August 13, 2010

Chris Bridges, aka Ludacris, swings through Racine

Ludacris at Twins Food Mart in Racine on Thursday night. 
Rap and movie star Ludacris, aka Chris Bridges, stopped in Racine Thursday night to promote his new line cognac, Conjure. Luda made his appearance at Twins Food Mart, 1812 16th St. The Insider News' Ken Lumpkin was there taking pictures and even getting an autograph. Here's a few of his shots ...

Ludacris is taking the promotion of his cognac seriously, according to Internet reports. After the booze failed to
catch on immediately with the hip-hop community, Luda carried it around with him everywhere he went. Some
people said he was spending more time with his bottle of Conjure than with his lady. 
Signing an autograph ...
Police held the crowd back from getting too close to Ludacris. 

Here's more coverage of Ludacris' Racine appearance.

And, in case you're wondering who Ludacris is, here's one of his tracks watched nearly 17 million times on YouTube ...

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Racine's property value falls $200 million; Area homes worth millions less in 2010

Following a statewide trend, Racine homes lost $179 million in property value last year, according to a Department of Revenue report released Friday.

The falling home values led to a 4.65 percent decline in all property citywide. Racine's total property value for 2010 is $3.9 billion, down from $4.1 billion in 2009.

The city's commercial and manufacturing properties held up relatively well in the down economy. The city's manufacturing value was virtually unchanged from 2009 to 2010, while its commercial property value fell 1 percent.

Nearly every city in Wisconsin saw its equalized value decline this year, according to the Department of Revenue. Kenosha reported a 5.8 percent drop in property value to $6.4 billion. Oak Creek reported a 5.46 percent decline to $3.1 billion and Franklin reported a 6.1 percent decline to $3.67 billion.

In Racine County, all municipalities reported a drop in property value.

Caledonia's property value fell 4 percent to $2.1 billion, including a 4 percent drop in the value of its homes. Mount Pleasant's value fell 5 percent to $2.6 billion, including a 7 percent drop in housing value. Sturtevant's total value fell 3 percent to $528 million, including a 5 percent drop in housing value.

The county's total value slipped 4.3 percent, placing it 63rd out of Wisconsin's 72 counties in property value growth this year. Only nine counties in the state had a positive increase in property value this year. Florence County, in northeastern Wisconsin, led the state with 1 percent growth. 

Statewide, home value fell 3.5 percent, which was better than the national average of 5.6 percent.

The decline in property value has implications for local governments looking ahead to 2011 budgets. While home values fell, local residents likely won't see much relief from property taxes. Local governments likely will be forced to increase their property tax rates to maintain services.

This year is only the third time in the last 50 years that property value in Wisconsin fell, and is the largest decline in value since at least 1959. Property values fell 0.5 percent in 2009 and 2 percent in 1986.

Related stories:

Journal-Sentinel: Wisconsin property values fell $16 billion in 2009

And, because that's a bummer of a story, here's the "Double Rainbow" guy ...

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Insider portrays Racine NAACP as a dysfunctional organization

The Racine branch of the NAACP is in turmoil, according to an insider with the organization.

The anonymous tipster - they frequently say they fear for their safety if they reveal their name - wrote a lengthy, detailed, scathing report documenting a series of concerns/scandals inside the organization. It's not a pretty picture. The writer, who sent the report under the email "Justice Deferred" uses internal emails and intimate knowledge of the NAACP branch's finances and votes to paint a picture of a dysfunctional organization.

We can confirm several local NAACP members have had these concerns for several months. This is the first time we've seen anyone pull together several threads into one coherent document revealing the inner-workings of the organization. 

Local NAACP President Michael Shields takes the brunt of the criticism in the report. Craig Oliver and Keith Fair are also attacked. In trying to confirm these reports, we're told by another insider - separate from the one who wrote this report - that there's a battle inside the local organization between a new and old guard. The new guard wants to be more aggressive in the community, according to the insider, while the old guard wants to sit back and not make waves. 

But before the organization makes strategic decisions about its role in Racine, it appears it has a deep rift within its ranks it will need to heal. 

Here's the insider's full report on problems within the organization: 

Racine, Wisconsin NAACP Branch: An Organization Out of Control
Over the last year, present and former members of the Racine Branch of the NAACP have reached out to NAACP Wisconsin State Director, Thomas White as well as Midwest Region Director Dr. Jerome Reide with concerns regarding the actions of the Branch President, Michael Shields and several members of the Racine Executive Committee. Unfortunately, branch member’s continued requests for intervention have been ignored or marginalized. On August 3rd, Dr. Reide was sent a detailed outline by a group of Racine Branch members denoting concerning behavior and actions over the last year with a final request to make some inquiries.

Because of legitimate concerns for safety and intimidation, the outline was sent anonymously but contained more than enough detail of previous communications to substantiate knowledge only members of the Racine Branch could have. Dr. Reide refused to engage in a discussion with any anonymous source. When a follow-up message was sent explaining personal safety concerns for anyone who would sign the document, Dr. Reide never replied.

This information sent to public media sources arrives with trepidation and sadness. Racine Branch members have been trying desperately to address these concerns from within the organization but our efforts have been thwarted. Many of us have contacted the NAACP National Office in the hope they would assist our efforts to resolve activities that have taken place against the wishes of the general membership. We were told to wait until elections were held and to stay quiet. As the situation has deteriorated, we find that we can no longer quietly abide watching our organization become dismantled and discredited. However it the misuse of funds: particularly Freedom Fund resources that have compelled us to finally speak to the media.

Like most branches of the NAACP, the Racine Branch has a Freedom Fund trust that has been built by contributions and events such as the annual Freedom Fund Gala each year. The Freedom Fund is used to provide scholarships as well as legal assistance to people in the community who are in need. It is the bedrock of the NAACP as an institution. The Racine Branch has accrued approximately $100,000 in its Freedom Fund trust, an amount which surprises most people not familiar with the local NAACP. It has been built over the years by donations and its use is entrusted to each elected board of the Racine Branch. NAACP Executive Committee members understand the special custodial care the general membership has given them to protect these funds for future use.

In Racine, it has always been the policy of the branch to use these funds for scholarships, education and legal defense for victims of racial discrimination and not for incidental use particularly for items that have not been part of the annual budget. Earlier this year, when Branch President, Michael Shields requested such funds for personal reimbursement - which had not been budgeted - the general membership took the extraordinary measure to vote this policy into actual branch law in April of 2010.

The official minutes reflect this vote:

“Racine Branch NAACP Membership Meeting
Dr. John Bryant Community Center
April 24, 2010
1)  Freedom Fund Account – Lawrence Terry reminded the membership that monies in the freedom fund account was put in this account over 25 years ago to be used only for legal cases and lawsuits. The following motion was made by Carl Lassiter and second by Joseph Mitchell: “Monies from the freedom fund account will only be used for legal matters and arbitrations, not general operation”.  Motion carried.”

Here is the background:

In the fall of 2009, President Shields requested to attend the first quarter conference and also requested a payment of $950 to cover his expenses. The general membership approved his request to attend but tabled the expense money motion because it had not been budgeted. The President asked that it be spent from the Freedom Fund account in spite of strong dissension from the membership and it did not come to a vote. He went to the conference anyway.

Over the next few months the general membership declined to approve this expense even after the President attended the conference. After the vote in April, President Shields took the briefcase belonging to the Treasurer and removed a branch check from the NAACP checkbook without his permission and over his objections. Mr. Shields returned the check the next day perhaps realizing his grave transgression against the branch; however his actions indicate an arrogant disregard for his position and the trust and authority of the membership. The Treasurer confided this incident to several members of the Executive Committee.

In the June general meeting, President Shields asked Racine County Democratic Party Secretary, Penny Sharp to attend the meeting with the intended purpose of introducing a motion that the President be paid $950 in expenses in direct contradiction of the vote by the general membership that no non-emergency funds be used from the Freedom Fund. Mrs. Sharp made the motion over wild objections of members in attendance and it was wrongly sent to Executive Committee. As the general membership being the highest authority and having already voted on how expenses should be made, it was totally inappropriate for this motion to have even been made. Mr. Shields ignored the policy of the branch, presumably so that he could get this motion passed in a smaller, more favorable setting.

When members declared that this was against branch law and the supporting vote would be stipulated in the minutes from May: President Shields refused to produce a copy minutes from May. He withheld proof of their proper and legal vote. Actions such as these are tantamount to attempted theft.

Perhaps if this incident had been an isolated case regarding irregularities in branch funds, it could be seen as an anomaly. However, it is not.

-After the October 2009 Freedom Fund Dinner, Committee members were to reconcile the expenses and proceeds detailing the number of tickets sold, membership that were collected and other expenses. When the President was pressed to offer a more detailed report by the Treasurer and other members, the Freedom Fund Chair, Membership Chair and Secretary, Lula Smith, resigned and walked out on the meeting. (They each returned to meetings after several months with no questions asked.) Ten months later, a detailed report has not been received. The general membership has no confidence or proof all funds were collected or deposited.

Inquires were made by various members as indicated in actual emails with no response:
“Subject: RE: Concerns about the Executive Committee
Date:    Mon, July 19, 2010 4:04 pm
To:  Executive Committee
At the Jan. 14,2010 EC meeting I asked  for the following info by Jan. 29,2010,but the motion amended to"as soon as possible:
1. How many tickets sold?
2. How many people attended the the banquest?
3. How many tickets were collected at the banquet?
4. How many memberships were turned at the banquet? (People signing the back of their banquet tickets.)
5. How many complimentary tickets(free tickets) given out to guests?
Now is the time for answers
What is Craig Oliver's position in the branch? Is his position mandated by the Constitution?”

And again:
“To: Executive Committee
Date: July 19, 2010
Re: Concerns about the Branch

I am sending you this e-mail out of concern for our Branch. Over the past two years our Executive Committee has become very dysfunctional. At our last Executive Committee meeting (7/8/2010) we failed to deal with any old or new business. After meeting more than two hours we only dealt with a few reports. The last 20 minutes of the meeting was consumed by a few members complaining about the membership meetings. And, one member even made reference to an "elephant" in the room.

During the above discussion two committee chairs(Freedom Fund Chair and Membership Chair) and the Secretary announced their resignation and walked out of the meeting.

I am also concerned about the Executive Committee unwillingness to deal with financial matters. At the January 2010 meeting the Executive Committee refused to set a date calling for the Freedom Fund Banquet Committee to give its final report. It is now nearly 10 months since the banquet was held and we still do not have a final banquet report.”

-In the spring of 2010 the branch held an awards dinner for Charles Swanson. The President turned in a report with money stating the event had generated an amount of approximately $2,900 offering no details or itemization. Shortly after, the Secretary submitted a report which stated the event had generated $3,500. Members of the Executive Committee asked the President repeatedly for a meeting to reconcile the $500 difference. All requests were denied or ignored. When questioned about the difference, then Secretary Armintta Franklin resigned. The discrepancy has never been resolved.

An email confirms this inquiry:
“To: President Michael Shields
Date: May 28, 2010
Financial Report for Roast/Awards Program

Please contact me as soon as possible concerning the financial report for the Swanson Roast. Armintta Franklin reported that the roast generated $3,495.00 in revenues(See attachments below). However, you have only given to me a total of $2,997.70. Please account for the discrepancy. Also, why are you circulating the Financial Report for the Nancy Henry/Roast for Charles Swanson Fund raiser? It has not been approved by the Executive Committee nor has it been presented to the membership for approval.

Also attached is the information that was forwarded to National Office.

Cc:Nazar Scott
  Jerome Reide”
And again:
“To:Executive Committee
Date:July 20, 2010
Re:Final Swanson Report & Discrepancy

Twice I have requested a meeting with President Shields regarding a discrepancy in the report circulated by the former roast chair, Armintta Franklin (see below for more details). To date President Shields has not responded to my requests to meet with him. I am requesting that the
Executive Committee ask President Shields to give it a full and comprehensive Swanson Roast/Nancy Henry Awards Report that will also clear up the $497.30 discrepancy.”
And again:
“Date: Tue, 20 Jul 2010 15:45:55
Subject: RE: [Fwd: Re: Nancy Henry Awards & Swanson Roast]
Please explain to me and the other EC members where and how the nearly $500.00 error occured.”
                Only one reply came:
“From:    "Armintta Franklin"
Date:    Tue, July 20, 2010 4:22 pm
I believe that I've done that. You and 
(member’s name) attempt at trying to insinuate that the committee have some how misused or taken money is pathetic. Since the two of you can not accept that mistakes can happen, I suggest that (the Treasurer) find the money because apparently the money got lost once it fell into his hands.”

Because of the refusal to resolve discrepancies, the annual budget was not voted and accepted until April of 2010. These are not traditional organizational errors or oversight. Members aggressively tried to resolve inconsistencies and were prevented and intimidated from getting the facts.

It is our contention that in these matters, President Shields:
  • Disregarded branch policy and bylaws in order to receive Freedom Fund money.
  • Failed to report and itemize funds generated from NAACP events.
  • Disregarded and circumvented efforts by Executive Committee to resolve fund discrepancies.
  • Attempted to take NAACP money by taking a check from the Treasurer against his will and against NAACP bylaws.
  • Withheld NAACP public minutes from members circumventing their authority as the highest authority in NAACP business and policy.

Aside from the issues regarding funds, President Shields has overseen activities within the Racine Branch that have been in direct violation to National NAACP bylaws. In spite of efforts by members to curb these actions, Mr. Shields along with Political Action Chair, Keith Fair and “Community Coordinator” Craig Oliver have entered into “Direct Actions” in the Racine community without the approval of the National Office and the approval of the Racine Executive Committee or the general membership.

-In February of 2010, the Political Action Chair, Keith Fair and “Community Coordinator”, Craig Oliver called an “Emergency Community Leader Summit” to voice concerns over their perception of racism from Racine City Hall. They did not request or receive the permission of the general membership saying “it was between meetings”. It was not.  They held the meeting at City Hall, arranged by President Shields. The meeting was closed to the press in direct violation of the open meeting policy of the NAACP. 

Even more peculiarly the meeting was videotaped by City Cable Access employees without the knowledge or permission of any of the participants.

Fair, Oliver and Shields were chastised by the membership, but the damage had been done and they made no apology.
From the branch minutes that followed this “summit”:

March 11, 2010 – 5:30 p.m.
Racine/Kenosha Urban League Office
Mr. White responded to a question regarding what the national policy is regarding activities of the branch, and if a standing committee can put on a program without the approval from the membership or the Executive Committee. Mr. White indicated that it should go before the Executive Committee, and if there is time, it should be brought before the general membership.”

Further reported in the minutes:

· Meeting Saturday at City Hall with Community Leaders. The meeting took on a different course than intended because people were venting. The news media took some things out of context, and made it look as though we were ineffective. The meeting did not come before this body, it was a political action move, and it was between meetings.

CC Madsen asked for clarification on when things are considered a matter of immediacy and when things need to be brought before the Executive Committee and membership. It wasn’t something of such urgency that someone would be harmed, or we were going to lose our reputation or the Branch was going to be in jeopardy. It was blasted in the paper, people were invited, and people on the Committee didn’t know. There is a division because everything was not properly shared. If it had been brought before the board they could have offered some input. If we can’t collectively know and understand what is being presented to the public on the behalf of the Racine Branch NAACP then there is going to be a division.

Carl Lassiter indicated the sign on the door said the meeting was for invitees only. NAACP has a national policy that we are always open to the public. We are not a secret organization. Car 25 was filming and there were people there attacking a member of the County Board and the Mayor. It will be embarrassing if Car 25 puts that on TV.

Keith Fair indicated that Car 25 was not there filming to put the meeting on TV.

G. White – It did look bad in the paper when the Mayor came out and said the NAACP did not sanction the meeting.”

The NAACP National Office requires application for “Direct Action” for a branch to engage in any boycott, rally or coalition. The National office provides a check list for branches to assure direct actions are within the parameters dictated by the NAACP. None of these procedures were followed.  The instructions can be found on the National Website and are available to anyone:

Just a few months later, having completely ignored the objections of the general membership, Mr. Fair and Mr. Oliver entered into another direct action using the name of the NAACP, but did so for private economic interest and with the complicity of the branch President, Mr. Shields.

-On July 2, 2010 a “report” was released to local press titled:

“Downtown Racine Sun City, Sister City or Gaza on Lake Michigan, A Report on the State of Racine’s Downtown Submitted To: The Racine Branch National Association for the Advancement of Colored People: Racine Branch Executive Committee.”

The entire report can be read here:

 It lists no author or committee of the NAACP which either wrote or commissioned the report.

While the report contains no cited facts or statistics or direct quotes by witnesses, it accuses Racine City Hall, Common Council and Downtown Racine Corporation of systematic abuse of African Americans and imposing a police state in this community of approximately 80,000 people. Instead of focusing on relevant issues like unemployment, education or access to health care and other services, the report focuses on police presence at two downtown taverns in which there have been multiple shootings, assaults and loitering which have lead to fights and chaos on the street. The anonymous author maintains the city’s police presence is evidence of racism and “modern day plantation owners, using slave catchers to do their bidding.” This report states in its summary:

“The local NAACP based on public record plan to take action in various forms. One of those forms will be to enter into conversation with the Wisconsin and U.S. Justice Departments…”

The report reads as if it was commissioned and sanctioned by the NAACP branch. It was never brought up in any general or executive branch meeting prior to its release to the media.  It was never approved or voted on by any members of the NAACP. The report indicates a willingness to include the Justice Department, a direct action which requires permission of the National Office and a supporting resolution of the general membership. In direct contradiction to NAACP guidelines it offers no proof or complainant and no investigation by the legal redress committee was conducted or approved. The report contains childish misspelling and grammatical errors, ridiculous hyperbole and accusations so inflated they are comical. In its entirety, it is unbecoming to the NAACP and its mission.

The report was picked up in the press:

-On July 15th, after negative response and ridicule, President Michael Shields, told the press the report had been leaked prematurely. Presumably to assuage for its unprofessional and inflammatory content:

-On July 17th, it was revealed to members at the general membership meeting that Craig Oliver, the “Community Coordinator” was the author of the report. It was also revealed that Keith Fair, the Political Action Chair had released the report to the press. Keith Fair is the owner of one of the taverns discussed in the report and was scheduled to appear before the Racine Common Council regarding his liquor license and complaints of violence in his tavern just a few days later. Mr. Fair’s involvement demonstrates a direct economic private interest in these activities. Mr. Shields is an Alderman on the Common Council.

It is our contention that in these matters NAACP policy and bylaws were violated:
  • Acting with no permission or knowledge of the Racine NAACP membership, Craig Oliver created a report in the NAACP’s name charging the City of Racine and the Police Department with systematic acts of racism.
  • Keith Fair released the report advantageously timed to assist in his hearing before the Common Council, with Shields as a sympathetic Council member.
  • President Michael Shields lied to the press about his knowledge of the reports origins and disregarded all levels of policy and organization procedures before and after its release.

When NAACP members voiced their concerns and complaints about this report they were treated to intimidation and unpleasant emails.

“Sent: Thu, July 8, 2010 9:55:00 AM
Subject: RE: Report on Downtown Racine

Ok, in light of all these interviews and videos going around, we need to have an emergency meeting!  It will NOT be said that this report was authored by the NAACP and commissioned by the Board when it was not!  I believe the Board was only provided a copy because s*** was getting ready to hit the fan. I understand that it is alleged that this report had gotten in the wrong hands, but aside from that, there was no board involvement or awareness.  I may not attend meetings lately, but I do read the minutes and I did not find where this was addressed.  I also think that from this point forward there should be no written documentation from this Branch without Board approval.  You all as board members can not continue to sit around and say NOTHING and just let MESS continue to happen and say that it is fighting civil rights!”
The response to this email from Keith Fair:

“You continue get on this computer and spew misinformation that you yourself no nothing about so let us have this meeting.  Let me add I and this Branch would be in a sad state if we had or have to go through you in order to do civil rights business.
Let us have a meet and when we schedule let us provide time to air the issues at hand. The SLAVE mentality has to stop!!!”

The author of the report, Craig Oliver, misrepresents himself in public as “Community Coordinator” of the Racine Branch. His position was never brought before the general membership for a vote or approval. President Shields also refers to him as such with full knowledge the proper election procedure was never followed.  While Mr. Oliver holds no official position, he frequently tells the press he does:

Mr. Oliver’s standing has been questioned by the Executive Committee:
“To: Racine Branch N.A.A.C.P. Executive Committee
I have read page 43 of the By-Laws and it states:
b:  Community Coordination.  The Committee on Community Coordination shall enlist the support of other community organizations on issues affecting the interests of African American and other communities of color.
1.  Community Coordination is listed as a standing committee.  If anything, you would have been appointed as chairperson of the Community Coordination Committee.  However, the Executive Committee did not make this approval.  President Shields just announced that he appointed "Craig Oliver as Community Coordinator".

And again:
“According to our Bylaws Craig Oliver does not have an official position in
our Branch.”

Mr. Oliver’s reply is as follows:
 “Tuesday, July 20, 2010 7:15 AM
My Position
IF you have any questions about me, you can ask me. I would think that a man who prides hinself on being upfront with everything and so knowleadgeable aboput the NAACP then you would bring your concerns to me directly. Secondly, it further shows what you really know about the NAACP because you wopuld KNOW what [positions are mandated by the Consitituion. YES, my position is not only mandated by the consitution, but it was approved by the exceutive board when presented to them. You are less than the man that I thought you were tyo hide and ask bullshit questions instead of stepping into the light and directing your questions directly to me. What, you thought I was going to lie? If you put have the energy you put in to starting and keeping bullshit going then the organization could regain some sembalance of operational security. You have done NOTHING, NOTHING but raise hell and question people about things that you think people are going to lie to you about. No one fears you, what are you going to do to someone? You are no one that needs to be lied to. So go back and see what else you can stir up instead of trying to fight for people who cant fight for themselves. You are truly a sick old man with no life..........Craig Oliver Sr. Community Coordinator/Mandated by the Consitution Of the National NAACP 2010 version, page 43, section (b)”

And again in a different email:
“From: Craig Oliver <>
Sent: Tue, July 20, 2010 3:57:26 PM
Subject: Re: [Fwd: RE: Concerns about the Executive Committee]

What by-laws would those be (member’s name) according to the Nationals, seeing that since 1979 the Racine Branch has not had a set of by-laws that have been accepted by the National Organization. Thus being governern under the National by-lays the position of Community Coordinator is a position madated by National. This posiotion was also brought before the Executive Committee and ratified. Who the hell are you to send out a email saying someone is not an Executive Committee Member. You are just like the rest of the bloggers, sitting behind a computure and putting out whatever you wish…Now do you appoint Chairs, or does te President? You can always tell birds of a feather, they stick together and continue to attempt to mire others in their bullshit.”

Since these issues have become more critical, President Michael Shields has been holding Executive Committee meetings with little to no notification for Executive Board members and with no notification to the general membership. These covert meetings are designed to push through votes favorable for him and without due process before they are presented to the general membership. Recently, when a member of the press arrived to attend such a meeting, he was asked to leave in violation of the open meeting policy of the NAACP.

President Shields regularly directs the Secretary to alter meeting minutes to omit motions and votes he does not favor. In 2010 alone, Shields has refused to produce the actual branch minutes for February and May to be approved by the general membership because they contained motions and votes with which he disagrees intends to reverse.

When committee heads or officers resign after questioning by the general membership they resurface in their previous positions after a few months as if nothing ever happened. President Shields disregards their resignation without a vote to reinstate.

The Racine branch is irretrievable shattered and held hostage by rogue leaders who are misusing the good name of the NAACP for their own purposes. The National Office has been contacted in the past and the only response has been to ask us to file a complaint by 20 branch members. The environment of intimidation and mistrust makes it impossible to conduct any NAACP business coherently. The National Office’s abdication of responsibility after repeated requests and proof of malfeasance makes it party to this behavior as well. Wisconsin State Director, Thomas White has seen these activities first-hand and still refused to confront them. He has failed to stand up for the good men and women who built and supported the Racine NAACP for decades.

Longtime members are no longer attending meetings because they feel it is useless and leaders are silenced through intimidation. Worse, are the resignations of valued Executive Committee members because of concerns for their safety:

Sent: Mon, Jul 26, 2010 12:35 pm
Subject: Re: Special Called Meeting

On Thursday July 22, 2010 I attended the worse meeting I have ever attended in my life.  Due to the fact that there is a lack of respect bordering on violence shown between the president, the political action chair and  one of the vice presidents and the treasurer I question whether the executive committee cvan do what needs to be done.  Add the unauthorized essay to the mix and I wonder whether the NAACP can garner the respect in the community to do what it needs to do to help the citizens of Racine and especially the students in the district.  Since I value my life and limbs and pledged years ago to remove myself from situations I deemed unsafe this is my letter of resignation from the executive committee.  I have a commitment to pay for my silver life membership and would appreciate it if Lula would let me know how much I owe to fulfil that commitment.”

And again:
“August 10, 2010
Jerome Reide, Region III Director
4805 Mt. Hope Drive
Baltimore, Maryland 21215

Dear Mr Reide:

I am forwarding this letter to you in order to inform you about the toxic situation in the Racine Branch-NAACP.  Some members are feeling intimidated by certain members of the Executive Committee.  Please read the attached resignation letter written by(member’s name).  For example, on July 22, 2010 upon approaching the meeting place of the Branch’s Executive Committee meeting my pathway was blocked by a member.  When I asked the member to step aside and let me pass, he responded: “What if I don’t?  What are you going to do about it?”  My wife witnessed part of the altercation and as a result she is experiencing a lot of anxiety and dread attending any more Branch meetings.  Also, the same individual has sent me an e-mail that I feel is unbecoming of one who professes to champion civil rights (see attachments).  Another member was told that she had a” slave mentality” by one of our vice presidents (see attachment). No member of the NAACP should be required to be subjected to such intimidation and humiliation.”

It is our only and final hope that we have presented enough compelling evidence to prove malfeasance and contempt by certain leaders of the Racine Branch. We have done so at considerable risk. The NAACP has been an important part of Racine history and it must continue to be so in the future. Our concern for Freedom Fund trust is very real as it is not a small amount of money. We fear that good people who would risk much to protect it are being driven away with malice and intimidation leaving it vulnerable to those who would use it for other purposes.

Names have been removed from certain emails to protect their privacy, but be assured they are real. Spelling errors contained in these communications have also been included. We can forward you budgets and meeting minutes at your request. However as with our other communications to the National Office, we decline to sign our names for personal safety concerns. A number of people have compiled this information and we are all members of the Racine Branch.

All information contained here can be verified by many members of the Racine Branch of the NAACP if someone is willing to ask the questions. We are asking you to ask these questions.

Here's a reminder of why the NAACP matters ...

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August 12, 2010

Head of Downtown Racine says Park 6 rally is cancelled

Update: Devin Sutherland, executive director of Downtown Racine Corp., emailed city officials and Downtown business owners Friday evening to say the rally in support of Park 6 has been cancelled.

Here's the email from Sutherland:

I just got off the phone with Thomas Holmes.  I tried to impress upon him my concern for people getting hurt or property being damaged during his march to City Hall after bar closing.  He indicated he was not going to have the protest this weekend and that "he was going to move things around."  I am certainly not na├»ve enough to believe I talked him out of having the protest but feel like it is good news regardless. 

Thomas Holmes, owner of Park 6, did not answer his phone Friday night. So, for now, we're assuming the rally is off.

Original post: Supporters of a Downtown Racine bar in danger of losing its liquor license are planning a rally on Sixth Street at bar-closing time this weekend.

Park 6, a bar located at the corner of Park and Sixth streets in Downtown Racine, may have its liquor license revoked over a series of incidents, including fights, a shooting and underage drinking violations, in or near the bar. Some believe the city is unfairly targeting the bar.

A group is organizing a rally outside of Park 6 early Saturday morning. The crowd will then march to City Hall. Organizers are opposed to city efforts to revoke Park 6's liquor license, as well as the license for Ginger/Sticky Rice at 337 Main St. They're also upset over a city committee's decision to deny Joe Harris a liquor license for a jazz- and blues-theme bar at 1111 Washington Ave.

News media from Milwaukee are planning to cover the rally, which likely will be early Saturday morning around bar-closing time.

Organizers are meeting this evening to finalize plans. They're planning to make a public statement Friday.

And, just because it's a great song ...

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Should Racine have a dog beach?

Here's one from the rumor mill ... Racine officials may be considering a dog beach.

No one is saying much publicly on the topic - unless it's to remind people that dogs are not allowed on North or Zoo beaches - but it's an idea that some officials privately support. One even shared they've taken their dog down to one of the city's lesser-used beaches.

There's two early candidates for dog beach. One is Samuel Myers Beach where the Dragon Boat races are held every year. Never much of a human swimming beach, it could be a candidate for canines. There's certainly enough parking to support people bringing their dogs.

Another possibility is tiny Carrie-Hogel Park at the end of Main Street on the city's south side near 17th Street. It's a hidden gem of a park with a small beach that may be a good fit for dogs. Hard to say if there would be enough parking on crowded days, and it could draw a lot of attention to a neighborhood that's fairly quiet.

Water at both beaches is being tested. Reports on both are due back later this year.

Dogs are prohibited from North and Zoo beaches, in part, because of the poop issue. The city works hard to keep the beaches - and its neighboring water - clean. Poop can wash into the water and raise the level of unhealthy toxins. Plus, it's kinda gross.

No idea on what kind of rules would be enforced at a Racine dog beach, but other cities have worked them out. A big issue appears to be whether animals can be let off their leash to swim. Some cities require leashes at all times, while others require leashes only when a dog isn't swimming.

Should Racine have a dog beach? Post comments below.

And, just for fun ...

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Closer look at numbers driving debate over Racine's animal shelter

Want to help? P'Jamma needs a home. 
At least 80 people gathered in Sturtevant Wednesday night to discuss alternatives to Countryside Humane Society in light of recent allegations of mistreatment of animals and the shelter issuing over 600 expired vaccinations to local pets. Beth over at Racine Uncovered was at the meeting last night and has a good write-up of what happened.

One small, but important, aspect of the story are the numbers flying around about how many animals Countryside euthanizes each year. After looking closely at 2009 data from Countryside, it appears most reports - including one on RacinePost - have been high.

Ald. Eric Marcus, who is leading efforts against Countryside, says the shelter euthanized 62% of the animals that came into its care last year from the city of Racine. If you look at the numbers, it's easy to see how you would arrive at that percentage.

One chart of "Field Activity" shows Countryside brought in 2,063 animals from the city in 2009. A second chart of "Outgoing Method" shows 1,281 city animals were euthanized. If you divide the two together, you get 62%.

But this isn't an accurate reflection of what's happening inside of Countryside. First, "Field Activity" does not account for all of the animals brought into Countryside. A chart of "Incoming Method" shows 2,403 city animals were brought into Countryside in 2009 - 340 more than the "Field Activity" chart shows. It's unclear why there is a discrepancy, but we'll go with the higher number because it is specifically broken down into categories of how animals were brought in (categories include: Abandoned, Rescued, Returned, Seized, Stray, Surrendered for Euthanasia, Surrendered).

Also, of the 1,281 city animals the shelter put down in 2009, 56 were wildlife and 213 were specifically surrendered for euthanasia. If you subtract those animals out, the number of euthanized animals drops to 1,012. (It's arguable whether animals surrendered for euthanasia should be included. The shelter lists 246 animals were surrendered for euthanasia, but only 213 were actually put down. It appears Countryside can still adopt out animals dropped off by owners to be euthanized.)

Using the adjusted numbers of 1,012 animals euthanized divided by the 2,403 city animals brought in, you get an euthanized rate of 42 percent. That's significantly lower than the number Marcus is citing and the 50% number we reported earlier.

It also puts Countryside's self-reported number of a 36 percent euthansia rate for all of Racine County within the realm of possibility. Presumably there are fewer abandoned, stray or mistreated animals outside of the city, which would reduce the number of animals the shelter puts down.

Lastly, using the Humane Society of the United States' formula for calculating a "live-release" rate for shelters, Countryside's rate is 66%, if you factor out animals dropped off for euthanasia.

A lot of these numbers are up for interpretation, and they certainly lead to questions for Countryside's staff (like why 246 animals were dropped off for euthansia, but only 213 were put down? Could more have been saved?) But it's safe to say Racine's animal shelter euthanizes less than half of city animals brought into its care, and, using nationally accepted standards, could be saving two-thirds of the adoptable animals that come under its care.

Check Countryside's data yourself here.

Here's a link to the "live-release" formula we used

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Mitchell falling behind in Kohl's $500,000 competition

With just three weeks to go in the Kohl's Cares $10 million school giveaway, Racine's Mitchell Middle School is falling behind.

Mitchell held its own at the beginning of the contest, in which the top 20 schools will each receive $500,000. But today it's in 30th place, ten away from the prize pool. Mitchell has 8,531 votes; the school now in 20th place, Hebrew Academy of Huntington Beach, CA, has 12,341. At the top of Kohl's leaderboard is Lake High School of Millbury, OH, with 32,303 votes.

Racine's other entry in the contest, Knapp Elementary School, has 624 votes, far off the pace of Kohl's listing of the top 100 schools.

To vote for Mitchell, go here.

To vote for Knapp, go here.

To add your voice to ours in suggesting to the powers-that-be at the Journal Times that they get behind these two Racine schools, go here.

An interesting sidelight to Mitchell's competition comes from former Racine native Dan Hammill, who now lives in Bellingham, WA. Dan writes that Kim Wendt, the Mitchell teacher who first won a $50,000 Pepsi Refresh grant for her school -- before moving on to the bigger challenge that Kohl's offers -- is helping and advising a non-profit effort in Washington State that is competing for a $10,000 Pepsi grant.

"Project Homeless Connect is a day when 550 service providers and volunteers help almost 700 homeless people get critical human  services like dental, medical and vision care," Hamill writes. Actually, it is even more than that: Homeless Connect also provides  mental health services, Washington State ID cards, housing information, legal and taxation services, haircuts and pet care, on the spot, and a free referral for follow-up care after the event.

"With Kim's help and advice, we are now in the top ten in the public voting grant process that ends Sept. 6."

For more on this project -- and a link to vote for it and others, go here.

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August 11, 2010

Development Drought: Racine hasn't issued new construction permit in two years

On Nov. 10, 2008 the City of Racine issued a permit to Bukacek Construction to build a 5,655-square-foot storage garage at Batten International Airport.

The $350,000 project was a nice addition to Racine's airport, but it holds added significance for the city. It's the last permit for new commercial construction issued in Racine. The city has not attracted, or approved, a new construction project in 22 months.

That's not to say construction has ground to a halt. The city has seen new homes built and significant renovations completed since November 2008. But officials, Realtors and developers have not lured a new construction project to the city.

Here's the last seven new commercial construction projects in the city estimated values of over $1 million:

Greater Grace Temple, 600 N. Memorial Drive. Permit issued Jan. 10, 2006 for a $4 million, 41,800-square-foot community center. The project is still under construction. The church is raising money to complete work. The property is tax exempt.

McDonald's, 3037 Douglas Ave. The permit was issued March 30, 2006 for a $1.4 million, 4,973-square-foot building. Peter Schwabe Inc. was the contractor. This is one of two new McDonald's that received a construction permit in 2006. The property was assessed at $1.26 million in 2009, up from $950,000 in 2006. Owner Franchise Realty Intrst paid a property tax bill of $31,561.61 in 2009.

McDonald's, 2100 Lathrop Ave. The permit was issued Dec. 22, 2006 for a $2 million, 6,576-square-foot building. Peter Schwabe Inc. was the contractor. The second of two new McDonald's that received a new construction permit in 2006.  The property was assessed at $1.635 million in 2009, up from $825,000 in 2006. Owner McDonald's Corporation paid a property tax bill of $38,652.86 in 2009.

BP station and Gus's Gyros, 2100 Douglas Ave. The permit was issued to Tom Tousis on Jan. 25, 2007 for a $1 million, 6,500-square-foot gas station, store and car wash. The property was assessed at $1.231 million in 2009, up from $529,000 in 2006. Tousis paid $31,450.73 in property taxes on the property in 2009.

Racine Zoo, 2131 N. Main St. The permit was issued Nov. 16, 2007 for a $1.576 million, 10,000-square-foot project that included new zoo buildings and remodeling an existing building. Seater Construction Co Inc. did the work. The zoo is tax exempt.

Israel of God's Church, 2017 Mead St. The permit was issued Feb. 25, 2008 for a $1.3 million, 8,189-square-foot church. Johnson Building Systems did the work. The church is tax exempt.

Project Honor, 1525 Howe St. The permit was issued May 19, 2008 for $39 million (though company officials said that was an early estimate of the project. They declined to release the actual value of the new building). The 60,345-square-foot project was built by Gilbane Building Company.

More Projects

Here's the additional commercial permits issued by the city since 2005, including estimated value of the projects:
  • Aug. 3, 2005 - 1813 Taylor Ave., Taylor Mart, 4,703-square-foot gas station, $150,000
  • Aug. 8, 2005 - 1813 Taylor Ave., Uni-Pump Inc., 68x24 canopy, $25,000
  • Aug. 27, 2005 - 2519 Northwestern Ave., Absolute Construction, 1,300-square-foot storage building, $55,000
  • Jan. 25, 2006 - 2932 Northwestern Ave., State Permits Inc., 20x20 cold storage building, $10,000
  • March 23, 2006 - 2000 Oakes Road, AW Oakes & Son, 9,975-square-foot cold storage building, $150,000
  • March 23, 2006 - 2000 Oakes Road, AW Oakes & Son, 13,066-square-foot office building, $45,000
  • June 7, 2006 - 6116 Regency West Drive, Catalyst Construction, strip mall, $570,000
  • Aug. 22, 2006 - 915 Romayne Ave., Roosevelt School, temporary classrooms, $30,000
  • Oct. 2, 2006 - 4 Gaslight Drive, New England Builder, Temporary Sales Trailer, $5,000
  • April 13, 2007 - 3502 Rapids Drive, Bravo Realty, 2,100-square-foot gas station and store, $300,000
  • May 17, 2007 - 2100 Douglas Ave., Oil Equipment Co., 3,600 square-foot gas station canopy, $23,000
  • April 29, 2008 - 2805 S Green Bay Road, Schuh Construction, 1,738-square-foot Starbucks Coffee Shop - shell only, $375,000
  • Sept. 29, 2008 - 3502 Rapids Drive, Uni-Pump Inc., 105x24 canopy, $40,000

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Countryside opponents talk alternatives at meeting

Update: We weren't able to cover the meeting tonight, but Beth over at Racine Uncovered was there and is planning a write-up for her site tomorrow. We'll link over there when she posts a story.

Original post: A meeting to discuss alternatives to Countryside Humane Society is scheduled for tonight at 7pm at Fountain Banquet Hall, 8505 Durand Ave.

Local residents concerned about the care Countryside provides to animals are hoping to develop a competing organization to take over local municipalities' animal control contracts. The City of Racine will pay over $200,000 to Countryside this year to take in stray and unwanted animals, and adopt them out or euthanize them.

People at tonight's meeting are invited to provide feedback and input regarding alternatives to Countryside. Also, a group may step forward to announce it will make a credible bid to takeover animal control services in Racine County.

Opposition to Countryside has grown in recent months after it was revealed the shelter issued expired vaccinations to over 600 local pets. The criticism recently reached Racine's City Council. Two aldermen - Aron Wisneski and Terry McCarthy - spoke openly in favor of replacing Countryside's management.

Countryside has responded to the criticism noting it's required, by law, to take in every homeless or unwanted animals regardless of the animals' physical and behavioral health. The shelter takes in far more animals than are adopted out, forcing it to euthanize animals.

Opponents of Countryside claim the shelter euthanizes too many animals, while the shelter says its rate for 2010 is 36 percent, well within the acceptable rate for shelters around the country. The shelter's 2009 data shows it euthanized about 50 percent of the animals that came under its care.

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August 10, 2010

City Notes: Health Board to review animal services contract in September; Obamacare won't help Racine health department

The federal law that will overhaul the nation's health care system will bring aid into Wisconsin, but none of the money will reach local health departments.

That's the word from the state's health officer, Racine Public Health Administrator Dottie-Kay Bowersox told the Board of Health Tuesday. The money will be used to increase opportunities for Medicaid and health care options, educate public health graduates, and to expand Federally Qualified Health Care Providers.

Bowersox said the outcome was frustrating because the federal and state governments will cut aid to local health departments.

COUNTRYSIDE: The Health Board will consider requirements for the city's animal control services at its September meeting. The city is seeking more providers to compete with Countryside Humane Society for the contract, which is required by the state. Countryside is under fire for giving out expired vaccinations and for allegations of underserving animals brought to their care.

LAUREL CLARK FOUNTAIN: City officials will meet with architects and engineers in the near future to plan needed renovations to the Laurel Clark Fountain. Marcia Fernholz, environmental health director for the city, said they were reviewing options to stop the fountain's pipes from corroding. That may include coating the interior of the pipes to stop the corrosion, or digging up the pipes and replacing them, Fernholz said. The fountain should be ready next year.

HEALTH GUIDELINES: The city is re-writing its health guidelines for festivals and public events. The process started when concerns were raised about illegal vendors selling food at the city's Fourth of July parade. It's grown to include all vendors and will streamline the requirements for people who want to sell at local events. Fernholz said every year several people in the city sell food out of potentially unsafe, and illegal, locations. For example, one person was running a restaurant out of an apartment on Jacato Drive. The new guidelines, which will eventually be an ordinance, should help people understand the steps needed to safely, and legally, sell food.

SHARED SERVICES: Racine health officials are meeting with the Mount Pleasant/Caledonia Health Department to explore areas where they can share services. Discussions are ongoing. Bowersox said she supported efforts to work with neighboring health departments. "Anywhere we can conoslidate services, we're better off," she told the Health Board.

BEACH INSPECTIONS: The city has done wonders cleaning up North Beach. Now it's looking at what needs to be done at some of its other beaches. Julie Kinzelman and her laboratory staff are testing the water at Samuel Myers Beach, Carrie-Hoeg Park (located at the end of Main St. near 17th St.), and near the Michigan Boulevard storm water out fall. Once the results are in the city will have data to determine if the beaches are safe for swimming, and what can be done to improve the water quality.

FRESHWATER SCIENCES: The Racine Health Department already has a working relationship with the new Freshwater Sciences School in Milwaukee, Kinzelman said. An intern in the department will be part of the school's inaugural class, and the city is already partnering with the school on a grant. The School of Freshwater Sciences is part of UW-Milwaukee.

WINGSPREAD: Racine hosted an international conference at Winspread on July 26 on "rapid-detection methods" for testing water quality. Kinzelman, an expert in the development of tests that can quickly determine if water is unsafe for human use, and other city officials took part in the conference. Bowersox called the conference a "feather in the cap for the city."

INTERNS: The city is hosting 10 graduate and undergraduate interns in its lab this summer to work on various projects, Kinzelman said. Not only are the students testing water in the Root River and at Racine beaches, they're also collecting samples from Kenosha, Oak Creek, South Milwaukee and other Lake Michigan beaches in southeastern Wisconsin. The data may be used to make needed environmental improvements along the lake.

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Racine's North Beach gets more national attention

Racine's North Beach is prominently featured in a national report on water quality at vacation beaches.

The National Resources Defense Council twice references North Beach as a model for other communities. It notes city efforts to transform the beach into a swimming area that was closed more than half the time into 2000 into a beach that is rarely closed. The change has had a major economic impact. Racine is now able to attract national events to its beach front that bring millions of dollars into the city. The report says:
Once water quality improved, summer weekday attendance at North Beach soared, increasing from an average of 126 people in 2005 to 641 people in 2008. Holiday and weekend visitors frequently numbered in the thousands. The increase in steady customers has resulted in the creation of a number small-business opportunities, such as cabana, beach chair, and kayak rentals.
The report also noted a stormwater treatment system in Racine that was instrumental in reducing pollution at North Beach. The report includes three pictures of a re-engineered stormwater outfall and says the system is "pleasing to the eye in addition to being a very effective means of improving beachwater quality."

The report lists other methods Racine used to control stormwater runoff including:

  • Development of a series of dune ridges to intercept stormwater from the parking area
  • Altered beach grooming to kill bacteria
  • Adding additional trash cans so garbage doesn't overflow and attract seagulls, which pollute the water with their poop
  • Solar-powered trash compactors
  • Enacting and ordinance and posting signs prohibiting the feeding of seagulls

Racine's inclusion in the NRDC's annual report is another coup for Racine's remarkable recovery of North Beach. It's another sign that communities around the world are looking at Racine as a success story for what can happen if you take care of a natural resource.

It's also further proof that North Beach is a remarkable treasure for the community, both for recreation and economic development.

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All Saints' decline in patients may be a good thing, official says

All Saints has seen a decline in patients and total patient days over the past year, but that may be a good thing. 

Racine's hospital has had a 12.4 percent decline in admissions and nearly 9 percent decline in patient days from June 2009 to June 2010, according to Wisconsin Hospital Association Data. Both declines were more than three-times larger than the average of all hospitals in southeastern Wisconsin. 

Susan Boland, All Saints' senior vice president and chief operating officer, said the data was not sophisticated enough to measure what was really happening in area hospitals. For example, All Saints is making a concerted effort to provide follow-up treatment to 300 patients with congestive heart failure who are prone to frequent stays in the hospital. The program is working, which means fewer hospital admissions and patient days. 

In another example, Boland said All Saints is helping some patients improve their health by improving their basic life situation. The hospital provides assistance to help people get food, prescription drugs and even pay their rent. That, in turn, reduces the chance they'll need to be checked back into the hospital.  

And in a third, she said All Saints' surgeons are using new technology and techniques that reduce the amount of time required to stay in the hospital. Surgeries that a few years ago required an overnight stay are now done in a day. That cuts down on people's need to stay in a hospital bed, and gives them an opportunity to convalesce at home.  

These programs, and several others, are designed to reduce the numbers of admissions and patients days at All Saints, Boland said. "Those are the right kind of drops," she said. 

Boland also noted the economy affects the use of the health care system. If people are unemployed, or worried about losing their job, they'll put off getting a knee looked at or their carpal tunnel fixed. 

"People are asking, 'Can I afford to be out of work?'" Boland said. "That plays a substantial role in the numbers." 

Of course, nearly every hospital in southeastern Wisconsin is working under the same conditions and trying to implement similar changes. So why did All Saints' admissions and patient days drop more than three times the average for hospitals in southeastern Wisconsin? 

One theory Boland ruled out: People are leaving All Saints for Wheaton-Franciscan's new hospital in Franklin. While the Franklin hospital saw a 30.9 percent increase in admission and 65.9 percent increase in patient days, most of those patients came from Milwaukee County.

Boland said the Franklin hospital, which has one-tenth the number of beds as All Saints, was built to fill a niche in the market, not to replace any of Wheaton's hospitals. 

So what caused the drop in admissions and patient days? Boland said it was All Saints "aligning" its services  to become more efficient and effective. 

She added All Saints did see a slight increase - less than 1 percent - in use of its Emergency Department, which was ranked among the top 5 percent in the country. Racine's ED will get a new service this fall when it adds an around-the-clock "pediatric hospitalist" to work with children in the hospital. It's a rare position for any emergency department, Boland said. 

"Our emergency department is not just local and easy to get to," Boland said. "It's a place where you can have an exceptional outcome." 

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