Thursday, August 27, 2009

Debate Challenge for Racine Aldermen

I happen to know that several Racine aldermen read Free Racine. Alderman Helding and Alderman Maack have even commented on the site. So I know they are out there.

What perplexes me is a reluctance on the part of Racine aldermen to publicly defend policies that they voted for and presumably support. For example, I have criticized the city council for a liquor licensing policy that discriminates against black drinkers. Also, I have stated that the city's UNIT (Unified Neighborhood Inspection Team) practice of relabling a fine as a fee deprives citizens of a constitutional right to defend themselves in court.

These are serious charges. If I were on the city council, I would take any such charges seriously - as I would have taken an oath to defend the constitution. If the charges were meritless, I would provide my reasons for concluding so. If the charges had merit, I would introduce legislation to correct the problem. Ignoring the charges alltogether demonstrates a lack of seriousness and or a lack of political courage.

I hereby challenge any and all Racine Alderman to an online debate about either or both of the concerns that I have brought forward.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Election Musings

A few friends of mine were musing the other day about election opponents for John Lehman or Bob Turner. I was not there but my name came up as a potential opponent of Bob Turner. And it was quickly detirmined that in liberal Racine I had no chance of winning, at which time they began considering a moderate Democrat for the task.

Now I happen to agree with my friend's assessment of my chances of winning, being slim to none. Their assessment was that I was too far to the right - not for them - but for Racine voters.

I am a bit of a radical, I will admit. But what am I radical about? I am radically in favor of freedom and radically opposed to those things that threaten our freedoms.

Does this make me unelectable in Racine? Perhaps so. Should I moderate my views on freedom to appeal to a wider audience? Sure, if I want to live a life as a political slut. No thanks.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Support Slipping Silently

Liberals and conservatives alike know that I like to talk politics. Hardly a day went by without somebody pointing out what a boob President Bush was at the time.

I realized yesterday that no liberals are talking to me about President Obama. None. The subject never comes up. Never.

I heard all the time during the election that he was going to be a great president. I think I would be hearing from liberals if they were pleased with Obama thus far. But I hear nothing.

I wonder if support for Obama is silently slipping among liberals. I suspect that it would be a bit of an embarrassment to admit as much to a conservative. Liberals have invested heavily, psychologically and otherwise, in Obama. It is going to be a hard fall.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Elephant in the Alcohol Licensing Committee

I can't say I am terribly surprised that the Chuns were denied a beer license for their would be convenient store. The city's effort to transform Sixth St into an artist haven has failed miserably. A few art shops have moved from 6th to Main Street and those that remain on 6th appear to be on life support. Meanwhile, 6th has been slowly becoming a night life destination, especially with the opening of Park 6. And with that has come problems.

So it was not surprising that the only significant opposition to the beer license came from a handful of merchants and shopkeepers. No doubt they have been affected by misbehaving bar patrons and they have had enough.

But I believe that there is more to their opposition than this. I strongly suspect that the perception, if not the reality, is that Park 6 customers are primarily responsible for an increase in obnoxious behavior. And for those of you that are not familiar with Park 6, it is a dance club that, on weekend nights at least, is packed with black people.

Now just to be very clear, I am NOT suggesting that opponents of the Chuns are racists. What I am suggesting is that there may well exist a correlation between black people/alcohol/dance music and misbehavior that is significantly higher than, say, a correlation between octogenarians/tea/bingo and misbehavior. So the merchants are trying to prevent badly behaving people from coming in to the neighborhood. It just so happens that they worried that the future customers of the Chuns would be of the troublemaking variety, like they see in Park 6 customers.

I have been to numerous alcohol licensing meetings and it is quite amusing to watch. Would be applicants must talk in code. They say things like "Ours will be a high end establishment. We won't become a hip hop club" or "We won't sell 40 ounce cans of Malt Liquor." I wish one of them would come out and tell the committee exactly what the committee seemingly wants to hear, something like "You can be damned sure that I will actively discourage young black people from entering my establishment."

The problem I have with the alcohol licensing process is that, in an attempt to preempt problems, the city in effect quietly discriminates against a whole goup of people, in this case young black people. And while there is arguably a strong correlation between dance clubs and misbehavior, it is entirely unfair to the majority of black people who go to clubs and who behave themselves.

Rather than discriminate against young black people who like to drink beer or listen to rap music, the city should instead focus on the smaller group of people, whatever their color, that misbehave. Let people drink beer and listen to music. And let us also lower our tolerance for bad behavior.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Action Alert

Sometimes our problems are so big (wars, health care, recessions etc...) and the deciders so far removed from our lives that it seems that their is little if anything we can do.

This is one reason I am attracted to local issues. You might know the players involved, you can call your alderman and there is a good chance he will return your call, you can speak before the city council etc... In other words, you can have an impact.

On Monday August 10th, you can can do something. A wonderful family from Barrington Illinois want to relocate to Racine to open a convenient store on 6th street in downtown Racine. They will be unable to open the store without approval from the city to sell prepackaged beer. They will be before the licensing committee at city hall at 5 pm on Monday August 10th and they need support from everyday people in the Racine area.

There will be opposition. Certainly there is a correlation between excessive alcohol consumption and various social ills. In downtown Racine on any given weekend there are serious problems that require frequent police intervention. So there is a fair amount of pressure on public officials to curb the sale of alcohol in Racine.

On the other hand, any honest observer of downtown alcohol fueled problems will realize that the problems are coming from the bars, not the few establishments that sell prepackaged beer. In the last few years downtown has lost the Century Market and Brauns liquors, neither of which contributed to any problems downtown.

So the gist of the problem here is that future sellers of packaged alcohol, like the Chun family from Illinois, may now have to pay the price for the problems created by current irresponsible bar owners and patrons. This would be most unfair and I dare say unAmerican insofar as decent upstanding citizens will be barred from starting their own business here in Racine. And we do need new businesses in Racine.

I know, this is a small matter that barely affects you or me. But there is an important principle at stake, namely that law abiding citizens ought to be able to open a business and sell a legal product.

You may have no ability whatsoever to affect the health care debate or influence policy in Iraq, but you could help a decent hard working family relocate and invest in Racine. A few words of support for the Chun family on Monday August 10th, 5 pm at city hall will go a long way.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Unconstitutional Neighborhood Inspection Team

I received a bill from the City of Racine the other day. I was being charged $100 for an inspection of my property and $87 or so for labor and administration for the removal of materials from my property. I called up the UNIT (Unified Neighborhood Inspection Team) to find out what this was all about. The gentleman on the phone looked at my file, and then described the materials and their location - on a fresh slab of concrete. I told him that the fresh slab of concrete was not my property and would they please remove the charges against me. He told me that the UNIT inspector would get back to me. A day or so later there was a message for me on my answering machine at work desribing the process for contesting the charges - I needed to write a letter to the head of Public Works to plead my case.

There are a few things wrong with this. First there is the presumption of guilt. Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty? Then of course it is up to me to prove my innocence by appealing to the same branch of government (executive) that is charging me. Whatever happened to separation of powers? What about the right to a fair trial?

UNIT may be very effective in cleaning up neighborhoods, but they still need to be constrained by our constitution. So while I am a bit perturbed by the mistake made by UNIT, I place the blame squarely with our elected alderman and mayor. Why? Because they knowingly put in place a program that violates the constitutional rights of Racine citizens. And they have all sworn to uphold the constitution.