October 9, 2010

Mom, whose kids were trapped on Ferris Wheel, shares her story

A mom whose children were trapped on the Ferris Wheel at Party on the Pavement wants to send thanks out to the firefighters and police officers who helped defuse a scary situation.

Dawn Ivanowski, a Racine native who now lives out of town, said the officer who talked with her while her young children were stuck on the Ferris Wheel was "phenomenal."

"I send out thanks to the firefighters and police who offered such great support," Ivanowski said.

One person she wasn't impressed with: Mayor John Dickert.

Ivanowski said the mayor came across as insincere and lacked the compassion of the rescue workers.

"You can tell when someone isn't sincere," she said about Dickert.

During the rescue the mayor was calling up to the kids on the Ferris Wheel that hot chocolate was waiting for them when they got down. Ivanowski said her kids were indifferent, but not bothered, by the mayor's efforts to lighten the mood.

"He was distracting, so distracting at that point is good," she said.

Ivanowski was watching the Ferris Wheel when she heard the first, "pop." She knew something was wrong then, but the operator let it continue to run until a railing fell off. "At that point I was freaked," Ivanowski said.

Thanks to quick thinking rescue workers no one was injured in the potentially serious incident. Everyone on the Ferris Wheel was on the ground about two hours after the wheel was stopped.

"It was definitely a positive outcome," Ivanowski said.

In the days since the incident Ivanowski said her kids' pictures have appeared around the country. While her daughter is enjoying telling the story, her son isn't as thrilled. One picture shows him crying, which is a little embarrassing for a 7-year-old.

The state Department of Commerce is investigating the Ferris Wheel incident. So far, there's no report on why the ride broke.

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

Whistleblower forces Racine to clean up contaminated projects; Lead paint violations confirmed by Department of Health Services

The city was forced to clean up contaminated work sites in city neighborhoods after a whistleblower raised concerns about a stimulus-funded housing project.

Housing technician Bill Bielefeldt contacted the Department of Health Services after he documented several lead paint violations on homes the city is rehabbing as part of its Neighborhood Stabilization Program. Bielefeldt reported to the state the the city's effort to fix up homes was actually polluting areas around the homes.

In a letter to the city, the state confirmed that violations occurred. The city cleaned up the violations and has promised to keep better track of the contractors working on the city-owned properties.

Bielefeldt remains on unpaid leave for unspecified reasons.

Here's text of the letter, dated Oct. 1:

October 1,2010
Brian 0'Connell
Racine Department of City Development
Neighborhood Stabilization Program
730 Washington Ave
Racine WI 53403

Subject: Lead Hazards and Neighborhood Stabilization Program Projects

Dear Mr. O'Connell:
Thank you for the telephone discussion this morning regarding the lead hazard concerns that
have been raised about specific Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) funded projects in
Racine. From our discussion I am confident in your program's plans going forward to address
lead hazards and to coordinate with renovation and abatement contractors. For our part we will
begin working on improved guidance for NSP projects statewide that will likely benefit many
The following three brief points summarize our discussion today.
• We identified a number of issues during inspection ofNSP funded projects in Racine
over the past two weeks. Some of those issues involved lead hazards.
• You have already begun working with your contractors to address those issues and our
inspection staff are working with your staff to identify any remaining issues that may
need to be corrected.
• From our discussion we also identified a source of confusion in the guidance NSP
projects receive from the many parties involved and we have begun working with the
Department of Commerce to develop and distribute clear information and education
materials. It is our belief that this is a statewide need and not specific to the City of
The City of Racine has been one of the state's strongest partners in childhood lead poisoning
prevention for many years. From the discussion we had today and the additional work you are
doing, it is clear that will continue if only stronger. If you have additional questions please
contact me at (608) 264-9880. Thank you.

Chuck Warzecha, Director
Bureau of Environmental and Occupational Health
Wisconsin Department of Health Services

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

October 8, 2010

21,000+ hours of work on display at quilt show

A rainbow of colors has transformed the sanctuary of the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, 322 Ohio St. Also the Fellowship Hall and the lobby.

The occasion is the biennial show of the Rainbow Quilters. Forty-five quilt-makers are displaying 210 quilts -- a riot of color, and designs ranging from traditional to whimsical -- in their "Bring 'Em, Hang 'Em, Look at 'Em" Quilt Show. The show opened today at 10 a.m. and continues until 6 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

The quilts represent more than 21,000 hours of work, according to an estimate provided by Barb Vallone, who quilts with three of Racine's quilt clubs: the Rainbow, Lighthouse and First Friday quilters. When pressed, she and other quilters guessed that an "average" quilt takes about 100 hours to complete; that may or may not include the time it takes to choose and purchase the fabric and thread and decide upon a design. Of course, some quilts take 600 or 700 hours...

So that 21,000 figure covers just the 210 bed quilts" on display, mostly in the Sanctuary. There are also another 46 single-square hangings done for the club's Crayon Color Challenge. Those quiltings -- all are pictured below -- are being sold via a silent auction -- pledges topped $500 before noon today -- with all the funds going to benefit the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit at All Saints. The silent auction ends at 3 p.m. Saturday.

Also on display are 10 quilts made as part of the club's Quilts for the Community project; those quilts are donated to All Saints, Ridgewood Care Center, Milwaukee Children's Hospital and Wisconsin Operation Snuggies. And some of the 150 quilts made annually by 15 members of the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection for Lutheran World Relief are also on display. 

Results of a two-color challenge: Quilters had one fat quarter each of red and tan...

Bright colors in Fellowship Hall

The 46 Crayon Challenge quilt squares, above and below...

All proceeds of the silent auction go to All Saints' Neo-Natal Unit

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

October 6, 2010

Racine police used to deliver letters to people at odds with the city

You've got mail ... ?

Update: Police delivered a summons to Jim Spodick's home last year, according to Sgt. Martin Pavilonis, a spokesman for the department. It's an important distinction because officers are routinely used to delivered subpoenas and summons, he said.

But Spodick said police went above and beyond to serve him. When they came to his house they waited for him at the bottom of a snowy driveway. On another day they tried to deliver a summons to the Raytown Roadhouse when it was closed. Officers yanked on the door so hard it set off the building's alarm service. They then asked the security company to call Spodick and have him meet them at the bar/restaurant. Spodick said it was basically a trap for police to deliver him a summons.

Original post: City departments have used the Racine Police Department at least twice in the past year to deliver mail to area residents who had made damaging claims against the city.

Last December, uniformed city police officers delivered a letter to Jim Spodick at his home in Caledonia. Later, officers dressed in the department's drug unit uniforms delivered a second letter to the Raytown Roadhouse, Spodick's former business, during business hours. Both visits came after Spodick filed a $650,000 claim against the city over the Wilmanor Apartments on West Sixth Street.

More recently, uniformed police officers delivered a letter to a city employee's home after he turned whistleblower over concerns about potential lead paint violations at city-owned homes. The officers showed up at Bill Bielefeldt's Mount Pleasant home after 11 p.m. to deliver a letter ordering him to stay away from the city-owned homes. Bielefeldt, who is suspended from his job, had reported the potential lead paint violations to state's Department of Health Services.

Spodick and Bielefeldt said they both felt the city was sending them a message.

"It was totally intimidation," Spodick said.

Sgt. Martin Pavilonis, a spokesperson for the Racine Police Department, said it's rare for police officers to be used as mail carriers for city departments.

"It's infrequent, it's not typical at all," he said.

Pavilonis said he wasn't aware of a procedure for a city department to request officers to deliver mail.

"It's not something we do regularly," he said.

City vs. Spodick

Police showed up outside of Spodick's home about a month after the City Council denied his $650,000 claim regarding work he did on the Wilmanor Apartments on West 6th Street.

Spodick recalls it was a snowy day and the officers couldn't drive up his Caledonia home's driveway. They waited for him at the end of the driveway and eventually gave the letter for UNIT violations to his mother-in-law, who came out to ask why they were there.

Spodick also recalled two uniformed drug officers, dressed in full black uniforms, walked into the Raytown Roadhouse around 10 or 11 p.m. to deliver a complaint about tuckpointing. With people in the restaurant and bar, Spodick ushered the officers back into the office area to avoid a disruption. But customers kidded him later, asking what he did wrong to bring the police in.

"It was impossible not to notice them," Spodick said. "They walked through the whole place."

The tax complaint against Spodick was dismissed in court. He's still working with the city to resolve a series of UNIT violations for his building at the corner of Park Avenue and Sixth Street, which houses the Park 6 night club. Spodick's $650,000 claim against the city for the Wilmanor Apartment deal is now a full-blown lawsuit.

Spodick said he believed the police appearances were part of a city effort to harass him for filing the lawsuit.

"Every time I went in (to talk with the city) there was something else," he said. "I've been to court eight or nine times in the last year."

City vs. Bielefeldt

Two police officers visited Bielefeldt's Mount Pleasant home after 11 p.m. on Sept. 17 to deliver a letter from City Development Director Brian O'Connell. The letter instructed Bielefeldt to stay away from city-owned homes that are part of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, which is being funded by $3.4 million in federal stimulus.

The letter came shortly after Bielefeldt reported the city for potential lead paint violations at the work sites. After the tip, state investigators visited the homes and are looking into Bielefeldt's claims.

Pavilonis said officers had made two earlier attempts to deliver the letter to Bielefeldt's home on Sept. 17, but were unsuccessful. They finally got Bielefeldt at home sometime after 11 p.m., he said. Pavilonis said no one directed the officers to deliver the letter late at night, and City Development Director Brian O'Connell said his department did not instruct the letter to be delivered late.

The police officers' appearance was intimidating, Bielefeldt said. The next day police drove past again and Bielefeldt's wife told him to hurry and get ready because she thought he was going to be arrested.

Both Bielefeldt and Spodick wondered how police had time to deliver mail, and why the city would want to pay officers to do so.

"What are they doing pulling officers off the street to be mailmen?" Bielefeldt said.

Pavilonis reiterated incidents of the city asking officers to deliver letters are rare.

"Being asked by some other department to deliver mail I would say is a circumstance that's not typical," he said. "It's not done routinely."

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

October 4, 2010

TwoOne Republican candidates will skip legislative forum

Update, Oct. 28: Chris Wright is coming to the forum after all. We received this note from Community for Change today:
We have just heard from Chris Wright and he said his meeting was canceled this evening allowing him to participate in the forum. He will not be able to make the entire open house but will be at Gateway for the public debate. We have not heard from the Wanggaard campaign.

 Update, Oct. 5: See below.

As we reported earlier today, two Republican candidates have refused to participate in the lone legislative candidate forum scheduled so far for Racine County. The two are Van Wanggaard, who is running against John Lehman for the State Senate in the 21st District, and Chris Wright, who is running against Cory Mason in the 62nd Assembly District.

Here's the release from the three co-sponsoring organizations:
The Southeast Gateway Group Sierra Club, The Racine Branch of American Association of University Women and Community for Change will host a candidate forum and open house at Gateway Technical College in Racine on Thursday, Oct. 28. The forum will be held in the Great Lakes Room from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m.

All candidates in contested races for the Wisconsin legislature were invited to participate. Wisconsin State Sen. John Lehman, Reps. Cory Mason and Robert Turner and Independent Party Assembly candidate George Meyers have indicated that they will attend.

Senate candidate Van Wanggard and Assembly candidate Chris Wright have declined our invitation. Despite the willingness of the organizations to reschedule the forum, neither was able to provide one date in which they would be able to participate within a six-week time period. Consequently, neither candidate will be participating in any public forum with the incumbents.

The public will be allowed to submit questions and overflow seating will be available with tele-conferencing in nearby rooms. Each candidate and their campaign is invited to participate in a public open house beginning at 6 p.m. and will be provided a table outside the forum room so attendees may ask questions, inquire about volunteering or pick up yard signs. Special Voter Registration Deputies from the GAB will also be in attendance to answer questions about poll locations and voting eligibility.
Melissa Warner and Betsy Georg, Southeast Gateway Group Sierra Club
Marcia Colsmith, American Association of University Women, Public Policy
Kelly Gallaher, Community for Change Coordinator
Update: "Organizers from the Sierra Club, AAUW and Community for Change are glad to add the confirmation of Libertarian candidate for State Assembly Anthony De Cubellis to the candidate forum."

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

38-year-old arrested for home invasion on 20th Street

A 38-year-old man was arrested Sunday for a home invasion in the 3600 block of 20th street, according to police. 

Demetrius Johnson was arrested on charges of attempted first-degree intentional homicide, strangulation, robbery, burglary, false imprisonment, and substantial battery.
Here's a police press release on the incident:
On October 3rd, 2010 Demetrius Jackson was arrested for this incident. The Racine County District Attorney’s Office is expected to issue formal charges later today.
On Friday October 1st, 2010 at about 9:04 A.M. the Racine Police Department responded to the 3600 blk. 20th St. for a home invasion. Officers learned a suspect had entered the home and assaulted a 61 year old female. The victim was transported to Wheaton Franciscan-All Saints and treated for her injuries.
The Racine Police Department had responded to a suspicious vehicle and person in the 3600 blk. of 20th St. at 8:43 A.M., just prior to the reported home invasion. Officers located the suspicious vehicle parked and unoccupied. The suspicious person could not be located. The suspicious vehicle was no longer parked in the area when the officers returned for the reported home invasion at 9:04 AM.
Racine Police investigators have developed a person of interest for this home invasion. The 38 year old person of interest was located at his home and transported to the Racine Police Department. A search warrant was subsequently executed at his home. This person of interest is currently in custody for a Probation hold and is at the Racine County Jail.
Racine Police investigators are interested in any additional information that you may have about this crime. You are urged to call the Racine Police Department at 262-635-7700 and ask for Investigations or Crimestoppers at 262-636-9330, or by texting to CRIMES (274637) and referring to Tipsoft I.D. #TIP417 with your text message.
The investigation into this incident is ongoing. No further information will be released at this time. 

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

Voting begins; Feingold says GOP 'peaked too early'

 Sen. Russ Feingold at City Hall voting rally

 Today is Election Day, Oct. 4.

Sticklers will insist there are still 29 days before the Nov. 2 general election, but through the magic of state law and absentee balloting, voting began this morning at City Hall.

Sen. Russ Feingold joined State Sen. John Lehman and Representatives Bob Turner and Cory Mason for a short get-out-the-vote rally on City Hall's front lawn -- being careful to keep all electioneering signs at least 100 feet from the polling place in the City Clerk's office, where ballots arrived this morning.

City Clerk Janice Johnson-Martin, left, and her staff were busy instructing a stream of early-bird voters and collecting their ballots shortly after noon. They were too busy to have counted how many had already come in, she said.

The four candidates present at the rally outside, all Democrats with opposition this year, urged their supporters to vote early -- leaving them with free time to help the campaigns.

"Be sure to vote," said Turner. Said Mason, "The key to Democrats' victory in November is turnout, turnout, turnout."

But it was Feingold's rally, and most of the campaign signs displayed bore his name, as Democrats worry about recent polls showing the three-term senator trailing his Republican opponent, multimillionaire businessman Ron Johnson, by a considerable margin. Last week's Rasmussen poll, for example, put Johnson at 54 percent; Feingold at 42 percent.  

"Don't be discouraged by the polls," Feingold told those at the rally, "I've seen some that are encouraging." He might have been referring to a McClatchey-Marist poll reported just before the rally by CNN. Although it carried a discouraging headline -- "Poll Watch: Feingold re-election woes continue" -- the numbers were better for Feingold than Rasmussen's: 52 percent for Johnson vs. 46 percent for Feingold, "only" a 6-point spread (with a 4.5 percent sampling error).

In Feingold's three U.S. Senate victories, his winning margins were: 53% to 46% against Robert Kasten in 1992; 51% to 48% over Mark Neumann in 1998; and 55% to 44% over Tim Michels in 2004.

Speaking of Republicans in general he said, "They've peaked too early. They think all those people who voted for Barack Obama will stay home. They won't!"

Feingold recommended the absentee ballot route for voters, saying it was simple and easy: registration and voting in one step. "It's like getting a flu shot, only better," he said. And it ensures that the election won't be decided "by people spending their personal fortunes, or dominated by people from out of state."

Looking out at the crowd -- maybe 100 people -- Feingold said, "This doesn't look like an enthusiasm gap to me."

"At the worst," Feingold said, "this race is tied." He said Republicans are prematurely "dancing in the end zone."

Meanwhile, three nonpartisan groups -- the American Association of University Women, the Sierra Club and Community 4 Change (argue with the designation of C4C as much as you like) -- are about to announce their failure to get agreement from some Republican legislative candidates for any pre-election debates.

Neither Chris Wright, Republican candidate for the 62nd District Assembly seat held by Mason, nor Van Wanggaard, Republican candidate for the 21st Senate District held by Lehman, has agreed to a debate. The two were offered any date they preferred, but neither responded.

Rep. Mason introduced Sen. Feingold to his daughter,Eleanor Roosevelt,
who is 20 months old. There was some disagreement between them
whether little Eleanor said "Feingold!" (All I heard was "aiexhegl")

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