Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Johnson's to search for lost "Carnuba" plane...

From jsonline.com (The online site of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal):

Fisk Johnson, chairman and chief executive officer of the SC Johnson Co. in Racine, will travel to the South Pacific this summer in an attempt to find the original Carnauba airplane, flown by his grandfather H.F. Johnson Jr. in the 1930s.

The amphibious plane was later lost in the Pacific, but underwater video footage recently shot off the coast of Indonesia "offers a glimpse of the skeleton of an aircraft that resembles the Carnauba's unique shape," according to a company news release.

The release said the expedition would include Fisk and "several family members."In 1998, Fisk, his brother Curt and their father, the late Sam Johnson, flew a replica of the Carnauba to Brazil to re-enact the 1935 flight by H.F. Johnson looking for a sustainable source of wax, the carnauba palm tree, in Brazil.

I find it very interesting that this family values their heritage so much. Imagine doing this. I wish I could go along. What an adventerous life these folks live.....

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Police Dispatch Phone Call regarding Becker's Stakeout

The Milwaukee Journal has gotten ahold of the dispatch from the Racine Police Dept. that was put out the evening of the "hunt" for our Mayor.

Listen in on what sounds like a laugh a minute conversation:
OnWisconsin.com: Friday, June 16, 2006

Friday, June 16, 2006

Racine's North Beach shows 'em how it's done

I always thought our local beach was one of the nicest along the lake. And now my thoughts have been echoed by the professionals that rate midwestern beaches.

I lived in Milwaukee for many years and prior to that many other communities in Wisconsin, some along the lakeshore and others that were more or less landlocked. I have to say that out of all those communities, the beach and the lakeshore here in Racine is one of the nicest and one of the best maintained. It is also a sight to see from the drive above the beach.

Read on for the story where the professionals and others talk about our little streach of sand in our fair little city on the Great Lake Michigan:

JS Online:Racine's North Beach shows 'em how it's done

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Smiths' go to Racine

It seems I was right when I proposed (in a prior blog post) that the "Smith's" were indeed responsible for the call that came into the sheriff's home the night of the police "hunt" for our mayor.

This just in from the "Milwaukee Journal Online Daywatch" section:
(And after that the Racine Journal Time's link to the whole thing as it unfolds.)

I do have to say that this story has elements of some very good investigative reporting by all the sources.
What is coming out doesn't make the Smith's look very pretty. Neither does it make our Chief of Police look like a saint.
If anything, the whole thing is painting Mayor Becker as a pawn in a nasty political game that is being undertaken by a bunch of cronies who are still angry at loosing a "mayoral election" that they felt they should have won).

THURSDAY, June 15, 2006, 1:32 p.m.By Sheila B. Lalwani
New statement in Racine mayor case
Racine - The wife of the former mayor said in a statement today that she saw the city's current mayor, Gary Becker, driving erratically May 31, and that she urged her husband to report his behavior to police immediately.

Her statement, released this afternoon in a fax, is the latest twist in a dispute between Becker and Police Chief David Spenner over how police responded to a phone call to the department saying that Becker had been drinking at a reception May 31 and that he was driving home erratically.

Joyce Smith, the wife of former Racine Mayor Jim Smith, who lost to Becker in the last mayoral campaign, said in her statement that calling police was not politically motivated.

According to Smith, she and her husband were traveling behind Becker and witnessed him speeding and switching lanes. "I wanted to do the right thing, but I was terrified if Mr. Becker found out we happened to be in the car behind him," she wrote in the statement. "We saw what we saw! However, I feared becoming the subject of his wrath and retaliation."

An independent investigation by the Kenosha County Sheriff's Department into the incident found that neither Becker nor police violated any laws in the incident.

According to the results of the Kenosha County investigation, at about 9 p.m. May 31, Spenner received a call that Becker was intoxicated and speeding while traveling eastbound on Washington Ave. after leaving the Racine Economic Development Corp.'s annual meeting at the Racine Marriott. Spenner advised his on-duty patrol shift commander that he received an "unidentified" call that Becker was possibly intoxicated and speeding, and the caller had given the chief the mayor's route to his residence.
Spenner advised the shift commander to have his personnel establish proper probable cause to initiate a traffic stop. But before police could act, they found that Becker's car already was parked in his driveway.

In a telephone interview today, Becker said he believe the incident was politically motivated. "Given the opportunity, it would have happened sooner," Becker said.

The story as our hometown paper writes it:

What wicked webs we weave in our little city on the lake.
This stuff is worthy of the finest soap operas on tv I tell ya.....

Oh and an add on to this story from the Milwaukee area: An independent investigation by the Kenosha police has found that the "stakeout" that was conducted on our mayor did NOT break any laws nor did Becker do anything wrong.
Click on the link for the full story as reported by the jsonline web site:

Saturday, June 10, 2006

JS Online:Racine mayor questions stakeout

It is so comforting that the citizens of my fair little city on the lake care so much for their mayor that someone would call the police to make sure he was not driving under the influence of liquor....

Actually I find this article a bit disturbing. Come on now. An elected official attends an event and someone who supposedly does not care for him decides to call the police to have his home staked out???

People need to grow up. If this indeed was an altercation that was (as the jsonline article below suggests) politically motivated, then I think we have some pretty silly and childish people involved in local politics here in Racine.

In ending, I think Mayor Becker is doing a fine job in running this little city.
JS Online:Racine mayor questions stakeout

Edited: Sun. June 10th at 1223AM

After having just returned from work and reading the Racine newspaper while there this evening, it seems this story had hit the front page of our Racine News. The further I read about this in our newspaper-
-the more it sounds like someone "has it out" for the mayor in some way. Why would someone (clearly with some political connections) call the chief of Police at home...how many of us have the chief's home number on our cell phones or regular phones.....at 9pm in the evening??
(I will give people a hint as to who I think may be behind it all. Look at the right side of the article from the link above to the "Racine Journal story" and see which realtor is being advertised...that I have to say is pretty funny. And in case the ad changes, it was an online ad for former mayor Jim Smith!!...ha ha that is just too much!)

Something just doesn't sound right here. I am not really into local politics but even I can see that someone clearly knew what kind of car our mayor was driving, knew he was at an event where he had been drinking and knew he had gotten in his car to drive home.

Someone like that, as far as I am concerned, is a pretty rotten individual. Politics is one thing...but trying to intimidate the mayor of our city with this "calling the police crap" is a little excessive if you ask me.
I hope the chief has some pretty good answers as to who this "call to his home" came from because if

I were Mayor Becker, I would not let this drop. I have a sinking feeling that it was someone associated with the former mayor Smith or his wife. I know for a fact that he was at the same dinner.

The Racine newspaper article does say that he intends to talk to the county sheriff and others on monday to try to get to the bottom of all this.In my mind, I have no doubt whatsoever that what happened was motivated by either local politics or hate for the mayor...or both.

I have to include these posts from a blog on the Racine Paper as they seem to pretty much sum up what I kind of said above. First a post from a guy who has some good commentary and then a response from......yes you guessed it.....our very own subject of this post, our mayor himself and then a nice post from one of our local aldermen. From reading these posts and from reading the stories in the papers and from talking to others in town, it is obvious that all of this is rancid politics at it's worst.

On to the Racine Journal Times Blog posts I have copied:

jackall wrote:In reading through these comments, I find some very amusing. People can like or dislike a politician, but what the chief did here is just plain wrong. Some comments have said the mayor is paranoid. Paranoia would be when someone has a delusion of being followed, but is not. The facts are, and admitted by the chief, that they were looking for "an elected official in a red Lincoln", and had a squad car 1/2 block from his home. This is miles away from the Marriot. If he was not being singled out, how did a squad coincidentally end up at the corner of Chatham and Melvin? To suggest that the mayor was not singled out is ridiculous. One of the first comments was from Taxhell with several questions. If Taxhell actually read the article, he would know the answer to most of his questions. The mayor was at the Marriot, had a couple drinks over the course of about three hours, and he drove home. So what! The mayor was at a public funtion with many representatives from the business community. The event got over about 9:00, and he was home by 9:15. No one at the event has said anybody present had too much to drink, and I am sure the mayor is not the only one who had a drink that evening. If he had two glasses of wine, which sounds more sophisticated, it would be okay, but having two drinks is not? I have not been drunk in over 30, but I often go out and have a drink or two. There is nothing wrong with that. When the chief sends out three squads to look for one "drunk" driver, he abused his authority and should be investigated. Spenner himself said that if politics were involved it would be wrong and unethical. I am sure Spenner was not working at 9:00 at night. Clearly that call was made by someone close to the chief that they knew his home phone number, so there is no doubt that politics was involved. He then ordered the department to look for the mayor. The chief has embarrassed himself, has failed to offer any explaination, and has admitted that if politics were involved, what he did would be unethical. The facts are clear that politics were invloved. The chief should resign. 06/10 10:16:36

I say "Amen" to that poster. He or she said it all in a nutshell.
Then our mayor himself finally decided to "weigh in" on the blog postings which I think is one of the BEST things he could have done. It is nice to see he pays attention to the blogrolls!

Mayor Gary Becker wrote:Time to set the record straight on some things. Am I a sociable person; most politicians are. Do I think that stopping at a bar sometimes is somehow un-mayoral, not at all.Have I ever driven after too many; NO.Have I ever been stopped for an alcohol related driving offense at any time in my life,; NO. Have I ever had any contact with the police for anything more than a speeding ticket; NO.Have I ever run roughshod over a department head or staff when I do not get my way? Come down and ask any of them; my style of management is very open and I encourage staff and citizens to challenge our ideas. I take great pride in nurturing, training and working with my staff at all levels.Did I have two cops drive me to bars???I was out with them for a ride along, somthing I do somewhat regularly. Maybe you saw me walk in and use the restroom and buy a can of Diet Coke while I was waiting for them. There are not a lot of places open at midnight, so yes the bar I was standing out front of seemed a logical choice.And the officers did run through Taco Bell so they could buy their dinnerI have absolutely no problem with the cops doing their job, and have never asked for any special favors from the police. As a matter of fact when I became mayor one of the first things I did was to eliminate the officer that was posted at our council meetings and put the manpower back on the street. Nor do I take any security for the parades, which previous mayors did.I prefer these officers to be on the street serving the citizens.I would suggest that as more information comes out it will become clear that what went on was not standard operating procedure, and that the motivation was not law enforcement. 06/10 17:47:37

Gotta love this little city! (and if one does not think that the last post I copied came from the mayor, click on the link that is highlighted as his name at the top of the post....and see where that link takes you. Right to Mayor Becker's email address. I would call that proof that the mayor did indeed author that post.

And to add another post from one of our local aldermen that says alot of things that make sense in this unfolding story:

Alderman Greg Helding wrote:I think it would be best for everyone to settle down and wait for the facts to come out. It is best to do that in any case.It is easy to see or hear something and think bad about it without knowing all the facts. The previous misinformation posted about the Mayor's ride along is a good example of this.From my reading of the posts here, there seem to be some serious misconceptions about how the Mayor handles things. I can't speak to all the concerns people post here, but I can talk about my experience with the Mayor so far.Since Mayor Becker took over, Aldermen are given a larger hand in making policy - which is only proper since that is our job. Aldermen can propose legislation, attend meetings, or talk to department heads without fear of being called in the Mayor's office for reprimand or being "put out to pasture" in terms of committee appointments. People who openly challenge the Mayor are not punished. Take Alderman Fair, for instance. He took issue, as is his right, with the Mayor several times in his first year. Mayor Becker's response: Alderman Fair was appointed to the Council's Executive Committee - a plum position by any standard.I myself am politically opposite of the Mayor on many issues - state revenue caps and the recent kyoto agreement he signed just to name two of them. As a potential political adversary, he could backbench me and keep me off of committees. Rather, he has supported my efforts to represent my constituents and has given me opportunities to serve the entire city on the City Plan Commission and the Community Development Committee.I have a sincere desire to make things better for Racine. I believe Mayor Becker also has that desire. I welcome comments, suggestions, or debate from anyone who shares that desire. Since I post here using my real name and e-mail, it is easy for you to find me. It is hard to take public policy tips seriously from people whose arguments rise to the level of calling someone a "loser" (especially when they misspell the word) or refuse to identify themselves. 06/10 20:38:50

Like I said before...gotta love this little city....

Monday, June 05, 2006

Vote No

On June 6th, RUSD will again be begging for money. Here are some reasons why it is imperative to vote No.

1. Much to the proponents' dismay, the money is not for the kids. It goes to administrators, inservices, and the new swear word in schools, consultants.

2. The cuts that RUSD is threatening have nothing to do with the money they are requesting. Cuts could be made without touching art, music, buildings and grounds services. It apparently is easier to cut educational programs, than trim the fat at central office.

3. Giving Unified money just condones Dr. Hicks and his wasteful programs.

4. The money has done no good. Test scores are still below average, truancy and discipline are still big problems. What has the money done in the past to help these real problems?

5. Why are we the only district that has this problem? MPS and KUSD have not asked for 16 referreda since 1993.

6. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recommends voting no and the Racine Journal Times has printed anti-referrendum editorals and news stories examining the waste. Two institutions who are known for supporting school boards and tax increases don't even like this referrendum. There must be a reason.

Bottom line, the numbers don't add up and RUSD won't tell us why. Vote no and see if they'll talk.

JS Online:Editorial: 'No' on spending referendum

Our Milwaukee neighbor has weighed in on the upcoming referendum in regard to Racine Unified officials asking for more money to fund the educational and fiscal needs of our school system.

And their view is one that I wholeheartedly agree with.
"No" on more money!!

The reasons that the Milwaukee Journal puts out there are many, but in a nutshell the following two paragraphs stand out and I cant agree more with this editorial's reasoning:

From the editorial:
"We encouraged a "yes" vote in the June referendum, with the caveat that the district get its financial house in order and do more to rein in health care and other costs that were taking a steep toll on schools. We said then, "give the board the breathing space of a year to figure out how to meet its budget without asking voters for more money. And get ready to say 'no' if the board hasn't done these things and again pleads with voters for more money. Well, get ready"

As Journal Sentinel reporter Alice Chang pointed out in a May 28 article, the district has been making some progress but still ranks at or close to the bottom in academic achievement compared with peer districts. Truancy and dropout rates aren't anywhere near where they should be. This despite the facts that the district is third among peer districts for per-pupil spending and has the lowest student-to-teacher ratio. The district's tax rate is the lowest among comparable districts, but it ranks first for state aid and second in federal aid.Those numbers indicate two things: There is lots of room for improvement; there may be room for cuts that don't hurt students.

In a $236 million budget, $6.45 million may seem like small potatoes. But by saying "no" on Tuesday, voters can send a big message.

I myself have witnessed many instances of what I feel is an educational system here in Racine that does NOT work the way it should.

I have a student of the "Racine Unified system" who works for me. He has just graduated from 12th grade, and though he is on his way to secondary education this fall, it is probably not due to his teachers and advisors and to the quality of his educational needs within the system here in Racine. I honestly feel that his work place has done more to instill leadership qualities and positive guidance to this young person than any of the "professionals" in the Racine Unified system have in his 3 years of high school.

Teachers that can't seem to get a grasp on their student's needs (or who do not care) and students who do not seem to care about the things that matter most in life seem to be a common thread of what I have witnessed in my eight years that I have lived and worked in this district.

Face it folks, the educational system here in Racine is broken, does not seem to be getting any better as time goes on, and needs to be fixed.

The only way to do that is to look very deep within it's bureaucracy and really try to change the things that need changing.

More focus on teacher-student interaction, better lesson planning for it's curriculum and last but not least, a major focus on getting these young individuals ready to deal with the real world which they will eventually inherit as their own.

Click on the link below to read the editorial from our neighbor to the north:
JS Online:Editorial: 'No' on spending referendum

And for a few other views from our hometown newspaper and some views from other citizens of the area click below:

The last line on one of the comments in the above link made sense to me. We have one of the "highest per student spending ratios" but yet our students do not seem to be getting the education they deserve and need. I saw an article a few days ago (I can't remember where) and in that story, a teacher of this system told of using 'Ten year old history text books" to teach students about world history! No wonder the youth of today is so ill informed as to what is going on. What do these teachers do in the absence of current up to date source materials? Teach from the internet? That alone just blew my mind. In addition to talking about the old textbooks, the teacher mentioned that, according to the books she/he was teaching from, George Bush Senior was still the leader of our nation!

A good Monday to all.

Friday, June 02, 2006

A more clear concern against bilingual education

I guess I am firing up the rally cry against bilingual education in our public schools again. I can’t help but feel that it is something that is not only growing out of control, but may well be hindering education in many students. I guess the timeliness of my posts do coincide with the immigration issues in current events, but that is not my reason in writing. While I would like English to be the official language, it is not the sole impetus to my thoughts.

Racine Unified School District (RUSD) has implemented bilingual programs for years. These programs are growing at a rate that I would consider frightening. RUSD is utilizing these programs as the result of a mandate from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI). In a sense, the DPI is sticking it to the urban school districts that have enough funding issues of their own. I doubt schools in Spooner, or Crivitz have to worry about funding bilingual programs.

Pedagogically speaking, I am an RUSD teacher, I do not see any benefit from teaching children in a foreign language. Proponents of these programs will say that they can learn the same concepts more quickly. At the same, they are not learning English as quickly and cannot demonstrate comprehension to the general public. This would hinder transition into American society. It is hardly a benefit.

As a parent of future public school students, I feel that my kids will be left behind unless we can get some initials thrown into their files. My kids are not in need of exceptional education or bilingual services, as a result, I feel the DPI doesn'’t much care about their progress. Reversing one facet of this problem might help the traditional education students who can also learn without the additional dollars.

What exacerbates my feelings on this issue is that not all states fund/implement bilingual education. Four states have even gone to the point of outlawing it, Arizona, California, Massachusetts, and Colorado. Two of those states have huge immigrant populations, yet they want children to learn English through immersion instead of delaying it with bilingual education. This is not even an issue that is divided by the sides of the political aisle (2 red states, 2 blue states).

If you have read this post and have feelings in anyway similar to me, write your legislators at the state and federal levels to have them limit/reduce bilingual education. It is truly for all the children.