February 27, 2010

Summary of Wheaton stories

Here's a list of our recent Wheaton Franciscan stories, updated on Feb. 27:

All Saints surgeon: Anesthesiology is safe; management created strife

Wheaton schedules 'billing clinics' for patients with problems, questions

Nurse anesthetists say their record is excellent

What would a second hospital bring? Object lesson in Oshkosh: Higher costs

Doctors at Iowa Wheaton hospital also upset

Racine Doc: 'Corporate model' doesn't work for individual practices

Doctor defends nurse anesthetists

Two top execs out at All Saints; Dissident docs had demanded removal

Wheaton executives see hope, but doctors remain skeptical

Celebrating 175 years: History of Racine's hospitals

RacinePost sets record audience numbers ...

Wheaton administrator, doctors agree to work together

A note on doctors' salaries ...

Wheaton concedes problems; Working with doctors behind the scenes

Half of local doctors planning to leave over problems with management

Doctor: Wheaton-Franciscan will be 'unresponsive' to local concerns

Local doctors meeting with former All Saints exec about new medical group

New anesthesiology provider at All Saints

Doctors preparing split from Wheaton; Half of Racine's physicians prepared to leave

Doctor: Wheaton will be unresponsive to concerns

Local doctors meeting with former All Saints executive about new medical group

Wheaton acknowledges billing, ER problems; Working with doctors behind the scene

Consultant: Wheaton's profits undercut by insurance deal

February 26, 2010

Ranking our lawmakers: Who's the most ...

We've circled Paul Ryan...he's firmly in the 'conservative' enclave
Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
Who's the most conservative of them all?
Or the most liberal?

National Journal has done all the work for us, rating all Senate and House members on economic, social and foreign issues, and comparing one to another. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, it turns out, is the most liberal member of the House -- well, she's in a nine-way tie for that ... um, honor? Opprobium? Depends on you, I guess. Moore is also the 423rd most conservative.

And how do Paul Ryan, Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl rank?

Ryan, R-WI, 1st District, is the 89th most conservative of the 435 House members -- or the 342nd most liberal. He's not the most conservative of Wisconsin's representatives; that distinction goes to Menomonee Falls Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-WI, 5th District, who is the House's 58th most conservative member and its 370th most liberal.

Sen. Kohl ranks 32nd most liberal and 66th most conservative of the 100 Senators; Sen. Feingold is 55th most liberal and 44th most conservative.

Overall, the state's congressional delegation is rated solidly centrist.

Lots more information, with easy-to-use interactive graphics, is HERE.

'Belle of the Ball' offers free Prom dresses March 5-6

For the past four years, the Belle of the Ball Project has been providing free dresses and accessories to Racine high school girls for prom.

On March 5 and 6, the project will hold its free Boutique at Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare – All Saints, Spring Street Campus in the Racine Room (lower level of St. Mary’s hospital near the cafeteria.)

“New this year is the expanded VIP, or reservation, times which will run the full length of the Boutique hours,” said Krystyna Sarrazin, project founder. “This means we are asking all girls to make a reservation for a VIP spot. This will enable us to ensure the best experience for each girl and not rush through the process."

The Belle of the Ball experience includes a personal shopper, makeup and hair consultations, and even seamstresses to make minor alternations for a perfect fit. Girls are asked to bring their school ids.

Donations of current and clean prom-style dresses and accessories (purses, jewelry, shoes, etc) will also be accepted during Boutique times.

Boutique dates and times:

Friday, March 5 from 7 p.m. – 9p.m.
Saturday, March 6 from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Email racineprom@hotmail.com to make an appointment at the Boutique or with any questions.

Mayor Dickert fully recovered from 'extreme vertigo' caused by ear infection

Mayor John Dickert had a brief scare last Friday when he was hospitalized with "extreme vertigo" caused by an inner-ear infection.

Dickert said he went into the hospital after becoming unable to walk. "I literally could not sit up," he said. "That's why they call it extreme vertigo."

Doctors prescribed antibiotics for the inner-ear infection and the vertigo is gone, Dickert said. They suspected recent airplane travel compounded the inner-ear infection and led to the vertigo.

After going into the hospital on Feb. 19, Dickert was back in the office on Monday, Feb. 21.

He said there are no lingering effects from the illness, and the vertigo presented no long-term medical concerns.

Super School Stars: 6th-graders at Racine Christian School

Racine Christian School 6th grade students Bradley Minger, Joshua Gee, James Ryback, Natalee Brzack, and Kellie Friesema display Haiti bake sale items for 5th grader Adrianna Westplate (on left).

Racine Christian School 6th grade students recently held a bake sale to raise money for earthquake victims in Haiti.

By selling home-made treats to students and staff at the school, sixth-graders raised $350. The money was sent to Haiti via the Red Cross.

Principal Dave VanSwol says, “Thanks to teacher Mary Elliott for sponsoring this project. It’s an important part of Christian education to learn and care about people in other parts of our world, and to sacrifice of our time and money to help them in times of trouble.”

Super School Stars is a regular feature on RacinePost honoring local students, teachers and administrators in our schools. Have someone to nominate for a Super School Star Award? Contact us at: racinepost@gmail.com

Fun with Google Analytics

We do our best to track traffic to RacinePost to gauge interest in stories and the site in general. Checking in with Google Analytics this morning, there are some cool stats about the site:

* In the last month, we've had visitors from 46 of the 50 states to our main page. The holdouts include: West Virginia, Vermont, Maine and Wyoming.

* We had 118 visitors from Europe, 49 from Asia, 3 from Africa and one from Australia.

* We had 31 visitors from Sweden, 33 from the UK and 34 from Germany.

* The three African visits came from Egypt.

* 30 visitors clicked on the site from Japan.

* Of course, Wisconsin was the main source of visits with just under 50,000 visits in the past month. About 35,000 of the visitors came from Racine County to the main page.

* Overall, we had about 55,000 visits to RacinePost's front page in the past month with visitors loading the page 150,000 times.

These numbers don't include traffic to our three blogs (news.racinepost.com, obits.racinepost.com and kiosk.racinepost.com), which more than double our traffic and bring in even more visitors from around the country and the world.

It's pretty cool to see how one little website can span the globe. Amazing times we're living in ...

February 25, 2010

Ryan: A difference in philosophy

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-WI, 1st District, had a front-row seat at today's health care summit, and garnered face time with President Obama. Here's how his part of the seven-hour discourse was covered.

First, a short report, with some video of Ryan, from FOX-6, WITI-TV in Milwaukee. "
A bill that is full of gimmicks and smoke and mirrors," he said.

Second, a story focusing on Ryan from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. We have "a difference in philosophy," Ryan said. Obama replied, "This is a legitimate debate."

And finally, a transcript of Ryan's full exchange with the President from Congressional Quarterly, provided by the Washington Post. "The difference is this. We don't think all the answers lie in Washington regulating all of this," said Ryan.

And if those reports from mainstream media aren't enough, here's a rightwing blog -- well it's called RightPundits.com -- that says Ryan was the "superstar" of the event, "taking Obama and Biden to task."

Racine Unified considers rules for police in schools; Officers would have to notify principal before interviewing students

If police want to question students in Racine Unified schools they'll need to notify the principal first, according to a new policy being considered by the School Board.

The board is considering the policy after a Horlick High School teacher was fined $200 for asking a police officer if they had a warrant to take a student out of a classroom. (Read the full policy here.)

Teacher Al Levie was fined in November 2008 after police pulled a student out of his classroom. Levie was fined after asking the officer a single question. Municipal Judge Mark Nielsen threw out the ticket in May 2009, but the city appealed Nielsen's decision and won. (Ironically, the student involved was not charged.)

In response to Levie's fine, Racine Unified reviewed its policies for law enforcement officers in schools. They're now considering a proposal that would allow police to pull students out of classes for interrogation, but only after notifying the school's principal. The principal, or a designee, would also have to be present when police interviewed the student.

Under the proposed "Guidelines for Law Enforcement Questioning and Apprehension," parents would not have to be notified if the questioning was meant to gather information about an incident.

If the policy had been in place in November 2008, the officers would have had to notify Horlick's principal they were going to question the student in Levie's class. The student would then have been escorted to the office where they would be questioned by an officer in front of the principal or another school official.

The policy also gives students the right not to talk to police, if the student isn't being arrested. For example, if police want to interview a witness to an incident, the student does not have to answer questions, under the proposed policy.

Despite having to pay the ticket, Levie said he was happy with the new policy and hoped the School Board approved it. "If my ticket prompted them to change the policy, it was worth it," he said.

The new policy is now pending before the School Board. To provide feedback on the policy, send an email to: info@racine.k12.wi.us

February 24, 2010

NAACP calls community meeting; Dickert undecided if he'll attend

Update: Not so fast, says the Mayor's office. Dickert hasn't confirmed he'll attend the meeting, according to Public Information Officer Mark Eickhorst. The mayor is learning more about the meeting and we'll make a decision on whether to attend later, he said.

Original: The Racine NAACP announced Wednesday night that it has invited Mayor John Dickert to a "Community Leadership Meeting" at 8 a.m. on Saturday, March 6, at City Hall, and that Dickert -- strongly rebuked earlier in the day by NAACP President Micheal Shields -- will attend.

The NAACP's statement quoted the mayor saying today, “Either help with the city's problems, or step out of the way. " The NAACP said it "welcomes the mayor's acknowledgement of the city's problems. The mayor's invitation to participate in bringing about citizen-based solutions coincides with the NAACP branch's already-planned Leadership Meeting. In keeping with its role as a civil rights organization representing the rights of all citizens, the Racine Branch NAACP announces the convening of a Community Leadership Meeting."

The NAACP said that besides the mayor it has contacted fifty community leaders representing all races, cultural and social-economic classes within the city.

The meeting's purpose "is to amass direct input from all segments of the community, covering the gamut of issues and problems facing Racine. The hope is to generate some citizen-based solutions to these very problems as recognized by the mayor in his statements of today. This diverse group of citizen representatives, will allow not just the mayor, but the entire community to see that these problems affect more than just the minority community."

NAACP calls Dickert plan 'puffery,' 'disingenuous'

Mayor John Dickert's plan -- announced Tuesday -- to give preference to local contractors when doling out $3.1 million in federal funds for the renovation of homes in foreclosure received a quick rebuke on Wednesday.

Michael Shields, president of the Racine branch of the NAACP -- and a city alderman recently gaveled down by the mayor in a different dispute -- issued the following press release:
The Racine Branch NAACP calls Mayor Dickert’s much ballyhooed “Job Creation Effort,” “no more than than the continued stream of puffery emanating from the Mayor's Office in hopes of scoring reelection capital.”
The NAACP cites the Mayor’s non-commitment to having the city honor its past commitment to the Racine First Program. (The Racine First Program is a binding agreement that the City entered into with the Minority Community. This agreement calls for any job opportunities created by the City, to ensure that at least 10% of such job opportunities would go to the citizens of Racine with a specific emphasis on the Minority Community). With unemployment in the double digits in the minority community, the destruction and rebuilding of a few homes in primarily minority communities does not represent a “Jobs Effort. “
Although the press conference highlighted two minority contractors for potential work, the NAACP has seen the same thing happen on other city-based projects that employed no minorities; or for that matter any citizens of Racine.
While the unemployment rate for minorities circle the bowl with no meaningful job creation forthcoming from this administration, the NAACP and the citizens of Racine are left to wonder if the only way you can obtain a job created by this administration is to be a friend or former campaign worker of Mayor Dickert? Mayor Dickert needs to understand that the city is watching his attempt to divert our attention away from his enrichment of friends and potential mayoral opponents with tax payer monies. We ask simply, how long can Racine take this?
The Racine Branch NAACP calls on the Dickert Administration to knock harder on the door of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and produce some self-sustaining real job opportunities for all the citizens of Racine. Press conferences have their place in city government, but not when they are held and designed to provide work for ONE MAN.

Celebrating 175 Years: Racine elected its first African-American in 1887

Excerpt and Photos provided by Oak Clearing Farm & Museum

Peter D. Thomas, born into slavery in 1847, was the first elected Black in Racine County and possibly the state.

Elected coroner in 1887, Thomas served a two-year uneventful term in office. It was his only excursion into politics.

Today, his headstone is tucked away in Mound Cemetery, marking the grave of a man whose 73 years were studded with service to his country.

Born on a Tennessee plantation, Thomas (right) was 14 years old when the Civil War began and watched the fortification of Island ten, five miles from his home, and the battle in which Union troops won the island from defending Confederate forces in October of 1862.

When told that slaves were “freed,” Thomas joined the Union forces as a servant (called a batman) for a Beloit lieutenant.

Thomas accompanied the lieutenant back to Beloit when the officer had been seriously wounded. There he did farm work until he enlisted in a Black infantry unit in 1864.

Thomas took part in two battles before leaving the service in 1865. Returning to Beloit, he attended high school and one year of college. From there he went to Chicago and finally in 1883 moved to Racine, where he lived the rest of his life until he died of accidental gas asphyxiation in his home.

Thomas was elected during a turbulent election year when the Knights of Labor were a powerful force in the Democratic Party. He was nominated by acclamation.

The Republican candidate opposing him was the incumbent. However, all but three Democrats were elected. Newspaper accounts of the day mention nothing of a controversial nature concerning Thomas’s acceptance after his win of 2,430 to 1,422 for his opponent.

After his term as coroner, Thomas worked for the First National Bank and as custodian of the Court House.

At the end of his life, according to a 1953 Journal-Times article, he was frequently “to be found in the GAR room of the Building (Memorial Hall) after its completion reliving Civil War experiences with other old soldiers.”

It would take Racine residents 81 years to elect its second African-American politician. Lloyd Jackson, who was Racine's first black principal, was elected to the City Council in 1968. Jackson (right) died in 2001.

Students to rally for immigration reform

Local high school students continue to push for immigration reform. They'll join 200 students in Milwaukee today to call for more opportunities for immigrants who work locally, but are in the U.S. illegally.

The students will rally this afternoon in front of the Federal Courthouse and then mark to the offices of Senators Kohl and Feingold.

Here's a press release from Voces de la Frontera on the rally:
Students Demand Senate Action for Immigration Reform

Milwaukee, WI- "Immigration reform is urgently needed. Families are being ripped apart by unjust deportations, fathers are terrified to drive their children to school because they are denied access to licenses, and students are dreading June graduations because they fear they may have no way to go to college. Our communities are in crisis and we are tired of being ignored. We need legislation now." says Mario Gomez, a senior at Pius XI High School, and a member of Youth Empowered in the Struggle (Y.E.S.!). YES!, which used to be known as SUFRIR, is the youth component of local organization Voces de la Frontera.

Gomez and approximately 200 other students will gather in front of the Federal Courthouse, 517 E Wisconsin Avenue, on Wednesday February 24, 2010 to deliver over 1,000 signatures to both Senators Kohl and Feingold asking the introduction of immigration reform legislation in the Senate. Lisa Vang, a senior at Riverside High School and also a member of YES, adds "there has been no action in the Senate on immigration reform. Our Wisconsin Senators have supported immigration reform in the past and we are now calling on them to show some leadership."

The planned student action reflects the anger and frustration of many who were expecting legislative action on immigration reform in 2009. "Latinos came out in record numbers to vote in 2008. We're frustrated because immigration reform brought us to the polls and nothing is getting done about it. It's time to see some movement in the Senate," says Erica Ramirez, a college junior and first time voter in 2008. "Promises were made and our legislators and president need to be true to their word."

Demonstrators will meet at 3:45pm Wednesday in front of Senator Feingold's office at 517 E. Wisconsin Ave. Students will march up Wisconsin Avenue toward Senator Kohl's office, 310 W. Wisconsin Ave, and will end with a rally at St. John's Cathedral.

What: Press Conference and March
Where: Federal Courthouse, 517 E Wisconsin Avenue
Time: 3:45pm

February 23, 2010

Mayor Dickert moves to give local contractors the inside track on jobs

Mayor John Dickert is prodding local contractors to apply for the $3.1 million the city has available to renovate homes in foreclosure.

Surrounded by union leaders, Dickert announced the city was sending letters and forms to 300 city contractors who may be eligible for the renovation work, which is being paid for with state and federal money.

The city plans to buy 29 homes in foreclosure, tear down five of them and renovate the rest. Homes that are torn down will be replaced with new construction.

News about the "Neighborhood Stabilization Program" isn't new; the city has been talking about plans for the money for at least six months. But Dickert's effort to recruit city contractors was a new idea that the mayor is hoping pays off in additional work for Racine workers.

The program itself is little more than sending a letter to the local contractors encouraging them to file a "Request for Qualifications" form with the Department of City Development. After filing the letter, qualifying contractors will be eligible to bid on renovation work to the homes in foreclosure.

While the city can't prevent outsiders from bidding on the work, Dickert said he hopes local businesses will overwhelm the process and make it all but certain they come out on top.

Tuesday's announcement was an important moment for the mayor. After months of talking about plans to rejuvenate the city's housing stock, Dickert, a former Realtor, stepped forward with a concrete proposal.

Along with creating local jobs, he has a plan to sell the homes and recycle the money into additional homes. City Development is focusing on buying homes on the "Towerview" neighborhood on the city's near south side. The hope is to make a big splash in the neighborhood by increasing home ownership, which should reduce crime, Dickert said.

Dickert said he'll rely on his background in real estate to sell the city-owned homes to families. While Dickert can't sell them himself - he turned in his Realtor's license - he's relying on his experience to motivate local companies to move the homes instead of letting them sit on the market.

The city will bid out the listings, but won't make a decision based solely on the low bid, Dickert said. One agency may be willing to cut its commission to 3 percent to land the homes, but may not be willing to do the work to find a desirable buyer.

To combat this, Dickert said, he plans to list out a series of specific actions any bidder will have to take to get a city listing. In return, they can get their usual 6 percent commission. But they'll have to aggressively market and sell the home to get the city contract.

Dickert, who worked for First Weber, said the city will select the top three bidders to sell city-owned homes. The properties will rotate through the agencies as they come on the market. The rotating system will help prevent charges of favoritism, Dickert said.

Selling the city-owned homes is the key to Dickert's plan. Not only does it get a family in a home that was in foreclosure, it brings in money needed to fix up and sell additional homes. Dickert said he hopes to turn over the first round of homes within two years and move on to the next neighborhood.

Park no longer 'undefeated;' team forfeits 10 games

UPDATE, 2/24: Park High School's basketball team is no longer "undefeated." Because of the truancy violations, the team has forfeited 10 games. RUSD issued the following press release today:
The Park High School varsity boys basketball team will forfeit 10 of its 2009-10 regular season games based on the findings of an internal investigation into violations of the Racine Unified School District’s Athletic Code. These violations, related to truancy, resulted in some players being ineligible to participate in some games. Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) rules require teams to forfeit games in which players are found to be ineligible.

Park officials contacted the WIAA and athletic directors at affected schools on Wednesday, Feb. 24. The 10 games are:
  • Nov. 27: West De Pere
  • Dec. 1: Milwaukee Custer
  • Dec. 11: Kenosha Bradford
  • Dec. 15: Racine Horlick
  • Dec. 29: Beloit Memorial
  • Jan. 15: Franklin
  • Jan. 19: Kenosha Tremper
  • Jan. 29: Kenosha Bradford
  • Feb. 2: Racine Horlick
  • Feb. 16: Franklin
As of Feb. 24, Park’s regular season record is 11-10.

All Park High School players will be eligible to participate in the WIAA regional playoffs starting Tuesday, March 2 if they are in compliance with the RUSD Athletic Code.

The internal investigation was started Feb. 17 and conducted by Park H.S. Directing Principal Dan Thielen, Area Superintendent Brian Colbert and Park H.S. Activities Director Jim Kerkvliet. The WIAA was kept informed throughout the investigation and review.
Original Post:

No. 1 ranked Park boys basketball team to forfeit games

The No. 1-ranked Park High School boy's basketball team will forfeit some of its games because some of the team's players broke truancy rules.

The number of games forfeited will be determined Wednesday, according to a statement from Racine Unified. It's unclear how the forfeits will affect Park's hopes of a state championship, though the release said all players will be eligible for the WIAA regional playoffs.

Here's the statement from Unified:
Park High School expects to forfeit some of its 2009-10 varsity boys basketball games as a result of an internal investigation into violations of the Racine Unified School District’s Athletic Code as it relates to truancy. The exact number of games to be forfeited will be announced Wednesday, Feb. 24 following verification of the class attendance records of some team members.

The RUSD’s Athletic Code requires players to have no unexcused absences during the week prior to a game. Games to be forfeited involved players who were later found to be ineligible.

All Park High School players will be eligible to participate in the WIAA regional playoffs starting Tuesday, March 2, assuming they attend classes and comply with the RUSD Athletic Code.

The investigation began last Wednesday, Feb. 17 at the request of Park High School Directing Principal Dan Thielen. The review and investigation was conducted by Thielen, Area Superintendent Brian Colbert and Park H.S. Activities Director Jim Kerkvliet. The WIAA has been informed of the ongoing investigation.

What did lobbyists get for their $36 million?

It was Mark Twain who said, ""We have the best government that money can buy."

April 21 marks the centennial of Twain's death, but his words are no less true today.

A short AP story in the LaCrosse Tribune tells us:
The Wisconsin Education Association Council reported spending more than 7,200 hours lobbying state lawmakers last year. That averages out to more than 19 hours a day or nearly 55 hours on each state lawmaker, roughly an hour a week on each member of the Legislature.
WEAC is the state teachers' union. The story says teachers spent $1,511,272 lobbying state legislators, more than any other organization.

The complete 68-page list released today by the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board shows that $36,205,967 was spent lobbying Wisconsin lawmakers during the 2009-2010 Legislative Session, up 5.2% from 2007. There were 746 lobbying principals and 750 registered lobbyists.

Besides the teachers, six more organizations each spent more than half a million dollars on lobbying legislators last year: Wisconsin Insurance Alliance, $777,430; Forest County Potawatomi Community, $756,512; Altria Client Services, $755,533; Wisconsin Hospital Association, $605,033; Wisconsin Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, $560,544; and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, $508,023.

The list details lobbying by as diverse a group of interests as you can imagine, including cities, counties, chambers of commerce, telephone companies; railroads, the Wine Institute, associations representing teachers, nurses, landscape architects, charter schools, powersports dealers, Harley Davidson, snowmobilers, bear hunters, auto recyclers, police chiefs, cheese makers, dog owners, horse council, unions, the Brewers (baseball) and brewers (beer), churches...

Here are the Racine groups listed (if I've missed any, please let me know), with the number of hours spent lobbying:
Aurora Health Care Inc.: 1,001 hours, $88,105
SC Johnson & Son Inc.: 373 hours, $71,949
JohnsonDiversey: 74 hours, $30,141
Racine Area Manufacturers and Commerce: 310 hours, $24,000
Franciscan Healthcare: 117 hours, $14,916
A few others that caught my eye:
Wisconsin Society of Anesthesiologists: 144 hours, $54,224
City of Madison: 330 hours, $35,587
Wisconsin Newspaper Association: 263 hours, $32,543
Sierra Club -- John Muir Chapter: 426 hours, $32,424
Case New Holland was listed at no hours and $0.

It's also fun to do the math, to see who got the greatest bang for the buck: Some of these organizations spent far more than others on each hour of lobbying. If my computations are correct, for example, JohnsonDiversey spent $407 per hour on lobbyists, SCJ spent $192, Wheaton spent $127, Aurora spent $87 and RAMAC got the bargain at $77. The state's teachers spent $208 per hour, while the Wisconsin league of Conservation Voters, which spent $194,169 on 6,259 hours of lobbying, barely covered lunch at just $31 an hour.

Of course, this list says nothing about what these groups received from the legislature in return. Teachers, for example, ended up getting rid of the hated QEO from 1993, which effectively limited their salary hikes each year (school districts could dictate a contract and avoid arbitration as long as salary and benefits rose 3.8%). I'd imagine most teachers would agree this year's lobbying expenditure is money well spent...

Then there's the payday loan regulation bill working its way through the Legislature -- so far, without any interest rate cap. Let's see, Community Loans of America has devoted 250 hours of lobbying this year, at a cost of $121,047; and Speedy Loan has 234 hours, costing $36,000.

The most lobbied bill in 2009 according the the GAB was AB 138, regarding appointment of the secretary of the Natural Resources Board. Organizations reported spending 2,923 hours attempting to influence legislators on that measure.

GAB adds: "Any organization that lobbies state government must file reports with the Government Accountability Board. Organizations report within 15 days of when they begin to lobby on a specific bill or issue, and file six-month reports detailing the hours and dollars spent lobbying. In Wisconsin, lobbyists are forbidden to give meals, entertainment or other gifts to state lawmakers, and campaign donations are limited to specific windows of time outside the normal legislative session."

February 22, 2010

Letter to the Editor: Local 'Journey of a Lifetime' program helps reduce pregnant mother's stress

Black History Month is a time for celebrating the contributions and progress of African Americans. But it should also cause us to think about an issue that’s having a devastating impact on the Racine community. Our babies are dying at a rate of almost four times the rates of white babies because they’re born too soon. The experts tell us stress is a major reason.

Last fall, the Journey of a Lifetime Campaign was launched in Racine, and I was happy to be a part of it. Community healthcare providers have information about this program. I participated because I had a lot going on in my personal life. I was in school full-time, working and just trying to maintain my life day-to-day while expecting a child. I was under a lot of stress and wasn’t doing a good job of managing it. As a result, my baby was born too soon. It wasn’t until after I became involved in the campaign that I discovered just how serious an issue this is.

It’s true that a greater number of African American women are diagnosed with diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. These health issues put our babies at a higher risk of not making it to their first birthday.

Every pregnant woman should see a health provider early and often to make sure the baby’s development is normal and to make sure you are healthy enough to carry a baby the full nine months, even before you get pregnant.

Text4baby.com is a new program I learned about recently. It gives me advice weekly on my cell phone on how to care for my body and my newborn baby. It makes a real difference for me. You sign up by texting BABY to 511411.

So as we celebrate Black History Month, African American women should keep one simple thing in mind. If you want to get pregnant, are pregnant, or have just delivered a baby, be aware that stress impacts an unborn baby and do something about it. Our bodies are our babies’ home so it’s important that we take better care of ourselves. The future generation is depending on us to make the right decisions.

Ebony Varner
Racine Community Advisory Board Member

City lands $1.2 million housing grant; Press release lauds mayor's 'aggressive approach'

The first press release from the city's new public information officer applauds Mayor John Dickert's "aggressive approach in Madison and Washington D.C." for securing an additional $1.2 million to fix up homes in Racine's neighborhood.

The statement from PIO Mark Eickhorst says Racine will receive an additional $1.2 million in Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds. The Department of City Development applied for the grant in January to purchase and refurbish 10 abandoned city homes.

Along with announcing the $1.2 million in grant money, the press release also alluded to additional money coming into the city and a new initiative to bring jobs to Racine.

Eickhorst also announced a press conference Tuesday at 3 p.m. in the Mayor's office to announce the job creation proposal.

Here's the full press release:
Mayor John Dickert’s Efforts Providing Return on Investment
RACINE – Mayor John Dickert’s aggressive approach in Madison and Washington D.C. has begun to payoff for the City of Racine.
The City of Racine has just announced an additional $1.2 million in NSP funds as a result of the Mayor’s aggressive approach to State and Federal funding.
“I promised the people of Racine that I would keep knocking on the doors of government until I received the funds needed to rebuild our city and those efforts have paid off,” said Dickert.
The City’s work to coordinate their housing programs for efficiency and to create a target area is what helped win the award. That, coupled with the work being done by The Department of City Development is definitely producing a return on investment.
On Tuesday, the Mayor will announce details on additional funding as well as a new initiative to bring jobs back to Racine workers.

Letter: Nurse anesthetists say their record is excellent

To the Editor:

Despite the abundance of information and commentary in the Racine media about Wheaton-Franciscan’s recent decisions involving its anesthesia department, several critical pieces of information about nurse anesthesia somehow continue to elude coverage. All of these facts are easily confirmed through any number of sources, including the Federal Register, Wisconsin state law, published research, and more.
  • In 2005, Wisconsin became the 14th state since 2001 to “opt out” of the federal physician supervision requirement for Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs). What this means is that in Wisconsin, for nearly five years now, nurse anesthetists do not need to be supervised by a physician while providing anesthesia care to patients. A state’s right to opt-out of this unnecessary requirement was approved in 2001 by the Bush Administration following exhaustive analysis of the issue by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), including a thorough examination of existing anesthesia safety studies. CMS concluded that the studies show there is no difference in the quality of care provided by CRNAs and anesthesiologists.
  • Many facilities in Wisconsin, particularly in the state’s vast rural areas, do not require physician supervision of the nurse anesthetists who typically are the only anesthesia professionals working there. CRNAs enable these facilities to provide surgical, obstetrical, and trauma stabilization services, otherwise citizens in these communities would have to travel great distances for necessary healthcare. Why don’t anesthesiologists work in these medically underserved outposts? Because the big bucks are to be made in urban/suburban centers such as Milwaukee and Racine.
  • There is no federal requirement that nurse anesthetists must be supervised by an anesthesiologist, nor is there any such requirement in Wisconsin state law.
  • Nurse anesthetists are the hands-on providers of more than 32 million anesthetics each year in the United States, and according to the Institute of Medicine, anesthesia is nearly 50 times safer than it was in the 1980s.
  • Nurse anesthetists work collaboratively with physicians of all kinds on a daily basis, including surgeons, dentists, podiatrists, and anesthesiologists. For that matter, so do anesthesiologists. Anesthesia isn’t provided in a vacuum, it is provided for a reason—surgery and other procedures, delivery of a baby, trauma stabilization. There are always physician specialists involved in these scenarios.
Individual facilities such as Wheaton-Franciscan have a choice of going beyond the CMS rules and requiring physician or even anesthesiologist supervision of nurse anesthetists. However, such a requirement does not mean greater patient safety, just greater costs. The facts speak for themselves.

Wanda Wilson, CRNA, PhD
Executive Director, American Association of Nurse Anesthetists

Racine near the bottom of wealthy cities list

When it comes to America's wealthiest cities, Racine ranks near the bottom.

This should come as no surprise to anyone (except maybe the SC Johnson family).

Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2008 American Community Survey, BizJournals has rated the relative affluence of all 420 cities, incorporated towns and unincorporated urban areas with populations of more than 75,000. "Places with high income levels and large inventories of expensive homes naturally earn the highest scores," their report states.

You'll find Racine way near the bottom of the list, 379th out of 420, second lowest in Wisconsin.:
In Wisconsin, Madison ranked highest at No. 166, with a per capita income of $30,918 and a median household income of $53,516. About 3.8 percent of Madison's households make $200,000 or more.

On the other side of the coin, Milwaukee ranked the lowest at 384th with a per capita income of $19,237 and median income of $37,331. Just 1 percent of Milwaukee households make $200,000 or more.

Other Wisconsin cities in the list were Kenosha at 283, Green Bay at 253, and Racine at 379.
The Census data lists Racine's median household income at $40,976; per capita income at $20,496.

The full story is HERE, as well as a link to an interactive U.S. map for further explorations.

February 21, 2010

Based on past cases, Becker may not go to prison on sex sting charges

Think Gary Becker will get a long prison sentence? Think again. He may not go to prison at all.

That's the finding of the Journal Times' review of 27 cases similar to Becker's over the past 11 years. Most men (and it's all men) arrested in Internet sex stings served no time in prison, according to the JT. Only seven of 27 people caught by state agents posing as minors went to prison; of those seven, six were given sentences of three years or less in prison. (See the JT's chart here.)

Most people convicted in the Internet sex stings - 75 percent in Racine County - received a lengthy probation sentence with the potential to go to prison if they fail to follow rules set by the court, according to the JT.

What's this mean for Becker, who is scheduled to be sentenced on March 3? Odds are good he could avoid a prison sentence all together, But if he does go to prison, he'll likely spend less than two years there (with time off for good behavior).