The first people in line for tickets to see President Barack Obama during a town hall meeting on the economy at Racine’s Memoiral Hall waited a full 12 hours before the doors opened Tuesday morning.
Norris Johnson said he couldn’t give up the chance to see the president. “As an African American raised in the South, it’s a historic event for me,” said Johnson. “I just want to hear exactly what he’s got to say. This is his time speak, and whatever his views are, I just want to stand behind him.” Don Castleberry drove up from Beach Park, Illinois for tickets to the presidential event on Wednesday. For Castleberry, the economy is the number one issue. “The main concern for me is jobs . . . and the unemployment rate,” he said. “I think that’s the biggest concern for the country, other than the BP problem.”
The last group of people through the doors at noon Tuesday had been standing in line since about 7:30, while hundreds more went away empty handed. Officials would not release how many tickets were available to the public.
Racine Mayor John Dickert said the presidential visit will be a chance for Mr. Obama to see what’s going on in Racine. Dickert, a Democrat, said his message will be that cities are using federal funds they recieve, wisely. “Take a look at it, Mr. President, see what we’re doing, and you know what? Don’t just throw money at us, provide us the money that we can utilize. I can create jobs, I can rebuild my infrastructure, I can get long term sustainable job growth. That’s why we ask for money. Don’t just throw money at us, I’m asking for specific amounts of money in things that we’ve done that work. Hopefully that message will be loud and clear.”
Dickert admited the president’s visit will be costly, and he’ll be asking for reimbursement, but there are other ways the city can recoup its losses. “You know, if he gives me two million dollars to do my lights, it’ll probabley be worth the money that we spend to have him here. It’s difficult, because we really are watching every penny.”