April 24, 2010

Gateway dedicates Ball Demonstration Gardens

Light spring rains didn’t keep hundreds of visitors away from  the many exhibits, hands-on demonstrations and market items at Celebrate Earth Day hosted by Gateway Technical College today.

The event at Gateway’s Kenosha campus provided several ways to learn about environmental issues. Attendees picked up free Japanese lilac and oak tree saplings and compost, children enjoyed hands-on activities, and adults posed questions to gardening and bicycling experts and learned about different ways they can positively reuse, recycle and impact the environment – and their pocketbook.

Jeannine Rollette watches her son,
Andrew, transplant a seedling

One of the highlights was the dedication of the Ball Horticulture Demonstration Gardens, which will provide hands-on training for Gateway students and add beauty to the Kenosha Campus. The gardens will encompass about 1,000 sq. ft. and will be a trial garden for new Ball Horticulture Company hybrid plants.

“Having these gardens will allow us to not only introduce students to the basics, but also to work with and evaluate those hybrids that aren’t even introduced to the public yet,” said Gateway Technical College Horticulture instructor Kate Field. “Consumers are always looking for something different, something new. This will introduce students and community to those newer flowers.”

Ball develops, produces and distributes seeds and plants and operates in 20 countries. The gardens will be trial plots for hybrid flowers which have yet to be distributed. Gateway students will be trained in how to scientifically evaluate the flowers for growth, flowering, disease resistance and vigor. They will also be trained in design, maintenance and marketing plants they will be growing and evaluating.

“I think these gardens will also be a benefit to the college, and to the community,” said Field. “These beautiful gardens will provide a quality image for our residents to enjoy – and for businesses and folks considering moving to Kenosha to realize that we value our community.”

Greenhouse's blossoms open early for local photogs

Outside, there was fog coming in from the lake, and drizzle from above. But inside Wayne's Daughters Greenhouse on Douglas Avenue Saturday afternoon there was lush greenery, a rainbow of bright colors and the steady click, click, click of camera shutters.

Although the door to the greenhouses had a hand-written sign saying, "No Peeking. Open May 1st," a contingent of area photographers -- mostly amateurs -- spent the afternoon taking pictures of the beautiful flowers inside, and sharing with each other their knowledge of how best to do so.

The air was full of conversations about "ISO," "aperture," "depth of field" and the like, as the Milwaukee Photography Meetup Group spent the afternoon wandering from flower to flower, trying a low f-stop here to blur the background, available light there, a macro lens to get in really close, a long zoom lens for a sea of flowers, diffused flash for some extra pop. Maybe even a spritz of water.

At all times the two-dozen photogs obeyed the first rule of nature photography, as laid out by Michael Lee LaPointe, who organized the shoot: "Take only pictures; leave only footprints." Casey Loppnow, who with her sister Katie -- both are actually two of Wayne's four daughters, if you must ask -- runs the operation, was less doctrinaire, making clear that the photogs could move this or that to get the picture they wished, as long as they put it back when done. As for spritzing the flowers with water for effect, "Just don't soak 'em," she said.

Wayne's Daughters Greenhouses date back to a family farm in 1839. Casey said some nieces are the ninth generation involved in the business, which has both a more rustic  "farm" location, at 2429 43rd St. in Caledonia, and the "city" location that has been in operation for six years at 6207 Douglas Ave. in Caledonia.

What sets Wayne's Daughters Farm and Greenhouses apart from, say, the larger Milaegers, located a mile and a half south, is this, according to Casey: "We do all the dirty work. We grow everything ourselves." It's a family tradition, she said; from the time they were little, the girls were "picking rocks and picking produce. It's how we became such a strong family." Someone asked Casey whether she has a PhD in horticulture. "No," she said, "just a lifetime of knowledge."

The greenhouses will  open to the public on May 1, and flower lovers who've been here before know to come early. "By May 16, you're done," said one of the photographers, looking up briefly from his Nikon's eyepiece. Within a couple of weeks, all the monster-sized hanging flower baskets, for example  -- 24" pots with dozens of beautiful flowers planted in late January/early February, none costing more than $70 -- will be gone. Here's the link to Wayne's Daughters Greenhouses website.

For more information about the Milwaukee Photography Meetup group, go here. The group's next scheduled event is Saturday, May 1, at 3:30 p.m., photographing wildflowers at Petrifying Springs Park. Photographers of all skill levels are usually welcomed at the group's events, most of which are free.

Casey Loppnow with a new flower, Picasso, a member of the petunia family

 A closer view of Picasso, with its green-bordered bloom, from Proven Winner

To see more pictures taken by photogs at today's photoshoot at Wayne's Daughters Greenhouses, check here.

April 23, 2010

Goal for postal carriers' May food drive: 100,000 lbs.

By Dan Taivalkoski
Executive Director, Racine County Food Bank

The 18th annual NALC National Food Drive to “Stamp Out Hunger” is the largest one-day food drive in the nation. Carriers collected a record 73.4 million pounds of food in last year’s drive. Keep an eye out for a donation bag and a reminder postcard in your mailbox to be delivered in early May, and don’t forget to donate!
Working with the Hunger Task Force in Milwaukee, Piggly Wiggly and Northwestern Mutual have underwritten the cost of the reminder bags for the entire state. Postcards are sponsored by the Campbell Soup Company and the U.S. Postal Service’s Priority Mail.

Locally, food is collected for the Racine County Food Bank, “The Food Pantry’s Food Pantry,” by NALC Branch 436 with help from the U.S. Postal Service, the United Way of Racine County, the AFL-CIO, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 767, Great Northern Corporation and the Racine Founders Rotary Club to name a few. Space does not permit thanks to all of the individuals and organizations that contribute their time and talents to this important event. Last year, the Racine County Food Bank was the beneficiary of over 70,000 pounds of  non-perishable food generated by this food drive.

An estimated 30 million people face hunger every day in America, including more than 12 million children. This year’s drive is extremely important to the hundreds who have lost their jobs in Racine County and hundreds more who face economic uncertainty. As a result, the goal for the May 8 collection is 100,000 pounds of food; a goal that our community can certainly achieve.

This drive, our largest, provides the Food Bank with ten to fifteen percent of all of the food that we distribute to our affiliate pantries, shelters and meal programs throughout the county for the entire year. Donations collected from this food drive help the Racine County Food Bank feed the hungry all summer long. Summer is an especially high-risk period for hunger because many children in need are not receiving regular meals in school. With our assistance, our affiliates provide an average of more than 60,000 meals each and every month.

When considering your donation, we ask that you avoid items packaged in glass; one broken jar can damage hundreds of other donations. In addition, please do not donate items that have gone past the expiration date. If it’s not something that you would feed to your family, we don’t want to give it to ours.

Finally, while we will gladly take any non-perishable food that you have to offer, you can make your donation extra special by donating one or more of the high-protein and nutrient packed items on our “Super Six” most needed items list which includes: peanut butter, canned meat, canned fish, beef stew, canned fruit or fruit juice and canned pasta with meat.

Questions raised about light atop Wind Point Lighthouse

With boating season just a few weeks away, the Racine County Sheriff's Department is pressing the U.S. Coast Guard to replace the light source atop the Wind Point Lighthouse.

Sgt. William Halliday, head of the sheriff's department's water patrol, wrote a letter to Coast Guard Commander C.V. Teeney on April 8 laying out problems with the lighthouse's light, which was replaced in 2008.

Halliday says the new light, a VRB-25 made in New Zealand, is not bright enough to assist boaters with navigation and could lead to more stranded boaters.
It is my opinion that this lamp for the Wind Point Lighthouse is not an adequate replacement for the original lamp and does not provide the identifying characteristics nor intensity that is needed for the purpose it was originally constructed.
While his letter raises concerns specifically about lighthouse's light, Halliday also notes electronic navigation has replaced nautical charts on most boats. This is a big problem if the boat's electrical system fails. Halliday writes:
I have also had 17 years of responding to distress calls on Lake Michigan and have found that the art of plotting on a nautical chart has become nearly nonexistent. Upon inspections after calls for assistance, in most cases, there are no local charts on board. In some instances, the skippers were using road maps and in one case a restaurant place mat to navigate.
Here is Sgt. Halliday's letter to Commander Teeney:

April 8,2010

Commander C.V. Teeney
Coast Guard Sector Lake Michigan
2420 S Lincoln Memorial Drive
Milwaukee W153207

RE: Wind Point Lighthouse

Dear Commander Teeney:

Thank you for your letter dated December 21, 2009, detailing the observations of the Wind Point Lighthouse light from your patrol boat. I was very impressed with your new utility boat, slated to replace the aging 41-foot boats.

The reason for my response to your letter, is to impress upon you and your colleagues how important the Wind Point Lighthouse is as a local aid to navigation. We should focus our efforts in keeping the light not only with the proper flash sequence, but also with sufficient intensity to do the job that it was originally intended to do.

In what I would assume was a cost savings decision, the original lamp was replaced in the fall of 2008 by a VRB-25 light, manufactured in New Zealand. I have read that this particular light has been used in over 400 applications by the U.S. Coast Guard across the country. In certain applications, where the light sweep span is 180 degrees and beam intensity is not a major issue, I am sure that this lamp is sufficient for those needs. However, on this particular light, the functioning span is nearly 240 degrees. In our on the water observations, as you remember, showed that this light displayed secondary flashes that you describe in your letter as "due north" and "due south." In my observations, the secondary flashes would be more accurately described as being visible from nearly 30 degrees, both ways, from the compass points of 0 degrees and 180 degrees. Considering that most boat traffic in the area would be traveling in a north to south, or a south to north course, relying on this aid to be readily identified by its flash sequence becomes even more crucial.

It can be argued that, in this age of electronics, identifying these aids are less important. As a Department of Natural Resource and Coast Guard Auxiliary instructor for boating safety, it is well taught that electronics do not take the place of the use of plotting on a chart. I have also had 17 years of responding to distress calls on Lake Michigan and have found that the art of plotting on a nautical chart has become nearly nonexistent. Upon inspections after calls for assistance, in most cases, there are no local charts on board. In some instances, the skippers were using road maps and in one case a restaurant place mat to navigate.

As with the intensity of the light, this light should be readily seen from as far away as possible. Local boaters, in the past, describe their positions as a bearing from this very visible and distinctive aid. This assists us to provide quick response to boaters in distress. As you remember, when we attempted to locate the flash from over 10 miles away, it took a bit of time and looking to pick up the light. In a distress situation, time is going to be a factor, especially if they are attempting to identiff the light against a lighted shoreline, and especially in conditions of restricted visibility. Therefore, the intensity of this light is very important.

It is my opinion that this lamp for the Wind Point Lighthouse is not an adequate replacement for the original lamp and does not provide the identifying characteristics nor intensity that is needed for the purpose it was originally constructed. Flash sequences should be accurate and match what is printed on local charts and on the Light List. As mentioned earlier, we should continue to work on instructing the boating public to rely primarily on navigation from charts and use their electronics as a check. That being the case, it is imperative that the flash sequence to aid navigation be accurate from all points of approach. The flash intensity should be strong enough to be recognized from as far a distance as practical.

I would welcome the opportunity to discuss this and other matters of mutual concern with you at your convenience.


Robert D. Carlson, Sheriff
By: Sgt. William R. Halliday
OIC, Racine County Sheriff Water Patrol

Wind Point Lighthouse; that's Venus at right
Photo by James Jordan 2007 (More great pictures by Jim HERE.)

UW-Parkside seeks Americorp*VISTA applications

Looking for a job? UW-Parkside's Americorps*VISTA program may be a good fit.

The university's Center for Community Partnerships has a number of AmeriCorps*VISTA positions available. The one-year appointments involve working with existing programs in the environment, mentoring, working with nonprofit organizations, and in community relations. Applications for these positions are now being accepted.

AmeriCorps*VISTA participants spend a year collaborating with local students, faculty, staff, and community partners to support community service and service-learning programs, developing strong campus-community partnerships focusing on anti-poverty outcomes, and improving access to college for low-income people. The positions available include working for Mentor Kenosha & Racine, for the Nonprofit Development Program’s “CAN Works” project, for Peace Learning Circles, and with the Environmental Center’s programs.

AmeriCorps*VISTA employees are paid approximately $891 per month. Satisfactory completion of a full year of service makes members eligible for a $5,350 education award paid in the form of a voucher to offset expenses or a $1,500 cash stipend. AmeriCorps*VISTAs are eligible to receive forbearance on most federal student loans along with health care coverage and child care.

Applications are now being accepted for these positions and interviews will continue through early May. Selection of this year’s AmeriCorps*VISTA employees will be announced in May 2010. Each position begins with paid national training scheduled in summer 2010.

For more information on each program or to apply, visit http://www.uwp.edu/departments/community.partnerships/employment.cfm, call Ruth Tylock at (262) 595-2637, or access ruth.tylock@uwp.edu by email.

Popular 'E3' summer youth program returns for second year

In 2009, UW-Parkside student Joshua Bradley, second from left, explains rain garden planting techniques to Kara Hamilton while Jesse Perry, Gino Falbo, and Sean Austin work nearby. The Racine students were working in last year's E3 jobs program.

'E3' is back for round 2.

The summer employment and training program, short for "Employ, Enrich, Engage," is now accepting applications for this summer. Between 100 and 150 young adults between the ages of 14 and 24 from throughout Racine County are expected to participate. Applications are accepted from youth seeking work experience and employers to host participants.

New for 2010 is a summer course led by the Racine Unified School District and the Burlington School District to help youth learn successful workplace skills. Students can earn up to 0.5 high school credits; older students out of high school can earn continuing education credits from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. During the course, eligible participants will be paid a stipend and focus on developing their "soft skills." Course work will include six weeks of work experience in the areas of "green jobs" and construction work. Eligible participants can earn $7.25 to $10 per hour.

“The county’s partnerships with area educators and community leaders in developing the program’s vision, goals, and structure were vital last year and will be essential in 2010,” said Workforce Development Center Manager Alice Oliver.

“This year, we expect to exceed higher expectations for the quality of work sites and the caliber of young people who will become 'work ready, work smart' through a combination of work, training and mentoring,” added Crystal McCollum, WDC Youth Team Leader who also serves as UW-Parkside’s Youth Development Manager.

Employers and youth interested in this year’s E3 program can log onto www.wdc.racineco.com to learn more and submit an application.

"The fact that this program is being sustained for another year after the initial stimulus funding has run out is a great testimony to the success of 2009's program and the strength of the community collaboration that brought this effort to fruition," said UW-Parkside Community Development Director Mark Gesner. "I'm excited Racine County youth will continue to learn how a post-secondary education plays a key role in helping them realize their career goals, and how UW-Parkside serves as an active partner in vital community development efforts."

In addition to UW-Parkside and Racine Unified, this year’s partners include Educators Credit Union, Burlington Area School District, Gateway Technical College, UW Extension, City of Racine, Wisconsin Div. of Vocational Rehabilitation, United Way of Racine Co., Racine Area Manufacturers and Commerce, Racine/Kenosha Community Action Agency, and the Racine Family YMCA.

For more information on the program, call Crystal McCollum at (262) 638-6622.

City's new website includes blogs for aldermen

The city's new website includes a long-overdue feature for city aldermen: blogs.

City officials rolled out their new look at www.cityofracine.org earlier this month. The new website gives a nice facelift to Racine's online home while retaining connections to useful services like legistar, which tracks all agendas and minutes for city meetings.

One new feature added is a blogging system for City Council members. Each alderman has a page that shows their picture, a map of the district and a blog they can add stories and comments to.

New alderman Eric Marcus, who was just sworn into office Tuesday, is the first (and so far only) to make use of the new blogging system. He's posted three stories and a poll on the Second District page, which you can see at: www.cityofracine.org/2nd

It's a nice tool for the aldermen, and hopefully they'll use it as an opportunity to share their views, float ideas and clue constituents in on important issues.

House passes Feingold 'no raises' bill

 Update, April 27: Today, by a 402-15 vote, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill identical to the one Sen. Russ Feingold introduced in the Senate to prevent members of Congress from receiving a raise next year.  After the Senate passed his bill, Feingold led a bipartisan group of 21 senators in writing to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi urging her take up and pass an identical bill introduced by Rep. Harry Mitchell, D-AZ, and Rep. Jim Matheson, D-UT.

“I am very pleased that the House has passed a bill to stop the congressional pay raise for next year, just days after the Senate passed my legislation to do the same,” Feingold said. “With so many Americans still looking for jobs, the last thing Congress should do is give itself a taxpayer-funded raise. This is important progress, but there’s still more to do. The law still allows members of Congress to get an automatic pay raise without lifting a finger. I will continue working to end this back-door pay raise system once and for all.”

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-WI, 1st District, voted with the majority.

Original post:
Senate rejects pay raise, thanks to Feingold

We don't want no steenkin' pay raise!

That's the message from the U.S. Senate, which Thursday passed legislation by Sen. Russ Feingold that would cancel the automatic pay raise members of Congress would receive next year.

Congressmen and Senators already earn $174,000 a year (leaders get more), so the rejection of a $1,600 raise is largely symbolic to average Joes. Congress had already enacted legislation ensuring there would be no raise this year. The Senate approved Feingold's bill unanimously; the House is expected to go along.

For Feingold himself, the measure is totally symbolic, because of a 1992 pledge he made when he first ran for the Senate -- a pledge to accept no pay raises during his term in office. Feingold returns to the U.S. Treasury any pay above the level in effect each time he's elected.

“Members of Congress have a lot of perks, but the one that stands out is their ability to raise their own pay,” Feingold said. “Not many Americans have the power to give themselves a raise whenever they want, no matter how they are performing. Yet Congress has set up a system whereby every year members automatically get a pay increase without having to lift a finger.

"I refuse to be a part of that system, and I will continue to work to permanently end it. But in the meantime, Congress should at least give up its raise for next year. With so many Americans looking for jobs, and trying to figure out how to pay their bills, now is no time to give ourselves a taxpayer-funded pay raise.”

Feingold has introduced legislation to end the automatic pay raise system. It went through the Senate last year, but the House of Representatives has not acted on it yet.The measure would save $80 million over ten years, Feingold said.

April 22, 2010

City reports north side copper burglaries

The Racine Police Department put out the following announcement Thursday:
The City of Racine has experienced a string of residential burglaries on the north side of the city. At least two dozen burglaries have been reported since the beginning of this year. The targeted homes are vacant or unoccupied. The homes are generally located in an area bounded by 3 Mile Rd on the north, Douglas Ave. on the west and Hamilton St. on the south. The suspects typically enter the home through a rear or side window or door. The burglars then remove large sections of copper pipe from the home. The Racine Police Department anticipates that there are unreported incidents or will be other incidents in the near future.
The Racine Police Department wants to remind all residents to remain aware of suspicious activity, persons or vehicles. Residents are asked to pay particular attention to homes that are for sale, foreclosed, vacant or otherwise unoccupied. At any time, if you believe that activity in your neighborhood is suspicious, call the Racine Police Department at (262) 635-7700 and request assistance.
Racine Police Investigators are interested in any additional information that 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.

Guess who came for dinner ... at the zoo

Zoo director Jay Christie examines the hole through which two pheasants disappeared

UPDATE, April 28: Turns out, those missing pheasants did not expire on someone's dinner table. One of them, in fact, is back at the Zoo. Jay Christie reports that one was caught on the Zoo grounds Sunday, and the other was spotted Saturday near All Saints. So be on the lookout...

Original post:

While he's enjoying the arrival of two lion cubs at the Racine Zoo, Jay Cristie is also dealing with a mystery.

Christie, the zoo director, was confronted this morning with an empty cage. Two pheasants disappeared during the night -- apparently stolen. At least a big hole in their cage's fence would appear to indicate that thieves are involved.

The missing birds are golden pheasants, with a value of no more than $15 each. They're about one and one-half years old, and if Christie had to guess the thief or thieves' reason for stealing them, his first guess is "dinner."

This is the first animal theft Christie has had to deal with in his 12 years at the zoo.

Seventh-graders get a behind-the-scenes look at Holes

Doug Instenes, creative director for the Racine Theatre Guild, and Shawn Britten demonstrate stage fighting for seventh-graders. 

The Racine Theatre Guild hosted seventh-graders from Mitchell and Gilmore middle schools Thursday for a series of workshops giving students a behind-the-scenes look at a professional theater production. Theatre Guild staff and volunteers demonstrated make up, stage fighting and improvisation for the students. Following the workshops, the students watched the Theatre Guild's current production, Holes, which runs through this weekend. Tickets are still available for the Saturday shows at 4 and 7:30 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m.

The workshops are part of a program sponsored by SC Johnson to introduce local students to theater. All seventh-graders in Racine Unified take part in the workshops, and students from elementary and middle schools throughout the county attended day-time performances of the play.

Here are photos from the morning workshop:

Makeup artist Betsy Hurlbut demonstrated how to use makeup and to create scars, cuts and bruises. Here's the results ...

And here ...

On the Theatre Guild's main stage, Doug Instenes, creative director for the Guild, and Shawn Britten, who is an actor in Holes, dueled for the seventh-graders. Instenes and Britten went through choreographed scenes with swords, punches and kicks. The key to a good stage fight, Instenes said: Exaggeration. In real life, fights are over quick. On the stage, actors exaggerate moves to build drama - and to give the actors plenty of time to avoid taking a blow.

In the Theatre Guild's Green Room, Briana Lipor demonstrated improvisation with the seventh-graders. Students took turns acting in a scene where two people were sitting on a bench and a third person is hiding in a bush and whispering words to them. The actors had to improv their lines and react to the cues in funny ways.

Lipor, left in the black shirt, works with students on improvised acting. 

Seventh-graders watch as their classmates take part in the scene. Interesting aside: The Green Room at the Theatre Guild is actually green. 

Holes is based on the popular novel by Louis Sachar. Disney turned the book into a movie in 2003. The Theatre Guild faced a number of technical challenges in staging the story as a play. The first major problem: They needed to dig holes in in the floor. Scenic designer Steve Barnes came up with some clever solutions to create the needed effects to put on the show.

You can buy tickets for this weekend's shows by calling (262) 633-4218. 

Two lion cubs born at Racine Zoo

Two lion cubs were born at the Racine Zoo on March 16.

The Transvaal cubs – one male and one female -- are the second litter born to Elsa and Aslan. The cubs weigh approximately 11 pounds each. Both mother and cubs are doing very well, hitting all health and developmental benchmarks.

Theresa Donarski, the zoo's animal care supervisor, said, “We knew there was a high likelihood that Elsa would give birth again. She and Aslan proved to be great parents to the four cubs born a few years ago. Elsa is definitely more comfortable this time, though. She will leave the cubs in their den and go outside for short stretches, allowing us to easily access the cubs for health screenings.”

The cubs are in quarantine and not yet on exhibit due to the process of acclimating them to their family and environment. Quarantine ends on Thursday, May 27 when they go on exhibit in the Vanishing Kingdom historic main building during a Members Appreciation event. They are scheduled for public viewing starting at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 29. They will then be on exhibit daily from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Jay Christie, president of the zoo, said, "We’ve had a tough time keeping their births quiet, but wanted to be sure they were healthy and Elsa was taking good care of them prior to sharing this exciting news." In the next few weeks, the zoo will announce details of a “Name the Cubs” contest.

Here are pictures of the cubs' parents. Dad Aslan was sunning outside this afternoon, but Mom Elsa stayed inside, looking out the window at three piles of fresh meat put there by her keeper -- but refusing to leave her cubs, despite the arrival of Channel 4's videographer.

Here's our story and picture of Elsa's last litter, which was born on Sept. 6, 2007.

April 21, 2010

Public transit bill dies in the state Senate; Window closes on law needed for commuter rail in Racine

Like the Tennessee Titans in the 2000 Super Bowl, supporters of a state proposal to create regional transit authorities around Wisconsin look like they'll come up just short Thursday. Supporters are making a last gasp to pass the legislation, but there's little hope it will happen. 

It's looking like efforts to pass a regional transit authority are playing out just as we reported they would a few weeks back. In summary, the RTA for southeastern Wisconsin is dead - and there won't even be a final vote to bury the proposal.

The Assembly is scheduled to take up the issue tomorrow, which happens to be the last day of the Legislative session. Even if the Assembly passes the bill, which is no guarantee, it still has to pass the Senate. Doing so with little to no time to debate the measure is highly, highly unlikely.

Further complicating the matter: the Senate isn't even scheduled to take up the measure Thursday. For RTA supporters, it's like that old gambling slogan ... you can't win if you don't play.

Transit Now, the lobbying group pushing for RTAs, attempted to rally supporters Wednesday with an optimistic rallying-cry email that suggested there's still hope. Maybe there is, but with RTAs not on the voting schedule, the issue probably won't even come up. With no RTA, there's no way commuter rail through Racine will happen - at least not in the near future. With Gov. Jim Doyle on his way out, and November elections swinging toward Republicans, it could be a long time before public transit supporters get another chance like this.

Here's the Transit Now letter that was sent to RTA supporters on Wednesday:
RTA Assembly Bill Advances: We are SO Close but WE ARE NOT DONE YET!
Please share this email with your members and networks and ask for their help in reaching this historic milestone.
We're Still Fighting. Thursday is our last chance to get the RTA DONE!
Your help is needed today and tomorrow!
Yesterday and early this morning, the landmark Regional Transit Authority legislation that we've all worked so hard to advance was heard by the state Assembly. 19 amendments on AB-282 were debated. A great deal of progress was made—and many attacks on transit were thwarted.
Our deep appreciation to our unflappable transit champions in the Assembly. They have been working 24-7 for weeks and pulled out all the stops yesterday. Thanks especially to Reps Peter Barca, Tamara Grigsby, Chris Sinicki, Cory Mason, and others.
The final vote on AB-282 has been rescheduled for Thursday, April 22 along with reconsideration of amendment 2 requiring a binding referendum in Milw Co. A senate vote for tomorrow must also scheduled by Senate Leader Russ Decker.
The amendment for reconsideration mandates a binding referendum in Milwaukee County to allow a sales tax for transit and removal of transit costs from the property tax levy. This amendment was passed even though a referendum in Nov. 2008 has already passed. Currently, the RTA bill’s language states that Milwaukee County’s advisory referendum that passed in November 2008 suffices.
This added referendum takes us backward to move forward and wastes valuable time and money. The people have spoken on this issue and Milwaukee's crisis is urgent. Let's move forward and solve the transit crisis now.
Your are Needed Today and Tomorrow: Thursday is IT!
Our last opportunity...We need to give it everything. This is our moment to shine!
Call your Representative and Senator TODAY, this is CRUCIAL especially if you live in these districts: 
Reps. Cullen, Staskunus, Krusick, Honadel, and Stone. Senators Sullivan and Darling—all of whom plan to vote NO or are undecided. Find your legislators: 1-800-362-9472, http://bit.ly/h6EY9
Join us at the Assembly and Senate Votes on RTA! Your presence makes a big difference.
10 AM, Thursday, April 22, Earth Day
State Capital, RM 412 E
If you can't come at 10:00 come later in the day and consider it an "after work party"
Attend a briefing at 10:00 and then drop into offices and let them know what your expectatations are and why passing the RTA and moving forword with the exisiting referendum is the solution that we urgently need.
Please let us now if you will traveling to Madison: kthomas@transitnow.org
This bill is about JOBS and economic development that we desperately need!
There are many trades people and entire neighborhoods that are at 50% unemployment! How can we not pass this jobs bill!
Milwaukee will lose 1/3 of it’s bus service beginning in January 2011. Racine and Kenosha are not far behind.
This is in addition to the 20% service cuts and 50% fare increases that have taken place over the past 7 years. 60,000 jbs will become inaccessible by transit.
Dollars will stay in communities that they are raised in and local elected official must vote to create IRTA's and designate funding sources and amounts. No community is forced to below to an RTA.
If legislators oppose the RTA, ask them what their Plan B is for their constituents when their buses are cut and they can’t get to work or to school or the doctor's office, and those whose jobs and economic development do not materialize.
We can’t afford the cost of inaction on the RTA bill AB-282. AB-282 is the best jobs and economic development opportunity that we will see. AB 282 gives SE WI and all communities in Wisconsin the ability to vote locally to create RTAs and save our steeply declining local transit systems, create jobs and economic growth, and give people in SE WI much needed property tax relief.
Click here to see more about the RTA bill, AB-282.
See news: Assembly Endangers Transit Bill
See Sunday's op ed by Chancellor Ford, President Albrecht, and Presisdent Cambpell
See and share widely this powerful new 5 minute transit video:
"What Wisconsin Leaders and Citizens are Saying about Transit"
Thanks--We are SO Close!

Update: And ... scene. RTA is dead after the Senate fails to vote. Transit supporters had two years of Democrats controlling the Senate, Assembly and governor's office and couldn't get the framework in place to extend commuter rail through Racine. Looks like it's time to support something legislators can get behind: building roads.

Lights out back on in Sturtevant

All the lights in Sturtevant went out Wednesday night around 9 p.m. Initial reports are a blown transformer. The power outage affected street lights, store signs and even traffic signals, which made for some hectic driving through the village. It affected most properties between Highway 31 and I-94 in Sturtevant and Mount Pleasant.

Update 10:27 p.m.: Lights are back on.

Samm the ham gets a 60-day extension from planners

Cameras aim at Jim and Samm Markstrom, flanking their attorney, Mark Hazelbaker

Samm the ham got his day in court Wednesday ... well, his day before the Mt. Pleasant Planning Commission ... and won a 60-day reprieve for the ham radio tower in his backyard.

Although his lawyer admitted the proper permits were not obtained -- "Sometimes, there's miscommunication between client and contractor," said Atty. Mark Hazelbaker of Madison -- the argument came down to two issues: Who has the right to specify the height of a ham radio tower, and is the one built by Samm's parents sufficiently sturdy and safe.

The Planning Commission, aware of the scrutiny they were under by half a dozen TV cameras and news media reporters in the meeting room, voted unanimously to give Samm, left, and his parents, Jim and Cathy Markstrom, 60 days to produce documentation from their contractor that the tower -- too tall for their home's small lot -- is safe. Hazelbaker produced a histogram showing the rarity of tower collapses, and the unlikelihood of it causing any real harm even if it did fall, but the Planning Commission is looking for further reassurance, and an onsite inspection.

When it was suggested that the radio tower not be raised to its full height, Samm gave an impromptu lesson to the commission, explaining how lesser height would not only make the tower less effective, but would cause more interference for neighbors.

"Everyone wants a safe antenna here," said Hazelbaker.

After the meeting was over, Samm was interviewed by a number of area TV stations. He said he was happy with the outcome, but -- in a way that only a 10-year-old can -- cut right to the chase: "It's stupid," he said. "We have an inch-and-a-half stack of paperwork." He said he had been "kind of nervous" before the hearing, and said the commissioners "would understand this better if they'd get the manuals."

Mother Cathy said, "They just weren't prepared for the laws of physics." She said she was "really proud" of how Samm handled the hearing.

Links to some of Samm's TV interviews are here, on his Facebook page.

CNH's parent company to spin off Racine's construction, agriculture manufacture into new business

CNH offices in Racine

CNH's parent company announced Monday it was spinning off its construction and agriculture manufacturing business into a separate business.

Fiat will "demerge" from CNH to focus on building a global auto market. Pending Fiat board approval, CNH will become part of the new Fiat Industries and sold separate from Fiat on the Milan stock exchange.

Here's a good story on today's announcement. The Wall Street Journal, Associated Press and other are also reporting Fiat's announcement.

An insider at CNH in Racine said it's unclear what this means for local business.

"This was unexpected," they said. "People here are still trying to digest."

Sculpture embodies Racine's past, present and future

Mayor John Dickert, surrounded by 4th graders whose poems inspired the artists
The river rushes
In nature it freely flows
Creating beauty.
--Achintya Krishnan, 4th grade

Racine got a new piece of public art today, one with roots firmly planted in the city's past, present and future.

The sculpture, called Dawning, shows a phoenix rising. It was dedicated this morning alongside the Root River, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.

The city's past is represented by the sculpture's location, in the Sixth Street Bike Path Overlook, a gift to the city from the Downtown Rotary Club, which had it built in 2005 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Rotary International, whose founder -- Paul P. Harris -- was born in Racine.

The city's present is represented by the sculpture's creators, students from an eight-week welding bootcamp presented by the Workforce Development Center. Its concrete base was constructed by more students, from the the First Choice Pre-Apprenticeship Training Program.

Fourth grader Achintya Krishnan reads the haiku he wrote

And the city's future is represented by the fourth graders of Jefferson Lighthouse School, who wrote the poems that inspired the artists to create the sculpture in this form. The specific poem considered most inspiring was written by 9-year-old Achintya Krishnan, whose proud mother Anandhi was at the dedication this morning. Achintya  was called upon to read his haiku to the crowd attending the sculpture's dedication, by Mark Mundl, of the Workforce Development Center. He also had his picture taken with Mayor Dickert. But his longest-lasting honor was having his poem engraved on the sculpture's base, where it will be displayed ... forever?

Dawning was designed by two artists, Nathaniel Hunter, above, and Bruce Niemi. The project got its start about 18 months ago, when Ben Lehner wrote a grant application for a piece of public art. Money came from the Wisconsin Arts Board, but this collaborative project also involved UW-Parkside, Gateway Technical College, the Racine County Workforce Development Center, and Racine Unified School District.

The sculpture is across Sixth Street from the REC -- the Root river Environmental Education Community Center -- where every fourth grader in Racine Unified receives environmental education each year.

Walden parent floats moving high school to Monument Square

Is this the future home of Walden III School?

A group of Walden III School parents are exploring ways to save or move the alternative school, which is housed in Racine Unified's building most in need of renovation.

PTSA President Jane Finkenbine, Rebuilding Committee Head Michelle Ortwein, and Fundraising Chair Patrick Flynn are leading efforts to revamp the school without harming its alternative style of education.

Flynn, who has two children at Walden and himself graduated from the school in 1981, is floating an interesting possibility for moving Walden to the former Zahn's Building (see an old photo of the Zahn's Building here; and a newspaper article about Zahn's closing here) on Monument Square. The proposal would move Walden to a new building and fill an eyesore in Downtown Racine. It's just an idea at this point, but could be promising.

Here's Flynn's idea, which was written to Walden's Parent Teacher Student Association:

This is pure speculation, but based on information I have obtained, renovations to the Zahn's Building would run less than $3 million to host a new Walden III, not including the 14,000 sq ft addition that could be built on the empty lot next to the building. My guess is that could be done for a fraction of what it would cost to renovate and rebuild on the current site where Walden currently resides. I believe this site merits more research and if desired, we should consider what if any interest Unified would have and pursuing this option.

Unified's proposal to add an addition to the existing building is aprox. $15 Million plus repairs to the existing structure which could mount to well over $20 Million when combined. It would be in Unified's and the Tax payers best interest to pursue this option. It will be very unlikely that an opportunity such as this one will ever present itself again in Racine's future. This would be a win for everyone!

Zahn's offers numerous benefits because of it's proximity to public resources, the RAM, Museum, Lake Michigan, Etc. The Solar panels could easily be relocated to this building. The increased activity to Downtown would be an economic boom to the Downtown area. And the new school could offer all the modern conveniences a school should offer today.

Dr. Shaw's vision (Based on what he has told me directly) is our schools should remain small (Less than 600). This building would meet his vision as well as ours. Our goal would be to house up to 550 Students: (This is Key... it must be designed to hold enough classrooms to support say 22 students - 25 classrooms?) Walden has 32 teachers, 1 part time principal, two office staff , Security personnel and would need at least 4 offices for counselors, etc. And a VERY nice Office for the PTSA.

John Murphy of Architectural Associates did the plans for the Imaginarium. The net usable space for all four floors and the basement is approximately 29,000 SF. This would assume that the columns would line up for the proposed layout. The remaining 19,980 square feet is being utilized for elevators, hallways, mechanical rooms, etc.

Figuring that a standard classroom size is approximately 750 square feet (Based on RUSD's online Report) that would leave approximately 10,000 square feet for teachers lounge, cafeteria, fitness area, theater, etc. The lot to the south can accommodate a 14,000 square foot addition with approximately 70% 10,000 sf) of that for net usable space. This would include a basement, 1st and 2nd floor.

Here's some stuff I'll throw at the wall to see what sticks....

The downtown would become an extension of the classroom. Utilizing the library, museums, YMCA, the lake and businesses as educational extensions.

Create an emphasis on creating business and community leaders within the school... maybe even politics. (Our community leaders would LOVE this!)

Convert the front of Zhan's into an actual school store that supports all the apparel needs for sports, spirit wear etc for all of Unified.!

Basement would facilitate the lunch room, fitness center, and classrooms

1st floor could include a possible Lecture hall / Theater, Offices and classroom.

2nd thru 4th designated as classrooms (with 4th floor primarily related to the arts (Music / Art / theater, etc?))

4th floor existing room as a music room

Empty lot could be a parking and basketball court, Possibly able to build an extension to house a gym, racquet ball courts or fitness center.

Roof to support our solar panels (Move from existing building) Etc. etc.

Some interesting sites:



OUR VISION (work in progress):


Please let me know if and how you would like to move forward with this.

Follow state Legislature live on Wisconsin Eye ...

You can follow the closing days of the state Legislature debate on Wisconsin Eye, the state's version of CSPAN. Right now you can watch Rep. Marlin Schneider give a sermon in defense of Rep. Jeff Wood, the independent state legislator who was arrested three times in a year for drunken driving. (Though Rep. Mark Pocan just pointed out Wood had no alcohol in his system during his last arrest; he did have prescription drugs, though.)

No word on when, or whether, they'll take up the RTA legislation that would affect Racine.

Mason's 'Green to Gold' revolving loan fund passes

The Legislature Tuesday approved the "Green to Gold" legislation authored by Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, to create a $100 million revolving loan fund for industries to lower their energy costs, make products that support the "green" economy and create jobs.

The state Senate passed the Senate version of SB 651, introduced by Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, early on Tuesday, and the state Assembly then passed that same bill Tuesday evening. The House vote was 78-20; all the no votes came from Republicans, including Rep. Robin Vos. The bill now moves to the Governor’s desk for his signature.

“This bill’s passage is a huge win for Wisconsin’s manufacturers,” said Rep. Mason. “These businesses want to invest in making their facilities more energy efficient. They want to be leaders in the clean energy economy. But the reality is they can’t just take the capital they use to run their plants and use it for something else, and financing is tight these days. The Green to Gold fund meets this need and gives Wisconsin’s manufacturers the tools they need to jumpstart their efforts.”

The Green to Gold fund streamlines state resources and federal dollars. The fund will provide manufacturers with low-interest loans from a revolving loan fund, so payments can be used to issue new loans. Companies eligible for the loans include those that will implement energy efficiency or renewable energy measures to improve competitiveness, retool existing facilities to manufacture products that support the green economy, expand or establish clean energy manufacturing operations; and create or retain jobs in any of the above activities.

“The Green to Gold gives us a powerful tool to help our state’s manufacturers compete in the global economy," Mason said. "These businesses will be able to reduce their energy costs and put people back to work in the process. I’m excited to help Racine’s businesses access this new fund.”

Mason has said the $100 million loan fund will be funded by existing federal stimulus funds and state money.

In other action:

Mason's "green cleaning bill" was tabled.

A bill to legalize medical marijuana won't get a vote.

The Assembly voted to regulate payday loans -- but no interest rate cap -- and sent the bill back to the Senate.

Legislator Jeffrey Wood was censured, but not expelled, for his multiple OWI convictions.

April 20, 2010

Unitarian Church announces community recipients

Olympia Brown Unitarian Universalist Church, which shares its Sunday collections with area non-profit organizations, announces those that will receive Beyond-These-Four-Walls grants for July through December. The program began as a way for the church to help others and to support community efforts to assist individuals across a spectrum of needs.

The recipients for the second half of 2010 are:
  • July, Cops ‘n Kids for youth reading and a summer garden program;
  • August, Women and Children’s Horizons for children's play equipment for victims of domestic and sexual violence and abuse;
  • September, Friends of the Public Library for youth reading through the Battle of the Books;
  • October, Racine Urban Garden Network for urban gardening and increased consumption of foods from local sources;
  • November, Racine Symphony Orchestra for annual educational events to preserve our musical heritage;
  • December, Foundations of Life for education and health for teen mothers through peer-facilitated group sessions.
The recipients make brief presentations to the congregation during their designated month to inform church members of their work and mission.

Interested non-profit organizations may contact the Unitarian Church at 634-0659 for information regarding the Beyond-These-Four-Walls Program.

Feingold wants U.S. to actually pay the costs of war

Sen. Russ Feingold wants the impossible. The headline on a press release from his office this morning read: 
Feingold pushes Congress to ensure Iraq,
Afghanistan wars do not add to deficit
Yeah, and I want my credit card bills to be paid by Donald Trump.

Feingold's said today he will offer an amendment to the Senate budget resolution "requiring that the cost of ongoing U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq be paid for." His amendment "would require that additional costs of the two wars be paid over the next 10 years, rather than be added to budget deficits.

Financing the costs over 10 years "will help avoid any potentially harmful fiscal hits to our still-recovering economy," Feingold said.

I can see where Feingold coming from, but he's drawing a fine, fine line. Whether we pay our bills over 10 years or simply refinance ad nauseum and add them to our country's mortgage... um, national debt, the bills still have to be paid, eventually. The best answer, of course, is to get the hell out of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Here's Feingold's complete statement:
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Russ Feingold announced today that he will offer an amendment to the Senate budget resolution requiring that the costs of the United States’ ongoing military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq be paid for. Feingold, a member of the Senate Budget Committee, said he would offer the amendment when the committee takes up the budget resolution, which could be as early as this week. Feingold’s amendment would require that policies be enacted now to pay for additional costs of the two wars over the next 10 years, rather than just adding to budget deficits. Allowing the wars to be paid for over the next decade will help avoid any potentially harmful fiscal hits to our still-recovering economy.

“A massive, open-ended military strategy for Afghanistan not only puts American lives at risk needlessly and hurts our efforts to combat al Qaeda globally, but it also continues to pile on to our massive debt,” Feingold said. “President Obama has said he would start putting the Afghanistan and Iraq wars on the books, instead of the shell game we saw under President Bush. But simply including the war costs in the budget does not require us to actually pay for them. If the president and the Congress choose to continue these wars, they should at least find a way to pay for them.”

According to the Congressional Research Service, the U.S. has already spent $1.09 trillion on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. If supplemental funding requested for this year and funding requested for next year are included, by the end of 2011, we will have spent $1.29 trillion on both wars. The cost to date of military operations in Iraq, which Senator Feingold voted against authorizing in 2002, is $747.6 billion, while the total cost of Afghanistan to date is $303.8 billion.

Last year, we spent nearly $60 billion in Afghanistan. In 2010, the mission in Afghanistan is expected to cost taxpayers at least $72.7 billion, and if the president’s supplemental request is granted, it will cost taxpayers $104.8 billion – every penny of which will be added to the budget deficit.

“I oppose the president’s strategy in Afghanistan because it hurts our ability to go after al Qaeda globally,” Feingold said. “But if we are going to continue these military operations, I hope we can all agree that they should be paid for so we can avoid going deeper into debt and adding to the enormous burden we are asking our children and grandchildren to bear.”

April 19, 2010

Mount Pleasant, disabled 10-year-old at odds over ham radio tower

Here's a local story that's ready to go viral. A 10-year-old boy with cerebral palsy is at odds with the Mount Pleasant Village Board over a ham radio tower built in his parents' back yard. The family says they paid permit fees and provided village officials with schematics and photos of the tower's installation (see tower right), but the village now wants the tower taken down.

Here's the press release sent Monday from the family:
Mount Pleasant Ignores State and Federal Law, Intimidates 10 Year Old
Samm Markstrom is a 10-year-old ham radio operator (KC9POP) in Mount Pleasant, WI who has cerebral palsy. Ham radio has helped Samm deal with his disability. Recently, Samm won an award for heroism for his ham radio work. Now The Village of Mount Pleasant wants Samm to stop operating and take down his ham radio tower.
The Mount Pleasant village board has been provided with permit fees, schematics and photos of it's installation. The tower has been inspected by professional engineers and proven it is safe. Also submitted to the board were documents proving the tower is well within FCC regulations. Samm's neighbors signed documents that they are not receiving interference from the tower. The family will meet with the zoning board 2pm Wednesday April 21, 2010.
Regulations of Amateur Radio antenna towers are governed by the Federal Communications Commission and the National Supremacy Clause specifically prohibits local governing bodies from regulating such structures. The FCC has codified this into PRB-1 in 1985. Read the federal law here. The State of Wisconsin also codified this legislation into law in 2001 Wisconsin state statutes ACT 50 2001, 59.69 (4f), 60.61 (3d), 62.23(7) (hf)
Follow the fight  for Samm's tower on Facebook.

Racine scores low as a 'pot-friendly' city for travelers

We had a headline up over the weekend about the Legislature taking a look at legalizing medicinal marijuana. I stumbled across a related story this morning while researching common garden weeds (honestly!).

The website We Be High, a self-proclaimed "Traveler's Guide to Getting High," breaks down different areas of the country on their "smoking level tolerance." Racine scores a 2 on a scale of 1-5, with 1 very illegal and 5 being virtually legal. From the site:
If you are seen or caught with a glass pipe you will be treated like a crack user, that is to say, very harshly. Don't draw attention and you will likely be left alone. However, the cops from the outlying burbs like Caledonia, Mount Pleasant, Wind Point, Elmwood Park, and Sturtevant are hard asses regarding weed. These are low crime areas and the citizens expect the police to "keep them safe from the scourge of dope". If you look like you are not from there or are attracting attention you will be hassled. At the slightest probable cause you will be searched. In Wisconsin the cops are allowed to search you for reasons of "officer safety".
Southeastern Wisconsin also scores a 2, but gets a slightly less ominous write-up:
Police will not stop you for no reason. If you stay fairly composed around cops and old people you can walk around high all day even in large groups.
The site says marijuana in SE Wisconsin is "... mostly available from street dealers. Stoners abound, many don't look like it but ask the obvious ones to be safe. If you are rejected it's most likely about paranoia over undercover cops." It says there's no one or two places to buy pot in Racine, but suggests going to "high-end" bars and city festivals to find dealers.

The going rate for pot in the area? The site says a  quarter ounce will cost between $25 and $100, depending on the quality.

Madison and Milwaukee scored the "most favorable" in Wisconsin for smoking marijuana. Both got a 4 on the 'smoking tolerance' scale. Here's a blunt assessment of the pot situation in Milwaukee:
City cops are more focused on murder, armed robbery and DUIs they could care less about personal amounts. They just take it away and don't issue a ticket. Just be respectful to cops don't cause problems and be discreet. In the city if you don't cause problems you will be fine even if you look like a rasta or huge stoner.

April 18, 2010

City Notes: New council installed this week; Ethics policy gets a re-write; Chickens are coming!

Newly elected City Council members will be sworn into office on Tuesday.

Two new faces are joining the council. Dennis Wiser in the 10th District and Eric Marcus in the Second District will be seated. Wiser replaces Kelli Stein, who declined to run for election after being appointed to the council. Marcus replaces Bob Anderson, who declined to seek re-election.

Also Tuesday, the council will elect a new City Council president. It's looking like a two-horse race to replace Alderman Q.A. Shakoor II as the council's top officer. Aldermen Jeff Coe and Greg Helding are vying for the position. The vote has a little more meaning this year because of the city's new succession plan, which says the City Council president becomes mayor if something happens to the elected mayor.

The City Council is also meeting Monday night to take care of its regular business. Here's a look at Monday night's agenda:

Ethics Policy
The city's Ethics Policy is getting a re-write. The new policy, included on Monday's agenda, more concretely spells out the ethical expectations of city employees and officials. Among the changes: A policy that specifically says violating any portion of the city's "Computer Hardware and Software Policy" constitutes an ethical violation. No doubt that was spelled out after the former mayor was caught with compromising photos and Internet chats on his computers. You can read the new policy here. Scroll to the last item on the agenda.

Bike races back in Downtown Racine
The "Superweek" bike races will be back in Downtown Racine for the third consecutive year. Dave Blank, president and CEO of Real Racine, is seeking input from the city on the race course through Downtown. In his letter to the city, Blank said organizers had threatened to move the races to Roosevelt Park on the south side, but downtown merchants agreed to support the races.

Office space
The Root Pike Watershed Initiative hopes to rent office space in the City Hall Annex. The city offers discounted, or even free, office space to some groups in the Annex.

Dragon Boats
The Dragon Boat Races will be back this year. They're scheduled for July 9 and 10 at Meyers Beach just off of Pershing Park Drive. The races are organized by Racine's Rotary Clubs.

Cruz in for the Cause
The Redline Tavern is planning the eighth annual "Cruz in for the Cause" benefit to support Safe Haven of Racine. The event is scheduled for July 17 and will be held on North Wisconsin Street between Hamilton and Hubbard.

Urban chickens
The chickens are coming! Or, at least debate over chickens is coming. Alderman Greg Helding is requesting an ordinance that would allow city residents to keep up to four chickens in their yards for personal use. The ordinance will start at the Public Safety and Licensing Committee, but no doubt several committees will want a crack at this ordinance. A few of Helding's proposed restrictions: no roosters, no egg sales and no slaughtering chickens in the city. For more on the proposal, visit: Belle City Chickens.

Monument Square Art Fair
The Monument Square Art Fair is back. Organizers want to rent their customary lakefront space on June 12-13 this year.

Plant sale
Racine Neighborhood Watch hopes to use the City Annex parking lot for its plant sale fundraiser pickup on Saturday, May 15 from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday was the deadline to order plants from the nonprofit.

Parade routes
Prior to Monday's City Council meeting, there will be a Committee of the Whole meeting. The main legislative item on the agenda is Coe's request to waive fees for the St. Patrick's Day and holiday parades through Downtown Racine. In order to bring the city on as a sponsor, the City Council would need to amend an ordinances that currently restricts city sponsorship to the Fourth Fest and Memorial Day parades. Coe's idea got a chilly reception from the Finance and Personnel Committee.

Two city agencies may lose money hung up by disputes

Two city agencies may lose tens of thousands of dollars after reaching an impasse over how to spend the money.

Alderman Greg Helding put in two communications for Monday's City Council meeting to take $30,000 from the Racine Public Library's budget and $40,000 from the city's cable-access TV budget. Both the library and CAR25 have failed to spend the money despite support from the City Council and mayor to do so.

Mayor John Dickert wanted to spend $40,000 to hire an internationally renown TV journalist to revamp the station. Dickert's plans were thwarted by the station's board and eventually by the City Council. Despite the consultant's credentials, the mayor was criticized because he didn't take bids for the job and was friends with person he recommended for the contract.

The council voted last fall to give the library an additional $33,000 to open on Sundays during the school year, but five months later the library has yet to add the hours. The issue now appears dead. The library just reached a contract with a union that did not include Sunday hours, and it appears the Library Board is reluctant to reconsider the issue.

Helding's communication requests transferring the $40,000 from CAR25's professional services account to the city's "Judgement and Claims" account, which took a hit earlier this year when the city agreed to pay Sandra Tingle $50,000 to settle her case sexual harassment claim.

As for the library money, Helding wants to move $30,000 of the funding to the city's "Contingency" account, which is typically used for unexpected expenses. The money could also be carried over into the 2011 budget, which is already looking tight.