Council approves CAR25 contract

Channel producers, staff cry foul over vote, process
2013-02-21T06:38:00Z 2013-12-18T14:10:19Z Council approves CAR25 contractCARA SPOTO Journal Times

RACINE — A private contractor will soon take over operations of CAR25.

After nearly two hours of heated discussion that included failed attempts from some aldermen to have the discussion sent back to the Committee of the Whole and marked confusion, the City Council voted 10-4 on Wednesday to allow officials to negotiate a one-year contract with Skies Fall Media Group to run the cable access channel.

The move follows more than two months of wrangling between the administration, aldermen and those who run CAR25 over the process used to search for and select a contractor to run the channel.

During the public comment period before the vote was taken, several audience members — many of them with ties to CAR25 — urged the council to throw out the proposal to hire Skies Fall or send the entire discussion to its Committee of the Whole for further exploration.

“CAR25 is my career. I built CAR25 with my own two hands,” current channel manager Scott Nelson told aldermen. “Before you is a contract with no dollar amounts, no defined deliverables, from a company with no experience with cable access television.”

Mary Osterman, a member of the Cable Television Commission, and her husband, Racine County Board Member Monte Osterman, asked alderman to approve the contract with the company. Both said there was a need to improve the message of CAR25.

“This a chance for a new direction,” Monte Osterman said. “This is about putting a new face on Racine; with a new image. It is not about competition.”

Heated discussions

The last episode in the CAR25 outsourcing saga occurred on Feb. 11 when the Finance Committee voted 3-1 to recommend that the City Council support Skies Fall’s proposal.

Emotions ran high at that meeting and the Cable Television Commission meeting on Jan. 26, where Skies Fall’s proposal was also recommended over a proposal from Badger Video Group, a company owned and operated by Nelson.

Discussion on the proposal during the council meeting was no different. As aldermen spoke in favor of the measure and against it, murmurs of disagreement from the audience were audible.

Much of the debate centered around whether Skies Fall, which has not run a cable access channel before but does have filming and video experience, could fulfill the requirements of running the channel, especially for what the city can afford to pay it. Alderman also had several questions about why the administration or Cable Television Commission wanted operations of the channel outsourced in the first place.

“There has been some discussions about CAR25 going in a new direction. It has not been articulated what that direction is,” Alderman Sandy Weinder said. “I do not think there has been enough public discussion among the aldermen.”

Three aldermen spoke in favor of contracting with the company: Ray DeHahn, Ron Hart and Jim Kaplan. Both DeHahn and Hart are members of the Cable Television Commission.

Aldermen who voted against the measure were Weidner, Keith Fair, Mike Shields and Krystyna Sarrazin.

Concern about outsourcing

In addition to crying foul over the process used to search for and select a contractor to run the station — claiming that it was tailored to favor Skies Fall — those close to CAR25 have complained that there was never a formal discussion about whether channel operations should be outsourced in the first place.

Running CAR25 cost the city about $106,000 last year. In its proposal, Skies Fall wrote it could run the station for $119,500 a year plus $47,500 in first-year expenses. Director of city’s Management Information Systems Department told the council, however, that whatever contract is negotiated with Skies Fall would be based on the “$106,000 budget amount.”

Dickert has said he knows Ben Kasica, the owner of Skies Fall Media Group. He explained late last year that the two met years ago when Kasica was playing with the rock group Skillet. He added that “there are not many people in this town I don’t know.”

During the debate, Dickert, who presides over council meetings, refused a request from Alderwoman Melissa Kaprelian-Becker asking to hear from Nelson about whether the channel staff responded to requests to improve the channel. Dickert did allow the council to ask questions of one of the owners of Skies Fall.

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(24) Comments

  1. ScooterZ
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    ScooterZ - February 23, 2013 9:10 pm
    And so now what happens to the current staff who spent years building and maintaining this station? And if I recall, staff have worked diligently with all Administrations on their "wants and needs," They are very dedicated to the station and community individuals who wanted to learn how to become producers.
  2. speaking frankly
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    speaking frankly - February 21, 2013 8:33 pm
    This a chance for a new direction,” Monte Osterman said. “This is about putting a new face on Racine; with a new image. It is not about competition.”

    Code for "we don't want people to know what's really going on in Racine" More political cover up.
  3. Arla
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    Arla - February 21, 2013 8:13 pm
    I would add that I do not know the *extent* of their experience outside of rock videos, only that they have at least *some* experience. Definitely don't want to oversell.
  4. Green Racinereal
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    Green Racinereal - February 21, 2013 8:12 pm
  5. Green Racinereal
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    Green Racinereal - February 21, 2013 8:07 pm
    And Mayor John Dickert thinks he can control all media. Guess again an editorial
  6. Arla
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    Arla - February 21, 2013 8:03 pm
    I am aware of at least two biggies, Jockey and General Electric. Skies Fall would be the best source of information about their clients; I am not an employee or representative.
  7. Racine Guy
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    Racine Guy - February 21, 2013 7:40 pm
    This is NOT paid for by taxes. It's paid for by the cable franchise fees, there is a difference.

    The entire reason the mayor and others have expressed the desire for more positive programming is because a few people have put-out videos and blogs that do nothing positive for the city but give all of us a bad image. Racine In Ruins is a prime example.. how can that help ANYONE? It discourages businesses from coming here and doesn't help our property values by painting such a poor picture to those who don't get close enough to see the city for themselves.
  8. Racine Guy
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    Racine Guy - February 21, 2013 7:36 pm
    The real question I have yet to hear answered is HOW Skies Fall is expected to generate revenue on the channel. While the PEG channels that prohibited advertising changed approximately two years ago were removed there are no Public Access channels selling advertising in the state of WI. Why? Because it's very likely and perhaps even probably that Time Warner will file a suit claiming unfair business practices when they are mandated to pay a licensing fee and provide a channel that in turn becomes a competitor for advertising dollars. What will happen then? It may cost far more than the $150k first year costs for outsourcing to Skies Fall and may then make the entire goal of it becoming self-sufficient null and void proving at least one of the primary goals of the entire change a failure.

    Likewise, what will happen if the goal of changing "the message" of the channel in turn prohibits the citizens of Racine their right to express their opinions without censorship? Will we see the ACLU coming-down with more wrath and fury than the city can afford or perhaps even more damaging exposure in the media?

    These are far bigger questions than WHO runs it or the cost of $150K or less.

    Racine's cable and communications have been hampered by short-sightedness for decades. The very same thinking cost the citizens millions of dollars when the original Racine Telecable corporation justified pulling two coaxial cables to homes in Racine which both cost more than double what Milwaukee and Kenosha were using and THEN cost more to remove from all our homes by Time Warner when it was proven obsolete and not supported by their network.

    Racine, if you want to improve your image - start following the successful examples of bigger, more affluent, better educated and more technologically advanced cities.. not being stuck in the penny-wise and pound foolish minutia. Between removing street lights and this mess.... you make us look poor and stupid.
  9. Green Racinereal
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    Green Racinereal - February 21, 2013 6:52 pm
    I know all I need to:
    1) A pal of Mayor Dickert's
    2) No experience
    3) Looks like the Elder's at his Church (The Church of John Dickert?) will have a lot to do now with CAR 25. Be fun when the local Islamic groups submit programing.
  10. Green Racinereal
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    Green Racinereal - February 21, 2013 6:43 pm
    Name them please.
  11. Arla
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    Arla - February 21, 2013 6:16 pm
    Skies Fall does produce other types of videos for local businesses in addition to the rock videos you mention. You're right, though; it does not have any experience running a cable TV station.
  12. kevinsmom68
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    kevinsmom68 - February 21, 2013 5:31 pm
    "Mary Osterman, a member of the Cable Television Commission, and her husband, Racine County Board Member Monte Osterman, asked alderman to approve the contract with the company. Both said there was a need to improve the message of CAR25."

    This "company" shoots rock videos for independent musicians. he has NO experience running a cable tv station. car25 was a true public access channel. the problem was, the public never wanted to get involved and use the equipment and other resources to make programming.

    handing it off to a friend of the mayor [who uses the excuse that he's friends with everyone in town and related to everyone when his hirings are under scrutiny] wont fix anything. it's just putting money in his friend's pockets. AGAIN

    thank you aldermen who opposed this.
  13. Arla
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    Arla - February 21, 2013 5:00 pm
    I stand corrected. And I still don't think it's a good use of my money (man, they get me through both Time Warner and AT&T!).
  14. PrimeTime69
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    PrimeTime69 - February 21, 2013 4:00 pm
    It's all BS. This whole thing is a gigantic scam and everyone involved knows this. No need to make anything out to be bigger than it is, it's just the facts. This guy was calling the mayor "john" in public meetings....I mean seriously what a joke. Karma will catch up and the arrogance of those involved will prove to be their demise.
  15. Django
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    Django - February 21, 2013 3:59 pm
    Get your facts straight. Not a dime of taxpayer money is used for CAR25. It's funded by fees from Time Warner Cable and AT&T.

    What possible reason could lying John have for replacing a perfectly good organization running CAR25 with a group that has NO experience running a cable station and at a higher price? Once again our "leaders" fail us, then blame us. Failure after failure marks lying John's tenure.

    Party on, lying John!
  16. JohnnyUzick
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    JohnnyUzick - February 21, 2013 3:56 pm
    So the Council voted to give the contract to a company with no experience and three times the cost of the company who is currently doing it and seems to be doing a good job. Plus, the new company is buddies with the mayor. Ummmm... yeah... nothing to see here.
  17. Arla
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    Arla - February 21, 2013 3:18 pm
    If this was in fact a plot to create a propaganda outlet, the plotters will be in for a big surprise. At any rate, I am glad there are still outlets for the people of Racine to voice their concerns and opinions. Perhaps you can suggest to Skies Fall a neutral-ground talk or civil debate show for that purpose.

    If you are genuinely concerned about Mr. Kasica's character, discuss it with him and/or the elders at his church (since you cite the Bible so freely, consider Matt. 18:15-17). You think I'm kidding? I'm not. Call Ben and have a civil conversation over coffee.
  18. Green Racinereal
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    Green Racinereal - February 21, 2013 1:25 pm
    Your kidding right? This whole deal was to create a propaganda outlet and stop anyone from speaking out about the many issues in Racine WI.

    Just because you may not see content on the issues of Racine and The Mayor of Racine, on The Mayor John Dickert Network the information still will be out and others will see it be it:

    As for Mr. Kasica perhaps Mark 8:36 applies.
  19. Arla
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    Arla - February 21, 2013 12:41 pm
    Dickert's statement that he 'knows' Ben Kasica has been far overblown by the bitter people posting here. Ben does not have any sort of buddy-buddy, corrupt, or preferential relationship with Dickert. He is simply a man with vision, talent, means, and a heart for the community. Every businessperson has to deal with local politics. I *dare* you to find any evidence a year from now that Skies Fall used CAR25 for political propaganda.

    Now, does that mean I would have voted to continue CAR25? No. Honestly, I think it's an inappropriate use of tax money to fund a cable-access-only TV station most people won't watch. But please don't waste your time trying to smear mud on good people.
  20. PrimeTime69
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    PrimeTime69 - February 21, 2013 11:46 am
    I forgot to add the self serving Kaplan to the list of fools who need to be removed on ethics and malfeasence in office charges. If your represented by any of these people, I suggest you start to pay attention as to what they say and what they do that effects your life. You will truly be shocked.
  21. PrimeTime69
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    PrimeTime69 - February 21, 2013 11:31 am
    This was the most atrocious, vulgar, display of abuse of power I've ever witnessed. These aldermen who voted for this should be held accountable for their actions. I too would applaud those aldermen/women who voted against this blatant display of cronyism, nepotism and malfeasance. I often wondered why Racine has been a sinking ship the past 4 years, Well you need to look no further than your elected officials, it's pathetic, they do NOT represent you the citizens any longer, they now represent King Dickert the dictator. Those that should be held accountable for their actions and removed from office on ethics are: Ald. DeHahn, Ald. Hart, Ald. McCarthy. Another guy that just strikes me as a complete dishonest fool is the guy from the IT Dept. Paul Ancana.
  22. ggodmuls
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    ggodmuls - February 21, 2013 11:13 am
    HEY JT! You're calling this one?

    There is no RESOLUTION on the minutes. I believe that for the contract to be awarded that the item must be later noted as a RESOLUTION. I've looked 3 times for it - and it's not there.

    The multiple votes on multiple items is very confusing. Is the City even sure what they voted?

    Look for yourself -
  23. beckstinator
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    beckstinator - February 21, 2013 9:32 am
    At least some of our aldermen are not simply puppets for the Mayor. I applaud those who stood their ground on this obvious abuse of power.
  24. Green Racinereal
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    Green Racinereal - February 21, 2013 7:50 am
    Welcome to Racine where our Mayor now has his own Propaganda station, paid for by your taxes ran by the Mayor's pals. Does this remind anyone of the City Hall Bathrooms?
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