August 28, 2010

Art Squared winners announced
(and proceeds given to Food Bank)

DeeDee Dumont, Jim Chaplin and Janet Mrazek with the Food Bank's check

 The Racine Art Guild's second Art Squared project ended in Monument Square today, a success in every way:
  •  All 100 of the food-themed canvasses were sold.
  • A $2,000 check was presented to the Racine County Food Bank.
  • Purchasers happily picked up the 6"x6" canvasses they had won in the project's random drawing.
  • Three award winners chosen by popular vote were announced.
 The three winners are:

1st Prize, $250: Lydia Fervoy: Summer squash (oil)

Of her painting, she wrote: "The colors and sculptural shapes of the squash were appealing to me."

2nd Place: $125: Cindy Peterson: Chocolate strawberries (acrylic)

She wrote: "I chose to capture the decadence and flavor of chocolate-covered strawberries in my piece. Something a viewer can look at and say, "That looks delicious!" To me, these are romantic, festive and universally savored. A real "food for the heart" in my opinion."

3rd Place: $75: Russell Bohn: Forbidden Fruit (acrylic and papier mache)

Of his three-dimensional sculpture and canvass, Bohn wrote: "The world needs food to survive. Hunger is caused by those who eat forbidden frut: The fruit of power, greed or disinterest."

Posters showing the 100 canvasses are available in three sizes from the Art Guild.

Here are our story and photos from last year's Art Squared project, a benefit for the Racine Theatre Guild, in which the canvasses were themed to the play Godspell.

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August 26, 2010

Meet Bob, an affectionate cat looking for a friend

As the old saying goes, "If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog."

In Racine -- this week, anyway -- we have an affectionate cat looking for a friend.

Bob is a 1-year-old, domestic short-hair orange tiger.  He arrived at Countryside Humane Society in May as a stray.

Bob will rub up against you and purr to show his appreciation. Bob is looking for his forever home. He is good with children of all ages.

Bob has been neutered. He also tested negative for Felv and has had rabies, distemper and a worming.  Bob is ready to go home.

If you're looking for a cuddly friend, check out Bob at the Countryside Humane Society, 2706 Chicory Rd., or call them at 262-554-6699.

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10-Year Plan: Dickert's broken promise

What's a plan?

That's the question Alderman Terry McCarthy raised this morning in The Journal Times in response to the document Mayor John Dickert released this week. Here's McCarthy's comment, as written by reporter Paul Sloth: 
A plan is to accomplish something specific. It would include the specific steps to get that goal. The use of the word plan might be a little loose. From that perspective, his definition of plan and my definition of plan might be different.
Aside from the hundred or so comments posted on RacinePost and the JT's website, that was the closest thing to criticism Sloth could find to the mayor's 10-year plan. While Sloth dismisses McCarthy's comments as "minor criticism," it's an important question.

Is the document Dickert released a "plan" for the city?

We've spent the last two days talking to community members and officials searching for an answer to this question. Each raised concerns that can be broken down into three categories:

1. Process. The mayor's 10-year plan for the city was written as a campaign piece, not as a working document for the community. He spent 15 months ignoring a campaign promise, then, fearful of not getting re-elected, released a rambling document without community input or City Council review. It's not a 10-year city plan. It's a campaign lit piece released, at no cost, by the JT.

Dennis Dresang, professor emeritus in political science at the La Follette School of Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, hit on this point in the JT. Here's his comment, as reported by Sloth:
It is highly unusual for an individual and particularly an elected official to write THE plan. Typically the process is important. Ideally elected officials should be leading a serious dialogue with the community about what kind of community do we want to have and is it realistic.
Dickert led no discussion and sought no input. It's a missed opportunity. He could have led a meaningful, needed, community discussion about Racine's future. Instead, he held a dialogue with himself. 

2. Presentation. The document itself is poorly done. The writing is incomplete and grammatically challenged, the formatting is, at best, inconsistent, some information is repeated twice, and the layout is non-existent. (One example: Page 4 calls for a diagram, but there's no actual diagram.) Consider this section, taken verbatim, from the 10-year plan:
Narrative – When we stat this journey to implement the 10 year plan we are beginning with the following statistics
1. Unemployment at 17.5 %.
2. We have been rated #2 in the state in unemployment since the 1990’s.
3. The cities manufacturing base has decline by 8,000 jobs.
4. City spending was up 25% from $33.3 Million to $44.3 million since 2000.
5. Racine has seen only 11% growth in the last 30 years. Compared to the State’s 21%.

We're the last people to criticize someone for grammatical errors (surely, there are a bunch on this site), but this is supposed to be the guiding document for the city for the next 10 years. Would it hurt to have someone go through and correct spelling and grammatical errors?

Now read the full document. How would Dickert present this to the community? Service clubs? Business leaders? The City Council? You wouldn't even get laughed out of CNH's or SC Johnson's board rooms because there's no way their boards would take something like this up.

Compare Dickert's "plan" to the "North Star Vision" Dr. James Shaw implemented at Racine Unified. Shaw offered a clearly stated vision, supporting documents and an actual "Scorecard" for the School Board and community to grade him against. It's a professional, coherent vision that Shaw spent the last two years developing and communicating to staff, students and the community.

Another example is the Racine County Workforce Development Board's "Higher Expectations" strategic plan, which laid out a countywide strategy to create a competitive local workforce. The plan identified six "Calls to Action," and led to programs such as "Advancing Family Assets," which is working to help families break out of poverty. The 10-year strategic plan was written by a coalition of community stakeholders and contained clearly measurable outcomes. A one-year progress report on the plan was held at Wingspread in 2009.

Dickert's plan more closely resembles the widely panned NAACP "report" on Downtown Racine. Dickert refused to even read that document because it wasn't approved by the organization. That leads to an interesting question: Who approved Dickert's plan? Why should anyone take it seriously?

3. Benchmarking. Dickert made a big point in the Journal Times to say he wants the community to "benchmark" him with the plan. Amazingly, there's nothing in the plan to "benchmark." He sets no timetables for his initiatives and sets few goals for the city to reach. Apparently city residents are supposed to hold him accountable in 10 years - after they re-elect him twice, of course.

Taken together, the mayor's 10-year plan is either severely flawed or simply not a plan. In either case, he hasn't lived up to his campaign promise.

A few more notes on the plan, as released:

  • Dickert told the JT he was watching Des Moines, Iowa; Austin, Texas; and Seattle for tips on how to transform Racine into a Top 10 city. His plan apparently involves luring the Wisconsin state capitol to Racine, opening one of the country's largest research universities, and creating a legendary local music scene. Otherwise, comparing Racine in any way to those cities is pretty silly. 
  • What's personally surprising about the first two days of coverage is how closely it's following the arrangement between the JT and Dickert described to me by insiders. The paper would launch an "exclusive" front page package of stories, then follow-up with stories laying out the plan. So far, that's what we've seen. If expectations hold we'll see glowing future stories about specific aspects of the plan, such as the mayor's long-term parks planning.
  • All of the numbers included in Dickert's 10-year plan came from Money magazine's 2010 "Best Places to Live" issue.

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August 25, 2010

City celebrates the benefits of breastfeeding

Rosalyn Smith with Adrienne, 5, and Aubrey, 1 1/2 
(Her breastfeeding photo is by Byron Graves)

The benefits of breastfeeding -- for Mom as well as her baby -- went on display around Racine today, thanks to We're Better Together, a public awareness and information campaign.

Dottie-Kay Bowersox, Public Health Administrator, unveiled the 17 life-size photographs of women breastfeeding their babies that will be displayed around the city. The program stressing the health benefits of breastfeeding was kicked off this afternoon with a reception at City Hall for the women -- and their babies -- who posed for the pictures by local photographers Camela Langendorf, Jennifer Dallmann and Byron Graves.

 Nicole Loop with Cullen, 4 months (Photo by Jennifer Dallmann)

The photos will be displayed at City Hall, the Racine Public Library, Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare -- All Saints Hospital, JoJo's Toys, RG Natural Baby, the Racine Art Museum, Moxie Child and other downtown stores. The campaign was designed by Lisa Andrews, the city's Women Infants and Children (WIC) project coordinator -- herself a breastfeeding mother.

The campaign also celebrates the passage of a bill sponsored by Rep. Cory Mason and Sen. John Lehman that gave  unprecedented rights to breastfeeding women.

The law states:
A mother may breastfeed her child in any public or private ocation where they mother and child are otherwise authorized to be. In such a location, no person may prohibit a mother from breastfeeding her child, direct a mother to move to another location to breastfeed her child, direct a mother to cover her child or breast while breastfeeding or otherwise restrict a mother from breastfeeding.
The City of Racine Health Department says research has shown that breast milk is the healthiest diet for babies, especially during their first six months. Mothers who nurse are less likely to develop breast and ovarian cancer. And breastfeeding can save a family more than $2,000 during the baby's first year, over the cost of buying formula.

 Kim Allen, with Dylan, 5 months, and Aaron, 3 years (Photo by Camela Langendorf)
Aaron's sign says, 'Milk production in progress'

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Downtown Racine's 'Hour Town' Clock winners announced

Downtown Racine Corporation has announced the top three award winning clocks and their artists who will win cash prizes in the Hour Town 2010 public art event. The winners are:
Fish In' Time by Robert Anderson

First Place (winning $2,000) – FISH IN’ TIME
Artist: Robert Andersen
Sponsor: Corporate Images, Inc.

Fish In’ Time, which is on display at 417 6th Street, was developed as a relief and supplemented with found (natural) objects to create an underwater effect. The painting enhanced that effect, bringing to the viewer an underwater perspective.

Loonatick by Bill Reid

Second Place (winning $1,000) – LOONATICK
Artist: Bill Reid
Sponsor: Gene Johnson

Loonatick is on display at 324 Main Street and features a whimsical steel painted bird (loon) along with an assortment of bugs.

Undersea Portal by Kristin Gjerdset
 Third Place (winning $500) – UNDERSEA PORTAL
Artist: Kristin Gjerdset
Sponsor: Johnson Bank

Undersea Portal, which is on display at 555 Main Street, was inspired by kaleidoscopes and the unique shapes and patterns they create.

“While we believe all of the clocks are timed treasures, they were recently judged in pursuit of the top three winning clock artists,” said Terry Leopold, Special Events Coordinator at the Downtown Racine Corporation. Judging all of the 60 clocks were Kevin Pearson and Doug DeVinny.

Pearson is an art educator and chair of the art department at The Prairie School in Racine. As an artist, he works in clay and blown glass. His works are on display in art galleries and art fairs throughout the Midwest. He stated that he was impressed with the high quality and creative ideas from the artists. “With their broad range of ideas, it was interesting how each artist decided to portray the ‘hours’,” he said.

DeVinny is Professor Emeritus, Department of Art at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. With degrees in painting and printmaking, he has been exhibiting throughout the United States since 1970. He looked at the context, craft and presentation of each clock as he made his judging decisions.

The award-winning clocks are among the 60 art pieces now on display in Downtown Racine. They will be on exhibit through Labor Day.

As summer comes to an end, it is time to "wind-up" the 2010 Hour Town public art project with Clocks On the Auction Block. The clocks will be auctioned to the highest bidders at a public auction which will be held on Saturday, September 11 at Monument Square in Downtown Racine. The clocks will be on display at Monument Square beginning at 12 Noon with the voice auction beginning at 1 p.m. The silent auction will follow the voice auction and will begin at approximately 2 p.m.

Food and refreshments will be available for sale throughout the day. Entertainment will be provided by Mean Jake. Admission to the auction is free of charge and is open to the public. In the event of inclement weather, the auction will be held at the Women’s Club, 740 Lake Avenue.

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Library working to ease crunch during construction

The day after the Racine Public Library announced the draconian closure of its adult department book stacks for three months -- to facilitate the ongoing renovation, recarpeting and addition of more floor space on the second floor (including a Racine history room and three small study rooms) -- we had lunch with city library director Jessica MacPhail.

She assured us that books will still be available during the closure period -- both when ordered in advance and even on-demand, thanks to "runners" who will be able to go through the stacks -- wherever they've been moved during the recarpeting and asbestos removal process -- and hopefully present the desired material at the main floor checkout desk within about five minutes. (Some books may be temporarily unavailable when their shelves are inaccessible.)

She also responded to a suggestion made in our comments that patrons be allowed to take out additional books in these final days before the construction begins on Sept. 2. MacPhail said there is no limit to the number of books patrons may check out -- subject, of course, to renewal limits when other patrons want the same material, and fines when books are overdue.

Book clubs will continue to meet, and new magazines and newspapers will continue to be available -- albeit in a different location -- during the construction period. The work is taking longer than originally expected because of the discovery of asbestos under the old carpeting, and structural limits on where bookshelves can be located, due to their weight.

MacPhail responded to our questions with the message below:

The Racine Public Library is excited about being able to offer a Racine History Room, three individual study rooms, and four “neighborhood” collections (Travel, Spanish/EspaƱol, Computers, and Holidays) after the second floor renovation and carpet replacement project is completed.

The project originally involved moving the shelves to remove the existing carpet and install new carpet tiles.  Then asbestos was discovered underneath the carpeting on the original, west side of the second floor.  Abatement of the asbestos adds a step to the process.   The structural engineer’s report didn’t have sufficient information, so the original structural engineer was contacted to see if the floor could support doubling the weight of the shelves as they are moved around the building.  The report came back that the area is unable to handle the increased load and, so, an alternative shelf-moving plan had to be established. This adds more time to the project.  The shelves now have to be moved, section by section, to an area that can support them; the carpet is then removed, asbestos is abated, new carpet is installed, and shelves are put back.   The second floor will be inaccessible to the public during this portion of the project.

While the second floor is unavailable, patrons will have access to new books, newspapers, DVDs, and magazines in the Emily Lee Room located on the first floor.  In the first-floor Atrium area, a limited number of internet terminals will be available for one-hour use by patrons. A microfilm reader/printer will also be available in this location.  There will be a “Just Returned” section in the lobby.  Wi-fi access will be available throughout the first floor, in the Youth Services area, the Atrium, and the Emily Lee Room.  Reference librarians will be on duty in Youth Services and in the Atrium.  A few study tables will be available in the Youth Services Department; however, after 2 p.m.  children will have priority.

If you’re looking for specific items, you may call the reference desk (262.636.9217) or place a hold via the online catalog.  You may also visit in person, and the staff will make every effort to find the materials you require. Library services are also available at the Mobile Library, which will continue service as usual.  All stops are listed on the library’s website.

If you prefer browsing, you are encouraged to visit the main library before Aug. 31.  There is a limit of 10 items for DVDs, CDs, and CDroms, but no limit to the number of books that can be checked out.  Overdue fines are $.25 per day, to a maximum of $5 per item.

There is also a collection of thousands of titles available to download, either to listen to on your iPod, MP3 Player or SmartPhone (audiobook) or read on your computer or SmartPhone (eBook).  On the library’s website, check out the “eBooks & eAudio” link .

Patrons looking for a quiet place to work and study may visit the libraries at Gateway Technical College, UW-Parkside, and Carthage College.

For more information, please contact Jessica MacPhail, Library Director:  262.636.9252, or by email.

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City home rehab contracts create hundreds of jobs

"Every day, we hear people asking us, 'Have you got any jobs?' Well, we're here today to tell you, YES!"

With that as preamble, Mayor John Dickert today announced the granting of 165 contracts for the rehabilitation of 18 homes, and the construction of 5 new ones, using $1.25 million from the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program.

The plan is to rehab the homes, sell them, and then "recycle the money" by doing it all again with a new set of homes.

Mayor Dickert with, from left, Jim Spangenberg, Greg Helding, 
Jean Wolfgang, Joe Heck, Ray DeHahn and Morris Reece

Dickert said 82% of the qualifying contractors had Racine addresses, and 10-12% are minority owned. It's impossible to say exactly how many jobs will be created, but Dickert said approximately 10 contracts were awarded per house (plumbing, electrical, siding, roof, etc.) and each would require two to three workers. That could total as many as 30 jobs per house, and about 750 in all -- although some contractors were the successful low-bidders on more than one project. Still, at an average rehab cost of $60,000 per house, that works out to just $2,000 per job.

Dickert said the program meets multiple needs, since Racine suffered from 441 foreclosures last year (compared to about 30 a few years ago), so the program will not only put people to work, it will put people back into homes. He was joined at the announcement by Aldermen Greg Helding, Jim Spangenberg and Ray DeHahn, each of whom echoed Dickert's excitement. "It's a thrill to put people from Racine back to work," said Spangenberg.  Other city officials who took part in the news conference were Joe Heck, assistant director of development, Jean Wolfgang, associate planner, and Morris Reece, affirmative action director.

The homes to be rehabbed -- and those demolished to make way for new ones -- were bought in foreclosure for about $650,000 - $700,000 -- $10,000 to $65,000 per home, from an initial grant of $1.9 million. Coupled with the approximately $60,000 per home in rehabilitation funds from the second, $1.2 million grant, that means the city will have to sell them for an average of $90,000 or so to break even. The mayor's recently released 10-year-plan said that was the median price of a home in the city.

Dickert said the two real estate firms granted the listings -- First Weber and Shorewest -- have agreed to intensive marketing, as well as to a higher commission for the selling agent (2.4% compared to the usual 2.1% of the standard 6% commission; the rest is divided between the listing and selling agencies).  The city hopes this added incentive will reduce the time the houses are on the market.

But, of course, there are lots of houses on the market selling for less than their owners have in them. Asked about that, Dickert, a former Realtor, said, "The market is not that bad... but, candidly, we'll find out."

The city has until February 2013 to continue turning over and recycling the NSP money. At that point, the program ends and -- theoretically -- any remaining money will have to be returned to the federal government.

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Wisconsin Professional Police Association endorses Turner's re-election bid

State Rep. Bob Turner is stepping up his primary campaign against challenger James DeMatthew. Turner announced Wednesday he's been endorsed by the Wisconsin Professional Police Association. Last week,  Racine County Democrat Chair and IBEW Local 430 President Jeff Van Koningsveld endorsed Turner. 

Here's the two announcements: 
Wisconsin Professional Police Association, Wisconsin’s leading law enforcement association representing nearly 11,000 active and retired members across the state, has endorsed Bob Turner for State Assembly.
“It is a great honor to have the endorsement of the brave men and women in law enforcement. I am proud of the work I have done in the State Assembly to protect these courageous men and women who work tirelessly to keep Wisconsin families safe,” Turner stated.
WPPA’s endorsement joins a growing list of endorsements currently consisting of: Wisconsin Laborer’s District Council, National Association of Social Workers, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin, Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin, Fair Wisconsin and Clean Wisconsin.
WPPA endorses “lawmakers who scored the highest on the WPPA’s legislative report card rankings.” Turner is one of only twelve democrats in the State Assembly to receive the WPPA endorsement thus far.
Bob Turner represents the 61st Assembly District in the Wisconsin State Legislature, where he has served for more than 20 years. Turner also served for nearly three decades on the Racine City Council, as well as numerous local boards and committees. The democratic primary will be held on September 14th.
And from Van Koningsveld: 
Representative Bob Turner, running for re-election in the 61st Assembly District, received the formal endorsement today of Racine Co. Dem Chair and IBEW Local 430 President, Jeff Van Koningsveld. Van Koningsveld’s endorsement comes the same day as the launch of the Turner for Racine Campaign’s new website:
“There is no doubt that the economy is hurting right now, and we need leadership that will be able to turn the ship around. Bob’s campaign plan of “bringing Racine back to its roots” is exactly what we need right now to make that happen,” said Van Koningsveld.
Van Koningsveld has been the chair of the Racine Co. Democrats for over a year and the President of IBEW Local 430 for six.
Van Koningsveld added, “I have worked side-by-side with Bob for decades. I have seen Bob literally roll up his sleeves to get a job done when it is needed. His commitment to the people of Racine and life dedication in public service is unmatched. I know that Bob has fresh ideas that will lead us to economic recovery, along with the experience to enact those ideas.”
“I am truly honored to have Jeff’s support,” Turner said. “I look forward to continuing my work with Jeff and all of my fellow democrats and colleagues to bring Racine back to its roots.”

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August 24, 2010

Journal Times releases Dickert's 10-year plan for Racine; Mayor delivers on campaign promise 15 months after taking office

Well, at least we know what Mayor John Dickert ate for lunch Monday.

The JT has the scoop on the mayor's "10-year plan," and it smacks of the behind-the-scenes agreement we reported last week. Dickert and the newspaper coordinated release of the plan in an "exclusive" package of stories that included an interview with the mayor, a sidebar interviewing two UW-Madison professors who haven't read the mayor's plan (more on that tomorrow), and then a verbatim reprinting of the plan itself. (Read the plan here.)

Oddly missing? Any sense of the heavy criticism Dickert has been taking for months about his overdue plan. Comments on the JT story filled that gap quickly.

The main story begins:
It's Monday afternoon and Mayor John Dickert has a few minutes between meetings to talk over lunch about the future of the city he's been elected to run. 
On the menu - a leftover burrito and a bag of sour cream and onion potato chips from the vending machine two floors down from his office in City Hall.
On his mind - the 10-year plan he promised the voters in Racine. It's the plan he said would turn the city around. It's the plan he said would put the city back on top.
The plan, which Dickert released Tuesday night, hasn't seen the light of day, until now.
The "news" of the article is buried. Dickert admitted he took too long to release the plan.
As soon as he took office, Dickert set to work and forgot what he'd told the voters while campaigning - that he'd give "the public the opportunity to benchmark me."
"I had told them that I was going to do that. That was the transparency of the campaign and of what I believed in this," Dickert said. "I just forgot about it. I just didn't think about the fact that the public deserves to benchmark me."
In hindsight, Dickert, who has been in office now for 15 months, said he waited too long to deliver the goods. The plan was something he promised. So here it is.
It's worth noting the main article contained a significant factual error. Reporter Paul Sloth initially said Dickert had been in office for 9 months, when he's actually going on his 16th month in office. The error has been fixed in the JT's online story.

The Mayor's office answered our records request, filed last week, for a copy of his "10-year plan" at 7:07 p.m., roughly the time the JT article went to print at the special website:

This entire production was scripted over a month ago when Dickert met with Journal Times Publisher Mark Lewis. The two agreed on the type of story would be written and when it would run. Both were adamant about the plan not appearing on RacinePost before it runs in the JT.

So, that's our daily newspaper and chief executive. The JT attempts to provide political cover for a mayor's failed campaign promise, and the mayor backs down to a publisher who's been in town for less than a year.

They deserve each other.

(As a side note, why did the JT ever reassign reporter Stephanie Jones off the City Hall beat? She was the reporter who got Dickert to admit his 10-year plan existed in his head. Shortly after, she was covering a new beat. Hard to believe she'd turn in a story about leftover burritos, but then again, maybe that's why she was reassigned.)

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Mystery at the Library: Where the @#!^* are the books?

Once the second floor reopens, you'll have to relearn where everything is.
Here's the new floorplan; windows overlooking the lake are at right

Renovations at the Racine Public Library will sorely test the patience of adult readers for the next three months. How will we muddle through? Is it all a plot to force us to buy (ugh!) Kindles?

The Library announced today that it will be closed on Wednesday, Sept. 1, but will reopen on Thursday, Sept. 2 "with limited services to patrons." If you're an adult reader, that's somewhat of a misnomer: The immediate reopening will not include anything above the first floor. In other words, the fiction, non-fiction, reference, magazines and DVD collections will be off-limits.

For 12 weeks! Is life even worth living?

The closure will accommodate "a reorganization of materials and services to prepare for extensive re-carpeting and renovation work" on the second floor. The one-time atrium area that's been curtained off since mid-June (see here) has now become additional floor space, and all the bookstacks must be moved around into the library's new configuration. The extra space will be welcome, of course -- if we can just survive the next 12 weeks of going cold turkey.

Readers will be unable to browse any of the library's second floor adult materials during this phase of the renovation. To obtain adult materials, patrons will have to place a hold on items via the Mobile Library (262.939.2264), the library’s website, or through telephone reference services (262.636.9217).  But some items placed on hold may not be accessible at all during renovations. Materials in the Youth Services Dept. will be available.

Access to the library's internet terminals and study areas will be severely limited during the second floor renovations. The library will relocate eight computers for adult use to the first floor atrium; usage will be limited to one hour. Study areas will be limited to tables in the Youth Services Department on the first floor, but after 2 p.m. children will be given priority.

The Mobile Library will remain open on Sept 1 and materials due on that date will be extended to Sept. 2.  For a schedule of the Mobile Library’s neighborhood stops call it at 262.939.2264, the main library at 262.636.9217, or visit the library’s website.

Absolute Construction Enterprises is replacing the old carpet, Balestreiri  Group is removing asbestos beneath the carpet, Hallett Movers is moving shelves and materials, and Embury, Ltd. is installing new shelving.

Questions or comments may be directed to library director Jessica MacPhail at 262.636.9252.

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Neumann: Big numbers, and small, at town hall forum

There was a lot of math in GOP gubernatorial candidate Mark Neumann's town hall forum in Racine Tuesday -- which is not entirely surprising given that the former congressman is also a former math teacher.

The most significant number among many -- the state's $2.5 billion deficit, the $5,658 Wisconsin spends per capita, the 300,000 jobs Neumann promises to bring to Wisconsin if elected, the "biggest one-year tax cut in Wisconsin't history if his voluntary plan for monthly payment of property taxes is adopted -- was a small one, however: barely 12, in fact. That's how many people attended the hour-long session at Gateway Technical College, after subtracting the media, his staff and wife, Susan.

Still, Neumann offered a lot during a 20-minute presentation and 40-minute  question-and-answer session.

His chief message was one he learned during his first year as a home-builder, when he lost $20,000: "You can't spend more money than you have." Neumann has gone from there to big success, owning multiple businesses -- chiefly home construction and real estate development -- earning enough lend his campaign $2.7 million. Whether that's enough to overcome the state Republican Party's endorsement of his Sept. 14 primary opponent, Scott Walker, remains to be seen.

His chief point -- illustrated with slides and graphs -- is this: if government cuts spending, then people will retain more of their own money -- which they will use to buy things, which will cause jobs to be created. That's Neumann's top priority from an economic perspective: "Cut taxes and build jobs."

As his model, Neumann looks to North Carolina's Research Triangle, where 110,000 jobs have been created in five years. His goal would be the creation of 300,000 new jobs in Wisconsin by 2020.

He pledges to "cap the growth rate of spending" by at least 1% below the rate of inflation.

Neumann's second priority is education. The creator of three Christian Choice schools, and one charter school, he wants all Wisconsin schoolchildren tested yearly -- with standardized, national tests so their progress can be compared to students throughout the country. Today, Wisconsin uses its own tests. He wants to replace "small-print" state mandates with accountability measured against each student's annual progress.

He wants schools to compete on the basis of their success, noting that "if you've got a D or an F school," parents will move their children out -- whether those failing schools are private or public.

Third, he wants to streamline government bureaucracy, and eliminate red tape. One way to do this, he says, is term limits for elected officials. His first step, Neumann says, is his own pledge to serve a "self-limited" maximum of eight years if elected  governor. (No sooner had he said that, but someone's cell phone rang, loudly. Neumann joked: "That's just God calling to say he approves this message!")

During his four years as 1st District Congressman (1995-1999, before his unsuccessful run against Russ Feingold for the U.S. Senate), Neumann said he voted at least 15 times for term limit legislation, "Career politicians won't let one get through." Government is "ruled by special interest groups," he says, noting his own rise through the private sector -- and his pledge to return there.

Other points:
  • He supports virtual schools -- "They're less expensive." and would work to eliminate existing caps.
  • High speed rail: "We'll do everything in our power to shut it down." Neumann rejects the notion that the $800 million Milwaukee-Madison rail project is funded with federal dollars, saying that the money will come from "our kids and grandkids. If the federal government had it, I would give it back to you as tax cuts." Scott Walker also opposes the rail project, but would "spend the money on road building and bridges," he said. Democrat Tom Barrett supports the rail plan.
  • Health care: Asked if he would "sign a law"  to fight national health care, Neumann said, "Yes, I would... I don't think Obamacare is the right thing. Government shouldn't be taking over." But when asked if he would sign a bill to limit the construction of healthcare buildings, he said no. "I'm for the free market," he said.
Neumann has given a lot of thought to some of these issues, and wrote a 210-page book, Wisconsin Taxpayers First: A bold plan to take back Wisconsin. It is available free for the downloading from his website.

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August 22, 2010

Two men shot in Racine Sunday morning

Two men were shot about 3:30 a.m. Sunday morning, Racine Police report.

Deshaun S. Honeycutt, 23, of 2000 Grand Ave., and Tyrone J. Smith, 28, of 4711 Indian Hills Dr., were shot near the intersection of Hamilton and LaSalle Streets. Honeycutt is in critical condition at Wheaton Franciscan  - All Saints Hospital, with a single gunshot wound to the abdomen, and Smith is in guarded condition with a single gunshot wound to the side of his face. Police say both are expected to recover.

Neither victim could explain why someone would want to shoot them, and neither is giving much information, police said.

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A car for every taste at Zoo Classic Show

There were no car salesmen, no EPA mileage stickers, no credit terms at Racine's big car show Sunday at the Zoo.

Only hundreds of gleamingly hand-washed and hand-waxed cars, mostly from America's past, and their owners eager to tell their stories.

One of the first that caught my eye was this gorgeous '47 Dodge owned by Dan Smith of Wauconda, IL. It didn't always look like this: when Dan bought in in 1996, it looked like the inset picture at his feet, above. "When I found it in that condition, I thought it was so ugly I could make something out of it," said Dan -- who is a metal fabricator in "real life." He paid $500 for two of these, and spent five years turning them into this beauty, with a dump truck rear and suicide doors. The doors were done this way to accommodate the roll bar.

Nor is he done. "Like a dummy, I'm doing two more," he said: a '41 Willys and a '63 Chevy Nova. "It'll make me 75 when I get them done," he said. "I tell my kids they can push me, drooling, to the car shows."

Not quite as shiny, here's a '32 Ford boasting, according to a sign posted on it, "original paint." Oh, and a '41 Harley (complete with a bird's nest under the seat) in its pick-up bed. I took exception to the original paint claim -- seeing only rust myself -- but owner Dick Duston of Mukwonago, WI, proudly pointed to that blue (?) spot next to the cab's rear window.

The truck was all in pieces when he bought it ten years ago from a guy's backyard, "where it had sat for 20 years under a wet tarp." Whatever possessed him to buy it? "It was a '32 Ford, which was very popular. It's one of the most desirable models," he says. Even though, "Half the stuff was missing."

"Stuff" -- as in engine, radiator; that kind of stuff. Still, Duston bought the truck for $500 and went looking for the missing parts. He bought a '35 Ford dump truck -- for $100 -- just for its engine.

For Duston, a chaplain for Racers for Christ, the Ford illustrates an important Biblical message, which he paraphrases from Matthew 6:19: "Don't store up treasures on earth where rust is stored." ("Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal.")

Duston, 75, says he drove the Ford to the show ... "and the Harley runs, too. It's as good as it's going to be while I've got it," he says.

 From the same era as Duston's truck is this '31 Ford -- the paint is definitely not original -- owned by Curt and Judy Kiss, pieced together with parts from ... well, let's just say multiple vehicles. "My husband just loves Model A's," said Judy. "He has a diehard passion for the Model A." They've been driving the car for more than a dozen years ... all over the U.S.

As is usual at this 15th annual classic car and bike show, with its 350+ pride-and-joys on display, variety is the name of the game. There were a handful of foreign cars -- I spotted a Mercedes, three Porsches and a Volvo -- but pride of place went to early and mid-century American classics: Model A's and Model T's, muscle cars, Corvettes. There were three Cobra replicas, and a Ford GT replica -- the bodies may be "fake," but that GT's engine boasts a very real 450 horsepower. Many of the cars had engines so clean you could eat off them, like the one at right in a '70 Chevelle.

 Winning my award for the Least Effective Engine Hood,
is this '40 Ford, owned by Robert Meredith.

Admiring glances for Bill Haberstadt's '34 Chevy, left,
and John Parkinson's yellow  '22 Ford Model T

Aby Gutierrez of Racine brought his own shade, under his 2000 Ford Excursion

My Truth in Advertising Award went to Patrick Colbert's '64 Corvair, which
next to its For Sale sign had a copy of Ralph Nader's Unsafe at Any Speed,
famously detailing the car's shortcomings

Mark Hendricks' '66 Ford GT replica: street legal and so fast (450 hp, duh!)
-- but no room for many groceries

 No Accounting for Taste winner, a '58 Rambler American Business Coupe.
Owners Ron and Mary Hortnell say they like the car "because it's different."
Can't argue with that.

The perfect drive-in car: Emil Matera's '70 Olds Cutlass convertible

Brad and Thea Nix's instructions for passengers in their '36 Ford Coupe

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