March 13, 2010

There's so very much to celebrate today...

Let the fun begin...

Now that all the St. Patrick's Day folderol is behind us, we can concentrate on this weekend's other big holiday.

Have you any idea what I'm circling around? (Couldn't resist that; it'll become clear in a moment.)

Today is March 14, or -- as some of us write it on checks -- 3.14. Yes, it's Pi Day, celebrating the mathematical constant -- you should have learned this in school -- of π. Remember? The first seven decimal places of a never-ending number: 3.1415926, also known as Pi. It is the ratio of any circle's circumference to its diameter. (Coming back to you now?)

Pi is, of course, the key element of one of the first mathematical equations you were taught: To find the area of a circle, just plug its radius (r) into the equation x = πr2 and go on to the next question.

Yes, there are people who find this fascinating. There's even a poster you can download that shows Pi's first 350,390 digits ... and it's free!

For the past three years, the St. Catherine's Math Department has invited Racine Area Catholic middle school 5th and 7th graders to celebrate Pi Day. It's a modest celebration, where St. Cat's celebrates some mathematical fun (fun and math aren't ordinarily associated with one another) with St. Cat's Angels of the future.

St. Cat's Pi Day celebration Monday will consist of three 20-minute activities and, of course, a snack time. (Could pie be involved?) This year activities include a movie and necklace-making for the 5th graders, orienteering and an internet activity for the 7th graders, and a polyhedra activity for both.

And ... if all that is not enough, let's not forget that March 14 is also Albert Einstein's birthday! So much to celebrate!

Do as I say, not as I do? (Parade edition)

Here's an old story with a new twist:

The old part is this: There's a big event downtown -- let's call it a July 4 parade or, wait, I have it! a St. Patrick's Day parade. People drive downtown, park their cars, enjoy the parade, maybe have lunch, shop a bit -- and then after the parade is over ... surely nobody is still surprised by the ending? ....they find $15 tickets on their windshields for parking by expired meters.

You've heard this before, right? Or done it?

Well, here's the new twist, submitted for your approval by Robert Vallone:
I have a question for you to ask the city: Don't they have to feed parking meters?

I went downtown today to see some friends after the parade. I forgot that you have to feed the parking meters on Saturdays. I came outside and noticed many, many, many cars with $15 tickets on them. So now people who came downtown to see the parade and patronize businesses are out another 15 bucks.

You think the city could have taken today off. No matter, I forgot to feed the meter and I will pay my 15 bucks.

BUT as I'm leaving, I see the Parking Enforcement truck parked on Fifth Street at a meter......and it's expired!! So, the city parks for free, gets probably thousands of dollars off of citizens who came out to celebrate something positive in the city and they don't think twice about it. Great way to get people to come downtown. I thought you might like this story. I have attached photos.

Downtown Gallery adds line to fight breast cancer

Northern Lights Gallery is introducing Think Pink, a line of t-shirts, caps, mugs and umbrellas designed for women fighting breast cancer.

A contribution to breast cancer research is made at the wholesale and retail level with each sale. Northern Lights, 423 Main St., also carries items from Story People and Sonya Paz who contribute a portion of sales to breast cancer research.

Sonya Paz, founder of the "Mommies with Cancer" Foundation, which was formed to raise awareness of mothers who have cancer and to create a new way to get inspired and get involved, wrote:
Breast Cancer can happen to any woman.
It doesn’t care what color we are, how old we are or what our name is.
It can affect your mother, sister, daughter or neighbor,
It can be a teacher, a passerby or even your friend.
It’s close to home, much closer than you may think.

For a few hours, everyone was Irish!

It was cold and wet Saturday -- "Just like Ireland," said one parade-goer. Perfect weather, in other words, for Racine's annual St. Patrick's Day Parade.

For over an hour they marched up Main Street and then to City Hall. There were politicians -- Mayor John Dickert and Aldermen Jeff Coe and Jim Kaplan (only Coe wore a kilt), and would-be-judges Georgia Herrera and Gene Gasiorkiewicz (neither of them with an ounce of Irish blood, I'd guess, although Gene faked it amusingly with the sign on his car). And there were dogs up for adoption. And bagpipers, more men in kilts, enthusiastic young dancers and plenty of Irish music.

Fewer floats than usual, was the feeling; and fewer parade-watchers than in previous years when the weather was dryer. But lots of smiles, candy, green beads and happy children. And, yes, a few cups of green beer to take the edge off the cold weather -- and to remind us of what we could be doing if only we were in Dublin...

Celtic Nations Pipes and Drums

David Drake, troubador and squeeze box maestro

Academy of Dance put on a show

Saturday Night Preacher provided lively Irish music

Notables included Mayor John Dickert and his family...

...Alderman Jeff Coe in a kilt...

...and Miss Racine

Couldn't ignore the perfectly coifed Trinity Academy dancers

Reader survey results

Thanks to everybody who filled out our recent online survey. Here's what we learned about RacinePost readers (or at least the ones who will out online surveys):


Over four days, 328 people answered the survey.


Nearly all of the respondents (94.8 percent) were 30 years old or older, with just under half (49.1 percent) between 41 and 60 years old. Just one person under 20 years old responded to the survey, while seven people between 81 and 90 years old responded.


We have some dedicated readers. Just over a third of the respondents said they visit RacinePost several times per day, while another third said they visit once per day and nearly everyone else said they visit a few times per week. Our hope is to create a dynamic website with a regular supply of fresh content, so we're very happy with this response.

What people like to read

Here's the Top 5 topics respondents said they like to read about:

1. Local government
2. Local business
3. Investigative news
4. Good news
5. Local people

And the bottom five topics:

5. Health care
4. Federal government
3. Theater
2. Music
1. Bars

Findings here are largely reflective of the areas we've focused on the past 2-1/2 years. We'd really like to do more with the local arts and entertainment scene, but we've made a name for ourselves focusing on local government and business.

What people would like to see 

We asked people would they would like to read more of on RacinePost. Here's the top 5:

1. Investigative news
2. Local business
3. Local residents
4. Good news
5. Events

And the bottom five:

5. Nonprofits
4. Music
3. Theater
2. Federal government
1. Bars

No surprise on the investigative news - that should be any news organization's top priority. In the last few months we're hearing a lot of people talk about a local need for more stories about local businesses, so that's something we're really going to take a look at.


We received 190 written comments from respondents. A large majority of the comments were positive, and for those, truly, thank you. Negative comments can be clumped into three areas:

1. Several respondents said they are turned off by the negative comments/blogs at the end of our stories. Many people would also like us to eliminate anonymous comments.

2. Editorial bias. Always a touchy issue with any news source, but some respondents said they would like us to more clearly delineate between news and opinion, with more of a focus toward unbiased local news stories.

3. People would like to see a less "cluttered" design with fewer old stories on the front page.

Happily, I can report we are working on all three of the areas with a new site design that will bring greater accountability to the comments, clearly organize stories and opinions into separate categories and reduce the clutter on our home page. (I know we've talked about this new site for awhile, but we're close to ironing out the last few bugs, mostly related to how long it takes the page to load. Hopefully (fingers crossed) this will be worked out soon, because the new site has some great new features we're excited to offer.)


For our first survey, we're very happy with the response and thank everyone for taking the time to answer our questions. We're planning on a few more to try and get a clearer picture of who we're writing for and what you'd like to see on the Post. Reader feedback is incredibly important to us, and these surveys seem like a quick, unintrusive way to reach people. Again, thanks so much!

March 12, 2010

Year's first two homicides occur on Friday

Racine Police reported two homicides Friday, the city's first of 2010.

Late in the evening, police were still investigating a 5:30 p.m. shooting at a Racine Street convenience store, Moe's Market, in which the store owner was killed. Mohammed A. Shehadeh, 41, a father of four, had owned the store, located at 1949 Racine St., for over a decade.

Police said they have no motive for the homicide, and are looking for witnesses who may have been in the store earlier in the evening who could shed some light on who may have been responsible. Anyone with information is urged to call the Racine Police at 262-635-7700 and ask for the Investigations Unit, or Crimestoppers at 262-636-9330, or by texting to CRIMES (274637) and referring to Tipsoft I.D. #TIP417.

The Journal Times' breaking story is here.

Also, Friday police reported charging the father of a battered boy with homicide, after the 26-month-old was brought into the Emergency Room and subsequently died at 2:31 a.m.

, 3/14: Although police originally identified the arrested man as the father of the battered child, they are now saying he is just the fiance of the child's mother.)

The police report states:
At approximately 12:30 a.m. a couple brought their unconscious 26-month-old child into the emergency room of Wheaton Franciscan St Mary’s Hospital. Emergency Room personnel were unable to revive the child and he was pronounced dead at approximately 2:31 a.m.

As the result of an autopsy completed at the Waukesha County Medical Examiners' Office, it was determined that the child had suffered blunt force trauma injuries that led to his death. Investigators arrested both the mother of the child and her boyfriend and conducted interviews of both parents.

After interviews, investigators charged Manuel Garcia, 30, with 1st Degree Reckless Homicide. Lawanda Martinez, 24, was charged with possession of THC as well as a retail theft.

Garcia is being held in the Racine County Jail without bond. Racine County Human Services went to their home at 1918 Grange Ave. and took custody of Lawanda Martinez' other three children.

Racine students win K of C awards

Racine students have won prizes in recent Knights of Columbus contests.

Winners in the Knights' Knowledge Contest at the Archdiocesan Level, held at Waukesha Catholic Memorial High School on March 6, were:

John Bote, Prairie School, 2nd place, 5th grade math; Ryan Busey, 21st Century Prep, 2nd place, 6th grade math; Joey Felle, McKinley Middle, 1st place, 8th grade math; and Benjamin Schultz, McKinley Middle, 1st place, 6th grade spelling.

The contest was sponsored by the Wisconsin State Council of the Knights of Columbus. These students will now advance to the state competition on Sunday, March 28, at Assumption High School in Wisconsin Rapids. They’ll be honored at the annual Youth Awards Night at the Racine Msgr. S. B. Witkowiak Council’s KC Hall on Tuesday evening, March 23.

The following Racine students were winners in the “Respect for Life” Essay Contest sponsored by Knights of Columbus Msgr. Stanley B. Witkowiak Council 697 of Racine and the Wisconsin State Council of the Knights of Columbus.

Jeremiah Jensen, of Kenosha Christian Life School, won 1st place in 8th grade competition. Morgan Van Thiel of Kenosha Christian Life, and Maria Jensen of St. Lucy School, tied for 3rd place.

The winning local level essays were sent on to Milwaukee for Diocesan competition. The winning students also will receive their awards at the annual Youth Awards Night.

City ready to settle Tingle lawsuit

The city is preparing to settle the sexual harassment complaint Sandra Tingle filed against the city in 2008.

City leaders met in closed session Feb. 22 to discuss settling the case for $30,000. Tingle, who worked as Mayor Gary Becker's assistant from 2003-2008, accuses the city of creating a sexually hostile work environment. She filed suit in July 2008 shortly after she was fired from her city job.

The city hired an outside law firm to investigate Tingle's case, but no merit was found to Tingle's claims. Tingle and her attorney, Nola Cross, then filed a case with the state's Equal Rights Commission, which dismissed the case.

Tingle is now appealing the Equal Rights Division decision and a three-day appeal hearing is scheduled for April. The city hopes to settle the case before this hearing, according to people familiar with the settlement discussions.

The city's motivation for settling is mounting legal fees. It's already spent $70,000 on the case and is on the hook for at least another $40,000 in legal fees before insurance kicks in. There's also a chance Tingle could win the case, which could cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars more.

Tingle could also file a complaint in federal court, which would cost the city tens of thousands of dollars more in legal fees, plus the risk of losing the case and being on the hook for another big payout.

Any settlement with Tingle will have to be approved by the City Council. City officials close to the discussions said it was unclear when the the council would take up the settlement.

Update: Comments closed on this story because of some really, really not nice things said about several people.

Paul Ryan gains prominence with plan to eliminate Medicare, privatize Social Security and cut taxes for the wealthy

You may have heard lately that Rep. Paul Ryan is kind of a big deal.

Our Congressman is getting major national play as the Republican Party's leader on federal budget issues. Ryan wrote a budget proposal that was embraced by conservatives as a bold step toward eliminating deficits and reshaping some fundamental government programs. President Obama even called his plan a "serious" proposal.

Here comes the backlash. While Ryan's budget was introduced with great fanfare, Democrats are sinking their teeth into the plan. A few ideas Ryan is proposing include:

* Tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans
* Tax increases for anyone who makes less than $100,000 per year
* Cutting federal spending to what it was in 1951
* Cuts to Social Security
* Cuts to Medicare

Ryan's goal is to pay off the federal debt by 2080, but a recent analysis by a non-partisan tax agency determined the proposal would significantly increase the national debt over the next 70 years. Ryan said the analysis only suggests numbers need to be tweaked in his proposal to reach a more favorable outcome.

The Economist, an international magazine typically sympathetic to Ryan's idea, ripped his proposal to slash (and eventually eliminate) Medicare and "balance the budget on the backs of poor seniors." Here's an excerpt:
Mr Ryan has put forward a serious proposal for shrinking medical-cost inflation and hence shrinking the long-term federal budget deficit. It does so by ending America's provision of first-rate health care to all seniors. Rich seniors will still be able to afford high-quality medical care. Poor seniors won't. They will suffer more and die younger.
Then there's his plan to privatize Social Security, which is similar to President George W. Bush's unpopular proposal. A columnist in the LA Times described Ryan's Social Security proposal, which allows workers to invest in stocks instead of diverting money to the current system, as such:
What is Ryan really up to? His Roadmap would achieve a goal that conservative opponents of Social Security have cherished for decades: killing the program by undermining its broad base of popular support. It would sap Social Security's resources, increase its complexity and hammer a wedge between the currently retired or near-retired (who would be guaranteed their current statutory benefits) and younger workers and the future workforce (who would be increasingly on their own). The term for this is "divide and conquer."
Ryan himself said his entire proposal, called the "Roadmap for America," was only meant to stir debate and get national leaders talking about new ways to control federal spending and reduce the national debt. He seemed surprised people were upset over his plan to dismantle popular programs that benefit middle-class and poor Americans to help pay for a tax cut for the wealthy.
"The reason I did this was to try and stir debate and encourage others to do this as well,” he said. “What I’m finding is that’s probably not going to happen because of all the demagoguery ... It tells them, ‘Don’t stick your head above the foxhole or else you’ll got shot.’ ”
There's no chance Ryan will face a serious challenge for re-election this November. But it'll be interesting to see if his extreme proposals register at all with local voters. If nothing else, Ryan's ideas should embolden Democrats to take a stronger stance against the six-term incumbent.

But fawning media coverage, sweetheart deals, and Ryan's genuine charm make him a lock for political stardom. With that stardom, he'll push radical proposals that could fundamentally change our way of life. I wonder if he'll also keep serving pancakes at Pancake Days?

Update: Here's an interesting look at the debate between Ryan and a wonky policy group over Ryan's proposal. Ryan accuses the policy group - led by a higher-up in President George W. Bush's administration - of partisan analysis. The group responds that Ryan misstates numbers and can't cover up the fact that he wants to cut taxes for the super-wealthy at the expense of benefit cuts and tax increases for average-income Americans.

March 11, 2010

The rich get richer: Five Johnsons on Forbes' list

Hard times? Recession? Penny-pinching? Not for everyone.

While you've been clipping coupons, the number of billionaires has grown this year -- further proof the downtown is turning up. Forbes tells us there are now 1,011 billionaires in the world, up from 793 a year ago.

Five members of the SC Johnson family were named once again to Forbes Magazine's list of the world's billionaires. In the words of Forbes: "Recession isn't dirtying up the Johnson family fortune as consumers continue to buy their household staples..."

While their inclusion on the billionaires list is no surprise to the Johnsons -- they've been there before -- Forbes nonetheless reports good news on their behalf. They have moved up in the rankings to 463rd -- up 13 places from 476 last year. Best yet, their net worth is listed at $2.1 billion each -- up from $1.9 billion last year. (But all good news is relative: Two years ago Forbes reported their net was $2.2 billion.)

Sharing that 463rd position on the list are mom Imogene Powers Johnson, and siblings H. Fisk Johnson, S. Curtis Johnson, Helen Johnson-Leipold and Winnie Johnson-Marquardt.

The wealthiest Wisconsinite is John Menard Jr. of the Menard's home building chain, whose net worth is listed at $5.5 billion -- up from a measly $4 billion last year. He's in a seven-way tie for 136th. Next is "porcelain's prince of fortune" Herb Kohler Jr. and family, in a crowded field of 316th, with, among others, Wisconsinite Donald Schneider, whose father founded the Schneider National trucking firm. They're each worth $3 billion. Last to make the list from Wisconsin is William Kellogg, a retired Kohl's executive, who is worth $1 billion and tied with many others for 937th richest person in the world.

Topping the Forbes list is Carlos Slim Helu and family, worth $53.5 billion from their Mexican telecom company; second this year is Microsoft's William Gates, worth $53 billion; third is financier Warren Buffett, worth $47 billion. Slim's fortune grew $18.5 billion during the past year; Gates' gained $13 billion and Buffett's $10 billion.

The complete list is HERE, along with links to stories about how each billionaire amassed his (they're mostly men) fortune. Feel free to scan the list looking for long-lost relatives.

Starbuck guidance counselor wins state award

Clarence Allen, guidance counselor at Starbuck Middle School, was recently named the Middle School Counselor of the Year by the Wisconsin School Counselor Association.

Allen, who has been with the Racine Unified School District for more than 35 years, has been a counselor at Starbuck since 1990, where he also has coached volleyball, track and cross country and launched the school’s chess club.

Allen was cited for providing leadership opportunities for students as well as facilitating the training of students to help others.

Driver in tragic accident didn't have a driver's license; Racine man facing criminal charges for death of 4-year-old

Terrible development in the story about the accident at the intersection of Durand Avenue and Meachem Road on Monday afternoon. A 4-year-old boy in the accident died from severe brain and spine injuries. Four other people were injured.

It was also revealed today the driver of the car that allegedly caused the accident did not have a driver's license. The District Attorney's office charged Luis Zavala Thursday with operating a vehicle without a license resulting in death and operating a vehicle without a license causing great bodily harm.

The criminal charges are relatively minor. Zavala, 78, can be sentenced to nine months in jail and fined $10,000 for each crime.

A criminal complaint filed against Zavala Thursday suggested Zavala ran a red light and crashed into a car turning left from westbound Durand Avenue onto southbound Meachem Road.

The 4-year-old was wearing a seatbelt, but may not have been using a shoulder harness. He did not have a child's booster seat or car seat.

A paramedic at the scene said the boy was found without a pulse. He was treated and taken to All Saints, where he was flown to Children's Hospital in Wauwatosa. Authorities learned the boy had died Wednesday.

Police warn about ruse targeting the elderly

Racine Police issued a warning today about thieves posing as utility workers seeking entrance into the homes of the elderly, and then burglarizing them.

Here's the statement from the Racine Police Department:
There have been attempts by strangers posing as Wisconsin Energies employees gaining unlawful access to the homes of elderly citizens in efforts to steal from them. In the latest incident on March 9, an individual claimed he was from WE Energies and that they were doing work in the neighborhood of 700B Belmont Ave. that required them to check her electricity. Despite the fact that he was not uniformed with WE Energy markings and had no company ID, he was allowed into the home.

He walked around the home turning switches on and off, telling her that her meter needed replacing. She gave him $50, and after walking around the home some more, he gave her back the cash, stating that he would be back the next morning to fix the meter.

In an earlier incident on Feb. 19, a similar ruse was used in the 1300B Monroe Ave. In both incidents, the offender was described as white males.

Reports from other agencies in southeastern Wisconsin indicate that several other communities in the area are suffering the same type of burglaries.

The Racine Police Department anticipates that there may have already been similar unreported incidents or will be other incidents in the near future based on the pattern of the offenders and the type of crime. Family members should consider talking to their elderly relatives and make them aware of this type of ruse.

The Racine Police Department wants to remind all residents that when a person comes to the door claiming that they work for a certain utility or business, they will usually have a uniform and photo identification card that you should ask to see, before allowing them into your home. At any time, if you believe that the person at your door or your neighbors is suspicious, feel free to call the Racine Police Department at 262-635-7700 and request assistance.

Racine Police investigators are interested in any additional information you may have about these incidents. You are urged to call the Racine Police Department at 262-635-7700 and ask for the Investigations Unit, or Crimestoppers at 262-636-9330, or by texting to CRIMES (274637) and referring to Tipsoft I.D. #TIP417 with your text message.

Little hope for KRM, regional transit this year, Lehman says; Racine Senator says 'votes aren't there' for train, bus proposal

A proposal to to consolidate southeastern Wisconsin's bus systems and to build a commuter rail train from Kenosha to Milwaukee are all but dead this year, according to Sen. John Lehman.

"It doesn't look like it's going to happen," Lehman said. "It's hard for people to accept. It's hard for me to accept."

In a long interview, Sen. John Lehman rejected a RacinePost story suggesting he was "terrified" to vote on legislation to create a regional transit authority in Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha counties. Lehman is up for re-election in November. A Democratic insider said the RTA was dead because Senate leaders didn't want Lehman to have to either vote for a sales tax or vote against a plan needed to extend commuter rail to Racine.

"I'm almost 65," Lehman said. "I'm not terrified of anything any more."

Lehman said Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker may not allow a vote on the proposal in hopes of protecting Democrats who are up for re-election in November. It's a sensitive issue for Senate Democrats because seven out of the party's 18-member majority are affected by the RTA legislation, including two of the party's four most vulnerable members. Lehman and Sen. Jim Sullivan, D-Wauwatosa, both serve districts that are evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats.

Further, even if it did come up for a vote in the Senate this spring, it probably wouldn't pass.

"The real story is the votes aren't there," Lehman said.

Lehman has opposed any plan for Racine County that involved a sales tax to pay for regional transit. That's put him at odds with Gov. Jim Doyle, who would like to see a three-county sales tax to pay for a consolidated bus system that would connect Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha counties. It would also strengthen the region's application for $250 million in federal money to extend commuter rail from Kenosha to Milwaukee. A unified transit system, or RTA, is needed to ensure people can use buses and the commuter train to travel throughout the region.

Instead of a sales tax, Lehman has looked at alternative taxes such as a wheel, hotel room or property tax to pay for the regional transit system. (Incidentally, shifting Racine's bus system to an RTA would remove the $9 million operation from the city's budget.) He also supported a public referendum on an RTA to determine if voters want to spend money on improving public transit.

But Lehman's plans have all fallen short. Republicans won't go along with his belief that regional transit is needed to connect people to jobs, retain major companies and to attract new companies to southeastern Wisconsin. They say commuter rail and bus systems are too expensive and redundant, given most people have cars.

Democrats oppose Lehman's ideas because they either want a regional sales tax (Doyle) or they're involved in some sort of confusing inter-Milwaukee squabble that made compromise difficult.

"I've busted my butt day and night on this trying to find a way to make this work," Lehman said.

He said he felt a deal was in place in the 2007 state budget, but Gov. Jim Doyle vetoed the plan as unworkable. The governor's veto was a shock, Lehman said.

"I thought we had it," Lehman said of a 2007 plan.

But a Democratic insider said it was Lehman who eliminated a workable RTA proposal from the 2007 state budget. Doyle had proposed a regional sales tax that would have given the RTA a consistent, dedicated funding source needed to land the federal money to build KRM and to combine the region's bus systems. Lehman objected to the plan because he was opposed to a sales tax for Racine County.

The attempted compromise was enough to win over the Senate and Assembly, but Doyle determined it wouldn't land the federal money. He vetoed the proposal with the intention of going back for his original plan, which was the three-county sales tax. But the economy took a downturn, Democrats' poll numbers are down and Doyle announced he wasn't running for re-election. All contributed to the RTA's demise, Lehman said.

Locally, voters are deeply divided on the issue, Lehman said. While his office received 498 contacts from people in favor of KRM and a RTA, local government officials are staunchly opposed.

"The Sturtevant board screamed at us over RTA," Lehman said, adding Mount Pleasant and Caledonia officials are also opposed. (See update below.)

"There's not many people in the middle on this," he added.

The Racine City Council and mayor are generally in favor, Lehman said, but when push comes to shove they're skittish about moving forward.

"I can't get the mayor and the Common Council to come out strong for this," Lehman said. "When you start pushing them, no one wants to talk anymore."

The irony, Lehman said, is even though he's fought a sales tax increase in Racine County for several years, he'll still get hit during the campaign for supporting a sales tax increase ... in Milwaukee County. Lehman has voted in favor of a plan that would increase Milwaukee County's sales tax 0.5 percent, but would exclude Racine and Kenosha counties.

That alone shows he' not afraid to vote for commuter rail and KRM, Lehman said.

"I've voted for this stuff repeatedly," Lehman said. "If they want to attack me, they'll attack me."

Update: Chris Wright, Sturtevant Village Trustee, sent us the following response:
I would like to address the accusation of Sen. Lehman's, that the Sturtevant Village Board screamed at him. At best this is an exaggeration. If Sen. Lehman's definition of screaming is a board of seven elected officials unanimously voicing their opposition to the RTA and the KRM, as screaming I'm confused. The discussion was very civil, but we made our stance clear. This would not benefit Sturtevant. It would take virtually the same amount of time for a Sturtevant resident to drive to the proposed KRM station and then take the train ride, as it does to drive to downtown Milwaukee or the Kenosha Metra Station. We also did not see how taxing only half of Racine County was fair to the people of Sturtevant. Lastly we hold to the belief that the last thing Southeast Wisconsin needs is another unelected body with taxing authority.

I will give Sen. Lehman credit for actually listening to our concerns, as opposed to Rep. Mason who was also in attendance. Rep. Mason continues to ignore and thumb his nose at local leadership.

March 10, 2010

McKinley Middle School students win $5,000
in C-SPAN documentary competition

A screenshot from the winning video

A student team from McKinley Middle School won the grand prize in the C-SPAN 2010 StudentCam documentary competition.

Eighth graders Madison Richards, Samantha Noll and Lauren Nixon topped more than 1,000 other middle school and high school teams with their seven-minute documentary “I’ve Got the Power.” The winners were announced today by C-SPAN, the Washington-based public affairs cable TV network. The complete video is here.

The documentary is about the need for clean future energy sources and examines the potential for developing more nuclear power plants in the United States. The students interviewed classmates, energy experts and toured a nuclear power plant to create the production which started in September and wrapped up in January. The team’s adviser is Larry Jozwik.

The three students will split a $5,000 prize and McKinley Middle School will receive $1,000 for video equipment.

The announcement and a clip from “I’ve Got the Power” can be viewed at the StudentCam website. A live interview with the students on C-SPAN is scheduled for April 27.

Thomas George is new Andis VP-Operations

Thomas George has joined Andis Company, Sturtevant, as VP-Operations, responsible for all phases of the manufacturing, including purchasing, quality assurance, scheduling, process and product implementation, productivity, and maintenance.

George has worked in a variety of manufacturing operations, including more than ten years with Ford Motor Company. He has a BS in welding and engineering from Ohio State University and a Master’s in manufacturing management from Kettering University.

Hour Town wins art project naming contest

With apologies to Thornton Wilder, author of the classic play, Our Town...

Hour Town” has been chosen by the Downtown Racine Corporation as the name for this summer's public art project, which will display large decorated wall clocks downtown.

More than 1,165 entries (an all-time high) were submitted in the Name the Event Contest. The winning name was submitted by two separate individuals – Sherri Myers Wray and Don Schmidt who are both from Racine. Each will each receive a $50 Downtown gift certificate.

DRC staff said “Hour Town” is a unique, crisp slogan that could generate interest and invoke feelings of fun for the family.

Sherri Myers Wray, with the help of her friend Jude Poplawski, also designed the logo for this year's project. (Last year, Wray won another DRC contest, naming the three barrel sculptures on Sixth Street -- Cautious Clay, Monument Ali and Gorge Foreman.)

“It is only a matter of time before we will be using many of the slogan suggestions,” said Terry Leopold, DRC’s special events coordinator, wasting, time. "The clock is ticking and we are in the process of artist proposal selections. When summertime rolls around, Downtown Racine will be treated to the art of time. If this contest was any indication, "Hour Town" has proved that Racine has time to make a difference."

This is the 9th year of public art in Downtown Racine. Artists will decorate the 28” fiberglass clocks which will be on display Downtown from Memorial Day through Labor Day. On Sept. 11, the clocks will be sold via a public auction.

Clock sponsors are still being sought. The cost is $375 and all donations are tax deductible. Sponsorship packets are available at the DRC office at 425 Main St., or online.

Update: Participants at Shields' community forum may not have known meeting was recorded

There's been some confusion this week over video taken at the community forum Alderman Mike Shields organized last Saturday.

Shields brought together 25 community leaders behind closed doors - media wasn't allowed to attend - along with a camera man from CAR 25 to record the meeting, presumably to show on the city's cable-access TV station.

But now it appears Shields is bottling up the video. Paul Ancona, the city's director of information systems, who oversees the city's TV station, said Shields requested that CAR 25 not broadcast the video recorded by CAR 25 coordinator Scott Nelson.

"It was requested we not put the video on the air," Ancona said. "Alderman Shields made the request."

Ancona said it was Shields' call on whether to broadcast the video because he organized the event and asked CAR 25 to attend.

"He's the one who requested we video tape it," Ancona said of Shields. "It would be his call if we broadcast it."

Shields' decision to close the meeting to the media and now to withhold the video raises questions about what happened at the meeting. One source said Shields doesn't want to release the video because he doesn't want it used for a negative purpose.

But another source who was at the meeting said nothing particularly controversial happened.

The JT interviewed people coming out of the meeting who said main topics were racial profiling and discrimination and the need for jobs and job training.

Ancona said it was not unusual for CAR 25 to video record community events for possible broadcast on the station. Any group can request a video camera at their event, he said.

"If it has some community interest we'll try to accommodate it," Ancona said.

Private meeting?

On a side note, it's questionable whether Shields had the right to prevent the media from attending the community hearing in the City Council chambers. While the city makes the chambers available for public use, they are not available for private use. (For example, a business couldn't rent out the City Council chambers for a board meeting.)

While no local media pushed Shields to attend the meeting, it's likely he could not have stopped a reporter from attending.

Update: Participants at the meeting may not have known they were being recorded. Here's an email we received from someone who was there:
I was at the meeting, but I'm not aware of anyone announcing it was being recorded for CAR25. Something might have been said about recording audio.
One guy got up to speak at the mic and pointed up at the camera to see if it was being recorded. People chuckled after that and I got the impression that it was not being video recorded.
Anyhow, the reason that they don't want that tape out is that some folks were pretty vocal and called people out by name. I don't think anyone that spoke would necessarily be uncomfortable with what they said being public (with some exceptions), but without knowing they were taped....that wouldn't be right.
Most comments weren't a big deal.....same issues that have been reported on Post and JT. Police discrimination, Becker arrest, State Street development, hiring practices, racism, etc.
The meeting being closed was news to me when I got there. That wasn't announced in advance. If they did plan on it being CAR25, then I don't know why they didn't just open it up.
And ...
Scott (Nelson) was there, but it only seemed like he was fixing a problem with powerpoint. He only came after Shields called him because he couldn't get the presentation to work and the meeting was running late. Nothing was said about CAR 25 at that point or putting this meeting on the airwaves.
Update 2: Activist Alphonso Gardner, who was at the meeting, said he was unaware the meeting was being recorded. Gardner said he had no problem with his comments being recorded and made public, but he didn't know if any video was taken at the meeting.

"I'd like to know in the future if I'm being recorded," Gardner said.

City fines gas station $2,700 for video gambling machines

The city made good Wednesday on a threat to seize video gambling machines in businesses without proper licenses.

The Racine Police Department seized six video gambling machines from the Marathon Gas Station at 3024 Rapids Drive. Owner Amarjit Singh was also given six citations for $460.50 each.

Video gambling machines are allowed in establishments with Class B liquor licenses, which are typically given to bars and restaurants. Several convenience stores and gas stations in the city, which typically have Class A liquor licenses to sell pre-packaged alcohol, were running video gambling machines in violation of state law.

The city sent out a letter in December warning the Class A license holders they would seize video gambling machines if they continue to operate them after Jan. 1.

Here's the press release put out today by the Racine Police Department on the seized machines:

The Racine Police Department has responded to numerous complaints in reference to the use of illegal video gambling machines within the city. Video gambling machines are legal to possess in certain Class “B” alcohol establishments; however, they are not allowed on the premise of Class“A” alcohol establishments (typically gas stations and convenience stores). Neither Class “A” nor Class “B” establishments are allowed to “pay out” any proceeds from the use of a video gambling machine.
In November 2008, the Racine County District Attorney and the Racine City Attorney sent a joint letter to all Class “A” license holders advising them that they cannot posses video games that can be used as gambling devises. Racine City Attorney Rob Weber sent a follow-up letter dated December 17, 2009 to all Class “A” establishments in the city reemphasizing that the video gambling machines are illegal. This letter recommended that all of these illegal machines should be pulled from the business by the end of 2009 or consequences could occur.
The Racine Police Department then followed up on complaints about possible illegal gaming devices in several Class “A” establishments. The operators of these businesses were advised to remove the machines or they would be subject to a citation and seizure of the illegal machines.
Compliance was obtained from most businesses that we addressed.
On 3-10-2010 at approximately 1:30 p.m., the Racine Police Department seized six gaming machines from the Marathon Gas Station at 3024 Rapids Drive for their failure to remove them as requested. In addition, six Municipal Citations for “Gambling Operation” were issued to the license holder (Amarjit Singh D.O.B. - 9-15-63). Each citation has a quoted forfeiture of $460.50.

JT uncovers Caledonia police check scam

Journal Times' reporter Christine Won deserves props today for her investigative work out in Caledonia. Won spent a week uncovering a seemingly sketchy payment system designed to help a Caledonia officer avoid paying taxes.

Won reports the officer worked on Caledonia squad cars and was paid about $4,900 for his services. The checks were written out to the officer's wife and infant child, reportedly so the officer didn't have to report the checks as income.

Police Chief Jeffrey Meier is taking responsibility for the checks, and an attorney for the village said it may not be illegal to have checks issued to family members. But the system seems a little too clever for the public's good. Here's hoping Won continues to dig, and Caledonia officials take a closer look, too.

Ridgewood residents raise money for Food Bank

Leif Peterson, director of operations at Ridgewood Care Center, sent over some good news this morning. Yesterday Ridgewood's resident council chairman presented the Racine County Food Bank with a check for $200, and over 200 pounds of food. Ridgewood's resident council hosted a bake sale and collected food from employees to donate to the food bank.

Here's a photo of a check presentation:

(Pictured from L-R: Executive director of the food bank, Dan Taivalkoski, resident council chairman, John Schulz, and Mary Lofty, one of the directors for the Food Bank.)

Brown opposes Kerkman in 66th Assembly District

The west end of Racine County will have an Assembly election duel. Steve Brown, 62, of Salem, a Democrat, today announced that he is running for the seat now held by Samantha Kerkman, R-66th District. The district covers covers Burlington, most of Kenosha County west of Interstate 94 and Somers. Here are excerpts from his campaign release:
"Jobs are the No. 1 priority in this election," Brown said. "That means we have to keep the jobs we already have, bring new jobs into the area and improve training for these 21st Century jobs."

These three important components are part of the C.O.R.E. JOBS ACT that already has passed the Wisconsin Senate. AB-641 now is awaiting Assembly action."

"The Assembly needs to act quickly to pass this JOBS ACT which will help to get and keep jobs here in Wisconsin," says Brown. "This isn't a Republican or a Democratic issue, this is a people's issue. It's unfortunate that my opponent doesn't seem to feel the urgency to do something real about the job crisis here in southeastern Wisconsin."

Brown notes that Kerkman is not among the long list of co-sponsors of this legislation. "She has not spoken out, forcefully and publicly, in favor of AB-641. In eight years, she has failed to take real steps to help real people with real job concerns. My No. 1 priority will be to work, quickly and enthusiastically, for serious legislation like this that will tackle the state's most serious problem, jobs.

"It also means I pledge not to vote for legislation which would send jobs overseas," Brown says. "Mrs. Kerkman even went against 17 other conservative members of her own party who supported the important and truly bi-partisan American Jobs Act (AB-2). She voted “no” to a measure to keep Wisconsin jobs from being exported to foreign countries. She voted “no,” and that is just wrong."

Brown is professor of educational leadership and school law at Northeastern Illinois University since 1989. He also is executive program producer for WGTD Public Radio.

Before joining the faculty of Northeastern Illinois, Brown was a television and radio journalist, a high school teacher and principal, and a district level educational administrator. He also owned a computer hardware and software consulting business. He served six years in military intelligence in the U.S. Army Reserves.

For seven years, Brown served on the Governing Board of the University Center of Lake County, IL. He has been a member of the Salem School Board.

"I look forward to a discussion of the real issues in this race. I welcome a serious face-to-face, give-and-take debate with Mrs. Kerkman that will show voters where we each stand.

March 9, 2010

RAM announces 'Peep' art competition

The Racine Art Museum is challenging local artists with a new medium this Easter ... Peeps!

Artists of all ages are invited to enter artwork inspired by the marshmallow delicacies by 5 p.m. on Friday, March 26. There's no entry fee, and fun prizes will be awarded to entries based on creativity and the best use of Peeps. Artists can use any variety of Peeps.

Works will be displayed at RAM during Easter week. Entries will not be returned. All artwork should be submitted with a super brief description or title for your entry, the names of everyone who worked on the project and their ages, and a contact email address.

Now get going artists! Maybe you could create a sculpture of a bunny Peep playing a pipe and leading a line of rats. Title? The Pied Peeper.

Or you could hollow out the bellies of a bunch of Peeps, line them up in a row so you can see through them all. When you look through them, you'd see a Peep in a bathtub. Can you guess the title? Yup, Peephole.

Alright, those are terrible ideas ... come up with better ones and get your entries into RAM! Good luck to all!

City's most tenured employee retired in February

The city's longest-serving employee retired in February.

Pamela Duerlinger began working for the city's health department in June of 1969. She was 18 years old.

Duerlinger, a clerk with the health department, retired on Feb. 26 a few months shy of working 41 years for the city.

Marcia Fernholz, the city's director of environmental health, said at Tuesday's Board of health meeting that Duerlinger will be missed.

With Duerlinger's retirement, Municipal Court Clerk Michelle Bellaire is now the city's longest-serving employee. Bellaire was hired in 1983.

Update: We were wrong.

Mary Pace, a human resources assistant for the city of Racine, wrote to let us know there are several city employees who have been employed longer than Michelle Bellaire, who we'd list as the city's long-serving current employee.

Here's the email we received from Pace, who herself has worked for the city for 39 years:
It was brought to my attention that in your article in the Racine Post (online) you state that Michelle Bellaire is now the city’s longest serving employee.
Please be informed that your information is incorrect. Mary Lou Nordstrom, a Library Department supervisor is now the longest serving employee starting in 1970.

Followed by myself with 39 years and Gary Hagen, Civil Engineer with 39 years also.

Besides that, there are many more employees that started long before 1983 when Michelle Bellaire started her employment with the City.

Please correct your information.
Thanks, Mary and our apologies. This is a case of misreading some information and passing it on without knowing the full story. Hopefully, this sets the story straight.

Crimmings to resign as chairman of the city's Redevelopment Authority

John Crimmings, long-time chairman of the city's Redevelopment Authority, plans to resign from the board. He'll do it as soon as enough members show up to hold a meeting.

For the second week in a row the RDA failed to draw enough members to hold a legal meeting. As a result, Crimmings had to put off his announcement.

Crimmings (right), a Realtor who is vice president, general sales manager for First Weber in Racine, is resigning after more than 20 years on the volunteer board, which owns and manages property for the city.

"I was going to announce it tonight," he said about his plan to resign. "I've been talking about it for quite some time."

Only three of the RDA's seven members showed up Tuesday night. Crimmings, Alderman Jim Spangenberg and member Bob Ledvina attended. State Rep. Cory Mason, Scott Terry, Pete Karas and David Lange didn't attend. The committee was one member short of being able to hold a legal meeting.

"I'm very disappointed we can't get a quorum," Crimmings said. "It's very frustrating."

Crimmings was appointed in the late 1980s by Mayor Owen Davies. He replaced Marion Langdon, a School Board member for many years who was very well known in local real estate. Crimmings said he enjoyed his time on the board.

"It's a great organization to be a part of. In the first 10 or 12 years I was on this commission, you could meet just three or four times a year. In the past five to seven years, there's a lot going on; very significant issues. Development and redevelopment are very important," he said.

As for why now, Crimmings said: "I think it's just time. Anytime you're part of a volunteer committee for that long, you start having an effect on everyone else. That's either positive or negative. There's enough going on, it'll be good to bring new ideas."

Crimmings, who is not paid to serve as chairman, added the RDA "is costing me money, because I can't have any dealings with the city. I'm sure some people think I'm making a lot of money by serving on the Redevelopment Authority."

Mayor John Dickert will appoint Crimmings' successor and RDA members will elect a new chairman. The RDA is next scheduled to meet on April 7.

St. Cat's senior wins Gold Key award for art print

Tara Lovdahl, a senior at St. Catherine's High School, earned a Gold Key Scholastic Award for an art print she made.

Her piece, "Pots and Pans," is featured at the Milwaukee Art Museum with more than 350 student-made works of art from 90 schools in Wisconsin. The exhibit will continue until March 21. Prizes were awarded after judging by 24 artists, educators and art professionals.

Lovdahl's piece will advance to national competition, to be held in June at New York's Carnegie Hall.

Dickert sets two 'conversations' on minority issues

Mayor John Dickert will hold two "Community Conversations" aimed at building upon what he calls "Racine’s greatest asset: its diversity."

The first will take place on Wednesday, March 31, at the Tyler-Domer Community Center, 2301 12th St., and the second on Thursday, April 8, at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, 1134 Martin Luther King Drive. Both events are from 5:30 to 7 p.m., and are open to the public.

Dickert said the meetings will be to discuss issues facing the city, and to present information about programs and initiatives that address the minority and low-income population of Racine.

Organizations such as the Community Economic Development Corporation, African American Business Professional Association, Hispanic Business Alliance, Hispanic Business and Professionals Association, Racine Vocational Ministries, First Choice Apprenticeship Program, Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation, Racine County Workforce Development, Racine/Kenosha Community Action Agency, Inc., Racine Unified School District, and the 2010 Complete Count Census Committee will be invited to set up tables with information.

Biz News: Circa Celeste Cafe opens in the mornings

Circa Celeste Cafe now has morning hours.

Starting this week, the cafe at 619 Wisconsin Ave. is opening at 7 a.m. To offset the new hours, the one-man shop run by owner Ben Lehner is closing earlier at 7 p.m.

Lehner said the crowd wasn't there to support the late-night hours, at least during the week. He'll stay open until midnight on Saturdays.

"We're really looking forward to the summer," said Lehner, who opened Cafe Celeste last September.

Circa Celeste offers homemade bakery, soups, salads, hummus, a full array of coffee and tea, and a fruit and veggie juice bar.

(Photo-Right: Ben Lehner, owner of Circa Celeste, chops parsley for one of the cafe's daily soups. A homemade pumpkin pie sits on the counter.)

March 8, 2010

Ben Hughes offered city manager job in Michigan

Racine's two top city leaders of a year ago are moving on.

-- Former mayor Gary Becker was sent to prison last week.

-- Former City Administrator Ben Hughes (left) -- who resigned a month after Becker's arrest in January 2009 -- is about to get a new job. The City Council of St. Clair Shores, Michigan -- a suburb of Detroit -- voted 7-0 tonight to hire Hughes as City Manager.

Well, technically; the vote was to make a conditional offer to Hughes on Wednesday. If he accepts, Hughes will be replacing a retiring city manager, Kenneth Podolski, 60, whose contract expires June 30 -- "not one who was caught with four hookers," in the words of a Detroit Free Press contact. (Apparently they have mayoral problems in Detroit as well -- i.e., the continuing case of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's sexual misconduct is still in the news there.) Update: Hughes tells us he is definitely going to accept the job, and expects to start work in St. Clair Shores on March 22.

A national search produced 50 candidates; the final four were interviewed by the council on Saturday. Others interviewed, according to the Free Press, were
Ann Capela, city manager of Inkster, MI; Grant Kleinhenz, city manager of Centralia, IL., and James Payne, former city manager of Rio Rancho, NM.

St.Clair Shores is slightly smaller than Racine: The 2000 Census said it has a population of 63,096. (Racine's is 80,806.) It is located 13 miles northeast of downtown Detroit, in Macomb County, on the shore of Lake St. Clair. It also is just 21 miles from Dearborn, where Hughes' siblings and family live.

Hughes, 36, began work here on Oct. 1, 2007. He resigned on Feb. 16, 2009. He holds both a B.A. and a Master's degree in public administration.

Gateway Technical College seeks board members

UPDATE, March 25: The deadline for accepting applications from district residents seeking appointments to the board has been extended to noon, April 7.

Original post:

Want to help run Gateway Technical College?

The Board Appointment Committee for the college's Board of Trustees has begun accepting applications from district residents seeking appointments to the board. The deadline for applications is noon on March 23.

Four seats will be open for appointment. Three are currently filled. Up for reappointment are Fred Burkhardt, Suzanne Henkel Deans and Patricia M. Johnson. The three-year appointments begin July 1, 2010, and end June 30, 2013.

The seat held by Rebecca Vail is open due to her resignation, effective March 31, after accepting a position at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

Vacancies for three-year terms are one Kenosha County seat, one Walworth County seat and one Racine County seat: One must be an "employer," meaning someone who has the authority to oversee or recommend employee hiring, firing, suspension, discipline, layoffs, recalls, promotions, discharges and grievances. One must be an "employee," someone who is employed but does not meet the classification of an employer member. One is an additional member, open to any district resident.

The two-year seat to complete Vail’s term must be from Walworth County and needs to be an employer member.

Applications must be notarized, include two letters of reference, and applicants must be present at the April 14 meeting of the appointment committee at the Burlington Center, 496 McCanna Parkway. Chairpersons of the Kenosha County, Racine County and Walworth County boards of supervisors make up the interview committee.

Those interested in applying can obtain the application/affidavit packet online or at county clerks’ offices in Kenosha, Racine and Walworth counties, or at Gateway’s Kenosha Campus, Academic Affairs Office Room 132, 3520-30th Ave.; Gateway’s Elkhorn Campus, North Building Room 202, 400 County Road H; Gateway’s Racine Campus, Main Building Room 201, 1001 S. Main St.; and Gateway’s Burlington Center, 496 McCanna Parkway.

City agrees ordered to pay resident, gun rights organization $10,000 for arrest in open-carry case

Update: Deputy City Attorney Scott Letteney writes to correct this post: The court did not order the city to pay; rather, the city decided to settle the suit for $10,000.

Original post:

A federal court ordered the city of Racine to pay a city resident and a guns-rights organization $10,000 for violating the man's rights last September.

Frank Hannan-Rock was arrested Sept. 9 after police found him sitting on his porch at 417 Luedtke Ave. with a gun. Officers were called to the area for a report of shots fired, but Hannan-Rock had nothing to do with the incident.

However, Hannan-Rock refused to answer police questions and was arrested for obstructing justice an officer. His gun was also confiscated. He was released without any charges filed and his gun was returned.

Wisconsin Carry sued the Racine Police Department on Hannan-Rock's behalf in the U.S. Eastern District Court located in Milwaukee. The federal court ruled Friday the city must pay Hannan-Rock and Wisconsin Carry $10,000.

Here's a story by Wisconsin Carry on the court decision.

The Racine City Council's Finance and Personnel Committee is scheduled to meet in closed session tonight to discuss Hannan-Rock's case.

March 7, 2010

Caveat Emptor again: JT shills $2 bills for $15

Dustin has succinctly pointed out some Journal Times lapses, presenting flackery masquerading as news coverage, but -- despite the risk of being accused of piling on -- I want to point out a recent advertising scam in our local newspaper.

Yes, scam. A totally dishonest full-page advertisement designed to separate gullible Journal Times readers from their money -- in return for nothing of value. Here's what the top of the ad looked like. Note the word "Wisconsin" under the top serial number of the $2 bill. (Click to enlarge.):

The ad on Saturday -- page 7, in case you missed it -- had the same look-and-feel of the similarly bogus Amish heater ads and the cool fan/free gas ads run previously in the paper, all looking like news coverage. The gist of this new ad is simple: For $15 the company will sell you a special Wisconsin $2 bill. Well, yeah, if you buy 'em four at a time in their "vault" pack: Total cost with shipping for four $2 bills: $60.88.

Such a deal!

But hurry! "There's a strict limit of 10 Wisconsin state $2 bill vault packs per household." The vault pack, by the way, is a leather (leatherette?) wallet.

As the ad makes clear as mud, these are "new, never before seen state $2 bills being overlaid and released exclusively by the World Reserve Monetary Exchange." In plain English that means a sticker with the word "Wisconsin" has been stuck on the bill. Do you think that increases its value from $2? Think again. Ignore such words in the ad as "exclusive," "precious," "newly enhanced" and "highly sought after," implying added value. These bills are worth $2 each. No more. Maybe less, if the stickers don't come off easily. Unlike the series of state quarters, there is no such thing as a U.S. Bureau of Engraving-produced "state" $2 bill.

Doesn't the Journal Times care about its readers? Does the desire for every almighty buck trump basic concern for its core customers? Hell, the ad was probably sold cheaply as remaindered space; it couldn't have pumped that much revenue into the paper's coffers. And even if it sold at full price, JT, have you no shame?

It's a scam, pure and simple.

If you call one of the toll-free numbers on the ad -- and recite the special ordering code -- the telemarketer ("Brian," in my case Sunday night) will say (after he first guesses I'm calling from Delaware, although these special bills are only for Wisconsinites): "I'd recommend that you claim all ten packs." Yes, folks, there's a limit: You can order no more than ten packs of four $2 bills -- that's $480 plus $12.88 shipping per pack. Brian hinted that I might get a discount on the shipping...but I demurred: Forty $2 bills worth a total of $80 for $480 plus shipping. Gotta ask the wife first.

Tempting as Brian's offer was, I asked whether it is possible to buy the special $2 bills from every state? Oh, yes! Be still, my heart. A chest with 50 bills -- "each in its own acrylic cover" -- costs $588. Shipping is included. Six easy payments of $98! Again, let's point out for the mathematically impaired: You're getting fifty $2 bills, worth a total of $100, for the low, low price of $588.

Brian tried hard to convince me. "Each vault comes with its own letter of authenticity," he said. "You can't get these anywhere else. You can't even get them from the Federal Reserve."

A quick internet search shows that we're late being invited to this party. The ad appeared in the Arizona Daily Star (for bills "overlaid" with the word "Arizona," of course) back on Jan. 18 -- and was unmasked by one of their own reporters a week later. Reporter Rick Villarreal quoted Brett Sadovnick, a Tucson coin dealer who filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, saying: "There has never been a resale value for that type of product at any collectible store. It's just a regular $2 bill with (a sticker) on it. The U.S. government hasn't sanctioned it, and anything in the ad about the popularity or scarcity of it is misleading."

Need I mention that the Arizona Daily Star is owned by Lee Enterprises, which also owns the Racine Journal Times? No, I didn't think so.
(Full disclosure: I am thoroughly ashamed to admit today that I'm a former Journal Times publisher.)

Racine celebrates its Welsh heritage

Hanging the Welsh flag in front of D.P. Wigley Sunday afternoon

On St. Patrick's day, everyone is Irish.

But does the corollary hold true: Is everyone Welsh on St. David's Day?

Apparently not, but that didn't deter anyone from having a good time Sunday at D.P. Wigley's, where a Welsh House Party was marked by a special visitor from Wales, Dafydd Wigley, a descendant of Racine's D.P. Wigley and a former Welsh parliamentarian.

The party was attended by a number of Racine politicians -- State Sen. John Lehman, Mayor John Dickert, State Rep. Cory Mason -- none of whom claimed any Welsh heritage. Monte Osterman, who is running for the County Board, said he might have "a tad" of Welsh blood, on his mother's side.

No matter, the city's Welsh heritage was well served Sunday, first by services at Covenant Presbyterian Church where the St. David's Society of Racine and Vicinity noted the day, and then at the more informal D.P. Wigley event.

Mark and Chris Flynn with Dafydd Wigley

Mark and Chris Flynn, co-owners of D.P. Wigley for 12 years, hosted the party, noting the city's Welsh heritage. In the 1840s -- David and John Jenkins were the first Welshmen to arrive -- one group of immigrants included 81 people from Wales, more than from any other country (far more than even the Danes, who brought kringle with them). D.P. Wigley is one of the oldest businesses in the city -- it began as the Racine City Mill in 1849 on the site of one of Gilbert Knapp's trading posts. Mark claims Welsh blood, and a picture found at D.P. Wigley, of John L. Thomas, somehow also turned up in his own family genealogy. So, says the former P.I. who specialized in missing persons, there's some kinda family relationship there.

Other Welsh-based businesses here, according to Mark and local historian Jerry Karwowski, include Pugh's (oil and marina) which began in 1850, nine years after the first Pughs arrived; Gold Medal Furniture and Mohr-Jones Hardware. By the turn of the century, according to Karwowski, the Welsh were "old money" in Racine, as other immigrants arrived.

Schoolteacher Mary Pugh, and John Roberts, wrote a booklet in 1948 documenting our Welsh heritage. It was called, "1840-1948: More than a Century With the Welsh in Racine." The Welsh were here just six years after the village's founding in 1834. We've had three Welsh mayors, William Vaughan in 1859, who was born in Wales, Gleason Morris, 1939-43, and Owen Davies, 1987-95.

The St. David's Benevolent Society was formed in 1889, "to assist Welshmen in need; to aim to keep the Welsh language alive and in its purity..." Mona Everett of Madison, who came here with her husband, Len, to join the St. David's Day Celebration -- her grandfather emigrated from South Wales to Baltimore in the 18oos -- told me a tale about St. David when I impertinently asked what St. David did to become a saint; after all, St. Patrick drove the snakes from Ireland, and St. George slew the dragon...

Saint David, the patron saint of Wales, lived from about 500 to 589 AD; he was a preacher who promoted a simple life, one without personal possessions. Mona says: "The best-known miracle associated with Saint David is said to have taken place when he was preaching in the middle of a large crowd at the Synod of Llanddewi Brefi. When those at the back complained that they could not see or hear him, the ground on which he stood is reputed to have risen up to form a small hill so that everyone had a good view. A white dove was seen settling on his shoulder—a sign of God's grace and blessing."

Dafydd Wigley shows his family tree to Mayor John Dickert

The honored guest at Sunday's celebration was Dafydd Wigley, who gladly showed his family tree, and his relationship to Racine's D.P. Wigley.

Dafydd's family tree (click to enlarge) also revealed another interesting relative -- a distant cousin was "Murray the Hump" (Humphrey) -- Al Capone's accountant. Dafydd's wife was a harpist for the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, and he has visited Racine before, touring D.P. Wigley's historic building in 1995, and another time leaving his card after stopping in after the Flynns had left for the day. This year, when Chris heard he was going to be around for the St. David's Day Celebration, she made sure he'd come here again. He also attended a celebration in Minneapolis this weekend.

Karwowski gave Wigley a book of Racine postcards. And Cory Mason, also representing Rep. Bob Turner, presented him and the St. David Society of Racine and Vicinity with a plaque; the citation commemorated Welsh Heritage Week (March 1-7, as declared by Mayor Dickert) congratulated the Society, and welcomed Dafydd to Racine. The citation noted the long Welsh tradition in Racine, former Welsh mayors and how Dafydd is related to the Racine Wigleys.

For more information on Welsh-American activities, and the 79th annual North American Festival of Wales, to be celebrated in Portland, OR, in September, visit this website.

From a Welsh 1912 book; these four pictures are from Jerry Karwowski

The Welsh Kymric Club's 10th annual banquet, April 12, 1906

This Kymric Club float won first prize on July 4, 1906.
It represented music, art and literature.

Bringing up the rear in the 1909 Homecoming Parade:
The 6P's Band. Pinkham's Punk Pink Pill Peruna Players.
All the Pinkham Band boys were Welsh.