October 14, 2010

Who's running? A look at possible candidates for Racine mayor

Corner office available: April 2011

 Who's going to run?

That's the big question insiders in Racine politics are asking these days as they look ahead to next spring's mayoral election. Mayor John Dickert is a shoo-in to run for re-election, but who else may run for the four-year term? (Remember, Dickert is only finishing out Gary Becker's term.) 

We've spent the last few months bouncing names around among political insiders and gathering input on who may be thinking about the mayor's office. Based on those conversations, and a dash of wild speculation, we've put together a list of people we think may run for the city's top spot next spring.

While this is largely educated guesswork, we did have some criteria for who made the list. 1.) Are they known in the community? 2.) Can they raise enough money ($50K+) to win?

We also want to emphasize that no one on the list knows about this story or offered any input specific to this list. It came almost entirely from the minds of RacinePost's editors, and is likely deeply flawed. We hope everyone included takes it as a compliment (we really think everyone mentioned could be the city's next mayor), and everyone slighted as a misinformed oversight.

With those caveats, on to the list (which is in no particular order) ...

 John Dickert (left)

Hizzoner is a lock to seek a full four-year term, and he's the early favorite. Dickert has name recognition, on-the-job training, and a pipeline of campaign cash from lobbyists and Realtors. The mayor has his enemies, but he's still formidable in local politics. The question, though, is does he have a real relationship with voters? Or is he just the rebound candidate after a messy break up?

Aron Wisneski
The City Council member best known for cracking down on city bars and gas stations may be looking for a promotion. He's denied he's interested in running, but some of his colleagues think he'd be a good choice for the job. Wisneski may not run in 2011, but he'll be a factor of the city's top spot down the road.

Diane Lange

Count this among our wild speculations. We heard the former County Board supervisor's name pop up recently, and it made all kinds of sense. Lange has a good reputation in the community, including a record of fearlessly taking on people in power, and would bring a unique, people-based perspective to a job that's been entirely focused on development and budget for the past decade.

Lesia Hill-Driver
A family emergency kept Hill-Driver from running much of a campaign two years ago, but when she did campaign, she proved to have a strong grasp of local issues, and the ability to talk with voters. No idea if she'll run again, but with proper support, she'd be a legitimate candidate. (The only forum I saw Hill-Driver at last election I was also asking questions and didn't get a picture of her. My apologies.)

Eric Marcus
This hard-charging City Council member is spinning heads with his aggressive approach to issues such as Countryside Humane Society and the city's housing redevelopment plans. A lawyer by trade and a tireless worker, Marcus will bury anyone in PowerPoints and talking points. If he can raise the money, he may have a shot at winning over voters with fresh takes on local issues. 

Jim Eastman
I don't know Jim well, but his name has been mentioned several times as a local business leader who could take the city's reins and do good work. Perhaps even more impressive is whenever I've mentioned the Merchants Moving owner's name to people as a possible candidate the response has been, "Yeah, he'd be great."

 Kim Plache
The former state senator never seems to shy away from a challenge. She ran well two years ago, but had a hard time overcoming her lack of residency in the city (while simultaneously winning a spot on the school board). This time around, with a full build-up to the election, she may be able to capitalize on her name recognition to advance further.

John Lehman/Van Wanggaard
If you're following the State Senate campaign at all you're seeing two solid local politicians going toe-to-toe for voters. The political winds seem to favor Republican Wanggaard in the current race, but you can't count out Lehman, who's been a tireless advocate for public education and on the right side of the Miller Park stadium tax issue. The loser of the Senate race this fall may actually win down the road. The Mayor's job pays better, requires less travel, and has a higher profile in the Racine community.

 Bob Turner
The runner-up last time around may be eyeing a rematch with Dickert. If Turner runs he'll have support of the local labor unions and the experience to fine tune his message on local issues. If you believe the whispers, this could happen.

Cory Mason
The state representative has twice denied to RacinePost that he'll run for mayor in the spring. So why does his name keep cropping up as a candidate? He has two young children living in Racine, Republicans are poised to retake the Assembly, and the mayor's job pays a good $30,000 more per year than a state rep. Mason has the name recognition, and political skill, to win a local election. He may be denying a run, but we're not ruling him out.

David Maack
I haven't talked to Alderman Maack, but it's safe to say he has his eye on City Hall's second story corner office, and rightfully so. Maack has good experience on the council, manages the county's emergency response department, and has solid credentials as a voice of reason on local issues. If he can raise the money, Maack has mayor chops.

Jim Spangenberg
A somewhat surprising third-place finisher in the primary election to replace Gary Becker, Spangenberg hinted two years ago he'd make another run at the mayor's office. A small business owner with tremendous city government experience, Spangenberg seems to mesh well with local voters. Again, it's a money issue. If he can raise the $50K in donations and hire a professional campaigner, he may be poised to improve on his last run.

Law enforcement
I'm always surprised law enforcement officials, especially retired police officers, haven't made a run for the mayor's office. A police officer has all sorts of history in the community, but they would bring a very different view of the city than more polished politicians. Safety is a major issue in Racine, and a police officer could speak with great authority on reducing crime and protecting residents.

So you want to run for mayor? 
Racine's next mayor will be elected to a four-year term on Tuesday, April 5, 2011. If needed, a primary election would be held on Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2011. The filing deadline for anyone seeking office is Jan. 1, 2011. Candidates can take out papers to run for office from the City Clerk's office starting Dec. 1, 2010. They must collect at least 200 signatures to be placed on the ballot.

Racine's mayor makes $69,400 per year, plus benefits. 

For more information, contact the City Clerk's office at (262) 636-9171.

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Mirabel wants a home (and a cuddle)

Hello, my name is Mirabel. I am a domestic medium-hair muted calico cat, 1 1/2 years old. I was originally a stray brought in to the Countrysiude Humane Socieity, but I went into foster care for 30 days.

I am a sweet girl who loves exploring. I love to be cuddled and would love some arms to cuddle in. I am good with children of all ages. I have been at Countryside since May 18.

If you think you might like to adopt Mirable, why not visit her at Countryside (and receive a free cuddle!). The shelter is at  2706 Chicory Rd., or call me at 262-554-6699.

If you like Mirabel but can not adopt, consider a donation for her care directly to the shelter or through Pay Pal on Countryside's website.

Mirabel's adoption fees include her spay, vaccinations, microchip and more.

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October 12, 2010

12 county businesses fail alcohol compliance checks

During the fall of 2010, volunteers between the ages of 18-20 participated in the Racine County Alcohol Compliance Check Program. Volunteers were trained by Focus on Community and the Racine County Youth Coalition.

Law enforcement officers accompanied volunteers on all Compliance Checks. Local law enforcement agencies that conducted the checks include the Racine County Sheriff’s Dept., Village of Sturtevant Police Dept., City of Burlington Police Dept., and Town of Burlington Police Dept.

The Racine County Sheriff’s Department completed two rounds of checks between August 30, 2010 and September 22, 2010. Out of the 85 stores checked, the following five stores failed.
  • Dover Food Mart, 2010 N. Raynor St., Dover
  • Pick n’ Save, 5111 Douglas Ave., Caledonia
  • Raceway Mart, 1645 Main St., Union Grove
  • Raceway Food Mart, 22930 Durand Ave., Kansasville
  • Seven Mile Station, 911 27th St., Caledonia
The City of Burlington completed one round of checks during the fall of 2010. Of the 10 stores checked, the following five stores sold.
  • Quick mart, 656 McHenry St., Burlington
  • Gooseberries, 690 W. State St., Burlington
  • Burlington Food & Fuel, 416 Milwaukee Ave., Burlington
  • Rice’s Liquor, 681 Milwaukee Ave., Burlington
  • Super Macado, 116 W. Chestnut St., Burlington
The Town of Burlington completed one round of checks during the fall of 2010. Of the three stores checked, the following two stores sold.
  • Beachview Grocery Store, 33225 S. Lakeshore Dr., Burlington
  • Al’s Little Country Store, 30411 Durand Ave., Burlington
The Village of Sturtevant checked 5 stores during the fall 2010 and had no stores sell to the volunteer.

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Foliage presents a pretty picture

 Photo by Rigo Alcala

Members of the Racine Camera Club spent some productive hours at the River Bend Nature Center Sunday, photographing the changing fall colors. Here are some of their pictures. (My own, taken at River Bend and around the city, are HERE.)

Got a photo to contribute? We'd love to see it, and will post the best. Just email 'em to racinepost@gmail.com.

 Photo by Dorothy Sack

Photo by Dorothy Sack

Photo by Rigo Alcala

Photo by Ashley Voss
Sometimes, it takes more than a point 'n shoot. Photo by Rigo Alcala

 Here are three pictures from Petrifying Springs State Park, by Theo Syslack

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Rainbow Quilters show winners announced

Here are the winners from last weekend's Rainbow Quilters' Bring 'Em, Hang 'Em, Look at 'Em biennial quilt show:

Celtic by Rachel Riley won in the Wall category.

Visions of Sugar Plums by Yvonne Parks won in the Bed category.

Baby Mylo and Bear by Diane Seymour won in the Other category.

Weep No More My Willow by Welcome Sittig
won in the Rainbow Challenge category.

The club's Crayon Challenge silent auction raised almost $1,100 for the All Saints Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

More pictures are here.  

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29 City of Racine employees made more than $10,000 in overtime in 2009

The 16 city employees who received the most overtime in 2009 all worked in the Racine Police Department, according to city data. 

One city dispatcher boosted her salary 60 percent in 2009 with overtime and double time pay. Sharlene Thomas, listed as a communications specialist I in 2009, earned $31,425.51 in overtime pay and $2,433.90 in double time pay for working more than 40 hours per week. Thomas' OT was the highest in the city last year. She ended up making $82,864.55. 

Investigator David Derks earned the second most OT with $25,546.28 (total salary was $97,169.94), followed by Communications Specialist I Joanne Larsen with $25,396.41 (total salary $75,442.77), Investigator Randy Kuzia with $23,758.41 (total salary was $97,348.22) and Sgt. Michael Payne with $23,748.29 (total salary $103,597.19).

The 16 city employees who received the most overtime in 2009 all worked in the Racine Police Department. Police overtime and double time totaled $790,162.06 last year, which amounted to 5.3 percent of the department's total wages of $14,814,452.42 for 2009. The city had budgeted $750,000 for police overtime in 2009.

By comparison, the Public Works Department paid out $239,044.76 in overtime in 2009, which amounted to 4.3 percent of the department's total wages of $5,515,321.05. The Fire Department paid out $169,930.71 in overtime, which was 1.7% of the department's total wages of $9,871,276.37.

A total of 29 employees earned more than $10,000 in overtime pay last year, according to city data.

Below is a spreadsheet listing all city employees who earned more than $10,000 in overtime in 2009.

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October 11, 2010

JT reports city spokesman owes back taxes

The JT is showing some bite. Reporter Paul Sloth went after city Spokesman Mark Eickhorst this morning with a story reporting he owes back taxes to the state. It's a notable hit piece given Eickhorst's part-time, and relatively minor, position with the city. Beware all city employees with a mention in CCAP.

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October 10, 2010

Fall colors are transforming the landscape

First, a small confession. I went out to River Bend Nature Center Saturday afternoon to join the Racine Camera Club's Fall Foliage Photography outing ... and it took me 15 minutes to realize why no other photographers were there: the outing is scheduled for Sunday at 3 p.m.

No matter; Mother Nature and I communed for an hour, along with squirrels, birds, canoeists and hikers. It's still a bit early for the best color, but an hour of peace and quiet -- whatever the occasion -- is always worth experiencing, with or without a camera.

The geese are back on Hansche Pond

Two trees on Lathrop Avenue can't decide what color they should be

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