June 5, 2010

Mayor has multiple goals for bike challenge

Mayor Dickert leads the way at the start of the Mayor's Bike Challenge
Mayor John Dickert, along with his wife and two kids, led about 30 cyclists on a bike ride along some of the city's bike paths Saturday. It was a hot and humid day -- but OK for a bike ride -- but the mayor had more than just the fun of being outdoors on two wheels on his mind.

In a short warm-up message before the ride, which began at the Tyler-Domer Community Center and was slated to end at the REC Center, Dickert outlined his three goals:

1. "Get out on your bikes and ride, and get healthy."
2. "Remind drivers that the bike paths exist."
3. "Get more of the city's bike paths designated, so they're easier for tourists -- and us -- to find."

Dickert related how he once was riding his bicycle on a bike path in Milwaukee ... and suddenly found himself totally lost. The path had ended, and he didn't really know where he was. He doesn't want that to happen here. Showing off the city's map of bike paths, he noted that while many are designated -- marked and striped -- many are not.

Getting more of them designated "is a priority," he said, adding, "The challenge is money."

Alderman Greg Helding, who was also along on the ride, pointed out that unless streets are already wide enough for a bike path -- so only striping is needed -- adding one to road construction adds 10% to 20% to the cost, for the wider pavement.

As Dickert preps riders, his wife, Teresa, and daughter, Eleanor, cheer each other on

Tresa and Dewey Johnson, with her pre-WWII bicycle

One of the more interesting bikes at the Mayor's bike ride Saturday morning belonged to Tresa Johnson, and her husband of 37 years, Dewey. Tresa said she bought her bike 42 years ago -- with $10 earned from baby-sitting. Although she's unsure of the make, she knows the bike, found at a yard sale when she was a teenager, dates from before World War II. Just look at that old-fashioned kick-stand!

Tresa has ridden the bike consistently. Dewey cleaned it up, put on new fenders and those boss whitewall tires, but the frame is original. "I've always enjoyed it," Tresa said. "Riding is relaxing and healthy, and I get to talk to interesting people."

And with that, she and Dewey gave me a honk or two from their squeaky horns, and were off!

June 4, 2010

'First Friday' leaves Downtown Racine jumpin'

Beautiful weather drew a huge crowd to Downtown Racine Friday night for the "First Fridays" event on Main and Sixth streets. Parking was scarce and Monument Square was jumping as people gathered to hear bands, shop in Downtown stores and hang out with friends. Above is a slideshow of photos from a great event!

Meet the latest Zoo visitor

7' African Dwarf Crocodile

Four reptiles who've been free-loading at the Racine Zoo since May 18 deigned to pose for photographs this morning.

Sort of.

Three crocs, and a 150-year-old (more or less) Alligator Snapping Turtle, were taken into custody in Milwaukee last month when hundreds of reptiles were discovered in appalling conditions in a home and warehouse belonging to a man wanted for sexual assault. At that point, the reptiles were "evidence" to be kept under wraps by the various zoos called to take them in. WTMJ has photos of what animal control experts first found when they went to the building to take the reptiles into custody as evidence.

Well, they are "no longer evidence," Racine Zoo director Jay Cristie said this morning. That may be explained by the arrest of Terry Cullen, a reptile expert who was arrested and charged with trapping and sexually assaulting a woman in his home.

In any case, Christie led me through the basement of the Zoo's Vanishing Kingdom this morning, where the crocs were ensconced in individual cages, each with water and a plywood deck to crawl upon. The turtle slept (?) in a blue wading pool. None showed any interest at all in our presence; two of them -- an 8-ft. long African Slender Snouted Croc and a 7-ft. long species yet undetermined -- stayed mostly out of sight, under benches.

The crocs show a little more enthusiasm at feeding time. Dinner is fresh frozen rats, warmed under a heat lamp, and maybe some fish, according to the Zoo's animal care specialist Theresa Donarski. Food for the four costs about $20 per day, paid for by the Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission.

The Zoo has no plans to put the crocs on public display. In fact, it already has two crocs of its own that are displayed only on rare occasions. Yet to be determined is the reptiles' eventual destinations. Christie believes one may belong to a Miami Zoo. The crocs' availability has been posted on Zoo listservs, Christie says, "but no peers are holding open any croc exhibits hoping to get one of these." So far, anyway.

A member of the Zoo's Board of Directors, Dr. Greg Mayer, a professor at UW-Parkside, will examine them soon. Fecal tests have already shown that they reptiles are not infected with parasites.

 One very big Alligator Snapping Turtle, oblivious to visitors 

Since we were at the Zoo anyway, we stopped in to see how lion cubs Badu and Zuka are doing. Here they are, playing with Mom Elsa in their display exhibit, charming -- with much more personality than the crocs, it must be said -- scores of young school children this morning.

Police shoot felon with gun on Thursday night

Racine Police shot Eric S. Conley, 21, a convicted felon, Thursday night, after checking reports of a suspicious man with a gun. Although hit twice, Conley's injuries are not believed to be life-threatening. A weapon was recovered.

Here's the initial Police report:
Suspect: Eric S. Conley 2-7-89 - address not confirmed

On 6-3-10 at approximately 11:15 p.m., Racine Police Officers were checking in the area of Mt. Pleasant Street & Romayne Avenue for a suspicious male who was possibly carrying a gun. Two uniformed Police Officers confronted the suspect in the rear yard of the apartment complex at 2100 Romayne Ave.

Preliminary investigation reveals that the suspect failed to follow officer commands and his actions were a threat to officers. Initial findings are that one officer fired two shots from his service handgun at the suspect. The suspect was stuck by two bullets. The suspect's injuries are not believed to be life threatening. A suspect weapon (gun) was recovered at the scene of the shooting.

The suspect is a convicted felon. It is anticipated that the Racine Police Department will at a minimum seek a criminal charge of Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon and a Probation Hold.

June 3, 2010

Proposed West Racine grocery store, gas station is dead

The JT's Paul Sloth is reporting tonight that Tom Tousis's plans to build a grocery store, restaurant and gas station in West Racine is dead.

Tousis and the city split ways after the city concluded Tousis's project was not worth enough money to pay off loans the city took out to demolish buildings on the site at the corner of Washington Avenue and West Boulevard. But a number of factors complicated the roughly $3 million development, which was one of the largest new construction commercial projects on the table in the city in the past year. 

Initially, Tousis faced opposition from West Racine business owners who were opposed to a gas station on the site. Opponents were concerned the gas pumps were a bad fit for an area that prides itself on small businesses and being walkable. 

A number of supporters mobilized in favor of Tousis's project, including local labor unions looking for a sizable project to create new jobs. Tousis had vowed to use local union workers for the job. 

Tousis's plans hit a snag when his team discovered a sewer pipe running through the property. The discovery forced them to downsize a $5 million project to between $3 million and $4 million (there was disagreement on the number), a reduction that ultimately doomed the project. It may also jeopardize future plans for the site. Along with the sewer pipe there's evidence the property could be contaminated from past use, including a mechanic's shop and as a dump for foundry slag. Both factors, as well as some complicated utility easements, will make new construction on the site challenging. 

(As an aside, the Department of Natural Resources awarded the city a $40,075 grant in 2007 to remediate a small brownfield site, the former Wisconsin Muffler Property at 3124 W. Washington Ave., across the street from the land Tousis wanted to build on. Gov. Jim Doyle announced the grant in a press release sent statewide. But in 2008 the city returned the grant and told the DNR they didn't want to use the money, according to a DNR official. 

"It doesn't sound like they did any of the cleanup work they were proposing or did anything to create the green space," said the official, who reviewed the state's official records on the brownfield grant.)

The city and Tousis are now playing out the end game of roughly a year's worth of back-and-forths over the West Racine project. The city's Redevelopment Authority actually granted Tousis an option on the site, and Tousis paid the city $5,000 for the option. 

The RDA then decided it needed to reconsider the timeline for the project, which set off the final round of negotiations that led to the proposal's collapse. The RDA is now expected to vote next week to cancel the option and refund Tousis's $5,000. The proposal only needs RDA approval, according to a memo from Brian O'Connell. 

As for the city, it's begun to look at new projects. One idea is to work with the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority to build a housing development for the deaf and blind. While WHEDA has turned down Racine projects in recent years, the West Racine project could move forward because it has a unique purpose, according to an insider. But even with the unique focus it will be difficult for the city to obtain the loans. 

Here's the resolution the RDA is expected to vote on next week:
WHEREAS, on December 14, 2009, by resolution 09-30, the Redevelopment Authority granted an option to Tom Tousis (d.b.a. Better Day Petroleum Company) to redevelop the Authority’s properties in the 3101-3121 block of Washington Avenue; and 
WHEREAS, Mr. Tousis has requested that the deadlines in the option be amended to provide additional time to complete project design, obtain regulatory approvals, and arrange financing; and 
WHEREAS, representatives of the Authority and Mr. Tousis have been unable to reach a mutually acceptable agreement on terms and conditions for the extension. 
RESOLVED, that the option granted to Tom Tousis (d.b.a. Better Day Petroleum Company) to redevelop the Authority’s properties in the 3101-3121 block of Washington Avenue is not extended; and 
FURTHER RESOLVED, that in recognition of the good faith efforts by both parties and their mutual desire not to incur additional costs related to the development proposal, the Executive Director is authorized and directed to refund to Mr. Tousis his option fee of $5,000.00. 
Fiscal Note: Funds are available for the refund of the option fee.
And here's the memo City Development Director Brian O'Connell sent to the RDA about the resolution:
DATE: June 3, 2010 
TO: Commissioners, Redevelopment Authority 
FROM: Brian O’Connell, Director 
SUBJECT: Agenda item 10-4655: Request by Karen Sorenson on behalf of Tom Tousis requesting an extension of deadlines for West Racine redevelopment project. 
This item was deferred from the Authority’s meeting of April 7, 2010. 
During the its review of the request, staff became aware that the likely assessed value of Mr. Tousis’ development would be less than the value on which the Tax Increment District (TID No. 11) project plan for the redevelopment area was based. The Authority deferred action on the request to provide an opportunity for Mr. Tousis and his representatives and city representatives to explore alternatives for increasing the assessed value on the property. 
City and Mr. Tousis’ representatives met twice during the following weeks and exchanged information between the meetings. Despite good faith efforts by both parties and a serious review of alternatives, we were unable to reach a mutually acceptable solution. Therefore, I am recommending that the Authority not grant the requested extension. 
In recognition of the good faith efforts by both parties and the mutual desire not to incur additional costs related to the proposal, I am also recommending that Mr. Tousis’ option fee of $5,000 be refunded to him. 
I have prepared a resolution for the Authority that will accomplish these recommendations. (See attachment.) 
If you have any questions about this item prior to your meeting on June 10th, feel free to call me at 636 – 9478.

Mayor to unveil new sidewalks at First Friday

Mayor John Dickert will unveil a new rubber sidewalk Friday that's expect to save money, protect the environment and increase safety. 

The walkway, or Terrewalks, is manufactured by Rubbersidewalks, Inc. Dickert has previously said he hopes to lure the Fountain City, Calif.-based company to Racine. The city already has purchased a $46,000 rubber walkway from the company for North Beach. 

Here's the full press release: 

Mayor to Unveil New Innovative Sidewalk System

RACINE – Mayor John Dickert will announce on Friday that Racine is the first city in Wisconsin to install a new sidewalk system that has the benefits of increased safety, reduced emissions, and long-term cost savings. 
Approximately 1,200 square feet of the new system will be introduced to the media and public during a 5 p.m. press conference held in Crosswalk Park – 317 Main Street, site of the new sidewalks. The press conference will help kick off this month’s Downtown Racine Corporation’s First Friday event. 
“The benefits will be immediate,” said Mayor Dickert. “We expect to see a marked decline in uplifted and broken concrete in Crosswalk Park. Visitors to our downtown area now have a safe and attractive walkway. We are already looking at other possible areas to install Terrewalks.” 
By taking this innovative approach City of Racine officials will be overcoming several environmental problems by replacing concrete pavement with Terrewalks, a product of Rubbersidewalks, Inc., which utilize recycled tires to create the sidewalks. 
“The cost savings is in the longevity of the product,” said Dan Joyce, Vice President for Rubbersidewalks. “Within 3-6 years of initial investment cities will break even on Terrewalks and in 10 years they will be saving money and resources. Above all, the City of Racine will save over the 20-year life cycle of the product in sidewalk durability, performance, and reduced injury-based lawsuits.” 
The system is also designed to protect tree roots, prolong the life of trees, allow maximum storm water capture, and provide public safety.

Blind Alligator hearing is tonight

Local bar The Blind Alligator, 1655 Taylor Ave., will fight for its liquor license tonight during a hearing before the Public Safety and Licensing Committee.

The Racine City Council voted in February to try and take the bar's license to sell alcohol. Police made 144 calls to the bar over an 18-month period and the health department reported several sanitation violations on the premises.

The council's Public Safety and Licensing Committee is scheduled to hold a due process hearing that is, essentially, a trial with The Blind Alligator as defendant and the committee as the jury.

Following the hearing, the committee will deliberate in closed session and then meet in open session to create the necessary report.

Committee members include: Chairman Aron Wisneski, Alderman David Maack, Alderman
Jim Kaplan, Alderman Robert Mozol and Alderman Eric Marcus. 

The hearing is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m.

June 2, 2010

Prairie student's video competing for $15,000

The Prairie School's David Sanchez is making another run at a national competition. This time he's showing off his artistic side.

Sanchez, 18, first came into the public's eye in 2008 when he competed, and won, a $10,000 grant from Best Buy  to create Job-Link Racine, a job-finding service for at-risk teenagers and the homeless. Sanchez was featured on the cover of last Sunday's Parade magazine with movie star Matthew McConaughey.

Now, he's competing in a movie competition at Talenthouse.com to win $15,000 in prizes, including new video equipment. Sanchez created a video for the band Era's new song, "Ameno." (See the video above.)

You can help Sanchez win the competition by voting for his video, and by sharing the video through Facebook, Twitter or any other social networks. He's currently in the Top 20 and was in first place with 36 hours to go before the Friday at noon deadline.

You can vote for Sanchez by texting "7G7KX2" to 53295. You're allowed one vote per mobile phone.

Update: Here's a message from David, who is planning to study at Vanderbilt next fall ...
I am interested in pursuing film in college and entered a video contest to win professional film equipment. I made a music video to the song Ameno by Era, in which I show a soccer team in training work together as a team. You can see my entry here http://www.talenthouse.com/creativeinvites/preview/dsanchez911/113. It has come down to a TEXTING VOTE. It's very easy, very fast, and completely free to vote, just TEXT 7G7KX2 to 53295 from your cell phone.
Although it is only one vote per phone, please spread the word to others. Winning this competition could be life-changing.

Mayor criticizes Racine police for parking squad cars out of sight

A police officer parked near the Pershing Park boat launch.

Mayor John Dickert criticized city police officers for parking their squad cars out of the public's sight while on active duty, according to city records.

Dickert wrote an email to Police Chief Kurt Wahlen on Feb. 4 saying he had received complaints from city residents about officers parking in out-of-the-way areas. He and City Administrator Tom Friedel also had a conversation with Deputy Chief David Smetana in January on the same issue, and at least one conversation prior to that.

"As I have said in the past and will continue to reinforce; we have an increase in street crimes and burglaries lately, for officers to take a break or do their reports in areas that make taxpayers feel like they are hiding is unacceptable," Dickert wrote to Wahlen.

RacinePost obtained the mayor's memo, along with emails from Wahlen and Smetana, with an open records request, which was promptly answered by the city.

In his email, Dickert cited three complaints he had received about officers.

One was a text from a taxpayer about two officers parked in Rooney Pugh Park at the end of Riechert Court.  The second involved two police cars parked at Washington Park Golf Course behind trees and the third was from city staff telling him about officers parked under the viaduct next to City Hall.

"I cannot begin to tell you how much respect I have for the officers, but it is issues like this that I cannot defend," Dickert wrote. "If they have to do work or talk, please remind them to do it in public. It is often the mere presence of the officers that keep people in line and make them feel more comfortable."

Wahlen responded to Dickert by saying his concerns would be read to the entire police department. He added that without more specifics, such as a squad car number or the time of day, it was difficult to investigate the residents' complaints.

"It is important to remember that we cannot really judge the officers without finding out the details," Wahlen wrote to Dickert on Feb. 4.

Smetana wrote to the police department's shift commanders on Jan. 11 about conversations he had with Dickert and Friedel about officers parking out of the public's eye.

"I have once again been approached by the City Administrator and Mayor in regards to seeing marked squads tucked away in obscure locations," he wrote.

Sgt. Martin Pavilonis, a spokesman for the Racine Police Department, said on-duty officers typically park their squads in out-the-way locations for safety while doing paperwork, planning strategy, or taking breaks.

Officers spend most of their shift on the road working out of their car, he said.

"Their office is their squad car," Pavilonis said.

Safety is an important consideration when officers park their cars for breaks or to write paperwork. Parking in vacant lots or off the roadway helps officers spot anyone who approaches their car while they're distracted writing up reports, Pavilonis said.

"It's hard to sneak up on them if they're out in the open," he said.

He added it's hard to judge what officers are doing in parked cars. They may be writing reports, watching a crime trouble spot or rounding up high school truants. Officers also may be taking a break or just talking to another officer, similar to co-workers in any office. The only difference is police are in the public's eye, Pavilonis said. 

"We don't see inside of City Hall offices," he said. 

Pavilonis said officers did not get upset when Dickert's letter was read to them during patrol shift meetings. They took the memo under advisement, he said. 

"Chief is the chief of police," Pavilonis said. "If it's his directive, then that's how it is."

Here is the full text of Mayor Dickert's memo to Chief Wahlen (reprinted exactly as original): 
From: Dickert, John
Sent: Thursday, February 04, 2010 11:45 a.m.
To: Wahlen, Kurt
Cc: Friedel, Thomas
Subject: PArking vehicles
Kurt, I have had numerous calls and text messages from constituents from residents regarding our officers parking in areas that make them look as if they are hiding from the public. 
1. A text from a taxpayer that two officers were parked in Rooney Pugh park at the end of Reichert Court.
2. Two cars were parked in the Washington park Golf course parking lot behind trees and talking. 
3. Staff contacting me about officers parked under the viaduct in the lower parking lot next to city hall! 

As I have said in the past and will continue to reinforce; we have an increase in street crimes and burglaries lately, for officers to take a break or do their reports in areas that make taxpayers feel like they are hiding is unacceptable. 
I cannot begin to tell you how much respect I have for the officers, but it is issues like this that I cannot defend. If they have to do work or talk, please remind them to do it in public. It is often the mere presence of the officers that keep people in line and make them feel more comfortable.  
If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to call. These are only three of a number of calls I have been receiving since I started. Please see that the officers understand the important positive role they play in our city. 

John Dickert
Mayor of Racine
730 Washington Ave. 
Racine, WI 53403
(262) 636-9111

Chief Wahlen's response:

From: Wahlen, Kurt
Sent: Thursday, February 04, 2010 3:40 PM
To: Dickert, John
Cc: Friedel, Thomas; Smetana, David
Subject: RE: PArking vehicles
Mayor: Your e-mail will be read in its entirety to every sworn member of this police department and the directive about remaining in plain view will be reiterated and enforced. However, it is difficult for me to dress down the troops on general complaints when I do not know any particulars other than a vehicle was, at some point, at a particular location. After all, it is possible that the officers could be at a particular location for good reason - such as chasing truants below Park High School. Without knowing the squad number and the time of day, we cannot follow-up on these complaints. Further, if they are on the dinner break, they have the right to be most anywhere enjoying a few quiet minutes with a sandwich. 
I request that you please forward complaints concerning police performance to the department, or send these parties to the Department's website. I have the complaint forms there posted in both Spanish and English. We will follow-up on all of them. Those contacting you could phone the Shift Commander, D/C Smetana or even me directly. Phoned in complaints will be followed up as well. 
Again, it is important to remember that we cannot really judge the officers without finding out the details. We do have GPS information we could possibly use to research any complaint if we were given a few details; squad number, date, time and location. We did use this GPS information to force one member of this department to resign recently. 
Over all, the members of this department have been doing a great job. Crime is down significantly. We caught two burglars on day shift quite recently after they broke into a house near Lathrop and Washington Ave. These offenders were plaguing residences in Racine as well as in Kenosha. 
Email from Deputy Chief David Smetana to shift commanders:
From: Smetana, David
Sent: Monday, January 11, 2010 2:20 PM
To: Polzin, Michael; Purdy, Robert; Lopez, Carlos; Esch, Mark; 
Cc: Wahlen, Kurt
Subject: 10-84 locations 
I have once again been approached by the City Administrator and Mayor in regards to seeing marked squads tucked away in obscure locations. One of the locations mentioned specifically was across from Three Door during the early morning hours, let your officers know that any measures they could take to be more visible during paperwork or 84 transactions would be much appreciated. The officer's visibility lends to the general public's perceptions about them and their activity. Meeting while turning in paper work or other meetings between officers near busy intersections or problems areas may assist in the public's perceptions about police coverage in the City. One suggestion is to have supervisors name more visible locations when calling for and collecting paperwork. 
Feel free to put your own spin on this to the officers you command, I am very proud of the Patrol Division and the job they do. Do not pass this on as an indictment of those efforts. 


June 1, 2010

Dickert fundraiser is June 8

A fundraiser for Mayor John Dickert will be held Tuesday, June 8th at the home of Doug and Sara Nicholson. 

The fundraiser will take place as the Brewers take on the Chicago Cubs. Tailgate will run from 5:30-7:10 p.m. and the fundraiser will last throughout the game.

Additional hosts include: Gus Antonneau, Dave Brown, Jeff Hoey, Jeff McKeown, Doug Nicholson, Mark Patzke, Chuck Christofferson, John Crimmings, Herb Katt, John Kopulos, Ian Lang, Tom Marini, Chad Novasic, Eric Petersen, Jennifer Thoennes and Eric and Lisa Olesen.

The minimum donation is $25. If you'd like to attend, RSVP to Mark Patzke at: mpatzke@multiproducts.com

Wild Ones teaches gardeners to go native

Volunteers pull garlic mustard from Evans Park in the Town of Yorkville. 

Just east of I-94 along Highway 20 you'll spot Evans Park, a 66-acre, county-owned plot of land that's little more than a dirt road loop with a few scattered picnic tables. Staying in your car there's not much to see.

But step off the road and into the woods and there's a wonderland of trees, flowers and mushrooms in all shapes and sizes. The park is home to an impressive collection of native plants that thrive under the forest's canopy. Trillium, baneberry and "spring beauty's" were all in bloom in the county park in May.

A small group of volunteers met at the park in May to protect the park's vibrant ecosystem by removing a few non-native plants capable of taking over entire forests if left unchecked. These "invasives" were brought to Wisconsin from other areas of the world and flourish here because they lack the natural controls of a native environment.

The group is known as the Root River chapter of Wild Ones, a non-profit organization created to educate the public about invasive species and to organize volunteers to protect native species.

The Root River chapter volunteers in Evans Park ranged from a botany professor at Northwestern University to a first-year volunteer not quite sure what to pull or what to leave. Everyone, regardless of experience, said their work with Wild Ones continually unfolds new levels of understanding the natural world.

Sue Borger, of the Root River chapter of Wild Ones.

They chose Evans Park, which you really will miss if you don't look for it, because it's a well-preserved location for native flowers and plants to thrive. While other areas are consumed with invasive species, Evans Park remains in good shape - at least for now.

The volunteers walked into the forest with trained eyes and spots the looming threat of garlic mustard weed and the dreaded buckthorn.

"When you learn about invasives, it's all you see," said Nan Calvert, head of the Root River Wild Ones.

All together they removed at least a dozen large garbage bags full of invasive species that can only be disposed of by burning.

Volunteers included Calvert, Diane Battisti and Ann Hillman, both of Raymond, Clarence and Karen Kaplan, of Caledonia, Sue and Barry Borger, Professor Cris Russin, of Northwestern University, Carol Beatty, of Kenosha, Debbie Kirchmaier and Ed Raymond.

The group was concentrating on garlic mustard in Evans Park. The plant aggressively takes over space from native species and makes the surrounding soil toxic for other species.

They also brought in a saw to hack out buckthorn, which is a particularly nasty tree because it creates a mid-level canopy in a forest that chokes out ground-level plants, including most native flowers. Whole forests in the state are being taken over by buckthorn, which is spread through berries that are a diuretic to birds. As the birds fly they poop buckthorn seeds along the way and the species spreads.

This freshly fallen tree was one of many remarkable sights in Evans Park. 

Wild Ones is holding its Native Plant Sale from 9am to 3pm Saturday at the Kenosha County Center at the corner of highways 50 and 45 in Bristol (click here for a map). The sale includes more than 5,000 native Wisconsin plants. Every plant for sale will have a picture with details about the plants.

Popular items at the sale include pre-assembled collections of plants designed specifically to attract hummingbirds and butterflies to gardens.

Profits benefit the group and other like-minded organizations.

Even with the down economy, the group expects the sale to do well.

"We were nervous last year, but people still felt (native plants) were important to spend money on," Calvert said. "Little by little, people who garden realize they can have a big impact."

One easy thing they can do: avoid invasive species for sale at local greenhouses. Plants like pachysandra, vinca vines and Japanese barberry are aggressive plants that will dominate native species and takeover large areas.

If you're not sure if a plant is invasive, checkout the DNR's  2010 guide to Invasive Species. Or, learn first hand by attending the Wild Ones' Plant Sale this Saturday in Bristol.

The Wild Ones Native Plant sale is Saturday from 9am to 3pm at the Kenosha County Center located near the intersection of highways 45 and 50 in Bristol. 

Professor Cris Russin, of Northwestern University

Nan Calvert (middle) and other Wild Ones volunteers.

Video: Mayor Dickert stopped for speeding in December

Video of Mayor John Dickert's traffic stop on Dec. 12, 2009 on N. Main St. 
Video provided by Racine Police Department.

A city police officer stopped Mayor John Dickert for speeding Dec. 12, 2009 in the 1200 block of North Main Street. Dickert was going 40 mph in a 30 mph zone at about 10 a.m. on a Saturday. He did not receive a ticket. There is no police report on the stop.

Video of the traffic stop, obtained with a records request to the police department, shows a brief, cordial encounter between Officer Bob Bojcic and Dickert near Jane Elementary School. Bojcic was conducting a speed wave near the school after the department received complaints about traffic.

Here'a transcript of the video:
Prior to exiting squad car: 

Officer Bojcic: 1200 block of North Main (indecipherable)

Talking to Dickert:  

Dickert: Hello, boss.
Officer: (indecipherable) You're the boss, aren't you?
Dickert: (laughs) Not always
Officer: Not always?
Dickert: What's going on?
Officer: Not much. We had a Speed Wave back here 40 in 30
Dickert: Oh (indecipherable) Sorry ... I was going to a radio show down in Kenosha
Officer: Yeah. Because of the school over there and the crossing guard always has fits over there so we come out here to do a speed wave out here to try and slow the traffic down it's like a race track out here, you know?
Dickert: It's actually a good idea.
Officer: Keep it down.
Dickert: You got it.
Sgt. Martin Pavilonis, spokesman for the Racine Police Department who had watched the video, said proper procedures were handled during the stop.

It's up to the officer's discretion on whether a driver gets a ticket, Pavilonis said. He said it was not unusual for a stop to take about 3 minutes when the officer does not issue a ticket.

There is no set policy on an officer's actions when they pull over an elected official like the mayor, Pavilonis said. If a police officer stops another police officer there is a policy to follow, he said, but that doesn't apply to the mayor.

As for the mayor's conduct, Pavilonis said he acted appropriately. "I don't think he asserted his rank as mayor," he said. "I don't think that's the case at all."

RacinePost requested video of the traffic stop after receiving a tip that the mayor was stopped. The city promptly answered a records request and provided a DVD of the stop from an in-squad video camera with audio collected from a microphone officers carry as part of their uniform.

May 31, 2010

Veterans past and present honored in ceremony at Graceland Cemetery

The DeKoven Men's Choir warms up before the Memorial Day Ceremony in Graceland Cemetery.

Iraqi war vet Dan Christiansen, of Racine, was the Memorial Day ceremony's keynote speaker.


Waiting in the rain ...

It was a wet, but dedicated, crowd at Graceland Cemetery.

Respects were paid.

A handful of local elected officials attended the ceremony.

The wreath ceremony during the parade.

Guns fired in honor of veterans.

For some, an important day. Master of Ceremonies Jon Christiansen, president of the Racine Veterans Council, said in some ways Memorial Day is more important than Fourth of July because it's a day for people who truly care about veterans and soldiers.

Racine celebrates Memorial Day with a rainy parade

U.S. flags had to share the spotlight with umbrellas this morning, during Racine's Memorial Day parade. A light drizzle began about ten minutes before the parade was to start, and by the time it was over about 30 minutes later, everyone was thoroughly wet.

Which is not to imply that the rain dampened anyone's enthusiasm. Bands, floats and marchers were cheerfully welcomed by the crowd along West Boulevard. Servicemen, Racine's traditional Iwo Jima and Boys of '76 recreations, Scouts and school floats, and the Kilties all received applause -- and thanks.

Hundreds of people stood in the rain Monday for Racine's annual Memorial Day Parade. This young man held a sign for passing veterans.  

The Real School's band took cover under a rain tarp during the parade. They were worried about their electrical equipment being damaged in the soggy conditions.

Local Boy Scouts carried the flag during the parade.

Rain coated the street as the parade stepped off from West Boulevard and Washington Avenue at 10 a.m.

Some people rode in comfort ...

... while others took cover wherever they could find it.

The living statue is a Racine parade tradition.

Mayor Dickert walked in the parade.