Controversy continues over streetlight removal in Racine

RACINE -- A Racine neighborhood is taking on City Hall this week - pushing to keep the streetlights on their streets, after the city recently began having some streetlights removed due to a lack of funding from the state.

Karl Fuller is leading the charge to stop the city-wide streetlight removal process. Fuller has gathered more than 40 signatures from those in nearly every household on Jerome Boulevard on a petition to the mayor and city council. The street will soon see two if its approximately eight streetlights taken down, and Fuller argues Jerome Boulevard is not your ordinary residential street, and they need all the streetlights. "This street supports businesses on both ends, and we also have a lot of traffic that's totally not related to our neighborhood," Fuller said.

Racine Mayor John Dickert says the city lost more than $3 million in state funding this year, and the elimination of nearly 500 streetlights throughout the city is only a small part of much larger cuts, saving around $80 thousand a year. Mayor Dickert says the lights won't be back anytime soon. "The fact is, these cuts will become the new norm, as long as this type of budgeting from the state keeps coming down to the cities," Dickert said.

Fuller says he plans to hold a protest and present his petition to the city council this Tuesday. He's hoping aldermen will change their minds on at least Jerome Boulevard's two lights, but the mayor isn't optimistic. "It's not good for any of us. We don't like it, but the fact is, this is what we have to do," Dickert said.

"The city seems to be pointing the finger at the state, saying it's because of budget cuts, and I understand the fiscal concerns and constraints we have to live within, but not to the safety and security of the citizens," Fuller said.

Many of the streetlights are city-owned, however, none of those will be coming down. Instead, city leaders are using federal grants to turn the bulbs into LEDs, much like the streetlights on the stretch of Ohio Street. The mayor says he hopes the cost savings from those changes will one day be able to bring back many of the streetlights they've had to cut.