July 1, 2010

Obama Notes: President calls mayor 'young, dynamic'

 President Barack Obama and Mayor John Dickert

Mayor John Dickert got a memorable soundbite from President Barack Obama on Wednesday.

The president opened his talk at Memorial Hall with a round of introductions, which included an acknowledgement of Dickert.

Obama twice described Dickert as a "young, dynamic' mayor. A beaming Dickert, who sat near the front, greeted the capacity crowd with a wave.

PRESS RELEASE: The city's public information officer, Mark Eickhorst, was hanging out with the media Wednesday handing out a press release emphasizing some positives about the city. A few points the mayor's office tried to impress upon local and national media included:

Stimulus Money: The city used federal stimulus money to buy $500,000 in LED street lights from locally based Ruud Lighting. The city then used unemployed union electrical workers to install the lights. The project is expected to save the city $40,000 per year in electrical costs.

Crime: Violent crime is down in the city.

Housing: The city created a Neighborhood Stabilization Program to purchase and rehab houses in high-crime areas. The city has bought 23 homes to date, more than five times any previous year.

Energy Efficiency: The city's Racine Energy Efficiency Program, or REEP, is paying for retrofits of qualifying houses in Racine. The program allows homeowners to improve energy efficiency with no upfront costs.

Industry: The city worked with A&E Incorporated to stay in Racine and to bring 55 jobs from Texas to the city. It also helped Treasure Christian Books find warehouse space in the area. The city also cited the ongoing work of SC Johnson, CNH and InSinkErator.

Joint Dispatch: The city said Racine County, Mount Pleasant and Caledonia plan to create a joint dispatch center in 2011.

Green Initiative: The city unveiled a rubber sidewalk in Crosswalk Park and is working on a city ordinance to give homeowners a choice on the type of sidewalk they would like.

North Beach: Racine's North Beach is a nationally recognized "Blue Wave" beach. It now features a handicap-accessible beach mat to improve beach access for the disabled, elderly, parents with strollers and others to reach the lakefront.

National Events: Pro beach volleyball and international cycling races are annual events in Racine, which also features a variety of church and ethnic festivals. USA Today named Racine one of the Top Ten destinations in the U.S. for Fourth of July.

NO CHRYSLER: A downside of Obama's Town Hall format was no one asked the president about Chrysler pulling out of Kenosha. The president didn't address the topic, either, and it was a missed opportunity to hear an explanation for why the auto-industry bailout led to Chrysler pulling out of southeastern Wisconsin.

SIGH: The president's visit brought local excitement, but did little to offset Racine's image as a struggling industrial city. While the city tried to spin positive (see above) an NPR interview with a Milwaukee Biz Journal reporter about Racine focused on the city's high unemployment rate.

The NY Times and CNN characterized Racine as "an economically hard-hit area,"while the Washington Post discussed the city's "troubling" unemployment rate.

FoxNews actually talked about the city's "rebound" with the help of federal stimulus money. It's the only major media we could find that didn't report Racine's unemployment rate or classify its economy as struggling.

TRANSCRIPT: For a full transcript of Obama's Racine appearance, visit here.

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