September 19, 2009

Beer judging: A dirty job that started at 8 a.m....

UPDATE, Sept. 22: The results are in! For the second year in a row, an Illinois brew wins the Grand Prize. Racine brewmasters won 29 medals, including 12 first prizes. See below...

Original post:

As if Saturday's Brew Fest was not enough, the Schooner Homebrew Competition went on full bore today.

Thirty beer judges started at 8 a.m. this morning (Yes, beer for breakfast!) judging the last of 517 entries from all over the country... bottles of homebrew in many categories. Judging actually started two days ago.

They were huddled in the basement of D.P. Wigley, sitting two or three at a table, going through dozens of bottles brought in from all over the country via FedEx and UPS (No, the Postal Service won't deliver beer.) Many of the judges were BJCP-certified (via the Beer Judge Certification Program). Its guidelines fill a 66-page booklet, describing the standards for 28 types of beer, mead and cider.

The beers judged today included European Amber Lager, Oatmeal Stout, English Brown, Weizen, Belgian Blonde, Fruit Beer, and many more. Sad to say, there was much "alcohol abuse" ... judges carefully eyeball the beer to check its color and texture, sniff it, slosh it around in a glass -- and barely taste it. Most is thrown away.

Rick McNabb of Union Grove, steward and competition organizer, said the Schooner Homebrew Championship drew entries from 17 states, including two cases from the St. Louis homebrew club. The club with the most medal-winning beers earns a $250 prize; all winners earn a medal. The competition is run by three area homebrew clubs: the Belle City Home Brewers, the Beer Barons of Milwaukee and the Kenosha Bidal Society.

But the big prize won't be awarded until next week: All of the entrants submitted two bottles of each beer, and the second bottle from each of the Schooner medal winners will go on to compete at Milwaukee's Rock Bottom Brewery. The best-of-show winner there will be brewed commercially. Next week's winning brewmaster will get a half-barrel of the winning beer, a party for 20, a professionally-designed label ... and, of course, bragging rights that will last at least until next year.

Results from the Rock Bottom Brewery:


1st place: Brett Wilkes - Algonquin, IL - Imperial brown Ale

2nd place: Brian Hanold - Oconomowoc, WI- Scottish 60

3rd Place: Kevin Flynn - Racine, WI - Cherry Ale

CIDER - Steve Olsen - Menasha, WI - Griffen Cider
MEAD - Ryan Verkennis, Blaine, MN - Viking Mead
SAKE - Doug Zobel, Oak Park, IL - Junmai Sake

COMPLETE RESULTS -- all 500+ entries -- HERE.

250 brews to sample ... what's not to like?

Festival Hall park was beer lovers' Heaven Saturday, as more than 100 brewers from all over the country offered samples of nearly 250 different brews.

A sell-out crowd of 4,000 showed up -- Imagine that! -- for this year's Great Lakes Brew Fest, a benefit for the Racine Kilties Drum and Bugle Corps.

Admission bought them four hours of as many beers as they could sample -- and as you'd expect there were lots of happy party-goers. This year's theme was "Talk and Walk Like a Pirate," and many were dressed in pirate garb of some sort -- Arghh, matey! -- but many more wore their favorite beer-centric t-shirts, of which there seem to be an almost infinite supply.

Brewers present sported names like Buffalo Water, Dogfish Head, Flying Dog, Grumpy Troll, Horny Goat, Jolly Pumpkin, Mickey Finns, Smuttynose and Tommyknocker Brewing, among the more colorful. Of course, mainstream brewers like Anchor, New Glarus and Leinie were also represented. My favorite was the Left Hand Brewery, but only because its promotional car had two beer taps mounted in the trunk -- you can take it with you!

Here's what the party looked like:

So many choices, but just four hours...

The stars of the Pirate Parade

Yes, that's a pretzel necklace. Very tasty!

And finally, proof that beer is never bought, only rented...

Car collides with Sturtevant Police squadcar

A Sturtevant Police car and another vehicle collided early this morning, injuring both drivers.

The accident took place at the intersection of Route 11 and County Highway H at 1:44 a.m. while the police car was responding, with lights and siren, to assist another officer.

Both drivers were taken to the hospital; the officer was treated and released but the other driver was later transported to Froedtert Hospital.

No further details were released by the Racine County Sheriff.

September 18, 2009

Library hours cut again, as funding remains stagnant

You don't have to check out a mathematics text from the library to understand this equation:

Increased use + stagnant funding = ?

Library circulation is up 14% this year, and 50% more library cards have been issued than in 2008. But funding hasn't increased. What to do?

The Library's Board of Trustees has voted to eliminate Sunday hours, beginning immediately. Well, beginning in October: the Library is closed on Sundays during the summer, but in recent years has been open from October through May from 1 to 4 p.m. No longer.

Trustees also cut spending on books, periodicals, CD’s and DVD’s by $101,000.

These cuts come just four months after the Library purchased 35 acres north of Spring Street and Newman Road to be used for the future construction of a second library. The $1,199,056.99 price was paid from library trust funds -- money not available for day-to-day operations. In February, the city sought $36 million in federal stimulus funds for a new library -- one that would be 120,000 sq. ft., twice the size of the present facility -- but that's a longest of long shots.

The library's new schedule will be: Monday -Thursday, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. That's 54 hours per week; five years ago the library was open 76 hours a week. The previously announced Mobile Library schedule is unchanged.

By state law, the city and county fund libraries at no less than the average of the three previous years. This means that while costs may go up, library funding stays roughly the same from year to year. The city provides just over $2 million per year, the county $1.3 million. Fines add another $100,000 and state appropriations are about $20,000.

Meanwhile costs rose about $500,000 since 2005, and use of library materials and services has increased tremendously.

“Library staff have been very creative in eliminating unnecessary routines, developing more efficient and effective ways of meeting patron needs, and doing as much as possible with less,” said Board President Theron Snell. “Obviously, we have more work to do as the economy and funding remain as they are.”

Because of the stagnant funding and increasing costs, the Racine Public Library Foundation was created to begin raising funds for operations through bequests. For more information about the RPL Foundation, call 636-9170.

UPDATE, Sept. 22: The Library sent out the following figures:

For every taxpayer dollar of investment in the Racine Public Library, the local economy receives a return on investment of $3.50 and a total economic contribution to the community of over $12 million, according to a study by NorthStar Economics, Inc. based on 2006 figures.

NorthStar looked at the direct economic contribution to Racine including jobs created by the Racine Public Library, library staff and visitor spending in the community, and the amount of money spent for library operations in the region. The Racine Public Library directly employed 51.5 full time equivalent employees in 2006. An additional 47.5 jobs are created indirectly, for a total of 99 jobs in the region.

The jobs created by the Racine Public Library are taxed through personal income and sales tax, generating income and spending equal to $423,127.

The study takes into account the market value of such services as children’s storytimes, adult programs, answering reference questions, Internet access, and the cost of providing a collection of books, DVDs, and CDs.

A statewide study was conducted in 2008 by NorthStar, and the library board contracted with NorthStar to study Racine separately. The Executive Summary and full study are available on the library’s website.

3 schools implement Kiwanis BUG program

Students at Schulte, Goodland and SC Johnson elementary schools love BUGs.

BUG is a Kiwanis-sponsored program designed to provide recognition to students who raise their grades, and encouragement and recognition for student improvement. At-risk students are a major focus of the program, which helps them develop and maintain good learning habits.

Each grading period students from every classroom are recognized for increasing one grade while maintaining grades in all the other subject areas. Bring Up Grade recipients receive a BUG Achievement Honors Certificate at a classroom or school ceremony. Other recognition prizes may include candy, pizza, ice cream or other food-themed party; and award pins, and other small BUG gift items funded by the Kiwanis Club of Racine.

“The beauty of the BUG program is that it encourages student improvement and focus on making one or two small accomplishment at a time,” says Jim Henderson, Kiwanis Club of Racine president. “When a child reaches his/her pre-determined goal, it promotes a sense of accomplishment which motivates them to continue achieving more.”

Students who fail to raise grades during the year or that are already at the highest level can still be honored as a Super BUG for going above and beyond to provide support and assistance to classmates to achieve their goals.

To learn more about this program visit the Kiwanis Kids website.

Commentary: Socialized medicine (and sarcasm) looms

By Randolph D. Brandt

The Federal Government is about to force the American people into a massive experiment in socialized medicine with rationed health care and unpredictable results.

And it will cost billions of dollars, all of which will be added to an already out-of-control federal deficit.

Without asking the voters, the government is about to allocate 200 million doses of swine flu vaccine based on the recommendations of a government death panel that’s already decided old people are expendable and won’t get the vaccine.

And what does this decision say about our free-market health care system? Everyone knows that the most efficient allocation of health care is delivered by our current system of private, independent insurance companies providing necessary health care to working people with benefits or to anybody else who can afford to pay for it, so long as they aren’t already sick.

So, why are we circumventing this proven system that’s given us the best health care in the world in favor of a government option that will provide freebie swine flu shots to children, young people and a lot of illegal aliens?

This epidemic started in Mexico. It should be Mexico’s problem. Everybody who wants a flu shot in America ought to be required to certify their citizenship so that any illegal aliens will be forced back across the border into Mexico to get their shots.

It’s a chance to rid our country of this growing pestilence on the body politic, literally and figuratively, one way or another.

Also, isn’t it just a little suspicious that this latest version of Obamacare puts pregnant women at the top of the list for inoculations with a vaccine that’s probably laced with themosal, boosting the odds of birth defects?

It’s just a liberal plot to increase the number of federally funded abortions, I tell you.

Now, I know Obama says flu season is close and time is short, but he lies.

There’s no reason to rush into a system of government-sponsored, socialized medicine and rationed care just because Obama declared it a legislative priority this session.

No, it’s time to scrap this plan and start all over from scratch to build a vaccination plan that truly fits the needs of the American people.

If you like your current vaccination plan, you can keep it, just the way things are now. It’s your choice, a private decision between you and your doctor. Why take chances on an unproven socialist plan for mass inoculations just because some liberal Nazis claim it’s a better for everybody?

Remember the last time the Federal Government tried to inoculate us all against swine flu in the ‘70s? Hundreds, maybe thousands of people were paralyzed with Guillain-Barre syndrome.

Next, they’ll probably try to put fluoride in the water.

No, you can’t afford to have government mess with your health care.

We should, at the very least, leave it up to each individual state to decide whether there’s a real threat of swine flu in their jurisdiction, so they can develop their own decentralized plan to deal with a nationwide epidemic. If one state blows it and the rest get infected, well, we all know the price of freedom comes high.

Besides, who’s going to pay for all these federal vaccinations? You and me, of course, with a tax increase, no doubt.

Why should you and I pay for other people’s vaccinations? We’ve worked hard. We’ve got insurance, or at least we can afford to pay $20 a pop for swine flu vaccinations for our own families.

Health care shouldn’t be rationed only for health care workers, children and pregnant women and people with chronic illness or their caretakers.

Anybody who can pay should be at the front of the line. It’s the American way.

If there are 50 million or so other people who somehow failed to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and now don’t have insurance or can’t afford a swine flu shot, well, that’s their problem.

OK, OK, so our hospital emergency rooms will be filled this winter with lots of sick people who otherwise, with a little preventive care, could have avoided adding billions of dollars to our national health care bill.

So what? That’s the way the system’s always worked.

And after all, we already have the best health care system in the world, don’t we?

(Randolph Brandt is a retired newspaper editor living in Racine, Wis.)

September 17, 2009

Property Transfers: Foreclosed home sells for $7,585; SC Johnson sells house on Wind Point Road

Click for Interactive Map of Property Transfers

A 1,700-square-foot, four-bedroom house located a block from water adjacent to a golf course sold in Racine County last week, but it wasn't the top seller.

It had the lowest.

The house at 40 McKinley Ave. in Racine sold out of foreclosure for an eye-popping $7,585, according to this week's property transfers. Here's a picture of the exterior:

40 McKinley Ave.

The 1925 home, located adjacent to Washington Park Golf Course and a block from the Root River (all-in-all, an OK neighborhood located just off of West Sixth Street), was assessed at $115,000 last year, up from $99,000 in 2006.

The new buyer hadn't been recorded with the Register of Deeds on Thursday. The previous owner was Deutsche Bank.

The highest-priced sellers of the week were both located in Wind Point. The home at 152 Burrline Road sold for $686,000, slightly less than the list price of $695,000. It was assessed at $386,000.

Nearby, SC Johnson sold a beautiful house it owned at 5330 Wind Point Road for $450,000. The home was located on 1.3 acres of land and was assessed this year at $522,600. The five-bedroom house was listed at $549,000.

Click here for an interactive map of this week's property transfers.

Here are last week's property transfers.

Racine wins 'best host city' award from EVP volleyballers

Clearwater, Gulf Shores, Fort Lauderdale, Naples, Santa Cruz, Virginia Beach - all well known great beach towns.

But, it was Racine that was named best host city for the fourth consecutive year on the EVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour at a ceremony held during the World Championship event this past Saturday at North Beach.

"Player after player came up to me to tell me how much they love Racine" said Dave Blank, president/CEO of the Racine County Convention and Visitor Bureau, the sponsor of the event. "It was pretty awesome."

Ross Balling, Commissioner of the EVP Tour, also named the Racine County Convention and Visitor Bureau "Sponsor of the Year.".

Last weekend's competition saw Team Chicago take home first place for the women and Team Minnesota beat Team Canada for the men's title. The purse of $10,000 was the largest on the tour this year. The event should show up on TV in coming weeks, and also on Racine Cable Access 25.

RCCVB also awarded Dr. Julie Kinzelman its 2009 Friend of Tourism Award during the women's finals match for her work on cleaning up North Beach and helping the city garner the prestigious "Blue Wave" Award for five consecutive years. Racine's beach is only one of two beaches on the Great Lakes that are designated as "Blue Wave Beaches" by the National Clean Beaches Council.

The EVP will return in 2010 on June 19 and Sept. 11. The June event will also include a stop on the Toyota Sea Doo Watercross Series which will bring in over 100 teams from across the country.

September 16, 2009

Downtown Rotarians raising pennies to fight polio

The world is on the brink of eradicating polio by the year 2013, and the Rotary Club of Downtown Racine is asking students and Party-on-the-Pavement goers to help.

For decades, Rotary International (founded by Racine native Paul P. Harris) has been fighting the spread of polio. The disease primarily strikes children under 5 and can render them paralyzed within hours. Polio only remains in four countries – Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan.

To wipe out polio completely, world health organizers must not only eradicate the contagious disease in these four countries, but keep polio from spreading back into polio-free areas. It is a daunting task.

But the remedy is simple. Four doses of the oral polio vaccine administered to an infant in the first-year of life can prevent the disease. Getting the vaccine into less-developed countries and educating people about its necessity are the challenges.

Rotarians around the world have actively raised money to provide for the manufacture and distribution of the vaccine. Last year, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave Rotarians an extra incentive: the foundation awarded Rotary International a challenge grant worth $150 million. All Rotary International has to do to get that sum is to raise to raise $200 million by June 30, 2012.

One dose of polio vaccine is not expensive – one thin dime.

Downtown Rotarians invite their fellow Racinians to wipe out this paralyzing disease in our lifetime.

This week, classrooms and day care centers around Racine will be invited to compete in raising “Pennies for Polio.” They will have two weeks to bring their contributions to the classroom to help fight polio. To enter the contest, a classroom representative must bring the classroom collection to the Downtown Rotary booth in front of Lakeview Pharmacy at Party on the Pavement between noon and 6 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 3. The classroom that raises the most will win a picnic at the Racine Zoo, complete with a zoo animal demonstration from Rotarian and Zoo Director Jay Christie.

Other Party on the Pavement visitors can join in the effort. The Downtown Rotary booth will include information about eradicating polio. Donors at the booth can get a pinky finger painted purple as a symbol of their support. Painting a pinky fingernail purple is how health workers in the Third World determine who has received a polio vaccine.

To learn more about Rotary International’s polio work, visit their website. For more information about Pennies for Polio, contact Laura Sumner Coon at 498-9425 or Mike Holmes at 554-5441.

Update: Palmen adding Chrysler to Racine dealership, still selling GM cars

Andy Palmen, president of Palmen Automotive Group, demanded a retraction this morning of our story reporting his company had lost its GM dealership in Racine.

Here's his response to our story:

1. "We are a GM dealership today and we'll be a GM dealership tomorrow," Palmen said. When asked if Palmen will be a GM dealership in a year, he said: "We're in conversations with GM. We don't know what it will look like in a year."

2. Yes, employees at Palmen lost their jobs. The company went through a "round of restructuring and reorganizing" similar to companies around the country. But he said all of Palmen's dealerships have full staffs ready to sell cars.

3. Palmen had good news to report: Palmen is close to adding a Chrysler franchise to its Dodge and Jeep dealership in Racine. The deal is up for final approval, Palmen said.

4. He disputed our report about the future of the Palmen Buick Pontiac GMC building at 6001 Washington Ave., but declined to give further specifics.

5. Palmen took offense that our original story said he didn't return phone calls. He said he received one message from us last night and returned it this morning. This is true. We had called Palmen Wednesday, but only left the one message. Palmen said we were "irresponsible" to run our story, which he called "profanity."

6. The bottom line is Palmen Buick Pontiac GMC is open for business and selling cars, and will be for some time, Palmen said. "Come on over and get that GM car," Palmen said.

Here's our original story:

More bad news for local car sales: Palmen Motors may be losing its GM dealership in Racine.

One source said Wednesday:
What I heard was Andy Palmen has informed staff GM is not allowing them to buy any more cars.
A second confirmed Palmen lost its dealerships and was planning to turn its building at 6001 Washington Ave. into a used car superstore.
They have a store that's useless. They spent a lot of money on that building. They've got to do something to pay the mortgage.
But that doesn't mean people are keeping their jobs, according to our source. Sales people, some who had worked for the dealership for years, have been laid off. It's rough, our source said.
I feel horrible for those guys. It's so cutthroat these days. It doesn't matter how hard you work any more.
A manager at the Racine dealership, Palmen Pontiac Buick GMC at 6001 Washington Ave., would only say Wednesday night: "We're still selling new cars."

But our sources said the information that Palmen lost the GM dealership is solid. It certainly fits with the national picture. GM has announced it was closing 1,300 dealerships by the end of 2010.

The news comes about a week after it was reported Racine may be losing its Cadillac dealership.

Gas station in West Racine would be 'unacceptable' under work group's proposal

We reported last week on a West Racine "work group" that had been quietly meeting to discuss the vacant lot at the corner of Washington Avenue and West Boulevard. The group included three aldermen and two top city development officials, along with eight or nine city residents.

The group was organized to gather a series of recommendations for the Redevelopment Authority of Racine, which owns the vacant lot. Despite being leaked a draft of the recommendations, we held off reporting them until a revised list could be put together. Now, we have the revised list - and it's very similar to the original list we saw last week.

That's not good news for Tom Tousis, the Racine businessman trying to build a bank, gas station, grocery store and sit-down restaurant on the site. At the same time, it's good news for opponents of the project.

The work group proposal labels the gas station an "unacceptable" use that is inconsistent with the West Racine plan. If approved by the Redevelopment Authority, the proposal may kill Tousis's $5 million development before it ever reaches the City Council. (The full list of recommendations is below.)

revised draft of recommendations out to members of the work group Tuesday night. People on the list included: Aldermen Aron Wisneski, Terry McCarthy and Jim Spangenberg; Jeannie Creekmore, Frank Ricchio, Keith Deschler, Jim and Sally Neitzel, Larry Gregg, Nancy Smith, Robert and Jenny Gonazlez, Robin Wilson, Steve Torosian and Timothy Casey.

(The group includes all five members of the West Racine Business Improvement District, plus West Racine business owners and residents, and the real estate agent listing the site.)

A public meeting on the recommendations is scheduled for Sept. 30 at 6 p.m. in the Sanctuary of Gethsemane Lutheran Church, 3319 Washington Ave. The meeting will also be announced in West Racine with automated calls.

Here are the recommendations:

PREFERRED USES [revised text]

Preferred uses: High quality commercial development featuring street level retail is the preferred land use for the redevelopment. Examples of preferred uses are:

· Full service grocery.

· Table-service restaurant.

· Multi-tenant retail building, featuring shops such as: hobby shop, book store, bank or other savings deposit institution, gelato/ice cream shop, bicycle shop, jewelry store, men’s and/or women’s clothing store, and other specialty retail, except as prohibited below. The separately listed required and permitted uses may also be combined within the building. The building may be a conventional multitenant building or a market pavilion that blends common areas and pedestrian areas with the retail space.

· Outdoor seating.

Permitted uses: The Authority may permit, on a case-by-case basis, uses that are consistent with the objectives of the West Racine plan and are compatible with and supporting of the preferred uses. Such uses would not be the exclusive use of the property. Examples of permitted uses are:

· Owner-occupied housing units.

· Senior (55+) rental housing.

· Fast food restaurant without drive-through.

Unacceptable uses: The Authority shall not permit uses that are inconsistent with West Racine plan even though the use may be permitted by the zoning code of the City of Racine. Such uses include but are not limited to:

· Car wash.

· Gas Station.

· Pawn shop.

· Rental housing – general population.

· Buildings four stories or taller.

· Bar/tavern.

· Convenience stores.

· Car sales.

· Fast food with drive through.

· Rent-to-own store.

As a part of the acquisition and demolition of the buildings formerly on the property, the Authority removed certain uses from the property. The Authority will record a deed restriction prohibiting such uses from returning to the property. These uses are:

· Check cashing, pay day loan, and similar stores.

· Resale and second-hand stores.

· Tobacco store.

· Tattoo parlor.

· Automobile repair garage.


All proposals must consider and explicitly address the continued operation of the farmers market that is currently on the property. The size of the market, location on the site or relocation to another site, and other changes may be considered. The developer is expected to work with the West Racine Business Association, which is the sponsor of the farmers market, regarding its future.

Commentary: Racism colors the debate

By Randolph D. Brandt

Jimmy Carter’s right.

Recent attacks on President Barack Obama for his supposed freewheeling, wasteful government spending echo all the old arguments of Southern redeemers, who after the Civil War labeled all integrated state governments “carpetbaggers and scallywags.”

“Wasteful,” they cried, as the new black-white political coalitions introduced the first public education in the South.

Worse, it was supposed to be integrated education, open to all, whites and blacks.

“Corrupt,” they said, of the new governments, as the former Rebels sought to reinstitute the rightful (white) leadership back into state legislatures, governorships and Congress.

The very thought that black representatives could administer the public weal was simply reprehensible.

Thus, we wound up instead with disenfranchisement of black voters, segregation, black codes, the convict labor system and Jim Crow.

Now, the country faces the same dilemma. Somehow this very clever black man has tricked America into giving him a majority of the country’s votes, even though, deep down, all good, white Americans know he is a usurper who’s somehow managed to steal the country from its rightful political heirs.

Why, it’s the world turned upside down.

These instincts run deep in America’s psyche, North and South, though as a southerner, Jimmy Carter is particularly attuned to the old code words and their insidious innuendo.

“You lie,” says the gentleman from South Carolina.

Of course.

He could think nothing else of an uppity black man, a pretender as president, when everyone knows only a white man’s really qualified for that position.

"That racism inclination still exists, and I think it's bubbled up to the surface because of belief among many white people -- not just in the South but around the country -- that African-Americans are not qualified to lead this great country,” Carter said. “It's an abominable circumstance, and it grieves me and concerns me very deeply."

So, many will chose to reject better health care, economic recovery, peace abroad, prosperity at home, rational immigration policy … and they’ll sit on their hands, maybe even shout out, because they just don’t like the color of the man’s skin.

(Randolph Brandt is a retired newspaper editor in Racine, Wis.)

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Council hears neighbors and unions support Tousis

Everyone in favor, please stand...

The first half-hour of Tuesday night's City Council meeting was mostly taken up by one issue, as 17 of the 19 speakers during the public comment section of the meeting spoke in favor of Tom Tousis' plan to build a grocery store, restaurant, bank and gas station in West Racine, on the corner of Washington Avenue and West Boulevard.

Most of those who spoke represented the various construction unions. Tousis announced last week he would use only union labor on the project, estimated to cost $5 million dollars.

Here's a sampling of what was said:

Karen Sorenson of ReMax: "It's a great project for West Racine."

County Board member Van Wangaard: "I spoke with more than 150 neighbors; the residents of West Racine want a sit-down restaurant; the sale of gas is a bonus. The project would produce 40-50 permanent jobs."

Tom Reiherzer of Building Alliance contractors: "This is about jobs at the prevailing wage, apprenticeships, family-supporting jobs. Local people and local jobs; it would produce 75-100 construction jobs." Reiherzer asked everyone in the Council Chamber's audience who was in favor of the project to stand up; almost everyone did.

Dan Doperalski, business agent with cement masons, said the project would produce "good jobs."

Keith Kemper, a sheet metal workers' representative, said it's a "good project."

Steve Juzenas, president of the plumbers and steamfitters, said it would be a shame "if that money goes out of town."

Al Johnson, a local union worker said, "I have many buddies sitting on the bench who could use this job."

Dean Bonanf, another plumber, said he'd been laid off for a year, and supports the project.

Josh Garner, an organizer for the sheet metal workers, said "this is a great opportunity."

Rich Fistler, business rep of the carpenters' union, said, "local jobs for local people."

Wesley Gable, president of Teamsters Local 43, said, "The council should support local people. It seems the Council likes to support people from out of town. I've seen no new businesses coming; I've seen business leaving."

Aaron Hansen, a bricklayer who lives within a mile of the site, said, "It would be nice to see this not a vacant lot."

Liquor, parking, street lights occupy City Council

The City Council met last night and voted:
  • Decorative street lights on Lathrop, yes
  • Alternate side-of-the-street-parking during winter, yes.
  • A third chance for a grocery's store's liquor license, no.
  • Replace softball lights at Island Park, yes.

The arguments weren't always pretty, as Alderman Greg Helding noted, raising the point about not watching the making of sausages or legislation. But in the end the council at least finished with some long-simmering issues.

Liquor took up much of the agenda. One issue that passed without discussion was Gerald Bester's application for a conditional use permit to open a restaurant and bar at 1501 Washington Ave., in The Vault's former space. That was approved unanimously, pending the previously stipulated conditions regarding a full kitchen and a business plan.

More controversy attended a petition from Baldwinder Singh of Max Magic Supermarket at 1007 Washington Ave. for "permission to exceed the Class A quota limit." But it was just a "technicality of state law," according to Alderman Aron Wisneski, whose point was supported by City Attorney Rob Weber.

The issue here involves the sale of this small grocery store, and whether its license to sell liquor can, essentially, be transferred to the new owner. "What if this were a Pick 'n Save, or a Piggly Wiggly?" asked Alderman David Maack, arguing in favor of working with the prospective buyer to make sure that "a small grocery store in an under-served area" isn't forced to close. "It could go out of business, becoming an eyesore. Everywhere else we have a grandfather clause." A motion to send the question back to committee failed, and the petition was approved 11 - 4.

Another grocery store's license did not fare as well. The "Class A" retail license of Sam's Liquor, at 965 Dr. M. L. King Jr. Drive was "nonrenewed," after two violations involving the sale of liquor not bought from a wholesaler.

In February, the store, owned by Bhupinder Kaur Bhati, was cited for selling 30 bottles of liquor without proper records, as required by state statutes. Then, in June, it was cited again, this time for selling 7 such bottles. The store's attorney, Bob Keller, conceded the violations, but said "the penalty should be sufficient, but not excessive. Revoking the license is the most drastic step you could take," he said, noting that liquor constituted 80% of the "grocery" store's sales. He said the owners, who do not speak English, "did not cause a safety issue or disruption in the neighborhood,"

Alderman Jim Kaplan was unconvinced: "This is the necessary step," he said. "Counselor, you made my case (with the 80% sales figure). This store is across from a school."

The store's only defender was Alderman Michael Shields. "There are other punishments available," he said. "The committee is trying to put everyone out of business. We should be more sensitive to businesses."

Maack rejected that argument, said the 30 bottles sold in February were "probably stolen," and Shields' pro-business argument is "good and dandy for the media" but the store was caught four months later violating the same regulations. Kaplan and Wisneski again defended the committee recommendation. "After weighing all the evidence, we decided this place should not have a license. The council agreed; the vote was 14-1, with only Shields in opposition.

Winter parking was another heated issue, as the council voted 11-4 to extend alternate side of the street parking to seven days a week from December through March. The move -- adding weekends to the existing weekdays rule -- is expected to give snowplows a better opportunity to clear streets of snow, and incidentally may save the city $15,000.

"It's an inconvenience for some, but a benefit to the city," said Helding. Alderman Sandy Weidner demurred, saying inner city drivers -- those without their own driveways or garages -- would be adversely affected.

Alderman Jeff Coe, noting that he doesn't have a driveway and would be one of those affected, nonetheless said the move would be for the betterment of the city. Alderman Ron Hart also spoke in favor, saying people he'd talked to said the council "is finally getting something right." Alderman Ray DeHahn said he'd heard the same reaction: "It's about time."

Q.A. Shakoor II said, "If it doesn't work, we can change it."

The only real questions were raised by Aldermen Jim Spangenberg, who asked whether city police have the manpower to enforce it, and Weidner, who questioned the savings: "I believe the overtime dollars that will be saved are minimal compared to the overall budget and difficulties this will cause." And Kaplan noted the only negative reaction he'd heard was that parking tickets would be "just another tax on us."

The vote in favor was 11-4, with Shileds, Weidner, Maack and Robert Mozol voting no.

The night's final controversial issue was six decorative streetlights requested by residents of the 700, 800 and 900 blocks of Lathrop Avenue, which cost $16,250 more than standard poles and lights, but only $9,100 more than has already been spent on them this year.

In some respects, the argument was whether the street in question is "residential" or "arterial," but in the end the fight was over whether there would be money left over in the Department of Public Works' budget. Some aldermen tried to take the necessary funds from DPW's contingency budget; others, like Helding, insisted, "I would be shocked if, at the end of the year, Public Works did not have $9,100 (available). Sometimes stuff goes over, sometimes it goes under." In fact, earlier in the evening, the council approved some Public Works contracts that came in under budget by that amount.

Tom Eeg, assistant commissioner of public works, was asked whether it was possible the department would have funds available; after all, besides the $9,000 the council found tonight, there's also the potential $15,000 in snowplow savings. He hemmed and hawed; Helding said, "Don't beat up on Tom; he's being a good soldier."

When it came to finding the money, Wisneski said, "the staff should be deciding where the money comes from." And Mozol, looking at the big picture, beyond even city limits, said, "The world is in this condition because we're spending money we don't have."

Nevertheless, after a motion to refer the question to the Public Works Department for funding failed, the council voted on taking the money from Public Works' capital budget. ""The motion passes 9-6; that was easy," joked Mayor John Dickert. Voting no were: Coe, DeHahn, Kaplan, Maack, Mozol and Terry McCarthy.

September 15, 2009

Journal Times names a new publisher

The Journal Times has a new publisher.

Mark Lewis, of Lihue, Hawaii, replaces Rick Parrish as head of Racine's daily paper. Parrish leaves for a new publisher's job in Longview, Wash.

Here's a story about Lewis from his former paper, The Garden Island.

And here are excerpts from a 2006 story when Lewis took the job in Kauai:
Lewis, 38, began his newspaper career with Lee in 1988 at the Lincoln Journal Star in Lincoln, Neb. He joined the U.S. Marines in 1989, and returned to Lincoln in 1993, serving as a circulation district manager, area manager, single copy manager, state circulation manager and interim circulation director. In 1998 he left Lee to become state circulation director of the Omaha World-Herald, and in 2001 he was recruited to become circulation director of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, where he built a circulation department from scratch, hired all employees and set up packaging procedures. He returned to Lee in 2002 as circulation director of the Sioux City Journal, and in 2004 was promoted to director of operations, responsible for circulation, packaging, press and production.
The JT job is a nice promotion for Lewis, who jumps from a paper with a circulation of less than 10,000, to one nearly three times the size.

Parrish moves to a smaller paper - Longview has about 22,000 readers - but the paper is closer to his home. To his credit, Parrish strongly backed the JT newsroom as publisher and actually bolstered news staffing at a time when many papers were cutting reporters, editors and photographers.

Let's hope Lewis maintains the same commitment. (We also hope he's ready for winter. Did anybody tell him where Racine is located before he decided to leave Hawaii?)

Spanish train manufacturer execs tour of Racine

A Talgo high-speed train

State Rep. Cory Mason and local economic development officials wooed the Spanish train manufacturer Talgo Tuesday in hopes of convincing the company to locate a new assembly facility in the city.

Racine is a longshot for new plant. Talgo has already scouted locations in Milwaukee and Janesville, and Gov. Jim Doyle said he supported the Janesville site. But the final decision is yet to be made, and Racine is at least in the conversation. (Interestingly, Talgo has worked with Bombardier, which has a plant in Sturtevant, on making trains.)

Talgo President and CEO Antonio Perez was part of the company's delegation to Racine, and the planned plant is already contracted to build two trains to run on the Amtrak Hiawatha line that runs between Milwaukee and Chicago with a stop in Sturtevant. (Here's a discussion that suggests the Talgo trains built in Wisconsin will come a steep price.)

RacinePost inquired about tagging along with Talgo's visit to Racine, but was told no media was allowed on the tour. Here's the official release from Mason's office:
State Representative Cory Mason (D-Racine) hosted a delegation from Spanish train manufacturer Talgo today on a Racine-area tour of potential sites for the company’s new Wisconsin’s rail car assembly facility. The delegation included Talgo’s President & CEO Antonio Perez.

Governor Doyle announced in July that the State of Wisconsin had entered into a partnership with Talgo to build and put into service two train sets. The agreement calls for the establishment of maintenance and assembly facilities in Wisconsin. Representative Mason, in partnership with Racine County Economic Development Corporation (RCEDC) experts, has worked since the Governor’s July announcement to convince Talgo to consider Racine as the site for its assembly facility, a move that would bring high-quality jobs to Racine.

Today’s events were facilitated by RCEDC and began with a reception that included local elected officials, local businesses and representatives from area institutions of higher education, all of whom worked collaboratively to encourage Talgo to choose Racine.

Representative Mason commented, "I was proud and excited to be able to show Talgo all that Racine has to offer." Representative Mason, also a commissioner on the Racine Redevelopment Authority, also stated, "I was so impressed by how different representatives from across the community came together to make the best case for Racine."

Representative Mason and RCEDC officials led the Talgo delegation on a tour of possible sites for the company’s new train car assembly facility.

Representative Mason noted, "We all recognize that numerous southeastern Wisconsin communities are competing to be the site of Talgo’s new facility. Whether or not we are ultimately successful in luring Talgo to Racine, I am pleased and encouraged by the partnership and diligence demonstrated by our local officials, businesses, and community leaders in planning this tour. This cooperation and hard work will be an important component in enabling Racine to recover from our current economic challenges and to thrive in the future."

Construction winding down on Sixth St.; DRC announces winners of its 'barrel boys' naming contest

"The Three Constructioneers" - Cautious Clay, Gorge Foreman and Monument Ali - are standing watch as construction work winds down on Sixth Street.

Those were the winning names chosen in Downtown Racine Corp's contest to name "The Barrel Boys," large sculptures created out of orange construction barrels and displayed in the construction zone on Sixth Street.

The contest was a bit of levity in a summer-long construction project on one of Downtown's major shopping streets. Fortunately, work is near conclusion, DRC Executive Director Devin Sutherland said Tuesday.

Road construction is scheduled to be done by Friday, Sept. 25 and the brick pavers for the sidewalks will start going in on Sept. 28. Enough work will be done for the street and sidewalks to be open for Party on the Pavement on Oct. 3, Sutherland said.

The rain last month didn't slow construction, Sutherland said. The area's sandy soil kept the ground well-drained, and the crews only stopped working when it was actually raining. That allowed them to make up a lost week of time from earlier in the summer when complications with telecommunications lines slowed work.

Once Sixth Street is finished Downtown's two major streets will be completed, though some work is still scheduled for next two years. State Street into Downtown is scheduled for work next summer and Seventh Street the year after, Sutherland said.

Next year, Wisconsin Avenue also will be resurfaced, he said.

The Barrel Boys naming contest started in late August when the 9-foot-tall sculptures were commissioned to remind people that Sixth Street businesses are open.

The winning name, which will replace Barrel Boys, is The Three Constructioneers, which was submitted by Cameron Fair of Racine.

In addition Sherri Myers Wray of Racine submitted winning individual names for each sculpture -- Cautious Clay, Monument Ali, and Gorge Foreman.

Both Cameron and Sherri were awarded Downtown gift certificates. Over 40 suggested names were submitted to the DRC.

Analysis: KRM is the 'game-changer' Racine needs

A bi-level, diesel-multiple-unit car that would run on the KRM commuter rail line.

A RacinePost reader sent in this email Monday:
There was a shooting on the 1100 block of Romayne Ave. on Sat. night @ about midnight. 7 shots fired from a small caliber handgun into the windshield of an SUV. The perpetrator got out of a car and walked into the front yard of 1102 Romayne and fired the shots. No one was hurt. This whole neighborhood north of Gould to 3 mile and between Douglas and Main is getting hit big time by more serious crime. Racine is going to lose a lot of taxpayers and see another neighborhood go down in 10 years or so if we don't do something NOW!

I think we are moving, since this happened near us. You lose a family of 5 with 2 professionals and 3 kids in RUSD plus many others like us.
This email sums up the difficulties facing the city. How does Racine remain a viable city over the next 10 or 20 years with people worried about the future of their neighborhoods?

Problems will be exacerbated this fall when city officials consider the 2010 budget. State shared revenue is plummeting, local tax revenues are, at best, flat and likely down, and the need for police services, as well as job-training and social service programs, is on the rise. The city needs a game-changer.

By "game-changer" I mean something that radically alters direction. In a familiar sports context, it's like needing a yard for a first down and instead going for the 50-yard touchdown pass. Is there risk? Of course. But there are time when playing conservative doesn't work. You need a radical shift in thinking and action.

I can think of two game-changers that would have an immediate impact on Racine. Both are controversial, but could have real impact on the community.

The first is some sort of decriminalization of drugs. Arresting, jailing and prosecuting local residents for marijuana possession is expensive, time-consuming and ineffective. Does anyone doubt they could buy pot in Racine if they wanted to? Our police officers have better things to do (like preventing violent crime), and our taxpayers have better things to pay for, (like preventing violent crime) than busting people for small amounts of marijuana.

Setting that aside (for now), the second game-changer is the KRM commuter rail. I attended SEWRPC's listening session Monday night on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement on extending commuter rail from Kenosha to Milwaukee. It was a procedural step en route to applying for the federal money needed to make KRM a reality. No new information was presented; it was simply an opportunity for the public to submit comments on the train service.

But the hearing did provide perspective on why the train is being considered. Walking through a series of signs set up on easels through Gateway's hallways, one sign display jumped out. Here it is:

Existing Land Use around the proposed KRM station in Racine
(Click to Enlarge)

Future Land Use around the proposed KRM station in Racine
(Click to Enlarge)

The two maps date back to 2006. They were created by a consultant and the future map is only a projection of what could happen if the station is built. But the transformation makes sense, particularly along the Root River.

The current use along the river is largely industrial and storage with a mix of single-family and multi-family homes in the surrounding neighborhood. The projected future use is open green space and residential, with some commerce mixed in, surrounded by single-family homes. No doubt it's a rosy future for an area know for high crime rates. But the KRM station has the potential to be a game-changer.

The city right now is competition with its neighboring communities (Mount Pleasant, Caledonia, Oak Creek, Franklin, Somers, Kenosha, etc.) for residents. In many ways, the city doesn't have a lot to offer. It's property tax rate is high, it's crime rate is above surrounding areas, there's not a lot of jobs, the schools aren't great, driving to the Interstate is a pain ... all the problems we all know are facing the community.

Years ago the state considered extending Highway 794 along the lakefront into Racine. At the time the community fought the idea because it would divide the city and significantly change the urban landscape. Unfortunately, we're paying for that decision now because of Racine's isolation from Milwaukee and Chicago. Kenosha is growing because of its ties to northern Illinois and cities like Oak Creek and Franklin are growing because of their connection to Milwaukee. Racine sits on an island in the middle.

KRM is the city's new opportunity to plug into the neighboring urban areas. The beauty of the project is the federal government would cover a big chunk of the start up cost - more than $100 million. That's a direct investment into Racine and southeastern Wisconsin's infrastructure, one the community would be foolish to pass up.

I understand the counter argument. The ridership numbers may be optimistic/unrealistic, a rental car tax seems like a questionable way to pay for the trains and more money will probably be needed to run the trains. Racine certainly doesn't need higher taxes, and it's bordering on absurd to ask Burlington and Waterford residents to pay for a train they'll never ride.

That all makes sense. But what's lost in the argument is the need for radical change. City and state officials need to do something for Racine, and they've needed to do it for a long time. The city suffers from chronic unemployment, poverty and the resulting violent crime, and has done so for decades. (Some say the crime rate is a matter of exaggerated perception - an argument I'm sympathetic to. But I'm also sympathetic to stories like the one above. If there was a violent shooting on our block, I'd move, too.)

People need reasons to move to Racine and reasons to stay in Racine. The lake, affordable homes and a nice Downtown are good examples. But they're not enough if people are unemployed or fearful for their family's lives.

The problems described in the opening email stem from the high-crime near the KRM station. The property values in the area are depressed, the home-ownership rates are low, there are few jobs and a limited number of viable commercial businesses. The area needs massive stimulus, and right now, the only one on the table is the new KRM station.

There's a good underlying question here as to whether the station will lead to new development and an invigorated neighborhood. It worked in Kenosha and, I'm told, Highland Park, Ill. But Racine would require a substantial transformation that's difficult to envision. Still, what's the worst that happens? The train service starts, no one rides it, expenses skyrocket and the RTA turns to Racine and other communities to pickup the tab. If it's outlandish, the city will say no. It's largely federal money - money collected from our taxes that will be spent elsewhere, if not here - and fees on rental cars that's at stake.

Here's the key: What's the best outcome for Racine? KRM is an opportunity for the city to acquire a massive investment in an ailing neighborhood in desperate need of change. The region would do well to support that investment as a way to invigorate eastern Racine County's economic center and bring a new resource to a community competing for jobs and people.

Of course, there's always the alternative of decriminalizing drugs and hoping that brings people to town. But when it comes to game-changers, KRM is the best option.

September 14, 2009

Racine's Bart Cameron brings "The Foghorns" to George's for a live show tonight

The Foghorns with Racine-native Bart Cameron

Racine native Bart Cameron brings his band "The Foghorns" home tonight with a show at George's Tavern, 1201 N. Main St.

Cameron is lead singer of the "anti-folk" group, which formed in Madison, moved to Iceland and is now based in Seattle. The group is touring with their six album, "A Diamond as Big as a Motel 6." It's music is a teriffic collection of bluesy, twangy pop songs Cameron has described in recent interviews as, "If Bob Dylan did punk." (Check out their song, "Brooklyn Bridge," on MySpace.

Here's the band's official bio:
Started when Bart Cameron went home to Wisconsin after a rough series of events from 2001-2002 in Brooklyn, The Foghorns began as a rock/ bluegrass amalgam. Cameron recorded with Wisconsin musicians Kevin and Steve Firchow, then performed in Brooklyn with help from New York musicians, including The Cobble Hillbillies. Bart Cameron left the US for Iceland on a Fulbright, and a year later The Foghorns began touring Iceland with just guitar and a large bucket. That bucket player, Paul Nikolov, eventually joined the Icelandic Parliament. Cameron recruited an Icelandic lineup, The Foghorns released CDs with buckets and with other instruments, and they have been featured at the Iceland Airwaves music festival, in addition to playing Icelandic festivals including Innipukinn. The Icelandic lineup toured the US in 2006, then Bart stayed behind in America. In 2008, Katie and Rich Quigley of Blue, Pig helped Bart form a US-based group. They are distributed by the Wisconsin-based record label Beefy Beef Records
Touring members of the band include: Bart Cameron, Katie Quigley, Rich Quigley, Kristjan Oli Petursson, Bara Sigurjonsdottir.

After tonight's show at George's, The Foghorns have shows in Chicago, Oshkosh, Pittsburgh, New York City, Washington D.C., Cleveland, Omaha, Colorado and then out to California.

To hear their music, checkout their MySpace page at:

To read past stories from around the world about the band, click here.

Update: Weed & Seed behind robo-calls about crime to city residents

Update: We talked with Tanya Canady, of the local Weed and Seed program, Tuesday morning about the phone survey. It was conducted by a UW-Milwaukee researcher, but not by the university itself. The researcher was working on a contract-basis with Weed and Seed.

The survey was conducted using the Racine Police Department's robo-call system, which is used to broadcast a pre-recorded message to residents in targeted areas. In this case, it was used to conduct a survey to evaluate Weed and Seed programs, Canady said.

The phone survey was part of several efforts by Weed and Seed to evaluate the effects of several local programs it funds including: Cops N Kids, gang diversion programs, truancy prevention programs, extended hours at community centers, and basketball leagues. (There are several more Weed and Seed-backed programs; Canady just gave us a few examples.)

Other tools used to evaluate programs include: a survey of high school students, observation of the programs at the Bryant and Tyler-Domer community centers, interviews with police officers and evaluation of crime data.

Canady said the phone survey may have been confusing to residents because they weren't familiar with the name "Weed and Seed," which is a federally funded program designed to address crime (weed) and support preventative programs (seed). She said she didn't have much control over the survey, and wishes it had more clearly stated who was conducting the survey and why they were doing it.

But she said the intention was good. "We evaluate our programs each year," Canady said. "We want to hear the voice of the people."

Here's a comment from another RacinePost reader on the survey:
I did answer the robocall but did feel rather annoyed that more contact or follow up info wasn't given at the end-- it did seem to not be as comprehensive as it could have been.
Original post: Some Downtown residents received robo-calls over the weekend seeking feedback on the "perception of safety" in their neighborhood.

An unidentified electronic caller contacted residents for a phone survey, according to a RacinePost reader. Here's what they wrote:
Today, Sunday, my husband and I received two (2) robot calls on our answering machine. Both claiming to be from the City of Racine and wanting our "perception of safety" in the neighborhood. Our neighborhood is downtown, expanding out from Seventh (7th) Street, between Grand and Villa.

The recording repeated and then hung up.
NO call back number.
NO reference to a city department.
NO way to follow-up to give an opinion when returning and hearing message.
NO phone number to call during normal "business hours/days".
Why only on Sunday afternoon?
The phone survey appears tied to a UW-Milwaukee study, said City Administrator Tom Friedel. The Racine Police Department OK'd the calls for a study on the perception of crime, he said.

The survey seemed OK, our reader said, but there were a few problems. First, it was unclear who made the call and what the answers would be used for. Second, there was no call back number. The reader said they would have answered the questions, but only received a recording of the message on their answering machine.
We feel that the calls will result in misleading, capricious, arbitrary and unfounded data (responses). Why? Because many of us not home on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.
And, for the record, they wrote that they feel very safe in their Seventh Street neighborhood:
WE feel very safe.
WE do feel that there needs to be more businesses open.
WE would like to see more people walking, at all times of the day. And night.
WE'd like to see more people living, working and socializing in our neighborhood.
Especially building owners that live and work here. That will lead to greater security.
WE have seen changes in the neighborhood during the past 30 years - good and bad.
We're working on learning more about the UWM study (who paid for it?) and how it was approved. Hopefully we'll have an update tonight.

Time Warner Cable realigning stations, drops WTTW out of Chicago

From a reader:
One of the comments made to me by a Time Warner representative on the phone when I complained about our losing Ch 11 WTTW, was this:

"Well, you still have Channel 36 and 10 - and Channel 11 was not that popular."

Sign of the times if you ask me.

When PBS runs Ken Burns' The National Parks, beginning would be nice to think that tons of kids and parents would watch this amazing work, but who knows? They may prefer "Dancing with the Stars" or something else like that, and in so many ways, it's a real shame.

Original Post: Time Warner Cable TV is changing its local lineup of channels on Oct. 13.

The first sign of the new lineup was the loss of WTTW Channel 11, the PBS channel out of Chicago, from local basic and digital TV packages. The change occurred without notice to customers in late August. (Here's a Kenosha News story on the change.)

A WTTW representative said Monday the decision was entirely Time Warner's.

A Time Warner Cable representative said WTTW was dropped because there are already two PBS stations in its Milwaukee-area packages (which include Racine) that duplicate 90 percent of the programming on WTTW. Time Warner is investigating whether the remaining 10 percent can be incorporated Milwaukee Public Television's Channel 10 and Channel 16 lineups.

Time Warner Cable dropped WTTW to make room for another high-definition station, the rep said. A new station will be assigned to the Channel 11 slot, but what station has not been determined.

Time Warner Cable is realigning its stations on Oct. 13 in response to customer demand for more HD stations.

The rep also noted Time Warner Cable carries all four of the Chicago networks (ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC) for southeastern Wisconsin subscribers. But it's unlikely WTTW is coming back to the lineup.

At least one local resident is disappointed by the change. Here's an email we received:
Something interesting happened to Time-Warner Cable subscribers a few weeks ago, without warning WTTW (PBS channel 11 from Chicago) was gone. There was no warning, no crawl on the bottom of the screen beforehand, no notice in the bills before or after, no response to emails, and not even an answer when I called. They simply did it and won't talk about it. In the place of programming there is a notice to watch PBS out of Milwaukee. Unlike commercial television, PBS stations are radically different. Meanwhile WBBM (CBS Channel 2 from Chicago) which is blacked out most of the time is still there.
For anyone who misses WTTW, you can watch Chicago's PBS for free online at:

September 13, 2009

Raiders fumble opportunity, lose to Dakota 22-19

The Racine Raiders (8-2) literally fumbled away an opportunity to beat the Dakota Lawdawgs (9-1) on Saturday, losing 22-19 to the fourth-ranked team in the North American Football League.

The Raiders got off to a slow start, allowing the Lawdawgs to jump to a 14-0 lead. The team came out of halftime looking completely different and managed to take a 19-14 lead over the Lawdawgs with 5:30 to play in the game.

The Lawdawgs would respond, scoring with just 46 seconds to play and converting a two-point conversion to take a 22-19 lead.

Raiders returner Charles Owens returned the ensuing kickoff to the Raiders' 38-yard line and then caught the first pass of the drive, setting the Raiders up in Lawdawgs' territory at the 32-yard line.

With just 14 seconds left, quarterback Brett Hall had trouble handling the snap, picked the ball up but was immediately hit by a Lawdawgs defender, causing him to fumble again. The Lawdawgs recovered the fumble and went on to victory, securing home field through much of the NAFL playoffs. The Raiders, meanwhile, may be on the road for much of the NAFL playoffs with the loss.

The Grand Rapids (MI) Thunder roll into Horlick Field next week. The Thunder play in the United States Football League and are a perennial top team. The game begins at 7 p.m.