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Monday, January 28, 2008

Why won't they run

By Mike Heine/The Week

Ella Pious is one of the few.

She is one of the few people in Walworth County to serve her government for more than 30 years.

She is also one of the few people in Walworth County to serve her government as a minority.

The county's minority population is growing, no question about that.

But there is a question in Pious' mind. Why aren't more minorities serving on-county boards, city councils, school boards, citizen committees, etc.?

"I don't know if it's lack of interest or ignorance. I really can't say," said Pious, a 90-year-old retired social worker from the community of Lake Ivanhoe. She has served on the county's health and human services board since the early 1970s.

"When I talk with the few (minorities) I think would be interested, they just aren't interested. What accounts for that? I really can't say. Maybe because they haven't been exposed to government enough or are suspicious or mistrustful."

There are nearly 150 elected officials in Walworth County's 16 towns, seven villages four cities and the county government itself, plus several dozen school board members in 15 county school districts.

And there are few, if any, minority elected officials and only a handful serving on our area's citizen committees.

Yet the county's minority population increased from about 5,000 in 2000 to more than 11,000 in 2006. That's nearly 10 percent of the current population, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates.

Minorities represented about 5 percent of the population in 2000, according to bureau estimates.

Unsolved mysteries

So why aren't more minorities participating in government?

The reasoning could be broad, said Charles Franklin, a professor of political science at UW-Madison.

The minority population in Walworth County, as indicated by the census data, is relatively new and is still small when compared to urban areas of the state.

"It's not unusual for new and growing populations to lag behind in running candidates for office," Franklin said. "That's neither good nor bad. It's simply the way the political and social process works. The exception might be where you have unusually fast growth and some self-conscious community that has developed."

They are mostly "new people that are beginning to learn the way of American life," said Margarita Garfias de Christianson, a bilingual specialist at Comprehensive Family Services in Beloit. "People are not prepared to lead themselves because they are continuing to learn how the system is run. It's hard to maneuver in it."

A second issue is the nature of the recent arrivals' community.

Latinos, for instance, are busy finding housing, stable jobs, transportation, enrolling children in school and earning citizenship.

"A lot of Hispanics, (especially) relatively recent arrival Hispanic populations, are more involved in (their own) economic success and economic striving, whether that means working hard or starting a business," Franklin said. "I'm just saying that tension is focused more on economics than it is politics and communal behavior."

Sometimes there may not be a polarizing force for a community to rally behind. Without one, there are often few candidates for office, Caucasian or minority, Franklin said.

"I think one of the mobilizing factors of people running for office is a perception that the community is not getting the services it deserves," he said. "If a community is consciously aware that it is not getting those services, that provides an opportunity for one of these people to step forward. That gives them a base to capitalize on-unsatisfied constituents-and it gives them a reason to run."

There hasn't been much noticeable outcry by minority populations in Walworth County.

The biggest "mobilizing factor" occurred in Whitewater's Hispanic community following an Aug. 8, 2006, Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid at Star Packaging.

Authorities arrested 25 suspected illegal immigrant workers and the company's owner.

Many Whitewater Latinos were outraged and spoke out against the raids. A public relations campaign by the city to reach out to Hispanics has apparently promoted understanding. The situation has since quieted in the college community.

If there is unrest in the county's minority communities, elected officials might not know about it, Pious said. Unless the elected go out looking, they often won't find problems.

"If a need isn't expressed, then they're left in ignorance themselves," Pious said. "So they just go on doing what the board has done. Maybe the adage applies that they don't fix it, but they don't know it might be broken."

Language is another barrier. If minority populations can't speak the language of government, they might never get their messages across, Garfias de Christianson said.

"Most (Latinos) come here with monolingual skills, speaking only one language, and that's Spanish," she said. "They cannot express themselves in a way that they could make any complaints ... If they don't understand it, then they cannot very well criticize or voice their opinion."

Outreach important

Delavan, a city that is more than 20 percent Latino, is seeing minorities use the services offered, City Administrator Joe Salitros said.

The library and city swim pond are popular destinations for Hispanic kids and there is significant minority participation in recreation programs, Salitros said.

What he's not seeing are complaints by minority groups.

"It's almost like it's a silent but growing sector of the population," Salitros said.

That's not to mean they should be ignored.

Politicians should be proactive in addressing the needs of minorities in their jurisdictions. Many may try to be, but they often toe the line so as to not upset a predominantly white voting public, Franklin said.

"There's the old line and new immigrant populations," Franklin said. "It's a struggle between city officials protecting the old-line interest and the newcomers. If the conflict is too great between constituencies, then there is opportunity for leadership to accommodate the interests of the newcomers."

It takes minority groups time to adjust to their community and it will take governments time to adjust to the growing minority presence, said Susan Johnson, UW-Whitewater Political Science Department chairwoman.

"As a community, if you're trying to develop good community relations, there should be an outreach to all different groups in your community," Johnson said.

"If there's a certain point when that (minority) constituency gets to a critical mass, from a political standpoint, I suppose it should have a good relationship with what is called the outside group. It's a communitarian idea, reaching out to new people in the community to get them involved."


Wanting to return to their cabin in the woods 50 years later

By John Halverson/The Week

The snapshot accompanying this story shows a cabin, three boys, a tree and an Adirondack chair.

Photo provided
Know where this is? If so, call Mark Halvey at (262) 279-3388. This photo, taken in 1957, shows, from left, 4-year-old Mark, Bob, who was 7 or 8 and Gary, 6.

But to Mark, Bob and Gary Halvey, the three boys in the photo, it's a multi-dimensional rendering of the three summers they spent there.

Taken soon after their first arrival in 1957, the picture is a historical snow globe-a casual glance and you don't see much, but let Mark, Bob and Gary reminisce for awhile and the otherwise benign image snows memories.

Sure, a snapshot is often a photo no one cares about but you, but if you were there, you're able to see beyond its borders.

If you're Gary, you'll see his shoes "with half moons ... you know ... Converse All-Stars," even though they're not in the picture.

As the "Little Prince" said: "One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eye."

Now, more than 50 years after the picture was taken, Mark and Gary are in my office, talking not only about seen and unseen memories, but also about their desire to find the tangible and real -the cabin itself or at least what's taken its place.

Mark, who was 4 when the picture was taken, has a crumpled piece of paper listing their recollections. He checks them off one by one:

It starts with the three brothers and their parents walking from the Lake Geneva railroad station on a warm summer night in 1957. They had just arrived from Chicago with directions to a cabin on Lake Como owned by a neighbor, but obviously had not been told how long a walk it would be.

The boys are lugging suitcases and carrying pillows, when a two-toned Chevy convertible pulls up. The two teenagers in the convertible, who are probably in their 70s now, offer the family a ride. Mark assumes they had to use the someone-sit-on-so-and-so's lap method to fit everyone, the method we only tolerate in youth or desperation. Gary, who was 6 then, recalls the wind in his hair.

While you can picture the parents doing practical things, the first thing the boys remember upon arrival at the two-room cabin was playing its crank-up record player.

There was also a strange toaster that used the gas stove as an energy source.

They both remember how sunburned everyone was. Gary says it hurt too much to lie down so he slept sitting down with his head on a table.

They repeat a story their father told over and over again, about Bob's troubles with an overly friendly bug. Like the best family lore, it has a chapter heading: "The great chase."

Gary and Mark were enamored with Lake Geneva, saying it was the first time they'd seen angle parking.

As for the cabin's location, they recall two nearby landmarks-a well and a store called either the Center of the Universe or the Center of the World.

This summer they and family members, including their father, found the well they knew as Laughing Waters, but the cabin itself remains either out of reach or unreachable.

At 89, their father's memory is failing and their mother died five years ago, taking away what memories she had.

But when a deer stopped on their path as they were leaving the well, Mark said it turned their way and made eye contact.

"What are the chances of that showing up just at that time?" he asks.

Mark said it was almost as though he felt his mother's presence.

"We all kinda froze and it walked away. It was like some sort of sign."

A more tangible sign, the one on the cabin itself, says "Tunison," the name of the woman who owned it, but the Tunison they remember is long gone.

So all Mark, Bob and Gary have left is a photo, memories that go beyond its borders and a desire to return to their source.


Lyle's burglary remains unsolved

By Mike Heine/The Week

The flat-screen TVs and high-end stereos are back on the shelves inside Lyle's TV and Appliance.

Have a tip?

If you know anything about the late August burglary at Lyle's TV and Appliance, call the Walworth County Crime Stoppers tip line at (262) 723-COPS (2677), or the Elkhorn Police Department at (262) 723-2210.

But owners of the appliance and electronics store are still wondering where 30 televisions and 20 stereo receivers and amplifiers-some $200,000 worth of merchandise-went after a late summer burglary.

Elkhorn police are still investigating, Chief Joel Christensen said.

DNA evidence was sent to the state crime lab for analysis and the department is waiting for results, he said.

He could provide few other details about the open investigation.

The snatch-and-grab at Lyle's was similar to a burglary at an electronics store near Fond du Lac weeks earlier and a Dec. 30 burglary at an appliance store in Marinette, Wis.

In all three, the burglar or burglars used the stores' delivery trucks to haul away stolen electronics.

The trucks were returned to Lyle's and Drees Electric in Marinette. The trucks from the burglary at Silica Appliance Warehouse near Fond du Lac turned up in Milwaukee and Chicago, Christensen said.

Authorities aren't sure if the burglaries are related or if they are copycat crimes.

"If there are similarities, there are similarities," said Lt. Bill Flood of the Fond du Lac Sheriff's Office. "I'd be shooting from the hip if I commented on that."

"I think there are some definite similarities," Marinette Police Chief Jeff Skorik said. "The investigators are aware of those and they are looking at the possibility of a connection."

So far, there is nothing to indicate a link between any of the break-ins, Skorik said.

Fond du Lac authorities recovered a few of the approximately 80 TVs stolen from Silica Appliance Warehouse, Flood said.

Consumers should be cautious if they see incredible deals to buy discounted electronic goods, particularly items without boxes, manuals or serial numbers, Flood said.

Stolen property can be confiscated by police, and if the buyer knows it is stolen they too can be charged with a crime, Flood said.

"If someone has a $3,000 flat-screen and is asking $800, you've got to think something is up," he said. "If you don't, you're just taking part in a bad deal."

Bald eagles soar near Fontana

Photo by Mary Constable-Aldinger
An adult bald eagle were seen scouting for food on a 7-degree day a week ago along Geneva Lake near Fontana. The photo was taken Mary Constable-Aldinger from the kitchen window of her home on Arrowhead Drive in Fontana.

Lake Geneva's Winterfest 2008 schedule

Video: Scenes from Lake Geneva's 2007 U.S. National snow sculpting competition

Jan 30-Feb. 1

Snow-sculpting teams at work at Riviera Park, 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

Feb. 1-3
Bundle Up and Catch the Snowflake-prizes, giveaways, in-store activities and events throughout downtown Lake Geneva shops and restaurants.

Feb. 2
10 a.m.-4 p.m. Riviera Ballroom, Park, Marketplace and lakefront-children's snow sculpting, wagon rides, helicopter rides, tethered hot air balloon rides, sleigh on wheel rides, raffles for Midwest Express Airline tickets, entertainment, food, gold sponsors information booths and children's entertainment.

10 a.m.-8 p.m. Winter Carnival at the Grand Geneva Resort, Mountain Top Ski Lodge ski school and ski patrol demonstrations, snow boarding and skiing competitions and a myriad of children's games and snow activities and concluding with a torch-light parade and a grand fireworks display.

11 a.m. Sculpting ends
11 a.m. The WOZ music and magic
11 a.m.-2 p.m. People's Choice Award voting
Noon Tom Stanfield sing-a-longs
1 p.m. The WOZ music and magic
2 p.m. Tom Stanfield sing-a-longs
3 p.m. United States National Snow Sculpting Awards Presentation

Feb. 3
10 a.m.-3 p.m. Riviera Ballroom, Park and Marketplace-finished sculpture viewing, raffle tickets for Midwest Express Airline tickets available just inside door, entertainment, food, gold sponsors information booths and Down Home Blue Grass and Country entertainment.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

What's mom to do while waiting to get to the top of the list?

Send your donation to: The Time Is Now to Help, PO Box 70, Pell Lake, WI 53157


Editor's Note: The following is a letter to The Time Is Now, a private charity serving Walworth County. The founder, who knew poverty as a child, now provides help for those in need. Every penny donated goes to the needy for daily necessities of life. Donors will receive a tax-deductible itemized receipt showing exactly where every penny was spent. We'll publish a letter most weeks.

My dear readers,

When I did a visit today, I noticed the springs in the couch were showing and there was only one twin bed with no blankets that several children were sharing. There was a dire lack of food and many windows needed repair. They had used pieces of wood and cardboard to fill in the broken panes of glass.

After helping there, I moved on to find an elderly widow who did not have much of anything. She barely was keeping the heat going and set at a temperature where she had to wear her coat at all times. No car, no phone, no relatives or friends close by.

When I inquired into who comes to visit she looked at me with tears in her eyes.

"Who would want to visit with me?" she asked. "Why would they want to?"

As she looked away to cover her sadness I reached out, hugged her and said, "Well, I'm here aren't I?"

"You don't know how much this means," she said.

"I think I do, because if you are half as happy as I am for being here, it does mean a lot."

She gripped me even tighter, surprising me with the strength she possessed.

She needed help in most areas so we provided her with the daily necessities of food, rent, utility assistance and some small appliances to make her life easier. She did not even own a can opener and she tried not to burn her bread when she toasted it under the broiler. Those are just a few of the things we often take for granted.

"I feel like a new person," she said after several visits. "God bless everyone for helping."

I met another single mom today. When I arrived I noticed she was crying. I asked her if she had applied for any assistance.

"I did several weeks ago but I was told that I was on the waiting list," she answered.

The waiting list she was on would not provide help and if it did, it would not be for several months. We went into action right away. The children were provided with food, rent assistance, clothing and some Christmas cheer was given to all we met.

It is about 3 a.m. and I finally got home. I am so tired. I am emotionally and physically exhausted. I know after I get some sleep, I will be ready to pour myself, body and soul, into helping the needy again tomorrow.

I do love what I do, but I have to admit emotionally it gets very draining and combined with pushing myself, I can feel the toll these past weeks have taken.

If I could do nothing else but the Time is Now to Help, it would be a dream come true. I feel I am fulfilling my mission in life when I am assisting those in need.

In addition to the long hours, the season also brings our brutal winter to the poverty-stricken. If you do not have money for heat or shelter, or if you have a car that has no heat--or worse yet no car and are required to walk to work--it is especially difficult.

If the poverty-stricken are lucky enough to have a car, probably half of those cars are in need of repairs. The wipers might not work, windows might not operate or might be broken, or batteries that have been jumped for the past year or more need to be replaced. Often they are running on fumes hoping to get where they are going because they do not have money for gas. I often check tires only to find the treads smooth as a tabletop. For the others who do not have a car, they wish they had one of those wrecks.

Along with our generous sharing, there are many more referrals than any time of the year. People are being more conscious of one another and wanting to help. A lot of people help by bringing those in need to our attention. That is what we are here for, to network the people in need to the right assistance. Often these referrals are the most desperate situations. The people often are not aware of the assistance available to them and live in insufferable conditions much longer than necessary.

I thank the Lord and I thank every one of you for your caring and sharing.

Health and happiness,

God bless everyone,


The Bill McEssy's McDonald's Day Fundraiser: The fifth annual event raised $40,380 and another $3,600 from the donation boxes McEssy allowed us to keep in his McDonald's restaurants through the month of December.

A special thank you to: J.D. Development, MLH, Bill and Lois McEssy, Tom and Kathleen Murray, Dick and Jean Honeyager, Steve and Catherine Boho, Jay Ieronimo, Donald and Kim Parker, Brittany Reuss, Jenna Palmer, Donald and Marilyn Ketchpaw, Dennis and Donna Wisniewski, Peter and Ingrid McMasters, Tim and Laura Kolnik, Helen McMasters, Donna Jones, Frank and Donna Scherkenbach, Marvin and Audrey Hersko, Jerry and Thelma Meyer, David Williams, Duane and Evelyn Duesterbeck, Rose Loverde, Dawn Heiser, Phyllis Weeden, Richard and Jane Roman, Dale and Gail Folkers, Thomas and Jean Holloway, Gwen Quincannon, Vera Lawton, Cathie Hoerler, Damian Slaske and Janet Williams.

Endowments/helping others through your will: For those of you who wish to leave an endowment for the poverty-stricken, we would greatly accept any gifts. Please think of those in desperate need, good people, living in fear of poverty and consider helping them through your will.


The secret to a winning snow sculpture

CLICK for schedule

By Donna Lenz Wright

For most observers, it's jaw-dropping amazement to see the final intricate yet massive sculptures revealed from a three-ton chunk of snow.

Submitted photo

The Kilted Snow Weasels snow-sculpting team from Illinois will return again this year to Winterfest.

But how do they do it?

It's all about being brave and just going for it, says William Brown, member of Team Illinois, the Kilted Snow Weasels. Along with George Harnish and Brock McWilliams, he'll be in town this week to compete in the U.S. National Snow Sculpting Competition. The event is part of Lake Geneva's annual Winterfest celebration.

The Kilted Snow Weasels will join 15 other three-member teams, chiseling away, sending flakes flying like Edward Scissorhands.

Brown and Harnish have been sculpting together for 14 years, and this is McWilliams' first year on the team. Their former partner, captain and team founder, Randy Tackett, retired last year.

It all begins with an idea, of course.

"George and I are best friends, so we're talking all year," Brown begins. "We're always kicking around ideas. But we make our final decision by October.

"It's remarkable what snow can do, but we're constantly thinking about balance and weight. To be honest, you really don't know if it's going to work until you do it."

They're not allowed to use armatures, frames, molds or anything except snow, ice and water.

A 3-D model comes next. Brown's team uses Sculpey polymer clay created from a picture or idea, which Harnish has a knack for creating, Brown says with relief. Others use 2-D or even 1-D guides.

Nothing further can be done until the big day when they're standing at the lakefront in Riviera Park, face-to-face with the 10-foot-high block of snow.

"When I'm standing there, it's not easy for me to see an image inside the block," Brown admits. "Some people can do it--George can always do it. He looks and already sees it. And I think, 'Thank God he can, because I can't.'"

With no time for doubts, they jump right in.

"We always start at the top and work down. First we cut biggest and parts out that we know we're not going to need.

"Many times we use a ruler. One inch on our model equals one foot on our sculpture. It's precise measurements until the image starts to slowly appear."

At every stage, teamwork is the name of the game, he says.

"It's constantly snowing down. There's always someone doing a creative activity and someone removing the snow collecting at base.

"As it goes, you sometimes see it and sometimes you lose it. That's when we rotate. There's not a job that's too small or too big. There's never been a year when someone hasn't gotten stuck during the process."

After the big chunks are gone, it's time to move on to the smaller detail work of sanding and smoothing.

These stages can go in any direction, depending on the weather. If it's cold, they can work by day and sleep and eat in reasonable shifts. But if it's warmer, everything changes.

Art vs. sport

"We've spent hours discussing whether it's an art or a sport and concluded that it's a fine combination of both.

"We've seen so many newcomers have excellent artistic backgrounds and skills, but when it comes to pulling all-nighters and the cold--that's where the stamina really becomes the sport in who can last the longest and endure."

The Kilted Snow Weasels have mastered the all-nighter.

"Some years we've won out of pure tenacity. The teams that can adapt to weather changes and stick it out do the best."

This aspect has resulted in the downfall of many teams, he adds.

"Nobody tells them about this part of the sport and they're a bit shocked."

This year's sculpture

The Kilted Snow Weasels are hoping for very cold weather as they've chosen a very delicate sculpture.

"It's the ascent of a female angel breaking out of the ground with her wings all around her. It's very very fragile. If it's cold, we can do very wonderful things."

Their model is a replica of a statue Brown has at home.

Even with all of their experience, skill and whether the weather cooperates, there's no guarantee their vision won't become a catastrophe--like the year they chose "Napoleon's Crossing."

"Napoleon's crossing Alps on a horse, the horse is on his hind legs and his cape is flowing in the wind," he begins, already laughing.

"It was a fairly cold year and ... it's 30 minutes to go when we got the idea to cut away the front hooves from the rocks--that's a sculpting secret; if you need to hold something up, put rocks under it-so we're carefully cutting away the rocks and suddenly the two front legs fall.

"Now it's 20 minutes before judging and here we are with a horse with two stumps on the front. Fortunately, snow is very forgiving and we made a slush mixture and slapped it back together.

"And," he laughs, "We got second place. That's just it. You can either play it safe or push the medium as far as it will go. That's how you win.

'It's all about us'

While the nationals are a serious competition, the Kilted Snow Weasels are known as jokers of the circuit (hence, the name.)

"We might not always even place, but we always have fun," Brown says. "We're the team that jokes with other teams we've known saying things like, 'Hey, we're going to throw sidewalk salt on your piece.'

"Our team motto is, 'It's All About Us,' just to have fun with it. We try to make it more fun for spectators than just watching the sculpting.

"We'll tell kids to throw snowballs at teams we know will see the humor in it--stuff like that."

That it's always a friendly competition is much of what keeps Brown and his teammates coming back.

"We're always glad to lend our tools to other teams. Everyone's--almost everyone's--borrowing and sharing tools and giving pointers. That's one thing I love about this sport, especially at nationals, it's really a neat competition. And we may not be the best, but for some reason, people like us."




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