Monday, August 9, 2010

Hey, JT! Help Mitchell!

Dear Journal Times,

It's time for you to help. I know you're hard at work re-writing police reports and reminding us that Frank Lloyd Wright's roofs leak. It's good to be reminded there's crime in our city and that flat surfaces don't do well in Wisconsin's winters. But now it's time to redirect your efforts.

Mitchell Middle School is hard at work trying to win $500,000 to improve its building. Teachers, principals, students and parents are rallying together to rally the community to simply vote for Mitchell on Facebook. That's it. If enough people in the Racine area simply click their mouse buttons enough time an aging schools gets a half-million dollars. That's $500,000 that doesn't come from taxpayers or the school district's textbook budget. It's purely outside money, a free gift, a windfall for city middle-schoolers. All it takes is a few votes.

Mitchell has a real shot at winning. Monday morning they were in 22nd place in the nation, just behind at least a dozen schools that are giving away free iPads to get people to vote. The top 20 schools each win $500,000. We should also note Racine's Knapp Elementary is also making a run at the Kohl's contest. They got in a little late and have some work to do, but if enough people in Racine rally, they could vote for both Mitchell and Knapp and help both schools along.

But here's the thing. People have to know about the contest to vote in the contest. If they know, of course they'll vote. Who wouldn't? But if they don't know, how can they vote?

That's where you come in, JT (and by JT I'm talking specifically to you Mark Lewis and Steve Lovejoy). You could help Mitchell win $500,000, and probably Knapp, too. All it'd take are some stories, some free house ads and an editorial or two. Here's the plan:

1. Write a kickoff story this week telling everyone about the contest and how to vote. Document the renovations Mitchell and Knapp plan to make with the money, tell people how they can join efforts to rally the city, and update progress on how Mitchell is using the $50,000 it won from Pepsi to rebuild its science classrooms. You've got art, a main story and a sidebar - perfect for your Tuesday or Wednesday front page. (I'd strongly suggest focusing on Mitchell, because they're just a few hundred votes out of the money. Knapp has a shot, but it's a long one.)

2. Every day after that, through the contest's Sept. 3 deadline, run a small box on the front page reminding people to "Vote for Mitchell & Knapp!" This is 2-3 paragraphs, easy to slot in. Maybe even run it in your skyboxes as a permanent badge through Sept. 3.

3. Create a free house ad and run it every day through Sept. 3. Easy enough, you certain run enough of your own house ads.

4. Write editorials calling on the community to vote. Appeal to their civic duty, and their bottomlines. Call for companies to get all of their employees to vote, and parents of students in all schools to support Mitchell and Knapp with the understanding that their school will get its chance. Suggest Unified, the city, RCEDC, RAMAC, YPR, Leadership Racine and other groups study creating a social media/grant director position specifically to find new ways to pay for our schools needs. It sure beats raising everyone's taxes.

So that's it, JT. There's your four-point plan for rallying support and helping our schools win a significant amount of money to improve our students' education. Take a risk, actually care about the community. Use your power for good. You can make a difference here, you can even take all of the credit. Do it well and I bet you could even win a Lee President's Award ('JT helps school wins $500,000' has a nice ring to it.)

And, here's the reality: Mitchell and Knapp can't do it without you. Right now they're outgunned by rival schools around the country and they need a powerful ally to aid their cause. You're that ally. It's time for you to help.

Dear Readers,

Help us convince the JT to jump in here. Contact Editor Steve Lovejoy ( and Publisher Mark Lewis (, or either at 634-3322, and let them know you want the JT to back Mitchell and Knapp.

If you'd like to help more directly, contact Mitchell organizer Kim Wendt at and let her know you'd like to get involved.

Thanks much,


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Note to readers

Dear all,

Thanks for reading and supporting RacinePost. You make this all worth while. This is just a quick message to let you all know we're really here to serve you. Pete and I spend a lot of time chasing our own story ideas and covering things we believe will be interesting to you, but we're not at our most effective without feedback, tips and insights from the community. The more we hear from you, the better job we can do. Here's a few things we love getting from readers:

1. Story tips of all kinds. We're not just looking for gossipy, huge breaking news. We're looking for the interesting, even small, stories that make up our lives. I just posted something on our Facebook page about hundreds of dragonflies outside of my apartment. Another reader let us know about the Greater Kennel Club's dog show this weekend. If you find it interesting, chances are good we'll find it interesting.

2. Any and all business news. We'll take anything we can get about new businesses, promotions, awards, new products, accomplishments ... literally anything about Racine businesses. The more the better - nothing is too small.

3. Questions. Wonder about something? Send us a note and we'll track it down. Chances are good it'll lead to a great story.

4. Anything else you can imagine. The beauty of online news is we have unlimited space. If you're inspired, drop us a line!

You can reach us at: or (262) 864-1376. We look forward to hearing from you!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Prankster spoofs Mayor Dickert's flooding press release

Oh, boy. Some merry pranksters on Sixth Street sent over a press release sending up Mayor John Dickert's report on the city's response to the near flooding of the Root River last weekend. We're posting the mock press release below. Proceed with caution ... and repeat, this is a SPOOF ...
500 Block of Sixth Street Shines Bright Amidst Rubbish Havoc

“Bestest block in the whole wide world,” passing stranger exuberantly declares
RACINE – Facing a potential garbage crisis over the weekend due to heavy alcohol consumption, Sixth Street officials and neighborhood heads gathered in their secret office late last Friday morning to lay out a plan of action. 
As the meeting dispersed, the sun poked its head out, ever so slightly, through the rain clouds – the rays of sunshine were a sign of things to come. 
“When this street is challenged it stands up together to meet the challenge,” Dickert said. “This street and its residents really came through in shining fashion. In fact, I’m not sure it’s ever shined brighter. I honestly believe there isn’t another block in this country which could beat the collective effort our residents put up last weekend. I’m very proud of our street.” 
The havoc revelers were trying to create was due in part to the seven shots of Patron that had hit the Milwaukee area last Thursday night. The forecast at the time of the meeting in the secret office was for more heavy consumption in the area on Friday and Saturday. Bladders were predicted to reach flood levels over the weekend and the memories of the flood of 2008 seemed to be in the back of everyone’s minds.” 
During the meeting, Dusty Rhodes, Commissioner of the Department of Works, carefully explained the plan which would be put in motion that day to police, fire, parks and recreation, health, and water and wastewater officials. 
The plan had several different stages to it depending on the levels the alcohol would reach with each stage having well-laid out plans of additional action. It was quickly made available on the front page on the Sixth Street bulletin board. 
When the meeting ended the immediate concern was for buildings along the north side of the block. There was also some concern for buildings at the end of Park Ave., along Villa Street, and at the far end of Seventh Street by Grand Avenue.. The DPW immediately delivered recycle bins (two sizes!) and garbage bags to the concerned areas.
Next, Chief Keith Fair and his Police Department and Chief Thomas Holmes and his Fire Department began delivering brightly-colored instructions in both English and Spanish to the buildings that could be in danger. 
“The plan and the cooperation and teamwork between all the departments involved and the general public made what could have been a difficult situation a lot easier,” said Chief Holmes. “There was a tremendous amount of cooperation involved and a lot of teamwork.” 
Fair’s police department also made calls to the homes in those areas relaying the DPW’s message. 
“The DPW’s plan was exceptional,” said Chief Fair, echoing Chief Holmes’ comments. “Everything was laid out. Everything they said would happen at certain levels, happened. All we had to do was monitor it. The plan was exceptional and so was the cooperation, as well as the teamwork.” 
As the house-to-house notifications began, Mayor Spodick, along with 11th Block Alderman Pete Karas - Chairman of Public Works and Services and 12th Block Alderman Betsy Walton - Chairman of Public Safety and Licensing, held a press conference with CAR25, the Journal Times, WRJN/Light rock 92.1, Racine Post, and Colt’s Green Racine to further distribute information and assure the public the block was on top of things and a plan was already being put into operation. 
Later on Friday, the Mayor and 8th Block Jim Spodick Aldermen Barry Sanders also went door-to-door speaking to the people whose buildings could be in danger. 
“We were very proactive and everything was very positive,” Block Alderman Barry Sanders said. “The city and the people worked well together. And that’s what it is all about. In order for this block to be successful it takes people, inch by inch, row by row, building by building, working together and that’s what we saw last weekend. That was the beauty of it.” 
The Mayor also visited certain areas with visiting 6th Block Alderman Kim from Asiana. In all, Mayor Spodick visited the potentially troubled areas three times on Friday, four times on Saturday, and three times on Sunday. 
“What I saw last weekend was truly inspirational, “Spodick added. “I saw people of every race, creed, and color, people ages 7 – 70, from all walks of life, helping with the garbage bags. I saw people come down whose homes weren’t in danger to help those whose homes were.” 
Mayor Spodick also pointed out that Dusty Rhodes not only put in place a great plan, but he was among those who helped fill garbage bags along with local homeless people who came to help even though they were off the clock. 
“I keep saying we are becoming known as the Block of Partnerships – creating new and valuable partnerships with those outside our community and strengthening the partnerships we have within our community , “Spodick said. “The partnerships we have within our community and the teamwork we have created as a result was never more evident than last weekend.” 
Unfortunately, the Blockheads did miss one house, located on Sixth and Villa, which had already begun to take on the brunt of the garbage before the officials arrived. 
“I’ll be the first to admit we were not aware of one building which was at a low cleanliness level,” Spodick said. “But as soon as we found out about it we were over there doing everything we could to help,” Spodick said.”I talked to him personally (owner – John Albert) until 11:00 pm Saturday and he seemed relieved we were there working with them, their friends and neighbors, although it doesn’t make the empty discarded bottle any easier.” 
The city did catch a break as the weekend progressed, the additional Jager-bombs that was predicted for Milwaukee on Friday never developed, the seven beer bongs that hit the Chicago area on Friday night stayed well south of Racine, and despite the possibility of additional heavy intoxication predicted, after noon on Friday, the block only got some light MGD 64’s early Saturday morning and a sprinkle of Hypnotiq later that night. 
“I had the utmost confidence in all the departments involved and that the plan we had in place would help us meet whatever developed,” Spaodick said. “I just kept telling people ‘Pray it doesn’t rain.” Thank God He was listening to our prayers.” 
Perhaps that was the best partnership of all over last weekend as it certainly aided in the 500 Block being able to shine as a community. 
The community has the ability to shine again this week as an organized cleanup will take place on Saturday from 2:30am to 4:00am. Interested volunteers should meet at the Overused Comma Club Headquarters on Sixth Street.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Support Racine's indie media

Just wanted to take a minute and point out some great local websites that really starting to cover the city ...

Racine Uncovered - Really coming into its own as a popular place for crime news and comments. It's a daily read.

Real Debate Wisconsin - Fred Dooley's blog was arguably the first independent local news website in Racine. It's hard work keeping a website running day in and day out, but Fred's done it, and done it well, for years.

Free Racine - Denis Navratil is another local workhorse blogger. He's been raising tough local questions for years.

RaScene - This self-described "badly illustrated blog of all things Racine" is off to a great start. Let's hope they keep the illustrations coming.

JT Irregulars - Great local site that keeps going strong. I like the mix of topics the contributors post, and the link to the Post, which is nice. They also have a link to listen to the Racine Police scanner.

Racine News - Nice-looking site with lots of news.

Wisconsin Internet News - A local start-up that's figuring things out with a dedicated news staff.

To any of our readers, please support independent media in Racine. To the independent sites, thanks for taking on the work of writing about our community. It's work that's too important to leave in the hands of any one entity.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Fundraiser concert for RacinePost this Sunday

Johnny Combs at the Brat Stop

Raytown Roadhouse is hosting a fundraiser concert for RacinePost on Sunday featuring a Johnny Cash Tribute by Johnny Combs.

The roadhouse is hosting two shows Sunday at 2 and 6 p.m. Tickets are $10. Proceeds benefit RacinePost and independent media in Racine. So not only is it a chance to hear some Johnny Cash tunes, have a few drinks and order off the Roadhouse menu, it's an opportunity to support the Post.

Any proceeds we receive from the show will go toward some exciting plans we have to expand the Post. If you support alternative media in Racine and new ways of sharing our city's unique and positive story, come on out for an afternoon of music, drinks and food. You can even ride El Diablo!

Click here for more on Johnny Combs, who has dedicated his musical career to performing Johnny Cash songs. A retired school custodian, Combs has played Cash tribute shows for more than 20 years. He started playing Cash songs while he was in the Army and realized his voice was similar to the country legend's. He used that gift to build a music career that's taken him across the country.

Sunday he'll play Cash songs, but Combs is also working on original tunes. He plans to release a CD of his songs, which he hopes carries on Cash's legacy.

Click here for details on the show.

10-Year-Plan Contest: We have a winner!

Three weeks ago we asked RacinePost readers to write a 10-year plan for the city of Racine, and offered anyone who entered with their real name a chance to win a gift certificate to Circa Celeste Cafe in Downtown Racine.

Today, we have a winner. Using a random drawing with scraps of paper found on my desk, Wayne Clingman is our selected author. Wayne wrote a 10-year plan focused on urban agriculture, alternative power and holding slum lords accountable.

Many, many thanks to everyone who participated. Seriously, if the mayor is still looking for a plan, all he need do is compile the ideas submitted to RacinePost and get started on the hard work of implementing these steps.

Read all submitted 10-year plans here.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Commentary: 10 reasons the mayor shouldn't write a 10-year plan

It's well known that Mayor John Dickert's 10-year plan is overdue. Dickert ran his winning campaign in 2009 on the tagline that he has a 10-year plan to make Racine a Top 10 city. Only problem? He didn't have a plan so much as a fuzzy idea of a plan he'd never actually written down.

Now, 14 months after he took office, the mayor is under pressure to release a plan to bolster his bid for re-election next April. This is a mistake. Here's 10 reasons the mayor shouldn't write a 10-year plan before the next election:

10. He won the last election without a plan. He can win this election without a plan.

9. He'll look stronger by resisting the calls for a plan than he will writing one. Releasing a plan now looks like he was strong-armed by the media and online comments.

8. It's a chance to get humble. The mayor can say it's a difficult job that's taken him a year just to begin to understand what it means to lead the city. Suggesting he can write a 10-year plan before he ever sat in the mayor's chair was an arrogant. Now that he's been in the job he understands the complexity of crafting a working document for the city, and he's begun the long process of formalizing his long-term thinking into a cohesive plan with the input of the Common Council, city residents and staff. This establishes him as the experienced candidate ready to build on two years in office, instead of Racine starting over again.

7. The election is long gone. Only the media is focusing on the 10-year plan. The rest of the city is just looking for relief from a down economy and long-standing problems.

6. Writing a plan is worse than not writing a plan. Putting one out now only reminds people it took you so long to do what you promised.

5. The mayor needs to focus on bringing jobs to Racine and reducing crime, not putting a couple ideas down on paper. He needs action not talk. Plans are for candidates. Acting is for mayors.

4. The mayor isn't a policy guy. He's a charismatic leader who risks getting backed into corners by putting specifics to his vision. Easier to work with the general idea of improvement, and trust that will win over voters.

3. No strong candidate has emerged to oppose the mayor. Creating a 10-year plan gives potential opponents an easy attack and the press a document to nitpick. 

2. Writing down a plan puts an enormous amount of pressure on a mayor to mobilize city staff and the Common Council to support the document. Until he can build consensus, which isn't easy to do in an election year, writing down a plan risks alienating too many people.

1. It's too late. Yeah, it was a political mistake to promise a 10-year plan and not deliver. But there's no sense on dwelling over the mistake. It's time to move on.

RacinePost readers submit their 10-year plans.