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Jerry Kutchera, founder of Empire Fish in 1913.


Local
Town of Dover
Dover residents circulate petition calling for recall of town chairman

DOVER — After a somewhat contentious month-and-a-half in Town of Dover politics, a group of residents is circulating a petition calling for an election to recall Town Chairman Mario Lena.

The statement of intent to circulate a recall petition, filed with the Dover Town Clerk on Monday, cites three reasons for the recall.

The petition alleges that Lena is unable to conduct town meetings according to “Robert’s Rules of Order,” as is required by town ordinance; that he has acted unprofessionally, including speaking extremely negatively about the town; and that Lena does not represent the interests of the people of Dover.

The petitioners have until 5 p.m. on June 21 to collect 411 signatures to trigger a recall election, according to Dover Town Clerk Camille Gerou.

One of the Dover residents heading the recall campaign is former Town Chairman Tom Lembcke, who lost to Lena during the April 2017 election.

Accusations fly

The recall effort comes after Lena allegedly accused past leaders of embezzlement and fraud during a panel discussion featuring local leaders during a Leadership Union Grove government day in March. Following that incident, Dover Town Supervisor Sam Stratton asked Lena to resign during an April 9 board meeting.

The next week, an advertisement in the Wisconsin Hi-Liter, a local shopper publication, featuring a photo of Lena and signed with his campaign slogan, “Mario For The People,” accused Stratton of threatening him with a recall election and ordering him to sign a contract that Lena did not want to sign.

Prior to these incidences, Lena was censured by the Town of Dover supervisors on Oct. 9, in part for behaving in an unprofessional manner and using vulgarity while working with a vendor on a town vehicle repair, and for violating policies prohibiting him from driving town vehicles.

“He’s not a professional representative of the people of Dover,” Lembcke said of Lena.

Lembcke said he hasn’t decided if he will run in the recall election, if one takes place. Lena and Lembcke have run against one another in several past Town of Dover races.

Lembcke said that about eight people were involved in the recall petition effort.

Larry Neau, a former town supervisor, confirmed that he has also been circulating recall petition papers for Lena’s seat.

Neau said he decided to take part in the campaign in light of information about Lena’s conduct that came out during an April 9 Town Board meeting.

“I think it’ll get done,” Neau said of efforts to trigger a recall election. “Then it will be up to the voters.”

Lena did not respond to a request for comment on Friday.


Pete Wicklund /   

Lembcke


Local
Wednesday screening in Racine
Meet 'The Hello Girls': Documentary tells story about Army's first women troops

RACINE — Not all heroes wear capes. Nor do they all fight with weapons.

The “Hello Girls” fought with skill and cutting edge technology — well, cutting edge for the early 1900s. The Hello Girls were the first women to be sent to war by the U.S. Army, working as telephone switchboard operators and connecting 26 million calls throughout the First World War.

However, from when the war officially ended in 1918 until 1977, they weren’t recognized as veterans, despite working side by side with men and oftentimes doing their jobs more efficiently than their males counterpart.

“This is where the women’s service in the military starts as soldiers and not as nurses,” said independent documentarian James Theres, a Racine native and 1982 graduate of Horlick High School, who directed the new documentary “The Hello Girls.”

Hello filmmaking

Theres is an Army veteran who fought in the Persian Gulf War. Now, he works as a speechwriter for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington, D.C., but makes documentaries on the side.

“I was telling the story of soldiers who came before me,” Theres said. “I found filmmaking to be a unique way to tell stories about history,” he said.

“I wanted to tell stories that are … stuck in the nooks and crannies of history.”

His first documentary film, “The 30th of May,” was released in 2016 and wanted to make another. The Hello Girls seemed like a perfect fit.

The Hello Girls were among the first Americans sent to World War I in 1917 and among the last to leave the following year, having stayed to help coordinate the peace talks.

The 223 women worked closely with the all-male U.S. Signal Corps and were vocally praised by General John J. Pershing, the American military leader for whom Pershing Park in Downtown Racine is named.

According to Theres, the Hello Girls could connect a call in about 10 seconds — men in the Signal Corps often took a full minute.

None of the original Hello Girls are still alive today. So, Theres set about contacting family members and those who knew Hello Girls, as well as using archive footage, to tell their story.

A transatlantic trip was made to interview the daughter of a Hello Girl across the street from where her mother had worked in Chaumont, France. Famed National Public Radio contributor Cokie Roberts also appears. Roberts is the daughter of Lindy Boggs, a Louisiana Congresswoman who helped The Hello Girls become recognized as veterans.

“I write women’s histories, and I didn’t know the stories of the Hello Girls,” Roberts says in the film.

Hello Girls



The Hello Girls were among the first Americans sent to World War I in 1917 and among the last to leave the following year, having stayed to help coordinate the peace talks.

The 223 women worked closely with the all-male U.S. Signal Corps and were vocally praised by General of the Armies John J. Pershing, the American military leader for whom Pershing Park in Downtown Racine is named.

According to Theres, the Hello Girls could connect a call in about 10 seconds — men in the Signal Corps often took a full minute.

When the Hello Girls returned home, none of them received veteran status or benefits, despite working side by side with men who did. This was blamed on a loophole in the Army code; females who worked with the Navy or Marine Corps (usually as nurses or yeomanettes) were considered veterans.

As time wore on, some of the women — led by Merle Egan of Montana — became more vocal, calling for the U.S. government to recognize their service. Many of them were getting older or had already passed away; their time was running out.

That was the story Theres aimed to tell, not only the fight in Europe but also the fight for respect stateside.

“These women played a role in (President Woodrow) Wilson’s mind about the women’s right to vote,” he said. “He knew the world was changing.”

Hello Racine

Theres is clearly more excited about the story of The Hello Girls than he is about his own filmmaking. He wanted to tell their story, not benefit from it.

A showing of “The Hello Girls” is scheduled to place at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 2, at the Golden Rondelle Theater, 1525 Howe St. It had a premiere on March 1 at Arlington National Cemetery, just outside Washington, D,C.

Theres plans to attend the Racine showing, as does Helen Richard, the granddaughter of a Hello Girl who was interviewed for the film.

Richard told Theres that she’s going to bring along her grandmother’s scrapbook for members of the public to see, a scrapbook that was gifted to each of the Hello Girls by the Signal Corps at the end of the war.

Theres has other showings planned for next week at the Mount Vernon Auditorium in Virginia, the Milwaukee County War Memorial and Maryland International Film Festival where “The Hello Girls” is a semifinalist for best documentary. The movie already received a Remi Award from the Houston World International Film Festival, an honor bestowed on 10 percent of 4,500 entries.

Over the next eight months, Theres plans on screening the film 25 times. He’s hoping to show it in Chaumont, France this November as part of a 100th-anniversary celebration of the end of World War One.

“I write women’s histories, and I didn’t know the stories of the Hello Girls.” Cokie Roberts, NPR reporter

Local
top story
Foxconn
County to borrow $68 million for Foxconn land purchases

RACINE COUNTY — Racine County Executive Jonathan Delagrave said when he was elected three years ago, asking to borrow $3 million “would keep me up at night,” and now the county is talking about a $68 million loan.

“The world has changed quite a bit in three years,” Delagrave said to the county Finance and Human Resources Committee on Tuesday.

The county plans to borrow $68 million to help finance the land purchases in Area I and II related to the Foxconn Technology Group project in Mount Pleasant. In December, the county borrowed $79.2 million to help buy the land in Area I.

The committee recommended approval of three resolutions that would allow the county to borrow the money. The proposal to borrow the money is scheduled to go to the full County Board for consideration on May 8.

Delagrave said the county plans to meet with the rating agency Moody’s to discuss the county’s credit rating and he anticipates it will stay at its current rating of AA2.

Dave Anderson, director of PFM Financial, said the “vast majority” of land in Area I — 1,098 acres — has been purchased.

“We need a little bit of this new issue (of bonds) to help finish up the financing in Area I,” Anderson said. “Primarily we’re looking at this one to finance Area II.”

TIF to assist repayment

If the proposal is approved, Anderson said the county would likely borrow $2.6 million to pay the interest payments on the loan.

“You borrow the money to make your first interest payments, that way you don’t have to levy it, it doesn’t have to be included in the budget,” Anderson said. “It’s borrowed and it’s going to be repaid by the (tax incremental finance) revenues or assessment revenues.”

Anderson said the the first payment is scheduled to occur in 2020, with the ability to prepay in 2019.

Over the last several months, Mount Pleasant has been buying land in the Foxconn area and Anderson said the process has been going smoothly.

“They’re acquiring land at a much faster pace than we originally anticipated,” Anderson said. “We’re running out (of money), we need the money.”

Anderson said much of the 1,105 acres that have been acquired in Area II has been paid for with $60 million that Foxconn has contributed to the process.

Delagrave said the cost to the taxpayers will be minimal as the county pays this debt through the tax incremental financing districts that have been established for the project.

“All of this money is paid back through the TIF, this is not any levy dollars or county operational money,” Delagrave said.

“They’re acquiring land at a much faster pace than we originally anticipated ... We’re running out (of money), we need the money.” — Dave Anderson, financial adviser working with Racine County

Delagrave