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Bad law puts park users and hunters at odds PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 12 December 2012 17:46

Despite an unprecedented outcry from the public, Wisconsin state parks and trails will be opened to hunting and trapping more than seven months a year starting Jan. 1

Wisconsin is a hunting utopia. More than 5 million acres of its beautiful land in forests, prairies, wetlands, glacial landscapes and farm fields are designated for hunting. So respected is the hunting tradition in Wisconsin that these grounds are provided for hunters in large part at taxpayer expense through tax subsidies for landowners.

    What justification then can there be for the state to declare about 60,000 acres of the land in Wisconsin state parks open to hunting for more than half of the year?

    Gov. Scott Walker’s answer is that this is needed to counter unspecified actions by “unelected bureaucrats . . . threatening Wisconsin’s proud sporting tradition” and eroding “our Second Amendment rights.”

    In that spirit, the Legislature passed Act 168, which, starting Jan. 1, opens all of the land in state parks and trails to hunting and trapping, except in areas specifically excluded by the Natural Resources Board.

    This legislation is at once gratuitous and harmful. It serves no genuine need, yet is likely to diminish the enjoyment so many Wisconsin citizens experience in their splendid state parks.

     The use of state parks by hunters and trappers under Act 168 should not be confused with the unobtrusive hunting that has been allowed in some of these parks for years, which has been limited mainly to deer and turkey hunting. Because these are short hunting seasons, people who were concerned about being in these natural areas when hunters were afoot could schedule their park visits for other times, and as a result there has been little conflict.

    But under Act 168, the Department of Natural Resources proposed opening state parks and trails to hunting and trapping from Oct. 15 to the Thursday before Memorial Day.

    Park users hate the idea. This is dramatically evident in letters, e-mails and telephone calls to the DNR. The agency reports that 96% of the 2,033 comments it has received from the public concerning Act 168 oppose hunting and trapping in state parks.

    Natural Resources Board member Jane Wiley said, “Getting 2,000 comments sends an incredibly strong signal.” She added it was the most e-mails the agency has ever received on a single issue.

    Many of these comments are motivated by fear that a rifle or shotgun shot intended for an animal will hit a human being. Hunting is safer than many non-hunters assume; statistics reveal fewer deaths from hunting accidents than a number of other outdoor activities. Still, more than 100 people in the U.S. are accidentally killed by hunters each year, and it is understandable that there are worries that unlike in public hunting grounds, which non-hunters tend to avoid, the park-hunting law could dangerously juxtapose armed and unarmed park users. Many of the latter are families with children.

    Suggestions from some supporters of Act 168 that park visitors should purchase and wear blaze orange clothing to improve their chances of avoiding a misaimed shot is an affront to people who have been using state parks long before the gates were opened to hunters (and paying for the privilege).

    Snowshoers who venture far off trails have also voiced their concerns, as have dog owners who fear their pets could be caught in a trap meant for a wolf, coyote, fox or bobcat.

    Many other park enthusiasts simply find hunting out of character with the quiet natural places they love for the opportunity to be near wilderness and wildlife.

    The Natural Resources Board is required by Act 168 to open all properties in the state parks and trails system to hunting and trapping except where it is deemed unsafe to humans or a threat to rare plants and wildlife. The board has already decided to make about a third of the parks and trail land, mostly around park facilities and near urban areas, off limits to hunting, and was to meet this week to consider final restrictions.

    The board should interpret the safety mandate as broadly as possible out of fairness to the more than 1.5 million Wisconsin residents who use Wisconsin state parks.    

    In the meantime, stuck with a bad law, state residents are left to contemplate the reason for the existence of Act 168. Hunters already have more land available than their diminishing numbers can use. State park use by campers, hikers, bird-watchers and nature lovers in general is surging. So, is it all about, as the governor seems to suggest, the Second Amendment, the gun-rights provision that, far from being threatened, has been affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court and bolstered in Wisconsin by concealed-carry and self-defense laws? Are the Legislature and the governor saying the Second Amendment guarantees the right to hunt in state parks?

    Now there’s a novel interpretation of the Constitution.

    Editor’s note: Just before this editorial went to press, the Natural Resources Board voted to reject the seven-plus-month season and allow hunting and trapping in most parks from Nov. 15 to Dec. 15. DNR secretary Cathy Stepp criticized the decision as failing to meet the expectations of the Legislature.

Stop worrying, be happy about Port parking PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 05 December 2012 17:28

Parking is much easier and friendlier in downtown Port Washington than at malls and big-box stores

Port Washington’s downtown has had its ups and downs over the past few decades, but one aspect of the business district has remained constant: Parking paranoia is still the Great Satan, a terrifying bogeyman that provokes obsessive worry and sleepless nights. In Port, Chicken Little doesn’t warn the sky is falling; she warns the parking is failing.

    No sooner did the news about the downtown start getting better—the opening of the Duluth Trading Co. store, a coming museum, the renaissance of the Lueptow/Boerner building—than the handwringing began anew. How are we going to provide parking for all those visitors and shoppers? Do we need a multi-level parking structure?

    Settle down, folks. Port Washington does not have a parking problem. It has a parking asset. Other towns and shopping areas would kill for Port’s parking.

    The city has more parking now—acres upon acres of it on main commercial streets, side streets and numerous public parking lots—than it had when its was a thriving retail center attracting so many shoppers from a wide trade area that it had downtown traffic jams.

    And parking space is increasing, thanks to the new owner of the Lueptow/Boerner building buying two properties behind Franklin Street (with one structure already razed and another slated to be demolished) expressly to provide more parking space.

    Port’s parking lots let shoppers park closer to stores than they are able to at malls and big-box stores, adding to the appeal of small-town shopping as an alternative to driving considerable distances for the dubious privilege of parking in crowded megalots (think Grafton’s Costco on a weekend) or, worse, creepy parking structures and walking long distances, often through harassing traffic, to and from stores.

    All downtown Port parking lots are just a few steps away from sidewalks that provide a safe, easy stroll to stores. Shopping mall and big-box parking lots are notoriously hostile to pedestrians, who have to share space on the pavement with vehicles.

    The city does a good job managing competing needs for its downtown parking space, recognizing that people who live and work in the heart of the city are as important to the downtown as shoppers. The sale of monthly parking passes for metered lots—all day for workers or 24/7 for residents at higher cost—has been a successful program.

    (Most of the employees of Port Publications, Inc., owner of Ozaukee Press and one of the largest downtown employers, park in public lots off Grand Avenue, Washington Street or Pier Street.)

    From time to time there are complaints about downtown workers usurping two-hour parking spaces meant for shoppers. It has even been reported that a few people spy out of workplace windows on the tire-marking activities of the city’s parking enforcer and then sneak out to rub off chalk marks or move their cars to another two-hour space.

    Well, the Port Washington Police Department is on the case, though its response seems more like a pat on the backs of the offenders than a slap on their wrists. As part of its 2013 parking initiative in cooperation with Main Street and the Chamber of Commerce, the PWPD is actually going to stop giving tickets for two-hour violations during the month of January. According to Police Chief Kevin Hingiss, parking violators will given be “yellow written warnings” instead of parking tickets during the month. That sounds more like a license to park all day in a two-hour space than a move to assure parking turnover.         In any case, the problem will probably go away when employers realize that valuable time is being wasted by workers on the clock trying to one-up the parking ticket lady—time that would be better spent walking from a nearby parking lot.

    It says something when the biggest parking problem Port can come up with is a few scofflaws rubbing off chalk marks. It says Port doesn’t really have a parking problem.

Never raise taxes? Voters disagree PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 28 November 2012 15:07

Voters in Wisconsin and across the country sent a message that tax increases are sometimes justified; do the anti-tax pledge signers in Congress get it?

Grafton voters approved fire department upgrades that will raise their property taxes by $77 on a $250,000 home in the town and $55 on a property of similar value in the village.

    Voters in 27 Wisconsin school districts approved school spending referendums that will increase their property taxes. The 71% approval rate in Wisconsin school referendums on Nov. 6 was far above the average success rate of about 50%.

    California voters approved a referendum that will increase the state sales and incomes taxes to help fund education and balance the state budget.

    For the first time in more than 20 years, exit polls on Nov. 6 showed that American voters favor higher taxes for wealthy citizens. The presidential candidate who campaigned on raising taxes for people earning more than $250,000 a year was elected.

    In October, more than 80 CEOs of large corporations, the likes of Dow Chemical, Microsoft and Bank of America, placed full-page newspaper ads calling on Congress to raise taxes in addition to reducing spending to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff.

    The message is clear: Americans support raising taxes for what they view as the right reasons — reasons such as improving fire protection, adequately funding education and paying for necessary federal government services while reducing the national debt.

    As obvious as that message is, many in Congress are going to have trouble getting it. Among the House members and senators preparing to negotiate a way out of the looming fiscal crisis, 271 of 289 Republican members of Congress are encumbered by a document they signed pledging to never raise taxes.

    A consensus that there will be no way out of the budget impasse and no way to bring down the national debt without raising taxes for the wealthiest payers has settled over the issue. Yet there is that pledge.

    If the country goes over that fiscal cliff and sinks back into a recession because of a pledge that prohibits increasing tax revenue, it would be fair to say it was pushed over the edge by a lobbyist. A lobbyist? Now that’s adding embarrassing insult to economic injury. The pledge was invented by Grover Norquist, a man not elected by anyone who is paid to wield influence in Congress to prevent increasing taxes.

    This is the same lobbyist who said the government should be starved of tax revenue so that it is shrunken “to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”

     That rancid sentiment is anathema to most Americans and there is growing evidence that some of the signers of the pledge are starting to understand that.

    So how to get out of a pledge? Some Congress members are saying the pledge has sort of expired and wasn’t meant to be forever. Others are redefining the term tax increase — eliminating deductions, even if that would result in higher taxes, would be OK. Perhaps some will say they were crossing their fingers when they signed it.

    Or the signers could say something like this: We meant well, but signing the pledge was a mistake. We are not going to let a lobbyist determine the economic future of our country. We will consider raising taxes for high-income citizens so we can find a way for America to pay for the government services citizens need and reduce its debt.

    Call it a Christmas wish.

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