May 8, 2010

Farmers' market opens with asparagus and shivers

It was slim pickings Saturday morning, as Racine's Farmers' Market opened for the first time this season.  Farmers and patrons alike were bundled in sweaters and coats, which should not be surprising given the morning's cold -- and a frost warning issued for tonight for parts of Wisconsin.

Nonetheless, ten farm booths were present, huddled along the west wall of the CNH parking lot on State Street, selling fresh asparagus, rhubarb, eggs, meat and plants. Along with cookies, painted gourds, goat's milk soap and the world's smallest tomato plants.

Farmers present promised a greater selection soon -- as the growing season progresses and warmer weather returns. The downtown farmers' market is open from 8 a.m. to noon through October. Other farmers' markets include: Elmwood Plaza, Tuesdays, 8 a.m. to noon; West Racine, Wednesdays, 1 to 5 p.m.; West Racine, Fridays, 8 a.m. to noon.

Luanne Gall shows how much her 'world's smallest tomato plants' will grow.
Belinda Copus with a few of her 46 varieties of goats' milk soap. "It's hypo-allergenic, without lye and chemicals and full of vitamins," she says. Smells great, too.

Hub Braun, 86, hand-paints these delightful gourd animals.

May 7, 2010

The cartoon @

Go here for more on this trashy story.

State raises concerns about county jail's medical staffing; County Board eyes spending increase

(Above) The Racine County Jail. (Below-left) Sheriff Bob Carlson inside the jail. 

The state Department of Corrections removed at least 25 inmates from the Racine County Jail earlier this year over concerns about the level of medical staffing in the jail.

Sheriff Bob Carlson said Friday the state relocated some, but not all, of its prisoners to other jails after pressing the county to add medical staff. He said the County Board is now looking to do just that.

Board members are scheduled to vote Tuesday on adding a full-time nurse practioner to the jail and increasing the number of doctor hours from six to 12 per week. The additional staffing by Health Professionals Ltd. would cost $153,750.

Carlson said he expected the board to approve the additional staff.

"We feel it's a significant step forward," he said.

But even if the positions are approved, and then filled, the sheriff said he didn't know if the state would return the removed inmates to the jail.

"It will depend on their needs," Carlson said.

Another source close to the situation said the loss of the state inmates is another blow to county revenue, and that it's resulted in a hiring freeze on jail guards. The county even had to pull at least one job offer from an employee who had given notice at work, the source said.

Carlson said there was no official "freeze" on hiring, but confirmed there wasn't a need to hire any new guards. The jail's population is so low they've closed an entire wing of the facility to save on costs.

The jail housed 676 inmates on Wednesday, nearly 200 below the jail's capacity of 860 inmates. The county spent $29 million to renovate the jail and add 210 beds for inmates. Part of the expansion included plans to increase revenue by renting out beds to outside law enforcement agencies, but it's been a bad year for that business.

First, the local inmate population is down, Carlson said. The summer months will likely see a boost in the numbers, he said, but it's unclear if the increase will require hiring more employees or opening the closed wing.

The Department of Corrections' contract is the second group of out-of-town inmates the county has lost this year. In February, Kenosha County ended an $880,000 contract with Racine County to house juvenile delinquents at the Juvenile Detention Center. Both amount to lost county revenue that will have to be made up in the county's budgets.

UW-Parkside Chancellor asks to expel teacher-ed program

The University of Wisconsin-Parkside's teacher education program -- threatened with a loss of its state accreditation last May, but reprieved with provisional approval last September -- is flunking out after all.

UW-P Chancellor Deborah Ford will ask to expel it next week, at the Faculty Senate meeting on Friday, May 14.

In a letter Ford, right, released today, she writes: "I am forwarding a resolution to the Faculty Senate today to suspend new admissions to the UW-Parkside Teacher Certification program and to dissolve the UW-Parkside Teacher Education department as it is now structured." She notes that her plan calls for "extraordinary action."

Ford proposes to halt new admissions to the program immediately, while giving those already enrolled 24 months to complete the program. She would create a new program to begin in Fall 2013.

The program ran into trouble early in 2009, when several charges were made about its record-keeping practices, and against then-director of teacher preparation Kelly McFatter. Some students reportedly were allowed to student-teach despite not having completed coursework; others did not have required documentation, or had not completed required exams. McFatter, who came to Parkside in 2006 from Louisiana State University, resigned in March 2009 and left the university. UW-P's internal investigation showed no intentional wrong-doing, blaming sloppy record-keeping. Ford became UW-P's sixth  chancellor in August 2009.

In September, when the state granted its provisional approval, State Supt. Tony Evers said full approval could be granted when UW-P's plan for bringing the program back into compliance with state rules was completed. The deadline for that was May 30, 2010.

Chancellor Ford's letter states:

A letter from Chancellor Ford on Teacher Education
Dear Campus Community,

I am writing today to address a very difficult topic and a decision we must make about one of UW-Parkside's core educational offerings.

After extensive analysis and consultation, I have come to believe that the Teacher Education program at UW-Parkside must be redesigned and restructured to ensure that future graduates enjoy a first-class educational experience. Recognizing that the quality of teacher preparation has a direct impact on the quality of K-12 education offered to Wisconsin children, I am convinced that UW-Parkside must take bold action to create the kind of teacher preparation program that meets the 21st century needs of students and communities we serve.

Provost Terry Brown and I have studied this issue closely, engaging in difficult conversations with faculty governance leaders, faculty and staff colleagues in Teacher Education, UW System administration, and Department of Public Instruction colleagues. Based on that consultation, and our shared concern for Wisconsin schoolchildren, I am forwarding a resolution to the Faculty Senate today to suspend new admissions to the UW-Parkside Teacher Certification program and to dissolve the UW-Parkside Teacher Education department as it is now structured. At my request the Chair of the Faculty Senate, Lisa Kornetsky, has agreed to call a special Faculty Senate Meeting scheduled for Friday, May 14, 1:00 p.m. and Dr. Gary Wood, Secretary of the Faculty, will post the agenda for the May 14 Faculty Senate meeting later today.

In advance of that meeting, I want to address a few important questions.

First, we must recognize that today's problems with teacher education at UW-Parkside are the byproduct of longstanding challenges which pre-date the faculty and staff members who now work in the department. As you know, this past year our colleagues in Teacher Education have worked diligently to address the corrective actions noted by the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) in May 2009. We have completed the corrective actions and I want to thank those faculty and staff colleagues for their work to implement all the remedial measures mandated by DPI. Looking beyond the near-term requirements that we have successfully met, I believe that we must hold ourselves to a higher standard and build a foundation for future improvement.

Second, I invite all members of the UW-Parkside community to share ownership of this challenge and opportunity. Faculty senators representing all academic departments will be part of this important deliberation next week. After that meeting, I hope that we can come together as a united campus community to focus on one vital goal: Creating a first-rate teacher preparation program and PK-12 professional development that prepares UW-Parkside graduates to meet the needs of communities and schoolchildren statewide. Teacher candidates enroll in courses all across our academic departments, and they are supported by a wide range of student services. This means that we all contribute to their success.

Pending Faculty Senate approval, I hope to move ahead in three phases.

The first step is to suspend admission to the current licensure program, ensuring that current licensure students have the resources and personal attention they need to complete their certification requirements over the next 24 months. The Teacher Education staff will be prepared to answer questions and develop course sequence plans for students enrolled in the current licensure program. We will also work in partnership with area UW institutions to assist students who have not yet been admitted to the licensure program.

In addition to ensuring the quality of the educational experience for current UW-Parkside Teacher Licensure students, Provost Brown will establish a new leadership position, reporting directly to her, to oversee this transition, ensure continued service for current students, and lead in the development of a new program.

The second phase is the creation of entirely new degree programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels, developed in partnership with UW-Parkside faculty and staff, area school districts and community leaders.

The third step will be to implement the new program and reopen admissions. We hope that this could be accomplished by Fall 2013.

I realize that you will have many other questions about this decision, and how it might affect faculty, staff, and students. Many of those questions will be addressed at next week's Faculty Senate meeting.

The decision to eliminate a program is one we neither make lightly nor alone. This extraordinary action, I believe, is necessary in this case and I ask for your support as we look ahead to creating a teacher preparation program that is the first choice of students and PK-12 partners in Southeastern Wisconsin.

Please feel free to contact me, Provost Brown, or members of the University Committee if you have questions. I look forward to our discussion next week at the Faculty Meeting and appreciate our work together as we look to the future in serving students and families in Southeastern Wisconsin.


Deborah L. Ford

Jobs available for CNC operators

Have CNC experience and need a job? Express Employment Professionals is holding a job fair on Tuesday to put people to work.

Here's details from Express Employment about the event:
Express Employment Professionals has multiple opportunities for long term and temp-to-hire work as CNC Set-up and Programming professionals. If you have 3 or more years of experience operating, setting up and/or programming CNC machines, lathes, and/or mills we would like to talk to you further about your job search. Our goal is to help as many people as possible find great positions at great companies. We will be at Racine County Workforce Development Center 1717 Taylor Avenue from 10 a.m. to noon on Tuesday, May 11 to conduct a job fair for the CNC positions. If you have not explored our opportunities in the past or recently, please bring a resume and you will be able to meet with a representative that day.

Zoo holding contest to name its new lion cubs

 Photo by Racine Zoo

The Racine Zoo is having a contest to name the two Transvaal lion cubs born here on March 16.

Names for the cubs, one male and one female, will be selected by the Zoo from the suggestions received, and the winner or winners will receive a prize provided by Johnson Bank and the Journal Times. The winning names will be announced Saturday, May 29.

The cubs are scheduled to go on exhibit on Thursday, May 27, in the Vanishing Kingdom's main building during a member appreciation event. Public viewing starts at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 29, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Four cubs born to parents Elsa and Aslan in 2007 were named Jabari, Kwame, Bomani and Kya after a similar contest. Those four cubs have moved on to other zoos.

An online form for submitting names is on the Zoo's website, along with pictures and video of the cubs. Entries may also be submitted at Johnson Banks or to the Zoo, 200 Goold St. The contest ends May 24 at 4:30 p.m.

May 6, 2010

City gets $1 million EPA brownfield grant

Racine has been awarded a $1 million brownfield grant from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The revolving loan fund grant will be used to clean up contaminated land in Racine to prepare it for development, according to Mayor John Dickert. (One site the city might use the money for is the former Walker Manufacturing site along the lake, for which the city has already managed to extend TIF #2 to provide ongoing funds for "environmental remediation.")

Through the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act of 2002, the EPA is working to help states and communities around the country cleanup and revitalize brownfield sites. Racine will work with Deborah Orr, EPA's regional brownfield coordinator, to negotiate a cooperative agreement.

For Racine to attract developers or businesses, Dickert said, "it is imperative to give them a clean site to work with. A contaminated site is an immediate turn-off."

City marks National Day of Prayer

Thursday's National Day of Prayer was marked by a ceremony on the steps of City Hall attended by about 100 people.

The event, emceed by 4th District Alderman Jim Kaplan, included patriotic songs sung by Cheryl McCrary and the Heir-Born Praise Band, and prayers led by Dave Ackerman, Chaplain Cornelius Gordon, Stuart Nelson, Jim Pfau and Tom Ginski. They prayed for the country, our soldiers, those in prison, and the unborn.

Mayor John Dickert read a city proclamation and urged those present to "put our energy into what brings us together, not into what separates us." Dickert noted that National Day of Prayer dates back to 1775, when it was first declared by the Continental Congress.  Kaplan said he was pleased that the Mayor read the city's proclamation; this was the first time in five years, Kaplan said, that the mayor had done so. For all those other years Kaplan read it.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional, saying the law creating it is a call to religious action. Despite the Madison judge's ruling, Gov. Jim Doyle was scheduled to issue his own proclamation today observing the day. Enforcement of Judge Crabb's ruling is on hold, pending appeals.

Here are some pictures from the ceremony, conducted under the billowing City Hall flag high above.

Stuart Nelson plays 'Taps;' at right, 'Union Soldier' Tom Ginski

May 5, 2010

River Bend offering Kids Nature Kamp this summer

The YWCA River Bend Nature Center is offering a summer day camp that will foster a love of Wisconsin’s nature through direct experience. The Kids Nature Kamp, which promises all the fun of a traditional day camp, will have weekly environmental themes so campers can explore an area in-depth.

The camp is for children 4-12 and extended care is available before and after camp making it possible for children with working parents to attend. The camp schedule is flexible and permits daily and weekly enrollment.

The environmental studies programming will be taught by experienced degreed naturalists. All YWCA staff members go through training and certification before the summer begins to provide a safe and fun environment for all campers.

River Bend is nestled on 80-acres of land along the shores of the Root River. The center is host to many recreational activities such as canoeing and kayaking.

The weekly themes are:

1. Turtles, Salamanders and Frogs - Oh My! (6/14/10-6/18/10) - Campers will focus on the slimy, scaly, & slippery critters found throughout the state of Wisconsin. We will discuss reptile and amphibian behaviors and habitats while experiencing them first hand.

2. Gardening Galore! (6/21/10-6/25/10) - Got a green thumb? Not sure…? Campers will test their gardening skills, or experience for the first time the joys of gardening. We will plant seeds, pull weeds, maintain a garden, create compost, learn about rain gardens and get down in the dirt.

3. Bird’s the Word (6/28/10-7/1/10) - This week will be all about feathers, flight, beaks, and bills! Campers will make a bird feeder, eat like a bird, and learn to recognize common backyard birds by sight and by song.

4. Water in our World (7/5/10-7/9/10) - In your sink, in your food, on the ground and all around! Campers will test water quality, observe pond life and study the Root River.

5. Gettin’ Buggy (7/12/10-7/16/10) - Examine the insects, bugs, worms, and grubs under magnifying glasses after we scout for them throughout the fields and forests of River Bend. Campers will learn about bug body parts, feeding habits, and more.

6. Nature Survival & Outdoor Fun (7/19/10-7/23/10) - A week packed with adventures that focus on surviving nature’s elements and enjoying the fun of the outdoors. Campers will learn to build campfires, create outdoor shelters, pitch a tent, canoe the river and more.

7. Wild about Wisconsin (7/26/10-7/30/10) - Love the state you live in! We will focus on all the elements that make Wisconsin great, from the cheese to the sports teams, to our wildlife and our people.

8. Loving the Land—A land stewardship camp (8/2/10-8/6/10) - The future of our environment is in your hands! Campers will help make a difference through various experiences and projects that focus on conservation, recycling and loving the earth.

9. Radiant, Rough, & Round- ROCKS! (8/9/10-8/13/10) - What’s old and rough and found all over?! Rocks. This camp will be focus on geology. Campers will learn to identify common rocks while discovering some of their hidden properties. We will create a rock collection to be displayed at River Bend for all to see.

10. The Sky’s the Limit—Clouds and Constellations! (8/16/10-8/20/10) - Is your head in the clouds? A week filled with wonder while we discover clouds by day and stars by night. Campers will read the weather through the clouds and learn the phases of the moon among other camp adventures.

For more information email or call Sarah Hennegan at (262) 989-2272. You can also download a registration form from the YW’s website.

Two Racine Unified directors to retire this spring

Jim Linstroth, assistant director of continuing education at the Mack Center, Jim Kerkvliet, Park High School activities director, will be honored at Racine Unified's annual retirement dinner on Thursday night.

Together, Linstroth and Kerkvliet have contributed 61 years of service to the school district. They are among 44 retirees from Racine Unified this spring.

Linstroth has worked in the Mack Center for 34 years – having seen four name changes and many building changes over the years. He started his career as a social studies and English teacher for 11 years, then spent 10 years as Work Experience Coordinator and finally spent the most recent 13 years as Assistant Director at the Mack Center. Linstroth also served as head boys and girls swim coach for 10 years at Park High School. During that time, he was recognized as Racine All County Coach of the Year five times. In 2006, Linstroth was selected RAMAC Administrator of the Year.

Kerkvliet will retire after 27 years with RUSD. Most recently, Kervliet served as Park High School Activities Director for eight years. He began his career in the District as a physical education teacher at Mitchell Elementary for three years and at the Mack Center for 12 years. He taught health at Park High School for four years as well. During his tenure, Kerkvliet also spent 19 years coaching girls basketball at Park High School with a career record of 303 wins and 126 defeats, seven conference championships, 12 regional championships, four state tournament appearances and a state championship in 1997. In addition, Kerkvliet coached JV softball for eight years.

Recycling carts contain computer chips to track use

Update: First, let's say Racine does NOT have this policy.

But a news story out of Cleveland caught our attention. The city will use computer chips in recycling bins to fine people who don't recycle. The city will track people's use of blue bins. Anyone who does not put their bins out over a long period of time will have their garbage searched for recyclable materials. If more than 10% of the garbage is recyclables, they'll be fined $100.

Read the story here.

An employee from an independent contractor hired to build and distribute Racine's blue recycling bins pushes a stack of bins across the parking lot outside of the city's Public Works building on S. Marquette Street. (Below-right) A bar code on the side of one of Racine's blue carts. (Below left) Bins being unloaded from a truck. (Bottom) Blue recycling carts delivered to homes along Harvey Drive. 

Big Garbage is watching - and it could lead to a greener Racine.

Every blue recycling bin being distributed to homes and apartments throughout the city includes an embedded computer chip. The chip will register when a recycling bin is loaded into the truck, creating data for the city on who is recycling and when they're doing it. Each cart also comes with a bar code on the front that is tied to the address it was assigned to.

Such surveillance is common in recycling programs around the country, and there appears to be little opposition to the oversight. If anything, people have benefited from the tracking with the use of incentive programs designed to reward people for recycling.

The most popular incentive program is run by a company named RecycleBank. The company creates a system that weighs how much people recycle and rewards them with coupons or points, which can be redeemed for items.

Racine considered such a program, Public Works Commissioner Rick Jones said. But the $200,000 start-up cost was too expensive at this time. He added that simply introducing the recycling carts generates a significant increase in a community's recycling rate.

To get another boost, Jones said, communities generally go in one of two directions. One is a "pay-as-you-throw" system that charges people for the amount of garbage they put out on the curb. The second option is a system that offers something to encourage recycling.

Either system would require installing scales on dump trucks to weigh how much people throw away or recycle. Jones said the city's research found the scales don't work well under repeated use. In Racine, the scales would be used 1,000 times a day, which isn't practical with the given technology, Jones said.

Other communities have found another problem creating incentives for recycling. The scales can't differentiate between cardboard and bricks, meaning clever people can game the system to maximize their rewards without actually recycling. Incentive programs can actually reduce recycling because processing companies throwaway recyclables that are mixed with regular garbage.

More notes on Racine's new recycling program:

* Racine's blue bins allow residents to throw all of their recyclables into a single container without the use of bags. One surprising item you can't recycle: shredded paper. The reason? The shreds clog up the recycling processors' machines, Jones said. So while you can throw office paper and junk mail into the blue bins, you can't throw the same items in if you run them through a paper shredder.

* Distribution of the carts is ahead of schedule, Jones said. The city estimated it would take three weeks to build and deliver about 20,000 carts to city property owners. Now it looks like the company will finish in two weeks. Some city residents, eager to use their new bins, have already set out their recyclables at the curb, Jones said. That's created a few problems for garbage haulers who aren't equipped yet to collect the recyclables. But Jones said he didn't mind that problem. "I can't fault anyone for being eager to use their bins," he said. "It's a good sign."

* Oshkosh has implemented a blue bin recycling program, and now it's in the process of tweaking its ordinances to adjust to the bins. The council is working on an ordinance that will require homeowners to store their bins out of sight from the street. Residents had complained that neighbors were leaving their bins in front of their homes, which was unsightly.

Glass artist Therman Statom returns to RAM

Photo by Marc Wollman

Glass artist Therman Statom returns to the Racine Art Museum for a behind-the-scenes tour of his exhibition Outside the Box in RAM's Windows on Fifth Gallery on Saturday, May 22, at 2:30 pm.

Statom will guide visitors through his installation, subtitled Quattro Stagoni, with RAM Executive Director Bruce W. Pepich. Our story about his creation of the installation last July is here.

Statom returned earlier this spring to slightly modify the work Quattro Stagoni (or "Four Seasons" in Italian). The installation includes elements that suggest aspects of each season -- progressing from frosty areas of glass and glowing colors of reflective ice to floral imagery and vessels that suggest growing pods and buds.

RAM commissioned Statom to create this year-long exhibition for its Windows on Fifth Gallery. The windows feature lively painted glass arrangements of unusual objects that encourage viewers to create their own imaginative connections. For the first time since its opening, RAM has allowed an artist to alter its spaces in the windows. Statom has painted on the frosted glass walls that divide the window space from the main first floor gallery. While not the largest space he has worked with, this is Statom's first exhibition at an art museum that has been held in so public a space: visible on the sidewalk.

On Friday, May 21, at 2 pm, Statom will lead a group of students from Racine's Walden III Middle and High School through the changes and addition to his exhibition, and in a hands-on activity.

RUSD gets $140,000 for programs at Julian Thomas, Starbuck

The Racine Unified School District has received $140,000 for programs at Julian Thomas Elementary School and Project New Life at Starbuck Middle School.

The five-year, 21st Century Community Learning Centers grants were distributed by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

The 21st Century Community Learning Centers are intended to improve student achievement, attendance and behavior with academic, enrichment and social and recreational activities. The Centers offer before- and after-school and summer programs that provide academic support and promote parental involvement through outreach activities, family literacy events and parental skill development.

Caveat Renter: Craigslist scam hits local landlords

Owners of a local home they were renting out appear to the victim of a bizarre housing scam where tenants are attempting to rent the house out themselves.

Brothers Steve and George Demos own a home they rented out to a Milwaukee woman about three months ago. The woman paid $2,500 up front and the deal appeared to be on the up-and-up. But the tenants never moved into the home, haven't paid their monthly rent, won't return phone calls, don't live at the address they provided and now they appear to be advertising the five-bedroom home for rent.

The home is listed for rent on Craigslist, a free online classified website, with a fake email address under the name of a previous tenant. The name was likely taken off of junk mail delivered to the house. If you write the email address, you'll get a response seeking a down payment on the apartment with a credit card.

George Demos said he didn't know what to make of the situation. "I'm trying to figure out what the scam is," Demos said. "I'm sure there is one."

The situation has left the Demos's in a difficult situation. The tenants have a five-year lease on the home. Lawyers told Demos he needs to go through a full eviction process to break the contract, or risk the tenants coming back and claiming they have a right to live in the house.

That could take at least two months, if not longer. In the meantime, the Demos's are paying utilities and property taxes on the house with no income coming in.

What's sinister about the scam is the tenants appeared to be upstanding citizens with plenty of money to rent the home. Demos said their check cleared and they came across as a good fit. Now, it's clear they had ulterior motives for signing the rental contract.

And, just to add to the frustration, even though the Craig's List ad is clearly a fraud, the Demos's can't get the service to pull it down. They've reported the listing fraudulent several times, but it's still on the site.

Apartment scams on Craigslist are common across the country. Several websites exist to help people avoid the scams, which appear to target people looking for good deals - often too good - on apartments. That appears to be the case with the Demos's house, which is listed in the fake ad at 11 percent below market rate for similar houses.

The key to avoiding apartment scams: 1.) If it's too good to be true, it probably is. And, 2.) Don't pay security deposits online without seeing the apartment and signing a contract. If the ad offers an incredible deal and needs money wired to them immediately, it's probably a scam.

May 4, 2010

St. Lucy team wins Library's Battle of the Books

Battle of the Books Champs, the St. Lucy School Bombers:
Lorenc Gasparov, Michael Orth, Emma Suchla and Emily Diehn.

The Bombers from the St. Lucy School have won the Racine Public Library's 10th annual “Battle of the Books” tournament with a score of 88 out of a possible 90 points. Team members were Emily Diehn, Lorenc Gasparov, Michael Orth and Emma Suchla. The team’s name was engraved on the Battle of the Books Champion Plaque and each member received a trophy and award certificate.

The Battle of the Books is a literature contest for fourth and fifth grade students. More than 120 teams  from 25 schools participated over a four-week period. Teams were comprised of up to four students, with over 450 students participating.

Participants had to read and become knowledgeable about the content of 40 books selected by youth services librarians. Meets were held at the library with 4-5 teams competing.Team members were asked questions about the books they read and accumulated points based on their right answers. The team with the highest score among all participating teams was declared the champion.

Seven more top-scoring teams were placed in the “Winners’ Circle” and invited to attend the awards ceremony on April 23. In second place with  87 points was the Wind Point School Readers: Alicia Espinoza, Samantha Jensen, Shelby Kisting and Kijung Kwak..

Tying for third place with 84 points were The Prairie School Reading Rampage: Francesca Bontempo, Kate Munro, and Emma Schatz; Racine Montessori school Da Flamez: Zachariah Bradley, Alec Buhler, Maxie Collen, and Ricky Granger; the St. Lucy School Spartans: Amanda Bergevian, David Louison, Teddy May and Nicole Meisner; the St. Rita School Readers of the Night: Brandon Dobrowski, Megan Cisewski, Laura Panthofer and Adam Schuls; the 21st Century Prep Book Worms: Emily bollendorf, Sarah Busey, Emma Graves and Isabella Huizar; and the Wind Point School Book Dreamers: Imunique Dawkins, Ryan Shea, Anna Thompson and Mya Williams. All Winners' Circle participants received commemorative medals and award certificates.

The following teams were received Honorable Mention ribbons and certificates for their strong showing with scores of over 80 points: the Gifford School "Gifford Guys," the John Paul II Academy Reading Machines and the St. Lucy School Know-It-Alls.

Ryan hosts Neumann fund-raiser, but don't read too much into it

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-WI, 1st District, is placing two bets on the three-way race for Wisconsin governor.

He is co-hosting a fund-raiser in Washington, DC, today for Mark Neumann, one of two Republican candidates for Wisconsin governor. The other co-host is Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn. But don't read too much into this event about who Ryan supports for governor.

Coburn has endorsed Neumann, although why an Oklahoman's support should mean anything to Wisconsinites has been lost in translation. Neumann's campaign spokesman, Chris Lato, said of Coburn and Neumann: "They are, ideologically speaking, two peas in a pod."

But back to Ryan. Lato said that Ryan won't be attending the fund-raiser that he's co-hosting, for the man whose Congressional seat he inherited in 1998.

And according to Susan Jacobson, Ryan's campaign coordinator quoted in the Wisconsin State Journal, Ryan also will host a fund-raiser for Neumann's Republican opponent, Scott Walker.

No word on what Ryan will do for Tom Barrett...

May 3, 2010

Mayor appointing four new members to CAR25 commission

Mayor John Dickert is appointing four new members to the city's Cable Television Commission.

The mayor is appointing Mary Jerger and Kimberly Kane, and Aldermen Ron Hart and Ray DeHahn to the commission. They'll replace Gary Alvarado and Pamela Hoadley, and Aldermen Jeff Coe and Greg Helding.

The mayor's appointments go before the City Council on Tuesday night.

Jerger is owner of Copacetic hat store at 409 Main St. She's married to County Board Supervisor Monte Osterman; they both worked on Dickert's mayoral campaign. Kane is a former TV reporter and anchor who now works for The NOVO Group. This is also co-founder of Mediaspirits, a video production and development company. The mayor is appointing both to three-year terms.

Hart and DeHahn will reach receive one-year terms.

Here's a letter from Cable Television Commission Chairman Chase Hendrix about the new appointments:
The Mayor has the right to appoint anyone he wishes (with the approval of Common Council), and it is just unfortunate that the Cable Television Commission is losing two very dedicated professionals that have put so much time and energy into serving our city and CAR25. I was just made aware of the reappointments, and obviously would have preferred to be contacted directly by the Mayor and City Administrator to provide the Cable Commission's recommendations regarding these appointments. 
As the Chairman of the Cable Television Commission, I am here to serve the city and its residents without any personal interest or influence. I welcome any new appointments to the Commission, and am sure the other members of the Cable Commission feel the same way. I am disappointed that Pam & Gary were not offered the opportunity to continue to serve as volunteers on the Cable Television Commission, however I also understand that the Mayor can appoint whomever he wishes, and trust that the newly appointed commissioners will act in the best interest of the city and public access channel. Gary Alvarado in particular has donated so much of his time, resources and technical expertise to help serve the city and CAR25, and is one of the most experienced and professional video production experts in SE Wisconsin. Much of the success we have had in growing CAR25 with such a limited budget is due to his hard work.
CAR25 is one of the most positive, cost-effective and successful assets our city has, and should remain fair, equal and open to the public. So many residents watch CAR25 on a regular basis, and it provides a great communication tool for our local government, non-profit organizations and public producers. The channel was provided to Racine as part of our municipal cable television franchise agreement (and extended with the new state cable franchise agreement), and we have recently launched CAR25 broadcasting services on AT&T in addition to Time Warner, which broadens its audience throughout SE Wisconsin. 
My only concerns regarding CAR25 are whether it has the full support of the Common Council to provide the funding it needs to continue to grow, and that the allocation of resources support both public and government fair and equally (and in accordance with PEG and FCC regulations). In November, Common Council voted unanimously to approve the 15% cable television franchise fee allocation to CAR25, however this additional funding was reallocated to Professional Services, and since the proposed consultant withdrew, that funding has since been recommended by Ald. Helding to be removed from CAR25's budget in order to pay the lawsuit settlement with Sandy Tingle. So the additional 5% funding has never really been made available to CAR25 to update its equipment. It has also been suggested that the 15% allocation would be decreased back to 10%, leaving the channel severely underfunded, with outdated equipment. 
The mayor's other new appointments to city boards and commissions, include:

* Doug Nicholson, owner of the Ivanhoe Pub and Eatery, to the Redevelopment Authority.

* Former alderman Robert Anderson to the RDA.

* Wally Rendon to the Affirmative Action Human Rights Commission.

* Alderman Jeff Coe to the Community Development Committee, which distributes the city's Community Development Block Grant money.

* Mark Kowbel to the Board of City Review.

* Mark Kowbel to the Transit and Parking Commission.

* John Heckenlively to the Traffic Commission.

* Rod Lipor to the Board of Zoning Appeals.

* Chris Flynn to the Landmark Preservation Commission.

* Alderman Eric Marcus to the Landmark Preservation Commission. (Marcus served on the commission before being elected to the City Council in April.)

* Alderman QA Shakoor II to the Community Development Committee.

May 2, 2010

Coggs, a candidate for lieutenant governor, says he'll help Barrett win over leery Democrats

Spencer Coggs is running for lieutenant governor to create jobs and improve how state government runs. But the Milwaukee state senator said his biggest asset may be getting Tom Barrett elected governor.

During a visit to Racine on Friday, Coggs said he could help Barrett shore up support among minority Democrats in Milwaukee who are upset the Milwaukee mayor tried to take over the city's public school system.

Coggs (right) said the same Democrats who are upset at Barrett will trust him to overlook the Milwaukee Public Schools' issue and vote for Barrett in November. (For his part, Coggs said he supported a "partnership" with the Administration and School Board to reform MPS, not a "takeover.")

"If anyone sits on their hands because of the MPS takeover, that is a vote for Scott Walker (the leading Republican candidate for governor)," Coggs said.

Coggs visited Racine Friday to eat lunch at Gus's Gyros on the north side and to meet with local pastors. It's part of his full-time, statewide campaign to win the Democratic primary in Sept. 14 and the general election on Nov. 2.

Coggs is one of six Democrats running to replace Democrat Barbara Lawton, who is not seeking re-election. Other candidates include: State Rep. Thomas Nelson, Kaukauna, Henry Sanders, Jr., Waunakee, and James L. Schneider, Gotham, Wis. The winner of the partisan primary will advance to take one one of four Republican candidates, who include: Ben Collins of Lake Geneva; Brett Davis, Oregon; Rebecca Kleefisch, Oconomowoc; and Dave Ross, Superior.

Coggs is a veteran legislator who has served 27 years in the state Capitol, including 20 in the Assembly and the last seven in the Senate. A Milwaukee native, he is part of an active political family that currently has members serving in the state Assembly and Senate and on the Milwaukee City Council and County Board.

Coggs has used his popularity in Milwaukee to reach out around the state. Often running unopposed in his own district, Coggs said he worked on campaigns throughout Wisconsin to maintain his skills and to help get Democrats elected. He's counting on his past experiences in southeastern Wisconsin, Green Bay and Madison to help get his name out across the state.

Coggs said as lieutenant governor he could focus on bringing jobs to Wisconsin, particularly small businesses, which employee 80 percent of the state's employees.

Coggs also said he would serve as a liaison between the governor's office and the Legislature, which has had lapses in communication in recent years. He said his long-time relationship with Democrats and Republicans would help state government run smoother.

"Last budget cycle the governor vetoed some items that created hard feelings," Coggs said. "... I'd make sure we don't have those lapses in communication."

One of the items the governor vetoed in the last budget would have created a regional transit authority in southeastern Wisconsin. Democrats in the Legislature thought they had an agreement, but Gov. Jim Doyle vetoed the plan. Coggs said he supported the RTA for Milwaukee.

Coggs got involved with politics through AFSCME union. He was elected union steward and then threw his hat in for an open Assembly seat in Milwaukee. Coggs lost his first election, which proved to be a pivot point in his life. He said candidates who lose have two paths: 1.) Leave politics forever; or 2.) Work harder. Coggs said he was the latter.

"I had this burning desire," Coggs said. "I realized how many people are affected by the process. Politics is a tool to effect change."

It helped that Coggs' family was heavily involved in Milwaukee politics. His uncle, Isaac Coggs," was known as "Mr. Civil Rights" and was one of the first black senators in Wisconsin. His aunt, Marcia Coggs, was the first black woman elected to the state Assembly and the first African-American to serve on the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee. A building in Milwaukee is named after Marcia Coggs.

Also, Coggs' family member Leon Young serves in the Assembly, his niece, Elizabeth Coggs, the daughter of Marcia and Isaac Coggs, serves on the Milwaukee County Board and a second niece, Milele Coggs, serves on the Milwaukee City Council.

Everywhere you look, Spring flowers are blooming