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Seniors wear face masks and keep their distance while playing bingo Tuesday inside the Burlington Senior Activity Center, which reopened after being closed for a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.


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Wisconsin cities request attorneys fees in election dispute brought by Donald Trump

The cities of Green Bay, Kenosha and Racine are asking a federal judge to make former President Donald Trump pay thousands of dollars in legal fees in a case he brought challenging Wisconsin’s presidential election results, just days after Gov. Tony Evers made a similar request.

The three cities want Trump to pay a total of $42,570 in attorneys fees for bringing a lawsuit the cities view as meritless and that was dismissed.

“The objective bad faith of plaintiff’s counsel in filing and litigating this action is evidenced by the scope of the relief sought and their relentless pursuit of it all the way to the United States Supreme Court, well after the election results in Wisconsin had been determined and certified,” wrote Daniel Lenz, attorney for the cities. “In essence, plaintiff’s counsel sought to disenfranchise every Wisconsin voter.”

In March, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up the lawsuit, which Trump filed after the election in federal court in Wisconsin challenging his loss in the state. U.S. District Judge Brett Ludwig threw out the lawsuit in December, calling the case “extraordinary.”

“If the relief that’s been requested were granted, this would be a most remarkable proceeding and probably the most remarkable ruling in the history of this court or the federal judiciary,” Ludwig said.

President Joe Biden won Wisconsin by more than 20,000 votes, a result that a partial recount affirmed.

The suit alleged elections officials failed to abide by the rules for the election set forth by the Legislature and therefore “likely tainted more than 50,000 ballots,” and asked the court to allow the Republican-controlled Legislature to determine how to award Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes.

Trump’s lawsuit challenged cities’ use of absentee ballot drop boxes and for accepting grant money from the Mark Zuckerberg-funded Center for Tech and Civic Life. A conservative group had previously filed a lawsuit challenging use of the grant money, but a federal judge dismissed the case.

In the case brought by Trump, Evers last week also asked the former president to pay $144,000 in legal fees.

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Malcolm Mahone of Racine prepares to vote at the Dr. John Bryant Community Center, 601 Caron Butler Drive, on Tuesday. "It's an obligation," Mahone said of why he voted. "Whenever I vote, I feel like I've honored my duty." For the latest election results, go today to JournalTimes.com or see Thursday's paper. For more photos from across Racine County on Election Day, visit JournalTimes.com/gallery.


Local
topical
Watch now: Quest for healthy, sugar-free jams and jellies comes to fruition at local canning company

RACINE — A sugar-free, preservative-free and gluten-free jam that tastes exactly the same, if not better; as if it had been made with such ingredients, just healthier.

It’s something not often heard of, said Ann Muller, owner of Annie’s Country Pantry, an all-natural, home-based fruits and vegetables canning company in Racine.

But Muller has done such a thing.

Muller and her husband, Ron, have acquired a 10-year trademark for the word “Just,” which is the brand for her new line of jams and jellies.

Just Vanilla Bing Cherry Preserves, Just Peach Preserves, Just Grape Reserves, Just Raspberry Preserves — the list of what Muller can do is endless, and the name speaks for itself. Muller has found a way to make her products sugar-free, gluten-free and preservative-free so that they are simply just the fruit they’re made of.

Diana Panuncial / DIANA PANUNCIAL diana.panuncial@journaltimes.com 

Annie's Country Pantry offers over 100 different jams, jellies, salsas and other canned products. Pictured are "Just" products, for which Ann Muller, owner of Annie's Country Pantry, has recently received a trademark. 

The need for sugar-free

Initially, Muller didn’t want to produce any “low sugar” jams because they used “alternative sugars” that were chemically based, found to be unhealthy and did not taste as good, a press release from the company said.

But she knew the demand was there: Ketogenic diets (which required no sugar) were on the rise, gluten-free was always going to be a concern for many customers and, personally, Muller is a diabetic.

The more customers asked about sugar-free or low-sugar products, the more Muller became interested in the idea. She discovered Pomona’s Pectin, which uses calcium instead of sugar to become a gel for jams and jellies, allowing her to make no-sugar products.

“It’s similar to what our grandmas used to throw their peelings into a pot and boil them,” Muller said.

Muller’s products are sold at the Farmers Market @ 2210, located at 2210 Rapids Drive in Racine, where Market Manager Gail Deno said the community can find healthy options.

“It was something customers have been asking for for so long,” Deno said.

Muller, whose products can only be bought at the market, said she has enjoyed talking with customers on all the different things they can do with her jams or jellies. She loves to cook, and often shares recipes with customers, too.

“That’s where my joy comes from. You know, when people say, ‘That is really good,’ “ Muller said. “That’s gotten me through everything.”

Diana Panuncial / DIANA PANUNCIAL diana.panuncial@journaltimes.com 

Ann and Ron Muller, who own Annie's Country Pantry, stand in their kitchen with a variety of their products on Monday. Their products can be found weekly at Farmers Market @ 2210, located at 2210 Rapids Drive.

Life after a setback

Annie’s Country Pantry began in 2015, but Muller has been canning since about the year 2000, she said. It started out as a hobby, since Muller was dedicated to a career in social work.

Muller, who had been working in child protection services in Milwaukee, raising children and mentoring others, had earned her master’s degree in 2010. Shortly after, she got in three car accidents that meant “a bunch of joint replacements and a lot of surgeries,” she said.

The third accident was the worst, Muller said. She sustained a head injury that took away her ability to continue in social work.

“It was super hard for me,” Muller said. “Physically, mentally. It was bad.”

Muller grew up on a farm and was used to working; after she got in her accidents, she thought it would be “death or do something.” Muller chose the latter and returned to canning.

“A huge part of it was to find something that I just love to do,” Muller said.

And though she has had her challenges — “I’ve had whole batches of stuff where after we’ve finished canning, I went, ‘Huh, I forgot the sugar,’ “ she said — canning has been a creative and fulfilling outlet for her.

Muller has been taking classes and learning more about how she can be more efficient and help herself, like discovering tools that will help her pour products in jars so she doesn’t have to exert her shoulders.

“But this is giving her the hope that, ‘Okay, there’s life after the setback,’ “ Ron said.

Diana Panuncial / DIANA PANUNCIAL diana.panuncial@journaltimes.com 

Ann Muller holds up one of her products on Monday. On the back of each jar, Muller has included a message of gratitude to share details about her business and her family history. 

Expanding, learning together

Ann and Ron have been married for about 38 years, and though Ron is still working full time as an electronics technician, they work together to keep Annie’s Country Pantry going.

Ann is the canning expert, she said, adding with a laugh that Ron “carries things for me.”

They have plans for expanding the business, such as implementing new systems that will help them keep track of inventory and sales of their more than 100 products. A big goal, Ann said, was for Annie’s Country Pantry products to be found at supermarkets by next year.

“It’s a little intimidating, but we’re super excited,” Ann said. “We’ll tear up with each other and he’ll say, ‘You’re finally getting the kudos you’ve earned.’ “

Scenes from Sunday's farmers market at Milaeger's on Douglas Avenue

Milwaukee Brewers' Orlando Arcia throws to first during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Minnesota Twins Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)


Local
PUBLIC TRANSIT
GPS tracking will soon be an added feature of the city's RYDE bus service

RACINE — The worst part of taking the bus is standing on the corner and waiting — wondering when it might arrive.

For those who agree, the good news is that city buses will soon be fitted with GPS tracking again.

Mike Maierle, the city’s Parking and Transit System manager, made that announcement to the Transit Commission last week.

The new system has the potential to cut down on the amount of time people spend wondering where the bus is.

As use of the city buses fell during the COVID-19 pandemic, the city is hoping the new system will be part of the larger effort to get residents riding the bus again.

New contract

The Transit Commission voted on Thursday to authorize the city to enter into an agreement with Connexionz, a California company, to provide the GPS tracking service.

The new GPS system will benefit both the dispatchers for city buses and riders.

The new system will allow anyone with a smartphone to download the app and see where the buses are in real time.

Additionally, the new system has a texting service that allows the rider to receive a text-message alert when the bus is a certain number of minutes away.

For example, a person could personalize the service so they get a text message when the bus is 5 minutes away or 10 minutes away; whatever the customer needs.

The contract with Connexionz is for 10 years and includes data services and support.

Cost

The new system is being paid for, in part, by a federal grant.

The cost of the system in 2021 is $341,243, with $260,000 being paid for by the grant and $81,243 paid for by the city.

Over the 10-year period, the system will cost $342,000 — with $192,000 paid for through a federal grant and $150,000 paid for by the city.

“That is actually less than we paid our old company, and we were unhappy with that service,” Maierle said.

He explained the old system was at the end of its life when the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year and had to be shut down.

“If (Connexionz) can live up to what they’re proposing to deliver for us, this was an economical choice,” Maierle said.

He added it took multiple grant applications before the city was finally awarded some money to help offset the cost of the new system.

Ridership

According to Willie McDonald — general manager of First Transit, which is contracted to run the city’s bus system — the number of people utilizing the bus was significantly reduced during the pandemic.

Racine Alderman Trevor Jung, who chairs the Transit Commission, said: “This is a perfect example of how we’re going to combat reduction in ridership and make sure we see more people utilizing the public transit system because it’s easy and efficient.”

He added that the bus service “absolutely” adds to the quality of life in the city and that city leaders needed to think about how they can deliver that service better.


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