Pages

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 (steve.lovejoy@lee.net) and Publisher Mark Lewis (mark.lewis@lee.net), 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 kim.wendt@racine.k12.wi.us and let her know you'd like to get involved.

Thanks much,

-RacinePost

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: racinepost@gmail.com 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.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

10-Year Plan: City's future needs to be our plan, not just mayor's

By Ryan Gleason

During the last election for Mayor of Racine I found myself in a unique position as one of the moderators at the candidate debate held at Gateway Technical College between Bob Turner and John Dickert.  This was a role that myself and everyone else involved took very seriously.  Many hours went into the preparation and research to ensure that the questions asked were quality and got to the core of how the candidates were defining themselves to the public.

After going through the campaign web sites, newspaper articles, prior debates, interviews and other published material in the preparation for the debate, the candidate choice really boiled down to experience versus vision.  Bob Turner brought the experience and John Dickert brought the vision.  The cornerstone of Dickert's vision promise was making Racine a top ten city in ten years - and thus the idea of the 10 Year Plan was born.  It was certainly bold and something that differentiated him from everyone else.  Coming off of a political hangover brought on by the scandal of former Mayor Gary Becker the message of a new vision for Racine with benchmarks, goals and accountability caught the attention and mood of the voters.  It was the right message at the right time and people were willing to listen.

What we attempted to do in the debate was flesh out some of the details of this plan.  The first and most obvious question to me was:  What is a top 10 city?  Depending upon the person asked, the response could be quite different so we asked John Dickert the question.  The response seemed to indicate that this was some type of national program with predetermined criteria but nothing really specific was offered.  We asked for one detail of the plan and again nothing specific was offered apart from generalities about 3 pillars of importance.  Both responses were serious red flags.  In retrospect I think Dickert was given a pass on the details because it was presumed that a detailed plan would be issued after the election.  The impression was given that it was in the works.

Truth be told it probably was not in Dickert's best interest to divulge details of the plan prior to the election because it gives his opponent campaign material.  I find it very ironic that our political culture demands answers to questions and then we proceed to demonize those answers so greatly that it becomes a political liability to put anything out there except vague generalities that are neither offensive nor helpful....hence no details of the 10 year plan because it was politically risky.

Well, the election came and went with Dickert prevailing and still no plan more than a year later.  Some will be angry in a politically motivated way because they just don't like Mayor Dickert or perhaps they aspire to replace him.  Others are angry because they saw the 10 year plan as a great idea and something that is truly needed.  This wasn't just a silly campaign promise either - it was the core of the message and a concept that people really bought into.  The most tragic part is that it is a promise that is unquestionably deliverable.  There is nothing preventing this from being completed except the will to get it done.

That takes me to the point of this commentary.  Most of my background has been with projects and project teams so I'm taking a little bit different approach to answering the 10 year plan question.  I think we have to take a step back.  Before I begin, it is important to lay out some of the ground rules.

1.  The government cannot solve all of our problems nor should they be expected to....but they can facilitate and help lead
2.  Lowering taxes alone isn't a plan.
3.  Success rarely comes without some degree of failure so be patient and flexible
4.  Demonizing ideas or people that have them is a guaranteed pathway to dysfunction
5.  Involve the community in the conversation and ask them for help
6.  We all own the problem and are thus responsible for holding up our end of the deal to fix things
7.  There is a difference between being a habitual whiner and a concerned citizen
8.  All plans have benchmarks and measurement - this one should be no different
9.  Don't be afraid to stop doing something that isn't working
10.  Communicate

As for the plan:

First, I think what needs to happen is an objective or goal needs to be defined.  You cannot achieve something that doesn't exist.  Without an end game in mind all we have is a bunch of potentially great but disconnected ideas.  We need a concept that pulls it all together.  The mayor already began with a solid one - become a top 10 city.  Just as in the debate, the first question should be:  What is a Top 10 City?  I believe this is a question that only the people in Racine can fully answer.  The answer will be unique to us and our reality and thereby more meaningful.  I would consult with business groups, community organizations, schools, and anyone else willing to participate.  We are all in this together so start an initiative that gets that critical feedback and let everyone and their uncle know that we're doing it.  Use the vast talent of the people around this city.

The result should be several items that turn into your initiatives.  For example:

A Top 10 City has no more than 5% unemployment. 
What follows from that statement should be tactics to help get us there.  The baseline is where we are at today and then our goals for Year 1,2,3,etc.  Government will play a role but so will existing business, future entrepreneurs, and schools.  An initiative like this may require rethinking what Racine business will look like 10 years from now and planning on how to support that today.  Based on the analysis we may find that the goal is unattainable or unrealistic so you go back, adjust and communicate why.  That's called refinement and should be happening at regular intervals as we check in on progress.

Goal>Initiatives>Tactics>Measurement>Refinement

This is one of those situations well suited for the Mayor to lead.  He can help lay out the groundwork to get us to a plan that has community input and buy-in.  Not everyone will be happy but they all will know where we're trying to go.  Decisions that are made should be justified against the plan - which should become part of a normal process and way of life for our government.  It also helps to take away some of the uncertainty regarding decision making.  Some parts the government can help with but many other parts will require actions from within the community.  I think the talent and the will would be there to get it done if the people were called upon to do so.  That after all is the American way and the most important legacy we can give to the next generation.

I've seen many great ideas already from people that have decided to write in.  The missing piece is the process and leadership that brings all of these ideas and people together.  No one person can put together this plan for Racine.  This is our city and it has to be our plan. The only way to do that is to involve us and then let us run with it.  The mayor is naturally talented at selling ideas and motivating others.  I think he should play to this strength and use it to develop this concept.  It will take personal commitment and political courage but as I used to say at work - just because it is hard doesn't mean we shouldn't do it.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

10-Year Plan: Health and wellness is key

By Karen Carnabucci

Jobs and economic development are very important. But so are health and wellness. As a psychotherapist, coach and educator, I offer my top ten list:

  1. Make the health of our residents a priority. Introduce and expand programs for city employees that prevent burnout and chronic health problems, increase fitness and reduce stress. Include health-related information and programming in community centers throughout the city and every other possible venue, including CAR 25 cable television channel.

  1. Start an annual health festival to attract people to Downtown Racine and make it informative, lively and FUN. Make sure to include non-traditional and holistic approaches as well as traditional Western medical approaches There are many people in this area, including myself, who would gladly collaborate for such an event.

  1. Make our educational system healthy. Create an exceptional educational system with the best teachers and administrators and the most up-to-date programs, including projects that promote creativity and innovation on every level so that our residents are well prepared for high-status high-earning jobs.

  1. Recognize that trauma is the root of many educational failures within the school system and contributes to a very high risk for mental health problems, addiction, domestic violence and gang membership. Then start a program to educate administrators, teachers, teachers’ aides and other educational staff to understand the signs of trauma, how the ability to learn and prosper in school is diminished and how educators and positively respond to traumatized students. Students who act out, drop out and appear not to be able to learn are typically suffering from unrecognized and untreated trauma.

  1. Support the health of small business, including very small businesses, for the start up and maintenance phases. Closely examine rules and regulations that put roadblocks in front of sincere business people and revise to make business people feel a valued part of the community.  Develop satellite programs from CATI and other businesses resources within the city limits. Whenever possible, use Racine city and county businesses to do business for Racine city, rather than outsourcing.

  1. Redesign community centers to become places that are vibrant, inclusive and imaginative. While many children and teens excel at sports, other children and teens do not have those skills, talents or inclinations. Make sure that non-competitive play, computers, video making, art, theatre, dance, music, cooking, gardening and many other choices for learning, community building and recreation are available. Plus, develop, create and expand programs for adults of all ages, including programs that address stress reduction, parenting skills and fitness.

  1. Develop forward-thinking and innovative leadership for Racine. Collaborate with Leadership Racine, schools, colleges, places of worship, business, community centers, foundations and other places to nurture and develop true leadership for all the facets of our community, both the public and private sectors.

  1. Promote green and sustainable living and green jobs and take every opportunity to protect and treasure the environment and community resources, both natural and human-made. The recycle bins are a great start but make sure to include recycling in every area of the community, including recycling the seasonal d├ęcor of the streets in the city.

  1. Go forward with Racine as not only an All-American city but also an all-inclusive city. Make sure that all the stories, needs and experiences of all – rich, poor, young, old, powerful, powerless, business, government, retired, working, healthy, ill and so forth – who live and work in Racine are heard and valued.

  1. Create a Council of Innovators, a yearly event that is open to all people in the community to exchange, present and share ideas on innovation, positive change and growth. Go beyond the traditional easels-PowerPoint-markers kind of program to developing an actual event that appeals to and draws lots of people, especially the young. For an example of one way to encourage innovation in city, see Mix Santa Fe, http://www.mixsantafe.com which focuses on “micro-stimulus resources and good times” in Santa Fe, N.M.

Karen Carnabucci, MSS, LCSW, TEP is owner of Lake House Health & Learning Center, 932 Lake Ave., Racine. You can reach her at (262) 633-2645 and read her work online at:

Web: http://www.lakehousecenter.com
Wellness blog: http://lakehouseracine.blogspot.com
Coaching blog: http://wholepersonmarketing.blogspot.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/lakehousecenter
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/karencarnabucci

10-Year Plan: Focus on urban agriculture

By Wayne Clingman

1.) Use unused areas of Racine like the old Danish Home for urban agriculture/farmer's markets. Have these locations be outreach points for the Health Department, Gateway and Racine Unified programs.

For example, every Monday a public health nurse could be at a site to offer advice and immunizations, while every Thursday someone from Gateway or Racine Unified could be there to provide information about programs. I believe it is critcal that the inner city sees more of the City of Racine then police officers. We need to build trust between the city and the poor. 

2.) Start a city/county composting operation at one of the large brownfield sites. Not only sell the compost but use it to restore the brownfield.
Right now the city/county does not have a site for composting. When one understands that over 50% of garbage can be composted, this would go a long way to extending the land fill. The resulting compost, which is very easy to start, could be sold to home owners for gardens as could the worms. The jobs here would be entry-type jobs great, say, for folks just getting back into society from prison.


3.) Increase the number of UNIT (Unified Neighborhood Inspection Team) inspectors, however, change the law to provide court review of tickets. There are lots of slum lords in the city; we just need to be sure they get a day in court.

4.) Using funds from Focus on Energy and resources from RPL, start promoting solar/wind power use.

5.) Explore creating a public utility like Bright Public Power. (Wind around the lake makes this very practical.) The amount of available power estimated in this area from RENEW is 50 MW. That's a lot of power.

6.) Sign a pledge not to sell Lake Michigan Water to other cities. We are going to trust a city to return the water to the lake as clean as they got it? Does MMSD mean anything?
7.) Partnering with UW to start a Fresh Water science program in the city.
8.) With No. 1 above, provide the option of better foods to the Inner City. We all know the link between good food and healthy kids. Be nice to see this put into practice. A few dollars in building heather food choices saves us tons of money every where from health care to education. 

Thursday, July 1, 2010

10-Year Plan: Former mayoral candidate's plan for the city

Former City Council member Ron Thomas has a long-term plan for the city. It's the same he wrote when he ran for mayor - and nearly won - seven years ago. 

Thomas' 10-point plan includes an assessment of city departments, promoting business development, supporting community policing and building connections with Racine Unified. 

Here's Thomas' plan, in it entirety (and note, this is from 2003 - we have no indication Thomas is planning to run for mayor again): 
There are many good and positive things happening in Racine. My candidacy is another way for me to be a part of the future of our city. However, there are some hard decisions coming our way and my history of leadership and community involvement give me the knowledge, skills and insight to be your next Mayor. Here is my agenda for the future of Racine: 
1. There will be an assessment of all city departments. A strategic planning process composed of the Mayor, Aldermen and city department heads will meet on a quarterly basis to review and update major policy issues, budget reforms and strategic initiatives. Accountability will be the key to achieving more with less. 
2. There will be aggressive promotion for business growth by supporting existing organizations that seek and secure funding and training through federal, state and local programs, ensuring family supporting jobs. City Hall must keep the lines of communication open with all businesses, both large and small. The marketing of Racine and working with industry are top priorities. It is imperative that business and industry in the city are  comfortable with their surrounding neighborhoods. In order for this to occur, the neighborhood must be a safe and appealing place to live and work. This applies to the city's role in adopting the principles of sustainable growth. The Racine County Economic Development Plan clearly outlines the seven strategies needed to directly affect the economic vitality of the county with specific emphasis placed on challenges unique to our city. It is important to note that the quality of life in Racine depends upon the presence and active involvement of working families and the availability of secure quality jobs, paying fair wages and decent benefits, as this is vital to the economic stability and growth of Racine. 
3. Support of the Community Policing Initiative in conjunction with current neighborhood crime prevention programs is imperative. By maintaining open communication with law enforcement, the crime rate will continue to decrease. 
4. I support continued renovation of targeted neighborhoods with new and established programs. Perpetuating the cities low interest home improvement loans and down payment assistance is vital. The priorities are to increase home ownership, decrease blight and address unused and empty industrial sites. 
5. The city needs to connect with our school system. Our future for attracting and retaining jobs and business is dependent upon the education of our youth and their ability to respond to the needs of business. By working with an accountable and responsive public education system, the city can set attainable goals. By improving the education of our children we will assure the future of our community. 
6. With the social and economic changes taking place, we must have the vision necessary to think in broader terms that reflect shared resources throughout Racine County. The sewer agreement is a great example of what communities can do together to set goals and plan for the future. This process can and will be used again but it must be done in a more timely manner. One of the first things that needs to be done with our regional planning is to sit down with our surrounding communities and review the needs of transportation throughout the county. This would include the possibility of extending bus service as well as the exploration that employers contribute towards a shuttle service that could be established to pick up employees at designated locations to bring them to the job. This could be accomplished by using public/private investments. 
7. I realize that the establishment of a single-site senior citizen resource center will provide yet another opportunity to work together by sharing our resources with surrounding communities. To begin the process, all aspects of the proposal will be reviewed and all interested parties will be invited to share their suggestions and concerns. Our seniors are a vital and integral part of our community. 
8. We must take these ideas and develop them into a working government that is not only "of the people, by the people, and for the people," but a governing structure that states we are a community of participation, by participation, and for participation. We must work harder to recognize and respect diversity. Every sector of the community should be involved through networking and coalition building. 
9. City government needs to prepare for rapid change and make sure that social and economic improvements don't ignore our poorer residents. 
10. Sustainability is dependent on a diverse workforce and economic base inclusive of minorities, blue and white collar workers, seniors, the disadvantaged and the disabled. Racine is only as strong as our most vulnerable populations. The pieces of the puzzle are on the table. I will work hard to create a united community where everyone is important and heard. I ask for your support and your vote on April 1. 
Respectfully submitted, 

Ron Thomas 
Alderman of the 9th District 
Candidate for Mayor 
Saturday, March 22, 2003

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

10-Year Plan: Adjusting to a finite world of energy

By Rees Roberts


The Racine area, along with the State and the rest of the United States has been blessed with riches which compared to those who lived in eons past. We have been living like kings and queens compared to people just a couple hundred years ago.  This is because we were born into a special period of time when we had abundant and cheap energy to use. 

The next 10 years, however, will be very different than the previous 100 years.  Why?  Because we live in a finite world of resources and because we have reached a special time called “Peak Oil” where oil will become more expensive and difficult to produce over time.  This is because the easy stuff has been already extracted.  Only the hard stuff is left.  Google the term “Peak Oil” for more information.  This will have immense consequences for us.  If there was easy access to energy we would not be drilling the ocean floor in the Gulf of Mexico.  The risks are certainly evident.

What we are currently experiencing is the beginning of our changed future.  But that does not mean life, in general, will become worse.  We tend to confuse what economists call “standard of living” with “quality of life.” The two are not the same.  We have become a people who consume but don’t know their neighbor. A people who have lost their sense of community as well as their trust of one another.  This results in higher litigation and lack of hope. People give up trying to find jobs.  The time has come where that will need to change.  And that will be a very good thing.  
So how will this new lifestyle look like?

Imagine people who never talked before all this getting together for no other reason than to spend time with each other.  Imagine seeing your kids playing with others in the neighborhood instead of being glued to their tv or computer.  Imagine everyone recognizing we are all in this together and we do our level best to make each other’s life enjoyable.  Imagine having fun with people you do not currently know.  Imagine trading things just because they need what you have and they have what you need.  And no one keeps score because friends just do that.  That is what I call a richer quality of life.

We should be looking to the future together.  That is how it works best.  We need to create communities which will be resilient and self-reliant.  What will you do if the power goes out for a week because coal could not be delivered to WE Energies due to a lack of diesel fuel for the trains?  Or if gasoline won’t be available for weeks at a time?  Do we have plans in place so our municipal governments know what to do when these happen in the middle of the winter?  Do we react with rage or do we anticipate with a plan thought out that allows us to quickly rebound?  Should we have fun with a power down week and see how things go before it happens for real?  That is what a couple hundred people did in Milwaukee recently.  They felt it was extremely educational and fun.  Some built generator bikes which powered sound amplifiers used in a concert.  Think 6 people on 6 bikes generating power.

As previously stated, we are entering the terminal decline of energy.  It will affect the Racine area just like other communities.  But each community is different and has different needs.  This does not mean a switch will be thrown and we no longer will have gasoline or diesel fuel.  Then again, if an unstable country that exports petroleum goes crazy maybe that is exactly what will happen.  What it does mean, generally, is each year there will be less fossil fuels available.  And because our economy depends on growth, this decline in energy availability will have a large impact on all of our lives.  We will need to plan for this.

My vision for a 10 year plan is to bring the area communities together and let the genius of the people to provide solutions specific to their communities and neighborhoods.  To work out cooperative ways to use less fossil fuels.  Maybe we should envision a new transit system that uses electric power instead of gasoline.  Anyone remember the electric powered trams in the early 1950's?  We should grow our own food instead of depending on regional and national transportation systems to deliver it to us.  Or maybe a community wide ride share system would be appropriate.  In other words, we need to re-build and re-think our towns, villages and cities to allow for the eventual lack of energy that we currently are using up without thinking about it. 
A sobering statistic from the Department of Energy says 70 percent of our energy use is in the transportation sector.  We need to do much better at reducing that number because it will reduce no matter if we plan for it or not. 

While this, at first blush, appears negative and depressing, what goes unsaid so far is what is possible.  Can you imagine a vibrant economy which replaces global resources with local resources?  Can you imagine how this would leverage the overall economy because each community would replicate services and manufacturing?  Every community would manufacture widgets instead of a single large manufacture of widgets.  Think radically increased employment. 

Instead of making things in China because they have cheap labor, make them here because we won’t need to use priceless energy to transport products to the consumer.  Instead of using mega-farmers 1500 miles away, we should be using local farmers for the same reason.  Anything which reduces or eliminates the need to transport things using fossil fuels will become the single most important goal.  We should be using what oil we have to create and manufacture our daily needs, not for transporting them to us.

The side effects of this change will be the need to rely on neighbors.  This will necessitate getting to know them.  If their survival depends on you (and visa-versa), everyone will find ways to get along.  If you are good at making clothes and your neighbor is good at growing food, a natural barter system will exist, for example. 

In addition to barter, we will need to create a local currency, one which local businesses agree to accept for goods and services.  This will have the effect of keeping money in the community instead of leaving it.  This is legal.  Currently, much of our money leaves our community never to return.  Can you see our money going to China and the Middle East?  We are sending money overseas to pay the people who got our eliminated jobs as well as for gasoline.  That has to stop.

The bottom line is we should be planning for the future.  But we need to accept the reality of a finite world of energy.  Infinite economic growth in a finite world of energy is simply impossible.  We are at the cross roads of having to deal with that reality.  We should establish a group which wants to do that.  Fortunately, there exists an infrastructure which has been generating interest on all six continents with this very issue; the Transition Movement.  Racine has just started one.  It is called Transition Racine.  It meets at Gateway’s Racine Building at 6:30pm on the second Monday of each month. 

Through-out the country Transition groups are coming up with energy decent plans for their community.  We are hoping this could become a viable solution for our area.  We invite all those interested to join us with this concrete start for planning our energy reduced future.  Hopefully, you can help to create that 10 year vision and beyond.  That is what real communities do.

For more information go to:
Join us.  We need everyone.
Rees Roberts

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

RacinePost Open Floor: What's your 10-year plan?

Mayor John Dickert introduced the idea of a "10-year plan" for the City of Racine when he successfully ran for election in 2009. It was a clever idea for a candidate who wanted to get voters thinking about a brighter future for our city.

We'd like to build on the mayor's idea by opening up the floor to RacinePost readers and asking: What's your 10-year plan for Racine? How do you see things turning around? What should the community be focused on?

We open this door knowing you'll take this with varying degrees of seriousness. That's OK ... this is both a chance to get serious and silly, a chance to throw out your best ideas, vent some frustrations or just shoot from the hip.

That said, we'd really like people to put their names to their plans. You don't have to, but if you do, we'll enter you into a drawing for a $10 gift certificate to Circa Celeste Cafe in Racine and all named entries will receive a RacinePost bumper sticker. But, again, we'll take anonymous submissions, too.

There are no guidelines for the 10-year plans. They can be a few sentences, paragraphs, pages or novels. We'll even take pictures, videos, poetry ... anything that speaks to your vision for a better Racine over the next 10 years.

Send your entries to: racinepost@gmail.com or post them in the comments below. Our favorites will be highlighted on the main page, and all sincere entries will be published on the site. If you're submitting an entry with your name, please include a phone number in your submission so we can verify you wrote it.

Thanks much, good luck and happy planning!

We have our first entry ...

Rees Roberts writes in with a call for a new look at how we use energy

Ron Thomas submits the 10-point plan he wrote in 2003 while running for mayor

Wayne Clingman wants to focus on urban agriculture

Karen Carnabucci suggests focusing on health and well-being

Sunday, May 30, 2010

JT steals another story

Once again the JT has stolen a story without credit. This time, they made the stolen goods their lead story in their Saturday paper.

Racine Uncovered, at crime.racinenews.org, reported Thursday that Countryside Humane Society issued expired vaccinations to hundreds of pets since the beginning of the year. The site doggedly (sorry) followed up on the story and forced Countryside to release a press release on Friday. The JT apparently picked up the story from there. (We linked to Racine Uncovered on Friday.)

The JT's story gives the impression that it first reported the news when it's clear Racine Uncovered drove the story from the beginning (and continues to report on it). It's funny to read national concerns about blogs and websites stealing material from mainstream media. The reality, at least locally, is our daily newspaper steals stories from websites and passes them off as their own.