November 17, 2010

Patch joins the online local-local news landscape

This is RacinePost's 3,594th story.

And, lest we be accused of burying the lede, possibly the last.

RacinePost began on Sept. 29, 2007, with Dustin's first post: "Hi and welcome to Racine Post... let's see what happens."

It's been a good ride. In addition to the thousands of stories and photos we posted on our main site,, our ancillary blogs have carried another 3,770 or so items: Kiosk event listings, local obituaries, education, Positively Racine and business stories. Not to mention 245 local news haikus, just for fun.  Our "front page" on the web, also has linked to a wide variety of stories about Racine found in media all over the world. And now it's about to end, or at least change.

But fear not; a new alternative online local news source is on the horizon!

Dustin has accepted a great job as a regional editor for Patch, AOL's ambitious $50 million effort to establish hundreds of local news websites around the country. He officially began Monday, but he's been working for a couple of weeks to recruit editors for a dozen new websites, including one for Mount Pleasant and another for Caledonia. (Racine itself is too big for the typical one-man-band Patch website.) Patch created its 100th site in August, and expects to have 500 operating by the end of this year, each run by a full-time local editor. Here's yesterday's Milwaukee Magazine's story about the local Patch initiative.

Dustin was the originator of RacinePost. I offered him pictures from Party on the Pavement a week later, and a week after that joined his effort. We've been working together ever since, although "together" is a misnomer: we're both independent, with different ideas about what's interesting and worth covering. The only way readers can tell who wrote a story is by looking at the "Posted by..." line at the bottom of each post -- and even that sometimes has been misleading, as one or the other of us added to or revised the other's initial post. Meanwhile, Dustin did most of the underlying computer coding. It's been a satisfying partnership.

We've come a long way. Early on, Dustin wrote that RacinePost is "an independent news source dedicated to covering and sharing all news related to Racine. We don't compete with other media in a traditional way. We link to as many stories as possible that relate to Racine, no matter where they appear. If the Journal-Sentinel or Journal Times has a good story, we'll make it the lead on our site just as readily as we'll put our own news on the site. We hope to become the  definitive source for news in Racine by compiling all headlines into a single place -- and adding a few of our own along the way!"

Our first pages looked much like the Drudge Report -- no surprise, since Dustin borrowed some of Drudge's coding. Here's one of our earliest pages. (Note our lede story that day in October 2007, about Walker and commuter rail. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.) But soon we found our own look, adding more of our own pictures and stories. We still linked to stories from other media, but the focus was on original reporting whenever possible. Occasionally, we've been critical of the Journal Times -- was a murder suspect's competency hearing really worth most of Page 1 Tuesday (with two pictures... no, actually  with the same picture twice) overshadowing the school board's $100 million referendum plans? -- but that's hardly our raison d'être despite our former employment at the JT.

The real fun for us came from meeting many of you, being welcomed into your stories, your events and your lives. We've had an outpouring of support from scores of people we'd never met, and financial support from strangers who liked what we were doing. Thanks are also due to the organizations that shared their news with us, the writers and photographers who contributed their own work to the site, and the advertisers who reached out to our readers,  sometimes providing the equivalent of a paycheck to this labor of love.

For the time being -- with Dustin gone and with me unwilling to turn this into a full-time job -- will begin a partial hibernation. There'll be occasional stories added to our main blog, the Kiosk and Racine Obituaries, but not as many as before. I'm not sure what will happen to our front page; we'll see what the future brings. By all means, check in to see whether we can resist the urge to continue posting.

From both of us, thanks for being a part of RacinePost.
Pete Selkowe
Dustin Block

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November 16, 2010

A million here, a million there ... no, put it all there

Face it, folks. We're stuck in an alternate universe!

The three headlines atop RacinePost as I write this are all the proof we need.

At the top, we've got 1st District Congressman Paul Ryan introducing a bill -- with the concurrence of fellow Wisconsin Reps. Tom Petri and James Sensenbrenner -- that would give back $810 million in federal stimulus funds earmarked for a high-speed rail connection between Madison and Milwaukee.They'd rather use the money to reduce the $1.6 trillion Federal deficit.  Never mind that $810 million is just a rounding error on a sum that large.

Below that, a story about Racine's Fred Young giving $11 million to help build a huge telescope in Chile.

Finally, a story about the Racine Unified School Board mulling over three plans for new schools, costing anywhere from $79 million to $100 million, one of which will be placed before the voters this Spring.

EXCUUUSE ME!  Are we not still in a recession? Isn't the jobless rate in Racine still among the highest in Wisconsin? Is this a time to be giving federal money back? A time to try to pass a $100 million referendum? (The PR firm needs to get its fee up-front, not on speculation.)

Granted, Fred Young has every right to spend his money -- earned here from Young Radiator Co. -- any way he pleases. But surely his ties to the community are at least as strong as his tie to his alma mater? Or should be: RUSD could modernize a lot of 1800s-era classrooms for $11 million. Look at all that Mitchell Middle School accomplished with just $50,000 from Pepsi. Cornell, we must point out, already has received millions from another local family's alums: it's home to the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management. That didn't come cheap, either.

The fact that only one of today's three headlines will lead to anything -- Young's donation is a done deal; Ryan's proposal and the school board's plan are iffy as hell -- shouldn't matter. It's the thought that counts.

But that's just my opinion. What's yours?

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Camera Club announces competition winners

Renee by Ted Gast

The Racine Camera Club named Ted Gast and Linda Peterson the winners of its November photo competiton.

Gast won for his portrait of "Renee" at top; and Linda Peterson for "Fountain Dance," at right.

Honorable mentions were given to: Jason Madson – "The Journey"; Tom Leih – "The Door" and "Nap Time"; Brian Jensen – "Observatory By Moonlight"; Linda Peterson – Fountain Fantasy"; Marilyn Wilson – "Light That Was"; and Jim Charnon – "Coming Ashore."

There was also a "Photo of the Month" competition, which was won by Peterson's "Auburn Autumn."

Judges were Gene Dodd, Mark Wollman and Bob Fay.

A slide show of this month's competition entries is here.

More information about the Racine Camera Club, which meets on the 2nd Thursday of each month, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Racine Arts Council, 316 Sixth St., can be found on its website, here. All photographers are welcome

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Racine Unified mulls $100 million referendum

Nobody can say we weren't warned.

It was way back in March when Racine Unified laid out the broad outlines of its "reinvestment plan" --the first glimmer of a referendum proposal for new and upgraded schools that the administration hoped to bring before voters in the fall of 2010. (Here's VIDEO of the administration's proposal.)

Costing $73 million... plus $7.5 million for operations... plus...  well, final number to be provided later.

On Monday, the board moved that plan forward, slightly behind its original timetable -- but with even bigger numbers. Now the referendum is planned for Spring. And the final number could be $100 million. Or more.

Here's today's Journal Times' story from Monday night's board meeting, at which three iterations of a referendum were laid out, ranging from $79 million to upwards of $100 million. We put the link here so RacinePost readers can comment on the plan.

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November 14, 2010

Deschler announces run for Spangenberg's Council seat

Keith Deschler, who ran unsuccessfully three times this decade for the state legislature, has now set his sights on the City Council. But his Libertarian message hasn't changed: he's still campaigning for smaller government.

Deschler, 52, ran in 2002, 2004 and 2008 for the 62nd District Assembly seat now held by Rep. Cory Mason. On Sunday he announced his candidacy for the 13th District Aldermanic seat on the City Council, a seat now held by James Spangenberg.  One of Deschler's issues is the now-dead Tom Tousis plan for a West Racine grocery/gas station/restaurant that was opposed by Spangenberg. But mostly he seems to be running against Mayor John Dickert's budgets and job creation efforts and aldermen who have "marched happily along with the mayor."

Here's Deschler's campaign statement:
I am announcing my candidacy for the 13th District Aldermanic seat in the City of Racine.

Having watched the past year as one business after another has found obstacles provided by the City Council, it has become clear to me the best way to improve the City Council is run for the seat. The lack of a business-friendly attitude and bureaucracy committed to satisfying its own appetite for greater control and manipulation over the citizens of Racine is neither good for our citizens nor is it good for the potential businesses, jobs and future citizens waiting to come and become part of our community.

Many issues can and should be addressed in the upcoming election: how best to treat investors on the West Boulevard and Washington Avenue corner and the potential of attracting new business to our town not by throwing piles of money for a handful of jobs, but rather by reducing the tax burden and freeing the investors to bring jobs and opportunity to our city.  Racine needs a City Council and leadership that is taxpayer friendly, and doesn’t rely on grants and gifts bestowed upon us by crawling before federal and state government.

The American people and especially the people of southeast Wisconsin spoke in huge numbers and in a dramatic voice demanding less invasive government and lower tax burdens for all.

I have watched now for two years in a row, as Racine’s current mayor has presented budgets with no cuts in jobs, no cuts in benefits, and an increase in tax burden on the citizenry.  In each case the aldermen marched happily along with the mayor. This must stop and the time is now.

I am asking my fellow Racine taxpayers to contact all of their aldermen before Tuesday night and tell them "no" on the budget being proposed.   We must demand that they get our message that enough is enough.

If the city alderman aren't listening when the people have spoken louder than ever, when will they listen? There are alternatives to the budgets proposed and tens of thousands of dollars in savings to the taxpayers can be found.  Making Racine the lowest taxed "island" in the Midwest will bring business and citizens to our great city.

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A further defense of Fair Trade, by Mary Beth Danielson

 Why can't we all just get along? Mary Beth Danielson's post about MayaWorks, fair trade and "compassion fatigue" brought 40 comments, some of them angry, in just two days. Here's her response.

By Mary Beth Danielson
For RacinePost

I am amazed at the dialogue my writing started. Go ahead, sling verbiage; churn through the topic at hand. This conversation about the morality of our shopping choices is a conversation this country desperately needs.

Here are more thing to consider.

Free trade and Fair Trade are not the same thing.

Free trade is when governments make agreements to trade with each other without imposing too many tariffs. Consider the ramifications of CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement). If a company can make gizmos more cheaply in Guatemala than they can in the US and then import them for no or very low tariffs, it “makes more sense” to close the North American factory where workers were earning $14/hr, move the whole shebang to Guatemala City where people work for $1.25/hr.

What happens when that occurs?  Well, at first there’s more cash for the Guatemalan worker - but not enough to afford a decent life.

Children have enough to eat, 
go to school, have a real childhood
when their mothers work.

Families leave the rural areas where they were desperately poor and malnourished, but they had the support systems of relatives, friends, maybe some land on which to grow a little food. Now they have to live by cash, they can’t afford housing, childcare, or enough to eat. So they live in flimsy slums where life is a misery.

Meanwhile the U.S. worker is laid off.  He or she will probably eventually get another job but in today’s economy, it will probably pay less.  Now the North American worker’s strategy for survival is to buy cheaper things at cheaper places; i.e., the cheaper gizmos from Guatemala.

What just happened here? Who got richer?  Somebody out there is now raking in $12/hr profit on each hour the Guatemalan works.

There’s a phrase for this. “The rich get richer.”

Fair Trade is a global movement to bring dialogue, transparency and respect to  international trading.
  •   The person who makes the product should earn a livable wage.
  •   Kids don’t do the work.
  •   The environment is considered and protected in work processes.
You can learn a lot and see fabulous products from around the world at Fair Trade  According to their fact sheet, Fair Trade amounts to about $4.5 billion a year in international trade.

Few of us can afford the effort or cash it would take to research every shopping choice we make.  But all of us can understand this.  When we buy a Fair Trade item – somewhere in the world a worker has more work to do tomorrow to replace the item we bought today. If that work pays a living wage and is done in decent circumstances, we have helped to make the world better for someone else.

We love to talk about our values.  For most of us, the most frequent moral choices we make are where we will spend our money.  Fair Trade shopping is one option to put our money where are values are.

I’m stumped to understand why attempting to make the world a little better for hard-pressed people in very poor nations seems so aggravating to some.

(And for those who think this is a money-making opportunity for me – I and the others in town who host these sales all do so as volunteers.  I have a full-time job, this is extra.  So is the writing for it.)

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November 13, 2010

Santa arrives and helps light Downtown's Christmas tree

OK, it's now officially the Christmas season! Sure, retailers started putting up decorations and holiday sale merchandise before Halloween, and Black Friday's shopping mania is still two weeks away, but we date the season from the lighting of Racine's Monument Square Christmas tree.

Make-a-Wish participant Frankie Hernandez of Kenosha lit the tree Saturday night, pushing the "on" switch with the help of Santa himself.

The tree lighting followed a 90-minute parade viewed by thousands -- mostly children, huddled under blankets or bundled into parkas along Main and Sixth Streets. They were treated to the usual assortment of holiday spectacle: dancers, bands, a few holiday floats, princesses, reindeer and dogs in their holiday finery.

And the usual anomalies: cars promoting a driving school, radio stations and plasma; Star Wars characters; Corvettes for Christ; the mayor with a "Dickert for Mayor" sign on his car; SC Johnson "product characters." Ah, the true meaning of Christmas!

Oh, and Santa, of course.

She had the biggest candy cane along the parade route

Milwaukee's Dancing Grannies

Postal Carriers making sure kids' letters to Santa will get delivered

Rescue dogs

The Grinch rode a snowmobile

Atonement Lutheran Church's float had Santa and a Nativity scene

Frankie Hernandez and Santa lit the tree

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November 12, 2010

Library's bookstacks reopen to browsing

Is there more light on the stacks and reading area, or does it just seem that way?

Ah, the joy of rummaging through the library's stacks of books, movies and CDs, looking for nothing in particular but anything that catches your eye.

That pleasure -- denied us for the past 10 weeks while the second-floor adult section of the Racine Public Library was closed for renovation (new carpet, asbestos removal, construction of some new study rooms, etc.) -- is available once again.

The library reopened today, to heavy traffic, as those of us who've been going through text-on-paper withdrawal are now allowed back in the stacks. Lots of catching up to do! Early reviews are good: everything seems much brighter and lighter upstairs. Which is a good thing, since nothing is where it used to be, and it will take a while to get used to the new layout. But have no fear: there are maps, and helpful librarians ready to point you in the right direction.

Welcome to the Neighborhood -- one of several new topic areas

Graphic novels in the young adult area

My favorite improvement: current issues of popular magazines are grouped together,
making them more visible and more accessible

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November 11, 2010

Don't you dare tell Mary Beth Danielson
that you're suffering from compassion fatigue

By Mary Beth Danielson
For RacinePost
 I was driving back to work today after meeting a friend for lunch.  On the radio was an interview with a woman who works for a medical services program in Haiti.

I won’t go into the sad urgencies in that beleaguered country.  Decimated by poverty, rocked (literally) by the earthquake, subjected to torrential rains, now it is on the teetering edge of a cholera epidemic.  The interviewer asked the doctor, “But how do you raise funds when people seem to be suffering compassion fatigue?”

Compassion fatigue? 

Apparently the phrase means that if we hear too many hard luck stories, we shut down and pay attention to none of them. 

Oh, on some levels I get it.  There are more places to give money than we have money to give. There are more cause to support, than we have energy and time to support.

But Compassion Fatigue?  What an ugly thought and phrase.  Do we really, really want to measure out our empathy in doses, like cups of flour in a cake?  Is it okay for us to shut our eyes, close our ears, and just say, “Oops, sorry, I gave at the office”? Or “So sorry, I can’t think about suffering anymore, I have too much to do. I’m really very busy, you know.” 

Compassion fatigue? Good heavens. Compassion makes us be our best selves.   

Did you know that compassion is a stage of development? When small children play together, and one bumps his noggin and cries, and the kid next to him hands him a Teddy bear -- that moment of tyke compassion is a sign of healthy human development.

Which begs the question.  What do you call it when banks, or investment firms, or the uber-rich take over a viable, working company; then squeeze it with layoffs to “maximize profit”?  

This is what happens.  Raw greed takes over and our best humanity flies out the window. As we Americans, living in this time, know too well. 

Here’s another thing.  Look at your life.  When were you more beautiful, more noble, or having more fun than when you were inconveniently generous? When you made extra food and shared it, how great did you feel later? When you worked with others to fix a house for a person in need, did that make you less or more of an awesome person? When you joined a group that traveled across the county or across the globe to do your small part to serve people in need; was that awful or was that fun?

For me it was so many moments.  I have helped host dozens of Mayaworks Fair Trade sales of products made by Maya women in Guatemala.  It’s always a pile of work, and I’d be lying if I said I did all this with the Light of The Divine in my soul.  Nah, I complain a lot. 

But I went to Guatemala.  I stayed some days in the home of a MayaWorks weaver. I played checkers (I’d brought the game with me) on a rickety wooden table, beneath the only light bulb in the dark, unpainted, very, very poor home, with the handsome, dark-eyed 15-year-old son of the family. He was the only person in that family of 12 who sort of understood the rules of the game.  And, I swear, the other 11 members of the family all crowded around us in that dim room, cheering him on, except for 10-year-old Patricia who wanted me to win.  I lost.  She hugged me anyway. 

Here’s the stunning thing.  He was done with his homework for the day. I knew that because MayaWorks orders woven products from his mother, and she makes enough money to allow him the time to go to school.  In the third world, most 15-year-old boys are already working full-time.
My (whiney) compassion helped make a world where that handsome kid could have a future. 
Compassion makes us stronger.  It helps us make friends.  It leads us into adventures. It saves us from the tedium of being ridiculously rich. 

When we do our part to lift others, we are lifted. 
Of course I want you to come to some MayaWorks sales.  If you want to know more about MayaWorks check out

I am hosting the sale at Wilson’s.  Stop by and say hi to me.

Saturday, Nov. 13                        10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Fall Health & Gift Fest at Lake House Health & Learning Center   932 Lake Ave.           
Start your shopping in a beautiful Victorian home (that happens to be for sale).                                   

Saturday, Nov. 20                         8:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.
Wilson’s Coffee & Tea   3306 Washington Ave.

Free Bonus Offer – Free writing sampler created by Mary Beth Danielson and her husband Leonard for shoppers who purchase something from Wilson’s AND something from MayaWorks. 

Saturday, Nov. 27                        10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Racine Marriott Hotel             7111 Washington Ave.
Free entrance with donation of non-perishable food item. Expo offers homemade crafts, jewelry, holiday gifts, wood crafts, pottery, gift baskets, and raffles. Snack bar available.

Friday & Saturday, December 3rd, 5-8PM  &  4th, 9AM-4PM
Quaker Meeting House, 3224 N. Gordon Place
, Milwaukee
 Shop for eclectic holiday gifts from around the world while you help support non-profit organizations. Enjoy hot drinks & hearty eats in the café. Bring along a non-perishable food item to donate.

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Northern Lights Gallery honored for its work with the disabled

Northern lights Gallery has been named Wisconsin’s Small Employer of the year by the Wisconsin Association for Persons in Supported Employment (APSE). 

APSE focuses on career advancement opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Northern Lights was nominated by Careers Industries for providing work and training opportunities along with the sale of artwork produced by Careers Industries clients.

Northern Lights, 423 Main St., also has worked with Lakeside Curative Center and supported orphans in Tanzania through sales of artwork produced by the orphans, with all of the proceeds returned to them to further their education and improve living conditions. 
Jack and Pam Viroglio, owners of Northern Lights Gallery, said their business model from the start included supporting organizations whose efforts make the community a better place to live for all.
The award was presented at the APSE meeting on Nov. 2 in Elkhart Lake.

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Shhh! Tucker's looking for a quiet home

Hello, my name is Tucker! 

I am a 5-year-old neutered male brown tiger. I have been with Countryside Humane Society since July 2. 

I do not like the noise in the kennel so I went into foster care and did perfectly fine. I love to jump on the couch and cuddle with my owner. I'm a bigger gentleman so I do not like to be picked up in the kennel. I am for children over 10 due to noise. Please come visit me.

Tucker's adoption fees include all of his vaccinations, microchip and more. If you like Tucker but can not adopt consider a donation for his care directly through the shelter or through Pay Pal on Countryside's website.

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That train has left the station...

Walker firm on pledge to block high-speed rail

$100 million, and 400+ jobs lost now: Doyle

Illinois dangles gifts to entice Talgo move

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November 9, 2010

Racine Health Department launches WIC campaign

The City of Racine Health Department today announced a program aimed at signing up eligible WIC clients before the winter weather hits.

The Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program provides food to help pregnant and breastfeeding women, infants, and children under five years. You may qualify if you live in Wisconsin and you: are pregnant, breastfeeding, or a new mom in the last six months; have an infant or children under five years; have a health or nutrition need; and earn a household income meeting WIC guidelines.

Dottie-Kay Bowersox, Public Health administrator, said, “With the coming cold weather, many families are worried about the higher costs: home heating, extra clothing, medical care, and more. This can make it hard to afford healthy food for mothers and young children. The City of Racine Health Department wants to make sure WIC eligible families are signed up for benefits before the winter months.”

You are income-eligible for WIC if you receive Kinship Care, W-2, FoodShare, BadgerCare, or Medicaid, including Healthy Start. WIC uses the same income criteria as free and reduced school lunches.

The Racine Health Department is sending out mailers, above, to neighborhoods which often use WIC services. Those eligible should call the WIC office at 636-9494 for an appointment, then bring the mailer card with them to receive free Racine Zoo passes for some healthy and educational family time.
For more information, contact the Racine WIC Clinic at 262/636-9494.

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November 8, 2010

New Racine entertainment website launches

A new website that promises to make it easier to find something to do in Racine has just launched. is an online entertainment source and events calendar for everyone planning a night out or a fun weekend in Racine County.

Whether you’re in the mood for theatre or Packer game bar specials, fish fry or a gourmet dinner, live music, Gallery Night, seasonal events or a festival, says it will provide an easy way to discover the entertainment opportunities available here.

The site now lists 350 businesses and cultural organizations in the restaurant, bar, band and entertainment sectors, offering information on each establishment as well as tools for businesses to post live music schedules, events, specials, coupons, photos and videos.

“This website is a great vehicle for area businesses to market to their customers professionally and inexpensively with a medium that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” co-owner Caroline Fritchen stated.

RacineNightOut offers musicians and bands free profiles with the ability to post gigs and upload their music to the NightOut Radio, another feature of the website, that plays music by local musicians. Audiences will be able to locate where their favorite bands are playing or listen to their music.

“Much of our entertainment relies on the arts: musical, performance, culinary and visual, it seems only natural to combine them on one site to reflect our growing creative community,” said Maureen Fritchen. “Each week we will also feature a local musician or band and a visual artist on the site.”

For more information visit or email

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November 7, 2010

Photographer's book highlights sailing in Racine's waters

Photographer Craig Brandt has released a new book about Racine and the sport of sailing off her shores.

Craig is a freelance photographer/photojournalist whose work is on display at Northern Lights Gallery, 423 Main St.

His book, “Sailing by the Belle,” chronicles the sport of sailing along Racine's coastal waters, and features more than 50 of his pictures of local landmarks, club racing and coverage of national regattas. Along the way he provides an insight to the area, events and techniques used to capture the images.

 “Sailing by the Belle” is available from the photographer’s website.

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November 3, 2010

County Republicans make a clean sweep -- almost

Paul Ryan, right, brought Van Wanggaard to podium before his race was decided

There's a new sheriff in town -- literally and figuratively.

Racine County elected Sheriff's Department Investigator Christopher Schmaling as its new sheriff, but the bigger news was the Republican sweep across the country, which echoed in Wisconsin as well as locally.

Wisconsin has a new senator and a new governor. Three-term Democratic senator Russ Feingold will be replaced by Republican Ron Johnson. "It's on to the next battle; it's on to the next fight; it's on to 2012," said Feingold. The governor's mansion will be occupied by Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, who defeated Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in the race to succeed Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle.

Locally, 21st District State Sen. John Lehman, who spent eight years in the Assembly before moving up to the State Senate in 2006, was ousted by Republican Van Wanggaard.

John Lehman, right,
with Cory Mason

The only challenged Democrat to withstand the Republican onslaught was 62nd District Rep. Cory Mason, who won a third term by defeating Republican Chris Wright.   Democratic Rep. Bob Turner, who's been in the Assembly since forever -- 1990 -- easily defeated his Libertarian opponent, George Meyers.

In his concession speech at 11 p.m. at the Buona Vita restaurant, where the Democrats gathered for what felt like a wake, Lehman said "It's a Black Tuesday" with both houses of the Legislature and the governorship changing from Democratic to Republican control. "But we have done all we could do and we still talk straight. So many folks in this room have so much to be proud of. We talked issues, but we didn't get the best response with the word "progressive" but we have to keep at it.

"This is not the last election that will take place. It's been an honor for me."

Mason said he was "excited, honored and humbled" by his victory, almost the only Democratic bright spot.

Cory Mason celebrates
with his wife,  Rebecca,
and their baby, Amelia

"This is a tough night," Mason noted, recalling something that Harriett Tubman, of the Underground Railroad during the Civil War era, said. "She said, 'Anytime the dogs are coming for you, you just keep going.' Well, it's the same for progressives." Mason said jobs and the economy are still his priorities. "I'm ready for the fight," he said.

All that took place at the Democratic gathering. Over at the Republicans' party at the Marriott -- which was much more like a celebration from the get-go with numerous TV screens declaring Republican victories around the country as soon as the East coast polling places closed -- the evening started with a victory speech by Rep. Paul Ryan, no less sincere with its inevitability, as he easily defeated Democrat John Heckenlively.

Paul Ryan, accepting congratulations Tuesday night

Ryan said, "A year ago, I would have been surprised (by these national results), but not now." Still, there was one outcome that surprised him: "I can't believe we beat Mike Sheridan in Janesville." Sheridan, the Assembly Speaker, a Democrat, was narrowly defeated by Republican Joe Knilans.

The national results, in which the U.S. House of Representatives went from Democratic to Republican control, mean a big promotion for Ryan: He now becomes chairman of the powerful House Budget Committee. But before that, his wife, Janna, pulled him away from the party at about midnight, to put his children -- boys 5 and 7 and a daughter, 8 -- to bed in their hotel rooms.

There was a small glitch in the Van Wanggaard victory celebration, as I discovered when I tracked him down near 11:30 p.m.. He was huddled with his staff in a small hotel room down a long corridor, pointedly staying away from the media. Reason: He still wasn't sure of the race's outcome.

Although Lehman had given his concession speech at the Democratic gathering 45 minutes earlier, that word never got to Wanggaard. Lehman told the Dems that he'd called Wanggaard to offer congratulations, "but he didn't pick up, so I left a voicemail message." Well, when I finally got to Wanggaard, he checked his cellphone, and couldn't find the message -- and his staff certainly wasn't going to take the word of a mere reporter.

Van Wanggaard has a kiss for his wife, Mary Jo, as he accepts State Senate victory

Eventually, the message was found and Wanggaard came forth to give the good news to his supporters at the victory party. After giving his wife, Mary Jo, a kiss -- well, a few of them to satisfy the cameras -- he said, "It's going to be almost a complete sweep in this county. Now we have to step up to the plate and do what we say we're going to do.

"Today we sent a message to the Madison spenders. We're going to restore accountability to Madison, and that starts in Racine County."

Here are some of the final numbers reported by the Racine County Clerk:
With 116,760 registered voters in Racine County, there were 73,498 votes cast.

There were 15,707 straight Democratic votes cast; compared to 19,551 straight Republican votes. The Wisconsin Green Party garnered 53 straight party votes; the Libertarians got 97.

For Congress:
Paul Ryan: 46,584
John Heckenlively: 24,366

State Senator, District 21
John Lehman: 28,922
Van Wanggaard: 32,031

Assembly, District 61
Robert Turner: 10,024
George Meyers: 2,166

Assembly, District 62
Cory Mason: 10,453
Chris Wright: 8,571
Tony DeCubellis: 403

Assembly, District 63
Robin Vos 19,520

Racine County Sheriff
Joseph Buckley 23,085
Chris Schmaling 44,802
Jeffrey Gerrietts 3,427

Advisory Referendum on possible additional taxation for transportation
Yes: 12,578
No: 51,316
Final Racine County vote totals are HERE.
The detailed count -- precinct by precinct -- is HERE.

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November 2, 2010

Hooray, it's election day!

Hey, there's an election today!

A political parlay! (And a cause célèbre)

Your vote can sway the ruling par-tay

And whisk away, until another day,

The ones who say, "Nay!"

Elephants will play, roll in the hay,

and eat donkey fillet, is what the polls say

Not all will obey, and perhaps Dems will stay,

and sashay with cache, back to the Belt Way.

So as you may, lay down your dismay,

And hop in a sleigh, or fly like blue jay,

your heart don't betray, your bed do not lay,

your hope do not slay, your toe do not X-ray,

(but your cat please do spay)

Do ignore Tina Fey, and Bill O'Reil-ay

and rise above the fray, and all the gray,

without delay, the issues do weigh,

then shout "ole!" your convictions display,

and proudly portray, this American holiday.

May we all meet halfway. OK?

So bring out the tray, serve the parfait,

pour the cabernet, dance a ballet,

cheer for Green Bay, study Monet,

play some croquet, tip the valet,

turn a double play, and get a little risque (oy vey!).

Hooray, it's an election day! Let's all celebray!

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November 1, 2010

Library renewal is almost complete

Boxes of books show some of the work still to be done.

 Hang in there, readers! Our months of library withdrawal are nearly over.

The Racine Public Library adult department is nearly back to normal. Asbestos abated. New carpet installed. Atrium filled in. Books moved back into their new places -- well, most of them.

Darcy Mohr, head of adult and youth services who's in charge of the project, said the library's second floor should be open well before the original Thanksgiving completion date -- maybe in just two weeks. It can't happen soon enough!

It's been a tough two months. I think I've read only two books since the second floor was closed off -- and one of those was a dreary procedural spy novel recommended by the New York Times Book Review (Thanks for nothing, guys!). I actually tried to slog through one of my wife's book club selections. Gah!

But on Friday Mohr gave me a tour of the second floor, and I could see the progress that's been made...  and the library improvements that will make this period of withdrawal fade from memory:

Librarian Darcy Mohr in the new Racine History Room

-- There's a new Racine History Room, full of books by Racine authors, or about Racine, or with some Racine connection. Far more than you would have expected -- including a complete collection of Western Publishing's Little Golden Books  given to the Library by the company when it moved to New York, and from reader donations.

-- There will be a number of new "neighborhoods" in which the Library ignores the Dewey Decimal System (About time: it dates from 1876!), instead shelving books the way most bookstores do: with theme-oriented topics all together. There'll be a Holidays neighborhood, one for Health & Fitness, another for Travel. Holidays, for example, will have books about arts and crafts projects, cooking and history in one place. Travel will have travel guides and language books together; today they are at opposite ends of Dewey Decimal and far apart in the stacks.

-- There also will be a Young Adult area, with shelves of graphic novels, college guides, books on careers.

-- The best improvement will be to the library's magazine collection. New shelves have been bought that will display more than 100 magazines with their current issue cover fully visible, and recent editions near at hand. Say goodbye to stacks of magazine spines! Thus, it now will be easy to stroll past the display and instantly see the covers of Architectural Digest, Car and Driver, Dwell, Glamour, Harper's Bazaar, Maxim, National Geographic, Popular Photography, Redbook, Smithsonian, Utne Reader -- and scores more! -- without having to search through the stacks of back issues for your favorite. I predict we'll all see, and read, magazines we'd never thought would interest us. And, yes, there will be a convenient reading area as well.

The moving and restacking of the library's collection -- some two-thirds of the library's 250,000 books are involved -- has been delegated to Hallett and Sons Library Movers of Summit, IL, which has moved the collections of libraries all over the world, including the Newberry Library of Chicago, with its 40,000 shelves.

On Friday, Jack Hallett was supervising some 20 employees, most of whom were moving huge stacks loaded with books. In a maneuver executed with military precision ten guys attached wheeled metal lifts to both sides of a long row of reference books. On command they lifted the entire row a few inches off the ground, and then pushed the entire row -- rolling on sheets of masonite to protect the new carpet -- from one side of the library to the other.

Hallet, 79, has been doing this since he was a boy He recalled working with his brothers for his father's moving company for six cents an hour and asking for a raise; instead, his father offered to rename the company Hallet and Sons. "We were just kids, and we took it!"

As you'd expect from someone with 73 years' experience, he knows his stuff, down to the smallest detail. He told me our library has 6,300 lineal feet of book shelves -- "More than a mile!" And the long row of reference books the ten movers were muscling into place, "That weighs 4,800 pounds," he said.

I know what you're thinking: What's so hard about moving library books, besides the fact that they're so heavy? Well, generally, librarians want to be able to find a book when the job is over. One of the movers recalled a story from a library that did not hire Hallett, only to be asked by one of its movers, "How do you want us to keep these books in order?" I don't know all of Hallett's tricks, but a careful examination of some of the shelved books showed an extra numerical sticker -- 3571 in the picture here -- that will -- somehow! -- tell movers exactly where the books should go after their move.

In any case, add library moving to the categories of legislating and sausage-making. You don't necessarily have to know how it's done, as long as it is done right. And soon!

It's all about the books you can take home, as these two young readers know.

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October 31, 2010

The monster arrived on something new this year...

The pagan ritual of giving all the neighborhood kids tooth decay continued Sunday, as little beggers dressed as Elvis, wrestlers I never heard of, princesses and all sorts of monsters rang the doorbell.

"Trick or treat" said the older ones. "Happy Halloween" said the younger ones, not quite "getting" how this is supposed to work. No matter: everyone left with a handful of candy and a smile.

There seemed fewer than in prior years. I attribute the shortage to the earlier-in-the-afternoon Packers game, or the Vickings-Patriots battle that was going on during Trick-or-treat hours, presumably keeping some Dads glued to the TV screen, unable to chaperone.

The most unusual creature to ring our doorbell was the young lady at left, who took some candy and then lifted her toes and scooted down the driveway -- courtesy of wheels in her sneakers! Sneakers with wheels!  What will they think of next? A quick Google search found 'em -- some with lights, even! Not sure yet whether they come in adult sizes, but I'll keep looking.

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October 30, 2010

When werewolves, skeletons and heroes share the day

realracine presented its inaugural Skeleton Skamper 5k race and 1k walk Saturday morning in Mount Pleasant, drawing some 700 runners and 500 walkers from all walks of life ... and the afterlife.

There were werewolves, skeletons, superheros, ballerinas (some male, some female), housewives, winged creatures, witches, a bride or two, even three blind mice. Brett Favre made an appearance as well, with a sign indicating his firm decision to retire... well, on one side of it, anyway.

Winner of the 5k -- which was completed by 467 runners -- was Jason Aho of Racine, in 16:17.42. Second place went to Miguel Garcia, also of Racine, whose time was 17:08.20.

Overall results are HERE.

Results by age group are HERE.

Here are some of the creatures that caught my eye.


 Jason Aho as he crossed the finish line first

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