Wisconsin is getting ready to celebrate open government with the annual “Sunshine Week” March 10-16, part of a national attempt to focus on public access to government records and assuring that the public’s business is conducted in the open for all to see. It comes as no surprise that Racine, with its long-running dispute between Alderman Sandy Weidner and City Attorney Scott Letteney, drew a couple of awards from the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, a watchdog group representing state media and public interest groups. Weidner this week was honored with WFOIC’s Whistleblower Award for her court fight to gain access to the city attorney’s presentation before a closed city council session in which Letteney asked for an ethics violation citation against Weidner for sharing emails with constituents that included information from the city attorney’s office. Letteney declined to release the emails from his presentation and Weidner sued. The case was confounded when a Racine County judge ordered the entire record sealed — and it now sits before an appeals court. Letteney and Racine Mayor Cory Mason also drew an award from the WFOIC — a “No Friend of Openness” award for wasting “more than $75,000 of taxpayers’ money on an unwise and ultimately failed effort to prevent the public from seeking run-of-the-mill emails and other records.” We continue to hope that this dismaying episode finally gets settled by the Circuit Court of Appeals —and soon.
By the time you read this, we’ll know if Racine Horlick’s boys basketball team gets to go another round toward the state championships. Horlick was 11-13 going into a sectional semifinal against Sun Prairie (18-6) last night and its hopes were high after it stunned the top-ranked team in the state a week ago, beating Madison East 74-67 to claim the regional championship. The upset was one for the ages; no matter what happens, it gave Horlick and its players one of those bright shining moments that will last a lifetime in the memories.
When it comes to having a corporate conscience and an abiding respect for the environment, few companies can compare to Racine-based SC Johnson. They proved that again this week when Chairman and CEO Fisk Johnson announced plans to launch an effort to reclaim and recycle ocean plastic for use in a new Windex bottle – Windex Vinegar Ocean Plastic. The discarded plastic will be collected in Mexico and Haiti in locations within 30 miles of an ocean or waterway leading to the ocean, converted to flakes and pellets and then used in the world’s first glass cleaner bottle made from 100 percent recycled ocean plastic. It’s one step, but a good one, to address the rising issue of plastic pollution of our oceans. And it’s no surprise that SCJ would be in the forefront.
Just write the $50,000 check and be done with it. What? Racine once again is buffing up its growing reputation for being quick with the pen and checkbook. In a foggy and curious bit of news, the City Attorney’s office has recommended the city pay $50,000 to the City of Kenosha after a Racine Police Officer recruit injured a Kenosha officer during a training exercise last March at Gateway Technical College. According to a statement from the attorney’s office, a Racine officer knocked down a Kenosha officer during a break between exercises which resulted in an injury that required surgery and physical therapy. The City Attorney’s office said no other details of the incident would be provided to protect the privacy of the injured officer. What? A spokesman for Racine Mayor Cory Mason tried to allay public fears and said the injury was not caused by a shooting. Well, good. Except, of course, for the shot to the wallet of Racine taxpayers. The issue goes to the Finance and Personnel Committee on Monday and the City Council could take it up on March 19.