March 27, 2010

Rite of Spring: Artists invite us into their studios

Jerry Belland's work caught this visitor's eye

The annual rite of Spring opened the doors of artists' studios at the Racine Business Center -- giving artists a chance to show off their newest work and art lovers a reason to think about redecorating. Dale's Upstairs Gallery and Gallerie G were also open.

More than a dozen artists were on hand Saturday to talk about their work, meet old friends and -- hopefully -- sell a piece or two to finance their future efforts. Here's a sampling of what we saw as we traipsed from studio to studio, talking to the artists as we wandered.

 Maureen Fritchen displayed large abstract murals, and found-object assemblages
The one on the table used stuff found at Habitat's Re-Store
 A dot here, a dot there... and Daniel Fortney's paintings came to life

 Marjorie Meyer offered her individually designed purses

From Racine to New Orleans and back: Roberta Williams returned to her roots
after Hurricane Katrina, displaying pendants, jewelry and collages
made in her new studio here.

 Sally Miller works on a digital creation, blending images from multiple photos

The brass pitcher and red platter on his worktable are finding their way into a painting
-- as Greg Helding sketches his next move. You can see the finished painting
at next year's show, he says, "if it hasn't sold before then!"

RAM's Peep art winners announced; show runs thru mid-April

 Closeup of the Grand Prize Winner by Mark Trinklein

The Racine Art Museum has announced the winners of its first-ever International Peeps art competition featuring Peeps as the medium of choice.

The first in what will be an annual Easter competition drew 63 entries, which will be on display at RAM through mid-April.

And the winners are ...

First Place: Mark Trinklein for Peeps Reunion 2010, above: A sparkling, hand-blown glass Peeps Chick with Swarovski crystal eyes. Its value is over $150.

Second Place: The United Way of Racine County for Wind Peep Lighthouse: A Peeps Tote Bag, baseball cap in the Just Born Gift Box with Peeps Marshmallow and other Just Born candy brands. A value of over $100.

Third Prize: Alaina Makutz for Hopping Around Racine: A free class at the Charles A. Wustum Museum of Fine Arts

Fourth Prize: Maureen and Jonathan Wolfe for Jonathan’s Garden of Peeps: A free family membership to the Racine Art Museum

Honorable Mention: Ray “Moon” Johnson for Peep-er oni Pizzas, winning an Easter bucket filled with fun stuff! Other Honorable Mentions to Barbara Conrad for He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not, and Four Anonymous Peeps for Monsieur Peep Goes to the Museum.

And here are a few more that caught our eye.

 This is 'Green Bay Peep-kers by Ray 'Moon' Johnson

Peepsickle Built for Two by Cathy Kaiser

 Peeps Around the World by Amy Macemon

Nicholson may serve on Redevelopment Authority

If the Redevelopment Authority ever gets enough of its members together to hold a meeting, it looks ready to make some changes.

Chairman John Crimmings, who served on the RDA for 20 years, was set to resign from the volunteer committee earlier this month. But not enough members showed up to hold an official meeting, and his resignation is now likely put off until the RDA's April 7 meeting.

Meanwhile, Mayor John Dickert appears ready to name a replacement. Doug Nicholson, owner of Ivanhoe Pub and Eatery on Main Street, has been asked to fill the vacancy.

Crimmings' appointment was schedule to end in 2012, so his replacement likely would finish out this term. Full appointments to the RDA, which is the technical owner of city property set aside for redevelopment, are for five years.

According to the city website, RDA terms for Alderman Jim Spangenberg and state Rep. Cory Mason are set to expire next month.

Other members of the seven-member RDA include: Scott Terry, Pete Karas, Robert Ledvina and David Lange.

Celebrating 175 years: Fish Bros. Wagon Company

By Gerald Karwowski

Racine Wisconsin was a manufacturing hub for wagons and carriages from around 1860s to early 1900s. There were three major Racine manufacturers that were giants in the wagon building business, Racine Wagon & Carriage Co., Mitchell & Lewis Co. and Fish Bros. Wagon Company. When automobiles took over Mitchell& Lewis Co. Converted to manufacturing cars and the other two companies went out of business.

Today we'll take a look at The Fish Bros. Wagon Company. Rather than a detailed history of the company we will share a few views of it. The Merchants Moving and Storage Company building still stands on State Street To remind us of our once proud wagon making heritage.

Photos courtesy of

The Fish Bros. Main Office building is now being used as the Main Office of 
Merchants Moving and Storage at 1215 State Street.

Company logo

One of the many fine wagons manufactured by Fish Bros.

Original Fish Bros. Building which was located directly across the street 
from Merchants Moving and Storage today.

Fish Bros. manufacturing plant which was located on the south west corner of State 
and Marquette streets in 1888.

Today, Merchants Moving and Storage Company occupies the former Fish Bros. building. Merchants was founded in 1922 by E.W. Eastman. Current President Jim Eastman is the third generation of his family to run the company. Jennifer Eastman, E.W. Eastman's great-granddaughter, is the company's controller.

March 25, 2010

Three judges weigh in for Herrera

Three county judges endorsed Georgia Herrera this afternoon, a few hours after another judge supported Gene Gasiorkiewicz, her opponent in the April 6 election for a seat on the Circuit Court bench.

The three backing Herrera in press releases sent out by the Herrera campaign are former Racine County Circuit Court Judge and current Reserve Judge Dennis Flynn, Circuit Court Judge Gerald Ptacek and Circuit Court Judge Faye Flancher.

Flynn said: "She served Racine County well as criminal prosecutor and again as Circuit Court commissioner. I first appointed her Circuit Court Commissioner over ten years ago, having watched her try cases to juries and practice law in my court for many years. She’s got a proven record as attorney, prosecutor, and court commissioner. She demonstrated her ability to preside in Court as a Circuit Court commissioner and Deputy Family Court Commissioner. She will clearly be an excellent judge.”

Ptacek said: “I've seen Georgia Herrera's work for many years, when I served as District Attorney and then as Circuit Court Judge. She was an excellent criminal prosecutor for Racine County. Her law enforcement experience and good judgment are needed on the bench. Georgia has strong support throughout our County and has also demonstrated her ability to preside fairly and impartially in Court as a Circuit Court commissioner over the last ten years.”

Flancher, who appointed Herrera as deputy court commissioner in the Family division of Circuit Court in Racine, said: "I know Georgia's work and qualifications well. Her broad experience and good judgment are needed on the bench. Georgia's made the tough decisions necessary of a family court commissioner on hard issues like child custody and placement. She's demonstrated she can run an efficient and impartial court room. She is exceptionally well qualified to be judge."

All three were quoted saying, word-for-word: "She is the right person for this important job.”

Earlier this morning, Judge Allan "Pat" Torhorst, deputy chief judge of the Second Judicial District, sent out a letter condemning Herrera's criticism of Gasiorkiewicz' qualifications. More on that issue here. And for more on the endorsement battle that this race has turned into, go here.

Afternoon chords in Downtown Racine

Judd Greenstein plays guitar Thursday afternoon at Circa Celeste cafe, 619 Wisconsin Ave. in Racine. Greenstein, who has played guitar for 18 years and instruments his whole life, splits time between Chicago and Racine. 

He's played nationally in Chicago, St. Louis and San Diego with a variety of bands. Locally, you can hear him on Sixth Street at the B4S Gallery at the April 2 First Friday, and at Henry & Wanda's on Thursday nights for the open blues jam.

Greenstein is also looking to put together a rock/blues band. If you're interested, you can reach him at: 

Invasive species hacked out of former DeKoven Woods

A fallen tree in the woods at the corner of Wisconsin and Dekoven avenues on Racine's near south side. A crew clearcut the woods' ground cover to control an invasive Asian bittersweet vine that had taken over the land. Lake Oaks senior living apartments are in the background.

A crew hacked out a large section of the former DeKoven Woods at the corner of DeKoven and Wisconsin avenues this week in an attempt to fight off an invasive vine that had swallowed the forest.

Asian bittersweet overwhelmed the wooded property, which is owned by the company that operates Lake Oaks senior living apartments, according to a local arborist. The vines, which likely originated in the yard of a nearby home, suffocated the mature native trees.

For tree-lovers, all is not lost. Property managers appear ready to take a more active role in managing the woods and controlling the invasive weed, which can lie dormant for decades. Management will include cutting back the Asian bittersweet for a few years, and eventually planting grass around mature trees. Regular mowing, tending to existing trees and planting new trees could nurse the property, which was basically a pile sticks, back to health within five to 10 years.

Track where stimulus money was spent in Racine County

Government spending hawks may want to visit state Office of Recovery and Reinvestment website that breaks down the roughly $45.8 million in federal stimulus money Racine County governments, agencies and businesses have received to date.

The site, run through the state's Office of Recovery and Reinvestment, says Racine County is due another $29 million in stimulus money, bringing the county's total to about $75.1 million.

Racine Unified was one of the top stimulus recipients with $19.4 million paid out of about $30.3 million awarded. The district received $15 million out of the "State Stabilization Fund."

The City of Racine received over $1.5 million in stimulus money for roads and a bike trail. The city received:

* $600,000 for a road project on North Main Street
* $382,000 for work on Spring Street
* $550,000 for a bike path
* $668,000 for South Memorial Drive
* $195,000 for Taylor Avenue

Statewide, the top stimulus category, by far, is education spending at more than $1.2 billion. Second is transportation and infrastructure spending at $670 million.

The Front Porch: Transitional Living Center Gets a Hand in Helping Homeless People

By Debra Karp

When Melissa Eitel first stepped foot in the Guest House at Burlington’s Transitional Living Center (TLC), little did she know that she would someday serve on the staff of the nonprofit organization that helps people who are homeless find their way back to independence. Now working toward an Associate Degree in Human Resources at Gateway Technical College, Eitel recently accepted a permanent staff position at TLC.

“Back in 2007, when I was released from prison, I was accepted into the TLC program. It was a very powerful sixty days. I felt an abundance of love and acceptance,” Eitel said. While living at the temporary shelter, Eitel utilized every referral she was given including agencies that helped her with counseling, career coaching and clothes for job interviews.

“I wanted a better life than before I went to prison,” Eitel said, emphatically. After 60 days, Eitel had a job and was able to afford her own apartment; but she missed the warmth and companionship she felt at TLC and continued to go back, soon volunteering to provide rides for the women and children. In her new role at TLC, she continues to act as a role model for the other women in the shelter. “I tell them my story to give them hope---let them know there is life after homelessness.”

Those other homeless women Eitel refers to almost did not have a place to go at all. In the fall of 2008, TLC was facing a serious financial crisis and the board of directors considered closing its doors. But with support from University of Wisconsin-Parkside’s CAN (Capacity-building Assistance for Nonprofits) Program and a committed group of donors, TLC is now financially stable and serving more people than ever before.

“A year and a half ago, the direction that UW-Parkside gave as far as where to go was huge for us,” said Dr. David Taylor, President of the TLC Board of Directors. “The knowledge base and information was critical to the survival of our organization.”

UW-Parkside’s CAN Program is one of the many provided by its Center for Community Partnerships (CCP). Funded by a $1.5 million three year Compassion Capital Demonstration Fund grant from the US Department of Health and Human Services, the CAN program provides free training, technical and financial assistance to build capacity in nonprofit organizations in Racine and Kenosha Counties.

In 2008, CCP staff conducted a comprehensive organizational assessment. Subsequently, in 2009, TLC received a grant from the CAN program to hire a consultant to help them create a Fund Development plan and train the board and staff in implementing it.

“The organizational assessment gave us a map and proved to be a great steering tool as we pulled ourselves out of the immediate chaos of a grassroots organization,” said Carol Marefka, a TLC volunteer who served on the board until 2009. “The CAN Program came at just the right time for TLC. We had successfully built a shelter, but needed to figure out how to run it.”

According to Marefka, TLC is now a stable organization with six months operating cash in the bank and a small capital reserve fund. They received funding from the United Way of Racine County for the first time in 2009 and have the capacity to work with twice as many as people as they could in 2006.

Though the guidance of the CAN program contributed to their success, it was also the hard work of the TLC board and staff as well as the generosity of the Burlington community businesses and individuals that ultimately allowed the organization to continue in its mission, according to Taylor.

Since 2008, over seventy nonprofit organizations in the CAN program have received free training and technical assistance provided by CCP staff or through community-based learning projects completed by students and faculty at UW-Parkside. In addition, the university has awarded over $600,000 for capacity building projects to nonprofit organizations in Kenosha and Racine Counties.

UWP does not do this work alone. Seven community partners collaborate to implement the program including the UW Cooperative Extension of Racine and Kenosha Counties, United Ways of Kenosha and Racine Counties, Kenosha County Department of Human Services, Racine County Department Human Services, and the Volunteer Center of Racine.

Front Porch Rockers

1) Attend Mentor Training: Mentor Kenosha & Racine presents “Gang Diversion 101” on Wednesday, April 14th from 4:30-6:00 in Tallent Hall 281. Community representatives will discuss why kids join gangs and what can be done to change their path. Learn more at or 262-595-2652.

2) Register for Camp at UW-Parkside: Join us for a week filled with Rockets, Robots, Astronauts, Scientists, and Space Flight Simulations at Space Camp Exploration for 6th thru 12th Grade Students! July 19-23, 2010

3) View a Film: UWP hosts a four-film Kente Film Festival continuing through May. Each of the featured movies were created and directed by African American women filmmakers. Admission is free and open to everyone.

Debra Karp is the Director of Community-Based Scholarship and Nonprofit Development at the University of Wisconsin – Parkside. Contact her directly at

Judge Torhorst attacks Herrera over campaign claims; Says Gasiorkiewicz the better candidate

A sitting Racine County judge jumped into the judicial campaign between Georgia Herrera and Gene Gasiorkiewicz on Thursday with a stern letter rebuking Herrera for challenging Gasiorkiewicz's qualifications.

Judge Allan "Pat" Torhorst, deputy chief judge of the Second Judicial District, said Herrera's claims against Gasiorkiewicz have "no basis." His letter criticized Herrera for lacking judicial experience.

"A judge must have been prepared by a broad experience, which Ms. Herrera simply does not have," Torhorst wrote. "The circuit court benches cannot be a training ground."

Here's Torhhorst's letter:

March 24, 2010

Volunteer Center will honor 12 at luncheon

Twelve individuals will be honored for their volunteer activities at a ceremony and luncheon at the Racine Marriott on Friday April 16. A reception and silent auction will be held from 11:30 a.m. to noon. The welcome luncheon is from noon – 12:45 p.m. and concludes with awards program by 1:30 p.m. Tickets are available at the Volunteer Center, 886-9612.

The twelve were chosen based on volunteer accomplishments; impact on an individual group or community; and leadership from nominations submitted by area individuals and nonprofit organizations.

Kristin Hildebrandt, Agriculture Award, Sponsored by CNH American: Kristin has been an outstanding 4-H youth leader, President of Wisconsin Junior Poultry Association, is a Girl Scout Gold Award Winner, and a teen member-at-large on the Girl Scouts Council’s Board of Directors. Her volunteerism and leadership abilities are outstanding for a young leader of tomorrow.

Diane Carlson, Arts & Culture Award, Sponsored by Twin Disc: Diane has been volunteering in the arts since 8th grade. She is one of the founding members of the Over Our Head Players and for 18 years has continued to give freely of her time and talents to this and other community groups.

Andrea Bumpurs, Economic Development Award, Sponsored by Midwest Paralegal Services: Andrea began volunteering in 1966 as a Peace Corps member in Gabon teaching English as a foreign language. Her integrity, dedication & motivation to continue volunteering and promoting Racine is shared in her numerous and varied community involvements and excellent leadership.

Laura Terry, Education Award, Sponsored by Educators Credit Union: Laura volunteers twice a week instructing Racine Friendship Clubhouse members in computer skills. Her determination, patience and compassion have greatly impacted clubhouse members.

Sharon Shouldice, Environmental Award, Sponsored by Modine Manufacturing: Sharon has been a master gardener since 1994, sharing her talents and expertise volunteering at Southern Oaks Girls School, Graham Public Library in Union Grove, Racine Zoo and on numerous other projects. She spends countless hours in planning, organizing and implementing ways to be an effective volunteer.

Gloria Rodgers, Good Neighbor Award, Sponsored by Racine County State Farm Insurance: Gloria is an avid Meals on Wheels, HALO, Toys for Tots and Sister Friend for the Racine-Kenosha Birthing Project. For 39 years she has also been a Big Sister for numerous little sisters and assisting neighbors in need.

Sandy DeWalt, Health Services Award, Sponsored by Frederick & Deborah Genaway: Sandy, has been a volunteer and advocate for Sexual Assault Services for 10 years, volunteering more than 2,700 hours. She answers the 24-hour crisis line and responds to those in need at the hospital as a volunteer advocate for sexual assault survivors.

Sammuel Markstrom, Heroic Award, Sponsored by Volunteer Center of Racine Board of Directors: Sammuel, is an avid Ham radio operator who volunteers more than 20 hours a month at his young age of 10. He volunteers during disasters at the Sheriff’s station running nets, giving weather reports and assisting 911 operators. In 2009 his messages resulted in a warning to residents to seek shelter after the Kenosha tornado was spotted.

Chuck Joseph, Human Service Award, Sponsored by Racine Dominicans: Chuck has been a TRIAD volunteer for six years sharing his technical writing skills on safety matters, crime prevention, and especially fraud/scams, which target seniors. He is also a member of the Safety Commission providing traffic safety issues for Racine County.

Karen Schmidt, Senior Award, Sponsored by Styberg Foundation: Karen is an avid senior volunteer. For 25 years she served as a Big Sister, a Visitors & Convention Bureau volunteer, 20 year Caledonia garden club member, 1888 school house volunteer and for 10 years she has been a senior volunteer with the Volunteer Center serving as an Advisory Council member, Community Relations member, baker, basket maker and more!

George “Skip” Twardosz, Veteran Award, Sponsored by Tri City National Bank: Skip is a veteran, retired police officer and Emergency Management Coordinator for Racine City Emergency Management. As an advisor to UW Parkside’s Sacred Circle he shares his Potawatomi descent and woodland style traditional dancing with students.

Racheal Smetana, Youth Award, Sponsored by Johnson Bank: Racheal is a St. Catherine’s high school avid volunteer. This young teen is dependable, enthusiastic, dedicated, self-motivated and reliable. She is a mentor for middle school youth, tutors for HALO, volunteers for Habitat for Humanity, Special Olympics, Camp Kinder, St. Rose Meal Program, and various other community activities. At St. Catherine’s, she is President of the Student Council, Editor of the school yearbook, peer helper and more.

County launches taxi-like service for local seniors

Racine County seniors have a new way of getting around.

County Board Supervisor Van Wanggaard sent over information about ITNRacineCounty, which offers a taxi-like service for local seniors. The Racine County Board signed a contract with ITNAmerica in December to create the service.

To use the service, seniors need to pay a $40 membership fee ($50 for families) and a certain amount per ride. ITNRacineCounty's website says the average cost is $10 per ride, which includes a pickup charge and a mileage charge. Tipping is not allowed. Low income seniors can apply for scholarships to help cover the costs of the service.

The program relies on volunteers and corporate sponsorships to provide rides to seniors.

Wanggaard described the new service as an affordable way to expand local transportation options. Wanggaard writes:
While other elected officials are tossing around ideas for new transportation systems with multi-million dollar price tags attached, my colleagues and I on the County Board, County Executive Bill McReynolds, and the County Human Services Department proactively worked to implement a program that delivers a valuable service to seniors at a very small up-front cost to the taxpayers. I am proud that instead of saying “It can’t be done” or “It can only be done with a large tax increase,” we worked towards an affordable transportation solution that will transform quality of life for our county’s seniors.
For more information about ITNRacineCounty, visit: or call (262) 664-1640.

March 23, 2010

Racine Symphony puts on a show for fifth-graders

About one-third of RSO's regular membership performed the two concerts.

About 1,700 fifth-graders got a taste of classical music Wednesday during two concerts put on by the Racine Symphony Orchestra.

Conductor Pasquale Laurino led the symphony through two 45-minute concerts for the 10- and 11-year-olds, teachers and the public.

The symphony played the "Star-Spangled Banner," Mozart's "Symphonia Concertante for Winds 1st Movement" led by Bria Kaufman on clarinet, Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf," Mozart's "Marriage of Figaro Overture" and Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever."

Kathy Berg sang the national anthem along with the symphony, her husband Greg Berg read the story "Peter and the Wolf," and the entire audience helped Laurino conduct the final number.

The concert was part of the RSO's annual outreach effort to local schools. This year the symphony played for all fifth-graders in Racine Unified, several local parochial schools and home-schooled students. The public was also invited to the performance, which was held at Grace Church on Highway 31. About 1,850 people attended the two concerts.

"Part of our mission is about education," said Bonnie Prochaska, interim executive director of RSO. "To have opportunities for studetns to see the orchestra playing classical music, and a fun concert, like 'Peter and the Wolf,' is about educating our young people."

Fifth-graders raise their hands when Laurino asks how many play instruments.

This lucky fifth-grader got to take Laurino's baton and lead the symphony in Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever."

Chicago stations go dark on Time-Warner

More Chicago stations are disappearing from Racine's Time-Warner lineup.

Or maybe it's just a glitch that suddenly, and without warning, brings up a blank screen tonight whenever I click over to:
WMAQ, NBC, Channel 5
WLS, ABC, Channel 7
WGN, Superstation, Channel 9
WFLD, Fox, Channel 13
Didn't notice this until emailed by an alert RacinePost reader, and it's now too late to get an answer from Time-Warner's customer service.

Wonder if it has anything to do with the "realignment" Time-Warner made in September and October of 2009, that cost us WTTW, Channel 11, the Chicago PBS station.

The missing network programs, of course, are still available on the Milwaukee stations remaining on our cable system. But anyone who wanted to keep up with Chicago and Illinois news, or the various syndicated shows those stations offered, is out of luck.

UPDATE: Mark Czerniec reports in the comments, below, that Time-Warner is blaming an outage, and says it's being repaired. You can follow the issue on Twitter.

I emailed Time-Warner Help, and got a quick, although ambiguous, response:
"Last I was told is that we are still working on the issue. I was unable to get an estimated time when the channels would be returned. Sorry for the inconvenience."
Wonder how much this will reduce our cable bill?

Racine Camera Club picks two digital winners

The Racine Camera Club’s second digital competition this year yielded awards for Kathy Brand for "Blue Bottle," above, and Nancy Burke for "Architecture and The Moon," below.

Honorable mentions went to Glenn Surendonk for "Follow the Leader," Kathy Brand for "Tracks," and Jason Madson for "Central Park" and "Remember Brooklyn."

Forty images were entered in the competition. Judges were Gene Dodd, Leonard Peterson and Jim Georgeson.

Members of the RCC will be exhibiting their artwork at the 16th Street Artist's Studios beginning Sat., March 27, with an Open House from 1 to 4 p.m. The location is the Racine Business Center, 1405 16th St. in downtown Racine.

The club’s next meeting Thursday, April 8, will feature a program on macro/close-up photography with "props" as examples. Go to for more details. The public is invited to attend at no charge.

Grassroots movement underway for chickens in Racine

A grassroots movement is underway to allow city residents to keep chickens in their backyards.

Flyers around town are directing people to:, which lays out the case for allowing city residents to raise up to four chickens. The site states:
Belle City Chickens is a group of like-minded, pro-poultry people (also known as the "poultry underground"). Our aim is to educate the urban population on the benefits of raising ones own food, and to bring to light the misconceptions people might have about the raising of poultry in an urban setting.
Benefits for backyard chickens include:

* Source of fresh eggs
* Fertilizer for the garden
* Inexpensive, easy pets
* Promotes self-sufficient communities

Alderman Greg Helding and local resident Amanda DeSonia, who sits on the city's Parks and Rec Board, are behind the push to legalize chickens in Racine. No word on when an ordinance will come out, but the idea has been in the works for months.

Any proposal is likely to limit residents to four hens, female chickens, per yard. Roosters, male chickens, would be illegal. Hens would have to be kept in coops and would not be allowed to run free.

For more info, check out

Volunteer Opportunities: Kiwanis's 56th Annual Pancake Day; Fishing clinic

It’s a Kiwanis’s tradition! Saturday, May 1, and volunteers are needed in all areas of set up and serving for this pancake and sausage meal and hometown community event! There are four shifts for you to choose from; one will surely fit your schedule. Volunteers must be at least 12 years old. Special note: Volunteers are also needed for table and chair set up on Friday, April 30, 11:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. Those who assist will receive a free ticket for Pancake Day.

Salmon Unlimited is once again sponsoring the Free Kids’ Fishing Clinic on Saturday, April 10, 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at Quarry Lake Park, 3540 Northwestern Avenue. Help is needed during the hour-long clinics and to serve free hot dogs and soda. All fishing equipment is provided. Sign up for the 9:00 a.m. to noon or noon to 3:00 p.m. shifts or stay all day!

Wednesday, May 26, is the date for the 17th Annual Crime Stoppers Golf Outing at South Hills Country Club, Frontage Road in Franksville. This fundraiser supports crime prevention information and provides money for individuals who provide tips leading to criminal capture and conviction. Shifts are available for both indoor and outdoor activities. Indoor responsibilities include silent auction table set up and raffle ticket sales. Outdoor assistance is needed with golfer registration and event hole monitoring.

Hopes Center, 506 7th Street, Racine, needs an individual to answer phones, direct calls, greet clients, and use a computer to schedule Healing Arts appointments. Volunteers must have a clear speaking voice, an ability to take messages, and be friendly. Other duties may be requested. Three hour shifts are available between 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. The facility is handicapped accessible.

The Senior Companion Program, 5635 Erie Street, is looking for volunteers who have a few hours each month to spend visiting or calling an older person who is homebound. The program’s mission is to enhance the quality of life for older adults through friendship, socialization, and advocacy. This is a Ministry of the Racine Dominican Sisters. Your time can be a priceless gift to someone. Sign on to be a companion today.

Lincoln Lutheran of Racine is seeking volunteers to help with activities at the Becker Shoop Center, 6101 16th Street. Opportunities include baking groups on Saturday afternoons, gardening groups in spring and summer, and just friendly visits with residents. Schedules are flexible, but volunteers should be 16 or older unless accompanied by a responsible adult.

If you are interested in any of the listed volunteer opportunities or others on file at the Volunteer Center of Racine County, call 262-886-9612 or toll free (Racine County only) at 1-800-201-9490 or email us at or visit our web site at Office hours are weekday from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. at 6216 Washington Avenue, Suite G.

Johnson Foundation to focus on 'freshwater crisis'

As World Water Day 2010 was observed Monday across the globe, The Johnson Foundation announced a new initiative to focus long-overdue attention on the emerging freshwater crisis within the United States: a Freshwater Summit to be held at Wingspread on June 9.

Intensified by climate change, this "quiet crisis" threatens access to safe drinking water, the reliable supply of surface water and groundwater resources for agricultural, industrial and recreational uses, and the health of natural ecosystems, according to experts.

The Johnson Foundation's Freshwater Forum has convened 100 freshwater experts at a series of conferences to explore the emerging crisis and propose solutions. Conference findings are contributing to a new national agenda for action to put the United States on a course toward sustainable, safe water supplies by 2025.

That agenda will be shaped by leaders in business, government and non-governmental organizations invited to the summit at Wingspread.

"Over and over we have heard that U.S. freshwater policy has lurched from crisis to crisis over the last 30 years without a national strategy or set of clear, actionable national goals," said Roger Dower, Foundation president. "We hope the Wingspread Summit can be a catalyst for fulfilling this vital public need, and do so in a way that brings together diverse interests committing to consensus solutions."

The Foundation's decision to focus on freshwater issues is based in part on the view that earlier progress from the such 1970s legislation as the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act, may have led to complacency in the face of current environmental and economic realities.

"We no longer see pictures of rivers on fire, most point sources of pollution are treated before being discharged into our lakes and streams, and we have markedly decreased or eliminated many critical waterborne diseases," said Dower.

"But this success may have fostered a dangerous notion that we have successfully addressed the freshwater issue; that we can now 'check that box' and move on. Far from it. Quietly, a crisis has been building that has yet to capture the full attention of leading public and private policymakers or the American public. We ignore this 'quiet crisis' at our peril," Dower said.

In conjunction with the Summit, The Johnson Foundation will issue a report describing the dimensions of this crisis such as:
* Threats to human health from polluted water, with new public health risks identified regularly that were not anticipated by the Clean Water Act, such as groundwater contamination and endocrine disruptive chemicals in drinking water supplies

* Regional and local water shortages that create economic and political turmoil, along with growing competition between municipalities, agricultural users and ecosystems for increasingly scarce freshwater resources.

* Aging and inadequate water infrastructure systems that pose not only health risks, but enormous financial burdens given the projected costs of building and financing municipal drinking water and wastewater systems - at a time of tremendous stress on public budgets. Estimates from the Congressional Budget Office and the U.S. EPA have pegged those costs as ranging from $500 billion to $1.2 trillion over the 20-year period ending in 2019.

* National food security threatened by unsustainable water withdrawals and land use practices affecting surface and groundwater supplies and water quality.

* Climate change that is altering the hydrologic cycle, leading to drought, severe flooding, reduced snowpack, dwindling aquifers and other affects that may have permanently altered our environment.
* A failure to recognize the powerful linkage between water and energy and adjust public and private planning and investment accordingly. Traditional and new sources of energy use tremendous amounts of both fresh and salt water, while water treatment and movement is responsible for at least 13 percent of U.S. electrical consumption - contributing significantly to greenhouse gas emissions.
Lynn Broaddus, The Foundation's director of environment programs, noted that America's ability to address the global impact of water scarcity and contamination depends in part on addressing its own water challenges.

"Our focus on water often turns, with good reason, to helping those whose very survival is threatened by scarcity or contamination of water supplies," said Broaddus. "As we continue to devote financial and humanitarian resources to this global crisis, we must recognize that our ability to help others is increasingly linked to more effective management of our own water resources.

"For example, the world's growing population depends on U.S. food exports, but if we are going to do our part to feed the world, we need to figure out how to support sustainable agricultural production here in the United States," she said.

Food and agriculture are the leading consumers of water, with an estimated 70 percent of the water taken from surface water and groundwater used for irrigation.

The Johnson Foundation Freshwater Forum is an effort to bring together experts who approach domestic freshwater issues from different vantage points: climate science, public health, protection of natural ecosystems, agriculture and food production, energy, and municipal water and wastewater management.

For more information, including conference reports, see the Freshwater Forum online.

March 22, 2010

Is health care spending a black hole?

By Randolph Brandt
For RacinePost

One of the “givens” in the late health-care reform debate was broad acceptance that spending for health care eats up a tremendous portion of the nation’s GDP – now about 16 percent – and promises to consume more and more of the nation’s productivity over the next decades.

Indeed, part of health-care reform was framed as a means of slowing this otherwise inexorable progression, and that’s probably good.

Despite our Rep. Paul Ryan’s scary charts, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office made a clear case for how health-care reform will save more government expense than it costs over the next couple decades.

But, let’s say, that turns out not to be the case, and somehow it winds up costing more.

What’s wrong with a country spending a larger portion of its GDP on health care for its citizens? Is it worse, for example, than spending more of our GDP on, say, more cars, or more refrigerators or more televisions or cell phones, especially since so many of those products are now made overseas?

It’s not like the money spent here on health care just goes away.

For one thing, the investment presumably makes our people healthier. As anybody who’s ever gone to work with a head cold already knows, you’re not very productive, innovative or effective when you’re sick.

When you’re very sick – or even disabled by an otherwise preventable chronic illness – it gets even worse. Your productivity then falls to zero.

When he was home secretary of Great Britain in the early 20th century, Winston Churchill famously said that the best investment a country could make was putting milk into babies. It ensured a healthier, more productive generation, capable of working harder to create a better future for everyone.

A sickly, unhealthy generation could only do less. (Fortunately the ‘milk-into-babies’ generation was strong enough to help us beat Hitler.)

It’s hard to figure how putting milk into babies is akin to pouring it down the sink.

Nor is it any easier to figure how spending money on health care is pouring dollars down the sink.

Typically, the local hospital is one of the community’s largest employers. Often, it is the largest. It pays very high salaries and wages to doctors, to nurses, to highly trained technicians – not exactly dead-end jobs at the local fast-food joint.

And it’s not like these good jobs can be exported overseas; they need to remain right here, making our local communities and their people better, stronger.

Indeed, it’s the other way around. We actually import people for the privilege of studying and working in health care here.

Intelligent, capable people from around the world study years for these jobs, helping to maintain this country’s premier position as the world’s destination for advanced study in the field of medicine. Similarly, it ensures the nation’s first-place status among all countries for advanced medical research and development, with Wisconsin very much in the forefront in that regard.

The health-care reform bill is about to bring better health care to 30-40 million people, likely even more. To do that, we’re going to need to train thousands, probably tens of thousands more doctors, nurses, medical technicians, office administrators, support staff, researchers, drug-developers, scientists … the ripple effect for our economy will be nothing less than enormous.

Americans value life so much, we even put it in the Constitution, as in “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

It’s sometimes said that other societies value life less, though I don’t necessarily believe that. It’s enough to know that we value life a lot.

So, we’re willing to invest in it.

From now on, when I see comparison GDP figures from different countries, I’m not going to ask why we seem to spend so much more for health care for our citizens; I’m going to ask why others invest so much less.
Randolph D. Brandt is the retired editor of the Journal Times.

Finance committee delays votes on Downtown parades, no-bid contracts

The Finance and Personnel Committee put off decisions on waiving fees for Downtown parades and changing the city's bidding process for professional services.

Alderman Jeff Coe an Jean Garbo of the Downtown Racine Corp. asked the committee to waive over $1,500 in fees to close streets, hire cops and clean streets during and after the St. Patrick's Day and Christmas parades.

While the committee put off a decision, they seemed skeptical. They noted if they waive the fees for these events they're getting close to having to waive fees for all events.

Police Chief Kurt Wahlen, who happened to be at the meeting for other items, also pointed out the city was not in position to waive the fees for the off-duty officers used during the parades. The officers are hired out by a private company.

Coe asked the committee to receive-and-file the motion so he could bring back a new proposal to secure the city as an official sponsor of the events. By ordinance, the city only sponsors two events per year: the Fourth of July parade and the Memorial Day parade.

Aldermen Terry McCarthy and Greg Helding asked the committee to require city departments to bid out contracts for professional services. McCarthy raised the issue after controversy arose over Mayor John Dickert's effort to give a no-bid $40,000 contract to a videographer to rework the city's cable-access TV station, CAR25.

Dickert was able to offer the contract because city ordinances do not require bids for professional services. McCarthy and Helding would like to change that, but they'll have some convincing to do.

Finance Director Dave Brown said the proposal would create more work for his department, and Deputy City Attorney Scott Letteney said it would be awkward for the city to bid out for legal services.

Their arguments appeared to convince Alderman QA Shakoor II to lean against the proposal, and Finance Chairman Jim Spangenberg said he needed more information.

The committee voted to defer action, and McCarthy and Helding said they would bring back a spreadsheet showing only 12 city contracts would be affected by the ordinance.

For a complete wrap of Monday's committee meeting, checkout the live-blog below.

Commentary: Transit is about creating jobs, not ideology

By Roger Caron, President, Racine Area Manufacturers and Commerce and
Jeff Van Koningsveld, President, IBEW Local 430, and co-chair of the Racine Transit Task Force

Transit is about economic growth and jobs – JOBS, not ideology.

If we want jobs and a stronger economy, we must pass Regional Transit Authority legislation in Wisconsin and not let politics hinder progress and prosperity. Let’s take constructive action that will build us up as a county and region.

Lower the volume on all the fear and misinformation and an alarming fact still rings clear: we have the second highest unemployment rate in the state. There’s no denying that we must do something about jobs and unemployment.

Nor can we deny government’s responsibility to serve the people. All transportation modes, not just roads, are the responsibility of government. Individuals can’t get our faltering bus system in order; our leaders must. The only way we can effectively develop the transit we need to strengthen our economic future is through cooperation and a regional effort.

Racine CEOs testified at an Assembly hearing in Madison recently that passing RTA legislation would be the single most productive action our representatives can take to impact job creation and cultivate economic growth while also allowing us to adequately fund bus service, the cornerstone of any regional transit system.

Ideological differences and political positioning are creating an environment that’s hindering wise investment of our resources in transit projects that leverage significant private dollars and federal funds to create jobs and get people connected to jobs. Left unused, this federal money goes to other states and regions. Isn’t it time we started to finally get our fair share of the dollars we send to Washington?

Besides allowing us to improve deteriorating bus transit, the RTA bill is necessary for securing federal funding for KRM commuter rail, which would network with buses to expand connections to economic opportunities in other areas. KRM will also help make us more competitive with places such as Minneapolis, St. Louis, and other peer metro areas in attracting jobs and businesses.

For the short term, simply building the KRM line, along with projected growth around the project, will create nearly 4,700 jobs. In addition, KRM will help support the creation of another 71,000 jobs linked to both short- and long-term development.

Although these jobs are in and near Racine and along the KRM corridor, they impact everyone. The people working them will be from all parts of the county. And, as the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission notes, everyone will gain access to over 1 million jobs within the Chicago-Milwaukee corridor as a result of better bus connections and KRM.

Some people have voiced doubt about KRM ridership projections of over 2 million passengers a year. Ridership figures are modest and based on years of highly scrutinized studies. The projection methodology and formulas (required by the Federal Transit Administration) are purposely very conservative. Ridership results for most new transit line using the same required methodology have exceeded estimates far sooner than expected, as evidenced in Phoenix, Charlotte, Minneapolis and many other metro areas.

Looking at other areas shows there are tax base benefits too. For example, in addition to helping create 91,000 permanent jobs by this year, Metrorail in Northern Virginia will also generate 2.1 billion in tax revenue, 26.8 million square feet of commercial development, and 31,000 additional residential units, according to the Urban Land Institute.

And while the naysayer might note Racine is not Northern Virginia, nor are we some dustbowl town with no vision and no future – that is unless we choose to let ideological bickering and political acrimony get in our way.

Locally, KRM train stations, including two here in Racine County, are projected to similarly spur increased property values by an estimated $7.8 billion and generate $750 million increase in retail sales over 25 years.

And the public decidedly favors RTA passage. That hearing in Madison we mentioned earlier drew a broadly representative overflow crowd, many of them from our local communities, and yielded seven hours of testimony. Just one person voiced only mild opposition, a clear indication that this is not a partisan issue. Why make it one?

Let’s tell our legislators to get the RTA bill—a jobs bill—done now. We all need to stand up and support our legislators that advocate for this very important, forward-thinking legislation!

Gas prices hit $3/gallon in Racine

Gas prices hit $3 a gallon in parts of the city over the weekend, but that's far from the best deal in the city.

Prices ranged from $2.85 per gallon to $3 per gallon at Racine area gas stations. The state average is $2.88 per gallon, according to Nationally, gas prices averaged $2.82 per gallon.

Prices are up about 80 cents over the past year and 20 cents in the past month.

City launches program to cut homeowners' energy bills

A city program to make homes more energy efficient at little or no cost to homeowners is underway.

Retrofit Racine launched in March and work is underway on select properties, according to the program's website.

The program is available to anyone in the city with a home built between 1946 and 1975. Retrofit Racine will cover the upfront costs of making homes more efficient, and homeowners will pay back the costs using savings on their energy bill.

If you're interested, sign up for the program at:

Celebrating 175 years: Underground Racine ...

We've fallen behind a bit on our "Celebrating 175 Years" series about Racine's storied history. We hope to get back on track this week with two or three new posts. The first is a short one featuring a great photo from Gerald Karwowski's collection at the "Oak Clearing Farm and Museum."

The photo shows a sewer project through West Racine. Here's the caption for the photo:
According to records at the city engineer's office, the Cedar Bend Sewer project began in 1913. The first section of the project was constructed between Root River and West Blvd. Later the line was extended to Lathrop Avenue. Max Sommerfeld, who operated a Barbershop in West Racine, went into the sewer and snapped a few photos of workmen. This like, most of the city's early sewers, was constructed of brick or block, many of which have been replaced by concrete pipe.