November 27, 2009

Now the NY Times rips Racine on infant mortality

A 21-year-old former Racine resident is back in the news criticizing her former city, this time on the national stage.

Ta-Shai Pendleton, who moved to Madison from Racine, was featured in an October cover story in Madison's weekly newspaper, Isthmus. She ripped her former city in the article, blaming violence and isolation for the deaths of her first two babies. After moving to Madison, she had a successful pregnancy, which she credited to Dane County visiting nurses and support from her church.

Isthmus used her story to celebrate Madison's success in dramatically dropping its infant mortality rate over the last decade. It also pointed out Racine has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world.

At the time, we ripped Isthmus for ripping Racine without talking to anyone from the city about positive steps being taken to help at-risk pregnant mothers. It was a particularly egregious omission because the paper allowed Pendleton to blast Racine without questioning her own conduct in the loss of her first two babies.

Now, Pendleton is telling her story in the New York Times. Times' reporter Erik Eckholm featured her in an article today again degrading Racine and praising Madison. He writes:
As she cradled her 2-month-old daughter recently, she described the fear and isolation she had experienced during her first two pregnancies, and the more embracing help she found 100 miles away with her third. In Madison, county nurses made frequent home visits, and she got more help from her new church.
Eckholm, like Isthmus, doesn't interview anyone from Racine about recent efforts to help young mothers like Pendleton. He dedicates one sentence in the lengthy article to those efforts:
The programs exist statewide, but in Milwaukee, Racine and other areas they do not appear to have achieved the same broad coverage
This is a delicate article because Racine does have the highest infant mortality rate in the state, and one of the highest rates in the country. It's also seems clear Pendleton's life is in a better place in Madison than it was in Racine.

But both articles present a simplistic view of a complicated issue. Both articles highlight Madison's success, but fail to offer the perspective of Racine's efforts to reach similar success. They would have done well to interview someone in Racine, rather than only rely on an ex-residents' perspective.

November 26, 2009

Want locally-made or U.S.-made goods?
C4C's new website provides direction

Just in time for the holiday shopping season, Community for Change has introduced a Buying for Change website.

The site highlights Racine stores selling locally-made, American-made and Fair Trade products.

The release from Community for Change says "The goal of Buying for Change is to create and maintain a consumer resource that supports local economy and businesses with a handy and informative way to find and connect with them."

Supporting local businesses is one of the most effective ways to support our local economy, and Racine has an excellent variety of options, the site notes, adding there are many great opportunites to "vote" with your dollar to support local business.

The Locally Made page provides links to local artisans and handmade gifts. It also contains links to find locally owned businesses, craft fairs, business associations and bakeries with “Uniquely Racine” treats and edibles.

The American Made page contains information on internet resources for American-made products. It also contains information on autos and imported food with links to Wisconsin food co-ops, and information about supporting American workers and Racine manufacturing.

The Fair Trade page gives an overview on the Fair Trade international movement, Racine businesses that specialize in Fair Trade and a listing of Fair Trade products available in area retail outlets.

For people who prefer to make charitable contributions in lieu of giving gifts, there is a Charitable Gifts page with links to area organizations which accept donations and institutions to purchase family memberships and sponsorships. There are also links explaining how to donate used items and household goods instead of throwing them away.

Community for Change plans to maintain and add on to the current information and invites the public to share ideas and additions. There is no charge or advertising fee to be included in Buying for Change. Submissions can be emailed here.

Buying for Change can be found directly at or by following the link on the C4C main page.

SNOW! (But not for long... this time)

The weatherman promised us snow, and he delivered overnight. Just a light dusting. Was it all gone by the time you woke up?

Here's the proof!

Another inmate has died at Racine County Jail

Efforts to revive a 51-year-old male inmate failed at the Racine County Jail, and he was pronounced dead at St. Mary's emergency room at 8 p.m. Wednesday night. He was the third death at the jail this year.

The Racine County Sheriff's Department said the following:
"11-25-09: At 1900 hours on the second floor of the Racine County Jail, Corrections Officers received an emergency alarm from one of the cells. The jail nurse was notified and she, along with the Corrections Officers, entered the cell and attempted to get a response from the inmate. The inmate was moved to the floor where CPR was started along with the use of an Automatic External Defibrilator.
"City of Racine Fire and Rescue responded and took over for jail personnel in attempting to revive the inmate. They worked on the inmate for a period of time and then they transported inmate to St. Mary's E.R. where efforts were continued until he was pronounced deceased at 2000 hours. Identity of the inmate is being withheld until next-of-kin can be located. The inmate was a 51-year-old Racine County resident."
UPDATE: The dead man has been identified as Samuel Lee Wilson of Racine, who had been in the jail on a probation violation since Nov. 13.

Prior to this, the most recent inmate found dead at the jail was on Sept. 19, when officers were unable to revive Todd Anderson, 43. In May, a baby was born, and died, at the jail when 20-year-old inmate Melissa Woten gave birth prematurely.

November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Eve Ceremony brings faith communities together

Olympia Brown choir

If you're searching for a way to express gratitude this Thanksgiving, open your heart and wish others happiness.

Master Teachers Tony and Linda Somlai, of the Original Root Zen Center, offered that teaching Wednesday night during an ecumenical Thanksgiving Eve Ceremony at Olympia Brown Unitarian Universalist Church.

The Rev. Tony Larsen, of Olympia Brown, welcomed the crowd of more than 100 by imploring people of different religions and faiths to find common ground.

"Our world today so needs people of different religions to come together," he said.

The 80-minute ceremony included singing, prayers and reflections from religious leaders of nine different faith communities in Racine. The Olympia Brown choir opened the singing with a lovely Native American song, "Ancient Mother."

Nabeeh Al-Amin

Nabeeh El Amin, of the Racine Islamic Center, then offered a beautiful prayer from the Qu'ran.

Linda Somlai, of ORZC, read a passage from the Dhammapada imploring all to be "spirits of light." Tony Somlai then taught the crowd how to do a Buddhist half bow, or "hapchong," and led the audience in wishing happiness to each other.

"If you open your heart, all you can do is wish people happiness," he said.

Master Teachers Linda and Tony Somlai

The Rev. Tony Larsen and the Rev. Ben Johnston-Krase

Larsen and the Rev. Ben Johnston-Krase, of First Presbyterian Church, which hosted the service last year, then led the audience in the hymn, "Gather Us In." Johnston-Krase would later lead the hymn, "Giving to Life," and offered this teaching on giving thanks: "Gratitude is not something you feel. Gratitude is a practice," he said.

John Brosseau

John Brosseau, of Beth Israel Sinai Congregation, read from Genesis 7:2 and then introduced the theme for the evening, "hidden treasures."

Ann Pratt at the podium

Ann Pratt, of the Racine Dominicans' HOPES Center, led the organization in a "Harvest Prayer." The well-written prayer used a vegetable and gardening theme to give thanks for friendship.

Joyce Gregg

Joyce Gregg, of the Evangelical United Methodist Church, read scripture from Matthew 6:19-21 and 13:44-45.

The Rev. Liz Simmons

The Rev. Liz Simmons, of St. Luke's Episcopal Church, shared a personal story about finding "hidden treasures" in difficult times. She was laid off from her job - she called it "getting fired by God" - and spent five months wondering where he life would take her. But her congregation collected money for her, three people offered her a place to stay and eventually she found her way to her new congregation at St. Luke's in Racine.

"We don't always know what hidden treasures are in the tragedies of our life," Simmons said.

The Rev. Brad Van Fossen

The Rev. Brad Van Fossen, of First United Methodist Church, offered a similar reflection on "hidden treasures," asking if we can find hope in suffering. He then quoted author Parker Palmer, in asking if we had the "courage to stand with each other in a simple and healing way."

The feel of the evening was light and open. The audience learned how to clap in sign language - you lift both hands above your head and twist them in a waiving motion - and laughed heartily throughout the evening. Afterward, many people stayed for pie.

The beautiful stained glass windows at Olympia Brown Unitarian Universalist Church in Downtown Racine.

Walden III students donate 10,300 pounds of food
and $6,000 to Racine County Food Bank

Dan Taivalkoski of Food Bank with stack of food collected by Walden students

Older generations love to criticize the younger generation, how much trouble they get into, the terrible music they listen to, how they waste so much time on video games or social networking, how they wear their hair in outrageous styles and colors.

What we don't hear about -- because it isn't news? -- is the good some of these kids accomplish.

Like the students at Walden III, who this morning stepped forward with 10,300 pounds of food for the Racine County Food Bank. Nor did they stop at that; they also presented Dan Taivalkoski, executive director of the food bank, an oversized check for $6,000.

Nor is this a one-time occurrence. Walden III consistently ranks second or third in the community, donating more to the food bank than almost every other local donor, behind only some big corporations and agencies like Feed the Children.

"It is truly heartwarming to see the effort that these kids put into raising food and funds, and no one has more fun at the end of a drive than they do," Taivalkoski said after this morning's assembly and presentation. "If these kids are our future leaders, our community will be in good hands."

Sadly, the need is greater than ever. The trend, Taivalkoski said, is less donated food and funds, along with an increase in demand for services. In October, the local network of pantries provided assistance to a record , 2,190 families. This year, the county's pantries served 728,583 meals to 59,620 individuals.

Thanks to Walden's donation, along with a recent gift from Caron Butler, the Racine County Food Bank is preparing an additional 1,000 holiday meal boxes, double the number distributed in previous years.

Photos by Kimberly Mycon and Dakota Gursky of Walden III Yearbook

Mason announces 'Toxic Toys' legislation

Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, kicked off the holiday shopping season with a proposal to require manufacturers to identify chemicals in children's toys.

Mason said the proposal would help keep children safe and parents informed.

"After enjoying our Thanksgiving feasts, many of us will head out to shop the bargains this Friday. Like all parents, I want to ensure that the toys I buy for my young daughter are safe, and won’t harm her," said Mason, whose daughter Eleanor will turn one in December.

The bill:

· Requires the state’s consumer watchdog agency, the Department of Agriculture, Trade ad Consumer Protection (DATCP) to identify chemicals that, based on credible scientific evidence, are capable of causing harm to children;

· Requires manufacturers and distributors of products containing these chemicals to provide information to DATCP about these products;

· Requires DATCP to identify safer alternatives and requires manufacturers and distributors to replace problematic chemicals with available safer alternatives within a reasonable amount of time;

· Requires DATCP to develop an educational program to educate and help consumers and retailers in identifying children’s products that may contain these problematic chemicals.

The proposal, dubbed the “Toxic Toys” legislation, is being circulated for legislative co-sponsorship and will be formally introduced in December.

Mason's legislation comes the same week the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group released its annual "Trouble in Toyland" list of potentially dangerous toys and the largest recall of cribs ever.

Click here for a mobile web site for shopping parents.

Comments closed for excessive nastiness. Folks, we can check the IP addresses and know when people are piling on.

City offering indoor tennis lessons for all ages

The City of Racine’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department will be collaborating with the Racine Tennis Club this winter by providing tennis lesson for all skill levels at the Indoor Facility.

Registration will be taken at the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department, 800 Center St. Room, 127, Monday, Nov. 30 through Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2009.

Class dates and times are as follows:

Sundays (Youth and Adults) Jan. 3 through April 18, 2010
10–13 year olds, 2-3 p.m.;
14–18 year olds, 3-4 p.m.; and
Adults 3-4 p.m.

Wednesdays (Adults only) January 6th through April 21, 2010
11 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Lessons will be held at the Racine Tennis Club, 5100 Briarwood Lane. The cost for
these 16-week classes is $160.

Registration Forms are available at the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services
Department; Community Centers and the Racine Tennis Club.

For information or questions, please call (262) 636-9131 or come down to the Parks,
Recreation and Cultural Services Department, 800 Center St., Room 127, City Hall

Holiday shopping deals in Downtown Racine

You may have heard: Friday is something of a major shopping day.

While Best Buy, Walmart and other major stores are inundating us with deals on flat screen TVs and MP3 players, every store is counting on the legions of "Black Friday" shoppers to make some money this year.

Being a local source for news, we like to focus on the local stores and businesses trying to compete with the major retailers (that's no knock on the major retailers, it's just judging from TV, radio, email, mail, etc. they don't need much help on the publicity front).

Below is a list of the Friday deals we know of at Racine-owned shops. If you have deals to add, post them in the comments or contact us at:

Upurea, 304 Main St., Get a $10 gift card to give as a gift for every $50 spent.

Piranha Gaming
, 234 Main St., 15% off games, 10% off gaming systems and 15% off of gaming system repairs all weekend.

Copacetic, 409 Main St., 20% off Smart Wool socks, 20% off Life is good socks, 20% off EarMitts bandless ear muffs, 20% off Men's leather belts and wallets.

Artistry, 512 Monument Square, 20% off everything in the store. Not valid on custom artistry pieces, custom orders, and already reduced or previously purchased merchandise.

Elegant Pauper, 433 Main St., Free custom monogram cashmere scarf for men or women if you spend $100 (a $35 value). 25% off all holiday boxed cards and invitations.

Molly Magruder, 330 Main St., 20% off all sweaters, excluding consignment, all weekend.

Art Metals Studio, 332 Main St., 30% off any loose colored gemstones from our extensive collection to anyone who mentions that they saw this notice on Racine Post. Friday only.

Racine Art Museum store, 441 Main St., All books in the Museum Store are 20% off, RAM Members receive 25% off. Plus, Special sales for Black Friday customers, like 50% off on all Echo of the Dreamer jewelry and more. And, for every $100 you spend, receive 2 complimentary passes to the RAM.

Dimple's, 416 Main St., Free gift with any purchase of $50 or more.

Uncorkt, 240 Main St., For every $50 spent, shoppers will receive $10 "Bottle Bucks" vouchers that can be redeemed in January.

Fired Up Racine,
320 Main St., Open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Come in before noon and receive 20 percent off any holiday piece, like Christmas mugs and plates.

406 Main St., $10 off purses and scarves over $50; 10 percent off new jewelry, discounts throughout the store and a free gift if you spend more than $50

Northern Lights Gallery, 423 Main St., One Day Sale on Friday. Philadelphia jeweler Ian Gibson mixed metal jewelry 25% off; Derek Alexander Purses 40% off; Select pottery, including Bill Cambell’s 25% off; Story People by Brian Andreas 10% off. Plus, many gifts under $30.

Dover Flag and Map, 323 Main St., begins its annual Globe Sale on Friday: 20% all globes in stock. 25% off all Toland art flags when you mention you saw it on

November 24, 2009

Day care planned for former Ham-N-Egger

We drove past the former Ham-N-Egger restaurant Tuesday and saw a day care - Almost Home Academy 2 - is planned for the space. Remodeling work is underway on the inside and a new playground is already built behind the building. The original Almost Home Academy is located in Kenosha. More on this as we hear more.

Project Honor coming along

SC Johnson knows how to build an impressive building.

The company's impressive "Project Honor" is nearing completion. The circular building with glass walls soaring 47-feet tall is a spectacular addition to the company's Racine campus. The photo above was taken Monday evening and shows a glowing Fortaleza Hall, which will house the Carna├║ba, the airplane Sam Johnson and his sons flew to Brazil in 1998 to retrace the route HF Johnson Jr. to discover carnauba wax used to launch the company's fortunes.

SCJ's official information says the building is expected to be finished in January. The project's total cost is somewhere in the neighborhood of $40 million.

(No comments on this story because of the predictably negative comments.)

JT plays catch up on deal for company that recycles tires

The JT is playing catch up today on a story we had last week about the city's efforts to buy a trucking depot for a company that uses recycled tires.

JT Reporter Mick Burke reported today the city's Redevelopment Authority could take action on the deal at its Dec. 2 meeting. We had reported the deal was in jeopardy because another bidder has emerged for JMP Intermodal's former trucking depot at 2301 S. Memorial Drive.

The city intends to buy the trucking depot and give it to the unnamed company.

Here's Burke's story, which was posted this afternoon.

November 23, 2009

Restaurants on Sixth and Main streets move forward

Ed Scharding and Roberta Schulz appear at Monday night's Public Safety and Licensing
Committee meeting to request a liquor license for Caliente, 600 Sixth St.

A Mexican nuevo restaurant on Sixth Street and a piano bar on Main Street both took steps forward Monday night.

The Public Safety and Licensing Committee approved a liquor license for Caliente in the former Timothy York's Bistro at 600 Sixth St.

Ed Scharding, owner of the building, and Roberta Schulz, owner of Out of the Pan who will also run Caliente, appeared before the committee. They described a restaurant and bar that will be open from 5-10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. They didn't address the specific menu, but Mexican nuevo, or modern Mexican, generally is an upscale take on traditional Mexican.

Caliente will serve alcohol, but the drinks will fit the theme. The bar will be limited to margaritas, tequilas, Mexican beers and red and white sangrias, Schulz said. "If you want something else, you can come to Out of the Pan," she said.

Schulz plans to open Caliente by mid-December.

The committee voted unanimously in favor of the liquor license. Alderman Aron Wisneski, chairman of the committee, made mention of previous concerns about adding another liquor license to Sixth Street. Caliente is different, he said, because it's clearly a restaurant first and a bar second.

"This is a fundamentally different request," Wisneski said.

Scharding, who owns the building, is the applicant for the "Class B" liquor license. His request now heads to the City Council for final approval.

Robert Granger, left, appears before the committee Monday night. The commitee unanimously
approved his request for a liquor license for a piano bar at 240 Main St.

A new piano bar and restaurant at 240 Main St. also received a liquor license on a unanimous vote. Owner Robert Granger said the bar would have a "Sinatra" feel aimed at a more mature audience.

The restaurant menu will include appetizers for $5-$6 and entres for $10-$12, Granger said. It will be fine dining that's a step above typical bar food.

"I have no disrespect for places that serve hamburgers, but that's not going to be us," Granger said.

Granger brings a wealth of experience to the new bar and restaurant, which will be located next door to Uncorkt in the former Red Onion cafe. He said he's tended and managed bars for 33 years, most recently at Dino's Italian Restaurant in Racine.

"I know bartending and restaurants like the back of my hand," Granger said.

The new bar will employ six to 10 people and will be open 3-11 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and 3 to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. It will closed Sundays and Mondays.

Granger plans to open the week of Christmas. It will be non-smoking.

In response to a robo-call to neighbors within a half-mile of the proposed lounge, the city received four calls in opposition and one in support.

The committee voted unanimously to grant Granger a "Class B" liquor license. The request now heads to the City Council for final approval.

Week Ahead: Committee to look at flag policy, group home for single teen dads

Here's a look at some stories developing this week:

Racine Steel Castings

The city's efforts to revitalize the former Racine Steel Castings plant appear to have fallen through.

City Development Director Brian O'Connell is scheduled to appear before the Public Works and Services Committee on Tuesday asking for the repeal of an ordinance that directed the city to sign an agreement with E.G. Developments LLC to redevelop the site. The ordinance also directed the Redevelopment Authority to buy the property at 1425 N. Memorial Drive.

O'Connell wrote Mayor John Dickert in September saying the city was "unable to obtain execution of an agreement as called for in this resolution."

Flag Policy

Also Tuesday, Alderman David Maack will ask the city to revise its flag policy. Maack wants to amend the policy to say flags should be lowered to half staff when the governor encourages such an action. Current city policy says flags should be lowered upon executive order from the governor. The Public Works committee will take up the issue.

Home for single teen dads

A group home for single-teen fathers may open at 1900 Grand Avenue. The Plan Commission will consider Wednesday giving Jeffrey Urquhart a conditional-use permit for the home, which will house eight or fewer teen dads or juvenile males. Staff recommendation is to approve the permit.

November 22, 2009

Unique surface, fun equipment make new Lockwood Park playground a gem

The "Tilted Skyrunner" at Lockwood Park

Lockwood Park is better known for its sledding hill in November than its playground.

But an unseasonably beautiful weekend turned out to be the perfect time for city officials and neighbors to celebrate completion of a community-built playground and other improvements at the city park, located near Ohio Street and Graceland Boulevard.

Alderman Aron Wisneski leads a rededication ceremony on Saturday.

Alderman Aron Wisneski led a brief ceremony to rededicate Lockwood Park. He stood on one of the playground's new bridges with City Administrator Tom Friedel, Parks manager Tom Molbeck and several other people who worked for more than two years to take the playground from an idea to reality.

The Lockwood Park playground is Racine's only "boundless" playground. If you visit, the first thing you'll notice is a bright blue surface underneath the equipment. When you step on it, it has a soft, bouncy feel. The surface is easier to walk on than sand or wood chips used under most playgrounds, but still safe if someone happens to fall.

The boundless surface is designed for children with special needs - like a walker or wheelchair - or adults who have a hard time on uneven surface. For example, a grandparent with a bad hip who still wants to play with their grandchild. It's the first playground of its type in Racine.

The "Xcelerator"

Along with the surface, the playground has some unique equipment. Kids and adults were having fun playing on the "Tilted Skyrunner" and the "Xcelerator," two modern takes on the merry-go-round, a climbing wall and a jungle gym with handicap-accessible ramps. (A few adults noted the equipment looked "dangerous." Designers worked to incorporate risk - because that makes it fun for kids - but to remove hazards, which increase the chances of injury.)

No instructions needed for the new playground.

While kids (and several adults) played on Saturday, Wisneski thanked several people who helped design, pay for and build the playground. Among those thanked by Wisneski included: Don Ricchio, City Schultz, Liz Rosienski, Lisa McFarland, Susan Feehrer, Ben Lake, Amanda DeSonia, Parks Director Donnie Snow and Assistant Parks Director Jack Schumann.

He also thanked the Racine Community Foundation for a grant for the playground and a nearby basketball court.

Neighborhood and community residents helped build the playground back in August. The city then resurfaced the park's parking lot and had to finish up some landscaping work before the playground could officially open on Saturday.

The new basketball court at Lockwood Park

More work is planned for Lockwood Park, Wisneski said. Benches, a butterfly garden and a children's sculpture area area all in the works. But, he added, the real work that needs to be done on the park is for people to enjoy it.

"A playground and park is never done," Wisneski said. "It's only viable as long as we use it."

Alderman Greg Helding (yes, he was riding the Xcelerator; no, he didn't fall off.)

A hawk watched over the new playground on Saturday.