May 22, 2010

Clocktail party gets Hour Town ticking

 Wingspread's courtyard filled with clocks; Bill Reid's Loonatick is at right

 There are many great quotations about time. Here are just three:
  • Day, n. A period of twenty-four hours, mostly misspent. ~Ambrose Bierce
  • The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once. ~ Albert Einstein
  • Time is money. ~ Benjamin Franklin
    Time was much on the mind Saturday night, as a clocktail party at Wingspread -- renamed Club Wingspread for the night -- introduced the 60 artist-designed clocks that will decorate Downtown Racine this summer, our ninth public art project -- Hour Town.

    The clocks played off puns about time, quotes like Henry David Thoreau's "Time is but the stream I go fishin' in," and many of the words and phrases you can think of relating to time: the sands of time, a New York minute, fish'n time, time flies, and the White Rabbit's anguished cry from Alice in Wonderland: "I'm late, I'm late, I'm late!"

    For the most part, the clocks were brightly painted. But there were mosaics, engraved tin, ceramics, beadwork, a Frank Lloyd Wright-ish design, and a Bill Reid Loonatick. And, surprisingly enough, almost all of them showed the same time....

    Starting Monday, they'll be on display Downtown. For now, here are a few that caught my eye.

    Sandy Schmitz carved Tin to Tin's design into thin pieces of metal

    Fish In' Time, a 3-D clockface by by Robert Anderson

    Daun Johnson created Clock & Roll, this clock/bicycle combination,
    with her daughter Crystal and their neighbor, Kim Nelson.

    Here's a closeup of the intricate beadwork in Clock & Roll

    Jerry Trieber was the only artist to turn the concave clock base 
    inside-out, to create Time Flies, Cat's in the Cradle

    Dickert's 'plan' gets its own YouTube parody

    John Dickert's statement earlier this week that the "10-year-plan" that was the centerpiece of his successful campaign for mayor last year is... well, somewhat ephemerel -- "The document is in my head. I have not written out the 10-year plan anywhere," is what he said -- has come in for quick and predictable criticism. Like Dustin's, here.

    But that was Tuesday. Today it's become the subject of parody, and put on YouTube for the world to see. John Polodna wrote the following ditty, and created what he calls "a fitting tribute to my heart we are already a Top Ten City."

    You can listen and watch here. John's complete lyrics are below.

    Here is the link.

    Sung to the tune of  He's got the whole world in his hands.
       He's got the whole plan in his head.
       His top ten plan in his head.
       Locked up tight in his head.
       He's got the whole plan in his head.

       He went to the mountain for the plan.
       Climbed that big ol mountain for the plan.
       Found NO children's fountain in the plan.
       He's got the whole plan in his head.

       There were cop houses in the plan.
       New cop houses in the plan.
       No flop houses in the plan.
       He's got the whole plan in his head.

       All goodness is detected in the plan
       His city is selected in the plan
       He is re-elected in the plan.
       He's got the whole plan in his head.

       There's a lot of boasting in the plan.
       There's no EPA or OSHA in the plan.
       We're even better than Kenosha in the plan.
       He's got the whole plan in his head.

       There's a lot of talk in the plan.
       Not a lot of chalk in the plan.
       Golden sidewalks in the plan.
       He's got the whole plan in his head.

       All brownfields are in the plan.
       Turned to bountiful yield in the plan.
       But NO Mike Shields in the plan.
       He's got the whole plan in his head.

       It's the latest scoop in the plan.
       The real poop in the plan.
       Lots of chicken coops in the plan.
       He's got the whole plan in his head.

       Lots of seeds and stems in the plan.
       Plenty o' old time Dems in the plan.
       Shiny new KRM in the plan.
       He's got the whole plan in his head.

       He took it on the chin for the plan.
       Stayed real thin for the plan.
       Delivered recycling bins for the plan.
       He's got the whole plan in his head.

       There's a North Beach trolley in the plan.
       For folley and falderal in the plan.
       Lots of girls volleyball in the plan.
       He's got the whole plan in his head.

       Secret and alive is the plan.
       In overdrive is the plan.
      On CAR 25 is the plan.
      He's got the whole plan in his head.

       He's got the whole plan in his head.
       His top ten plan in his head.
       Locked up tight in his head.
       He's got the whole plan in his head.

    Jump-starting their gardens

    Scores of gardeners were lined up Saturday morning before the Potpourri Garden Club opened its annual sale of perennials grown by club members.

    More than 8,000 plants were for sale -- and quickly snapped up.

    The Potpourri Garden Club is made up of Racine gardeners who dig up their own plants, growing in their own yards, pot them and sell them every May. Proceeds from this annual fund-raiser are spent on scholarships for students, labs at local schools, plant books for the Racine Public Library and horticultural speakers. Club members also maintain flower beds at the Racine Zoo.

    Volunteer Opportunities: Help library with new Job Lab

    The Racine Public Library is opening a Job Lab on the second floor. Volunteers are needed to assist job seekers with searching and applying for jobs, writing resumes, applying for benefits and basic computer skills. Training and materials will be provided. Basic computer skills are required and resume writing experience is preferred.

    The HOPES Center will have a bake sale at the Downtown Racine Farmers Market on Saturday, June 5. Volunteers are needed to work the stand at State and Erie from 7 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. and also from 9:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

    Donations of homemade baked goods are requested for the HOPES Center bake sale on June 5. Pies, sweet breads, cookies, cakes, loaves of bread, and rolls can be dropped off at the HOPES Center at 506 7th Street on Friday, June 4, until 7 p.m., or brought to the sale at State and Erie on Saturday morning starting at 6:30 a.m. Items should be placed on a paper plate in a baggie and labeled if they contain nuts. Help pricing items is needed on June 4 from 5-8 p.m.

    This year’s annual American Cancer Society Relay for Life event is scheduled for Friday, June 11, and Saturday, June 12. There are several areas that need volunteers to make these two days a successful fundraiser as well as a celebration of lives and lives lived. Shifts are available.

    Sixth Street Players are holding a Brat Fry fund raiser during Party on the Pavement, October 2nd, at the Sixth Street Theatre, 318 Sixth Street, from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. Volunteers are needed to staff the concession booth and to usher the theatre performances. Two and four hour shifts are available. Party on the Pavement in Downtown Racine has become the city's premier street festival. The Sixth Street Theatre participates yearly in this event with FREE theatre and a concession stand selling Brats, Hot Dogs, Chips and Soda.

    Recreational Activities for the Developmentally Disabled (RADD) needs volunteers to help check in participants who are attending the RADD Dance Club Event at 3131 Taylor Avenue. You may also be asked to help monitor the dance area and socialize with the participants. Event meets every second Tuesday of the month from 6 - 8 pm. Volunteers will meet at least 15 minutes prior to dance starting. Other duties may include cleaning up tables, removing and discarding soda cans and other items after the event. May also take down table and put into storage area. Must be 17 years or older with a clear communal history. Experience with special needs individuals beneficial.

    May 21, 2010

    Update: Committee puts off vote on backyard fires ordinance

    A city committee is considering restrictions on backyard fires in Racine.

    The Public Safety and Licensing Committee will take up an ordinance Monday that would limit the number of fires homeowners can have in their backyard, the location of the fires and when the fires can occur. 

    The proposal would add three provisions to city code regulating backyard fires. They include:

    * Making it illegal to burn more than three times a week in a permanent or portable outdoor fireplace unless you have a permit from the Fire Department

    * Making it illegal to burn within 10 feet of a property line or structure

    * Limiting fires to between noon and 11 p.m.

    The ordinance is sponsored by Alderman Aron Wisneski, chairman of the Public Safety and Licensing Committee. It would revise Section 18-369 of the municipal code, which relates to "Outdoor fireplaces and outdoor cooking facilities."

    Read the committee agenda here.

    Update: The Public Safety and Licensing Committee voted to defer action until they can get input from Fire Chief Steve Hansen.

    Alderman Jim Kaplan seemed open to the proposal to limit backyard fires. He said the fires are becoming more common because people can't afford to go camping any more.

    "I want to go camping in my back yard and I'll fill my neighbor's house with smoke to do that," he imagined someone saying who has backyard fires.

    Kaplan added that home owners and renters should take care of their own property without interfering with their neighbors. Things like music or a smoky fire cross property lines and can affect people who shouldn't have to deal with someone else's activities.

    Alderman David Maack said he didn't think the three fires per week proposal was enforceable because no one will keep track of how many fires a person has. He added that if the ordinance moves forward he would like to see the cutoff point moved back an hour to midnight.

    "I think that's reasonable," he said. "I don't think it's reasonable to cavort until 2 or 3 in the morning."

    City Attorney Rob Weber told the committee the police department believes current ordinances are confusing. They have asked for standards to be given to enforcing backyard fires.

    Fire Chief Steve Hansen declined to comment Monday night on the proposal. He said he needed to consult with his notes before taking a position on the ordinance.  

    St. Cat's names Aliya Pitts vp of advancement

    As St. Catherine’s High School prepares its new middle school program with sixth and seventh graders  arriving in the fall of 2010, Aliya Pitts has been hired as the school's vice president of advancement.

    Pitts is responsible for growing the major and planned giving program at St. Catherine’s, as well as supervising development, marketing and admissions.

    Pitts has worked at Ter Molen Watkins & Brandt (TW&B) in Chicago,  where she was an associate vice president. Previously she worked at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee as director of regional development. She has a bachelor's degree in history from Smith College.

    Racine Symphony regains financial stability; annual meeting June 8

    Break out the trombones! Where's John Philip Sousa when we need him?

    The Racine Symphony Orchestra has big news to announce at its upcoming annual meeting: Financial stability has returned!

    After a challenging year -- one marked by the cancellation of three concerts --  the Symphony expects to retire its debt by the end of May. It's also adding a free concert this year.

    Here's the story directly from the RSO, as it prepares for its annual meeting on Tuesday, June 8, from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church, 716 College Ave. The agenda will consist of a review of 2009-2010 fiscal, artistic, and governance activities, as well as season announcements for the upcoming year. RSVP’s appreciated.
    The Racine Symphony Orchestra has an amazing story to share. Last year we said programming would look different, it did and it does again. Only this year it will be stronger, better with  more concerts.
    The Board of Directors has taken last year’s challenging global economy which affected the RSO in a negative way and made sweeping changes to stabilize the organization. Every aspect of the organization was impacted from the conductors to the musicians to the staff. Every expense was frozen or reduced. Concerts were developed around the musical pieces we had in our vast library. Collaborations were reinforced or developed.
    Those changes have had an immediate impact this season and are projected to effectively put the RSO in the black and retire our debt before the end of the fiscal year, May 31. The Board of Directors achieved a fiscally responsible 2009-2010 season without compromising the high standards of the orchestra.

    Realizing the economic climate is still tenuous in the Greater Racine Area; the RSO will increase this season’s concert to seven, one of them free to the general community. In anticipation of our 80th anniversary in 2011-2012, we have begun budgeting for the celebratory season. Programming will be special and the Boards intention is to continue community collaborations and increase the number of concerts.

    Each year reports are written and the statistics continue to confirm that the arts are not just a community decoration. Development and support for a community’s cultural asset are critical; they not only enrich lives but also set that community apart from others. Strong cultural assets, such as the RSO, play a vital part in the Greater Racine’s community competiveness. The RSO's musicians, staff and Board see the role of the RSO as a responsibility to perform orchestral music at a high-caliber level for the community.

    Concert tickets can be purchased by contacting the RSO at 262.636.9285 or online. 

    Neumann rips Walker for being 'weak on immigration'

    Rough stuff in the race between Scott Walker and Mark Neumann for the Republican nomination for governor.

    Neumann is attacking Walker for a somewhat moderate stance on Arizona's controversial anti-immigrant law passed earlier this year. Here's what Walker got bashed for:

    "I have serious concerns about the Arizona law -- both because the law impedes on the inherent right of the federal government to do its job and to protect our borders, and also because in America we don't want our citizens getting pulled over because of how they look."

    After getting pummeled for his radical opposition to racial profiling, Walker changed his position and said he was "comfortable" with the Arizona law. Neumann, smelling blood, pounced with a brutal commercial and online ads, including one (above) on The Drudge Report. Here's a screenshot from the commercial:

    To see the entire commercial, go here on Vimeo or to  Mark Neumann.

    Democrat candidate for governor Tom Barrett is probably sitting back thinking two things. 1.) It's nice not to have a primary. 2.) It's nice watching Neumann and Walker try to push every Hispanic vote in the state his way.

    Racine celebrating Fourth of July on July 5th this year

    Racine will celebrate the Fourth of July on July 5th this year. 

    The annual community wide celebration of Independence Day is being pushed back a day this year because July 4th lands on Sunday. Out of respect for religious services, the parade and fireworks will be held on Monday, July 5th. 

    The theme for this year's parade is "Our Family Reunion." This year’s honorary Parade Marshalls will be the Nick Maragos Family, including Nick, Cindy and their two sons, Chris (of Badger football fame - lower right) and Troy.

    Individuals and groups wishing to be in the 74th annual parade with an entry can pick up applications at Racine Area Manufacturers and Commerce (RAMAC), 300 Fifth
    St.; Hugs & Kisses, 3215 Douglas Ave.; Sew’n Save, 3701 Durand Ave.; Racine Public Library, 75 Seventh St.; and the Racine Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department, 800 Center St.  Applications are also available for download at

    Applications must be returned by May 28 and inclu
    de proof of insurance for all m
    otor vehicles and drivers. There is a $100 fee for all commercial entries, payable when the application is returned.

    The annual fireworks display along the lakefront begins at dusk on July 5. The fireworks are sponsored by the Fourth Fest of Greater Racine, the City of Racine, Boucher Automotive and Racine-area Citgo stations.

    Here's a few things to look forward to in this year's parade: 

    1. The University of Wisconsin Badger Marching Band (lower left) will be in the parade (and do a post-parade performance on Monument Square).

    2. This year’s Mr. Fourth Fest is Jerry Buck, who for many years has played the calliope in the parade. 

    3. There will be a “House Decorating Contest,” with awards going to the most patriotically-adorned house along the parade route (with an award to a house north of the bridge and one south of the bridge).

    Set your calendars for July 5th for this exciting community event!

    May 20, 2010

    Unified, REA agree on federal funding

    RUSD and its teachers union are in agreement on federal funding. They want it.

    RUSD's Shaw and REA's Urso sign the memorandum

    Leaders of Racine Unified from both sides of the bargaining table signed a Memorandum of Understanding supporting the state's Race to the Top grant application. Without it, the district could not participate in Phase Two of the Race to the Top; with it, Unified culd receive between $4.5 million and $7 million in federal funding.

    IF Wisconsin receives the grant -- and it's a big if, since the state finished in 26th place in Phase One -- Wisconsin could receive up to $250 million in funding.

    On Thursday Racine Education Association Executive Director Steve Urso and REA President Pete Knotek met with RUSD Supt. Dr. Jim Shaw and  Deputy Supt. Alan Harris to sign the memorandum of understanding. RUSD Board VP Sue Kutz also signed it earlier in the week.

     The memorandums were sent out on May 6 by Gov. Jim Doyle and State Supt. Tony Evers; school district leaders had until May 21 to sign and return them.

    “We have come together with district leadership to sign this MOU because we feel that the state’s Phase Two application is strong and we’re very hopeful Wisconsin will receive a grant,” said Urso. “We look forward to the opportunity to work together if that happens.”

    Despite Wisconsin's poor showing in the first round, several changes have been made to improve the application for Phase Two. To review the state’s application, visit the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction website. The state must submit its Phase Two Race to the Top application by June 1. The U.S. Department of Education will announce grant winners in September.

    The U.S. Department of Education announced Phase One winners in March -- Delaware and Tennessee. In all, some $4.25 billion is available, to spur states to develop innovating education-reform plans.

    Gateway taking over CATI

    The labyrinthine relationship between CATI and Gateway Technical College will take another turn at year's end when Gateway takes over the once promising program for entrepreneurs. 

    CATI will cease to exist as a nonprofit under the arrangement. It's unclear what the announcement means for Matt Wagner, who heads CATI and the UW-Parkside Small Business Development Center. 

    Here's the official press release from Gateway about the transition: 
    CATI Inc. program and service delivery will transition to Gateway Technical College on Dec. 31, 2010, which will strengthen the outreach services of the college and CATI Inc. Gateway currently provides outreach services through their Workforce and Economic Development Division (WEDD) and this will allow for increased connection to students and private business entrepreneurs as well as heightened business development opportunities.
    Gateway’s program and service delivery does not include responsibility for or the assumption of CATI Inc. 501(c)(3) status. The transition will lead to better alignment of the community’s workforce and business entrepreneurial needs.
    “This model will allow us to connect with entrepreneurs no matter what stage they are at or the resources needed,” said Debbie Davidson, Gateway Vice President, WEDD. “This new model closes the loop on support for new business development in Racine County and throughout Southeastern Wisconsin.”
    The transition of CATI Inc. to Gateway will provide a continuum of programs and services for businesses and entrepreneurs, including:
    · Technical assistant for new products or new markets
    · Business development and growth
    · Entrepreneurial training for new and existing companies
    · Business incubation program
    While CATI Inc. services will be primarily provided by Gateway, the college will continue to call on its community partners, including the Racine Economic Development Corporation (RCEDC), UW-Parkside, Racine County Workforce Development Center, Carthage College and others to provide CATI-related services when needed. Technical consultants will also be used on a case-by-case basis.
    Gateway will serve as the custodian of existing intellectual property owned by CATI Inc. and proactively pursue opportunities add to the intellectual property library, benefiting existing businesses as well as entrepreneurs. Intellectual property will be accessible for entrepreneurs seeking business development ideas and existing businesses seeking new products or new markets.
    CATI Inc. board members will be invited to serve as advisory members to Gateway’s WEDD for CATI programs and services.
    CATI Inc. will remain a legal entity through Dec. 31, 2010. Kate Walker with the RCEDC will serve as interim director of CATI Inc. programs and services until the transition is made. Gateway Business Development Director Therese Fellner will serve as the lead transition manager.

    Falling home assessments drop city's value about $150 million in 2010

    The city's housing and commercial real estate is worth about $150 million less this spring after a reassessment dropped the value of homes by an average of 4.4 percent. 

    Real estate assessments fell this year because foreclosures are up and home sales are down, said City Assessor Ray Anderson. The city had 335 qualified sales last year compared to an average of 1,100-1,200 sales in recent years. It recorded 405 foreclosures in 2009 compared to an average of 30-40 homes per year in the 1990s. 

    The lack of sales and girth of foreclosures created a large supply of available homes, which forced prices down as buyers waited for the best deals. 

    "If you don't have many buyers, you have a larger supply," Anderson said. "It's basic Economics 101. If you have a big supply, you get a buyer's market." 

    "This is the slowest I've ever seen the market," Anderson added, noting he was a real estate agent in the 1980s before becoming an assessor. 

    Racine's housing and commercial properties are worth a combined $3.75 billion, according to Anderson. The number doesn't include manufacturing properties, which is determined by the state, or the value of assessed personal property in the city, Anderson said. 

    The drop in assessments wasn't a surprise. Based on the recession and the housing slump, city officials had projected the decline last year.

    While housing values dropped, the city's commercial properties held the line, Anderson said. Assessments on commercial buildings fell 0.3 percent this year. The city had 23 commercial sales last year, and most of those properties held their value.

    City assessments are important because they're the primary source of revenue for local governments. Declining values mean the city, Racine Unified, Racine County and Gateway will have to increase their property tax rates to bring in the same amount of money as they did in 2009, or cut spending to match the decline in property values.

    City Administrator Tom Friedel said the public should evaluate local governments based on spending, not tax rates. If government spending is flat than people's tax bills will be flat, he said, even if the actual property tax rate increases, he said.

    The city's 2010 budget is a good example, Friedel said. City unions agreed to forgo pay raises this year and city officials found a way to cut about $683,000 in spending. The city's property tax rate increased less than 1 percent last year.

    Another example is you can actually have a decrease in the property tax rate and an increase in city spending, which happens when assessments increase at a rate greater than the decline in the property tax rate.

    Friedel said government spending is a better measure because it more accurately reflects the decisions elected officials make.

    Anderson said his office pays no attention to the political decisions to be made based on property assessments.

    "We call it as we see it," Anderson said. "We're not influenced by that at all."

    He added the declining assessments led some residents to call and complain that their assessment was too high. The complaint is a little misguided because a property's assessed value is not the same as its market value. The assessed value has little influence on how much a property actually sells for. Arguing for a higher assessment essentially means you're arguing for a higher property tax bill.

    There are exceptions, Anderson said. People trying to refinance their home may benefit from a higher assessment, and some home owners may be forced to pay a PMI (private mortgage insurance) if the assessment drops too low, he said.

    But other complaints were emotional, Anderson said.

    "For most people, a house is their biggest asset," he said. "They get upset when they see its value go down."

    Gateway receives another 10 years of accreditation

    Gateway Technical College has been granted another 10 years of regional accreditation -- through 2020 -- from The Higher Learning Commission, a national independent organization which evaluates the quality of higher education institutions.

    Tthe commission also extended its approval to two of Gateway’s fully online programs, IT Web Developer/Administrator and Graphic Communications.

    “Regional accreditation is extremely important to our college community,” said John Thibodeau, associate vice president of Student Learning. “Continued accreditation allows our students to access federal financial aid and helps them transfer their credits to continue their education.”

    The team of evaluators that visited the college highlighted Gateway;s strengths after its visit to the college:
    • Gateway has exemplary support from the community.
    • Gateway has highly respected leadership and has positioned the college so it is a major asset to the community.
    • Gateway is committed to sustainability and is a leader in learning on a global scale.
    • Gateway responds to community needs and offers resources to meet the needs of community.
    • The college facilities, in general, and the technology centers, in particular, are equipped with state-of-the-art equipment which facilitates effective teaching and learning.
    “We are pleased and encouraged by the report to continue to provide educational and workforce training opportunities to our students and the communities we serve,” said Gateway President Bryan Albrecht. “It is gratifying to see this independent commission validate our educational environment, innovation and work to provide the technology and tools to train tomorrow’s workers.”

    The accreditation was given without any stipulations. The commission, however, did ask for two progress reports, on Student Services and on measuring students’ learning in general education, due in January of 2012. The accreditation was made after a two-year  self-examination of Gateway’s programs and services as well as a visit by Higher Learning Commission members.

    The HLC, founded in 1895 as one six regional institutional accrediting organizations in the U.S., accredits degree-granting programs in a 20-state region.

    State lets veterans have their therapy dogs

     UPDATE: Wow! That was fast! Rep. Cory Mason tells us that late this afternoon the rules were changed, and the vets will get their dogs back. Mason's office was called by the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs, and told that the Department of Administration has agreed to allow registered therapy dogs back in the veterans homes.

     Original post:

    Let dogs back into vets' home, say area legislators

    Three Racine  legislators called on the state today to quickly change a new policy banning dogs at two state veterans' homes.

    The Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs  recently stopped allowing animals in the two state-run veterans homes because it is against state regulations. The WDVA has asked the state Department of Administration to grant an exemption to allow therapeutic animals inside these veterans homes.

    The use of therapy dogs is common in many nursing homes. Research has shown that these visits can decrease loneliness and improve some residents’ quality of life.

    Sen. John Lehman and Reps. Cory Mason and Bob Turner, who represent residents at the Veterans Home at Union Grove, sent a letter today to DOA urging quick approval of this exemption request, so dog visits can resume.

    “Visits from these dogs are not only therapeutic, but also provide a comfort of home to residents who owned dogs before moving to the Veterans Home,” Lehman said.

    “Our veterans have given everything to serve our country. The least we can do is afford them the comfort found by man’s best friend,” said Mason.

     “As a veteran myself, I felt it important to ask the DOA to expedite the request from WDVA and allow these visits to residents to continue,” said Turner.

    Peregrine falcon Cooper's hawk takes a break

    A peregrine falcon has been hanging around the grounds of The DeKoven Center this spring. The handsome bird, likely from the nest in the Racine County Courthouse, can be spotted in trees on the west end of the property. We caught the snaps above and below on Wednesday.

    Shooting on Sixth Street early Thursday morning; Suspects arrested

    Bad news for the burgeoning entertainment district on Sixth Street ...
    May 20 at about 1:40 A.M. a 29 year old male Metro Security Services officer was shot in the lower leg in the 500 blk. of 6th St. Metro Security officers are employed by Park 6. Racine Police officers were in the area of the 500 Blk. of 6th St. when a fight was observed. A single gunshot was fired and the Metro Security officer was struck in the lower leg. The victim was transported to Wheaton Franciscan-All Saints by Racine Fire Department Rescue. Officers learned a red Cadillac with Illinois plates was possibly involved in the incident.
    On 5/20/10 at about 2:25 A.M. the red Cadillac was involved in an accident on Sheridan Rd. in the City of Kenosha. Three occupants of the vehicle were detained by Kenosha and subsequently transported to the Racine Police Department. The three occupants are currently being questioned by Racine Police investigators. The red Cadillac has been towed and impounded.
    Racine Police investigators are interested in any additional information that you may have about this crime. 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.

    Salsa maker wins entrepreneur's award at RCEDC's annual meeting

    Award-winning local entrepreneur Brian Peters at Wednesday's RCEDC annual meeting. 

    If you know Brian Peters, you know the man loves his salsa. That love is on its way to becoming a successful business.

    Peters, and his idea to create an all-natural salsa, won a local entrepreneur's competition Wednesday at the Racine County Economic Development Corporation's annual meeting. He beat out five finalists for the $1,000 award, which was voted on by a panel of local business owners.

    Peters and the four other entrepreneurs gave "elevator pitches" of their business plans to an audience of about 300 local economic leaders gathered at the Veterans Terrace in Burlington. The three-member panel then put the future business owners on the spot, asking tough questions about their business plans and how they intend to create successful enterprises.

    Other finalists included:

    Norm Walker, Facilities Services and Solutions. Walker helps manufacturers who use compressed air find inefficiencies in their operations. He has a system that identifies, and then quantifies, potential energy savings. The service is actually free at the moment if business owners use the state's Focus on Energy rebate credit.

    Jim Nondorf Jr., Water Separation Systems. Nondorf is looking to expand his Racine-based business to help businesses with large boilers become more efficient. He offers a reverse osmosis solution that reduces the amount of water and energy needed in boilers.

    Raymond Madden, Computer Renewal. Madden will "up-cycle" used computers to prevent them from being dumped in the landfill. He intends to collect old computers, fix them, and sell them at discounted prices to consumers and businesses.

    Ellen Ferwerda, home composting. Ferwerda plans to invent a garbage disposal that will compost food waste and convert it into nutrient-rich soil. It's meant to capitalize on growing interest in composting, which some cities are beginning to require as a way to reduce garbage.

    Peters, whose business is called the Peters Cellars Family Kitchen, began working on his business in 2008 when he was laid off from his job after 20 years in the construction industry. He saw the forced career change as an opportunity to reinvent himself into the owner of a natural foods company. Peters' specialty is an all-natural salsa recipe that he intends to sell  as a top-brand salsa. He also plans to work with the homeless at HALO to create jobs and help people in need get work experience.

    All five finalists were selected to participate in the "Launching Green Businesses" program, organized by UW-Parkside's Small Business Development Center and the Racine County Workforce Development Center. He and about 20 other entrepreneurs worked through a 15-week class to develop a business plan they can take to investors and lenders to get started.

    The finalists were the featured speakers at RCEDC's annual meeting, which also included a review of the county's economic development in 2009 and the organization's annual awards.

    Burlington Area School District Superintendent Ron Jandura, who is retiring after 40 years in education, received the Sam Johnson Volunteer Award. Odinn Johnson (left), Sam Johnson's grandson, introduced the award with stories about his family. He referred to Sam as "Grand-Sam" and recalled that the original Samuel Johnson, his great-grandfather, help support a southern school for former slaves

    In his acceptance speech, Jandura talked about innovations in education that are helping students apply learning to the real world. One Burlington High class calls students to a "crime" scene at 2 a.m. to process forensic evidence, while another allows students to witness a live surgery. Burlington also created the state's first Construction Career Academy, which teaches students how to work in the building trades.

    Jandura predicted major changes in school systems over the next five to 10 years. While education has resisted technology - walk into a school today and not much is different from 50 years ago, he said - it's headed toward a revolution.

    In one specific case, Jandura said a student approached school officials about wanting to study Italian, so the administrators found an online class for him to take. The student went on to become an American diplomat in Italy, he said.

    About 300 people attended RCEDC's annual meeting on 
    Wednesday at Veterans Terrace in Burlington.

    Other award winners included:

    The Leonard W. Ziolkowski Public Sector Award - Gilbert Bakke, former RCEDC board member and current member of the Racine County Board

    The Anthony J. DiCastri Private Sector Award - Roger Caron, president of the Racine Area Manufacturers and Commerce

    Lender of the Year - Glenn Schroeder, vice president, business banking division at M&I Bank

    RCEDC also recognized its business loan recipients in 2009. They included:

    • Amarillo Towing of Wisconsin
    • HM Product Solutions
    • Johnson's Gardens
    • Ketter's Flooring
    • Maletto's Packaging
    • Michelle R. Bonnesss, M.D.
    • Nelson Bros. & Strom Quadra
    • Spee-Dee Packaging Machinery
    • Strategic Electronic Solutions
    • Sturtevant Sportsplex
    • Wisconsin Shower Door
    RCEDC's 27th annual anniversary celebration started with a welcome talk by RCEDC board President Dan Pettit, followed by a summary of 2009 economic development results by County Executive Bill McReynolds.
    Matt Wagner

    Burlington Mayor Bob Miller

    Matt Wagner, director of UW-Parkside's Small Business Development Center, introduced the entrepreneurs, and Burlington Mayor Robert Miller introduced the community award winners. 

    Gordy Kacala, executive director of RCEDC, closed the meeting by saying that, in spite of the recession, he was "pleased with the progress we've had." 

    Kacala added that competition is so fierce among communities for new businesses that he's afraid to announce future projects because other communities are trying to poach them.

    "That's the reality we're dealing with," he said. 

    May 19, 2010

    Weslaski's donate swimming record board to YMCA

    Racine's elite youth swimmers have a new goal to swim for thanks to a donation from two local parents.

    Claire and Kevin Weslaski donated a new swimming record board for a wall in the Racine YMCA's pool area. The board lists girls and boys records for swimmers who are members of the South-Eastern Aquatics YMCA club, or SEAY.

    The Weslaski's daughter, Paige, holds three of the records (in the 500-, 1000- and 1650-yard freestyle) on the new board. But the donation is about more than just individual performances, the Weslaski's said.

    The scoreboard is meant to bring visibility to a club that teaches dedication, work ethic and time management, which help academically and with life in general. The Weslaski's speak from experience. Their daughter Paige is heading to St. Bonaventure University in New York state on a full-ride scholarship in the fall.

    The scoreboard was installed in the pool on Friday. It displays "senior" records, which are the fastest recorded times by SEAY swimmers in the different events.

    SEAY is open to children of all ages. This year about 140 swimmers are competing in age groups from 5 years old through high school. For more information about the swim team, contact Neil Wright at or visit the website:

    (Photo from left to right): Jeffrey Collen, CEO of Racine Family YMCA, Kevin Weslaski, Claire Weslaski, and Neil Wright, head coach of SEAY

    Katie Lafond, 16, of Prairie School, releases CD

    Katie Lafond, a 16-year-old singer, songwriter and student at The Prairie School, has released a CD  with ten of her original songs, called  “Race Your Pulse.” Katie has been playing guitar and writing music for two years -- we've seen her performing Downtown on First Fridays, at Second Saturdays in Kenosha and other events.

    A CD release party will be held starting at 6 p.m. Saturday, May 29, at the Racine Arts Council, 316 6th St.  Katie will play selections from her CD as well as covers from other acoustic artists. Zachary Scot Johnson will join her on stage.

    Tickets are $3 at the door. Proceeds will be donated to the Prairie School Music Foundation and Group Workcamps.

    Katie recorded “Race Your Pulse” with Scott Defebaugh in Milwaukee. Her mentor and teacher, Zachary Scot Johnson, played violin, dobro, mandolin and keys on the CD. John Laidlaw, Peter Batchelder, Kevin Polster and Scott Defebaugh also accompanied Katie.

    Samples can be heard on her websiteOthers are on YouTube.

    May 18, 2010

    Commentary: The missing 10-year plan

    The JT's Stephanie Jones has a story about Mayor John Dickert's missing 10-year plan. Here's the key quote from the mayor:
    The document is in my head. I have not written out the 10-year plan anywhere ... the plan is constantly in a changing mode.
    That's an amazing statement. Not only does Dickert not have a 10-year plan, other than shifting thoughts in his head, he's not concerned about not having a plan. It's a remarkably honest admission from a politician who is ignoring his No. 1 campaign promise. 

    It's hard to see the strategy here. Dickert ran as the candidate who had a long-range plan to help Racine, but hasn't delivered on that project. It's becoming the mayor's defining trait. He promised to bring jobs to the city, but has created few, if any. He promised to bring development to the city, but every commercial project that's come forward has failed or is on life support. 

    Dickert's main accomplishment in office is this year's budget, which held the line on property taxes, maintained most city services and  implemented the blue recycling bins to cut down on the city's garbage bill. 

    But the city's 2011 budget will be tougher. Stimulus money is drying up and property values declined citywide this year. The mayor and City Council will likely have to increase property taxes or cut services to balance the budget. Either will be difficult in an election year. 

    The lack of a "10-year plan" may be worse. First, it's a catchy slogan any opponent will be able to run with. I can already see the campaign lit in the mail: "Where's the 10-year plan?" Simple. Devastating. The plan is something directly under the mayor's control and came directly from his mouth. No one asked him to create a 10-year plan. He said he would do it, and hasn't followed through. Politicians often make promises they can't keep, but this is hard to overlook. 

    Second, it's not that hard to write a 10-year plan - unless you're afraid of being held accountable, or you don't have any ideas. We met with the mayor back in October and asked him about the non-existent plan. We even took his ideas and laid them out into what, conceivably, could be be a 10-year plan. It took about an hour's worth of time. The writing is easy. It's the having your ideas pinned down that's difficult. 

    Third, it's just a plain old lack of leadership. We've heard from several people that the mayor is tired of being bogged down with the details of running city government. He's a "big picture" guy searching out a $40 million deal with a Chinese developer" or trying to lure a company to town that will bring jobs. You should see his desk, they say. It's covered with projects and work he's pursuing. That's all great, but this isn't the time for ideas.

    The mayor, and others, seem to have a vision of an outside savior coming in to save the local economy and return Racine to a time when major companies gave high school graduates high-paying jobs for life. That isn't our city any more. Racine is a mid-sized, ex-industrial city that's losing population. He talks about building homes and pursing lucrative housing developments with out-of-town money, but the local housing market is flooded with people and banks trying to sell and developers aren't building anywhere. 

    On a personal level, I like the mayor. He's a good, nice man who cares about the city and the people who live here. But as a citizen and a local political observer, I'm mystified. The mayor seems to be running a textbook pre-campaign on how to weaken an incumbent and entice potential opponents. Instead of scaring people out of the race, like Gary Becker did back in 2007, Dickert seems intent on convincing as many people as possible that they can run and win next spring. 

    Maybe I'm dead wrong. Maybe Dickert is taking the hit now on his 10-year plan so it's old news by next year. Maybe he will land a major development or bring in a pile of jobs. Maybe this is the end of a bumpy first year for a politician learning the ropes.

    Even so, it's time for the mayor to get his ideas down on paper for the world to see. Grab your buddies, get together in the basement, take out a blank sheet of paper and actually lay out a plan to improve Racine. If you can't do that, you can't lead. If you can't do that, you won't have to worry about next April because you won't make it through February. 

    Update: Reading comments here and at the JT, readers appear to be unanimously upset about the mayor's missing 10-year plan. Out of 80+ comments, I haven't seen one defending the mayor.

    Update 2: The mayor's online chat at the JT is finished. Interesting that he twice mentioned he'd be rolling out his plans in the "RJT." Interesting to see the mayor buddying up the with the paper, and apparently, the paper returning the love.

    RAM treats insects as art

    A vignette from Jennifer Angus' exhibit

    Three women artists with an affinity for insects have taken over the Racine Art Museum. They have filled two of the museum's big galleries with thousands of moths, bumblebees, beetles and especially cockroaches -- an installation of three related shows designed to humanize these creatures and restore our sense of awe.

    There are dollhouses decorated with beeswax and insect parts, fine drawings and visual puns, and five-foot wide photographs of giant cockroaches in unusual poses. Cockroaches in costume; cockroaches being executed; cockroaches taking over our homes.

    And yet ... to use a term from Bruce Pepich, museum director, there's no "ick" factor. "The artists have the wonderment of a child. For adults, they reawaken a sense of awe."

    Earlier this month we posted, in the Kiosk, a story about these three interlocking exhibitions by Catherine Chalmers (cockroaches), Jennifer Angus (insect patterns) and JoAnna Poehlmann (insectopedia). Tuesday we got a sneak peak, touring the installation with Poehlmann, Pepich and RAM's new curator of exhibitions, Lena Vigna. It was eye-opening, both visually and intellectually.

    But first, a disclaimer from Vigna: "No cockroaches were harmed in the making of this exhibition." That made me feel a lot better than a couple of other things she said: "The average candy bar has eight insect legs in it." And, "cockroaches can live a week without their head."

    Those two last statements may help explain Pepich's observation about "the discomfort we have of sharing our homes with these insects." But as he passed one of Chalmer's wall-sized photographs he also noted that cockroaches "are much less threatening in pink."

    Chalmers' installation is in three parts, featuring video and large photographs of costumed cockroach "imposters," (above), cockroach "executions," (left), and giant-appearing cockroaches inhabiting our homes (actually small dollhouses that Chalmers creates, which makes the cockroaches seem much, much bigger. The story behind Vigna's "none were harmed" disclaimer is that the roaches are chilled, embellished, posed for their closeups, and then thawed out of hibernation. Any adornment then falls off and the cockroaches are, we are assured, none the worse for wear. But whether you want to put one of Chalmers' large photos in your dining room may be another story. (In my case, no need to ask the wife; I already know the answer.)

    Poehlmann explained the background of some of her artwork; for example, a miniature book with four beetles created after John Lennon was killed -- hence its title: Homage to the Beatles. She likes "appropriating " other artwork, and adding bugs, visual and verbal puns that play on the original painting. "Taking things out of their original context," is how Pepich described it.

    "People give me things," Poehlmann said, pointing to a small sewing box she adorned with insects. "I keep looking for more boxes like that. I just got in the mail a box of 12 bumblebees... I was thrilled."

    Lena Vigna in front of a tiny portion of Angus' patterns

    Angus' patterns of insect life used the most bugs -- thousands of them mounted artistically on walls around illustrations from a Victorian children's alphabet book, and more in beeswax dioramas staged around dollhouses, like a bug funeral, bugs kissing a cow, scenes from fairy tales. The exhibit took the artist and four workmen almost a week to install. Vigna assured us that Angus "reuses" the insects as many times as she can. And Pepich noted, "A lot of these insects are not Midwestern bugs -- or we'd be doing an installation of mosquitoes, and houseflies."

    Here are some quotes from the artists:

    Catherine Chalmers: "Insects are a window into the unimaginable... One of the things I discovered when reading up on the American cockroach is that they are no longer found in the wild. They have existed for hundreds of millions of years, have survived several mass extinctions, yet we have succeeded in chaging how they live. Our homes are now their natural habitat. They are, in a sense, our alter-egos, the shadows that clandestinely follow in our wake.... Our hatred of the roach has perhaps grown in proportion to the boundaries we have erected between ourselves and the natural world."

    Jennifer Angus: "I never liked insects; after all I grew up in Canada where most things seem to be black or brown and bite or sting. I have a revulsion for earwigs in particular... and I think junebugs are the stupidest insect I have ever seen because of the way they get stuck on their backs and buzz around trying to right themselves."

    JoAnna Poehlmann (above): "My reaction to the world of insects is simply awe at the endless variety and limitless subject matter of creation and the desire to reflect what is witnessed."

    RAM has scheduled many events around this All The Buzz exhibition, including kids' days, bug days, opportunities to meet with the artists, summer camp and the like. The full list is here.

    CAR25 is re-broadcasting Post Prom this week

    We've been asking CAR25 -- Cable Access Racine -- when the re-broadcasts of Rotary's Post Prom would be shown. Today we got the answer: Now!

    Today's schedule was from 3 p.m. - 8 p.m., and 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. The Prom will continue to run throughout the week, we're told.

    Our Prom pictures are here.

    Star in Racine Theatre Guild's 'The Producers' overcomes broken foot to make opening night

    Daniel Martino (left) and Joseph Cardamone (right) in the Racine Theatre Guild's show, "The Producers."

    Many theater puns apply to the opening weekend of the Racine Theatre Guild's production of "The Producers," but which is the best?

    There's the obvious: "break a leg." Or the philosophical, "Life imitates art." Or the chivalarous: "The show must go on!" All fit the run-up to the RTG's major musical production, which hit a snag worth of, well, a Mel Brooks' show. Let's start with ...

    Break a Leg

    Actor Daniel Martino (right), who plays Max Bialystock (Nathan Lane in the movie and on Broadway), took the traditional theater saying, used in place of "good luck," which is considered bad luck, literally. He broke his foot during a dress rehearsal five days before the show's Friday opening. Doctors told him he'd have to be off his foot for two weeks. Martino gave the hairline fracture two days, and didn't miss a rehearsal.

    Co-lead Joseph Cardamone, who plays Leo Bloom (Matthew Broderick in the movie and on Broadway), quipped that Martino "sat out rehearsals - literally." While Cardamone danced and moved around the stage, Martino spoke and sang his parts in the audience. (Cardamone said it was odd feeling to act without "Max" by his side. "I learned what it must be like for the folks in the Star Wars movies," he said. "I had to act without someone there.")

    'Life imitates art'

    If you want to sound smart, utter this philosopher's line in any situation and people will assume you know something. But in this case, life really did imitate art, in this case, theater.

    In "The Producers," which is about a musical within the musical, the lead actor in "Springtime for Hitler," named Franz, breaks his leg on opening night. He has no understudy and the show appears doomed (don't worry, no more spoilers).

    While Martino didn't break his foot on opening night, it might well have been. With just five days to opening, the production had no understudy for Martino, who twisted his ankle backstage running for a quick costume change. "Max" is on stage for nearly the entire production, and Martino's preparation would have been irreplacable.

    "We were all on pins and needles waiting for the diagnosis," Cardamone said.

    The irony of the accident wasn't lost on the cast, he added. In the show, Leo says to Max, "Franz plays Hitler, Max, and he has no understudy."

    After Martino's accident, Cardamone said he had hard time not saying to director Doug Instenes, "Dan plays Max, Doug, and he has no understudy."

    The show must go on!

    Martino took this one to heart. Ignoring doctor's orders, he strapped a boot-cast on his foot and was back on stage in two days.

    "It was very clear that nothing was going to prevent him from performing," Cardamone said.

    Instenes and the production crew tweaked a few scenes to help Martino get around on his foot, made an announcement about the boot on Martino's foot before the show and, well, the show went on.

    Cardamone said he barely noticed a change in Martino's performance. "I'm not sure anyone had any real concern about it," he said. "Short of something that would literally render him incapable of doing it, I suspected he would move heaven and earth to be there."

    Show times

    Martino, Cardamone and the rest of the cast are back on stage this Friday at 7:30 p.m. "The Producers" at the Theatre Guild runs at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. on Sunday through May 30.

    There are also shows at 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 22; 7 p.m. on Sunday, May 23; 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 27; and 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 24.

    The adult ticket price is $18 for 7:30 p.m. shows and $16 for all others. Discounts are available for seniors, subscribers, groups and students; however, it is not suitable for young children. “The Producers” earns a PG-13 rating, due to its bawdy and satirical humor.

    Box office hours are 12 to 6 p.m. on weekdays and 90 minutes prior to curtain through intermission at performances. Advance reservations are highly recommended. For tickets, call 262-633-4218 or order online at

    Three crocs take up temporary residence at Racine Zoo

    Guess who's staying for dinner at the Zoo?

    A few visitors from Milwaukee: three crocodiles and a 175-lb. turtle.

    An 8-foot long African slender-snouted crocodile, a 5½-ft. West African dwarf crocodile and another 5½-ft crocodile of undeterminable species, came to the Zoo late yesterday and a 175-lb. alligator snapping turtle is scheduled to arrive tomorrow.

    The Zoo is providing temporary housing and care for the animals,which  were taken into custody as part of an investigation by Milwaukee Police from a home and a warehouse in South Milwaukee last Thursday. Racine Zoo officials were called to assist in the identification and collection of approximately 250 snakes, crocodiles, turtles, alligators, and caimans.

    Tick-tock, tick-tock, it's almost time
    for Downtown's art project, Hour Town

    Artist Sherri Shaver, right, turns over her two clocks to Terry Leopold;
    Dragonfly design at right is called Time is flying

    Racine's summer-long Happy Hour began Tuesday morning, as artists from all over the city brought their clock creations Downtown, in preparation for the Downtown Racine Corporation's Hour Town public art display.

    By noon more than 20 of the large clocks were on hand, and the clock was ticking: the deadline is 5 p.m. today. The 60 clocks will be displayed Saturday night on the lawn of  "Club Wingspread" at a cocktail party for artists and sponsors. Then they will be distributed Downtown for public display beginning Monday.

    Puns were much in evidence among the early arrivals. Plaques with names such as Time is flying, Sands of time, It's always time for tea, Big Time, Timepieces, Time flies and Time to sow were affixed to each clock's base. We'll leave it up to you to guess which name fit which clock: for example, one of a large fish trying to select his lunch or one with farm equipment marking the hours.

    Terry Leopold, DRC’s special events coordinator, checked in the clocks as they arrived, listened appreciatively to artists' explanations of their designs, and noted that Racine's public art project -- now in its ninth year -- has gone on longer than any other city's.

    Time flies when you're having fun, eh?

    Richard Harris and Craig Aude mount Time to Sow on its base

    Here's a closeup of Time to Sow, by Jayne and Grace Siler

    Natasha Miller brings in Marilyn, by her son Mike Miller, 16, of St. Cat's

    Time for Change?, left, recreates artist Shepard Fairey's Barack Obama portrait 
    -- made out of painted pennies. Its artist Jeff Levonian, won 1st prize
    when fish were the subject of DRC's contest a few years ago.
    Center, Sun, Moon and Stars, by Mary Lou Dettmer;
    at right, Sun and Moon by Lloyd Swager