June 19, 2010

Grand Prix of Watercross continues at North Beach

North Beach was awash with activity Saturday, as the EVP pro volleyballers took over the sand courts, while the U.S. Grand Prix of Watercross took place off the shore. Tthe jetski races continue Sunday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. There's no charge for admission.

Ellsworth inmates help out at community garden

Inmates from the Robert E. Ellsworth Correctional Center in Union Grove have been participating in an early release program that calls for community service by working at the Racine Urban Garden Network's new community garden on the corner of 8th and Marquette.
About a dozen women inmates were helping out at the garden on Friday morning, their third week  digging, weeding and spreading mulch.  While many of the plots are spoken for by groups and individuals there are a number of “community” areas that will be beautified with donations of flowers and perennials and this is where their efforts have centered. This week, they were met by Alderman Jeff Coe, who provided donuts and coffee for their break.
A Youth As Resources grant has allowed RUGN to add a Childrens Garden. Children who would like to learn more about gardening are invited to join the first "groundbreaking" at the RUGN, 734 Marquette St., on Monday June 21, at 5 p.m.

Lighthouse Run!

The 32nd annual Lighthouse Run provided a spectacle Downtown Saturday morning, with thousands of runners tackling the 10-mile, 4-mile or fun-run courses.

An early count showed somewhere between 3,600 and 3,700 runners, more than last year's 3,490 participants, under sunny skies -- welcome weather given Friday's tree-splitting wind and rainstorms.

Winner of the 10-mile Lighthouse Run was Tyler Sigl, 24, in 51:54. Sigl won last year's race in 52:33.3. Valerie Hubbard of Kenosha was the first woman finisher, in 1:01.35.

Winner of today's 4-mile race was Jason Finch in 20:01. Bethany Brewster was the first woman finisher in the 4-mile, in 23:09.

The Lighthouse Run is a fund-raiser for the Racine YMCA. Y executive director Jeff Collen notes that the race "is one of the few anythings that has gone on for 32 years." The race provides about $12,000 to the Y -- which needs to be compared with the more than $400,000 in financial assistance the Y provides to those who ordinarily couldn't afford membership.

Complete race results are posted here.

Peter Jackel of the Journal Times -- who has covered the Lighthouse Run for more than half its existence, since 1992 -- has this nice wrapup and interview with Tyler Sigl.

 Tyler Sigl of Seymour offers a happy smile after winning the 10-mile race -- again

Jason Finch of River Falls is airborne as he approaches the finish line first in the 4-mile

Bethany Brewster of Madison, first woman in the 4-mile

The start of the 4-mile race

The start of the fun run

Coach Bob Letsch of St. Cat's wields the starter's pistol

June 18, 2010

Library offers renovation update

Atrium is blocked off, as work to build a floor begins

The Racine Public Library's Director, Jessica MacPhail, has released this public information concerning the library's current renovation:

"Beginning Monday, June 21, and continuing through Wednesday, June 23, steel beams will placed into concrete on the second floor atrium area creating an extremely high noise level.  Although the area is surrounded by plastic sheeting protecting the public from dust, little can be done to contain the expected intense noise. We apologize for this inconvenience and ask for your patience while the library is being renovated."

The library began a six-month renovation and re-carpeting project beginning in mid-May.  The current phase, the infilling of the atrium, is expected to be complete by the end of June.

The following changes have affected library usage:
  • Meetings and programs scheduled to be held in three of the library's meeting spaces have been relocated to the Peg Martin Room and to the Youth Services Dept. to accommodate storage needs.
  • Seating areas near the East windows have been reduced to accommodate the library's fiction collection being moved from its location on the west side of the building.

Joy at the Fountain; help is on the way

For a while Friday morning, it was like old times at the Laurel Clark Memorial Fountain.

For almost half an hour, a dozen kids romped in the spray, laughed, got their bathing suits wet, splashed each other. Had good, clean fun at no cost to their parents on a hot and otherwise muggy day.

And then the police car slowly came down 6th Street. "Kids, get out of the water," two adults yelled. And the kids did, and stood -- dripping wet -- behind the women as the officer got out of the squad and quietly, gently, told them what they already knew: kids are not allowed in the fountain anymore. He did not issue any $75 tickets.

This would have been a really sad moment -- and not the first one like it at the fountain this summer -- except for one thing: Moms, kids and police alike know that two days ago SC Johnson bailed the city out of the depressing situation of having a kid-magnet splash pad downtown that's off-limits to kids. Help, in other words, is on the way. The fountain's plumbing will be rebuilt for the now-required chlorine; and something will be done about the now-required bathroom and attendant.

On my way to the Library this morning, I just happened to spot three men in conversation at the east end of the fountain: Tom Friedel, city administrator, Rick Jones, public works commissioner, and another man. They saw me at the same time I saw them, and Jones and the third man hurried off (I have that effect on some people.) -- and Friedel said no when I asked him to let me take his picture next to the fountain.

For some reason he thinks I've been too harsh on the city. I assured him I've said only 5% of what I really think about the city's rolling over and playing dead when changes in state law imposed requirements on the fountain that it didn't meet: a bathroom, attendant, chlorinated water. Friedel said our headline, "City bans kids from fountain," was unfair; it should have said "State bans kids."  I can't find that exact headline in our archives, but it's possible; we did have one that said, "Racine orders kids out of Laurel Clark fountain." But we're both splitting hairs.

Friedel also insists that the fountain originally was planned as a "visual" attraction only; definitely not for kids. When I reminded him that various aldermen distinctly remember seeing illustrations during the design phase of the $700,000 project of kids playing in it, Friedel says "their memories are mistaken."  Never mind that the fountain was once officially named "Splash Square," and that in 2007 Brian O'Connell, city development director, explaining why no work was done on it during the summer said: “We didn’t want to have the fountain out of commission in the summer. We wanted it available for kids to play."

Friedel is right, of course, when he says the fountain's problem came from Madison, not from City Hall. But when I argued that the city should have fought with state officials to get the rules changed -- as it did when it successfully lobbied the Legislature to extend by 10 years TIF district funding rules -- or get the fountain grandfathered, something, anything ... he said, "We can only fight so many battles." The battle city officials have been fighting, he said, was commuter rail. One can argue which is more important... or more do-able.

He also said that we -- the public --  have no idea of the many hours city officials wrestled with the problem. He's right, we don't. We just know what the result was, until SCJ came forward this week with a donation offer, estimated at $200,000+, to rebuild the fountain's plumbing, so it can withstand the corrosive chlorine needed to keep the water clean. It is a very generous gift, one that will allow Johnson Financial employees to look out their  nearby windows on Sam Johnson Parkway with pride for years to come.

Of course, there is more to negotiate. There's still that bathroom required by the state regulations promulgated in 2005 -- I suppose a PortaPotty would technically suffice, although they are ugly as sin (just look at the row of them across from Monument Square right now for Saturday's Lighthouse Run). And then there's the attendant -- totally superfluous but required by state regulations: who's going to pay the bill for that over the next 100 years, I asked Friedel, who helps manage the city's $82 million annual budget. "We're still working on that," he said.

But that's the good news: The city is working on a solution now, not putting up Keep Out signs, or assigning a Parks Dept. hall monitor, or building the once-suggested $30,000 fence to keep kids out. There is joy in Mudville after all.

Later Friday, Friedel described the city's immediate plan to fix equipment ruined by the chlorine erosion, install fencing on Sixth Street south of the fountain to keep kids from traffic, close the block of Sam Johnson Parkway north of the fountain and install a telephone. The fountain should open officially (and legally) by July 4.

June 17, 2010

Police surveillance cameras planned for Sixth Street, Park Avenue

City police, with the assistance of Downtown Racine Corp., are installing surveillance cameras on Sixth Street and Park Avenue in hopes of controlling unruly crowds near the Downtown intersection.

Police Chief Kurt Wahlen appeared before the Public Works and Services Committee on June 8 seeking permission to install the cameras on street light poles, like the one at right at Monument Square. One camera would be paid for by DRC, while a second camera would come out of the police department budget, Wahlen said. Installation will cost about $1,500.

The police chief told the committee there have been several problems in the area and the cameras would be useful because the area is consuming too many Police Department resources.

Crowds gathering outside of bars in the vicinity of Park and Sixth routinely cause problems for police and security officers. One Metro Security officer was shot outside of Park 6 in May, and cars crowd the intersection on Friday and Saturday nights at bar closing time.

Last Friday night, NBA star Caron Butler showed up at Park 6 and a large crowd gathered outside of the bar. Racine police wrote tickets to get the crowd to disperse. On Saturday night, police were back outside of Park 6 for crowd control.

Wahlen told the Public Works committee the security cameras would help solve and prevent crimes.

The Public Works Committee unanimously approved the cameras, and the City Council gave final approval on Tuesday.

Two of the three cameras at the intersection of Taylor and Washington

June 16, 2010

Gateway to train students in Morocco

Gateway Technical College will have some long-distance commuters in the near future.

The school was awarded a grant, along with Snap-on Incorporated, to teach automotive diagnostics to students in Morocco. The "train the trainers" program was initiated at Gateway’s Horizon Center for Transportation Technology, where instructors from across the country have been trained to deliver the training to their own students and career professionals. It's part of an ongoing push at Gateway to offer courses internationally. 

Gateway was awarded the grant under the Broader Middle East and North Africa – U.S. Community College Small Grants Initiative. Higher Education for Development announced the grant this week in cooperation with the U.S. Department of State, the US Agency for International Development and the US Department of Education. 

Gateway was one of four grant recipients.

“We are all proud that our partnership with Snap-on Incorporated is recognized internationally,” said Gateway Technical College President Bryan Albrecht. “Working with HED and colleges in the BMENA Region increases our knowledge and skills and will better prepare our students for the global economy.”

Gateway and project partners will deliver training to instructors in Morocco to equip them with the skills and knowledge necessary to train students and current automotive technicians on Snap-on vehicle diagnostic equipment.

The Gateway partnership, along with the three other grant recipients, were chosen by a peer review panel and selected because they “promote capacity building in education.”

The BMENA initiative began at a June 2009 symposium – participated in by Albrecht and other educational leaders – on the challenges to the quality and relevance of education for workforce development throughout the BMENA region. 

The symposium was sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. Department of Education.

11 protest Racine humane society's annual meeting, call for ouster of top officials

Eric Marcus and protestors outside Countryside Humane Society's annual meeting on Wednesday. 

Eleven people protested Countryside Humane Society's annual meeting Wednesday outside of Racine County's Ives Grove office complex. 

The group carried signs with phrases like "In-Humane Society" and called for the resignation of Countryside Board President Marilyn Bensen and  Executive Director Jennifer Jakes. 

Eric Marcus, a Racine City Council member and spokesman for the protesters, said the shelter's use of expired vaccinations is part of a lack of experienced management in the organization. Countryside is under fire for issuing more than 600 expired vaccinations to animals over a five month period. The shelter admitted to the mistake and is offering clinics to re-vaccinate animals who received the outdated shots.

Experts said the expired vaccinations likely are still effective, but Marcus said the state won't recognize dog licenses with the out-of-date vaccinations. So, many pets will need a second round of vaccinations, which could harm animals, he said. 

Countryside turned people away from its annual meeting (photo-right) on Wednesday, saying access was limited to the organization's members. Shelter officials were not available for comment after the board meeting, and Bensen was not available by phone Wednesday. 

Countryside is facing a crusading foe in Marcus, who said he's already researched ways to reorganize the shelter. Marcus already convinced the City Council to send its animal control contract out for bid next year, a step the city hasn't taken in at least five years because Countryside is really the only provider in the area. 

He's now talking about organizing officials in Racine County's 18 communities - all contract with Countryside - to consider a new organization managed by outside contractors.

One option that doesn't appear to be on the table is working with Kenosha's Safe Harbor shelter, which Marcus credited with running a solid organization. 

"Safe Harbor in Kenosha hires experienced managers; Countryside doesn't," he said "Safe Harbor in Kenosha is an example of a compassionate shelter; Countryside isn't."

Safe Harbor officials rebuffed the idea of expanding into Racine County, Marcus said. 

Along with protesting Countryside, the group also called on the City of Racine to release records it has on Countryside. Environmental Health Director Marcia Fernholz sat on Countryside's board and had information about the organization, but the city won't turn over the information, Marcus said.  

"She only sat on the board to represent the city," he said. "She should release those records." 

Treatment of animals is a personal issue to Marcus. He runs the Woofdorf Astoria kennel in Racine and owns seven dogs. His dogs include a 13-year-old American Spitz that is a diabetic; he has to test it and give it shots twice a day. And he has six Shi-tzus rescued from a puppy mill in Green Bay. 

Racine regulations only allow three animals in a home unless the homeowner has a "Pet Fancier's Permit," which Marcus says he has. With the permit you are allowed up to seven animals.

SC Johnson saves Laurel Clark Fountain; Donation to reopen Downtown attraction this summer, provide long-term fix

SC Johnson announced Wednesday it was donating money to reopen the Laurel Clark Fountain for public use as a splash pad.

The donation, which could exceed $200,000, is expected to reverse a city policy that had closed the fountain to children this year. City officials had shut down the fountain because chlorine was corroding its pipes and damaging a pump. Rather than replace the plumbing, the city stopped chlorinating the water. This ran afoul of state regulations, and signs were posted threatening anyone who splashed in the fountain with a ticket.

"The residents of Racine – and children in particular – love this fountain," said SC Johnson Chairman and CEO Fisk Johnson. "It's a beautiful, inspiring place for families to gather on a hot summer day so we would like to make sure the fountain is functioning properly and the water is safe."

"The city is fortunate to have a great community partner like SC Johnson step forward to make this generous donation," said Mayor John Dickert. "Funding for the renovation and operation of the fountain would not be possible without their support."

According to media reports,  Fisk Johnson, above, was personally involved in the decision to revive the fountain. The company said it was prepared to take on all costs to bring the fountain up to code, including adding bathrooms and an attendant at the site.

The donation should put to rest persistent rumors that it was Johnson Financial that forced the fountain's closure because they didn't want children splashing near their building. Clearly, the Johnson family supports the fountain.

The family is planning a quick fix to reopen the fountain this summer, and a long-term fix to solve the underlying issues that forced its closure. In the next few weeks SCJ and the city plan to re-chlorinate the water, provide an attendant and bring in portable bathrooms. At the end of the season SCJ plans to overhaul the fountain's plumbing to solve the problem.

"What a tragedy that this fountain is not going to be operating during this summer," Johnson reportedly said. "It's a great fountain for kids and a great memorial to Laurel."

"We talked about it and thought, what a great opportunity to help the city by helping to solve this problem for the kids of the city."

Christmas House's sad saga continues...

The sad saga of Racine's former Christmas House continues.

The house turned up among the Racine County Real Estate transfers, and is now owned by CU Mortgage Investors LLC, having gone through foreclosure earlier in the year.

The reported selling price: $720,000.

The lovely house at 116 10th St. was known as the Christmas House because it was elaborately decorated during the holiday season for many years, raising funds for cancer. The former Benstead Hall, it was owned by All Saints Healthcare Systems until it was sold in 1997 and converted into a Bed and Breakfast and formally renamed the Christmas House. In 2007 the name was changed to the East Park Inn.

Owner/innkeeper Laurie Novak-Simmons lost a default judgment in October 2008, owing $939,707 to Central States Mortgage Company. County Registrar of Deeds James Ladwig believes there is a connection between Central States Mortgage and CU Mortgage Investors, of Oak Creek. CU has not returned numerous calls from RacinePost seeking information.

The transfer was registered with the county on June 3, when it was filed, but was actually dated Feb. 8, according to Ladwig.

Our earlier story on the foreclosure is here.

June 15, 2010

Group seeking volunteers for July 28 homeless census

The Homeless Assistance Coalition of Racine County needs help with its countywide homeless census on July 28. 

The coalition is a group of agencies in Racine County that facilitate and coordinate the provision of emergency food, clothing, shelter, transitional and permanent housing and supportive services to those at risk of becoming homeless and those who are experiencing homelessness.

On July 28, the organization is asking people to help count the local homeless population by reporting if someone experiencing homelessness is spending the night at their home or in out buildings on their property. If you have a person experiencing homelessness sleeping in your home or staying at your property on Wednesday, July 28 please contact Justin at 262-633-3235, x110. 

The Homeless Assistance Coalition is also seeking volunteers to help with the census, to assemble “care packages” and to provide donations on our wish list.

The homeless census is important because it is required by the state for the distribution of Continuum of Care Supportive Housing Program money. Agencies in Racine County receive over $1 million in CoC SHP funding each year. These funds provide transitional and permanent supportive housing, and supportive services to persons experiencing homelessness. 

 Recipients of these funds are Bethany Apartments, Center for Veteran’s Issues, Homeless Assistance Leadership Organization, HOPES Center, Legal Action of Wisconsin, Project New Life, Racine Vocational Ministry, and Women’s Resource Center.

The coalition's wish list for donations includes: Backpacks (new or used), socks, sealed bottled water, clear plastic bags, emergency space blankets, can openers with HITF resource/safety tag, large garbage bags, regular blankets, sterno to heat food, flashlights with batteries, packaged baby items, plastic eating utensils, rain slickers, personal items such as bar soap, shampoo, hair grease, combs, Afro-picks, deodorant, fingernail trimmers, tampons, multivitamins, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and dental floss, hearty soup, non perishable foods, nutrition bars, trail mix, bandages/ band-aids, safety pins, toilet tissue, matches, playing cards, bus tokens, phone cards, small toys (packaged) for children, and gift cards or cash donations.

Please deliver donations by Friday, July 23, 2010 to these locations in the City of Racine: Homeless Assistance Leadership Organization at 2000 DeKoven Avenue (24 hours); and  the HOPES Center, 506 7th Street (9 am – 6 pm, Monday-Friday). 

If you live in Burlington, Union Grove, Waterford or a rural area and would like to make a donation, would like more information or want to volunteer to help HAC make this a success, please contact Nina at (262) 633-3235, x207.

City hosting conference June 23 for nonprofits, faith-based communities

The Mayor's Office of Strategic Partnerships is holding a conference on June 23 to help nonprofits and faith-based communities explore public-private partnerships that could lead to expanded services and local jobs. 

Here's the announcement:
The Mayor’s Office of Strategic Partnerships in cooperation with the Governor’s Office of Community and Faith-Based Organizations and UW-Parkside’s CAN Works program will hold a free Public Private Partnership Conference – Developing Strategies for a Sustainable Future on Wednesday, June 23.
The conference will take place in the Racine Building of Gateway Technical College Racine Campus – 1001 Main Street. The purpose of the conference will be to enhance the capacity of Racine government, community and faith-based non-profits to build public private partnerships with a focus on building relationships with state agencies.
It is open to all community and faith-based leadership (executive directors, program directors, and board members) in Racine, Kenosha, and Milwaukee Counties. Preference will be given to City of Racine organizations. Resource tables are also available by emailing debbi.embry@cityofracine.org by Monday, June 21.
Registration will begin at 8:30 am. The morning session will include a panel discussion on Building Relationships with Public/Private Sources – Strengthening Communities from 9:15-10:45 am, and a presentation on the HUD/WI Reinvestment and Recovery Act Status from 10:50-11:45 am.
There will be a noon luncheon with the keynote speaker being Ben O’Dell, Assistant Director of the US Health and Human Services Faith-Based Office.
The afternoon will include breakout sessions from 1:15-2:30 pm and from 3-4:15 pm with exhibits opening at 2:30 pm. Breakout sessions will include:
  • How to Become a Vendor with the State of Wisconsin/Fundamentals of Partnerships and Resources
  • Strengthening Communities-W-2, Transitional Jobs and Child support
  • Establishing Effective Partnerships to Prepare Wisconsin Workers
  • Assessing Resources for Affordable Housing and Community Development Projects
  • Understanding, Promoting, and Protecting the Health of All People in Wisconsin
  • Partnerships for Community Safety/Wisconsin Prison Re-Entry
  • Faith-Based Partnerships
  • An Appreciative Approach to Partnerships
To register call 262-595-2312 or email ccpinfo@uwp.edu

Marcus backs Wednesday's protest of Countryside Humane Society

Racine City Council member Eric Marcus is throwing his name behind a protest Wednesday outside of Countryside Humane Society's annual meeting.

Marcus and others are protesting management of Countryside, which holds animal control contracts with 18 communities in Racine County. The humane society came under public scrutiny last month after it was discovered they issued expired vaccinations to hundreds of local pets.

Here's Marcus's press release about Wednesday's protest:
A protest will be held at the annual meeting of the Countryside Humane Society at 4pm on Wednesday June 16th at the Racine County Ives Grove Bldg. 14200 Washington Ave.
On May 28, 2010, Countryside Humane Society issued a press release stating that it had “discovered expired 1-year rabies and 3-year rabies vaccines used during the shelter’s vaccination clinics and adoptions.” They went on to state that some of these expired vaccinations had been given as early as December 10, 2009 and as late as May 26, 2010. 
According to the Racine Journal Times on May 28, 2010, Countryside Board President Marilyn Benson said she does not know why the expired vaccines were given. "It slipped by," she said.
All 18 communities in Racine County have animal control contracts with Countryside and while no concerns are being raised about the quality of our county humane officers, there is much concern about the overall management of the facility. The City of Racine is paying $178,788 itself for animal control services from Countryside and they are preliminarily seeking more than a 20% increase from the City. There have been allegations of too much euthanization, unsanitary conditions and poor quality medical attention. For example, Countryside euthanizes feral cats immediately (cats that have not had prior human contact) while Safe Harbor Humane Society in Kenosha spends several days evaluating these cats before considering euthanization.
“We need to objectively evaluate Countryside's performance including their management and the conditions at Countryside before the City considers renewing their contract” said Racine Alderman Eric Marcus. Marcus' request to the city's Board of Health asking that the animal control bidding process be started immediately was unanimously approved. 
Countryside is trusted to care for animals taken or surrendered to the facility. The communities that support Countryside should be asking what happened to their management controls and where does the responsibility lie – the executive director, the president of the board, the directors.

Volunteer Opportunities: Help with Ridgewood outings to Zoo, Brewers game

The Urban League of Racine, 718 N. Memorial Drive, is looking for a friendly person to meet and greet visitors. Clerical and minimal computer skills are required. Position requires work on two floors. Hours are Monday-Friday 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD) needs volunteers for the Long Term Recovery Committee. Case workers help disaster victims by matching up needs to volunteer agencies that may be able to assist them in Racine, Kenosha and Walworth counties. Training is provided all day Thursday, Sept. 23, and the morning of Friday, Sept. 24. 

Join the Caledonia Conservancy for the ninth annual Poker Ride on Sunday, June 27, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Meet at McCalvy’s Decision Farm, 5400 6 Mile Road. Volunteer crossing guards are needed to stop traffic when the horses cross the road. Help is also needed to cook and serve brats and hot dogs. Bring your own lawn chair, drinks, and a book to pass the time. Volunteers will get a free lunch for their services.

The neighborhood Central Walk north of 4-1/2 Mile Rd. and west of Charles St. is holding their monthly woods cleanup on Sunday, June 27. Meet at 1825 Fireside Dr. at 3 p.m. Wear long pants, gloves, shoes that can get dirty, and bring loppers or pruners.

Ridgewood Care Center, 3205 Wood Road, needs volunteers every Tuesday and Thursday throughout the month of June. Activities for residents include a bowling/pizza party field trip, a picnic by the Lake, a trip to the Racine Zoo, and an excursion to a Milwaukee Brewers game (June 30 – that’s the only Wednesday). Volunteers will be interacting with one to three residents for each event. You must be able to push a wheel chair and/or escort mobile residents. Each outing is staffed by Ridgewood Care Center personnel. Volunteers are transported via a comfortable bus or by government owned vehicles. All admission costs are paid. If an event occurs over the noon hour, lunch is provided! Most events last about two hours and are scheduled during the early afternoon. Times vary by location. Individuals must be at least 16 years old. Background checks are conducted on all volunteers.

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.

If you are interested in any of the listed volunteer opportunities or others on file at the Volunteer Center of Racine County, call 262-886-9612 or toll free (Racine County only) at 1-800-201-9490 or email us at volunteer@volunteercenterofracine.org or visit our web site at www.volunteercenterofracine.org. Office hours are weekday from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. at 6216 Washington Avenue, Suite G.

Occupancy Permits: Dress shop on Washington Avenue

The follow businesses received occupancy permits form the City of Racine in May:

  • Alicia's Creations Dress Shop, 3015 Washington Ave. 
  • Something Different Retail Gifts, 1300 Grange Ave.
  • Something Different Retail Gifts, 5502 Durand Ave. 
  • RG Natural Babies Retail Sales, 424 Main St. 
  • Small engine repair, 1450 Summit Ave. 
  • Rong Hua Restaurant, 3316 Douglas Ave.
  • Family auto care, 917 MLK Drive
  • Miguel Zuniga Car Repair, 11 S. Memorial Drive
  • Graves Signs, 1607 Goold St. 

City permits: Sacred Heart plans $1.2 million addition

Sacred Heart Catholic Church is planning a $1.2 million addition to its building at 2201 Northwestern Ave. in Racine. The city issued Sacred Heart a permit for the 7,207 square-foot addition on May 28. The permit cost $2,883.

Other construction permits issued by the city in May include:

  • 200 Dodge St. took out a permit for a $3,000 masonry job. The permit cost $60. 
  • Ivanhoe, 231 Main St., took out a permit for a $1,000 deck and awning. The permit cost $60. 
  • The Soup, 309 Main St., took out a permit for $5,000 for interior remodeling. The permit cost $60. 
  • Northshore Bank at 3911 N. Main St., took out a permit for $12,000 in tile and foundation repairs. The permit cost $144. 
  • The Racine Public Library took out a permit for $100,000 in renovations. The permit cost $1,200. 
  • 1859 Taylor Ave. took out a $300 permit for a toilet room. The permit cost $60. 
  • The DeKoven Center at 600 21st St. in Racine took out a permit for a $10,000 remodeling project in the East Building's basement. The permit cost $120. 

Kozina retiring as head of the Racine Community Foundation

Marge Kozina of the Racine Community Foundation is retiring as executive director effective June 30, after having served the organization since August of 1989.
“Marge has truly been the cornerstone of the Foundation for all these years,” said Jim Small, president of the Foundation’s board of directors. “Thanks to her leadership, guidance and hard work, we’ve grown from a very small unit to a major organization in Racine County. We are going to miss her leadership style and her positive outlook on how opportunities need to be fulfilled.”
Small pointed out the Foundation’s growth since 1989, when it had assets of $2.1 million.  In April of this year, assets stood at $31.9 million, after reaching a high of $38.1 million in 2007. Donor and organization funds within the Foundation have grown; a review of annual reports shows that about 180 new funds have been established in the past 20 years.
Since 1989, the Foundation has awarded nearly $8 million in grants to Racine County organizations in the categories of arts and culture; community development; education; environment; health; and human services. Scholarships provided to Racine County students have totaled $1.08 million through the Foundation.
In talking about her career, Kozina (right) is quick to shift the discussion away from herself to the board members, volunteers, staff and donors, who she says are the important elements of the organization. “They are the life blood of the Foundation. They make this all work. They are the ones who put forth their effort, their time, talent and resources to help make Racine County a better place to live, work and play.”
Atty. Stephen J. Smith, who served on the Foundation board for nine years, three of them as its president, and who continues to provide legal services for the Foundation, assesses Kozina’s role this way. “Marge really cares about and understands her constituents – volunteers, donors and the office staff.  She stays focused on the big picture and the main purposes of a community foundation, that it should: 1. flexibly see and address the changing needs of the community; 2.      manage investments well; and 3. help private donors pursue their philanthropic objectives,” he said. “She always understood that the Foundation stool has these three legs, and she integrated her activities and those of everyone else into those three simple goals.”
During Kozina’s tenure, the Foundation was involved in a number of collaborations with other organizations, including the establishment of Racine County Youth as Resources, Leadership Racine, the Wadewitz Community Policing Office, Great Lakes Environmental Collaborative that led to the development of the Root Pike Watershed Initiative Network, among others. “All these illustrate the value of working together to improve our community now and in the future,” Kozina said. “I am proud of the Foundation’s role in all these initiatives, and our volunteers and donors who helped make them happen.”
Smith said Kozina “saw her work as more than a job. For her it has been a calling, and she really supported what I would call the community foundation movement.”
Another person who agrees with that perspective is Doug Jansson, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation. “When I joined the Greater Milwaukee Foundation some 17 years ago,” he said, “community foundations were little known or appreciated across the state. That has changed in no small part because of the leadership provided by Marge Kozina and others. She has been a strong advocate for the adoption of national standards for community foundations and for the peer review process that is used today only in this state.
“She was equally an advocate,” Jansson continued, “for collaborative efforts to market the field and to work together on common issues. While most will know her work in building the Racine Community Foundation, equally important has been her contribution to the growth of the entire community foundation field in Wisconsin.”
Smith said, “Marge has been a pleasure to work with; I am profoundly sorry that she decided to retire so soon. We will all miss her valuable contributions.”
Kozina and her husband Jim, retired human resources director for the City of Racine, are the parents of two and grandparents of five.  Both avid golfers, their retirement plans include some travel and definitely plenty of time on the links.

Veterans to dedicate Korean War Memorial in Pritchard Park on June 25

The Korean War Veterans SE Wisconsin Chapter 227 will dedicate a memorial at Pritchard Park in Racine on Friday, June 25 at 7 p.m.

This is the 60th anniversary of the start of the Korean War. This memorial contains the individual names of 24 men, from Racine County, who lost their lives during the Korean War. Dan Omelina, Korean War Veteran, will be the key speaker. There will be a balloon release as each individual veterans name is read, followed by a rifle salute and taps. 

Veterans to be honored include: 

Donald L. Bauer 
Wayne F. Bullis 
Bobby D. Corrello
Eugene R. Creuziger 
Robert L. Droysen 
Michael E. Foley
Louis M. Frank 
Douglas L. Hewlett 
Donald C. Jaskulske
John R. Jones IV 
Jack Korakian 
Jack C. Larson
Lazaros Lazarou 
Russel H. Nielsen 
Robert G. Pallesen
Allen Lee Phillips 
William H. Quale 
Lyle A. Sorensen
Dean R. Sorenson 
Jack H. Takakian 
Claude E. Tennant
John Truter 
Carl F. Wells 
Donald T. Yasko

You are encouraged to bring your own lawn chairs. Everybody is invited to attend and help honor these deceased veterans. We especially hope to get this message out to their relatives, so that they may participate with us as we honor their fallen family members. If you know of any relatives of the listed heroes, please notify them of the upcoming service, or contact Jim Becker at (262) 681-6459 or jbecker625@wi.rr.com

Pritchard Park is located at the corner of Durand Avenue and Ohio Street in Racine. 

June 14, 2010

Problems with comments

Hi all,

We're having some technical problems with our commenting system (growing pains from shifting to a more advanced system). Hopefully we'll get everything working out Tuesday.


Dustin and Pete

DeMatthew begins campaign for 61st District Assembly seat

Gary Anderson chats with James DeMatthew, right, as he opens his Assembly run

James DeMatthew's lifetime interest in politics -- as a teenager he helped campaign for Scoop Jackson and Les Aspin, before getting a degree in political science -- crossed over into real action Monday, as he opened a campaign office on 5th Street and formally announced his candidacy for Racine's 61st District Wisconsin Assembly seat held for the past 20 years by Bob Turner. The Democratic primary in which they will compete is Sept. 14.

Making jobs and local economic development the theme of his campaign, DeMatthew told about 30 supporters "not enough is being done to promote economic development in Racine." A lifelong resident of the North side, DeMatthew decries the fact that an Illinois construction company -- Walsh, of Chicago --  is doing the bulk of the I-94 reconstruction, and work at Park High School also is being done by a non-Racine company. "I want to see companies from Racine get a slice of the work," DeMatthew said. "We have too many people needing work."

DeMatthew said Dave Blank of realracine (the former Racine County Convention and Visitors Bureau) is doing a good job of bringing events here -- he estimated that the upcoming Splash and Spike Festival would bring $500,000 worth of tourism and the Triathlon another $1.2 million -- but said "We need to get our infrastructure built up, do more development on the lake, maybe a bigger Oasis. We're not getting the dollars brought in to do that."

"We need some fresh ideas; we need to put Racine first," DeMatthew says, being careful not to say anything negative about Bob Turner, who was first elected to the Assembly in 1990. "He's a nice gentleman," DeMatthew says. "He's a likable elder statesman."

DeMatthew suggests the state needs to "restructure the tax system, to ease the burden on middle class taxpayers." He would "restructure" hotel and convention fees and user taxes statewide to help ease property taxes. "It would not be that dramatic for the average person on vacation."

"I remember when Racine outshined many regions in the Midwest," he said. "We were the third largest city in the state, we had jobs, we were buliding a new lakefront and we had some of the best schools in the state. ... We believed in our city, in our schools, our businesses and we believed in ourselves.

"What we don't have right now is economic strength... we must create jobs that do more than pay some of our bills....We must create an environment where families can thrive...where there is funding for senior citizens... where businesses can expand." DeMatthew said he will support "both local employers and unions."

Legislators, he said, need to remember that "it is a privilege to serve."

DeMatthew, 48, and his wife, Kathleen, have two children: son Nick, 18, who will attend Marquette in the fall, and daughter Dana 16. He is a graduate of UW-Whitewater, worked 14 years for the Social Security Administration, and for the past 10 years has been an investment advisor with DeMatthew, Gorichanaz and Associates, located at 5402 Douglas Ave.
The elephant in the room -- figuratively speaking, of course; he wasn't actually present -- was John Dickert, who ran against Turner in 1990, and again in 2002 -- the only years Turner had Democratic primary opposition. Introducing DeMatthew Monday night was Monte Osterman, a friend for years, who was one of Dickert's campaign managers during last year's mayoral election. (Dickert returned the favor, campaigning for Osterman this year when he ran successfully for the County Board.

DeMatthew and Dickert also go 'way back. DeMatthew and Dickert's older sister, Ann, went to St. Cat's together, and he and the mayor have been friends since then. Last year, Dickert reappointed DeMatthew to the Civic Center Commission -- he was originally appointed by Mayor Gary Becker in 2006; DeMatthew's wife serves on the Water Works Commission and Wastewater Commission; her term began in 2006.

Greeting DeMatthew at the opening of his two-room campaign headquarters at 310 5th St. was Gary Anderson, who also was appointed to the Civic Center Commission by Dickert.

DeMatthew said voters should not focus on the connection -- "This is a small town; everybody knows everybody," he said. "I speak my own mind, and follow my own principles." When he told the mayor he was planning to run, DeMatthew said Dickert replied, "You're a friend, but I can't have anything to do with this. I can't touch you with a 10-ft. pole."

Letter to the Editor: Mozol, city wrong on Laurel Clark Fountain

Alderman Mozol,


Are you kidding me? Please know that as my alderman, you do not represent me with this stance you have taken. I am embarrassed by your actions.

I find it extremely sad, embarrassing and frustrating that a city known for its entrepreneurial & innovative spirit cannot find a solution to this ridiculous situation.

Now, I read that 3 doctors from the health board commission raise questions about closing the fountain (water testing was not done? alternatives to chlorine were not explored with the state?). I am even more irritated.

"Ticketing parents to send a message" Really? This is how we want our police officers' to spend their time? This city offers only a few positive, opportunities for our children. No municipal pool. And now, no fountain. Kenosha has a wonderful fountain play area for children. Has anyone looked into how they manage to do this? Has anyone contacted the state about changing the statute or allowing alternatives to chlorine? Or, do we just say "no" because it is the easiest thing to do? I am left to wonder what the politics are behind this issue. It seems to me that there has to be some solution.

Two weeks ago, I emailed Mayor Dickert, offering to help form a committee to find viable solutions to this embarrassing issue. I offered to help secure private donations, write/email state representatives. I have not had any response.

Years ago, I was on the committee that helped bring the Kids Cove playground to North Beach. That was an amazing project, funded by private individuals and corporations, built by 100's of members of this community. That is what Racine should be known for. NOT for ticketing children and their parents for playing in a water fountain on an 85 degree summer day.

I want to be represented by an alderman to seeks positive, innovative solutions to challenges, not one quick to assign fault with parents and seek punitive measures against kids playing in water.

Jane Finkenbine

Alderman Bob Mozol responds:
The stance I am taking is to support the laws and ordinances of our city and state. There is no other way to put this. It is against the law, and dangerous; nothing more nothing less.
When someone gets hurt, or worse, the city will get sued for not doing enough, not you or I; even though we will all ultimately pay.
This has become an emotional issue that we will spend 5 times as much as we should, to address it and stop it. If it was enforced right now, it would stop this immediately.
Unfortunately the world, and all else, have had to raise people's children since they aren't doing it. This is a parental issue, and they should feel the consequences then.
So you don't want me to support the ordinances? If the laws change, so will my feelings then.

Free health care power of attorneys given away at Kortendick's

Over 300 free health care power of attorneys were given away at Kortendick’s Ace Hardware on Douglas Avenue during each Saturday in the month of May, according to Elder Law Attorney Timothy P. Crawford.

Free health care power of attorneys will be distributed in the future at other area locations throughout the year. Everyone needs a Health Care Power of Attorney. Once a person becomes 18 years old they are considered an adult and the parents lose their right to make a decision for their child unless the child has a health care power of attorney.

Signing a health care power of attorney can be more important to your personal well being than signing a will. This power of attorney allows you to pick someone you trust to handle your medical affairs if you cannot make decisions for yourself. It can provide peace of mind to know that someone you choose will have the authority to act for you when you can’t act for yourself. If you don't have a power of attorney and you are suddenly incapacitated, your family may have to go through an expensive and time-consuming court proceeding to appoint a guardian to make decisions for you.

Note to readers

Dear Readers,

A quick note on changes underway at RacinePost. After 2 1/2 year, we're getting (somewhat) serious about this little website's business model. We're getting great daily support from the community, enough that we can start planning to expand our news, advertising and business operations. We've always operated out in the open, so we wanted to to update you on some exciting improvements to our business.

Here's what we're working on ... 

1. The redesign is continually evolving, but we're happy so far with the results. It's created a number of featured advertising spaces to generate clicks and brand recognition for local businesses. Learn more about advertising on RacinePost at: www.racinepost.com/advertise.html 

2. Our readers are incredibly supportive. Many have asked about "subscribing" to RacinePost over the years and we've never really had a good model for it - until now. In the right sidebar you'll see a link for a service called Kachingle. Through the service, you sign up to pay $5 per month and the money is distributed based on how often you visit sites with "kachingle" medallions. Once you sign up, Kachingle works automatically. It's a great way to support sites like RacinePost at a relatively low cost. As a side note, we see about 8,000 unique visitors a month (with many coming back on a regular basis). Even a fraction of this number signing with Kachingle would create a significant revenue stream to keep RacinePost going - and growing.

3. We're now offering media consulting business for small businesses and organizations looking to expand and improve their presence on the Internet. There are several free or low-cost options available online that will help you attract new customers and clients. We can help you implement these services and ensure you know how to use and update them without paying regular maintenance fees. Contact Dustin Block for information about our media consulting services.

We have great hope for the future of RacinePost and what it can bring to the community. Thank you to all who have brought us this far. We're truly appreciative for your support. 

-Dustin and Pete

Alderman says no opposition to saving street bricks

Street bricks on College Avenue in Racine.

Public Works Commissioner Rick Jones doesn't oppose a proposal to require the city to save street bricks when they're discovered in street reconstruction projects, according to Alderman Greg Helding. He just wants the City Council to budget money if it does decide to preserve the bricks.

Helding's comments came in response to a RacinePost story last week saying Jones opposed a proposal by Alderman Eric Marcus to require the city to save street bricks, which are sometimes found beneath paved city streets. Marcus wants the bricks to eventually resurface College Avenue in the city's south side historic district.

Below are Helding's comments. Jones also wrote in and said Helding's comments accurately reflected his position.

From Alderman Helding:
Regarding your article on the proposal to save bricks, it is not accurate to say that Commissioner Jones opposed the idea. He said more than once that his department will do what we ask if we budget for it. The number of $200,000 came from the estimate of $0.50 per brick to remove, clean, palletize, shrink wrap, and deliver the bricks to a city storage area. That assumes we need 400,000 bricks to replace all of the bricks. This number is based on the square footage of the existing pavement and the size of the bricks. As Comissioner Jones explained to the committee at the meeting, this is just an estimate. We don't know how many current bricks would be reusable. If 80% of the existing street bricks are reusable, then we only need to save 80,000 bricks at a cost of $40,0000. In any case it will cost money and we need to account for that.
We also don't know how many bricks that have been asphalted or paved over are reusable. Commissioner Jones did say that many bricks are not reusable for streets. He also said that contractors count on reselling the bricks when making their bids. This is not a contradiction. For one thing, many does not necessarily mean most, so some bricks are reusable for streets. For another, the bricks can for patios, landscaping, and interior design and not just for streets.
Each intact brick can fetch $1. Contractors do factor this into the cost of their projects. If we now mandated that they collect the bricks and give them to the city, it would affect the cost of the contracts. That's why we need to budget for this. Even if you have volunteers collect the bricks, the contractor still needs to prep the site in a way that the volunteers can get the bricks - unless the volunteer group has a lot of construction equipment - and leave time in the schedule for it. The volunteer group will need one heck of a liability insurance policy as well. I'm not saying it can't be done, but it doesn't eliminate the costs.
Commissioner Jones pointed out the considerations and potential costs. At this point, it was the committee who was opposed to the idea because we don't have a plan for the current brick streets. The policy on College Ave is to leave it alone and to restore the brick surface in the case of any street openings. There is no plan for replacement or rebuilding on the books. This is a stick issue. Brick paving costs a lot more than concrete paving and the curbs over there are a foot high and cost more than standard curbs. My opposition to us passing this brick saving idea is based on the absence of a need for the bricks. We may have an eventual need for the bricks, but don't have one now. In recent years, costs and political expedience have gotten in the way of planning to repave College Ave. We need to come up with a plan that keeps the character of the street without giving undue benefit to the homeowners on the street. How could the city justify funding a much more expensive street for these people and not for other permanent streets. My street is concrete. When the time comes to replace it, I would LOVE a brick street - but I won't get one. My point is that the cart is before the horse. Let's tackle the main issue first. Let's decide on a plan for the brick streets, assess how many materials we might need, and then start paying for materials. I know it is hard for some to believe, but some public works decisions are made by the Committee using reason, and not through the Svengali-like influence of Commissioner Jones.
And a brief comment sent in by Commissioner Jones:
Ald. Helding captured my comments very well and explained the Committee's position. I will stress again the it is the position of the Department that we are very supportive of the request as long as the Alderman can identify how many bricks that they wish us to recover and that they provide a budget sufficient to cover the cost.

Racine gives world something to chew on...

Bite me! say two former Racinians!

Racine native Alex Seidel is on the cover of Food & Wine (that's him in the center of the back row), making an appearance in the magazine's 10 Best New Chefs issue.

A 1991 graduate of Park High School, Seidel was nominated this year as a James Beard Foundation Award semi-finalist for Best Chef Southwest. Later this week, he will participate in Aspen's annual Food & Wine Classic.

He owns Fruition, a 52-seat, award-winning restaurant in Denver that has been featured in Bon Appetit, Gourmet and USA Today.

And where does he like to eat when he's back in Wisconsin? Seidel cites Kopp's custard and Wells Brothers pizza.

Go here for Food & Wine's article about Seidel -- and also for one of his recipes. 

Read more about him here in the Journal Sentinel.

The city's second taste of fame this morning comes via a different sort -- thanks to Kristin Bauer, who plays the vampire Pam in HBO's series True Blood, which opened its third season on Sunday.

Pam co-owns the vampire bar Fangtasia in the series, and this is going to be her year to take charge.

Kristin's career began in 1994 with an episode of L.A. Law, and she spent a year on the Fox comedy, The Crew.  But her most memorable character -- until now! --  was as "Man-Hands Gillian," Jerry's girlfriend on Seinfeld.

The Journal Sentinel profiled her this weekend, and there's more about Kristin and the sexy character she plays on HBO's website here.

June 13, 2010

Unified gets $287,237 for severely disabled students

Racine Unified will receive $287,237 from the state for services provided to students with severe disabilities. The total being distributed statewide is $5.4 million, 49% of the districts' actual costs, which are estimated at $30,000 per student.

A press release from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction gives the details. A full list of how much each district will receive is here.
A mix of state and federal discretionary funding totaling $5.4 million is being sent to 155 local education agencies for services they provided to students with severe or multiple disabilities.
High-Cost Special Education Aid will go to 151 school districts, two cooperative educational service agencies (CESAs), and two county children with disabilities education boards (CCDEBs) for services to 1,008 special education students whose educational costs exceed $30,000 per student. Though $5.4 million is available for aid, approved claims for the High-Cost Special Education Aid program totaled $11.1 million for costs incurred during the 2008-09 school year. Aid payments will be prorated at 49 percent of costs.
“Every child with a disability is entitled to a free appropriate public education,” said State Superintendent Tony Evers. “The expenses for services to students who have severe or multiple disabilities are significant funding issues that challenge local school district budgets. This aid from the state of Wisconsin and federal Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) discretionary funding provides an offset for local special education costs.”
Eligible costs under the High-Cost Special Education Aid program include all costs (except administration or leadership) for direct services for a student with high-cost special education needs in the 2008-09 school year. Reimbursement from IDEA flow-through funds, Medicaid, and state special education categorical aid is deducted first. After those deductions, High-Cost Special Education Aid is calculated at 90 percent of the amount by which the total cost of providing education and related services to an individual child exceeded $30,000.
High-Cost Special Education Aid started in 2003 when then State Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster used federal IDEA funding to establish the program. State funding to provide aid for high-cost special education students was first available in 2007 and has continued to be supplemented with IDEA discretionary dollars.

Elmwood Park celebrates its 50th anniversary

Elmwood Park Village Trustee Linda Kawa-Pelish with the anniversary cake

The Village of Elmwood Park celebrated its improbable 50th Anniversary Sunday with a picnic and party on the grounds of the former Taylor Home.

Once a piece of the Town of Mt. Pleasant, the village's efforts to incorporate led to both a court battle and a legislative one. As the village's website points out, "A new state law adopted after the incorporation proceedings had started required villages near cities the size of Racine to be 25 times larger than Elmwood. Elmwood Park is the last small village in the sate to incorporate." The village's actual birth date is June 27, 1960; its name would have been simply Elmwood, but there already was a community with that name in northern Wisconsin.

The village is indeed small in size. Nestled between Durand Avenue to the north, and Spring Lake to the South, and just east of Lathrop, the village encompasses less than a quarter of a square mile. It has 204 homes and, according to the 2000 census, a population of 474.

Adding to the improbability, Sunday's picnic was held on the grounds of the old Taylor Home -- bought by the village in 2005 for use as its village hall. Never mind that the grounds are on land within the City of Racine. The former village hall, once the Beebee School at the corner of Lathrop and Taylor -- and, until recently, a private day-care center -- is still owned by the village as well; but the new location is handicapped-accessible, unlike the former.

In keeping with the village's austerity -- it has just one employee, who mows the grass and fixes the widows -- the party had no speakers or folderol. The picnic featured plenty of food, two large 50th Anniversary cakes, 1960s music by Titus, Rench and Wheary, games for the kids and a small car show -- six in all -- with a Model A Ford almost twice as old as the village.

And if a 50th birthday doesn't strike you as enough reason to celebrate, Elmwood Park is said to have the lowest taxes of any municipality in Racine County, contracting out needed services (like policing to the Racine County Sheriff and health services to the City of Racine.)