February 13, 2010

Gallery window becomes soup bowl production line

It wasn't your usual window display.

There on Sixth Street Friday night -- just half a block from what sounded like quite a party at Park 6 (to us and to three or four police cars) -- was Jeff Shawhan in the window of his ceramics gallery, making soup bowls. One bowl after another after another after...

We stopped in at Elements, 409 Sixth St., a little before midnight to see how Jeff was doing. He'd started a marathon 24-hour bowl "throwing" marathon at 5 p.m., and promises to continue until 5 p.m. Saturday, making bowls for the upcoming Empty Bowls benefit for the Racine County Food Bank and the Homeless Assistance Leadership Organization shelter. We've written about that before, HERE and HERE, so we won't bore you those details again.

For now, let's concentrate a bit upon Shawhan's effort, although he makes it look effortless. He cuts off a chunk of clay, maybe a 3" cube, and plops it down on the potter's wheel. A foot on the pedal starts the wheel turning and both hands on the clay transform the cube into a ball. Then a finger here, a finger there... a few drops of water...a squeeze... and before you know it a soup bowl is spinning around. A little fine tuning, a wire dragged across the bottom of the bowl to separate it from the wheel -- and it's done! Maybe two minutes from start to finish.

Well, it's almost done. The bowl still has to dry, have a "foot" attached, be glazed, and fired in the kiln for 24 hours. But for now, the "production run" portion of the job is done. Shawhan admits this is his least-favorite part of the job, and one he avoids in his ceramics career. But for one night a year, for Empty Bowls, he's strictly a production-line worker, turning out soup bowl after soup bowl. He'd gotten off to a slow start -- real life intervened for almost an hour -- but by midnight he was hitting his stride. More than 60 bowls were already done, and Shawhan expects to make about three hundred by the time the night is over.

In plenty of time for soup. Empty Bowls takes place on March 1 at the Masonic Center, with servings from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 to 7 p.m. The cost for "a simple meal of soup, bread and beverage" -- and a hand-made bowl to keep -- is $15 for adults. Kids younger than 10 eat for $5; soup to go is $7. Servers include many local officials and politicians.

Paul Schiele of the Empty Bowls committee, right,
helps Shawhan move a table's worth of turned bowls

Here's a link to some great pictures of Jeff at work, taken before I arrived by Dan White.

February 12, 2010

Racine doctors preparing to split from Wheaton-Franciscan;
Half of Racine's physicians prepared to leave

Local doctors are preparing a revolt against Wheaton-Franciscan Health Care that could dramatically reshape Racine's medical services.

At least 50 doctors are prepared to walk out on Wheaton-Franciscan over numerous concerns of mismanagement and poor billing practices, according to anonymous sources. Tension between doctors and the company have been building since the Milwaukee-based Wheaton-Franciscan (background info) completed its takeover of All Saints Healthcare three years ago and eliminated local control of Racine's hospitals, clinics and doctors.

Insiders close to the showdown say at least half of Wheaton-Franciscan's doctors in Racine will demand the non-profit corporation release them from their contracts and allow them to create their own medical group. Doctors want their own group so they can improve billing services, hire their own nurses and run their medical practices how they see fit.

The tipping point for many doctors was Wheaton-Franciscan's decision to replace its anesthesiology department with a Florida-based company that relies on highly trained nurses instead of doctors to provide anesthesiology to most patients. The decision came after negotiations broke down between Wheaton-Franciscan and Racine's anesthesiologists; , some had practiced locally for over 20 years.

But doctors were also upset by a series of business decisions that forced Wheaton-Franciscan to siphon money away from Racine to prop up its other buildings, a doctor said. The company is in the process of converting Racine into a "charity hospital" that primarily see patients without insurance. Other patients will be diverted to Wheaton-Franciscan's facilities in other cities.

"You cannot have a business survive like this," a doctor said.

More than 100 local doctors met Wednesday night to voice their concerns with Wheaton-Franciscan President and CEO John Oliverio. The 2-1/2 hour meeting did little to assuage the doctors, according to sources. At one point, someone asked the room how many wanted to leave Wheaton-Franciscan. More than 100 doctors raised their hands, according to a source.

"It was the first time I'd seen that many doctors in a room together in years," one source said.

The group of 50 doctors - which is roughly half of Wheaton-Franciscan's doctors in Racine - has been meeting privately with Wheaton-Franciscan's competitors to explore options. All local doctors employed by Wheaton-Franciscan have a restrictive covenant in their contracts that prevents them from practicing medicine in Racine County for 18 months after they leave.

If Wheaton-Franciscan refuses to let the group go on its own, the doctors are prepared to set up shop in a neighboring community, wait out the 18 months and return to establish the new physician-led medical group in Racine.

One doctor said there is little hope of repairing the relationship between Wheaton-Franciscan and a majority of its doctors. Thirty-eight doctors have left - many out of frustration - since Wheaton-Franciscan completed its merger with All Saints, a source said.

"They're incapable of fixing things," a source said of Wheaton-Franciscan. "They haven't done one thing in the last three years to make our jobs easier. They implement systems that add hours onto our long days, and they (the systems) don't even promote good health care."

The hope is Wheaton-Franciscan allows the doctors to split away, but still maintain a relationship with Racine's hospital. This will allow local doctors to keep their patients and improve service, a doctor said.

Doctors feel they can pull off the split now because a majority of Wheaton-Franciscan's doctors have agreed to leave.

"We wouldn't do this if we didn't think we had a solid group," a source said.

In order for the split to work, a doctor said, local patients and the community will need to support the doctors' efforts to improve Racine's health care.

One doctor wrote RacinePost with this account about their time in Racine, and the need for change:
I came during the last upheaval which saw many physicians leave. At that time morale was low-very low. Then Ken Buser and Thad Johnson took over and things literally turned around overnight. Until four years ago things were going great and physicians were happy as well as most of the staff.Patients were getting good care. Then came the formal merger with Wheaton. Most of the physicians new nothing about this, and, we certainly did not clamour for it as stated in the Journal Times. This was a move solely orchestrated by the Wheaton leadership (Mr. Olivario). We were only one of a few, maybe the only one, of their hospitals operating in the black. We paid for our women's center with cash. After the merger all of our money - the community's money - was basically siphoned off to Wheaton for many of their other failing hospitals. Our medical group has been literally dismembered piece by piece. Many good physicians have left,and, many of those physicians had been in town for a whole career. These physicians, who live in our community, were thrown away like yesterdays trash by administrators - many of whom do not even live in our community.
The fact that so many physicians are unhappy (not just physicians but nurses, clerks, operating room technicians - EVERYONE - including patients) means that the Wheaton organization has broken a fiduciary obligation to the Racine community it is supposed to serve. In the next few weeks there will be a large contingent of physicians who want to break aweay from Wheaton and still continue to care for their patients independently in the community. We will need the support of the community to do this because of restrictive covenants we were were forced to sign. You have some excellent physicians in this community who have been handcuffed. They want to provide excellent care. Please help us to be able to do this by calling the Wheaton organization and community representatives and tell them you suppport us. This is our community, you are our patients and we do not want to leave!

February 11, 2010

They paint soup bowls ... so that others may eat

Kate Proeber, left and Suzanne Schackelman decorate bowls

Forty members of the Racine Art Guild got together Thursday night to paint ... soup bowls.

The event was one of many taking place this month, as volunteers get together to create the one-of-a-kind handmade soup bowls that are the centerpiece -- well, along with home-made soup, of course! -- of the Empty Bowls fund-raiser that benefits the Racine County Food Bank and the Homeless Assistance Leadership Organization shelter.

Empty Bowls takes place at the Masonic Center on March 1. Guests pay $15 for a meal of delicious soup -- all you can eat -- and freshly baked bread. And, of course, their choice of one of hundreds of lovingly hand-made bowls.

Candace Hoffman,
a fibre artist, used
netting from an onion
bag to add pattern to her bowl

Which is where the Art Guild came in Thursday ... one of many organizations lending a creative hand. The Art Guild members each painted glaze on a pottery bowl at Fired Up! Racine, 320 Main St., leaving the hard work of drying, hand-dipping (twice) in outer glaze, firing for 24 hours in the kiln, drying again, and grinding the bottom smooth, etc. to Jane Fogle, the store's proprietor.

Jane hosts groups like the Junior League, the Boy Scouts, Educators Credit Union... the list goes on ... who paint that first, decorative coat of glaze on each bowl. Then she does the rest, making the bowls food-safe and soup-ready. She estimates that she and her shop will prepare 400 bowls this year -- cheerfully donating her effort (for the 10th year in a row) to the cause.

Tammy Easton
works on multi-colored bowl

Four hundred sounds like a lot of bowls, but in truth it's just a drop in the bucket (Sorry, couldn't resist!). Empty Bowls, which began in 1997, raised $14,000 last year, as hungry guests dined for these good causes. And if you think it's hard choosing a bowl, just wait until you have to decide which soup to put into it. (The good news here is that while you get to keep just one bowl, you may sample as many soups as you like.)

Event details: Empty Bowls takes place on March 1 at the Masonic Center, with servings from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 to 7 p.m. The cost for "a simple meal of soup, bread and beverage" -- and a hand-made bowl to keep -- is $15 for adults. Kids younger than 10 eat for $5; soup to go is $7. Servers include many local officials and politicians.

Also: Keep in mind that ceramicist Jeff Shawhan will be making bowls for 24 hours straight in the front window of his shop, Elements, at 409 Sixth St., starting at 5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 12.

Dakotasky Bowen and Jane Fogle with some of Thursday's bowls

SC Johnson accused of racketeering; Ex-employee claims company covered up $5 million in illegal tax credits

SC Johnson knowingly committed international tax fraud and retaliated against an accountant who attempted to bring the fraud to light, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court on Feb. 5.

Michael DeGuelle, a tax accountant fired from SC Johnson, makes the allegations in a 49-page complaint against top SCJ executives and the company itself. The case was filed in Wisconsin Eastern District Court.

Kelly Semrau, SCJ's vice president of global public affairs and communications, said Thursday in a written statement that DeGuelle's claims "have no legal merit." Here's her full statement:
"Mr. DeGuelle’s federal conspiracy and racketeering claims have no legal merit and we will ask the court to dismiss the complaint. This new federal complaint is based on the same allegations Mr. DeGuelle has made -- and the company has denied -- in the company's lawsuit against him in Racine County. We continue to be extraordinarily determined to continue with our defamation, replevin, conversion and breach of contract lawsuits against Mr. DeGuelle in Racine County and look forward to our day in court.

"We don’t believe that any of the claims against the individuals have any merit."
DeGuelle, who managed the company's state taxes, claims SC Johnson illegally took foreign tax credits totaling $5,082,048 between 1998 and 2000, according to the lawsuit. The credits involved SCJ's foreign subsidiaries in Spain, Holland and Canada.

DeGuelle accuses SC Johnson executives with forcing him to destroy paperwork to cover up the illegal tax credits and eventually firing him for attempting to blow the whistle on the credits. At one point, the lawsuit says DeGuelle was inpsired to come forward with the allegations after hearing a speech from SC Johnson CEO Fisk Johnson about "doing the right thing."

The lawsuit explains how DeGuelle, who worked on domestic taxes, got involved with the international taxes. The foreign tax credits required revisions to the company's domestic taxes, which he worked on. But the lawsuit also claims SC Johnson executives encouraged him to secretly locate the incriminating international tax files at night and on weekends, so no one would know he was compiling the information.

The lawsuit also alleges SC Johnson initially received one of the tax credits by mistake, but then filed additional revisions to its taxes to exploit the mistake for further gain.

DeGuelle claims he was fired from his job over his effort to bring the illegal tax credits to light, first to company officials and later to the Department of Labor, which investigates allegations of illegal accounting methods under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

After firing DeGuelle, SC Johnson filed a defamation suit against him for taking confidential documents from the company. The case is ongoing before Judge Emily Mueller in Racine County Circuit Court.

The federal lawsuit, filed by attorneys Janet Heins and James Walcheske, lays out a detailed look at the alleged tax violations and DeGuelle's allegations of harassment, and firing, over his efforts to be a "whistleblower" on the alleged illegal activities.

DeGuelle filed the lawsuit against: Kristin Camilli, SCJ's head of human resources, Vice President and Chief Information Officer Mark Eckhardt, Executive Vice President Gayle Kosterman, Donald Pappenfuss, VP of Corporate Tax Robert Randleman, Global Tax Counsel Daniel Wenzel and SC Johnson.

As an interesting legal aside, DeGuelle is suing SC Johnson under the federal RICO Act, which was passed in 1970 as a tool to fight the Mafia. The lawsuit accuses SC Johnson of a conspiracy to silence DeGuelle, which the lawsuit describes as "racketeering."

Read the full lawsuit here.

Earlier stories HERE and HERE.

'Borderline Riot': Racine's doctors held a tense meeting Wednesday night to complain about All Saints

Nearly all of the doctors who work out of Wheaton-Franciscan All Saints, the former St. Mary's, held a meeting Wednesday night to express their frustration with how Racine's hospital is being run, according to reliable sources.

At least 100 doctors attended the meeting and called for changes in how the hospital, and their jobs, are managed. The meeting was called because the overall morale among local doctors is low, according to the source. At one point during the meeting, someone asked the crowd how many doctors want to leave All Saints. Nearly everyone in the room raised their hand, according to the source.

"It was a borderline riot," according to the source.

If you or anyone you know was at last night's meeting, please send us an email at: racinepost@gmail.com. Anonymity guaranteed to all who write.

Update: Thanks to everyone who's written in. We'll have some follow up stories later today and next week. A few more details on Wednesday's meeting:

* The meeting was held in the Racine Room at the hospital

* All Saints' doctors called the meeting to express their frustration to hospital executives.

* This is in the comments, but it's worth mentioning here. All Saints doctors can't leave and practice at, say, Aurora in Racine because of a non-compete clause in their contracts. Doctors can't practice in Racine for up to a year after they leave All Saints. Doctors say this is frustrating because it basically locks down the Racine market for anyone who wants to compete. For example, if a Racine doctor wants to start their own practice they can't do it locally because of the noncompete clause. Some leave for a neighboring city - like Franklin or Oak Creek - or leave all together.

* We're getting quite a few complaints in the comments and by email about All Saints' billing. We'd like to a pursue a story on this, so if you have any problems with your medical bills, please let us know.

Wayne Johnson elected president of Racine Coalition for Peace and Justice for 2010

The Racine Coalition for Peace and Justice elected Wayne Johnson as its president for 2010.

Members also elected Vice President Sister Alice Rademacher, Secretary Theresa Englund and Treasurer Dick Kinch at the organization's Feb. 4 meeting.

Johnson, returning to a position he held previously, succeeds Dr Ken Yorgan, who served as chair for three years. Rademacher, a Racine Dominican, and Dick Kinch are holdovers. Theresa Englund, RCPJ's new secretary, is a UW- Parkside student.

RCPJ officers serve one year terms.

RCPJ, the local peace organization, was formed in 2002 as the US government prepared for the invasion and occupation of Iraq. RCPJ's mission is as follows: "The Coalition is an initiative to promote citizen understanding, raise public awareness, and encourage participation in the democratic process for the purpose of achieving peace and just relations among peoples and nations and protecting civil liberties."

The organization has sponsored presenters, educational events, and public protests mostly in opposition to US aggression and to US support of injustice in the Middle East, especially as regards Iraq and Israel/Palestine, but also in opposition to US aggression and military policy in general. Like many in the US and the world who long for peace and justice, RCPJ is gravely disappointed in the new US administration.

RCPJ meets twice monthly. It is an affiliate of Peace Action Wisconsin and a member of the Wisconsin Network for Peace & Justice. RCPJ membership dues are moderate. Donations are welcome but are not deductible for income tax purposes.

RCPJ communicates mostly by e-mail and is pleased to add others to its e-mail list. Its e-mail address is RacinePeace@yahoo.com. Its Web address is http://RacinePeace.wordpress.com. In partnership with the Racine/Kenosha Central America Solidarity Coalition (CASC) it publishes the bimonthly CASC/RCPJ Newsletter, which was founded in 1983.

Regular RCPJ meetings are held at 7 pm on the first and third Thursday of the month, usually at Cup of Hope coffee shop, 507 6th Street, Racine.

RCPJ will sponsor two presentations in March:

· Monday 1 March. "TheUS - Israeli Partnership: An Ethical Critique," presentation by Daniel Maguire, Professor of Ethics, Marquette University, 7:00 pm, Olympia Brown UU Church. Info: Wayne Johnson, 262/639-7149.

· Tuesday 30 March. "The Gaza Freedom March: Thwarted by Egypt, Co-opted by Hamas," a report by Sr Pat Chaffee of the December march and protest at the Gaza-Egypt border, 7:00 pm, place to be announced.

Information: Wayne Johnson, 262/639-7149, or Dick Kinch, 262/638-0204

Racine Lutheran High chooses Haiti over snacks

Organizers Zhane Pica, left, and Nikki Roeder

Racine Lutheran High School students recently gave up their after-lunch snack money to help the hungry in Haiti.

Sophomore Zhane Pica and senior Nikki Roeder helped organize the project. Donations were collected in a big jar at lunch, next to the snack bar (Do you really need that cookie when people are suffering?) and through the Wednesday chapel collection.

The students and staff donated $563 for aid to Haiti, distributed through Lutheran World Relief. The students also sold Haiti wrist bands which raised money for Red Cross efforts.

Principal Randy Baganz said, “Students need to know they can make a difference in our world. Sacrificing their own money to help earthquake victims in Haiti was a great way to make giving personal. Helping others is part of our Christian commitment."

February 10, 2010

OP-ED: The 1 percent Social Security solution

By Randolph Brandt

For RacinePost

There is a Roadmap for America’s Future that actually will work.

Raise the Social Security, Medicare payroll tax and net earners’ tax by 1 percent.

That’s right, just 1 percent. And then make it applicable to everybody, including the nearly 20 percent of Americans who make more than $106,000 a year and, thus, are further exempted from paying anything more into the Social Security system at all.

While you (probably) and me (certainly) never got the chance to escape paying a payroll tax for Social Security on every single dollar we ever earned during our entire working lives, people who are rich escape paying that tax once they start earning more than you and I ever dreamed of earning in our entire lifetimes.

Now, for the median income wage earner in the United States, and the vast majority of their employers, that “tax increase” would amount to considerably less than a dollar a day.

But for, say, somebody who makes a million dollars a year, that means they’d pay somewhere around 25 dollars a day, about what they’d leave as a tip at dinner at some fancy restaurant for a waiter or waitress who’s still paying Social Security taxes on their meager earnings while the customer they’re serving has long since been exempted from the tax.

Remember, you and I paid that Social Security tax on every dollar we ever earned, for every hour, for every week’s pay, all our working lives.

I don’t think it’s too much to ask rich people to do the same thing that you and I have always done.

That’s not “soak the rich” or “class warfare.”

It’s just just.

And let’s not let the lobbyists exempt anybody from the pain of the extra 1 percent. Since we’re all in this together, let’s insist that everybody pay the same on all income, regardless of whether it’s $500 a week or $50,000 a week.

Are rich people so much better than everybody else that they should be exempted from taxes on their additional gross earnings because it’s assumed they’ll somehow use their money better than we use ours?

I don’t think so.

What I do think is that if everybody forked over a dollar a day (or $25 a day for people making $1 million a year), Social Security and Medicare would last, in complete solvency, as it stands, forever, which also seems like a pretty good idea.

Now, there are many charlatans out there who’ll cry wolf about Social Security and Medicare going bankrupt.
(A) That isn’t really true, even now; and
(B) Very minor changes in the Social Security system would avoid all that doom and gloom anyway.
But let’s look at the charlatans’ proposed changes: Instead of guaranteed Social Security and Medicare at 65, people would instead have to work until they’re 70. That’s a pretty dismal prospect, since most people now retire at 62. So, the charlatans are just taking it for granted that you can and will work an extra eight years, by which time nearly half of your age cohort will already be dead, saving another huge bundle in costs. (Now, that’s what I call a government death panel!)

And as for Medicare, it would be scrapped by the charlatans, in favor of an $11,000 voucher to pay for your medical costs every year for the rest of your retirement. That means instead of Medicare paying all your necessary medical costs, with an administrative fee of 3 percent, you’ll be forced into the private insurance market, where administrative costs now hover around 30 percent.

Do the math. That’s a huge increase in your administrative fees and a nearly 30 percent reduction in your medical care.

And wait until the next year, and the year after that, as medical-cost inflation continues to eat away at your care.

Let’s say that somehow, magically, the charlatans’ changes occurred today. That would mean you’d be working an extra eight years, and by the time you retired, your medical care voucher would be worth only 20 percent of what it was worth when you would have preferred to quit!

The 1 percent solution makes more sense, and doubly so if and when we insist that everybody – rich and poor – pay their own fair share.
Randolph D. Brandt is the retired editor of the Journal Times.

Parks and Rec Notes: Parking lot planned for dog run along Highway 38; MLK Center hub of activity, helping

(Left to right) Parks and Recreation Board members Aron Wisneski, committee Chairman Robert Hayes, Parks and Rec Director Donnie Snow and Jack Schumann.

Dog lovers may benefit from state plan to rebuild Highway 38.

Racine's Parks and Recreation Department is working with the Department of Transportation to build a gravel parking lot for the Dog Run along Highway 38 in Caledonia.

The project will cost about $30,000 and will be done while the state rebuilds the highway. The lot will have about 25 parking spots, Parks and Recreation Director Donnie Snow told the Parks and Rec Board Wednesday night at its meeting hosted by the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center.

The city's Finance and Personnel Committee has approved using parks money for the parking lot, Snow told the board.

The parking lot is an important addition to the dog run because, now, users have to parking on the shoulder along Highway 38. The state has said that's unacceptable and will have to stop, Snow said.

The lot will be built on a 66-foot wide right of way to the dog run that the city recently traded for to maintain access to the park.

The dog run is a low-maintenance city park that's used by city, county and even neighboring county residents, Snow said. It's a good time to build the parking lot, Snow said, because pairing it with the road project will keep costs down.

"This is probably the most advantageous way to go," Snow said.

The parking lot is headed to the City Council for final approval.

Cellular Tower

Snow briefed the board on US Cellular's request to build a cell phone tower in Lockwood Park. Several other cellular companies have considered building a tower in the park, but "for some reason or another," the plans never went through.

Alderman Aron Wisneski had one of the lines of the night when board member Amanda DeSonia asked why cell phone companies were interested in the park for a tower.

"It's a coverage issue," he said. "There's a dead zone in and around the hospital." After a few groans from the committee, Wisneski added: "I could have said cemetery, but that was too obvious."

Recycling containers in parks

Alderman Terry McCarthy inquired about a report from Snow on a rental agreement for dumpsters in city parks. He asked if the contract included bins for recyclables. The contract does not include recycling containers, Snow said.


McCarthy also asked about Snow's report that the city will mow its medians this year. Snow confirmed that was true, adding the county will handle mowing state- and county-owned medians.

Volleyball tourney

The city is organizing a women's volleyball tournament this year. The reason there's no men's tournament? No interest. Five women's teams entered last year, compared to just one team on the men's side.

MLK Center

The committee gave James Wilson, head of the MLK Community Center, a chance to make a pitch for any needs in next year's budget. Wilson said the big need is staff, which has been steadily cut since he took over the center in the 1990s.

And for those wondering if the community centers are used, the MLK Center was busy. Study groups and a Black History program for students, kids playing soccer in the gym, a healthy babies program were all going on Wednesday (and that's just a partial list). This center is definitely in use.

Board member Mike Frontier asked Wilson if he's seeing kids struggling with the economy.

"Kids are getting hungry," he said. "That's just about every day."

The center uses donations and existing programs to provide food for participants.

"Kids come in hungry, sometimes real hungry," Wilson told the board.

Gerald's in Uptown gets an occupancy permit;
Renovations start on new Sixth Street bar and restaurant

Gerald's Bar and Restaurant planned for the old bank building in Uptown has an occupancy permit.

The city granted Gerald Bester a permit to open the restaurant and bar at 1501 Washington Ave on Jan. 5. Bester intends to open a combination restaurant, bar and cafe in the building. He first proposed the business last July with the intention of opening this spring.

In September, Bester told the city he was working on a deal with Milwaukee's Stone Creek Coffee to open a cafe on the site. With the cafe, Bester said Gerald's would be open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and until 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday. It would close at 10 p.m. on Sunday.

Other occupational permits issued in January include:

* Janna Coca was issued a permit for Tangles Hair Salon, 304 Main St., on Jan. 14.

* Harbans Singh Daliwal was issued a permit for Taylor Mart Gas Station & Store, 1813 Taylor Ave., on Jan. 19.

* HALO was issued a permit for a Group Day Care at 2000 DeKoven Ave. on Jan. 26.

* Nadia Imsietef was issued a permit for the Plaza Smoke Shop, 3701 Durand Ave., on Jan. 29.

The city's occupancy permits cost $200.

Building Permits

One permit was issued in January for a commercial building alteration. Chris Green Inc. Construction took out a permit for work at 618 Sixth St., the future home of Pepi's Pub and Grill. The renovations are valued at $120,000. The permit cost $1,440.

Pepi's Bar and Grill is co-owned by Joe Madison and Christina Kong. They plan to move Pepi's Deli on Main Street to Sixth Street and turn it into a restaurant and bar. Food will be Pepi's current sandwich menu plus fried foods. The bar will have a slight sports theme, and Madison is planning some music nights featuring classic rock and B-sides from 3,000-album collection.

They plan to gut the first floor and open the building's facade with windows, including a garage door style window that will be open on warmer nights.

They plan to open some time between March and May.

February 9, 2010

Volunteer Opportunities: HALO needs a Facebook expert

RacinePost compiles a weekly list of volunteer opportunities in the Racine area. This week's list comes from the Volunteer Center of Racine County and Young Professionals of Racine. Have a volunteer opportunity you'd like to share? Send it to: racinepost@gmail.com

Volunteers needed: Racine Founders Rotary Club "Vegas Night" Saturday, February 13 at Festival Hall raising funds for Racine Youth Sports and Camp Anokijig. With a variety of games (blackjack, roulette, craps, etc.) we will need volunteers will help support each station. All volunteers will be assisted in the rules of each game, so don't worry if you have limited experience! Click here to register as a volunteer or e-mail Tracy Nielsen directly at tnielsen@unitedwayracine.org.

HALO (Homeless Assistance Leadership Org) - is looking for a volunteer to help the org get connected on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and any other social media tools. If you can help, please contact Dorothy by clicking here .

Express Employment Professionals and Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Racine and Kenosha
Annual Bowl for Kids Sake, Sunday April 11, 12:00 PM - 3:00 PM
We are looking for individuals, companies or just groups of friends to form bowling teams.You provide the bowlers, Express Employment Professionals provides the adult beverages and Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Racine and Kenosha Counties will provide the pizza and some great prizes! For more info email Jeff at Jeff.McKeown@ExpressPros.com

Volunteer Center of Racine County

If you are interested in any of the listed volunteer opportunities below or others on file at the Volunteer Center of Racine County, call 262-886-9612 or toll free (Racine County only) at 1-800-201-9490 or email us at volunteer@volunteercenterofracine.org or visit our web site atwww.volunteercenterofracine.org. Office hours are weekday from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. at 6216 Washington Avenue, Suite G.

The Senior Companion Program is constantly seeking volunteers who have a few hours each month to spend visiting or calling an older person who is homebound. The Program’s mission is to enhance quality of life for older adults through friendship, socialization, and advocacy. This is a Ministry of the Racine Dominican Sisters.

Lincoln Lutheran of Racine is seeking volunteers to help out with a variety of activities at the Becker Shoop Center, 6101 16th Street. Opportunities include pet visits, Bible study group, care of the aviary, and helping write the quarterly newsletter. Schedules are flexible, but volunteers should be 16 or older unless accompanies by a responsible adult.

Volunteers are needed to facilitate discussion, learning activities, arts and crafts related to their curriculum. Curriculum includes wellness, education, employment, family support, financial literacy, health, housing, personal development, transportation, arts and crafts. Volunteers will work at 1501 Albert St, Racine. Days and times to volunteer are flexible. Background checks will be necessary. When calling RYOCF, please indicate which curriculum area you are interested in working with.

Lincoln Lutheran’s Becker Shoop facility needs volunteers to assist with sorting coupons for the overseas Military program. So far, they have been able to send over $18,000 worth of coupons for the service people stationed in Japan. This can be a work-at-home project.

The Racine Public Library, 75 7th Street, has openings for individuals interested in assisting library patrons in performing basic functions on the computers such as printing, navigating the Internet and creating documents. Computer and Internet proficiency required. Hours are flexible

The Racine Public Library, 75 7th Street, is expanding its service to the unemployed by opening a Job Lab on the second floor. Volunteers will assist job seekers with searching and applying for jobs, writing resumes, applying for benefits, and basic computer skills. Training is provided.

Labor leader Lenny Hand died Friday

Lenny Hand (far left)

Long-time local labor leader Lenny Hand died Friday in Celebration, Fla. Hand was 60.

Hand's first venture into union labor was when he joined UAW Local 553 after his high school graduation in 1967 as he began working his first job at Racine Steel/Belle City Malleable. He later worked for the City of Racine and organized AFSCME Local 2239, where he served as the charter President from 1971-75. In the mid-'70s, Lenny became a member of AFSCME Local 67, where he held numerous positions including president. Lenny is also a past president of Racine’s AFL-CIO and of the Racine Labor Paper.

In 2009, Lenny received the Racine County Democratic Party’s Jimmy Arena Award and with his wife, Janice, he received the 2008 Racine County Mr. & Mrs. Solidarity Award.

Student essay contest winners define 'dependability'

Ever wonder if the kids around you spend any time thinking about deep and important values? In Racine County, over 200 middle and high school students did just that recently. They responded to an invitation to write an essay about “Dependability” – what it means, who has it, and how it affects you in real life. The essays showed an interest in exploring such character traits, and dozens of teachers got the chance to hold a discussion on dependability in their classrooms.

Each year, RAMAC and the Racine Community Foundation hold an essay contest on just such a character issue. This year the winners came from across the county and from all types of schools. Awards were scheduled to be presented today at the Racine County Board meeting, but that ceremony was cancelled by the snowstorm. Here are the winners:

High School winners
1st place - $1000 David Sanchez, The Prairie School
2nd place - $ 500 Nirupamaa Sivanushanthan, JI Case High School
3rd place - $ 400 Mary Kate Bernier, JI Case High School
4th place - $ 250 Nicole Hall, Catholic Central High School
Honorable Mention - $150 each
Yijing Xin, The Prairie School
Andrew Meiszberg, Catholic Central High School
Devaughnte Woods, Horlick High School
Jonathan Kuta, Catholic Central High School
Middle School winners
1st place - $ 400 Sandeep Reddy, The Prairie School
2nd place - $250 Derek Heffel, St. Sebastian School
3rd place - $200 Mary McSorley, St. Sebastian School
4th place - $150 Allegra Woolrage, The Prairie School
Honorable Mention - $100 each
Kelly Bush, St. Sebastian School
Kyle Kirkeby, Starbuck Middle School
Haley Rossman, St. Sebastian School
Erin Doherty, St. Sebastian School
Here are some quotes from winning entries:
"Being dependable means that someone can expect you to be there for them when they are in need." -- Sandeep Reddy, 6th grader at the Prairie School

"When you are part of a team, loyalty and steady individual performance are important factors in showing dependability. I believe that as long as I always try my hardest to get the job done, people will consider me reliable even if I am not perfect every time." -- Derek Heffel, 8th grader at St. Sebastian School

"When I was at the Boy Scout Jamboree...I was relied on to set up most of the troop tents and fill up the water jugs. I was depended upon to get all the food out of the trailer and set it up for lunch... I was also depended upon to make sure we all stayed together. We do this so no one would get hurt or kidnapped." -- Kyle Kirkeby, 6th grader at Starbuck Middle School

"Dependability is what holds us together, plain and simple. No matter how independent we may wish to be, no matter how clever or talented we think we are, we all rely on one another for support...America can certainly depend once again on its people and our resilience as a nation, where a man's word can hold value and we can depend on everyone to do what's right for our families, our communities, and our country." -- David Sanchez, 12th grade, Prairie School

"What is dependability all about? Is it just about keeping one's word? Of course, that is an important component of dependability, but dependability is also about knowing one's own limit. It does not make one a better person to accept every request for help. Dependability does not mean that people can ask you to do anything and you will say yes. Dependability is simply what one does after they say 'yes'." -- Nirupamaa Sivanushanthan, 12th grade, JI Case High School

YPR announces its finalists for Young Professional of the Year

A real estate agent, accountant, journalist and shelter coordinator are finalists for the annual Young Professional of the Year Award given out by Young Professionals of Racine.

Finalists for the 2010 award include:

  • Janine Anderson, reporter, Journal Times
  • Gordon Bittner, Realtor, RE/MAX Preferred
  • Catherine Conaghan, internal auditor, JohnsonDiversey
  • Russell Warren, youth shelter program coordinator, SAFE Haven of Racine

The four finalists were chosen from 11 nominations. Here's bio information on the finalists:

Janine Anderson 

Janine Anderson is a courts reporter and a parenting columnist for The Journal Times. She lives in Racine with her husband, Scott, a photographer at the JT, and their 2-year-old son Henry. Janine is a national-award winning reporter who provides excellent coverage of the Racine County court system. Outside of work, she is a teacher-in-training at the Original Root Zen Center, an active member with the Over Our Head Players, appearing in two Snowdance festivals, and an avid knitter.

Gordon Bittner

Gordon Bittner is an award-winning Realtor with RE/MAX Preferred in Racine. A life-long Racine resident, he's sold homes in the city for the past 15 years. He's also started a leadership program for teens and played 17 years as quarterback for the Racine Raiders, winning two national championships. He lives in Racine with his wife and three sons, coaches RYS football, volunteers with several local organizations and rides his Harley.

Catherine Conaghan

Catherine Conaghan is an internal auditor for JohnsonDiversey. She recently accepted a two-year transfer from the company's R&D organization to its internal audit department. The move allowed her to learn more about JohnsonDiversey's international operations. While she travels 40 percent of the time, she dedicates her home time as a volunteer at Girls Inc. in Racine, serving on the nonprofit's Board of Directors. She also serves on the YPR board of directors.

Russell Warren 

Russell Warren is youth shelter program coordinator for SAFE Haven of Racine. He moved to Racine from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia two years ago. As shelter coordinator, he's actively involved in the city's homeless coalition and represents SAFE Haven to many groups in the community. Warren is member of the LBGT Center of Wisconsin's Board of Directors, is a regular at Uncorkt's Thursday night wine tastings, and his College Avenue home was featured on the 2009 Preservation Racine Tour of Historic Places.


Other nominees for the 2010 Young Professional of the Year award include: Sara Luther Hagerman, interim director of QTI of Southeastern Wisconsin; Jim Moes, teacher at Jefferson Lighthouse Elementary; JJ McAuliffe, owner of McAuliffe's Pub; Bret Glembocki, staff scientist at JohnsonDiversey; Michael Fischer, staff scientist at JohnsonDiversey; Tracy Nielsen, vice president-marketing and resource development; Jane Kurylo, business services team lead, Workforce Development Center.

This will be the seventh year in a row YPR has given out its Young Professional of the Year Award. Previous winners include: 2009 - Chris Antonneau (David Insurance); 2008 - Jeff McKeown ( Express Personnel Services); 2007 - Doug Nicholson (Ivanhoe Pub & Eatery); 2006 - Anne Stillman (CNH); 2005 - Jay Christie (Racine Zoological Society); 2004 - John Busey (Robert W. Baird)

For more information about Young Professionals of Racine, visit: www.ypracineorg

February 8, 2010

Quick Hits: Unified hopes to expand summer school; Blind Alligator may lose license

A few newsy bursts picked up today ...

* Racine Unified is planning a new event to start next school year. "School Year's Eve" is planned as a community-wide event for Aug. 31 to kickoff the 2010-11 school year. The hope is hold open houses in all of the district' elementary and middle schools to welcome parents and students back to classes.

* Look for Racine Unified to offer an expanded selection of summer school classes this year, especially for elementary students. The additional class time - be it for students to catch up in reading or math, or for enrichment programs - is part of Superintendent Jim Shaw's Racine Unified's "North Star" initiative to improve student performance. (Plus, it's an opportunity for the district to offer child care to working parents during the summer.) Summer school is scheduled this year from June 21 to July 29.

* The Blind Alligator at 1655 Taylor Ave. is in danger of losing its liquor license. The Public Safety and Licensing Committee heard from the police and health departments Monday night about problems at the bar. The committee voted unanimously to recommend taking the tavern to a due process hearing to repeal its liquor license.

* The proposed "historic artifacts" ordinance, which would protect city-owned property from being destroyed, was sent to the city attorney's office for further review. The biggest concern appears to be over who would be in charge of enforcing the ordinance. "The support is there. It's just a matter of getting everything tweaked right," said Alderman Jim Spangenberg.

* The Racine Urban Garden Network submitted their application for a conditional-use permit Monday for the community garden at 734 Marquette St. It's the next step in getting the garden approved.

US Cellular may study building cell phone tower in Lockwood Park

US Cellular may study placing a cell phone tower in Lockwood Park.

The Public Safety and Licensing Committee voted in favor of allowing the cell phone company to consider a tower, which could end up bringing money into the city's coffers.

US Cellular is at least the third company to consider a tower in the park. Parks Director Donnie Snow said it was unclear why the last two requests fell through. One complication is the park is built on a former landfill, which requires extensive footings for any new tower.

Alderman Jim Kaplan, citing the lease payments US Cellular would pay for the site, said he hopes this tower goes through.

"I hope one of these will stick," he said about the cell phone tower. "It'll bring in some income for the city by granting them to right to build there."

But while US Cellular may study the site, the city isn't allowed to study US Cellular - or at least the health effects of its towers.

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 prohibits local governments from regulating cellular towers based on environmental and health effects. It's actually illegal for the city to even take public comments on the potential health hazards of cell phone towers.

Some are beginning to question the law, possibly with good reason (or maybe not). Los Angeles and Portland have passed ordinances opposing the 1996 law, and other cities around the country seem to be ignoring it.

Alderman David Maack, who went through a big fight over a cell phone tower at the Racine Zoo, asked Snow Monday night about the process the city would follow if the tower moves forward.

Snow said it would be similar to the past with an opportunity for public input and further review by the city. Monday night's vote didn't mean the committee was supporting the tower, he said. 

"This does not commit the city to anything," Snow said. 

The proposal to allow US Cellular to study building a tower in Lockwood Park now moves to the City Council for final approval. The council is next scheduled to meet Feb. 16. 

Consultant had no role in Dickert campaign;
Review of city's no-bid contracts underway

Some are suggesting a consultant in line for a $40,000 contract to rework the city's cable-access TV station worked on Mayor John Dickert's campaign.

A review of Dickert's campaign finance records and interviews with high-level campaign officials suggest Sandy Petrykowski, vice president of the Racine-based Soura Films, had no role in the campaign.

Petrykowski and her husband, Hossam Aboul-Magd, did not donate to Dickert's campaign and neither was a paid member of the campaign staff, according to the finance records.

Two campaign workers who worked closely with Dickert in last year's campaign said in separate interviews that Petrykowski wasn't involved with the campaign. One of the workers is still close with Dickert, but the other has moved on to other jobs and is no longer attached to the mayor.

Both said Aboul-Magd filmed extensive footage of Dickert on the campaign trail for a documentary about the race. None of the footage was used in campaign spots and the documentary has yet to be edited, they said.

"She didn't work on the campaign, she didn't volunteer and she wasn't paid," one of the workers said.

The campaign worker who is no longer close to Dickert said the issue wasn't a matter of the mayor giving a campaign staffer a job. It's a matter of the mayor giving a friend a no-bid city contract worth $40,000.

"That's the real story," the campaign worker said.

City ordinance requires departments to request bids for contracts over $25,000, unless contracts are for "professional services." The CAR25 consultant contract is classified as professional services and is not required to go out for bid.

Alderman Terry McCarthy has asked City Administrator Tom Friedel to review the city's policy on bidding out contracts and to consider dropping the exception for professional services. That review is under way, McCarthy said.

Tousis makes $5,000 payment to secure West Racine option

(Above) Realtor Karen Sorenson, Landmark Title owner Mike Staeck and City Development Director Brian O'Connell meet in O'Connell's office on Monday afternoon. Staeck was delivering a check from Developer Tom Tousis to secure an option on land at the corner of Washington Avenue and West Boulevard in West Racine.

Tousis intends to build  a grocery store, gas station and restaurant on the site. His plans were delayed, however, when it was discovered a stormwater pipe was bisecting his proposed building. The city's Redevelopment Authority, which technically owns the property, voted last week to give Tousis until Monday at 4:30 p.m. to make a $5,000 payment to secure the option. The check was delivered Monday at 4:10 p.m.

Tousis' proposal now heads to the City Council for approval. It's scheduled to go to the Access Corridor Review committee, which will evaluate the merits of the project. O'Connell said Monday it's unclear when Tousis' proposal will be taken up, because changes are likely coming to the project. 

DA Nieskes, Sheriff Carlson endorse Herrera for judge

It was a good day for Georgia Herrera's bid for the open Racine County Circuit Court seat. The local attorney received endorsements from District Attorney Mike Nieskes and Racine County Sheriff Bob Carlson.

Herrera is running against Gene Gasiorkiewicz for the judicial seat being vacated by retiring Stephen Simanek.

Here's Herrera's press release on the endorsement from Nieskes:
Racine County District Attorney Mike Nieskes has endorsed attorney Georgia Herrera for judge. She is running for the Circuit Court branch to be vacated by the retirement of Judge Stephen Simanek.

“As a former prosecutor, Georgia Herrera is the only candidate with extensive experience in our criminal courts. Georgia has successfully prosecuted crime in every criminal court in Racine County. We need Georgia on the bench, she will be tough and smart about crime in our community and our neighborhoods,” said Nieskes.
And the press release on Carlson's endorsement:
Racine County Sheriff Robert Carlson has endorsed attorney Georgia Herrera for judge. She is running for the Circuit Court branch to be vacated by the retirement of Judge Stephen Simanek.
Sheriff Carlson said “I have worked with Georgia as prosecutor and I know she will work hard to keep Racine County’s streets safe. Georgia Herrera’s extensive experience in our criminal courts is unmatched. We need Georgia on the bench.”

In City Hall's basement, mayor's portraits wait to be hung

The portrait of Capt. Gilbert Knapp hanging in the City Council chambers may qualify as a "historic artifact" under a proposed ordinance. Will former Mayor Tom Friedel join him on City Hall's walls?

Here's an aside to last week's story about the Landmarks Preservation Commission's efforts to preserve city artifacts.

Portraits of Racine's former mayors are sitting in the basement of City Hall, waiting to be re-hung. The portraits, which used to hang on the second floor behind the City Council chambers, were taken down as part of extensive, multi-year remodeling at City Hall.

Given recent events in the Mayor's office, that process will come with some interesting choices for the city. City officials will have two big questions to consider for its portrait collection:

1. Should Tom Friedel's portrait be included? The current city administrator was officially Mayor of Racine for 91 days last year. He served after Gary Becker resigned until John Dickert was elected.

2. Should Becker's portrait be included? Becker served six years in the city's top office, but resigned after being arrested, and later convicted, of attempting to hook up with a 14-year-old girl at Brookfield Square Mall. The "girl" turned out to be an undercover state agent.

City officials will have some time to think about the portraits. The pictures of Racine's past leaders aren't scheduled to be re-hung for another year or two.

One city official said of the record they supported hanging both portraits. Friedel was mayor, they said, and, for better or worse, Becker is part of the city, they said. "We're not Stalinist Russia where we just make history disappear," the said.

As for the historic artifacts ordinance, it's heading to the Finance and Personnel Committee for further consideration. The thrust of the ordinance is OK, an official said, but a few more details need to be worked out.

City committee puts off vote on CAR25 contract; Consultant sees Racine TV as 'destination viewing'

The Finance and Personnel Committee tonight will consider paying an Emmy-nominated videographer $40,000 to work, on average, 20 hours a week over the next year rebuilding CAR 25.

Mayor John Dickert is recommending Sandy Petrykowski, vice president of Soura Films, be given the one-year deal to overhaul CAR 25, the city's cable-access TV station. Petrykowski has worked for ABC News, CNN, NPR, the Discovery Channel and National Geographic.

Read the proposed contract here. Petrykowski's duties, under the contract, include:

* Create a programming grid for CAR 25
* Oversee development, shooting and editing of programs to air on the station
* The videos will showcase the people, places and events going on in the city
* Submit recommendations for new CAR 25 equipment
* Develop and recommend new look, style and internet format for CAR 25
* Develop, produce, shoot and edit feature stories about matters of publicPet concern
* Make progress reports to the City Council and the Cable Access Commission

Petrykowski appears to have the chops for the job. Here's her own website listing her credentials, and here's a transcript of a report she did from Egypt for CNN.

If approved, Petrykowski would be paid $3,333 a month for 12 months. She would work a maximum of 1,040 hours under the contract (20 hours per week), and either she or the city can terminate the contract with 30 days notice.

If the city needs Petrykowski to work more than 1,040 hours the contract would need to be amended to included additional money.

Update: The Finance and Personnel Committee put off a vote on the contract Monday night to allow the city's Cable Commission to take a further look at the proposal.

The meeting drew a large crowd, which included Mayor John Dickert.

Alderman Michael Shields, who attacked the mayor's hire of a public information officer, again challenged Dickert's request. He questioned why the city appeared to be giving someone a contract without hearing specifics on what they do if they received the contract.

Paul Ancona, who presented the request, said he was confident Petrykowski would improve the station without sapping resources set aside for CAR25. He noted the station is in the process of hiring a part-time employee to work on CAR25, and is also planning to buy new equipment for the station. Petrykowski, working with CAR25's full-time employee Scott Nelson, would be the third piece in revamping the network.

The Finance and Personnel Committee voted to send the proposed contract back to the Cable Commission for further discussion. It will also be taken up by the City Council meeting as the Committee of the Whole.

Following the meeting, Petrykowski said her experience working at national and international networks qualified her to work on CAR25. One basic improvement would  be to create a programming grid so viewers can know when to tune in to watch a show.

"My hope is to make it destination viewing," she said.

Petrykowski added CAR25 has a real opportunity to fill a niche. Chicago and Milwaukee TV stations now serve the area with little attention to Racine. CAR25 is an opportunity for Racine to broadcast its own stories on TV and on the Internet. Petrykowski said her background working in TV around the world made her a good fit to create a high-quality Racine TV station.

"Telling a story is telling a story anywhere," Petrykowski added. "Production values are the same. A dedication to quality will go with you anywhere you go."