wisconsin.

Karl Heinitz posted Friday: "Paul Ryan's new listening tour dates are out. Let us go and give him and Obama's Squadristi something to listen to. His health care plan is pretty good, so why can't he get it into the hands of a single bluedog? Does he not read the bills or wisely reject large things shoved in his face at 3 a.m.? I would also suggest we not be seen as any kind of organized effort. You know how huffy the fascists and reds get when somebody uses their own tactics against them."

Site organizer Raydene Edenhofer, wrote Saturday, "We need to have video of our participation in town halls as well as rallies. We need to make sure that everyone can see who is really disrupting these events, and how our elected officials are ignoring the people they are supposed to be representing. They say you fight fire with fire... Obama and his minions fired the first shots... we are merely returning fire... like any school yard bully... they don't like being stood up to. Well... let's keep rallying and show them just who they are up against. Americans don't run from a battle or from a challenge. We the People needs to mean something!"

The site, for "Kenosha/Racine Constitutional Patriots," says it grew out of principles introduced by TV and radio host Glenn Beck; it is also the Southeast Wisconsin Glenn Beck Meetup Group. Beck is the broadcaster who recently accused President Obama of being "a racist."

August 7, 2009

Rain dampens some of First Friday's festivities

Titus, Rench and Wheary sang -- but not for long

It was a little after 6 p.m. on First Friday, and the heavy mist was turning into droplets of rain. Titus, Rench and Wheary were setting up their amps in Crosswalk Park, in front of a small group of family and friends waiting for the music to begin. Finally, all was set; what to play?

How about a sea shantey, someone suggested? How about an umbrella, came the riposte.

Gamely, they jumped into Hard Travelin' Man, and for a few minutes they, and their audience, concentrated on the music -- and not the rain, which clearly was not just droplets. The song ended, and the set-list became, "That's it!" as musicians and audience members alike took shelter from the sudden downpour.

Minutes later, the scene was what you see below; driving rain. It put quite a damper on Racine's First Friday, but there were still plenty of indoor attractions worth visiting. We've shown some below.

The Viola Frey exhibit at RAM -- really big and amusing sculptures

Edwin Kalke honors Joyce Ottum, a founding member of the Artists Gallery

Painter Sue Horton greets guests at Photographic Design Studio

Mean Jake sang from under cover on Monument Square,
but the group's fans definitely got wet (see below)

Ruben Vela kept Fiesta Mexicana dancing under the big tent...

Hundreds of all ages enjoyed the lively music

See the Racine Art Museum's incredible Viola Frey exhibit tonight for free!

Viola Frey's colossal "Man Balancing Urn" sculpture at the Racine Art Museum.

The title of the Racine Art Museum's dazzling exhibit of Viola Frey's sculptures and paintings, "Bigger, Better, More" could apply to the museum itself.

The Frey exhibit, which features the artist's massive, beautiful sculptures, is a remarkable accomplishment for RAM and a sign of the museum's emergence as a significant voice in the art world. Museum staff worked for five years to assemble the first show of Frey's works since the world-renown artist died in 2004.

RAM staff worked with the Gardiner Museum in Toronto to create the show.

RAM's former curator Davira S. Taragin, reviewed Frey's body of work and selected the objects for the 22-piece exhibit on display in Racine through Aug. 16. The Gardiner, which specializes in ceramics, handled the logistics of moving Frey's enormous pieces and made arrangements for an international tour of the works.

About Frey

Viola Frey was a prodigious artist who worked for most of her life in Oakland, Calif. While she created in many forms, she is best known for her ceramic sculptures, some of which are 12-feet tall. Walking through the RAM exhibit, you sense Frey's playful imagination and incredible ability to engineer and craft huge works of art. Part of the fun is wondering how in the world Frey worked on such a large scale (look carefully and you can see how the sculptures split into pieces), and then how the museum staff managed to rebuild the pieces in its second-story gallery.

Bruce Pepich, executive director of RAM, said the weight of Frey's sculptures was a serious concern. The museum worked with the contractor that transformed the former bank building into the gallery to calculate weight loads and ensure the wood floor wouldn't collapse when Frey's pieces were put into place. "We didn't want to end up with a sculpture in our basement," Pepich said. (The museum used layers of wood to dissipate the sculptures' weight.)

The exhibit is somewhat surprising for RAM because the museum is dedicated to showing crafts, not necessarily the ceramics Frey is known for. But Pepich said the exhibit fit perfectly with RAM's mission to broaden and challenge people's thinking on what is art - a big topic in craft art, which some belittle as less of a fine art than painting.

Pepich said he believes in a century there will be no distinction in the art world between painters or sculptors who worked in glass, metal or ceramics. "In 100 years, they'll say artists worked in different materials, but talked about the same ideas," he said.

Frey is a good example because she worked in many art forms. Along with her sculptures, the Frey exhibit includes oil paintings and a watercolor. RAM's notes on the exhibit say: "Frey was an integral voice in linking craft media with fine art."

Frey's painting, "Studio View - Man in the Doorway," at RAM. The painting is a portrait of Frey's studio, where she collected knicknacks and other kitsch items that inspired her work.

RAM's Frey exhibit is already garnering international attention. The show travels to Toronto in September and then to the Museum of Art and Design in New York City. It ends in Little Rock, Ark.

The show, which opened in April, is one of RAM's most significant exhibits since opening in 2003 and is expected to draw about 6,000 people to the museum, including many from Chicago and Milwaukee.

Pepich said the exhibit, which will travel with the Racine Art Museum name on it, helps the museum fulfill its mission to spread a positive image of Racine through art. "This show will be like a billboard in New York City for 18 months," Pepich said. "Thousands and thousands of people will see it and get a positive image of Racine."

Before the exhibit leaves, you still have a chance to see it here. Frey's work will be on display at RAM, 441 Main St., through Aug. 16. You can see it free tonight at First Fridays in Downtown Racine. More on Viola Frey HERE.

Frey's "Double Self" are two life-sized sculptures of herself. Frey was shorter than 5-feet tall, but still created ceramic figures 12-feet tall in height. Frey, born to a family of grape farmers, was known for constantly working in her studio. She was photographed often in Birkenstocks and a smock with her hands and legs covered in clay and glaze.

August 6, 2009

The mayor finds his mantra

Last September, we presented the first of what since then has grown to half-a-dozen articles, each highlighting a positive aspect of the community. We labeled them Positively Racine, something focusing on the community's strengths, assets and accomplishments.

A couple of months ago, Dustin played around with some bumper sticker designs to help promote RacinePost. One of the iterations he created is above. We didn't forget about the idea; it's just simmering on the back burner.

Later, as work on our new website progressed, he added the tag line to our masthead, and it's been online ever since, in the version at right, as we test and refine our new software.

Well, Wednesdeay our little slogan got a big boost: Mayor John Dickert was the featured speaker at the Downtown Rotary Club, where he pretty much encapsulated his much-mysterious 10-year plan in just two words.

Yup. Those two words were "Positively Racine," he said, pointing out that citizens "forget" how good we have it here.

He began with a short anecdote. Dickert said he went into the Groundskeeper coffeeshop one morning, and there was a woman sitting at the table by the window, reading. She looked up as he came in, and he said, "Hi."

The woman, a stranger, took that simple greeting as an ephiphany. "We don't do that in New Jersey," she said.

Dickert replied, "I know. But you're in Racine."

The woman said, "You're the third person to come in here and say 'Hi' to me. You're all so nice."

"I know," said Dickert. "You're in Racine."

The conversation went on a little longer, with the woman finally stating she would have to think about moving here... which led the mayor to another story, about a visiting couple wanting to go to dinner here for some exotic cuisine. "What do you want to eat? We have it all here," Dickert says he told them. "We have every kind of restaurant," and he said that no matter what the couple named, Racine had a prime example. "We're the smallest big town in the world, the largest small town," is how he put it.

And then he got to his larger point: "I want us to start talking positively about Racine."

And to his 10-year plan: "I know what every block, every street will look like in 10 years, every component of this town..."

Then he told of his experience at the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Providence, R.I. "They all said to me, 'If I only had a lake...' 'If I only had a river...' 'If I was just located between two metropolitan areas...'"

At each "If I only..." Dickert's smile got wider. "Well, I have a lake!" "I have a river!!" "I'm between Milwaukee and Chicago!!!"

And then they would say to Dickert, "You must have no unemployment in Racine..." Well, that wiped the smile off. "Eh... we have some issues there," Dickert admitted.

Still, he says, "Why not more museums? Why not a children's museum, an ice skating rink, a..." The list went on faster than my fingers could take them all down.

"I'm going to create that. We're going to start looking positively. The future's not about us, it's about Racine, if we start now with positive attitudes."

Dickert said we'll soon see a change on CAR 25. "You know what?" he said. "CAR 25 stinks! We're going to put positive programming on it, focusing on what we're doing that's right. We have the best city in the country."

And then our two-months-in-office mayor's capper: "I know what Racine will look like in 10 years. Do you?"

Well, no... not yet, anyway. I remember arriving here in 1995 and, shortly thereafter, giving Mayor Jim Smith a piece of my mind about the many-years-vacant lot on Main Street, the entire block east of Monument Square. It was used as a parking lot by the Post Office then, and stayed that way seemingly forever until the Johnson Building finally was built: a better outcome than anyone could have imagined, far better than the McDonald's that had once been proposed for the site. It just took too long to happen.

I think many of us share Dickert's passion and positive view of what Racine has to offer. We're here by choice, after all. The part I think he's missing -- or intentionally ignoring -- is that we want a roadmap and benchmarks so we can keep track of progress -- or the lack of it. I don't want to wake up in 10 years and say, "Darn... that parking lot's still there." I want to see the significant mileposts along the way ... yes, so we can change direction, and drivers, if necessary.

P.S. Want a Positively Racine bumper sticker for $1? Send us a a buck for each you want, and a self-addressed, stamped envelope, and if we get at least 100 orders we'll print 'em up. If not, we'll send your money back. Mail to: RacinePost, 3315 Pleasant Lane, Racine, WI 53405

Georgia Herrera running for Racine County Circuit Court

It's easy to forget our local judges are elected officials. Attorneys rarely challenge incumbent judges and the judges themselves are rarely evaluated in any meaningful way. (For example, there's no way to quantify judges' rulings.) There have only been two contested judicial elections in Racine County in the past 10 years.

But when a vacancy appears on the bench, there tends to be a fight for the seat. That's what's shaping up for 2010, when at least two candidates will run to replace retiring Judge Stephen Simanek.

Local Attorney Georgia Herrera announced this week she's running for the seat, which comes with a six-year term. Attorney Gene Gasiorkiewicz had earlier announced he's also running for the seat.

Herrera was one of five candidates to replace Judge Emmanuel Vuvunas in 2004. She won the primary, but lost in the general election to Judge John Jude.

Here's Herrera's full release:
Georgia Herrera Declares Candidacy for Racine County Circuit Court

Attorney Georgia Herrera announces that she is a candidate for Circuit Court Branch 2, that will become vacant in 2010, upon the retirement of Judge Stephen Simanek. Herrera is a native of Racine, born here in 1960, a 1978 graduate of Washington Park High School. Herrera graduated from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1985.

Georgia Herrera has a long history of service to the community and will campaign vigorously in an effort to maintain her commitment to public service. Herrera has practiced law for 24 years, spending the last 10 years serving her community as a judicially appointed Racine County Circuit Court Commissioner. Herrera prosecuted felony, misdemeanor and all other criminal law violations as an Assistant Racine County District Attorney for 11 years. Herrera served in high volume criminal and family law courts and has proven that she is a dedicated public servant practicing in all areas of the law.

Georgia Herrera has also been very active in the community, recently serving as President of the Racine County Heritage Museum Board for a number of years. Herrera currently serves as Vice-President of Next Generation Now. Herrera was also just nominated to the National Board of Directors of the Wisconsin Alumni Association. Herrera previously served for a decade on both the Neighborhood Watch Board and the Taylor Home Board. She won the Racine County Bar Association Award for Community Volunteer in 2000.

Attorney Georgia Herrera previously ran for Judge in 2004, earning the greatest number of votes in the February primary narrowly losing in the general election. When asked what might be different in this election, Herrera responded, "I have almost 6 additional years experience court commissioning, making decisions judges would make, and representing clients in all courts in Racine County. This experience will serve me well."

Herrera, is married to local attorney Jeff Leavell; and has two children, Jennings age 14 and Theo 11.

The treasurer for Ms. Herrera’s campaign is James Eastman.

SOAR raising scholarship funds for needy kids

A nonprofit organization, SOAR (Scholarships, Opportunities & Access in Racine), is launching to provide scholarships to students from low-income families, allowing them to attend a network of approved, area private schools; grow in their academic achievement; and find success.

SOAR has named Laura Sumner Coon, former executive director of San Juan Diego Middle School, as its executive director.

The organization's first-year goal is to raise $300,000 for scholarships; it hopes to award the first scholarships in the 2010-11 school year, for attendance at accredited schools that will work with SOAR "to provide the compassion and support needed by scholarship recipients and their families."

In an initial inquiry, about 15 private schools indicated willingness to work with SOAR for children who could not otherwise afford to attend. Sumner Coon said SOAR hopes to offer $2,500 elementary school and $5,000 high school scholarships, with students' families having to pay no more than $500. Although tuition rates typically are somewhat higher than that -- $7,700 - $8,300 at two faith-based high schools -- the organization expects the schools -- like Lutheran High School, St. Catherine's and Shoreland Lutheran High School -- will offer their own scholarships to make up the difference.

So far, only faith-based schools have offered to work with SOAR. The Prairie School has declined to participate, Summner Coon said; Prairie School has its own scholarship program.

In this first year, SOAR is also working to find sponsors for former San Juan Diego Middle School students who wish to continue their middle-school years in a private school. Several students are awaiting sponsors.

“Diverse educational options benefit our community,” said Angela Bartzen, SOAR chair. “Helping students and their families have access to these accredited schools is our mission.”

Randy Baganz is the executive director of Lutheran High School, a potential SOAR school. “More and more students are in need of assistance, and I hope this organization flies to give young people an opportunity to take advantage of a school like ours and have a different opportunity in life.”

Sumner Coon said she is excited about the future of SOAR, its scholarship recipients, SOAR schools and the greater Racine community. “An indication of a community’s strength is the educational achievement of its children,” she said. “Racine is in need of a wider array of excellent schools open to economically disadvantaged youth so that each may find the best fit that will nurture their academic, personal and social growth. Better education makes better citizens and a better community. This is SOAR’s mission.”

For more information about SOAR, contact Laura Sumner Coon at (262) 498-9425 or by mail, PO Box 1782, Racine WI 53401.

RUSD director of communication is leaving

Stephanie Hayden, Racine Unified's director of communication and public information, is moving on.

After 2 1/2 years as the primary media contact for the Racine Unified School District, she has accepted a job with the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families in Madison, "very similar to what I'm doing here, as a communications and media specialist." Before joining RUSD, Hayden had spent three years working in marketing at the Racine Zoo. Her last day here is Aug. 21.

Hayden said, "Things are great here. Dr. Shaw and the 'North Star' Vision will really move students forward. I'm really excited about what's happening." But, she said, the new job "offers a professional and personal opportunity I couldn't pass up."

August 5, 2009

The cartoon @

Today, RacinePost introduces a new feature: Our own editorial cartoon, focusing on local issues. It is drawn by Paul Berge, a longtime Racine area resident, and will appear irregularly, as the spirit moves Berge, and us.

Berge's political cartoons have been distributed to publications around the country by Q Syndicate since 1998, appearing in the L.A. Times, Out Magazine, and Chicago Free Press. He also drew the weekly editorial cartoon for the Business Journal of Greater Milwaukee from 1997 to 2005. Prior to that, he drew for the Journal Times, and for the student newspapers of the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee and at Parkside, and his alma mater, St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota.

His blog is online at

West Racine turns on the lights

Arthur Shattuck, the owner of Roots & Legends located in West Racine, had an idea to improve West Racine. Turn the lights on.

He's been encouraging his neighbors to light up their storefronts at night to advertise the business district and to increase safety. Shattuck said his store has the brightest evening window lights in West Racine and its paid off in people noticing his business as they drive by.

Other businesses decided to give it a try, Shattuck said. Here's his report from National Night Out (along with his take on healthy eating):
First there were lights. Last night was National Night Out and West Racine responded by a 98% compliance with new storefront window lighting. Check out Molbeck's, PC Harbor Computers and Wilson's! We are open for walkers who want to window shop and feel safe walking West Racine. Drive by and see what some light can do for a neighborhood.

Next, there will be "service and smiles". Wendy Sorenson, a massage therapist at "Roots and Legends" will be offering complimentary massage and Reikki this Saturday at 10:00 a.m. at the clinic. Arthur Shattuck will see walk-in patients that have a question about their health care and how eating the right foods may just be an answer. Complimentary of course. Arthur stresses "change your diet, change your health.: He is readying his new slogan for the current debate on health care: "Feeding children soda pop is socially unacceptable." Cigarette smoking did not lessen until smoking became socially unacceptable behavior. Shattuck believes the same can happen with soda pop There is absolutely nothing nutritious about drinking it. Window posters with the new slogan will be passed out on Saturday.

Back to school season is upon us. September will see a renewed interest is visiting West Racine. Wait 'till you see what we have planned.

RUSD hires Madison HS principal as Deputy Supt.

Alan G. Harris has been named Deputy Superintendent of the Racine Unified School District. He replaces Dr. Jackson Parker, the retired interim deputy superintendent.

Harris, who was selected by Supt. James Shaw, is principal of Madison East High School in Madison.

A statement from RUSD says:
For more than fifteen years, he has worked in education, including serving as a principal at the elementary, middle, and high school level in both California and Wisconsin. Mr. Harris is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His Ph.D. dissertation is focused on school districts that have successfully closed achievement gaps and promoted excellence for all students. Mr. Harris will officially begin his work with the Racine Unified School District on Oct. 1. His prorated salary, based on an annual salary of $119,268, will be $89,451 for the 2009-2010 school year.

As Deputy Superintendent, Mr. Harris will lead a team of administrators focused on school reform to achieve the goals of the North Star in reading, writing, and mathematics achievement. He will assist and support all staff in identifying, developing, and improving the teaching and learning skills necessary to improve education in Racine. His specific responsibilities are to improve professional development, to assist principals, teachers, and all staff in analyzing data, and to establish a data warehouse that integrates achievement and management data.

“I am excited about Mr. Harris joining our staff. I know his experience in diverse urban districts will bring new ideas to the district that will serve the students and staff of the district well. I know Mr. Harris is excited about the North Star and know from his past accomplishments that he is committed to excellence for all students,” Shaw said. Together with administrators, teachers, staff, and community leaders, he will identify and develop research-based strategies that effectively close achievement gaps in Racine.

The appointment of Mr. Harris is part of a reorganization of the Administrative Service Center and the combining of several vacant positions including Chief Academic Officer, Chief Operations Officer, Administrator of Professional Development, Executive Director of Information Technology, and the Interim Deputy Superintendent position. Responsibilities have also been modified for Area Superintendents Dona Sens, Dr. Bethel Cager, and Brian Colbert, and Director of Curriculum and Instruction Jeff Weiss. The revised assignments for these administrators include the development of tutoring programs, school security, the expansion of rigorous IB and AP curriculum, and instructional coaching for teachers and other staff.

Karas alleges council, mayor illegally discussed Friedel's contract

Update: Karas filed the complaint this afternoon with DA Mike Nieskes. He asserts the July 7 executive committee meeting was not properly noticed. He also noted the City Council itself may have had a quorem (at least eight aldermen) at the meeting, which itself could be illegal because that wasn't officially noticed.

We talked with Alderman Greg Helding, who said the complaint had no merit. The meeting was officially noticed and the committee had "good cause" to hold an emergency session. He added that the state has never defined "good cause," so Karas would need a court to determine what that means. "He can take me all the way to the Supreme Court on that," Helding said.

Helding, who is named in Karas' complaint, also said the meeting clearly wasn't held with bad intent. If the council wanted to hold a secret meeting it would have done a better job, he reasoned. The fact that Alderman Maack asked if the meeting needed to be noticed was a sign the council was aware of the law it had to follow.

And, the meeting was open to all aldermen because it's against the law for the city to ban City Council members from committee meetings, even if they're in closed session.

Interestingly, Karas filed another records request today to determine who actually attended the meeting. He was sent minutes from the City Attorney's office, which you can read here. They differ from the minutes that were posted in Legistar as of this morning, which you can read here.

Original post:

Pete Karas is set to file a complaint with the District Attorney's office regarding the July 7 Executive Committee where City Council members and Mayor John Dickert discussed new City Administrator Tom Friedel's contract.

Karas, a former alderman and mayoral candidate, is alleging the committee illegally called an "emergency meeting" to discuss Friedel's contract before the regularly scheduled July 7 City Council meeting. The meeting was held in closed session and vaguely noticed. Following the meeting, where council members reached an agreement on important aspects of Friedel's contract, the council voted to hire Friedel.

The Executive Committee is chaired by Dickert and is made up of the City Council's committee chairmen, City Council president and an at-large member. Current members include: Dickert and Aldermen Q.A. Shakoor, Sandy Weidner, Greg Helding, Aron Wisneski and Jim Spangenberg.

Along with the committee members, other aldermen were in attendance including Alderman Jeff Coe, who recently blasted the mayor and council for approving Friedel's contract without seeing the final document. Coe said he would not have voted for the contract if he had known in advance Friedel was going to make $95,000 per year.

Karas' claim is the meeting was illegal because the committee had no grounds to call an emergency meeting, which is reserved for extreme circumstances that demand a meeting without the customary 24-hour notice. The Attorney General's office has ruled that "inconvenience" is not a justifiable reason to call an emergency meeting.

The meeting is also questionable because enough City Council members attended the meeting to require an official meeting notice of the council. No such notice was filed. RacinePost earlier reported at least 10 people were in the meeting, though it's unclear how many aldermen actually attended. The entire City Council was invited.

The Executive Committee meeting was held July 7 for council members to reach agreement on Friedel's contract without sending the document to a regular council committee. (In 2007, the Personnel and Finance Committee reviewed the contract for former City Administrator Ben Hughes before the full council voted on it.)

Greg Bach, Dickert's assistant, announced the meeting by email on Monday, July 6 p.m., but the meeting wasn't noticed by City Attorney Rob Weber until Tuesday, July 7, according to records obtained by Karas through the Wisconsin Open Records Law.

After Bach called the meeting, Alderman David Maack emailed him asking if the meeting was properly posted and said he was concerned it could be viewed as an illegal meeting, according to the records obtained by Karas.

Bach then emailed City Attorney Rob Weber, but the city redacted the entire email citing attorney/client privilege, according to records obtained by Karas.

"Representative democracy can only work in the sunshine," said Karas, who is pursuing the complaint over concerns with how city government has been holding meetings in recent months. He called the Executive Committee's emergency meeting a "red flag."

"I thought when the Gary Becker administration left office this would end, but apparently it hasn't," Karas said.

Karas added the complaint was not personally directed at the mayor or any of the alderman. "It's only procedural," he said.

If found guilty of an illegal meeting, committee members can be fined between $25 and $300. A judge could also, in theory, void Friedel's contract for holding illegal discussions.

The Executive Committee has met three times this year. On Feb. 16 the committee met to discuss a legal issue and city personnel data. On Jan. 20, the committee was scheduled to meet to discuss removing former Mayor Gary Becker from office.

Racine Unified receives $1.8 million for construction; lags Kenosha, other districts

Update: The JT reached the district and learned Unified didn't get more money because it hadn't passed a construction referendum. Kenosha Unified did pass a referendum to add on to its Indian Trails High School, so it got more money.

Original post: Racine Unified is in line to receive $1.8 million in interest-free bonds to finance new construction and renovation projects, according to Gov. Jim Doyle's office.

The money comes to Unified through the federal stimulus act and is part of $125.5 million in bond authority for Wisconsin schools.

The news for Unified is somewhat tempered by the money allocated to other districts. Kenosha Unified is set to receive $11.7 million in bonds (plus another $8.5 million for another stimulus bond program), Sun Prairie was given $23 million and West Bend received $12 million. Milwaukee Public Schools received a whopping $72.3 million.

Racine Unified officials were not immediately available for comment.

Here's the press release from the governor's office (which doesn't explain on how the dollar amounts were awarded):
Doyle, Evers announce $125.5 million in bond authority for Wisconsin schools

MADISON — Governor Jim Doyle and State Superintendent Tony Evers today announced allocations for Wisconsin school districts to finance major new construction, renovation, and rehabilitation projects with bonding authority totaling $125.5 million.

The allocations come in the form of authority to issue two special types of bonds authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). In contrast to a typical bond, where the issuer pays the buyer interest on their investment, the ARRA bonds provide federal tax credits to buyers, relieving school districts of the need to make interest payments.

“These bonds will help money flow through our economy, supporting jobs, while helping Wisconsin schools repair, improve, and build new facilities where needed,” said Doyle.

“Deferred maintenance has become the norm instead of the exception for Wisconsin schools,” said Evers. “These bonds will help reverse that trend as well as provide for some smart improvements. From weatherizing buildings and repairing roofs to constructing new facilities and installing green energy, schools have plans in place
for projects that will pay back our investment well into the future.”

ARRA authorized schools to issue the bonds through two programs, the Qualified School Construction Bond (QSCB) Program and the Qualified Zone Academy Bond (QZAB) Program. The total dollar amount of bonds requested by Wisconsin school districts through both programs was $526.4 million—far greater than the amount the state was allowed to allocate under rules issued by the United States Department of Education. The complete lists of allocations to Wisconsin districts can be found here and here.

Created by ARRA, the QSCB program lets public school districts issue bonds to finance new construction, rehabilitation, or repair of public school facilities, as well as acquisition of land and acquisition of equipment to be used in such facilities. Wisconsin was allotted $170.7 million in Qualified School Construction Bonds. The federal Bonds for Schools law set aside a significant portion of the QSCB bonding authority for the nation’s largest school districts, including $72.1 million for Milwaukee Public Schools. ARRA charged the Department of Public Instruction with distributing the other $98.6 million among the rest of the state’s school districts.

The remaining bonding authority announced today was issued through the Qualified Zone Academy Bond (QZAB) Program, created in 1997 and expanded by ARRA. School districts with populations at least 35 percent low-income (as measured by eligibility for free and reduced-price school meals) applied for QZAB financing to rehabilitate or repair school facilities. In addition to the ARRA-authorized QZAB funding, a small amount of non-ARRA bonding authority remaining from the 2007 QZAB program is included in today’s allocations.

School districts are allowed approximately two years to issue the bonds. Wisconsin districts will have another opportunity to apply for both types of bonds in 2010, because ARRA authorized both programs through that year. Historically, QZAB has been reauthorized every biennium.

The ARRA also provides funding for special education, services to economically disadvantaged students, teacher quality enhancement, school lunch equipment purchases, enhancing education through technology grants, and other education purposes.

Racine Kilties' Emil Pavlik inducted into Drum Corps International's Hall of Fame

Emil Pavlik gives a speech after being inducted into Drum Corps International's Hall of Fame.

The Racine Kilties' Emil Pavlik was inducted into Drum Corps International's Hall of Fame this week in Indianapolis. Here's a report from George Fennell, a former Kiltie who helped put together Pavlik's nomination:
Last night Drum Corps international (DCI) took the HOF inductees and a guest out to dinner at 7 pm at Harry & Izzy's Restaurant in Indianapolis. So I wasn't at that. This was followed by DCI's "World Championship Kickoff Party" in the 500 Ballroom at the Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis from 9:30 PM - 2:00 AM. At this wonderful party each of the five 2009 HOF inductees were introduced by the MC Dr. Dave Kampschroer, chairman of the HOF Committee, and each were given three minutes a piece at the microphone. Emil's daughter, Barb Riegelman, introduced Emil to the audience after Dr. Kampschroer did. Emil then gave a nice talk and was very, very well received by the audience. After his talk he was given a rousing standing ovation by the audience which included all of the high powered DCI officials, many DCI judges and the administrative and instructional staff of most of the top DCI drum and bugle corps. It was very nice, indeed!

George Fennell (right) with Pavlik and Pavlik's daughter, Barb Riegelman.

Racine Kilties' Emil Pavlik inducted
into Drum Corps International Hall of Fame

Emil Pavlik didn't know anything about drum corps when the Racine Kilties sought him out as their musical director in 1952. Fifty-seven years later he's being recognized as one of drum corps' all-time greats.

The 89-year-old Pavlik (right), of Racine, will be inducted into Drum Corps International's Hall of Fame tonight in Indianapolis for his 18 years of work as musical director of the Racine Kilties. Pavlik is the first Kiltie inducted into the DCI Hall of Fame, and one of just 94 people inducted into the hall since it was founded in 1985.

"He was a great teacher and mentor," said George Fennell, who played in the Kilties for two years under Pavlik's direction. "He's a wonderful asset."

Pavlik's music career started at home in Chicago when he was a young teenager. He picked up the coronet, and then the violin, and learned to play music. From those early days, he never stopped.

Pavlik served in the Army during World War II playing in the 290th Infantry band. After the war he became a professional jazz musician known nationally for his arranging skills. The Kilties came calling in 1952 when they needed a new director. Pavlik said it was "natural" how he joined the drum corps.

"When the director announced he was leaving, they (Kilties members) said, 'We'll get Pavlik,'" Emil recalled.

It didn't matter that Pavlik knew nothing about drum corps. "Music is music," he said.

And actually, it was Pavlik's jazz arrangements that helped bring the Kilties national acclaim, Fennell said. Pavlik used a "radical jazz chording" that gave the Kilties a distinctive sound that carries through today, he said.

"Kilties were often a winner, always a contender," said George Fennell, who played in the Kilties under Pavlik for two years. "Emil and his staff always put us in position to win.

The Racine Kilties stopped on Main Street during the Fourth of July parade to play a special song for Emil Pavlik, who is being inducted into the Drum Corps International Hall of Fame. Photo by George Fennell

Pavlik is entering DCI's Hall of Fame in the "Legacy Category" for his lifetime of work, Fennell said. While directing the Kilties, he produced three national champion horn lines in 1953, 1968 and 1969, with a narrow miss in 1964 by 0.1 point.

Pavlik will be inducted into the Hall of Fame tonight and awarded a plaque on Friday. He's one of two inductees this year out of 10 applicants, Fennell said.

Pavlik's nomination was started by a letter Kiltie alum Dave Hertsgaard wrote to DCI. Fennell and others followed up with supporting letters and additional information. Edward Porcaro, Gary King, Robert Cormack, Dennis Hinen, Jack Eschmann and Robert Teska all wrote in support of Pavlik. (Fennell said the Pavlik's application was actually too long and too in depth. "We had to shorten it," he said.

Pavlik looked back fondly on his time with the Kilties.

"It was a damn good bunch of kids," he said. "They blew their guts out."

Tonight's ceremony is a crowning achievement for Pavlik, who will turn 90 later this month. During Racine's Fourth of July parade, the Kilties stopped in front of Pavlik's daughter's house and played a special tribute to hime.

Looking back, Pavlik said he was grateful for picking up an instrument as a young man and realizing early on that music was his life.

"It was one of the best damn things that ever happened to me," he said.

August 4, 2009

Vos: Taxpayers scammed by Doyle's train deal

In a party-line, 11-4 vote Tuesday, the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee -- which has three Racine lawmakers on it, Republican Robin Vos and Democrats Cory Mason and John Lehman -- approved Gov. Jim Doyle's no-bid $48 million purchase of two trains from Spain to be used on Amtrak's Hiawatha line.

Vos, R-Racine, objected strenuously to the purchase and released the following statement:
Wisconsin taxpayers are $48 million further in debt today because of the approval of a bonding request made by Governor Doyle for new high speed rail passenger cars. Rep. Robin Vos (R-Caledonia) says taxpayers should be outraged that no bids were accepted and the job was automatically given to Spanish manufacturer, Talgo, after Doyle returned from a recent trade mission there.

“If this isn’t the definition of a sweetheart deal, I don’t know what is,” said Vos. “The Governor shouldn’t be able to simply enter into contracts with whomever he pleases just because he is on a Spanish-funded trip.”

On a party line vote, the Joint Finance Committee approved $48 million in bonding requested by Doyle in May to purchase two passenger rail car train sets to be used between Milwaukee and Chicago, and potentially for high speed rail between Milwaukee and Madison. If the plan is fully implemented, total capital costs may reach $600 million. “If Governor Doyle has no problem entering into a no-bid agreement for $48 million, how can we trust him to spend the additional $550 million wisely?” asked Vos.

“Given the fiscally reckless way in which Doyle crafted his most recent budget, I have little faith he will think of the taxpayers when it comes to this rail project.”

Doyle’s administration has made the claim that this deal was struck in part because it would bring 80 jobs to Wisconsin via a new manufacturing facility. However, during the course of the Joint Finance hearing, Department of Transportation officials admitted Wisconsin was only one of many states Talgo is currently considering and that no official determination has been made.

“The message sent by Governor Doyle today is that transparency and the pocketbooks of Wisconsin taxpayers clearly do not matter,” Vos noted. “This rail deal is a sham that might have had a smaller price tag had the Governor acted openly and fairly. Unfortunately, now we will never know.”

National Night Out turns city into a giant pot-luck

Racine was a giant pot-luck supper Tuesday night.

Barbeques were everywhere in the city -- some 70 of them at last count. Kids were playing in the streets, popcorn, cotton candy machines and sno-cones magically appeared at dozens of block parties. There was music, play houses and games for kids. Fire engines showed up, not to fight fires, but to let kids climb into.

Why, there even were cops to dunk!

Bernice Moore receives plaque from Neighborhood Watch's
Dan Mekemson and Charlie French, as McGruff stands guard

But all that was secondary to the evening's main purpose, which was to bring neighbors, and neighborhoods, together. National Night Out Against Crime and Drugs was celebrating its 25th anniversary and the message was simple. As Bernice Moore, who was there at the beginning, one of the city's first block captains when Neighborhood Watch was forming in 1981 -- and seeking funds from Mayor Stephen Olson -- said as she was honored at the evening's first event, "We know one day we will have our neighborhoods back."

Walking with a cane at the block party she has hosted for decades, Moore said, "I'm not young like I used to be," adding, "This was a good idea we started in the city."

National Night Out's kickoff event in the 900 block of Racine Street began with the presentation of a plaque to Moore from Neighborhood Watch's board president, Dan Mekemson, and executive director Charlie French. Mayor John Dickert presented a proclamation, but boiled its message down to: There aren't enough police and first responders for every block, so "we're going to have to do it ourselves." That was echoed by County Executive Bill McReynolds. State Rep. Bob Turner said, "We have come a long way, and we have a long way to go."

At least three aldermen -- Ray DeHahn, Jeff Coe and Robert Anderson -- were present, along with Assistant Police Chief Steven Hurley, fire officials, police and firemen, along with two big fire engines blocking the street, and McGruff the Crime Dog handing out honorary badges to the kids. All that before the food was cooked.

Tyler Kerner, 5
holds tightly to McGruff

And that was just at one of the 70 events. Many top officials went from one to another; Dickert had a list of about eight on his iPhone, and Hurley and McGruff made the rounds as as well. Food was plentiful. And depending upon where you were, there was music -- Cheryl McCrary started the evening off with the National Anthem at Mead Street -- and even a dunk tank at the Villa Street COP House where, for $1, you could attempt to drop officer Brad Jungbluth into a large tank of cold water. It was all for a good cause: the money will go toward purchase of kids' playground equipment. After a while, Coe took a stint in the dunk tank as well.

Officer Sam Stulo, Mayor John Dickert and Alderman Bob Anderson
(The haze is coming from the barbeque pit.)

Residents and officials know that it takes a lot of initiatives to eliminate crime, and progress is marked a block at a time. Standing outside the COP House on Mead, Alderman Bob Anderson noted, "This street was gang-bang central, but at the last COP House meeting, everyone was complaining about a parking problem. Charlie French got the giggles." But even with that progress, Anderson also noted, there had been a shooting recently; "You don't get rid of the problem, you just chase them out, to somewhere else."

He praised Officer Sam Stulo, who has been stationed at the COP House for almost three years. "You've got to be the right kind of guy to be a neighborhood police officer; got to get along with people." Stulo, he said, gives people his cellphone number; "people are very comfortable talking to Sam. Getting a policeman who knows the neighborhood is more important than sending four squad cars. We've got to get the neighborhood involved."

Stulo said the same thing. "I try to get around on foot as much as possible." Looking around as the lines formed for food -- burgers, hot dogs, sweet corn, watermelon, cake -- he noted, "There are people I've arrested here ... but we're looking for long-term solutions."

Officer Brad Jungbluth hits the water for a good cause

Dyani Driver, 10, 'drives' Fire Engine No. 6

Cheryl McCrary sings the National Anthem
(The only flag available was Carolyn Vinson's hat)

Denise Jones, 5, has fun with a Frisbee

Jump houses are always popular with kids

August 3, 2009

Op-Ed: A closer look at Paul Ryan's health plan

By Kelly K. Gallaher

Congressman Paul Ryan has been very busy talking about the health care crisis and touting his plan called “The Patients’ Choice Act.” My local newspaper invited him to write a series of articles to examine the “facts” of current legislation. After reading his article on July 27, I realized they offered it with no rebuttal or factual verification. A day later, I received a mailing from Ryan criticizing current health care reform proposals while stressing the benefits of his plan.

Ryan’s plan sounds great, while U.S. House of Representatives Bill H.R. 3200 sounds scary. This time I sat down and read very closely every idea and derision posed in Ryan’s mailing. With a small amount of research I was able to refute every statement of criticism contained in the mailing. All of them. I was also able to dismantle the benefits Congressman Ryan claims his “Patients’ Choice Act” contains and discovered a pattern of distorted language designed to misrepresent and confuse constituents about health care. I will illustrate a few of the worst:

Regarding his proposed tax refund of $5,700 for every family or $2,300 for individuals, Ryan says:
“My plan, The Patients’ Choice Act, ensures universal affordable health care for all Americans.” and “Allows everyone to use this tax credit to select from a group of comprehensive health insurance plans that fit their specific needs-just like Members of Congress and federal employees do now.”
Last year family coverage in the private market averaged $13,000 and exceeded $16,000 per year in some states and is predicted to keep rising nationally. A figure far more than double the tax credit would allocate.

Republican Senator Richard Burr admitted that Ryan’s credit is not sufficient to cover American families. Burr says, “that probably won’t meet the equivalent of an FEHBP (Federal Employees Health Benefit Program) plan.” Even Ryan’s friend in Congress says this isn’t equivalent to the coverage they have.

Under Ryan’s plan, families with employer paid insurance would be taxed on the entire amount the employer contributes just as if it were wages.

Replacing the current employer tax exclusion with an individual tax credit would significantly weaken employer-based coverage because individuals receive the credit and employers no longer have an incentive to contribute.

Unlike health reform proposals that the House and Senate committees are developing, Ryan’s plan does not set meaningful minimum standards on what benefits insurers must cover. It doesn’t limit deductibles or out-of-pocket costs leaving private insurers to determine those themselves state by state.

On current proposals being debated in the House and Senate, Ryan says the following:
“Total costs would exceed $1 trillion.” and “Creates an entitlement that will cost another trillion over the next ten years, on top of the trillions the government is already scheduled to spend on health care.”
The initial report by the CBO (Congressional Budget Office) in early July calculating estimated costs has been used by Ryan and his colleagues frequently and unfairly. The CBO did not calculate savings that health care reform will produce. On July 20, the CBO recalculated that the H.R. 3200 reform bill would not only be budget neutral, it will produce a surplus of $6 billion over time.

The real threat to government spending is the system we have now. According to the Kaiser Foundation: by 2018 health care costs are expected to top $4.4 trillion if nothing is done.

House and Senate committee reforms would reduce overuse of expensive healthcare technology and cut back on preventable medical error -- two of the greatest cost drivers in the entire system. According to the Center for Health Research: comprehensive reform could save as much as $1.4 trillion over ten years.

Perhaps the worst lie Congressman Ryan is telling:
“A recent study predicts two out of every three Americans will lose their current employer-provided insurance under the government plan.”
The “recent study” he refers to is a study conducted by the Lewin group, which is wholly owned by UnitedHealth Group (UHG), one of the nation’s largest insurers. The Lewin Group is part of Ingenix, a subsidiary of UHG that was accused by the New York attorney general and the AMA of helping insurers shift medical expenses to consumers by distributing skewed data. In January, UnitedHealth paid a $400 million settlement covering conduct going back to 1994. According to Center on Budget and Policy Priorities it is Congressman Ryan’s “Patients’ Choice Act” that “would significantly erode employer-based coverage” while it “fails to create a viable alternative for people losing employer coverage.”

Lastly, Congressman Ryan decries government interference in health care. However, he completely avoids discussing that his plan for the uninsurable constitutes a huge government system itself. Nearly 100 million chronically ill Americans (representing up to 75% of health care spending) who cannot afford coverage except at colossal premium costs would be funneled into a state/government run health insurance exchange with prices and language determined by private carriers in each individual state. Ryan’s plan is devoid of the competition a public option offers and entrusts insurance companies to police themselves.

Ultimately, Congressman Ryan’s “Patients’ Choice Act” benefits for-profit, private health insurance companies by retaining and defending their central role in this billion dollar industry. Perhaps then, it is no coincidence that the insurance industry has been Congressman Ryan’s top contributor since 1989. In fact, he has received $1,143,560 in campaign contributions from health care industries over the last decade.

As 14,000 Americans lose their health insurance every single day, Paul Ryan offers nothing new; he is obstructing real reform and offering us more of the same. His “Patients’ Choice Act” is a retread of two bills already introduced in 2008 and both were recycled by John McCain in his unsuccessful run for President. In contrast, H.R. 3200 has included 160 Republican amendments, which proved to be smart, constructive and bipartisan, but you won’t hear that from Paul Ryan.

I believe we will have comprehensive health care reform this year and I hope it will be a good plan. It is clear that my U.S. Representative, Paul Ryan, intends to play no role in helping to shape this historic legislation. He said last week on MSNBC, “let’s have an honest debate.” My reply to him is: you first.

Kelly Gallaher is a founding member and coordinator for Community for Change and is currently working with Organizing for America in the 1st Congressional District in Wisconsin. She is a partner in the “Artists Gallery” cooperative, is married and has a nine-year-old daughter, Tess. She says: “I wrote this commentary because I truly believe we must work together to construct a plan for health care reform that works for everyone. Seeing and hearing my Representative, Paul Ryan, politicize that facts of current proposals for political clout is disappointing and underscores the perils of special interest influence on our elected officials.”

McAuliffe's offers rare big band sound

The Parkside Reunion Band at McAuliffe's Pub, 3700 Meachem Road, in Racine.

Step into McAuliffe's Pub on the right Tuesday night and you'll be blown away. You'd think it'd be from the sheer volume of the 18-piece big band that packs itself onto the pub's stage with trumpets, trombones, saxophones, drums, a piano and a bass. But it's a different experience all together.

The huge band's sound is warm and inviting. The players - many with decades of experience - replace the volume of typical bar music with a subtle skill that doesn't need to hide behind amps and distortion. It's a great sound that leaves people nodding along, not yelling to get a friend's attention two-feet away.

The group is the Parkside Reunion Band and its performances on the first and third Tuesdays of the month are technically rehearsals. The group simply gets together and plays off sheet music. Members of the band swap in and out, and the band ranges in size depending on who's available that week.

McAuliffe's has hosted a big band for 11 years dating back to the John Bunic Band. Bar owner JJ McAuliffe said his connection to big bands is tied to his Dad, who loved the music. McAuliffe himself is a huge music fan, and he takes pride in being one of the few clubs in the country that hosts regular big band jazz shows. (Even more unusual, the shows are free.)

McAuliffe tells a story about Chris Byrne, formerly of the Irish-rock group "Black 47," visiting Racine and seeing the big band play. Byrne told McAuliffe: "I'm from Brooklyn, and I've never seen something like this. We don't even have something like this in New York."

McAuliffe's offers an ideal setting for the big band, said band leader Jack Plovanich. The group landed at McAuliffe's after playing at the former Brewmaster's South in Kenosha for a number of years. When Brewmaster's closed, McAuliffe's was able to take in the band.

"It's a great find for us," Plovanich said. "I hope we can play here forever."

Plovanich started playing big band music in 1976 to maintain his sanity.

At the time he was playing showtunes at Great America (then owned by Marriott) as part of the amusement park's concert band. The performances got a bit repetitive.

"We played the same 45-minute show 400 times one summer," Plovanich said. "We had to play big band charts just to get the show tunes out of your head."

He added he still plays with some of the guys he met in a big band over 30 years ago. "I've been playing gigs with some of these guys since the 1970s, which is a beautiful thing."

Plovanich credited UW-Parkside's Tim Bell for stocking the big band with talented musicians. Bell's background includes time at North Texas University, which is known as one of the great jazz universities in the world, he said. Bell's background gives the Parkside Reunion Band direct lineage to some of the great jazz musicians and arrangers of all time. It also means you could hear tunes at McAuliffe's that have never been played before by any big band in the world.

The history of big bands dates back to the 1930s and '40s when people wanted to dance, but there were no amplifiers. Clubs started hiring large bands for the crowds, and a new music form was created. Count Basie, Benny Goodman and Buddy Rich were stars of the time.

The Parkside Reunion Big Band has two alto saxes, two tenor saxes, a baritone sax, four trumpets, four trombones and a piano, bass and drums. Most, but not all, members of the group have a connection to UW-Parkside's nationally regarded jazz program (hence the band name).

"There are some pretty heavy-hitters in the band," said Plovanich, who himself played with music greats like the Temptations and the Four Tops.

A personal job for Plovanich is playing with his daughter, Katie Plovanich, who is a musician and music teacher.

"One of the joys of my life has been watching her grow up to be the musician and educator she's become," Plovanich said.

The Parkside Reunion Band is playing at McAuliffe's this Tuesday night at 8 p.m. The big band plays at McAuliffe's the first and third Tuesdays of every month. Admission is free.

Dickert: 10-year plan will be incorporated into city budget

We sat down with Mayor John Dickert last week to hear his thoughts on how the first few months on the job are going. Here's a breakdown of the conversation:

On his 10-year plan: "We're going to incorporate it into the budget," said Dickert, who described a new budget process he hopes will focus on priorities such as improving the city's housing stock and improving its parks system.

"Instead of waiting for people to create budgets, we're meeting with them beforehand," said Dickert, who described his budget criteria with a question: "Is it working?"

If it is, Dickert said, it should be supported. If it isn't, it should be cut. All of the decisions should be made "looking long-range," said Dickert, as opposed to making short-term decisions.

"What I talked about in the campaign is what I'm doing," Dickert said.

During the campaign, Dickert said he had a "10-year plan" to make Racine a "Top 10" city.

On stimulus money for three new police officers: Dickert said it would be "irresponsible" to accept federal stimulus to hire three new police officers if there's no long-term plan to maintain the positions.

At issue is $813,000 in stimulus the city received to hire three police officers for three years. The problem is there is no money to cover the fourth year, but a requirement that the city keep those positions filled. Under federal law, the fourth year will cost the city a one-time payment of $250,000 if it accepts the stimulus money. In the fifth year the positions can be eliminated, if needed.

Dickert said staff is reviewing its short and long-term budgets to see if the city can afford the officers. He added the he called the Obama administration to ask them to "loosen the strings" on the stimulus money. "If they can loosen the strings a little bit, we can get the cops on the street," he said.

When asked why the city doesn't just take the money, hire the officers and worry about keeping the positions in three years, Dickert said that was "bad government."

"It makes sense if I was worried about getting re-elected," he said. "But I have to make the best long-term decision for the city."

On city parks: Dickert pointed to Alderman Aron Wisneski's efforts in Lockwood Park as a positive example of someone stepping forward to improve a city park. "He's making his park incredible," Dickert said. "Why aren't they always like that?"

He said the 10-year plan would include figuring out where the city should locate its parks and what services should be there. Should the city build splash pads for kids? How about a public pool?

In most cases, Dickert said he envisioned a public-private partnership, like the one used to build Kids Cove on North Beach, to make improvements.

On hiring a new public health administrator: Dickert met with a search firm last week to begin searching for Janelle Grammer's replacement. The city is also reviewing the entire department and considering if it's possible to consolidate services or make other changes, he said.

On the city's housing programs: Dickert hopes to get aggressive at revamping homes in the city. "I don't want to do two or three homes per year," he said. "We want to do 20 to 30 homes per year."

To get there, Dickert said he wants to study all of the housing programs in the city for "effectiveness and efficiency."

"We want to boost successes and move away from failures," Dickert said.

He said he also planned to re-evaluate city ordinances to take on landlords who are doing a poor job maintaining their properties.

On Tom Friedel as administrator: "He's exceeded expectations." On Friedel's first day he gave Dickert an update on the search for a new public health administrator and worked on several other local issues. "With any other new administrator I would have been driving them around and saying, 'This is Downtown,' this is 'Uptown,'" Dickert said.

Dickert defended Friedel's six-year contract, which is unusual among city, village and town administrators in Wisconsin. He said the city needed "consistency and uniformity" in the coming years, especially with another mayoral election coming up in 2011. Locking in the administrator through 2015 was one to stabilize local government, Dickert said.

"This way we're not recreating the government wheel," he said.

On his new job: "It's overwhelming. I never realized how deep it would go. I love it."

As proof, the new mayor said his blood pressure, checked recently, was 106/52. The nurse said that meant he had a stress-free job. "I told her I had the best job on the planet," Dickert said.