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Lynne Sladky 

Milwaukee Bucks' Caron Butler (3) stands with O.J. Mayo (00), Khris Middleton (22) and John Henson (31) during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Miami Heat, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Climate Change
Mayor wants Racine to commit to Paris Climate Accord

RACINE — Mayor Cory Mason wants the City of Racine to pledge that it will try to reduce its carbon footprint.

He has asked the City Council to adopt a resolution that commits Racine to the goals of the Paris Climate Accord, an agreement from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Through the agreement, world nations have committed to try to mitigate climate change and keep any increase in global temperature this century to fewer than 2 degrees Celcius higher than preindustrial levels.

President Donald Trump announced last August that the United States would withdraw from the 2015 pact. Since then, the leaders of municipalities across the country have made local commitments to the agreement’s goals. The mayors of Kenosha, La Crosse, Madison and Milwaukee, among others in the state, have committed to uphold the Paris Climate Agreement, according to the Climate Mayors network.

Mason is asking Racine to do the same. He said he thinks it is important for the city to do its “fair share” to reduce climate change.

“Everybody has a part to play on making sure the next generation, whether it’s in Racine or anywhere else in the world, has a sustainable planet to live in,” Mason said. “There’s real opportunities for the City of Racine to lead here.”

Benefits to city

The proposed resolution identifies different ways urban municipal governments like Racine’s can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as through planning, transportation systems, construction practices and energy and water use. Those efforts could prove beneficial to the city, according to the resolution.

“Improving energy efficiency and resilience in the face of potential disruptions in energy production can attract jobs and economic development opportunities to the City of Racine, and enhance the city’s long-term economic competitiveness and wealth,” the resolution states.

Mason said that if the City Council agrees to make the commitment, staff would incorporate efforts to reduce Racine’s carbon footprint through its next proposed budget and capital improvements plan, which would be presented in October. He said the city could incorporate the goals into any plans it makes for its fleet of vehicles or potential new construction, as examples.

“By adopting this as the city’s policy, it then creates a mandate to embed these goals into all those conversations on how we operate the city in and of itself,” Mason said.

He said he wants to develop strategies for the city to encourage the wider community, including businesses and other municipalities, to also embrace the goals.

Proposal status

The city’s Public Works and Services Committee recommended at its Tuesday meeting that the city adopt the mayor’s proposal, with some modifications. The amended resolution is now in the hands of the City Council, which is scheduled to take up the committee’s recommendation at its 7 p.m. meeting Monday at City Hall, 730 Washington Ave.


Foxconn houses help build more homes

MOUNT PLEASANT — The family had moved out of their trilevel house on Highway H — one of many who must leave their homes to make way for Foxconn Technology Group’s future manufacturing campus here — but the dwelling was far from empty.

A team of 10 people, all volunteers, had been working since 8 a.m. to remove the appliances and a sofa the family had chosen to leave behind, remove interior and exterior doors, cabinetry, bathroom sinks and vanities and some good-quality Pella patio doors.

Everything was loaded into a 20-foot-long cargo trailer and destined to be put up for sale at Habitat ReStore, 2302 DeKoven Ave., to help fund Habitat for Humanity homes; Habitat’s mission is to “bring people together to build homes, communities and hope.”

On Feb. 1, Mount Pleasant officials had announced a partnership with Racine Habitat for Humanity to allow the organization to remove what it can as homes in the future Foxconn area are vacated and those families relocated. Area 1, where the Foxconn manufacturing campus will be built lies between Highway KR and Braun Road and between Interstate 94 and Highway H — although acquisitions are also being made north and east of there.

Jan Roland, president of the Racine Habitat for Humanity Board of Directors, said the village was “inundated” with requests from people and businesses that wanted to be the “pickers” in the Foxconn area. Instead of allowing a free-for-all, the Village Board chose Habitat as the recipient organization to salvage usable materials.

“They wanted one responsible organization — one insured organization,” Roland said.

Just then, a volunteer slid a large cabinet that had been detached from its perch in the finished basement across the floor, past Roland.

As each home is vacated, Roland said, Habitat is notified by a Madison real estate group which is working with the village on the Foxconn project.

“And I understand there could be as many as 100 homes,” Roland said. “So, over the next year as these homes become vacant, we’ll be picking material and bringing it to the ReStore facility; we’ve already rented more space in the Kranz building from Jeff Neubauer to make room for it all. There’s going to be a lot of stuff, based on the first four homes that we’ve seen.”

Ten volunteers

Saturday’s crew that spent all morning and into the afternoon at the home in the 5200 block of Highway H consisted of Roland and three other Habitat for Humanity volunteers, four Team Rubicon volunteers plus Pat Adams, regional coordinator for that national organization; and Vern Lightwine of Racine with Team Rubicon.

Lightwine, retired from the U.S.Navy and Harley-Davidson, said he’s been involved with Team Rubicon for six to seven months. Team Rubicon is an international nonprofit disaster-response organization, mainly comprised of military veterans and first responders, that Adams said currently has a roster of about 80,000 volunteers.

“The biggest things I’ve done today is remove cabinetry from down in the basement, cabinetry from the kitchen and a little bit of cabinetry from upstairs,” using power tools and pry bars, Lightwine said. “And a little bit of ‘oomph,’” he added and chuckled.

Habitat’s salvage operations in the Foxconn zone will not just be happening on weekends, Roland said but, rather, throughout the year. In the case of Saturday’s jobs, Habitat worked with Team Rubicon which had been wanting to do a joint service project with Habitat.

In most cases, the picks will be done mostly by Habitat’s own volunteers which include local construction firms that have a day or two to spare. “And,” Roland said, “we’re trying to recruit some new volunteers.”

With Habitat’s Foxconn project now underway, the organization is forced to be selective in what it picks from the homes. It doesn’t, for example, take window blinds or curtains.

“Space is the limiting factor,” Roland said, and Habitat only takes the most valuable items.

“Years ago, we would have picked everything because we had more space than we had material,” Roland said. “Now, with 100 homes coming, you can’t load your space up with knicknacks.”

“There’s going to be a lot of stuff, based on the first four homes that we’ve seen.” Jan Roland, Racine Habitat for Humanity board president
Note: Vern Lightwine's affiliation was incorrect in the original story. The error has been corrected.

Parents share successes, learn Positive Solutions during workshop

RACINE COUNTY — Positive Solutions workshops not only teach parents how to facilitate better social-emotional health in their children, but they also give parents a place to share their struggles and successes.

The Racine County University of Wisconsin-Extension recently began offering the free, six-week Positive Solutions workshops for parents and caregivers of children ages 6 and younger. The workshops are funded through a nearly $70,000 grant from the United Way of Racine County. The grant funds the extension’s School Readiness and Early Learning project, of which Positive Solutions is a part.

“It’s a program for all families,” said Pam Wedig-Kirsch, school readiness and family resiliency educator for Racine County UW-Extension and workshop facilitator. “It’s helpful to strengthen any family. We aren’t targeting that there’s a certain type of parent that needs this.”

During a session of the Positive Solutions workshop at Julian Thomas Family Center on Monday, parents shared their small successes with the group. A father had allowed his children to help him with dinner. A mother had waited out her son’s tantrum and discovered the cause of his behavior after he calmed.

The extension is in the process of hosting its fourth and fifth workshops, which each consist of six learning sessions. The program has already reached 41 families, but Wedig-Kirsch is hoping to reach more.

The six sessions each have a theme: building relationships, the importance of play and social skills, routines and expectations and emotional vocabulary. The last two sessions are focused on addressing challenging behavior.

The Positive Solutions workshops for parents complement the Pyramid Model for social-emotional learning used in Racine Unified’s 4-year-old kindergarten classrooms. Unified adopted the model approximately four years ago, according to Joleen Carlson, Unified’s 4K coordinator.

While parents are at the workshops, their children are being cared for and do an activity related to the topic their parents are learning about.

The Pyramid Model

The Pyramid Model is an evidence-based framework developed by the Center on Social and Emotional Foundation for Early Learning at Vanderbilt University.

Through the model, students learn about “Tucker Turtle,” who shows them how to manage anger.

“Tucker Turtle teaches them how to take three deep breaths, tuck into their shell,” Carlson said.

Students also learn the importance of building friendships, and how to solve their own problems. The lessons are based on what’s developmentally appropriate for children, Carlson said.

In addition, the kids learn how to put their emotions into specific words like frustrated and lonely.

“If they can’t tell us what’s wrong, the problems will just continue to grow,” Carlson said.

The Positive Solutions workshops help parents carry on these practices at home.

Carlson first led a Positive Solutions workshop around two years ago with Unified’s Peacock Program, a parent-child oriented classroom for 3-year-old students, which parents are required to attend one day per week.

“We got such a tremendous result, we decided to try to do it more often and reach out to other parents in our community,” she said.

The grant from United Way allows the extension to offer the program to more parents and to offer the sessions at more times that might be convenient for parents. The workshops are offered for English and Spanish speakers, with the help of a translator. Unified teachers invite families that might be interested.

Parent reactions

Jackie Hartley, a Racine resident who has three children, ages 17, 9 and 4, said she went into the Positive Solutions sessions thinking that it would all be informational but was surprised at how it allowed her to connect with other parents. The parents who went through the six sessions together supported each other through challenges and shared their successes, she said.

“The things that I enjoyed about it are that it’s very practical and provides useful strategies presented in a supportive and non-judgmental way,” Hartley said.

Katherine Holmes and her husband, Fritz Holmes, participated in one of the Positive Solutions workshops in March. The couple has two daughters, ages 3 and 5.

During the workshop, Katherine Holmes learned the benefits of turning negative commands into positive ones. For example, instead of telling her girls to “stop hitting” she tells them to “keep their hands to themselves.”

Although this practice takes some patience, Holmes said it’s worth it.

“They’re both really receptive to positivity,” she said.

Holmes praised the program and said it’s not about chastising parents, but bringing them together to discuss the problems they all face.

“I would recommend it to anybody, whether they’re an expert parent or not,” Holmes said.

The workshop series is the result of partnerships between the United Way of Racine County, Racine Unified School District, Kindergarten Readiness Network of Higher Expectations for Racine County, Racine Collaborative for Children’s Mental Health, the Healthier Wisconsin Partnership Program and the Racine County UW-Extension.

Carlson has taught 4K for more than 30 years and said she believes strongly in this program.

Interested parents can visit to read articles and find more resources and information about the Pyramid Program and Positive Solutions. Many of the resources are available in English and Spanish.

For information about upcoming local sessions of the Positive Solutions workshop, visit or contact Wendig-Kirsch at