August 7, 2010

Young artists auction their summer projects at Chair-i-ties

Jasmine Sundberg displays her rocking chair, Dawn Is Breaking, which brought $100

It's called Chair-i-ties, this auction of the summer artwork of some three dozen Main Gallery students, but in truth the work included chairs, stools, tables, planters, rugs and rain barrels.

What each piece had in common was the creativity and hard work and imagination brought by the young artists, who worked in paint, photography, mosaic tiles and jewelry in the city's summer employment program for artists between the ages of 14 and 18.

Saturday, that all paid off, as about 100 bidders -- yes, some of them were family members, but certainly not all of them! -- eagerly snapped up the colorful artwork. Auctioneer David Castaneda had a harder time coaxing bidders to part with serious cash this year than in past sessions. "It's a tougher economy," said Jason Mars of Parks and Rec. Still, some pieces went for $175 to $225 and all the artwork offered found a welcoming home.

Auctioneer David Castaneda cajoles bidders for Rubber Ducky
  by Alissa Castaneda, Alexis Quirk and Taylor Feltson. It brought $50

Commissioned rain barrels caught visitors' eyes before the auction

Alissa Castaneda's table, Peace, based on a Shepard Fairey drawing, sold for $75.

Juan Garza's planter, A Clash of Culture, sold for $175

Jenny Broe's mosaic planter Everything Looks Perfect From Far Away brought $225

Arielle Exner with Ogata Korin table she painted. It sold for $200.

Linda and Gary Schultz paid $100 for Fragmented Dreams by Jacqueline Gerardo

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August 6, 2010

Racine's best First Friday ever?

Monument Square was the place to be ... 

Was this Racine's best First Friday ever?

I'm declaring it so; feel free to argue with the designation in the comments.   Just keep in mind these indisputable facts:

  • The weather was perfect.
  • There was a musician, or two or six every few hundred feet, down Main Street and up Sixth.
  • Besides the usual attractions, there was a bone xylophone, a 1927 Nash.
  • Mean Jake rocked Monument Square for hours, playing just two slow tunes all evening  -- and one of those was offered simply to give the exhausted Mustang Sally dancers a breather.
  • Did I mention cold ice cream and cold beer?
  • Bustling bars, restaurants, art galleries and retail stores?
  • Did I mention the hula dancer who gave impromptu lessons? 
  • Chris Duerkop with his purple mohawk?

There were more people crowding the sidewalks from Monument Square to State Street than I can remember. Stopping to listen to the music, peering into the stores, greeting friends. Buying stuff. Eating ice cream with the kids. Having a great time. In Racine. With no cover charge.

Don't take my word for it. But don't miss the next one, either.

 Avis Davidson enticed (it wasn't hard!) Bill Potokar into a hula, sans shirt

Larry Fish of Kenosha, a k a Punka and the Rattle Bones (He's on YouTube, too.)
Musicians in Transition, and that '27 Nash at the Racine Heritage Museum

Schoettler Saxophone Ensemble -- six of 'em at Crosswalk Park

Mean Jake had everyone dancing on Monument Square

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Gene Gasiorkiewicz becomes Racine County's newest judge

Gene Gasiorkiewicz at his judicial investiture ceremony Friday

In a standing-room-only courtroom Friday afternoon, Gene Gasiorkiewicz took the oath of office to become Racine County's newest judge.

Gasiorkiewicz, 60, won the six-year seat on the bench by defeating Georgia Herrera in the April election. He was sworn in by Judge Allan B. Torhorst, in front of a gallery that included most of Racine's judges -- many of whom, including Torhorst, had endorsed Gasiorkiewicz during the campaign -- as well as representatives from the Kenosha and Walworth County  judiciary, as well as the Court of Appeals.

Also present were Gasiorkiewicz's parents, Dr. Eugene C. and Loretta Gasiorkiewicz, his wife, Jana, and their children Suzanne and Alexei.

Although he's the county's newest judge, Gasiorkiewicz has been assigned not to traffic court but to felony court. As Torhorst explained it, "A judge is elected to be a judge."  Gasiorkiewicz said he's been "boning up on criminal law" since learning what his first courtroom would be. "I'm a research nut," he said, adding that he already had "the proceedings down."

The investiture ceremony included good wishes from many who have known Gasiorkiewicz throughout his career, starting with Sister Michelle Olley, who was principal of St. Catherine's Higg School when he was a student. She quoted Sir Thomas More, the patron saint of lawyers, and also Hebrew scripture:
"Love tenderly,
Act justly,
Walk humbly with your God."
 Christy Hall, president of the Racine County Bar Association, wished him "health, happiness and (to laughter) serenity," apparently not something usually found on the Circuit Court bench.

Adrien Schoone, whose law firm Gasiorkiewicz joined after college, in 1974, recounted his background -- the University of Mississippi Law School, editor in chief of the Law Review, a clerkship, presidency of the Racine County Bar in 2007, a member of the Board of Governors of the state Bar and more -- and said his own biggest mistake in 51 years of practicing law was not making Gasiorkiewicz a partner. Instead, after five years, Gasiorkiewicz formed his own law firm with Martin Hanson.

Schoone  quoted from Oliver Wendell Holmes, noting that a man must "share the passion and action of his time, at the peril of being not to have lived."

Gasiorkiewicz offered a broad smile throughout the proceedings, and noted that in 35 years as a lawyer, "I can't imagine a more glorious day for my friends and family and me." He wished Judge Stephen Simanek -- whose seat he is taking -- "good hunting and fishing in his retirement," and pledged that he would serve his constituents with "dignity and respect."

His term runs until August 2016. And for those of you still not sure how to pronounce our new judge's last name, here's the word from his campaign website: GASH-ER-KEV-ITCH.

The Judge's parents, Dr. Eugene and Loretta Gasiorkiewicz, gave him his robe

...and his son, Alexei, also an attorney, presented him with a gavel

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Mitchell Middle School rivals offer free iPads for votes in $500,000 contest

Mitchell Middle School is still in the running for $500,000 in the Kohl's Cares contest on Facebook, but it's facing stiff competition nationally.

Several schools in the Top 20 right now are offering people who vote for their school a chance to win a free iPad. The first place school, Cheder Menachem in Los Angeles, is giving away eight of Apple's latest must-have gadgets in exchange for votes. With iPads starting at $500 apiece, school supporters have spent $4,000 just in prizes to win the contest. It's not a bad investment considering $500,000 is on the line, and it's proving successful.

Cheder Menachem and several other "Chabad" schools - all private - are using the same methods and are stacking the top of the Kohl's Cares standings. Only one public school has cracked the Kohl's Cares Top 20 so far. That public school is Millbury, Ohio's Lake High School, which was destroyed by a tornado earlier this year.

So what's this mean for Mitchell? It means they need help. Mitchell science teacher Kim Wendt flyered the entire city - at her own expense - yesterday and is constantly working on getting people to vote for her school. (She's emailed so many people through Facebook that the website has banned her from sending any more.) But Wendt needs help.

If you have ideas, time, or resources to donate, contact her today at:

Also, our local daily newspaper could use some prodding. The JT could rally A LOT of support for Mitchell, but so far they've sat on the sidelines. If you'd like to see the JT write about and advertise Mitchell's efforts send these people an email:

Mark Lewis, publisher,
Steve Lovejoy, editor,

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Countryside defends itself, explains 36% euthanasia rate

The Countryside Humane Society answered its critics today, with the following statement from the animal shelter's Board of Directors: 

Countryside Humane Society is aware of the recent publicity regarding our organization.

As part of the contract for animal control, Countryside is required to take in all unwanted and stray animals. This includes those surrendered by owner for euthanasia, feral cats, animals involved in bite cases, injured wildlife, birds, snakes, chickens, and etc.

Regardless of the health, age or temperament, the shelter must accept them all. Every effort is made to find new homes for the adoptable animals. Countryside works with other humane societies and numerous rescues to place those that have been in the shelter a longer period of time. Unfortunately dealing with over 4,000 animals annually some will be deemed un-adoptable because of temperament, old age, or health problems.

Countryside’s euthanasia percentage for 2010 is 36%. Some of these animals were severely injured and others were not acceptable at rescues or other humane societies. To date CHS has spent almost $10,000 in veterinarian care for injured stray and/or abused animals and has also helped many Racine County pet owners unable to afford veterinarian care.

CHS wants to assure the public that a new protocol was put into place immediately when the expired rabies vaccines were discovered. All vaccines and medications are monitored consistently to prevent this from ever happening again.

Volunteers help care for the animals. Currently two dog behaviorists come three or four times a week to help socialize the dogs. Volunteers also come in regularly during the week to brush and socialize our cats. Animals too young or are sick are transferred to foster homes. CHS staff also fosters animals that need extra care and will often take animals home if shelter space is limited. Our staff works very hard to keep animals healthy and adoptable.

In January, Shelter Buddies/Home Again donated a new database to CHS. The program is geared toward humane societies performing animal control functions. Shelter Buddies documents an animal’s health and behavior and accurately tracks owner information. The database provides staff the information needed to track animals in the shelter and determine their availability for adoption. Countryside continuously works to improve customer service and improve shelter conditions.

Countryside Board of Directors
Earlier stories HERE, HERE and HERE.

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Kids Wish Network takes Racine girl to visit hit TV show

Carly Renguette, 15, with NCIS actors Mark Harmon and Pauly Perrette

A young Racine girl with a life-threatening spinal disorder enjoyed the wish of her life last week by visiting the set of the hit TV series NCIS through the generosity of national children’s charity Kids Wish Network.

When she was 11, Carly Renguette woke up one day with a neck ache and within an hour she was being life-flighted to the hospital after she stopped breathing. When she awoke, Carly couldn't walk, could barely talk and could not move her arms and legs. Doctors determined that she had suffered a blood clot in her spine that caused a severe spinal stroke, leaving her a quadriplegic.

In the four years since her initial hospitalization, Carly has worked hard at various therapies and rehabilitation clinics to regain her abilities to talk, move her body and even walk with the assistance of a platform walker; Carly has come a tremendously long way.

It was a family friend familiar with Carly’s struggle who first put Carly’s mother, Sheri, in contact with Kids Wish Network. Carly asked to visit the set of NCIS.

With the help of sponsors here and in Hollywood, Carly’s wish coordinator arranged for Carly, her older sister, Sarah, and her mother to enjoy Carly’s wish trip including tickets to Universal Studios and the visit to the set of NCIS.

“It was amazing,” said Sheri of her daughter’s wish trip. “The whole thing was amazing. We got the royal treatment everywhere.”  Though she enjoyed everything, the visit to the set of her favorite show was definitely the highlight of Carly’s trip.

While on the NCIS set, Carly meet actor Mark Harmon and actress Pauley Perrette (who play Carly’s two favorite characters), eat lunch on set and watch the taping of an episode.

“Mark Harmon was wonderful,” said Sheri. “He was so nice.” During the tour, Mark took Carly to the “interrogation room” set of NCIS and made her part of a special interrogation.

As for Pauley Perrette, according to Sheri, “she was just amazing. "Abby" is Carly’s favorite character and it was just amazing for her... the girls made a scrapbook [showing Carly’s story] and Pauley was  interested in it all. She was so sweet.” Pauley also said that the scrapbook would make an appearance on the "Abby's" desk during a show.

Carly was given an NCIS hat and a shirt from Pauley Perrette’s “Abby” wardrobe.

“It was a wish granted and then some,” said Sheri. “It was really like a couple of wishes.”

Kids Wish Network is a non-profit organization dedicated to creating happy memories, and improving the quality of life for children in crisis. It provides some 1,250 wishes for children each year. For more information on Kids Wish Network, visit their website.

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August 5, 2010

Racine looking to hire transit manager; City back tracks on money-saving experiment

We don't spend a lot of time following the city's Transit System, but a City Council vote this week caught our attention. The council voted to add a "transit manager" position to the budget at a cost of $42,000. The rest of the manager's salary would be covered by grants and bus fares.

It's an interesting move because the city is going to be looking at some serious budget cuts this fall, and those may come in the form of eliminating positions. Really, there's not many other ways for the city to save money. So for the city to be looking at adding a position - especially a manager's position - seems to suggest something isn't working.

This story started two years ago when Mike Glasheen retired as the city's transit manager. The city tried to replace him, but couldn't find a qualified candidate at the offered salary of about $75,000 per year. Instead, it decided to split the job up among Professional Transit Management, the private company that runs Racine's public buses, and the city's Finance and Public Works departments.

The city tried out the "experiment" for two years, but is now looking to return to its old system, said Rick Jones, head of the city's Public Works Department. Both the federal government and a report from Len Brandrup, retired head of Kenosha's transit system, wrote reports saying the city needed better oversight of its transit system, or it could risk losing state and federal grant money. 

"It's worked out OK, but it's not as good as it should," Jones said. "We're recommending it (the transit manager position) is put back into the budget."

The challenge is finding a candidate to take the job. Along with salary concerns, Jones said Racine is competing with transit systems in Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota for qualified managers. Transit managers have backgrounds in engineering and urban planning, Jones said. 

For now, Steve Rogstad is general manager of the city's buses for PTM. He replaced Curtis Garner, who had a rocky relationship with the bus drivers' union. Teamsters Local 43 went on strike back in 2008 and have threatened to walk a few times since then. 

Wes Gable, head of Local 43, said the union didn't have anything to do with changes in PTM management. He did say he was happy to learn Garner was no longer managing Racine's buses.  

Local 43 and the city have recently started negotiating a new contract for Racine's bus drivers, Gable said. Negotiating meetings are scheduled for the coming weeks, he said.

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OP-ED: Taxes are revolting, why aren't you?

By Anthony De Cubellis
Libertarian Candidate for State Assembly, 62nd District

Despite assurances to the contrary, the recession continues to take a toll on Racine residents and businesses. Racine is struggling with a 14.2% unemployment rate and more home foreclosures as residents grudgingly accept pay cuts, lose hours, lose jobs, or fall off of the compensation rolls entirely.

Last month, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke warned the economic outlook is “unusually uncertain” and that unemployment rates will likely remain high for several years. Are these years to be Racine’s Great Depression? Racine needs more jobs and affordable housing but in Racine’s ever-increasing property tax environment we have less affordable housing and fewer jobs. It’s time to try
something new.

In 2008, at the start of the sub-prime mortgage meltdown, the average residential assessment was $124,700 which created a property tax liability of $2,700 for the average homeowner. This $200 per month in property tax is a 33% additional cost on top of a $600 or $700 mortgage payment. This $200 per month is groceries, it’s a winter utility bill, and it is potential discretionary income to spur local economic growth. The absence of that tax would make home ownership and rents more affordable.

It’s time for Wisconsin to abolish the property tax. No tinkering or fiddling with rates; abolish it completely. Abolishing the property tax would no longer allow politicians to play favorites with preferred companies -- by granting property tax exemptions -- while home-owning taxpayers pick up the budgetary slack. Abolishing the property tax would lower rents -- as the property tax would no longer be part of the owner’s costs. Abolishing the property tax would mean your property rights are secure -- in that you do not “rent” your property from your local government.

To fund local government, in lieu of the property tax, Wisconsin taxing authorities would be required to levy a sales tax complete with current sales tax exemptions. This would allow the financially stressed to concentrate, tax-free, on the basics of home, food, and utilities. A sales tax would exert competitive downward pressure on the rate between municipalities vying for tax revenue. Raise the rate too high and Racine consumers will shop in Kenosha: Racine will lose tax revenue. Keep the rate low and Kenosha consumers will shop in Racine: Racine will gain tax revenue.

When elected to the legislature, Abolishing the property tax will be my first order of business.

Wisconsin must abandon this regressive tax which punishes everyone, especially those on fixed incomes and the financially distressed. Wisconsin must embrace a new economic freedom where our residents have control over their tax liability and create an environment where tax rates are kept low in an effort to attract tax revenue through additional commerce if we are to prosper in the face of this economic malaise.


This is Anthony De Cubellis' first run for office, opposing Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, and Republican challenger Chris Wright of Sturtevant. De Cubellis, a Racine native who turned 43 on Tuesday, worked at SC Johnson for 13 years, and now is a materials manager at Honeywell Analytics in Lincolnshire, IL. He served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps, from 1985-'89, in Okinawa, the Philippines and California. He is engaged to be married.

He says he's running because of "the economic situation we found ourselves in since 2008, with the expenditure of taxpayer dollars. As economic liberty decreases, we can't go down with the ship; we have to push back." Nor is it just economics: "We feel a lot of personal liberties being squashed every day; civil liberties, like a noose slowly tightenig around our neck."

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Here's $65 million; you're getting broadband!

Both Wisconsin senators jumped on their computers yesterday to email us the good news: Wisconsin has received -- of course, through their efforts! -- $65,214,896 to bring a vital service to the boonies.

Yes, 30,480 rural (i.e., not Racine) Wisconsin households will now have access to broadband, thanks to  funding approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), also known as the stimulus.  The funding will create "hundreds of jobs upfront," says Sen. Russ Feingold, D-WI.

Think about it: broadband!  Not electricity, indoor plumbing, clean water -- broadband. At a cost of  $2,139 per household, we're moving 30,480 households off dial-up! Can cable TV be far behind?

I hesitate to research what the total cost of this technological revolution is across the country. If Wisconsin is just one of ten states getting such funding, we're spending $650 million! I'm petrified to do the 50-state math. Actually, the Dept. of Agriculture's May 11 press release says "USDA is making available up to $105 million in funding including $100 million for Satellite Projects; $3 million for Technical Assistance Projects; and $2 million for Rural Library Broadband Projects." So I'm not sure where Sen. Herb Kohl, D-WI,  and Feingold are getting their information that $65 million is coming to Wisconsin, but they undoubtedly have inside information.

The USDA release Feingold's announcement referenced said applications are necessary, with a June 7 cut-off date -- and it also said we've already spent $1.067 billion through the Recovery Act for 68 broadband projects. "Together, the projects will make high speed Internet available to an estimated 529,000 households and 96,000 rural business and public facilities across 31 states, one territory and 17 tribal lands and predominantly Alaska Native regions. Many of the areas to be served are extremely remote, sparsely populated and in some cases not connected by roads." (This information came from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, last seen in the press stumbling out of the Shirley Sherrod firing mess.)

No doubt, I'm dead wrong in feeling this spending is excessive, typing as I am on my taken-for-granted, five-year-old DSL connection that I surely hope didn't cost other taxpayers $2,000 to provide.

In his press release, Sen. Kohl said: "This substantial investment will expand the broadband network to places that are currently underserved, linking people to resources that have been out of reach.  This is a path to growth for our businesses, health care providers and schools who can tap into the limitless potential of technology to strengthen their work, create jobs and energize their local economies.”

Sen. Feingold said: “The investment ... has the potential to create future employment opportunities in areas that, until now, were on the wrong side of the digital divide.  With an enhanced ability to access the Internet, rural businesses will be on a much better footing to compete in the 21st century marketplace.  This is another great example of the stimulus not only creating jobs in the near term, but helping economic development and job creation over the long term.”

 The projects, ranging in value from  a mere $818,687 to $31,098,184,  are:
  • Badger Telecom, LLC - $4,080,773
  • Baldwin Telecom, Inc. - $9,067,898
  • Central State Telephone Company, LLC - $3,855,976
  • Chequamegon Commuincations Cooperative, Inc. - $31,098,184
  • Eastcoast Telecom of Wisconsin, LLC - $1,669,255
  • Farmers Telephone Company, LLC - $1,440,570
  • Grantland Telecom, LLC - $1,655,504
  • Midway Telephone Company - $4,680,738
  • Riverside Telecom, LLC - $818,687
  • Scandinavia Telephone company, LLC - $1,238,809
  • Southeast Telephone Co. of Wisconsin, LLC - $947,555
  • Stockbridge & Sherwood Telephone Company, LLC - $1,837,421
  • UTELCO, LLC - $2,823,546

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Knapp Elementary also seeking Kohls Cares $500,000

With all the attention given to Mitchell Middle School's attempt to win $500,000 in the Kohls Cares competition, we missed the fact that another Racine school has entered.

Unfortunately, that school -- Knapp Elementary -- is equally needy as it approaches its 100th anniversary next year. Knapp is far down in the rankings, but most of us still have more votes left, so if you can spare five more clicks, here's where to put them. My five votes just pushed Knapp up to 414, so it has a way to go to reach the top 20 who will receive funding.

Vanessa Hetchler, PTA President at Knapp Elementary School, says: "We are a very low income school with close to 95% of our children on free and reduced lunch. This money would help us provide additional learning experiences for our children. Most of our parents don't have computers at home, so I really need to get the word out to the community. Could you please help us out and spread the word? I would really appreciate it!"

Mitchell Middle School, by the way, has dropped to 23rd place as I write this Thursday morning. That's out of the money despite its 4,761 votes. Interestingly enough, a quick scan of the top-rated schools shows more than a dozen of the present top 20 are Hebrew schools located all across the country. The No. 1 school has over 14,000 votes.

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Countryside Humane Society split 50-50 between adoption, euthanasia

Countryside Humane Society killed about half of the animals that under their care in 2009, according to shelter statistics.

Racine's primary animal shelter euthanized 1,281 animals last year, while adopting out 456 animals. Another 269 animals were reclaimed by their owners, 222 were transferred out of the shelter and 87 were released to rescue.

Countryside euthanized 53.3 percent of the animals that were brought, though owners surrendered 213 animals to the shelter to be killed. Taking that into account, the shelter had a 'live-release rate," a standard measure used by the Humane Society of the United States, of 51.4 percent in 2009.

Countryside's euthanasia rate is roughly equal to the national rate. The Humane Society of the United States estimates 6-8 million animals enter shelters every year. Of this number, 3-4 million are euthanized and 3-4 million are adopted.

Also, many animal rights groups, including PETA, support the use of euthanasia as a preferable, peaceful end to the lives of unwanted, or uncared for, animals. PETA also speaks against "no-kill" shelters because they tend to cherry-pick the best animals and turn away or ignore animals that are less likely to be adopted. PETA writes:
Open-admission shelters are committed to keeping animals safe and off the streets and do not have the option of turning their backs on the victims of the overpopulation crisis as "no-kill" shelters do. No one despises the ugly reality of euthanizing animals more than the people who hold the syringe, but euthanasia is often the most compassionate and dignified way for unwanted animals to leave the world.
Here's a closer look at Countryside's euthanasia numbers ...

Breakdown of why animals were euthanized at Countryside last year:
  • Bite case - 24
  • Feral - 173
  • Health - 401
  • Injured - 37
  • No Room - 4
  • Not Housetrained - 17
  • Surrendered for Euthanasia - 213
  • Temprament - 356
  • Wildlife - 56
Outcomes of how live animals leave the shelter:
  • Adopted - 456
  • DOA (dead on arrival) - 67
  • Reclaimed - 269
  • Released to Rescue - 87
  • Transferred - 222
  • New System Carried Over - 21
Most animals brought into Countryside in 2009 were strays. Here's a breakdown of how animals showed up at the shelter:
  • Abandoned - 44
  • Rescued - 6
  • Returned - 40
  • Seized - 42
  • Stray - 1,357
  • Surrendered for euthanasia - 246
  • Surrendered - 668
The city of Racine accounted for two-thirds of Countryside's "Field Activity" in 2009, including pickups, trappings, complaints, revisits and E-calls. Here's the county's breakdown by percentage:
  • City of Burlington - 2.08%
  • City of Racine - 66.08%
  • Town of Burlington - 2.63%
  • Town of Dover - 0.64%
  • Town of Norway - 1.25%
  • Town of Raymond - 1.83%
  • Town of Waterford - 1.44%
  • Town of Yorkville - 1.31%
  • Village of Caledonia - 9.51%
  • Village of Elmwood Park - 0.19%
  • Village of Mt. Pleasant - 8.97%
  • Village of North Bay - 0.1%
  • Village of Rochester - 0%
  • Village of Sturtevant - 1.31%
  • Village of Union Grove - 1.76%
  • Village of Waterford - 0.51%
  • Village of Wind Point - 0.38%

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August 4, 2010

Vote for Mitchell! You can help Racine win $500,000 for one of its school

Hi all,

It's time to rally. Mitchell Middle School has a real shot at winning $500,000 from Kohl's to make needed repairs to a school that was built in 1937. Right now Mitchell is one of two public schools in the entire country to have a real shot at winning. They're up against wealthy private schools with limitless resources both at home and in the classroom. But they can win.

All it takes is votes. Your votes. Our votes. There's an ongoing complaint in Racine that no "leaders" are stepping forward to solve our city's problems. Here's the deal: no one person is going to do that. You're going to help solve the city's problems. We all are together.

Kim Wendt over at Mitchell has got things rolling. The architect of Mitchell's successful Pepsi Challenge Grant win last spring, she's using all of her skills to pull in votes and keep her school competitive. But to make this happen she needs you help.

First, just vote. Here's the link. You need a Facebook account, so if you don't have one, just sign up. It's worth it. You can vote five times for Mitchell. It's important you vote all five times!

Second, get all of your friends, family, co-workers and acquaintances to vote. Nag, bug, cajole. Whatever it takes. Mitchell needs another 20,000 votes - that's 4,000 people voting five times - to finish in the Top 20. That's not a lot. We can do this.

Third, bug local media to promote and support Mitchell's efforts. Call and write The Journal Times, WRJN, Fox 6, WISN, WTMJ, CBS 58 and anyone else you can think of. They can help get the word out, but they need your prodding. Call today. Call often!

Mitchell is facing an uphill climb. It's out-gunned by private schools all over the country and needs to act quick before it falls too far behind. It starts with you. It starts now. Vote and promote. The contest's deadline is Sept. 3. That's one month for us to come together, and work together, to make this happen.

If you can help, contact Kim Wendt at: She could use as many volunteers, and donations, as possible. 

Start today. There's no time to waste. 

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Ryan revamps his 1st District website

Screen shot of Rep. Paul Ryan's new home page

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-WI, 1st District, launched a revamped website today: for residents of Wisconsin’s First District, in addition to his mobile office and service centers in Racine, Kenosha and Janesville.

Ryan said: “The online office is a great way for residents to stay connected with me and what is going on in the House of Representatives and to receive information on the various constituent services my office provides. I’m pleased the First Congressional District website will offer a wider array of services and be more user-friendly for residents.”

"The online office keeps a constant dialogue flowing with those I represent.” Ryan said. “I will continue to use all available avenues to communicate with and serve my employers and I would encourage everyone to take advantage of this great site.”

On average, Ryan’s website has 77,000 visitors each month and through his Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube pages and his Roadmap for America's Future website, Ryan uses multiple forums to communicate. Ryan’s website was recently awarded a “Silver Mouse Award” by the Congressional Management Foundation for being one of the best in the 111th Congress.

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August 3, 2010

The Front Porch: Community Based Learning Partnership Helps Students and Nonprofit Organization

By Debra Karp

For nonprofit organizations, social networking can be an effective means of marketing and fund development.  However, for many nonprofit leaders, social networking is an unfamiliar tool. Grass Roots, Inc., a local nonprofit organization, found help navigating this new world by working with University of Wisconsin-Parkside Communication students who designed a social networking campaign for the organization.  In this win-win scenario, students gained valuable real life experience and the organization received service that helped it meet its mission.

“Until students engage in projects that get them in real work situations, it’s just the teacher talking at them. They don’t understand what it means to perform in a professional manner until they have a chance to experience it,” said Dr. Megan Mullen, professor of Communication, who taught the course “Understanding Advertising Messages” in which students worked with Grass Roots, Inc.

Projects such as these fall under the heading of community-based learning or CBL at UW-Parkside. 
“CBL is a partnership among all stakeholders – faculty, students and the community organization. Not only does each contribute to student learning, but students as well as faculty and community partners learn to negotiate diverse roles when executing a CBL project.  In a real life setting, we all work with a variety of people at different levels of authority and with diverse skills. CBL prepares students to work within such structures and facilitates their ability to connect what they learn in class to a real workplace experience,” said Dr. Helen Rosenberg , faculty director of Community-Based Learning and Research at UW-Parkside.

Each year, more than 700 UW-Parkside students participate in CBL courses completing projects as diverse as business planning, brochure design, human resources, technology assessment and marketing research. Of the dozens of projects, about 75% are completed for nonprofit organizations and the other 25% are for businesses and government agencies, according to Rosenberg.

Ashley Hubers, UW-Parkside senior Communication major, was one of the four members of the student group that worked on the project for Grass Roots, Inc., an emerging Kenosha organization whose mission is AIDS education targeted to the African American community.

“At first our group was worried because Grass Roots didn’t have anything developed for their media at all. They didn’t have funding to pay for this kind of thing.  So, we showed them easy and cheap ways to promote a nonprofit organization,” said Hubers. “I think they might have been overwhelmed at first because we had so many great ideas.”

Norma Carter, executive director of Grass Roots, Inc. had nothing but praise for the partnership with the students. She and Roy Carter were the primary community contacts for the students.  “We were especially grateful to be working with young people. They had fresh approaches to getting the word out about our organization.”

 “They were giving and we were receiving their expertise. It was our role to let them know our expectations and to reign them in when necessary.  It was a real partnership,” she said.

Professor Mullen attributes much of the success of this group of students to the time and patience invested by the community partner. “Norma and Roy Carter exemplify productive community partner relationships with the students and the instructor,” she said.

According to Mullen, the students’ final presentation went well beyond her expectations. Delivered to the Board of Grass Roots during a conference at Wingspread in Racine, it was an unforgettable experience for students.

“It was beautiful there at Wingspread.  We felt so honored to be there.  We made a presentation in a gorgeous room.  This was a real professional setting for us—a great experience” said Hubers. “We met a lot of professional people.  It helped prepare us for what we’d have to do in our future careers.”

According to Mullen, she was not the only one impressed with the students’ work.  After the presentation, Carole Johnson, director of Local and Regional Community Programs for the Johnson Foundation at Wingspread, approached her about having her students work on publicity for a new community project.   As a result, this fall, students in Mullen’s “Understanding Advertising Messages” will be completing integrated media campaigns for The Racine Healthy Birth Outcomes Initiative which seeks to address infant mortality in the black community.

UW-Parkside’s Center for Community Partnerships matches community organizations to courses taking place each year.  Currently, staff members are matching projects for fall 2010 and spring 2011 courses.  Any organization interested in working with a CBL class should contact Rosann Weber at 595-2184 or

Front Porch Rockers:

Educators Get Educated: Chiwaukee Academy, a professional development opportunity for area educators, will take place at UW-Parkside August 9-13, 2010.  For more information or to register, please contact Marisella Malacara at (262) 595-2753 or visit our website keyword: K12 Education.

Paddle Power: Rent a kayak or a canoe and paddle the Root River in Racine. The REC (Root River Environmental Education Community Center) is open Friday 4:30pm - 7pm, Saturday 11am - 5pm and Sunday 11am - 5pm through Labor Day. Come in and learn about the nature, take a spin on the bike path or paddle the river.

Kick it!: The 26th annual Lake Shore Soccer Camp (Formerly Ranger Soccer Camp) will be held August 16- 20, 2010 at UW-Parkside. The longest running and largest Soccer Camp in the Kenosha-Racine area, youth ages 4 to 14 years old receive top soccer instruction from UW-Parkside Men’s Soccer Coach Rick Kilps, a 2002 WYSA Youth Coach of the Year and 2005 WSA Hall of Fame Inductee. Cost is $65 for youth 4 to 5 years old, and $85 for youth 6 to 14 years old, and participants receive an official Camp T-Shirt and tickets to UWP home soccer games. For more information, call (262) 884-7657 or 
Debra Karp is Director of Community-Based Scholarship and Nonprofit Development in the Center for Community Partnerships at UW-Parkside.

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Caledonia considering $3.5 million asphalt plant on Thursday night

Caledonia's Village Board and Plan Commission will hold a Special Joint meeting on Thursday to discuss a proposed asphalt production and recycle facility at 3205 West 3 Mile Road in the Town of Raymond.

The village has an interest in the $3.5 million project because it can control development in Raymond along the town's border.

Thursday's meet will be at 6 p.m. at the East Side Community Center, 6156 Douglas Ave. Northwest Asphalt Products Inc. will make a presentation for an asphalt production and recycle facility in Raymond. It will be followed be a presentation from opponents of the project, and then citizen comments.

The Plan Commission and Village Board are then scheduled to take action on the project. The commission and board's decision will be based on the "proposed development’s consistency with the Caledonia/Raymond Cooperative Plan."

The Raymond Town Board approved the project despite opposition from town residents. The project needs approval from Caledonia and Racine County to move forward.

Here's an article in BizTimes about the project.

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Johnson Wax gets a cameo on 'Mad Men'

SC Johnson, actually Johnson Wax, had a cameo in the first two episodes of the new season of "Mad Men." 

The award-winning show about a New York ad agency in the 1960s twice mentioned Johnson Wax and its "Glo-Coat." The show's lead character, Donald Draper, created an innovative TV ad for the self-polishing floor wax. 

The TV ad features a boy who appears to be imprisoned in a Wild West jail cell. He's actually in a kitchen. "Footprints on a wet floor — that's no longer a hanging offense" is the spot's punch line.

Earlier in the episode it's explained that the ad is groundbreaking because it starts out looking like a movie before it becomes an ad. This type of storytelling wasn't done in advertising at the time. 

In the season's second episode, which aired Sunday, Draper receives a message from a Johnson Wax executive about "Glo-Coat." 

A quick search of YouTube shows Johnson Wax was pretty innovative with Glo-Coat advertising back in the 1960s. Here's a few of their TV commercials:

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Racine County Republicans open campaign office

The Racine County Republican Party will open its campaign office at 829 S. Green Bay Road on Thursday. 

The GOP's "Victory Center" will be open from 6-8pm on Thursday.
"We are proud of what local Republicans do for conservatives throughout the state," said Bill Folk, Racine County GOP Chairman. "The state party incorporating Racine into their Victory Program shows that Racine is expected to have a major impact on this year's election."

Shawn Smith, a Racine native, will be the Victory Center coordinator.

"Racine has proven to be a great source of volunteers and with their help will hit our call and door totals on a regular basis," said Smith.

If you'd like to volunteer at the Victory Center, please contact Shawn Smith at 262-705-1910 or leave a message for the Racine GOP at 262-864-1010.

Office hours will be:
Monday to Saturday: 9am to 9pm
Sunday: 10am to 9pm

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July Permits: Fratt Elementary's $2.9 milllion renovation is underway

Here's the city's building and occupancy permits for July:
  • Bukacek Construction took out a $2.9 million permit from the city on July 12 to build a 23,730-square-foot addition and remodel at Fratt Elementary School. The permit cost $9,492. Fratt, 3501 Kinzie Ave., was built in 1916.
  • OSM Investment Group took out a $300,000 permit for renovations to the former Peddler's Market at 2000 Lathrop Ave. OSM is building a 6,800-square-foot day care and store remodel. The permit cost $3,600. 
  • Contractor John Boehm took out a $1,500 permit for a 12x16 overhang at TBG's tavern, 1814 Taylor Ave. The permit cost $60. 
  • Peterson Construction took out a $14,000 permit for a car port at Mid Town Church, 1704 Thirteenth St. The permit cost $168. 
  • Bukacek Construction took out a $20,000 permit to remodel the Salvation Army at 1901 Washington Ave. The permit cost $2,400. 
  • Beeler Construction took out a $35,000 permit to remodel US Bank at 4701 Washington Ave. The permit cost $420. 
  • R Z Home Improvement took out a $20,000 permit to remodel Westgate Dental Office at 4901 Washington Ave. The permit cost $240. 
  • Alan E. Winter applied for an occupancy permit for the Racine Veterans Club at 820 Main St. 
  • Kris Herzog applied for an occupancy permit for Dropbear Comics & Games at 1129 Washington Ave.
  • Bourbon St. Blues and Jazz applied for an occupancy permit for 1111 Washington Ave. This is the former Salt & Pepper Lounge. 
  • Zemfira Alushaj applied for an occupancy permit for Zemfira's Hair Salon at 1220 Lathrop Ave. 
  • Ronald and Dragana Sankovic applied for an occupancy permit for Park Inn Restaurant at 2313 Douglas Ave. 
  • Bithia Bell applied for an occupancy permit for B Rashel Beauty Salon at 2030 Lathrop Ave. 
  • Theodore Harris applied for an applied for permit for Candy Etc. - Store & Games at 2005 Lathrop Ave.
  • Johanna Hearron-Heineman applied for an occupancy permit for Natural Green Farms at 615 S. Marquette St. 

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It's all about the neighborhood, and the neighbors, at National Night Out

Block parties all over Racine -- nearly 60 locations -- marked National Night Out Tuesday, as neighbors left their homes to mingle with each other, enjoy music and games and food, and talk about public safety with public officials.

Racine's observance began at Duke Hamilton Park, across from the Wadewitz COP House, and featured all of the above, along with a slew of firefighters and police and politicians -- Mayor John Dickert, State Sen. John Lehman, State Rep. Bob Turner and a number of aldermen. At right, Janai Ferr, 11, meets the mayor.

Speeches were wisely kept to a bare minimum, and most hewed to the sentiment expressed by Lehman: "In some neighborhoods, fences are going up and people aren't talking to each other. This is an alternative."

Police Chief Kurt Wahlen took the opportunity to tout the year's first six month's of crime statistics: "Aggravated assaults are down 25%; violent crime is down 20%; property crime is down 6%; burglaries are down 25%. Everything's going in the right direction."

And then it was time for the kids to play, the grown-ups to mingle and all to join the food line for a hearty meal.

Lt. Brett Haller gives fire safety tips to a group of children

Aarian Gamble, 8, has her face painted

There was plenty of food for everyone

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Parody clip: Hitler takes on Paul Ryan

 There's no such thing as bad publicity?

Today, we doubt Paul Ryan would agree.

Our 1st District Congressman is, as usual, the subject of many, many positive articles in the national press.

US News and World Report has: Why Paul Ryan makes Democrats nervous.

The Washington Post has: The virtues of Ryan's roadmap and Paul Ryan's ideas for cutting the deficit and A pain in the pocketbook.

The Seattle Times has: Rep. Paul Ryan: A Republican in political no-man's land.

The Manchester Union Leader has: Newt Gingrich: Ryan makes GOP nervous.

But we suspect that all the attention will be paid to this hilarious spoof of Ryan, using that much-abused clip from the 2004 movie, Downfall, starring none other than Adolf Hitler. The studio that produced the movie has attempted to block the many parodies, citing copyright issues. Nonetheless, the parodies continue to proliferate, with commentaries on annoying World Cup vuvuzela horns, the cancellation of Ugly Betty, Hitler's unhappiness about not getting a Valentine's Day card, Brett Favre's "retirement" ... well, you get the picture. (Go here for YouTube's selection.)

And now Paul Ryan takes a licking from Hitler.  Watch closely: There's even a quick mention of RacinePost!

The clip is HERE and below. 

P.S. No, we have no idea who made the clip. But if you want to step forward...

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Aldermen call for new management at Racine County's humane society

Mary Palmer talks to the City Council on Monday night. The dog pictured is a poodle Palmer rescued from
Countryside Humane Society. 
Two Racine City Council members called for an overhaul of Countryside Humane Society's management on Monday night. 

Alds. Terry McCarthy and Aron Wisneski said Racine County's primary shelter needs new leadership. They both spoke out during council debate over whether Countryside's records are open to public inspection. The City Attorney told the council the city doesn't control the records, but that didn't stop discussion that hinted at growing frustration with how the humane society treats its animals. 

"I believe we need a change in management and direction there," said Wisneski, who said the city may have leverage to dictate the change. "We can say we want you to change your management if you want us to pay your hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees."

Mary Palmer's poodle rescued from
Countryside Humane Society. 
A handful of people spoke against Countryside during the council's public comment period on Monday. Mary Palmer, president and rescue coordinator for Northcentral Maltese Rescue Inc., gave an impassioned speech about rescuing a poodle from Countryside that had been shot and had several broken bones. The dog only saw a vet after Palmer took it home. 

"My question is why did Countryside not provide appropriate care for this dog?" Palmer said. "Why was she allowed to lay there for seven days, long enough for open sores like bed sores to form on her bony hips?"

While the council may have the will to replace Countryside, it may not have any options. 

Ald. Jim Spangenberg said the Finance Committee reviews Countryside's contract every year with the hope that a second provider will appear to take in strays, adopt out pets and provide animal control services. So far, no one other than Countryside has applied, Spangenberg said. 

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August 2, 2010

City Council Notes: Ald. Marcus takes his lumps

Ald. Eric Marcus
Ald. Eric Marcus is taking up residence on the Common Council as a contrarian voice. All of Marcus' proposals were defeated Monday night, though not for his lack of arguing on their behalf.

Marcus fought for a 60-day moratorium on in-fill construction in the city, tried to stop demolition of the old Spanish Center at 1725 17th St., made his case for the city waiving a $400 fee to acquire records related to Countryside Humane Society and tried to stop a day care on Lathrop Avenue near three bars.

Marcus' efforts weren't entirely fruitless. He didn't get much support on the 60-day moratorium or the Spanish Center, but drew out strong opposition to Countryside's current management and nearly convinced the council to send his day care proposal to the Public Safety and Licensing Committee and the Plan Commission. The day care proposal failed on an 8-7 vote.

Marcus reasoned that a recent ordinance preventing bars from opening a certain distance from daycare centers should work in reverse; daycare centers should not be allowed to open near bars. The request is timely because a daycare center is set to open in the former Peddler's Market on Lathrop Avenue. The center will be near four city bars.

"It doesn't matter if the chicken comes before the egg or the egg before the chicken," Marcus said. "What we end up with at the end of the day is a daycare center surrounded by four taverns."

But echoing a theme throughout a long meeting, opponents said delaying action on the daycare center would be "anti-business." Also, practically, it was pointed out the proposed daycare at 2000 Lathrop Ave. is located on a major roadway, is separated from the surrounding bars, and is self-contained on its site.

Those points were enough to, narrowly, win a majority against delaying the proposed daycare center. 

The minority took Marcus' point that the end result of a daycare center near bars may not be in the city's best interest, regardless of what comes first. Ald. Aron Wisneski said it was worth giving his Public Safety and Licensing Committee a chance to consider the policy behind the decision, but the majority disagreed and the daycare center got council approval. 

CAR25: After months of debate, it appears the city finally has a direction for CAR25. The council voted Monday night to allow the cable-access TV station to spend $40,000 to upgrade its equipment. The money was budgeted to be spent hiring a consultant for the station, but the council agreed to transfer it to CAR25's equipment account. CAR25 Board Chairman Jim Rasmussen spoke in favor of the proposal. Ald. Jim Spangenberg initially asked the proposal be sent to the Finance and Personnel Committee, but later joined with the rest of the council in voting to simply give CAR25 the money to spend.

WARNING TRACK: Four people spoke in favor of the Warning Track bar, 1301 Washington Ave., and its owner Scott Hansen. They said Hansen was a generous man and a good employer who ran a quality bar. The comments weren't enough to stop the City Council from trying to suspend or revoke Hansen's liquor license after a 19-year-old Racine man was killed in the Warning Track on July 10. The underage patron was killed after a bartender failed to check IDs. The council voted Monday night to send the bar to a due process hearing, which is required to revoke a bar's liquor license.

CHICKENS: Racine resident Sue DeKuester kept up her attack on a proposed backyard chicken ordinance. DeKuester spoke during the public comment period, starting her speech by asking, "Everyone take their chicken for a walk this week?" She also said a state expert on backyard chickens gave the Health Board incomplete information, which should invalidate the board's decision to allow a chicken ordinance to move forward.

MONDAY MEETING: The City Council usually meets Tuesday nights, but this week moved its meeting up to Monday to accommodate National Night Out.

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Habitat for Humanity overcomes a Racine alderman's challenge

Jan Roland
The head of Racine's Habitat for Humanity home-building program criticized Ald. Jeff Coe during Monday night's Common Council meeting.

Speaking during the council's public comment period, Habitat Board President Jan Roland said Coe was attempting to block home construction in the First Aldermanic District. If the city impedes Habitat's work, Roland said, the organization would cut back on the number of homes it builds or pull out of Racine all together.

"Habitat chapters are serving thousands of cities around the world," Roland said. "Every year it's among the Top 10 home builders, yet somehow I don't think we're welcome in District 1 (Coe's district). I don't understand it."

Roland called Coe's efforts to stop Habitat projects "out of place." He said if the city makes it more difficult for Habitat to build, the nonprofit will return to its roots and build 1-2 homes per year. If those are unacceptable, Habitat will disband, Roland said.

"We've proven ourselves, get out of our way, Mr. Coe," Roland said. 

The City Council sided with Roland, at least for now. Coe tried to introduce requests to stop a Habitat project at 1132 Irving Place and to implement a 60-day moratorium on transferring land to Habitat. But the council refused to assign the items to the Committee of the Whole, instead deferring action on them until they can be assigned to specific committees. 

Coe argued the items needed to be taken up sooner because the city is facing an Aug. 15 deadline to spend $3.1 million in federal stimulus money to buy and rehab houses. Part of the money will be used to buy 1132 Irving Place and turn it over to Habitat for a rehab. (The home was originally slated to be razed, but the city switched the house to a rehab.)

The council's action followed a lengthy procedural debate over how to handle Coe's requests. It was Ald. Ray DeHahn who suggested the items run through the council's regular committee system, and Ald. Ron Hart quickly backed him. 

Several council members described Coe's actions as coming at the "11th hour," which is too late to take up policy decisions. 

"Haste makes for poor legislation," said Ald. Q.A. Shakoor II, adding proposals like Coe's make the city look adversarial to development. "We have to be more business friendly." 

The council voted 10-5 to defer action on Coe's proposals until its next meeting, though the five no votes were somewhat deceptive. At least two aldermen who voted against deferring the proposals simply wanted to receive-and-file the requests, which would kill them upon arrival. 

Of Coe's proposals, one of the four looked like it could gain traction on the council. Coe, Ald. Eric Marcus and Ald. Sandy Weidner want to overhaul the city's Loan Board of Review. The board is now comprised of city department heads Rob Weber, Dave Brown, Marcia Fernholz, Brian O'Connell and Rick Heller. The aldermen want to appoint two City Council members to the Loan Board and have the full council review the board's actions. Right now, the Loan Board's actions are final. 

Ald. David Maack said Monday night he supported the concept of an elected official on the Loan Board, but wanted the proposal to work its way through the City Council's normal committees. 

All four of Coe's proposals will return to the City Council in two weeks for committee assignment. In the meantime, work will proceed on transferring 1132 Irving Place to Habitat for Humanity and the city is on schedule to meet its Aug. 15 deadline to use federal stimulus money to buy homes in foreclosure. 

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Racine secrets: Fire dogs rest along Root River bank

By Randolph D. Brandt

They were just dogs, but they were special dogs (as if any dog, to any dog owner, could be anything less than special).

They were Dalmatians, the black-and-white spotted dogs that traditionally ran alongside horse-drawn fire apparatus, originally to help keep the horses in line.

There was something about Dalmatians that calmed horses, kept them cool when the action got hot. So, naturally, they became the ubiquitous fire dogs associated with fire departments.

For some reason shadowed in the distant past, Dalmatians became associated with horses, working dogs that helped herd horses, much as other breeds became canine nursemaids to sheep.

Dalmatians are strong, muscular dogs, able to run long distances without tiring. They could match the endurance of, say, a horse. Thus, during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, when travel usually depended upon horsepower, Dalmatians came into their own. They became “coach dogs,” taking up a position to the side and slightly to the rear of harnessed horses to run with them, helping guide them wherever they were supposed to go.

Unlike horses, which are often spooked by such distractions as clanging bells and other commotion, these determined dogs seemed unmindful of distraction, fully capable of pacing their equine charges toward locations where they were needed most – the scene of a blazing building, for example.

Thus, around firehouses, the dogs earned their keep.

When they died, they earned something else. Here in Racine, they earned a decent burial next to Fire House No. 5, at 300 Fourth St., adjacent to the then-Fourth Street bridge, near Fourth and Wisconsin Avenue.

Firemen kept Dalmatians around firehouses long after fire equipment went from real horsepower to the horsepower measurement of internal combustion engines in gasoline- and diesel-powered fire trucks. They were good watchdogs, but, more than that they were good friends. Lifelong friends.

When life ended, they were collected from the different firehouses in the city and returned to Fire House No. 5, a pretty, quiet spot along the bank of the river.

There, they were interred, down the hill a little ways, under a tree, in a plot once outlined by old railroad ties, some stone and bricks.

Old Fire House No. 5 is gone, long dilapidated, then torn down in an expansion for the Journal Times’ distribution center, but its “R.F.D. 5” fa├žade remains tastefully incorporated into the decorative fence along the west side of Wisconsin Avenue, a lasting reminder of the historic firehouse that stood on the corner for 100 years.

Unknown to almost everyone, beneath the southwest corner of the parking lot, near a fittingly contemplative bench, next to the retaining wall … sleeping dogs lie.

 Racine Fire House No. 5
Randolph D. Brandt is the retired editor of the Journal Times.

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City Council president challenging Habitat for Humanity in Racine

Ald. Jeff Coe is challenging the city's relationship with Habit for Humanity with three proposals scheduled to be introduced to the Common Council tonight.

Coe is seeking 60-day moratoriums on city plans to demolish a home at 1132 Irving Place and to turn it over to Habitat, on all in-fill home construction in the city and on transfers of city-owned property to Habitat for Humanity.

The city's Loan Board of Review voted last month to buy 1132 Irving Place, demolish it, and turn the property over to Habitat for new construction. Coe's requests may delay this action.

Coe, the Common Council president, wants the city to review its policies and procedures involved in selecting property developers and constructions, including the role of the city as general contractor.

All three proposals are scheduled to be sent to the Committee of the Whole, which is the entire Common Council meeting as a committee.

More as this develops ...

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Nov. 1 deadline for Snowdance scripts; Over Our Head Players bringing back comedy show for seventh season

2010 Snowdance cast and crew
Sharpen your pencils and pull out the paper. It's time to start working on your entry to the Over Our Head Players' annual "Snowdance 10-Minute Comedy Festival."

The popular show, which is part performance and part playwrighting contest, is accepting submissions for its 2011 show through Nov. 1.  “Snowdance” is open to original, unpublished 10-minute or shorter comedies for the stage. Winning entries will be performed together in one theatre presentation by the OOHP Snowdance ensemble at Sixth Street Theatre for five weeks beginning Jan. 28, 2011. The entire Snowdance production will be presented more than 20 times during the run. At each performance, audience members can vote for their favorite individual comedy; the audience favorites will earn cash prizes for the playwright.

Entries may be sent to SNOWDANCE, c/o Sixth Street Theatre, 318 Sixth Street, Racine, Wisconsin, 53403. Playwrights are limited to one submission.
2010 "Best in Snow" winning play, "The Covenant
by Tim Bohn of Jonesboro, Ark.

Rules for the Snowdance Comedy Competition, which is open to everyone without age or geographic restriction, are relatively simple. Competition is open to unpublished, 10-minute or shorter comedies free of royalty and copyright restrictions. Musicals, adaptations, and translations will not be considered. One entry per playwright, postmarked by November 1, 2010. The writer’s name, address, phone number, and e-mail address (if applicable) should be included on the title page and only the title page. The title page should also include a cast list and a one- to three- sentence synopsis of the play. Plays can have a cast of one to five characters; plays should be easily staged, avoiding elaborate set requirements.

Submit one typed manuscript in standard format, securely bound. Complete rules will be posted on the theatre website at Any questions can be directed to Rich Smith via the box office, at (262)632-6802, or by e-mail at Scripts will not be returned.

The Snowdance 10-Minute Comedy Festival is a competition of original short comedies. Writers from throughout the community, the state, and the country are invited to enter; previous involvement with OOHPs is not a requirement. Scripts will be judged by the Snowdance Selection Committee. Scripts will be chosen for production in a complete festival performance. Then, in the ultimate interactive experience, audiences vote for the production they enjoyed the most. The votes will be tallied throughout the five weekend festival run, and the Snowdance “Best in Snow” will be awarded after the final performance on February 27th. A $300 prize goes to “Best in Snow”, with $100 awards going to second and third places. OOHP presents Snowdance January 28 - February 27, 2011. OOHP Artistic Director Rich Smith leads the Snowdance ensemble, which is sponsored by Minuteman Press.

 Smith has lead the production since it began in 2005. He emphasizes the key to the festival’s growth: “Thank you playwrights for making the Snowdance 10 Minute Comedy Festival the great success it has become! We have formed a great collaboration with the writing community: playwrights need actors and audiences, and OOHPs depends on great scripts. Over Our Head Players offers opportunities to as many playwrights as possible by producing 10 or more new productions in each year’s competition.”

Smith describes the unique Snowdance experience and its approach to material: “There are many play festivals and many play competitions, but Snowdance stands alone as the premiere audience interactive comedy festival by allowing our audience to vote on who will be awarded the Best in Snow! Having the audiences vote makes Snowdance unique for both the audience and the playwrights.” He continues, “With Snowdance, no subject is off-limits. We respect our theatre-savvy Racine audience and strive to produce material that is being written for any stage in the country. One of our goals with Snowdance is to bring America's comedy 'pulse' to the shores of Lake Michigan, offering a diverse experience for our audience that represents the most current theatrical trends.”

Over Our Head Players is a non-profit organization of volunteer talent from throughout Southeastern Wisconsin and operates the Sixth Street Theatre in Racine. Their 19th season includes Escanaba in Love, Escanaba in da Moonlight, The Smell of the Kill, and Theatre/Schmeatre, an evening of sketch comedies. OOHP has a commitment to original theatre. In addition to Snowdance, previous original works include sold-out productions Camp Nelson, It’s a Wonderful Lifeboat; Ode to Garlic, Waiting for the Weinermobile, Big Shoes; Still Haven’t Found...; and Real Remembrances of the War in Vietnam.

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