January 9, 2010

Our outdoor sculpture garden -- at least until Spring?

Andy Hass Schneider framed by her sax player

Saxophone-playing catfish, penguins, whatever headlined the completed sculptures at Downtown Carves Its Niche, the annual ice-carving spectacle Saturday. Above, and below, are three of the sax players who will be proclaiming Racine's "coolth" -- at least until the temperatures send them into oblivion.

Boats, hockey players skiers and more emerged from the 300-lb. ice blocks, carved over a five-hour period by the 13 carvers. Pick your favorite from the pictures here, and then skip to the very bottom to learn the "winner" -- chosen by Teresa Dickert, the mayor's wife. The winner earned a bag full of downtown goodies, as well as a certificate providing "bragging rights," at least 'til next Winter.

Catfish on sax, by Bob Lanenhohl

Penguin on sax by John Haas

Spectator touches up Dick Emmerich's sailboat

Finishing touch: Emily Lechtenberg carves a puck for her hockey player

One of three sailboats by Bob Lechtenberg

Kayaker by Tim Held

Noreen Lephardt's skier

And the winner is... (drum roll, please): Andy Haas Schneider!

Cold enough for ya? Ice carvers in their element!

Jeff Shawhan, who usually carves snow, draws an audience

It was 17 degrees Downtown this morning, and the only people oblivious to the cold were a hardy band of ice carvers. To be honest, they were keeping warm through hard work, sawing through and chipping at 300-lb. blocks of ice, looking for their interpretation of this year's theme, "Cooler by the Lake."

Great minds think alike, someone once said, and the adage must also hold true for ice carvers. Ice sailboats occupied three or four of them, and sea and winter creatures playing the saxophone will emerge from at least a couple of the other ice blocks.

By the time the sculptures are finished at 3 p.m., there'll also be a kayaker, an ice hockey player a skier -- and who knows what else, as the ice chips fall where they may.

The 13 carvers on Main and Sixth Streets are limited only to hand tools and their imaginations.

And, of course, to hecklers like me who remind them that they could be inside, by a warm fireplace, sipping something ... scotch, say, or even hot chocolate. Noreen Lephardt, who's been ice-carving for ten years, laughed and took a moment from finding the skier in her ice block to reassure us that the carvers understand all that -- "but when your butt is frozen, then the fireplace and scotch is so much better!"

Mike Lechtenberg will find a boy looking for his hat in the ice

Tim Held sees a kayaker in his ice block

John Haas with clay model of penguin playing a sax

Bob Lanenhohl looks for his fish-playing sax in his ice block

Support RacinePost advertisers

One RacinePost's major goals is to create an affordable, effective advertising vehicle for local businesses. We strongly believe in "buying local" and strongly encourage our readers to think Racine first when shopping for goods and services. (Dollars spent locally stay in the community and support local businesses and jobs.)

We're fortunate at RacinePost to have a number of local advertisers that believe in what we're doing, both as a news provider in Racine and as a way to tell the community about their businesses and services. We'd like to take a minute and thank them for their support.

Our newest advertisers are Piranha Gaming at 234 Main St. in Downtown Racine and the LGBT Center of Southeast Wisconsin.

Piranha Gaming is a great video game store specializing in console repairs and sales, and selling new and used video games. They're off to a great start and have big plans to expand in 2010.

The LGBT Center is holding its "Great Gay Yard Sale" this weekend at the center, located at 1456 Junction Ave. in Racine. Stop by from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and 2-5 p.m. on Sunday.

We're also lucky to have an ad from Educator's Credit Union, which is featuring a 3.49% APR Home Equity Line of Credit. Please visit their website to learn more about their financial services.

Hop To It at DP Wigley is a long-time supporter of RacinePost and the heart of a burgeoning homebrew movement in Racine. Homebrewers swear by their supplies and they have full winemaking kits, as well.

is celebrating its 10th anniversary this month as one of southeastern Wisconsin's top restaurants. Plan a special night out to enjoy a decade of gourmet food and fine dining in a beautiful farm house setting. (And check out owner Scott Sebastian's great food blog, Salty's Kitchen.)

Merchants Moving & Storage Company is another long-time, and greatly appreciated, RacinePost supporter. This local company was founded in 1922 and is one of the few independent professional moving companies in the country. They're a great Racine company that really cares about the city.

Big thanks also go out to the Racine Theatre Guild (see Alice in Wonderland this weekend!), the Insider News, Lakeview Pharmacy, Racine on the Lake Tobacco Free Coalition and Ad Vantage Promotions for their advertising and support.

If you're interested in advertising on RacinePost, contact Pete or Dustin at: racinepost@gmail.com

Racine's Old Navy closing Jan. 26; Good deals until then

Racine's Old Navy is closing Jan. 26, according to the store.

The clothing store, owned by the Gap, is located at 2380 South Green Bay Road in Racine. The store is the shopping plaza near Pick N Save and TJ Maxx.

Gap Inc's website said the company is closing 30 Old Navy stores in fiscal year 2009, which ends this month.

The Old Navys in Gaylord, Mich., Council Bluffs, Neb., Wythe County, Va., and San Angelo, Texas are also closing on Jan. 26.
By Sunday afternoon, the shelves were picked pretty clean

January 8, 2010

Orientation is Jan. 14 for SOAR scholarships

Students who wish to have a private school education but can’t afford one may have the opportunity next year to attend one of 10 private schools in the SOAR of Racine network that are committed to welcoming children in poverty.

SOAR – Scholarships, Opportunities & Access in Racine – will host a parent orientation session at 7 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 14, in the Great Hall at DeKoven Center, 600-21st St., for parents interested in the scholarship program.

At the orientation, parents will learn what becoming a SOAR family means, which schools are participating, what openings exist in which grades and how they can apply. SOAR application packets will be available at the orientation and starting Friday at the SOAR office, 600-21st St.; Gateway Technical College Main Building, participating schools and the Racine Public Library.

SOAR will begin taking applications for the 2010-11 school year at 9 a.m., Saturday, Feb. 20, in the Great Hall of DeKoven Center. Application must be made in person and will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. All application materials must be complete to be placed on the SOAR scholarship waiting list.

The primary qualification for SOAR eligibility is to be living in poverty. Students who qualify for the federal free and reduced lunch program are eligible. SOAR families sign an agreement that expects family participation and communication with SOAR and the school of their choice and expects the student to maintain a 2.0 grade-point average and appropriate behavior.

The 10 participating SOAR schools – seven grade schools and three high schools – have all made a commitment to welcome students in poverty and to work with SOAR and the families to support the students’ progress and success. The schools are: John Paul II Academy, St. Edward School, St. John’s Lutheran School, St. Joseph Catholic School, St. Lucy Parish School, Trinity Lutheran School, Wisconsin Lutheran School, Racine Lutheran High School, Shoreland Lutheran High School, and St. Catherine’s High School. All are faith-based schools.

The schools will provide at least one-hour a week of teacher-supervised study time after school to assist SOAR students, and mentors will work to support students.

SOAR was created to expand the educational opportunities for Racine children living in poverty. This year, more than 12,000 students attending Racine public schools are eligible for the federal free and reduced lunch program and are living in poverty. As a group, they are performing far below their grade levels. According to standardized test scores, no more than 60% of the students in poverty at any grade level are academically proficient in that grade in reading or math. Only six of 10 children in poverty tend to graduate from high school. Of those who do graduate, area technical schools and universities say many are ill-prepared for post-secondary education and are enrolled in remedial or preparatory classes.

SOAR endeavors to broaden the options for families who cannot afford to pay for an alternative education for their children.

SOAR launched operations in August. Its goals this year are to build a network of SOAR schools and a way to support the success of SOAR children; to raise $300,000 in scholarships, half for 2010 and the rest for 2011; and to place students from San Juan Diego Middle School in private schools of their choice.

'Green' brick plant's grand opening is on Monday

A new plant in Caledonia that manufactures bricks out of coal fly ash from the We Energies power plant will hold a grand opening on Monday.

Calstar Products is opening its new plant at 2825 Four Mile Road in Racine. The California-based company is producing the first commercially available fly-ash bricks in the country.

The new plant, in the former Young Radiator Building, will employ 15 people to start and up to 25 once orders come in.

Sen. Russ Feingold is scheduled to speak at the company's grand opening on Monday.

Lumpkin bows out of alderman race

Kenneth Lumpkin, who recently retired as publisher of the Insider News and had planned to be a candidate for Fourth District alderman and Racine Fourth District County Board Supervisor, says he will purposely miss today's 5pm deadline at City Hall to turn in his economic interests paperwork, which will get him kicked off the ballot.

If Lumpkin was not willing to pull out of the three-way contest in the fourth District Alderman race, the city would hold a Feb. 16 runoff election between incumbent Jim Kaplan, Lumpkin, and a newcomer Sherrie Lawson.

If Lumpkin does not turn in his economic interests statements, he cannot be certified and his name will not appear on the city ballot for Alderman, according to Janice Johnson-Martin, Racine city clerk.

Lumpkin did file his paperwork Thursday with the County and will challenge Kaplan for his Racine County Supervisor position.

Lumpkin said that the needs in the city and County are too vast for one individual to tackle.

"I feel that I can best serve the constituents of the Fourth District by being on the County Board where I have gathered my most experience," he said.

Lumpkin served eight years Racine County Board supervisor until he was defeated in 2008 by one vote.

January 7, 2010

Foreclosures in Racine

Click the map above for an interactive list of upcoming Sheriff's Sales in Racine.

Racine County Property Transfers: Dec. 28-30

Click the map above for an interactive list of properties solid in Racine County between Dec. 28 and Dec. 30.

Biz News: Karen Carnabucci receives certificate for 'Systemic Constellation Work'

Karen Carnabucci, MSS, LCSW, TEP, has received a certificate following a one-year advanced training course in Systemic Constellation Work with Heinz Stark.

A second certificate recognizes completion of Jichu Gong Part I of the Biyun Method of Medical Qigong. The training was offered by the Hellinger Institute of D.C., with the Orders of Life Association and the Stark Institute for Systemic Integrative Therapy. The Stark Institute is based in Germany.

Carnabucci is a licensed clinical social worker, psychotherapist, coach and trainer at the Lake House Health & Learning Center, Racine.

Stark is one of the world's leading trainers in Systemic Constellation Work, is the founder of Stark Institute, Germany. Learn more about the Stark Institute (http://www.starkinstitute.com) and the Hellinger Center of D.C. (http://www.hellingerdc.com)

Have local business news you'd like to share? Send it to: racinepost@gmail.com

January 6, 2010

'The Packers saved my life,' says Jim Becker

UPDATE, 3/13/10: And we have a winner! The AP's story is here... although it's pretty much a rehash of ours, below, with, of course, the added information that Racine's Jim Becker was today elected to the Green Bay Packers Fan Hall of Fame! More than 40,000 votes were cast in the competition. Congratulations to a super Green Bay fan!

Original story:

Voting is underway to choose the 12th member of the Green Bay Packers Fan Hall of Fame -- and Racine's Jim Becker is among the ten finalists. The Packers were the first professional football team to establish a Fan Hall of Fame, something they did in 1998.

Only one of this year's finalists says the Packers saved his life -- and that one is Racine's Jim Becker!

Here's Jim's story:
Jim's father took him to his first Packers game when he was 11 years old. It was a exhibition game in Kenosha in 1941 and the seed was planted.

When Jim returned from serving in the Army during the Korean War, he started going to see every game he could. He became a "Milwaukee" season ticket holder, and has attended games every year from 1952 until last year. This year was the first year he hasn't gone because of difficulty walking and standing brought on by frostbite incurred during the war.

Jim is now 79. Along with his wife, Patricia, he raised 11 children (all Packer Fans).

Needless to say, money was tight; Jim had season tickets to pay for, but he wouldn't take money away from the family. So he found out he could sell his blood for $15 a pint. Problem solved.

Now you might be asking, " So how did the Packers save his life." During a routine physical by his employer, Jim had to fill out a questionnaire with his family's medical history. The doctor noticed that Jim's father died at age 43, of hemochromatosis.

Jim had to be tested. He had it. What is it? It is a condition that retains excessive amounts of iron in your blood. The only treatment is to remove the iron by giving blood. By then, Jim had sold 145 pints of blood to pay for his season tickets. If he hadn't, he very well might have died like his father. "His love of the Packers saved his life."

To this day, Jim still donates 3-4 times a month. Jim has attended 206 games; he's kept records of the date, score and highlights of each game. He has been to three world championships. He also has been to the three coldest games on record, including the "Ice Bowl" where, after the game, he and a friend went down to the 50-yard line and drank a toast to the Packers. If that wasn't enough, he is in the picture of the fans at "Ice Bowl" in the Hall of Fame.

Jim has passed on his love of the Packers to all his children. They will be the first to tell you that when the Packers were on TV (the sound turned down on the TV and the game tuned into the radio) that if you had to go between Dad and the game you had to crawl on your belly as to not block his view. He took great pleasure in being responsible for taking a lot of people to their first game. He has made the Packers a family tradition. He is a deserving choice for the Packer Fan Hall of Fame.
To read all ten nominees' stories, (and then to vote online for Jim!) go HERE. You can also text your vote; instructions for that are HERE. The deadline is midnight, Jan. 31. The winner will be announced at Packer Fan Fest on March 12.

The honoree will receive four club seats to a 2010 Packers home game, a $500 pro shop gift certificate, a road trip for two to an away game, including game ticket, air fare and hotel. And, the winners name will be permanently displayed in the Packers Hall of Fame.

Racine Kids Art: Young architect shares house drawing

While working at the JT, one of my favorite additions to the paper was a daily kids' drawing on the Glad You Asked column. It was a really popular feature that attracted hundreds of drawings from kids throughout Racine.

I'd like to start something similar here. If your children have a drawing they'd like to share, take a picture or scan it and send it: racinepost@gmail.com

We'll kickoff the new feature with a drawing from 8-year-old Niko Tousis, a second-grader at The Prairie School. His parents write that Niko has been drawing houses since he was around 3. He started drawing houses after visiting construction sites as a toddler.

Thanks, Niko! Have a child's drawing you'd like to share? Send it to: racinepost@gmail.com

Help send Caron Butler to the All-Star Game

I'm not a sports fanatic, and haven't the foggiest idea how NBA All-Star teams are chosen. But I am a fan of Caron Butler, the Washington Wizards forward and two-time All-Star who frequently shows up back in his hometown of Racine to do good things -- like sponsor an essay contest for kids, provide 500 needy kids with free bicycles, donate enough food to the Racine County Food Bank and HALO to feed more than 1,000 a Thanksgiving dinner, give hundreds of sweatshirts to Cops 'n Kids, star in our annual Juneteenth Day celebration, and lots more beneath the radar.

Now we have the following press release from Swanson Communications, a Washington, DC, public relations outfit, telling how Racinians can help Butler make it to the All-Star game again. And all who vote for him become eligible to meet the star at a special event. Here, read it for yourself! (Caveat: Voting requires online registration with something called NBA 2K10 sponsored by T-Mobile; a few lucky fans will also win NBA tickets.)

Voting for the 2010 NBA All-Star team is in full swing, especially in the city of Racine. The hometown of Washington Wizard two-time All-Star forward Caron Butler is making big strides to send the Racine native to Dallas for the Feb. 14 meeting of the NBA's most elite players. The only forward nominated from the state of Wisconsin, Butler is receiving widespread support from fans across the state. With a vote of confidence from the mayor of Racine, there is an all-around groundswell of support for Butler that shows no signs of stopping.

"The City of Racine is proud to have our hometown hero be a candidate for the 2010 NBA All-Star game," said Racine Mayor John Dickert. "If it is a test of his athletic skills he is assured a place in the balloting. If it is a measure of his character, he would be number one in the balloting."

In return and due to the overwhelming support by his hometown fans, Butler has agreed to host a special meet and greet appearance this summer at a yet to be announced location in Racine, where he will show his appreciation to fans who vote for him. Each person can print out proof of their vote and bring it to the event for free entry and a chance to meet the superstar.

"I want nothing more than to go back to the All-Star game and I appreciate the backing from Mayor Dickert and my hometown fans that are helping me get there," Butler said. "Everyday I am grateful for the support I get from the fans in Racine and throughout the state, and I think it is important to thank them for that support by hosting the meet and greet this summer."

As Racine does its part in sending Butler to the All-Star game, he continues to exhibit solid play on the court. Adjusting to a new offense this year, Butler remains one of the most consistent players on the Wizards squad, excelling in both offense and defense. The heart of the Wizards team, Butler is known throughout the league as leader on and off the court.

"We are behind Caron 110% and ask everyone to vote for him," Mayor Dickert continued. "He is a great player and a great mentor to young men and women."

To vote for the 2010 All-Star Team online click HERE. Voting ends Jan. 18.

Biz News: Express Employment Professionals celebrates 10-year anniversary

Express Employment Professionals office will celebrate its 10th year in business on January 10th 2010.

The Express office opened January 10, 2000 and has since been providing businesses and job seekers with temporary and full-time staffing solutions in a variety of fields, including light industrial, office and clerical, professional, technical, warehousing and general labor.

“The people and businesses of Racine have made these last 10 years great ones,” said Jeff McKeown, owner of Express Employment Professionals. “We have had the opportunity to work with many of Racine’s finest companies and really enjoy helping area businesses and job seekers make that perfect match.. In fact we have helped more than 8500 jobseekers find that next great job opportunity. We take a great deal of pride in the fact that over the past ten years we have really become part of the Racine community.”

The Racine Express Employment Professionals franchise began operation in 2000 primarily serving Racine and surrounding areas. Express Employment Professionals recently expanded, opening its second office in Kenosha.

The Racine office, located at 1300 South Green Bay Road and the Kenosha office which is located at 3917 4th Ave are both currently taking applications. Businesses seeking employees may stop by the office, call 262-635-8580, or visit the Express Web site at www.expresspros.com.

Worldwide, Express Employment Professionals employs 350,000 people each year, with more than 600 offices in four countries. Formerly Express Personnel Services a new name and logo reflect the company’s latest evolution in its 25-year commitment to respecting people and impacting business. Sales for the Oklahoma City-based company totaled nearly $2 billion in 2007. Express provides expertise in evaluation and direct hire, temporary staffing, executive recruiting and human resources.

Publish your business news on RacinePost.com. Send press releases to: racinepost@gmail.com

Super School Stars: Racine Lutheran athletes

Racine Lutheran High School's Fall Sports Awards recipients pictured, from left, are: Andrew Tague, Jonah Mandli, Alyssa Wilkinson, Jimmy Culotta, Rosie Aumann, Eric Pintar, Nicole Roeder, Josh Hlavacek, Catherine Lie, Eric Oertel, and Haley Martinson.

Racine Lutheran honored its outstanding athletes at the recent Fall Sports Awards Banquet.

Christian Sportsmanship Awards were presented to: Rosie Aumann (Volleyball), Jimmy Culotta (Soccer), Haley Martinson (Cheerleading), and Andrew Tague (Football).

Most Valuable Athlete Awards went to: Rosie Aumann and Nikki Roeder (Volleyball), Josh Hlavacek (Soccer), and Eric Oertel (Football).

Most Improved Athlete Awards were presented to: Catherine Lie (Cheerleading), Jonah Mandli (Soccer), Eric Pintar (Football), and Alyssa Wilkinson (Volleyball).

“These students are outstanding not only for their athletic ability, but also for their work ethic and their Christian character; we’re proud of each one,” said Athletic Director Adam Kirsch.

Every day students and teachers excel in our local schools. RacinePost will highlight a few of these successes with a weekly series called "Super School Stars." Do you know a student or staff member who deserves recognition? Contact us at: racinepost@gmail.com

January 5, 2010

The cartoon @ RacinePost.com

Along with term limits, Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Neumann is proposing that Wisconsin have the sort of government by voter initiative that has worked so well elsewhere.

CAR25 getting attention - sometimes heated - from city officials

The city's cable-access TV station is getting some serious attention these days.

The City Council voted Tuesday night to use $30,000 set aside in the 2009 budget for a part-time employee that was never hired to help the cable-access channel move into a larger office in the City Hall Annex. (CAR25 is now in the Annex's basement.) The move is already underway.

The council unanimously passed the spending item, which had already been approved by committee, with no discussion.

But another $40,000 pegged for CAR25 led to heated discussion between Alderman Jeff Coe and Mayor John Dickert. The city's 2010 budget - approved by the City Council - designates the money for "professional services," which would likely be used to create programming for the channel.

Coe, who sits on the Cable Commission that oversees CAR25, raised a question Tuesday night about the $40,000. It led to a confusing, and heated, exchange that resulted in a vote against sending the item to the mayor's office and then for sending it to the City Council's Committee of the Whole and the Cable Commission for further review.

Dickert argued during the meeting it was a non-issue because the council and Cable Commission had already approved the money, and any contract to spend the $40K would need another round of council approval.

But the council disagreed - or at least wanted a closer look - and now the money is up for further scrutiny.

And, if all this wasn't enough, more money is tucked away in the city budget to help CAR25 broadcast on AT&T U-Verse cable service and to stream online. Those spending proposals should come up later this year, once CAR25 gets into its new offices.

Council passes option for West Racine grocery store, gas station

The City Council voted 14-1 Tuesday night to grant Tom Tousis an option on land to build a grocery store with gas pumps in West Racine.

The council's vote finalizes a recommendation from the city's Redevelopment Authority to move Tousis' $5 million project forward. Tousis needed the option because the city owns the land he wants to build on at the corner of Washington Avenue and West Boulevard.

Tousis' plan is to build a grocery store and sit-down restaurant with gas pumps. The council's vote forwards Tousis' project to the city's Access Corridor Review Committee and the Plan Commission for further consideration. The proposal needs to pass both committees and the City Council to win approval.

Tousis' plan also calls for a liquor license, which would require approval from the Public Safety and Licensing Committee.

Tuesday's vote was a long-time coming for Tousis, who has been publicly pushing his controversial project since July. While there's been little opposition to the proposed grocery store or restaurant, the gas pumps have drawn criticism as a bad fit for West Racine.

But Tousis has built support by noting his project would help pay off the tax incremental finance district used to clear the West Racine block, would create new jobs and meet two West Racine needs - a place to buy groceries and a sit-down restaurant.

Alderman Jeff Coe was the only vote against the project. Alderman Jim Spangenberg, an opponent of the project, voted for the option but said it didn't mean he supported Tousis's proposal.

Up next is a more detailed review of what the grocery store, restaurant and gas pumps would look like. A key question will be if the project fits with the city's development plans for West Racine. City committees will take up that issue and make a recommendation to the full City Council in the next few months.

Retired 1st grade teacher joins school board race

Four candidates have filed paperwork to run for three seats on the Racine Unified School Board -- three incumbents and one newcomer.

Frances Eulingbourgh of 3801 Spruce St., an adjunct instructor at Gateway Technical College and a retired RUSD teacher, is the newcomer challenging the three incumbents whose terms expire.

Eulingbourgh retired from Unified in 1998; she taught first grade at Jefferson Lighthouse School for 21 years.

"I think I could make some changes," she said. "I know what's needed in the classroom and nobody on the board has that expertise." She said she wants to provide "what teachers actually need -- "instead of making Racine Unified so top-heavy at Northwestern Avenue.

"That's a political statement, but that's how I feel," she said. "At my age, being political doesn't bother me." She is 74, and this is the first time she has run for office.

The three incumbents seeking re-election to new three-year terms are William Van Atta, 127 Morningwood Drive; Julie McKenna, 724 Crab Tree Lane; and Susan Kutz, 4937 Regal Court.

The election is Tuesday, April 6.

Felner, UW-P's almost chancellor, to plead guilty

Way back at the beginning -- in June 2008 -- we used the headline The Neverending story on the saga of Dr. Robert Felner, who was just weeks away from becoming chancellor at UW-Parkside when the Feds rushed in with fraud charges and he withdrew (after shipping boxes of personal materials here).

Well, now the story is about to end: Felner is expected to plead guilty on Friday to charges of defrauding the University of Louisville and the University of Rhode Island of $2.3 million. That's just the smallest piece of what Felner had been accused of: See our recap of the Felner Chronicles here.

The guilty plea is part of an agreement Felner has made with the U.S. Attorney's office. No details were disclosed about which charges Felner would plead guilty to or how much jail time he may receive. He could face 75 years in prison.

A federal grand jury in Louisville indicted Felner and his co-defendant Thomas Schroeder in October 2008, charging Felner with 10 counts of mail fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering and income tax evasion. There were other allegations along the way, including selling a Ph.D. and hiring of his girlfriend -- and a no-confidence vote by his faculty, who accused him of being vindictive, manipulative and threatening. None of which were discovered by UW-P's $70,000 search firm or search committee.

All of which led, inevitably to "a detailed review of procedures used to recruit and screen candidates" within the University of Wisconsin system, which dodged a bullet in this instance.

Biz News: WSI once again Entrepreneur Magazine's top-ranked franchise

WSI, a national Internet technology company with an office in Mount Pleasant, was once again named Entrepreneur Magazine's top-ranked franchise.

The honor, announced Wednesday, marks the 10th straight year WSI has earned the magazine's designation.

WSI also ranked No. 13 in the Top Home Based Franchises and No. 49 in America’s Top Global Franchises. The WSI Internet marketing services network increased to the overall 56th spot in the 500 listing in 2010.

WSI Wisconsin offices include the Area Rep Office at 1127 Prairie Drive, Racine and in Franksville, several in the Madison and Milwaukee areas, and other locations in the northern and western regions of the state. Gary A. Smith is head of WSI's Racine area office.

A press release from WSI said:
We are very pleased with Entrepreneur Magazine’s January 2010 franchise listing results. This is a testament to WSI’s leadership position in the technology services category. Coupled with a strong brand reputation and complete training and support, WSI offers one of the few ‘white collar’ franchises today. With companies shifting more of their marketing budgets online, WSI franchisees are experiencing a high volume of business as companies realize the power and potential of Internet marketing.

Have Racine area business news you'd like to share? Send it to RacinePost at: racinepost@gmail.com

Sign exemption questioned for Uptown car dealer

The City Council will vote tonight on whether to allow a used car dealer in Uptown to use a sign that doesn't fit with the area's design guidelines.

Servantez Automotive Inc., 1407 S. Memorial Drive, is seeking permission for a changeable sign to advertise cars and prices, and for inspirational messages. At least one alderman is planning to object to the exemption.

Alderman Greg Helding contends the city should follow the design guidelines created for special districts. Otherwise, he asks, what's the point?

But his objections stand against a city committee charged with reviewing the Uptown design guidelines. The Access Corridor Development Review Committee agreed to grant Servantez Automotive the sign exemption at its Dec. 17 meeting.

Helding said the city had already made an exemption to allow the used car dealer to open in an historic building in Uptown. It shouldn't allow another exemption, even if it is just for a sign.

The council is set to vote on the Servantez sign exemption tonight.

Update: The exemption passed the City Council Tuesday night. Helding voted against the exemption, but didn't raise much debate on the issue.

Alderman Weidner gets a challenger; Mosby running in sixth district

Alderman Sandy Weidner is being challenged for her City Council seat.

Real estate agent Dwight Mosby filed papers to run against Weidner in the April 6 general election. Weidner has been re-elected since 2000. She was not challenged in 2008.

Mosby owns Mosby Real Estate in Racine. Mosby ran unsuccessfully for the City Council's second district in 1993.

Second candidate files to run against Racine Alderman Jim Kaplan

The Insider News is reporting a third candidate will run for the City Council's fourth district this spring.

Sherrie Lawson is jumping into the race to take on incumbent Jim Kaplan and challenger Ken Lumpkin, who also owns the Insider News. Lawson's entry sets up a Feb. 16 primary to narrow the field to two candidates.

The general election is April 6.

Ghuari taking on Marcus in Racine City Council's second district

Jameel Ghuari, executive director of the Bray Center in Racine, is making another run for the City Council. He filed papers to run against Eric Marcus for the vacant seat in the city's Second District, which is located just south of Downtown Racine. Incumbent Bob Anderson declined to run for re-election.

Ghuari ran against Anderson in 2008 and lost 439-373. Anderson was running for re-election at the time.

The Marcus-Ghuari race should be interesting. Both candidates live and work in the Second District, and both have built up name recognition. Ghuari has run the Bray Center for a number of years and has held a public face in Racine for the past decade.

Marcus is a member of the city's Plan Commission and Landmarks Preservation Commission. He's also owner of the Woofdorf-Astoria Dog Hotel and Spa on 18th Street.

Packers honor Barb Rigden for volunteer service

Barb Rigden of Racine will be honored by the Green Bay Packers later this month.

She will receive one of 20 Green Bay Packers Community Quarterback Awards. The award is designed to honor volunteers who exemplify leadership, dedication, creativity and a commitment to improving the communities in which they live through volunteerism.

Rigden has been volunteering through the Volunteer Center of Racine County for 10 years. In the past year, she has logged over 967 hours with the Volunteer Center – 828 in the area of sexual assault support and services.

Rigden will be honored at a recognition dinner on Thursday, Jan. 21, in the Legends Club at Lambeau Field. The Volunteer Center of Racine County will be awarded a $1,000 grant on her behalf.

January 4, 2010

Attention businesses: We want your news!

One of RacinePost's major goals for 2010 is to expand our local business coverage. Specifically, we're looking for opportunities to report positive Racine business news from Main Street to corporate board rooms. We're envisioning stories and posts about promotions, awards, new products, milestones, acquisitions, expansions and anything else local businesses would like to share.

Racine takes a beating for its high unemployment rate, but we know there are dozens, even hundreds, of local businesses and business leaders succeeding in a difficult economy. These are the stories we want to share this year, and we'll be looking for them.

But we could also use your help. If you have stories you'd like share - particularly if they're from a business, service club or local organization - we'd love to hear from you. Really, nothing is too small. We'll do everything possible to include your story on the Post. Send your stories to: racinepost@gmail.com

Also, we're growing every year, but we still don't reach everyone in the Racine area. If you hear anyone with a story to share, or looking for a place to share it, pass our name along. Our readers are our No. 1 marketing effort. Your word of mouth can help us grow and improve RacinePost in the New Year.

Thanks much ... and Happy 2010!

City warns Racine businesses to pull video gambling machines

Racine convenience stores and gas stations are pulling out their video gambling machines after a city letter warned the machines may be seized.

City Attorney Rob Weber sent a letter dated Dec. 17 to all Class A liquor license holders - mostly convenience stores and gas stations - in Racine warning that possession of video gambling machine was a felony under Wisconsin law. The letter urged removal of any illegal machines by Dec. 31, 2009.

Weber's letter came two days after the Racine City Council voted to enact local fines against businesses that violated the law. Businesses can be fined $500 per machine, and the machines can be confiscated with money in them, under the ordinance, which mirrors state law.

Local convenience stores are taking the letter seriously. Odd Fellows, a convenience store at 817 Main St., has already removed its machines and a handful of other gas stations and stores have reportedly pulled the plug on their small-time gambling operations, as well.

City enforcement of the state law on video gambling does not affect bars, which hold Class B liquor licenses. They are allowed under state law to have up to five video gambling machines. The exemption for Class B liquor licenses has convenience store owners crying unfair. But Bar owners are reaping the rewards of an aggressive lobbying effort to open up gambling in places other than Native American casinos. No doubt locally bars will benefit if video gambling machines are pulled out of convenience stores - ie. the competition.

Alderman Aron Wisneski, who chairs the city's Public Safety and Licensing Committee, is playing a key role in enforcing the video gambling law. He said Monday the city is reacting to complaints its received from residents about gambling in neighborhood stores. He added the machines in businesses without a Class B liquor license is clearly a felony under state law.

Locally, police are concerned that a proliferation of video gambling creates additional targets for crime, Wisneski said. Stores that carry machines presumably have cash on hand to pay out winners. While none of the machines payout big money - the max is around $500 - it could attract criminal activity, he said.

"The police came to us and said, 'We want to do something,'" Wisneski said.

The city has done its homework on the issue. Police officers are trained to identify and confiscate gambling machines (a seemingly simple process, but important for testimony to hold up in court). They also have legal precedent. The City of Milwaukee confiscated video gambling machines about 10 years ago and fined the owners. The owners fought the fines, but lost in circuit court. The decision was upheld by the Court of Appeals in 2002.

Wisneski said the city does not want to fine anyone over video gambling machines. It just wants fewer machines in the city.

That said, it's likely the city will move forward against businesses that illegally hold on to video gambling machines.

"When we roll this out, we're going to bust places and we're going to win in court," Wisneski said.

New anesthesiology provider at All Saints starting Jan. 11

A Florida-based company will take over All Saints' anesthesiology department next week, according to a corporate press release.

Anesthetix Management LLC
, of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., signed an exclusive service agreement with All Saints to replace SEAC, the current anesthesia group at All Saints. Anesthetix will start Jan. 11, the release said.

All Saints described the change as an "expansion" that will improve local service and create a "state of the art" unit in Racine. Among the benefits: Anesthetix will provide 'walking epidurals' to women in labor.

The press release said Anesthetix will use new anesthesiologists and certified registered nurse anesthetists and current employees to create the new department.

Here is the full press release from All Saints:
All Saints Selects New Anesthesiology Services Partner

Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare–All Saints announced today it is expanding its anesthesia services. The transition is to an exclusive service agreement with a leading national provider, Anesthetix Management LLC (Anesthetix), effective January 11, 2010. This expansion of anesthesia services builds upon the good work of SEAC, the current anesthesia group at All Saints. All Saints, SEAC, and Anesthetix are working collaboratively over the next several weeks to ensure that the high quality surgical service that our patients have come to expect continues and the transition for our patients, surgeons, and staff is seamless.

Beginning January 11, 2010, Anesthetix will coordinate and provide all anesthesiology services at All Saints. The new practice group, to be known as Racine Anesthesiology Services, PLLC, will be comprised of new anesthesiologists, certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs), and members of the current anesthesiology group, SEAC. They will work together to give the Racine community increased access to sophisticated medical care and improved service for All Saints patients and medical staff.

“In addition to implementing a variety of efficiencies, Anesthetix will be adding a new level of care and anesthesia options for our patients undergoing certain types of diagnostic testing,” said Dr. Nicholas Omdahl, Vice President of Medical Affairs, Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare – All Saints. “We are very pleased with the initiative they have already taken in working with us to better approach the needs of our patients and medical staff.”

Beyond forming a new state-of-the-art anesthesia department, Anesthetix is also expanding coverage for obstetric patients, ensuring that any laboring mother will have immediate access to the latest standards of labor pain management, including ‘walking epidurals’.

"We have found All Saints’ administration, hospital staff and physicians to be wonderful people who are highly committed to providing the best medical care possible for their patients and we are honored by their confidence and trust in Anesthetix to deliver on this commitment,” said Steven M. Gottlieb, MD, Chief Executive Officer, Anesthetix. "We look forward to working with them and establishing a new, higher standard of anesthesia care for the patients in the greater Racine area."

Want a mayor and administrator with that latte?

Residents of Racine are each paying less than the cost of a latte to have a mayor and city administrator. (And still they complain!)

We worked out the per capita cost of our top city leadership this morning after seeing a story in today's Journal Sentinel computing the figure for ten Milwaukee-area communities -- New Berlin, Wauwatosa, Waukesha, Brookfield, Oak Creek and more.

It was a simple calculation -- see their story and worksheet here -- just dividing each community's population into the salary paid to the mayor (and city administrator when the community had one of those).

The highest cost is borne by the 32,600 citizens of Mequon, who each pay $4.89 per year toward their part-time mayor's $9,600 salary and their city administrator's $115,600.

The bargain is in Greenfield, whose 36,300 citizens each pay $2.02 a year to support their mayor's $73,472 salary, with no city administrator.

Anyway, here for comparison's sake are our figures:
Mayor John Dickert's salary is $69,400.
City Administrator Tom Friedel's salary is $95,000
Racine's population is 80,806
Which works out to a per capita cost of $2.03, per year.

Wheaton-Franciscan cuts ties with Racine-based anesthesiology group

Wheaton-Franciscan All Saints has cut ties with its anesthesiologists and plans to replace most of the doctors with nurses, according to insiders at the hospital.

At least 11 of All Saints' 14 anesthesiologists are set to leave after contract negotiations broke down. They'll be replaced by certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs), who are specifically trained to put people under in surgeries.

But surgeons who work with the anesthesiologists said they're concerned about switching to a system that replaces board-certified doctors with nurses.

"There's a risk of hearts attacks, blood clots ... of coding right on the table," one insider said. "You want a board-certified doc there."

Wheaton Franciscan-All Saints' response: Florida company will expand anesthesiology services in Racine

While the anesthesiologists and All Saints are not talking about the change, people close to the situation have confirmed the hospital is planning the switch. Our calls to anesthesiologists were not returned and All Saints twice promised us a comment, including a formal written response, but then never responded.

The story is particularly difficult to report because Wheaton-Franciscan has a policy that prohibits employees from talking to the media without permission. Anyone who talks to a reporter can be fired immediately, according to insiders.

While some are concerned about the switch to certified nurse anesthesiologists, it's a move that's becoming increasingly common.

Statewide, the majority of hospitals use CRNAs, according to Lawrence Beck, president of the Wisconsin Association of Nurse Anesthetists.

"You probably won't notice a change in the type of care," Beck said about the transition from anesthesiologists to CRNAs. "It's very safe."

Improvements in technology to put people under during surgeries, combined with significant amounts of training for CRNAs, has allowed hospitals to switch to a "team approach" with nurses, surgeons and anesthesiologists working together.

Cost is the big advantage of switching from anesthesiologists to CRNAs, Beck said.

"CRNAs are not paid as much," he said.

But local insiders said they're concerned Wheaton-Franciscan's decision to cut ties with its anesthesiology group is part of a growing trend. They noted several top-notch doctors, such OB/GYN Lenora Brockman and Pediatrician Jennifer Thomas, have left recently, that the Urology department is down to one doctor, that All Saints' dermatology department is gone and that the Medical College of Wisconsin ended its Family Medicine Residency in Racine last year.

Of course, insiders said, there are many good doctors and surgeons still in Racine. But there's a growing sense of frustration because Wheaton-Franciscan has taken away local control and lumped Racine in with Milwaukee, Franklin and other hospitals in the region.

"Why are all the good doctors leaving Racine?" one insider asked. "No decisions are being made here. It's time to bring back Racine health care to Racine."

Update: A Florida company brought in to manage All Saints' anesthesiology department will upgrade services, according to the hospital's chief of staff.

Dr. Nicholas Omdahl, vice president of medical affairs at All Saints, said Anesthetix Management LLC, of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., will employ eight anesthesiologists and 14 certified registered nurse anesthetists. That's an increase over the previous provider, SEAC, which employed 12 anesthesiologists, Omdahl said.

Two doctors from SEAC will remain with All Saints and Anesthetix will recruit six more anesthesiologists to live and work locally, Omdahl said.

No scheduled surgeries will be interrupted by the transition, Omdahl said. Anesthetix is scheduled to start on Jan. 11.

While CRNAs earn less than anesthesiologists, the new system is not just a matter of cost savings, Omdahl said. Actually, the new group will cost more than the old, he said.

But the additional money will lead to a more efficient operation that saves surgeons' time and improves patient care.

"They (Anesthetix) are nationally known for efficiency," Omdahl said.

He added All Saints and its former anesthesiologists each agreed it was time to go in different directions. Omdahl said it wasn't contract related because SEAC's contract wasn't up for another 18 months.

Omdahl said SEAC had lost three of its members and had a difficult time recruiting replacements, which put a stress on their service.

"They couldn't meet the demands and they wanted to move on," Omdahl said.

He added All Saints did not ask the the anesthesiologists to leave.

"They made the decision to go elsewhere," Omdahl said.