August 20, 2010

Feds give RUSD $4.5 million for teachers

The Racine Unified School District will receive $4,568,722 million in aid from the federal Education Jobs Fund.  Wisconsin schools are getting a total of $179 million.

Today's grant was announced by State Reps. Bob Tuner and Cory Mason.

“These dollars will help to keep teachers and support staffers employed in the short-term, but they will have an economic impact in the long-term also,” said Turner.  “Investments in education are down payments on our children’s future success.”

RUSD may use its allocation to pay the salaries and benefits of teachers and support staff, to retain education employees or rehire those who have been laid off.  Federal officials are encouraging district administrators to move quickly to bring staff back quickly, before the school year begins.

"This aid is coming at a critical time, just before we send our kids back to school.  Keeping class sizes small will ensure they receive the best education we can provide,” said Mason.

The funds cannot be used for administrative costs or services.

Get more Post! Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Want to advertise? Learn how!

Memories of a Wish Kid, My Brother, Gabriel Wayne Kostreva


By Brad Kostreva

It's a bit mind-boggling, but I can now state that I have memories from more than 25 years ago. Now, I'm not all that old in the grand scheme of things, barely in my thirties, but I pondered recently some very clear memories and realized, wow, that was over two and a half decades ago!

Now, that part of my life should have been the same as most kids; Saturday morning cartoons, my early school years, playing on bikes and running around outside. And, in reality, I clearly remember watching Looney Toones while eating coco-puffs (slowly, so the milk would turn to CHOCOLATE MILK, of course), I remember riding outside my house on the sidewalks and streets of Kenosha with friends from the neighborhood and church (it was a silver and red Huffy bike which I rode both with and without training wheels), etc, etc, etc... I had Go-Bots, some GI Joes, a few Star Wars toys and a cat named Munchkin (who started off as a little skinny calico kitten, got "fixed" and blew up into a fatso - but she was very sweet). I remember the day we got some new-fangled "Cable TV" and visiting my grandparents houses (I even remember my maternal grandparents’ farm house in some blurry fleeting memories, which, according to my estimated timelines would make me 3 or 4).

But my "normal" childhood memories come with a little bit extra.

I grew up in a five-person family for the first several years of my life. I was the "middle child" - born 18 months after (almost to the day!) my older brother Gabe, and 18 months before my "baby" sister Kristy. On April 26th, 1987, just a week or so before I turned 8, my five-person family, sadly and tragically became a four-person family. But, forgive me as I'm going to tell the end of the story at the end. First, let me back up about 5 years...

In mid to late 1982 I was barely three years old, and I remember sitting in an examining room at the local hospital. I remember rubber straps that "snapped" like a rubber-band and I remember being there at least one time. I can still sometimes smell the ultra-sanitized clinical smell of that place, and anytime I'm around a hospital or medical facility, that smell flashes back into my mind this sense-memory.

What was happening at this time was Gabe was being examined because of a jaundiced condition on his body. Basically, he turned a strange yellowish-tan color all over his body. A few appointments and scans and tests later, and the hospital had diagnosed him with a form of Hepatitis.

About three months later, the Hepatitis and jaundiced condition hadn't cleared up, so the family pediatrician recommended we go to Milwaukee Children's Hospital (MCH) to have Gabe re-assessed. Dr. Stye from MCH took a few looks at the scans and results from his first diagnosis and essentially threw it out and had Gabe re-examined. The results were as difficult as they were heartbreaking.

Gabe was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma just before his 5th birthday, in October of 1982.
From "Google Health":
Neuroblastoma is a malignant (cancerous) tumor that develops from nerve tissue. It occurs in infants and children.
 Gabe's tumor was causing pressure on his common bile duct, backing up bile (which is a yellow digestive fluid) causing it to spread through his bloodstream, hence, the jaundiced coloration.

There aren't many specific series of events that I can remember for the next two or three years, but I have images and flashes of memories of my brother and the life that we lived during a year and a half of treatments. And if you know anything about cancer, these treatments are just plain old torture on the body.

But that's not what sticks with me. In fact, extremely few of my own memories are anything but of a smiling Gabe. Despite a couple rounds of chemotherapy, whole body irradiation and at least one bone marrow transplant, my memories of Gabe actually are mostly of having an older brother who went bald earlier than most men in my family. I can't honestly imagine the level of strength, courage, and faith Gabe found within himself and his family, friends and doctors that kept him moving forward. Even when he had an incision in his belly as the doctors re-routed his bile ducts to prevent the bile backup, he always, along with my parents, was willing to keep his spirits very high. We used to joke about "Charlie" (I believe that was the name of the catheter that my mom had to clean and dress) and the "ketchup" that had to be applied during the cleanings.

We had mostly normal Christmases and birthdays with Gabe. I remember distinctly one Christmas where I believe my mom got a new hammer for just regular household picture hangings and whatnot (my mom was a pretty handy interior decorator, she was a wallpaper installer and she did some decorating on some spec homes, if memory serves). Well, for some reason, I picked up the hammer and thought, well, Tom and Jerry do this all the time, and bonked Gabe on the head with it - probably to see if the "lump" that typically grows a few inches on Tom would actually grow. He looked at me with a ridiculous face for the briefest of moments (as I waited for the celebrated prize) before starting to cry. And that, my friends, is how I learned bonking people on the head with a hammer hurts them. In retrospect, it's a little funny, not because I hurt him of course, but more the bewildered look on his face for a brief moment and my childish expectation of a lump. Oh, don't worry, he got back at me in several ways mom and dad will never know about (as is the normal practice of an older brother getting back at the younger one)!

My brother won a GI Joe Aircraft Carrier from a Milwaukee Channel 18 afternoon cartoon contest of sorts as well, and boy, did we love playing GI Joe with it! Of course, he was the Joe side, and I was Cobra because after all, he wasn't going to get beat by his kid brother at GI Joe! We used to collect those GI Joe "points" from the back of the cardboard packaging and send them in to Hasbro to get some of the not-available-in-stores toys too, like the Sgt. Slaughter toy and the parachuting Joe.

Mixed into these memories are flashes of my brother in the hospital for some of his treatments and checkups, as well as memories of not being home. See, when Gabe was in multi-day (or longer) treatments, my parents had a rough time sorting out getting to Milwaukee to be with him while still getting me and Kristy to school or babysitters or what not. I remember many nights staying at my Aunt and Uncle Kresse's house in Milwaukee, staying with the St. Peter's in Kenosha or with the Mathis's. I remember trips to the Ronald McDonald house in Milwaukee and the cheeseburgers they would give us. These were times when Gabe was certainly tried the hardest. Kids obviously always have a bond with their parents, but there's another "sibling" bond as well, like a sub-team where brothers and sisters have a commonality of purpose and friendship (sometimes based on "surviving being our parents kids" in our own silly ways). I'm sure the hardest of times I was shielded from, with Gabe taking the brunt of it, and my parents aching with him at every turn.

But Gabe had friends in the hospital as well. Dr. Casper, or "JC" as Gabe called him (or "Dr. Peanut-Butter-Nose" - though I don't know where that came from other than Gabe's imagination and sense of humor... or possible once Gabe stuck Peanut-Butter on his nose!), as well as many athletes who support the MAACC Fund. The MAACC Fund stands for "Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer" and was supported by many local Milwaukee celebrities such as Jim Gantner, Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Al McGwire, etc, and they would visit the cancer patients at MCH. I remember meeting a couple of them myself, though they weren't here for me nearly as much as for Gabe, who beamed as best he could when one would visit. Once, right around when the He-Man and She-Ra "Secret of the Swords" movie came out, well, He-Man and She-Ra made an appearance at the hospital as well!

In 1984, Gabe was finished with his treatment and officially, his cancer was in "remission." This is a grace period, both medically and in reality for us. What it basically meant was that the cancer was basically no longer detectable in his body, and the doctors will simply have "checkups" to ensure that it is truly gone for a period of years before announcing that the patient is "cured."

The next 26 months were probably the closest thing my family may have had to "normal life" in that, outside of the normal check-ups, we did the same things that many families did. We took road trips, went to Kenosha Twins minor league baseball games ($10 got a family in, plus a hot dog!), went to school, church, played with friends, trick-or-treated, and just basically enjoyed being a family.

As seems to happen many, many times, the final days of Gabe's life came very quickly. In mid to late 1986, after 26 months of remission, the cancer came back with a vengeance. The doctors at MCH could do very little with traditional treatment options because of various reasons, and a new experimental treatment protocol called Interluken 2 was started. I don't necessarily know much about the drug or its effects on Gabe, but I distinctly remember the name. Perhaps because of how aggressively the cancer had resurged, it may have been difficult to tell the difference between the drug’s effect on his body and the cancer's.

Gabe's body and spirit at that point took two distinct stances. His body was failing him. Looking back at pictures between September of 1986 and April of 1987, the changes were extremely dramatic and progressively worse. But my memory of Gabe was something a bit different. His spirit, his "gumption" was exceptionally strong. I think Gabe at that age had a pretty good idea what was going on. I know for a fact that he never gave up, but was fighting a war he also knew he couldn't win.

In the beginning of 1987, Make a Wish came to the house. I don't know who referred them or how they learned about Gabe, and frankly, it doesn't matter. What does matter is that they came, and quite literally gave Gabe, as well as the rest of the family, a wish come true. Gabe wanted to go to Disney World. He also wanted to ride on swamp buggies and air boats in the Everglades and see some 'gators! I remember very vaguely the discussion in our living room when Make-a-Wish talked to my parents about making this happen. I don't know if before then I understood what happy tears were.

Maybe three or four weeks later, we went to the airport. Gabe, still on his Interluken 2 treatment, my parents, my sister and I all walked onto that airplane for an adventure to Florida. We went to Disney World and Epcot Center. Gabe got a "Goofy" hat that had Goofy's nose as the bill and his ears flopping down along the sides. My mom still has that hat today. Although we went to a gator and snake farm, that's not the only place we saw gators! I remember on the swamp buggy ride there were gators on the sides of the road. I even remember back where we got on the swamp buggy the sheepdog with the two different colored eyes, running around and looking past the dog and seeing gators just hanging out by the road, chillin'. I remember Gabe smiling quite possibly the biggest smile a 9 year old could smile as the air boats loudly tore through the Everglades, skimming across the top of the water. Gabe had as much fun as a 9 year old kid could have. We, as a family, had one more chance to have a son and a brother, to be a family. Me and Gabe and Kristy, we could be kids in a kids favorite place - Disney World. There was so much laughing and smiling.

By the time we came back from Florida (and if I'm not mistaken, we returned a couple days before our luggage did), Gabe's body was in a free-fall. When we left for Florida, Gabe walked onto the plane with the rest of us. When we got back, he was in a wheelchair with an IV for hydration. His body was tired. He was tired. Gabe knew it, but he wasn't going to tell us. No, as far as my sister and I were concerned, he was going to be our big brother, and be as strong as a big brother needs to be.

Shortly after our return from Florida, the doctors informed us that the Interluken 2 had failed. I can't believe I remember this, but I actually can hear my mom trying to explain to me and Kristy that the doctors were going to "make him comfortable" at this point. We were both too young to really know what that meant, and I don't think I ever really knew the end was coming for Gabe. For the last few weeks, we saw Gabe's nurse, Lee, and Lee’s DeLorean at the house regularly. When Gabe felt up to it, Lee would take Gabe on mini-trips on the "SS Jedi" (the DeLorean's license plate).

Gabe lost a lot of weight at the end, and was basically just always tired. But I don't remember once him complaining. I have just one or two memories of Gabe after that. Mostly I remember him lying on the couch with the cat, under the afghan that was made for him (I had a matching one - I believe my great-grandmother made them for us).

The rest of the story, I really don't have any memory of, but my mom filled in the blanks for me.

Gabe fell asleep on the 24th of April, 1987, lying on the couch. My dad carried him to bed that night, the lower bunk bed of Gabe and my shared room. He slept the entire next day (I have no memory of that day), and Lee and our Church Pastor Wayne Matejka stayed at his side, and our family's side the entire day and into the night. At 10 or 11 that night, Kristy and I were both asleep when my Dad took us from our beds and put us down on the master bed. I had no idea this had happened.

At 1:30 the morning of April 26th, 1987, my brother, Gabriel Wayne Kostreva, let his body die so his spirit could soar.

It's been 23 years since my brother died, and in reality, I only had about 6 1/2 years to be his kid brother that I can remember. But those 6 1/2 years have given me a lifetime of memories. And even though memories can fade, some things can never go away. The fact that I had a brother, that he was my brother, that will never go away.

Maybe the one thing that bothers me the most is his voice is gone to me. My memories are extremely visual, but not terribly audible. I try and try, but I can't hear his voice, I don't remember what he sounds like. Then one day, not long ago, my Grandpa had his old Betamax Home Movies out, and there was a home movie with my brother in it, laughing and playing and chatting away. As much as I didn't recognize his voice, I still knew it was him, and I have cherished the memory of that moment of watching the video ever since.

My brother would be 33 this November. I often wonder to myself if he'd be proud of me. I'd like to think that despite my own mistakes, flaws and foibles, something about his strength, courage and selflessness made its way to me. Sometimes, when I make mistakes in life, especially huge mistakes, what can jolt me back is that exact thought. I can be better than this, because my older brother, going through all his trials his entire life, was.

Now, 23 years later, I'm continuously looking for ways to be a better me. I blame Gabe for that mostly. If I'm a better me, I can be a better husband, friend, family member. I need not look far for a hero, for an example of love, strength, faith, and basically all the good things in life.

So, one thing I am doing is supporting the Make-A-Wish foundation by participating in a 5K Run, along with my sister, her husband, and their two kids, in honor and memory of Gabe, a Wish Kid from 1987. As I explained in my story what Make-A-Wish did for our family, the organization does this for families all over the U.S. - when a family needs it the most.

Consider joining me in supporting the organization. There's a lot of ways to do so. You can participate yourself in a 5K run/walk (they do several of them in different parts of the US). You can donate directly if you want, or you can join me and Kristy and her family by sponsoring us in honor of not just the memory of Gabe, but in honor of who Gabe was, and continues to be in our lives.

Please consider clicking HERE to make a donation or sponsor our run.

For more information on the Make-a-Wish foundation, and their Walk for Wishes event, please follow these links:

If you have any questions, or would like to contact me directly, you can do so by clicking HERE

Thank you very much for reading and considering the Make a Wish Foundation and what it can bring to a family when it needs it the most.

Get more Post! Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Want to advertise? Learn how!

Lornacopia offers eclectic mix of women's clothing on Sixth Street

The dictionary defines cornucopia as "an abundant, overflowing supply."

So far, there's no definition for Lornacopia. But someday...

Lornacopia opened this week at 310 Sixth Street, a store selling an eclectic mix of new and pre-owned designer clothing: shoes, boots, jewelry, scarves, coats and handbags.

The new retail store, and the two-story building it's housed in, is owned by Lorna Revere, an Ohio native with family in Racine. She bought the building half-a-dozen years ago -- "I saw that Downtown was having a rebirth." -- and lived in the apartment upstairs for a year or so.

The retail space has been vacant for many years, but six weeks ago, "all of a sudden," she says, she decided to open a store. Girlfriends brainstormed the name, but there was no question what she'd be selling -- although you'd never guess it from her background.

Revere has a degree in electrical engineering, and has spent 21 years in the travel industry, living in places as far apart as London, Hong Kong and California.  "I have a split brain," she says, "one side for technical things, the other side artsy. I went more the artsy route: I've always liked fashion." She used to model -- for commercials and advertising -- "years ago, when I was 'way younger."

"When I lived abroad in Hong Kong (for five years), I became aware of the fashion industry there. Clothing was really inexpensive, because it's made there. It was actually painful when I got here and saw the prices."

Now, thanks to her ability to buy from fashion liquidators -- "When stores closes, they contact a clothing liquidator to sell their stock." -- she's bringing inexpensive fashion to Sixth Street. "If I can pass on bargains to othes, I'm really excited," she says. Even before opening her store, Revere says, "My girlfriends and I would brag about when we get a bargain."

"My goal is to have three generations of women shop in my store. Teens will tell their moms, and their moms will come in with their mothers."  That's a lot like the way she grew up, she says, recalling shopping trips with her mother, sister and grandmother. "If you put your mind to something, there's no reason you can't succeed," she says, reciting her mother's advice. Mother was one of 12 children, 9 girls and 3 boys, almost all of whom went through college. Her mother has two master's degrees and a PhD.

For a store that just opened, Lornacopia was surprisingly busy this morning, as Revere and her sister, Bridget Shirley, were still setting things up. A male customer, Lee James, even wandered in, and Revere told him there would be some men's clothing in the future: cashmere sweaters later this fall. From time to time she also plans to sell vintage or antique housewares, interspersed with the women's clothing.

Lornacopia's hours are Wednesday and Thursday, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. -- and other days "if you see the open flag out front" or make an appointment.

The store is Downtown's third women's resale shop, joining The Green Closet, at 321 Main St., and Molly Magruder at 330 Main, which sells new and consignment clothing.

Get more Post! Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Want to advertise? Learn how!

NAACP leaders plan to spend $500 investigating leak to RacinePost

Update: The Racine NAACP may spend $500 investigating who released information to RacinePost alleging misuse of funds and abuse of power within the organization.

The organization's Executive Committee voted to spend the money Thursday night in a private meeting, according to a participant at the meeting. The money would be spent on investigative services to find out who accused the committee of inappropriate behavior, the insider said.

The measure now goes to the general membership meeting on Aug. 28 for final approval.

No discussion was held Thursday night about whether any of the accusations were true or deserved further investigation. The committee was only interested in who sent a report to RacinePost with the allegations of misconduct.

"We wish we could say we were surprised, but we are not," said the insider.

Original post: The Racine NAACP's Executive Committee met behind closed doors Thursday night to address allegations of financial mismanagement and abuse of power reported last week on RacinePost.

Local Branch President Michael Shields, and other committee members, refused to comment after the meeting. He only asked RacinePost to reveal their sources for the detailed story that laid out NAACP insiders' concerns about the organization. We refused to reveal sources of the story.

The committee met at the Urban League of Racine and Kenosha, 718 N. Memorial Drive, for about two hours. Media was asked to leave at the start of the meeting.

About 20 people attended the meeting. According to the Racine NAACP website, Executive committee members include: Joseph Mitchell, Janet Mitchell, Beverly Hicks, Corinne Owens,  Keith Fair, Robert Turner, Pastor Elliott Cohen, Jacqueline Pinager, Lawrence Terry, Lillie Jones, Lillie Cameron, Connie Cobb Madsen, Maggie Cobb, Betty Williams, Grice Williams, George Stinson, Robert Turner and Craig Oliver.

Following the meeting, Shields said the committee did not discuss a controversial NAACP report, but simply said "no comment" to any questions about what was discussed.

Our story last week documented a series of internal charges against Shields and other organization leaders over management of the local NAACP. Insiders accused Shields of improperly taking a $950 reimbursement for travel to a conference, missing money from a recent fundraiser, and a lack of financial reporting to the general membership.

Insiders also say the state and regional offices of the NAACP have not taken their concerns seriously, which is why they released a report to the media.

The NAACP's general membership meeting is Aug. 28 at the John Bryant Center.

Get more Post! Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Want to advertise? Learn how!

Route 38 expansion to Oak Creek on state's wishlist

With all the talk about KRM and high-speed rail from Madison to Milwaukee, and the widening of I-94, now add another transportation improvement to the state's wishlist.

The Transportation Projects Commission is expected to consider an update -- i.e., the addition of more lanes -- to State Highway 38 between Racine and Oak Creek.

We're told that the 20,400 traffic count in Husher on Route 38 (in 2008) would justify the additional lanes.

The project will come up during deliberations on a more massive project -- at a cost of at least $1 billion -- proposed by Gov. Jim Doyle: the addition of one lane in each direction to I-39/90 from the Illinois border to Madison.

The Journal Sentinel has the details here.

Get more Post! Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Want to advertise? Learn how!

August 19, 2010

Parent requests ban on smoking in Racine parks

A Racine parent is asking the city to ban smoking in its parks.

Annmarie Klyzub said in a letter to the council she's seen an "inordinate" number of parents smoking in the bleachers during softball games at Humble Park. Her youngest child plays softball at the park. She wrote:
I am appalled. (As a former smoker, I could wait through a kid's ballgame before I smoked; or, at the least, I left the area out of respect for the other people and children.) I am really sickened at this lack of respect. Is there anything that can be done? 
Klyzub said she would like to see "No Smoking" signs near the bleachers so she could ask people smoking to move. She said Haban Park has "No Smoking" signs.

Ald. Helding, whose district includes Humble Park, asked Parks Director Donnie Snow to place Klyzub's communication on the next Parks Board agenda. It was added to the agenda as Klyzub requesting a ban on smoking in city parks.

Update: I just talked with Klyzub about the request she sent into the city. Couple of points ...

1. She said she didn't really know what to expect when she sent the letter. She found all of the City Council members' email addresses and wrote everyone. She didn't know what would happen when she sent the letter.

2. She said the request has nothing to do with her being a "reformed smoker." She wrote the city because adults were sitting in the bleachers next to her 10- and 15-year-old kids and smoking without much consideration for the people sitting next to them. There should be some restriction on people smoking around kids in parks, she said.

3. Klyzub said she's not an anti-smoking crusader. "I have nothing against smoking," she said. "If you want to smoke then smoke. I really enjoyed it." But she said she also tried to smoke away from people and not force her habits on others.

4. She added she isn't sure if she was asking for a ban on smoking in city parks. She'd just like something to bring people's attention to smoking around kids, even if it is outdoors. "No Smoking" signs around bleachers may help, but Klyzub said she doesn't know what the solution is. She just knows she'd prefer people not smoke around her kids at youth softball and baseball games.

Get more Post! Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Want to advertise? Learn how!

Proposed jazz and blues club gets a reprieve

Joe Harris may still get to open his jazz and blues club.

The City Council rejected a recommendation by the Public Safety and Licensing Committee to deny Harris a liquor license for the "Bourbon Street Blues & Jazz Bar" at 1111 Washington Ave.

The council voted 7-5 against Ald. Aron Wisneski's motion to deny the liquor license based on the fragility of the neighborhood, close proximity to a day care and Safe Haven, and insufficient parking for patrons.

Alds. Bob Mozol, Q.A. Shakoor II, Michael Shields, Dennis Wiser, Ray DeHahn, Ron Hart and Jim Kaplan voted against the motion.

Alds. Jim Spangenberg, Sandy Weidner, David Maack and Eric Marcus joined Wisneski in opposition.

Alds. Terry McCarthy, Jeff Coe and Greg Helding were excused from the vote.

Harris first applied for the license with Leslie Rogers, a former bar owner who made a deal with the city that he would never hold a liquor license in Racine again. Harris then reapplied without Rogers listed as a partner, but the Public Safety and Licensing Committee still had questions about the bar's fit in the neighborhood.

Harris argued he was replacing an existing bar - the Salt and Pepper Lounge - so his club should have no impact on the neighborhood. The full council appeared to agree.

Harris' proposal was referred back to the Public Safety and Licensing Committee for further consideration. It may still have a difficult time winning the committee's approval. Three committee members - Wisneski, Marcus and Maack - voted against the permit. Two committee members - Kaplan and Mozol - supported it.

The committee will take up the permit at its next meeting on Aug. 23.

Get more Post! Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Want to advertise? Learn how!

City Notes: Closed session to discuss joint dispatch; Habitat gets some land

City officials met in closed session Tuesday to discuss a joint dispatch agreement with Racine County communities.

The city's Executive Committee, which is led by Mayor John Dickert, held the secret session to discuss bargaining issues related to joint dispatch. No action was taken out of the meeting, which lasted about an hour. (See the minutes here.)

The committee also discussed "strategy with respect to litigation in which the City of Racine is or is likely to become involved." Last time they used this description they were talking about a settlement with former employee Sandra Tingle. We have no idea what potential lawsuit they were meeting on this week.

The Executive Committee includes: Mayor John T. Dickert, Alderman Jeff Coe, Alderman Ron Hart, Alderman James T. Spangenberg, Alderman Gregory Helding and Alderman Aron Wisneski.

Also present at the meeting: Aldermen Ray DeHahn, Jim Kaplan, David Maack, Bob Mozol, Michael Shields, Dennis Wiser, and Q.A. Shakoor II.

STICKY RICE/GINGERS: The city will move ahead with its efforts to revoke Downtown's Sticky Rice and Gingers liquor license. The council voted 11-1 to proceed with the due process hearing based on the number of police calls to Gingers, underage drinking tickets, capacity issues and large crowds. The hearing will cost the city about $8,000.

FALL FUN FEST: St. Edward Parish, 1401 Grove Ave., is asking the city to shut down 15th Street and alleys from West Boulevard to Grove Avenue on Sept. 25. The weekend festival starts at 11 a.m. on the 25th and runs through 11 p.m. The street would reopen at midnight. The church's request was referred to the Public Works Committee for consideration.

CHURCH BLOCK PARTY: Jerome Boulevard from Coolidge Avenue to Case Avenue will be closed on Saturday for Pentecost Lutheran Church's block party.

HABITAT: City committees will consider Coe's proposal to place a moratorium on giving land to Habitat for Humanity and on in-fill construction in the city. Coe had tried to introduce these resolutions two weeks ago, but had to wait two weeks to determine the proper committee assignments for the proposals. His Habitat proposal was sent to the Plan Commission and the Redevelopment Authority, and the in-fill moratorium went to the Plan Commission.

HABITAT II: The city voted to transfer a former park to Habitat for Humanity for conversion to two residential properties. The land is the former Highland Park at 1221 Highland Ave. There's no cost to Habitat or the city.

LOAN BOARD: Two elected officials may soon serve on the city's Loan Board of Review. Alds. Coe, Marcus and Weidner want to see that happen, and they'll make their case at a Committee of the Whole meeting. The Loan Board is composed of department heads from the City of Racine. The proposal is to add two City Council members to the board, and have the entire City Council review the board's actions.

BIKE JAM: The City Council voted to waive the rental fee for Kuko Padilla's annual Bike Jam on Sept. 4 from noon to 10 p.m. The fee would have been $318, but was waived because Padilla has maintained the city's skateboard park for the past 13 years.

BANNER POLES: The City Council approved the installation of dedicated banner poles as part of the reconstruction of Douglas Avenue from Goold Street to 3 Mile Road. The approval was based on the feasibility of installation per Wisconsin Department of Transportation design standards.

KOBYLKA: Mayor Dickert appointed new RAMAC Executive Director Michael Kobylka to the Racine Economic Development Committee.

Get more Post! Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Want to advertise? Learn how!

August 18, 2010

Mayor, JT working together to release 10-year plan

There's been a 10-year plan sighting.

One year and three months after he took office, Mayor John Dickert is preparing to release the 10-year plan for the City of Racine that he based his winning campaign on. He'll have the help of our local newspaper.

Dickert is working with The Journal Times to coordinate release of his plan. The arrangement came after JT Publisher Mark Lewis met with the mayor and ordered him to produce a 10-year plan. Dickert agreed.

Racine's daily newspaper was scheduled to release the plan this weekend, but publication was pushed back to allow the paper to follow the mayor around and document him implementing his 10-year plan. JT City Reporter Paul Sloth is on the story.

The mayor is giving the JT an exclusive on the release of his 10-year plan, something he hinted at a few months ago during an online chat at the JT's website. He will then release the document to the public.

RacinePost filed an open records request with the Mayor's office Wednesday to receive a copy of the plan.

Here's a story that looks at the history of Dickert's promise of a 10-year plan.

Dickert was elected mayor in May 2009 with the promise of making Racine a "Top 10 city in 10 years." Here's what his campaign website says, verbatim, about his plans ...
We CAN and WILL make Racine a top-ten American city, (like Surprise, Arizona, Wilmington, Delaware or Zapata, Texas) through long term planning with aggressive goals and measurable benchmarks for success.
Our Challenge:
Solve Racine’s three core issues: jobs, crime, and housing. These are interconnected:
  • If you improve job opportunities, you put people to work, giving them opportunities for a brighter future. 
  • If you reduce crime, you attract commerce and raise property values
  • If you improved housing, you attract talent, improve quality of life and strengthen civic pride
Our Solutions:
  • Offer a long term, comprehensive city plan that addresses jobs, crime, and housing in a coordinated fashion
  • Continually identify and initiate progress initiative goals and work toward accomplishing them in a comprehensive and cohesive manner. The strength of our region depends upon cooperation and coordination.
  • Establish transparent roadmap with success benchmarks that illustrate what we intend to do and our progress towards those goals — this allows an informed public to hold mayor accountable

Get more Post! Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Want to advertise? Learn how!

Zzorrchh: Zac Traeger returns home to play experimental rock show at George's

Schmu (left) and Zac Traeger (right) are Zorch.
Back in 2001 I wrote a feature story on a local high school band for The Journal Times. It was a fun summertime piece about garage bands with dreams of rock star glory. While the band, Detaind, is long since broken up, at least one of its members plays on.

Prairie School-alum and Wind Point-native Zac Traeger is touring the country these days with his band, "Zorch." The Austin-based duo plays experimental rock with keyboards, percussion and a medley of other instruments leading the way. They'll be at George's in Racine on Thursday night for a show at 9 p.m.

Traeger's path to Zorch began in Racine where he played in bands like Detaind and lit up the local music scene before graduating from Prairie and going to school in Boston (Berklee School of Music) for three years. He then finished his general education degree at UW-Madison and moved with his bandmate Schmu to Austin to play music full time.

Today Traeger works on Zorch and teaches piano lessons on the side. It's a good life.

"My goal was to do music as a living, just surviving," Traeger said. "We definitely do that."

The word most often used to describe "Zorch," is "experimental." That's usually a nice way of saying it's music you don't want to listen t more than once, but Zorch's tunes are more refined than someone running tape on a droning guitar while tapping a beat out on kitchen pots. They're real songs - and they're really good.

"Right from the get go we knew what kind of music we wanted to make," said Schmu, aka Sam Chown. "The first couple of times we jammed around it was something that was experimental, noisy, pushing musical boundaries."

They've developed those initial jams into four public released songs that are all available through MySpace. "Zut Alore!" roars to life with synthesizers and spends 4 minutes creating a cacophony of sound that builds to lyrics about a race of super reptiles that secretly control the world.

"We spent a month on the Internet researching the Reptilian Conspiracy," Traeger said.

"Ubododa" is an enjoyable mess of sound with a driving beat that breaks through like an unspoken chorus, and "Moris the Loris" is the closest Zorch comes to a pop song, reminding me a bit of The Beta Band. "Gimme the Axe" is nearly 7 minutes of moody swirls and whistles that explode into a mix of stirring rhythms, beats, spoken word and birds (just listen).

Traeger and Schmu finish up their international tour - they played gigs in the U.S. and Canada (they did this interview from Montreal) - this week and head back to Austin in hopes of landing a record label or distributor. They're chances are good. The band met a lot of people on its summer tour and has some good buzz back in Texas. The Onion's AV Club wrote a great review of Zorch last month, and also featured the duo in its list of 5 Austin Bands to Catch Up on in 2010.

"At this point we're just trying to wait it out," Traeger said. "There's no rush."

Zorch will appear at George's Thursday with The Spliffs and Sylvia Beach. It's $5 to get in, doors open at 8:30 p.m. and music starts at 9 p.m.

For the Zorch historical record, it should be noted this is the band's second concert in Racine. Traeger and Schmu played their first live show in the former Racine Century Market in 2007. The duo spent a week writing new songs for the show. "They're not terrible, they're not great," Schmu said of the first efforts.

Now the band is more comfortable playing spontaneous. "The songs we attempted to write back then were proggy and geeky," he said. "The improv stuff is really organic."

Listen to Zorch here.

Watch a live performance of Zut Galore! ...

And here's Zorch's 2010 Summer Tour video ...

Get more Post! Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Want to advertise? Learn how!

August 17, 2010

'Things are not dead,' Feingold says after Main Street business tour

 Sen. Russ Feingold with Chris and Mark Flynn of DP Wigley
Sen. Russ Feingold heard mixed messages from Downtown business owners this morning. Some told him business is good; others that it's "up and down." But he said he heard more optimism from Racine than  in Kenosha.

Actually, he really didn't have to listen to get an accurate picture of how Racine is doing. Most of the Main Street stores he stopped in were empty, or almost so; a clerk or owner behind the counter, but few customers. It was worse in Kenosha, he said, where everyone was worried about the departure of the Walgreens anchor in the area he toured.

In Racine Feingold started at DP Wigley, where Mark and Chris Flynn described how their century-old business has morphed from a feed store into one serving garden and brewing hobbyists.

At the Main Street General Store, Tim Wheary -- who was filling in behind the counter for vacationing owner David Azarian -- gave Feingold an earful about federal regulations that purportedly help small businesses, but in reality define them as having fewer than 99 employees. That's not what's needed, Wheary said; rather he'd like tax and benefit breaks for owner-operated stores with just a handful of employees (if any besides the owners).

 Kim Wachowiak, owner of Jo Jo's Toys, said, "I'm for anyone who will help."

Laura Slotnick, who was behind the counter at Elegant Pauper, got Feinfold to write a short note for the store's owners, and was so pleased by his visit she said, "Maybe I should play the lottery today."

And so it went. Friendly visits with Jack and Pam Viroglio at Northern Lights Gallery,  a stop at Greens & Goods Company where Feingold was told "business is great," at Dover Flag and Map, right, where he looked through special glasses at a 3-D map of Wisconsin, at Inside-Out, Copacetic, the RAM museum store and more, and at Common Scents, where he was told that owner Doug Wick dressed up as Uncle Sam during the Fourth of July Parade. But Wick corrected that, saying rather that he dresses as Yankee Doodle Dandy, and he and Feingold -- unbidden -- offered a duet of the George M. Cohan classic's chorus: "Oh, I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy, born on the Fourth of July..."

Feingold's staff had been well-briefed: Although he walked Main Street from 3rd Street to 5th, and back, he skipped past Eye-OpenerZ, whose owner, Ken Brown is a TEA Party organizer, and Dimples, whose co-owner, Denis Navratil has a blog  that frequently criticises Democrats. (Navratil was on vacation anyway.)

Feingold brushed off the Rasmussen Reports poll's conclusion that he trails Republican challenger (political newcomer and millionaire businessman) Ron Johnson. "It's one poll, from an organization highly identified with Republicans," Feingold said -- while agreeing that he expects a "tough, close race." The three-term Senator said, "I don't know what it's like to have an easy race."

Feingold attributed this year's uncertainty to the fact that "People are having a hard time. The economy is not strong enough." He is quick to point out that he voted against deficit spending during the Bush presidency, against trade agreements that have cost U.S. jobs and against the elimination of Wall Street regulation. "My opponent is for those policies," he said.

As for President Obama, Feingold said "he has done the right thing" on issues like health care; but he disagrees with the president's policies on Afghanistan.

The economy, he said, is the biggest issue. "Everyone is hoping things will pick up more dramatically. We're at the tipping point. Things are not dead. You can't have the worst era since the Depression and snap your fingers to get out of it."

During his walk-through, Feingold bought a package of Busy Bee cookie mix at the General Store ($9.41) and a ladies razor shaped like a hippo for his daughter, Jessica,  at Common Scents ($20). "I've stimulated the economy a little bit," he said, adding with a wink, "This is going to be an expensive week."

 Tim Wheary and Feingold at the Main Street General Store

Get more Post! Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Want to advertise? Learn how!

Racine County Sheriff candidate Schmaling posts his personnel files for all to see

Schmaling's photo included in his
Racine County Sheriff's Department
personnel file. 
Racine County Sheriff candidate Chris Schmaling released his Sheriff's Department personnel file to the public, and he's calling on his opponents to do the same.

Schmaling posted his personnel records on his campaign website. Reading through the file, it's easy to see why he made it public. The file includes several letters of commendation from the area's top law enforcement officers including: Racine Police Chief Kurt Wahlen, County Executive (and former sheriff) Bill McReynolds, Sheriff Bob Carlson, Walworth County Sheriff David Graves, Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Wade and Kenosha County Sheriff Larry Zarletti.

Schmaling's performance evaluations since he was hired in 1995 have been consistently high. One evaluation said he was a "role model" for the department.

With his personnel files public, Schmaling is calling on other Sheriff's candidates to do the same. Schmaling wrote on RacinePost Monday:
I believe the citizens need to know the facts about all of the candidates. After all, you are about to elect the person whose job it is to protect you! That is why I am the only candidate who has made FULL and UNEDITED disclosure of my ENTIRE personnel file. The best way to judge a person's character is to review what he or she has done in the past, good or bad.
Schmaling is running against Gonzalo Gonzalez and Ron Molnar for the Republican nomination for sheriff. The winner of the three-way primary on Sept. 14 will advance to the Nov. 2 general election against Democrat Joseph Buckley and Independent Jeffrey Gerrietts.

Get more Post! Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Want to advertise? Learn how!

August 16, 2010

Showdown: Racine Threat, Raiders set to play this Saturday

It's rivalry week, Racine.

The city's two top semi-pro football teams will meet at Horlick Field Saturday night for bragging rights and for first-place atop their division in the Midstates Football League.

It's the first meeting between the Racine Raiders and the Racine Threat. The Raiders, who have been around for 57 years, will be the home team. The Threat, who play their home games at Ameche Field in Kenosha, expect a sizable crowd for the visitor's bleachers.

The Threat have eyed this game for several months. Defending MSFL champions, the Threat are looking to build on last Saturday's 50-25 win over the Kilbourn City Hawks. They're now 3-3 in league play, a game behind the Raiders who are 4-2. The Raiders blew out the Northern Illinois Cowboys last Saturday 51-10; they've scored 109 points in their last two games.

The 2010 season aside, the Threat have been looking forward to a game against the Raiders for several years. Racine's legendary team played games against several other city semi-pro teams, but never seemed to have a spot on the schedule for the up-and-coming Threat. But when the Raiders joined the MSFL, a showdown was imminent.

"We're looking forward to it," said Threat Owner Eric Olsen. "We know we can play with them."

The Threat prides itself for fielding a local team with players who almost all live in the city and graduated from local high schools.

"We're 97-98 percent from Racine," Olsen said. "I'm proud to say that."

While the Threat are technically the visitors Saturday, they'll enjoy one of their few true home games in recent seasons. With Horlick booked up by the Raiders and other local fields reluctant to put additional wear and tear on the grass, the Threat play their "home" games in south Kenosha. It's tough to turn out a big crowd down there, Olsen said.

That shouldn't be a problem Saturday night. The long-term forecast looks good for Saturday night and with a division title on the line, the Raiders and Threat should get fan support.

The Threat are led by running back Greg Sanders, by far the leading rusher in the MSFL. Sanders amassed 712 yards and 6 TDs on just 92 carries for a gaudy average of 7.7 yards per carry. That's more yards than any other team in the MSFL has so far this season. Torris Childs leads the Raiders' rushing attack with 379 yards and 6 TDs.

The Threat have struggled this year through the air. QB Ben Adrian is averaging about 100 yards per game. The Raiders are a little better at 145 yards per game through the air.

The difference so far this season between the two teams is defense. The Raiders have the MSFL's third-ranked defense giving up 97 points so far this season. The Threat are ranked 12th and have given up 167 points this year.

Kickoff Saturday is at 7pm at Horlick Field. Tickets are $7 for adults, $5 for seniors, $3 for students and veterans are free. Family tickets are available for $15.

Here's photos from a recent Racine Threat practice

Get more Post! Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Want to advertise? Learn how!

Racine County Sheriff's race heats up; Gonzalez, Schmaling exchange barbs

Racine County Sheriff candidate Gonzalo Gonzalez ripped one of his opponents in an open letter on his website after the opponent claimed Gonzalez was "tucked away" from the public.

Chris Schmaling, a Racine County Sheriff's Department investigator, made the claim in a fundraising letter he widely dispersed throughout the county. The letter read: “Gonzalez has spent much of his career tucked away in the jail, essentially removed from citizens of the community, victims of crimes and routine patrol functions.”

Gonzalez took offense to the comment, saying it insulted the Racine County Jail's staff, which works with the public on a daily basis. He also attacked Schmaling back, saying the investigator had a "narrow range" of law enforcement experience, never held a supervisory position in the Sheriff's Department and did not have the academic credentials to overcome the shortcomings.

Schmaling, Gonzalez and Ron Molnar are running for the Republican nomination for sheriff in a Sept. 14 primary election. The winner will face Democrat Joseph Buckley and Independent Jeffrey Gerrietts.

Here's Gonzalez's response to Schmaling's letter:
I wouldn’t normally respond to specious claims, but beyond the direct attack on me, the inferences made by Schmaling spill over into an entire division of hard working people that remain silent but should have a voice.
Over the course of my law enforcement career I’ve had the good fortune to experience a broad range of assignments and each has contributed it’s own unique dimension to my professional development. During my 26-year career on the Racine County Sheriff’s Department I have served in the jail, on patrol, in community policing, in selective enforcement, as the Sheriff’s Department training officer, as a hostage negotiator, as well as in a brief undercover drug assignment prior to my first uniformed assignment. I was promoted into the supervisor ranks twice and I’m currently assigned to the jail as a Sergeant. I’m on the Lieutenant’s promotional eligibility list and I earned my Bachelor’s Degree, with honors, from UW-Parkside in Criminal Justice. Prior to entering law enforcement, I served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Today, I serve in the jail largely by choice. The jail is the largest single division within the Sheriff’s Department and the largest consumer of budget resources. It also offers one of the most intense management challenges on the department. Far from being removed from the citizens of the community, the jail operation offers a unique, multi-disciplinary environment that operates 24/7 on a real time basis. Few are as keenly aware of the community and its problems than the people who serve as gatekeepers. It’s the jail, and those of us serving within that see the tangible outcome of crime in a quantifiable measure.
We see the face of crime day in and day out. We understand first hand the impact on lives and the toll both socially and financially—uniquely unlike any other division within the Sheriff’s Department. Criminal investigations, although an important part of the Sheriff’s Department mission, remains one narrow aspect of the broad range of services the Department provides. Long after the luster wears off and the case is closed, the human toll remains in our care and we continue to manage the aftermath of crime in our community.
With one deliberate stroke of the pen, Schmaling has marginalized the single largest division of the Sheriff’s Department.
He has essentially asserted that the hard working sworn, corrections, administrative, healthcare and civilian staff at the Racine County Jail perform perfunctory jobs that are less important than that of the investigator. Schmaling’s rhetoric is divisive. By all accounts he’s a good investigator but, within law enforcement, and certainly within the Racine County Sheriff’s Department, he has no other credible claim. Beyond his initial front line experience as a jail deputy and a brief transition through patrol after promoting to investigator, his narrow range of law enforcement experience ends there. He has never held any supervisory position in the Sheriff’s Department nor does he have the academic credentials to mitigate these voids.
- Gonzalo Gonzalez