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Editorials
The arrogance of the game PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 03 October 2012 18:24

The NFL mocked the integrity it preaches by inflicting clueless officials on the sport Americans love most in a move to get the upper hand in labor negotiations

The governor of Wisconsin said it. Vince Lombardi’s biographer said it. So it seemed did just about everyone who talked about it the morning after. They couldn’t sleep after watching the Green Bay Packers-Seattle Seahawks football game.

    The explanation for this mass insomnia is that Americans cannot abide injustice. We expect fairness in all things, including the games we play and the games we watch. We lose sleep when we witness crimes committed against the ethos of fairness.

    The crime committed in that Monday night football game was the theft of a victory from the Packers. It was perpetrated by the arrogant, greedy, hypocritical organization of team owners that runs professional football, the National Football League.

    The victims were not just the Packers and their fans, but everyone who supports the NFL empire by buying game tickets or being part of the television audience that generates much of  the NFL’s $10 billion in annual revenue.

    These victims are easy marks because they love football too much. Any other enterprise that treated its customers as shabbily as the NFL does would have faced a consumer rebellion that would have forced it to change its ways or be driven out of business. The NFL knows fans aren’t going to boycott the game they love.

    By locking out its professional corps of game officials and replacing them with incompetent substitutes, the NFL cynically exploited fan loyalty and for three weeks destroyed that which its spokesmen repeat ad nauseum as a tiresome platitude—“the integrity of the game.”

    In the name of “the integrity of the game,” the NFL fines players who wear the wrong color sox, assesses a penalty when a player celebrates a touchdown with a gesture not approved by the NFL, suspends a player such as the Packers’ Erik Walden for having an argument with his girlfriend and fines New England Patriot’s coach Bill Belichick $50,000 for having the temerity to touch the sleeve of a replacement official whose incompetence helped steal a victory from his team.


    Yet in the one part of professional football that truly is about the integrity of the game—applying the rules of the game—the NFL owners opted to trade integrity for a labor negotiating tactic by foisting substitutes who were unfit to officiate at games on the players and their fans.

    One of the replacements was on the payroll of an NFL team. Another boasted of his support for a team in Internet postings. Another was a professional poker player. The rest were merely unqualified.

    As game after game was marred by the serial gaffes of the clueless substitutes, commissioner Roger Goodell, doubtless at the instruction of his bosses, praised the work of the replacements. “Very credible,” he said.

    The public knew better and was saying so, but the NFL wasn’t listening—until the fiasco at Seattle. Everyone saw it: The Packers, after being victimized repeatedly by dead-wrong calls, won the game by intercepting a pass. But then, no, the confused, inept replacement officials said the Packers didn’t win, and the NFL backed them up. The ensuing uproar, a national expression of disgust in front-page newspaper stories, editorial pages, television, radio and Internet sports commentary and the condemnation by football enthusiasts in forums ranging from the oval office to corner bars, finally got the NFL’s attention.

    As if by magic, two days later the locked-out officials were welcomed back with a new contract. Goodell, somehow managing a straight face, said the settlement had been in the works for a long time and had nothing to do with the farce in Seattle. Right, and the Green Bay player, photographic evidence to the contrary, really didn’t intercept the pass, something Goodell’s office also said.

    The NFL did not admit its mistakes and it did not offer Green Bay redress. So much for the “integrity of the game.”

    Don’t think about this too long—it’s the kind of unfairness that won’t let you sleep.



 
How to make a good new highway better PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 26 September 2012 16:28

The DOT provided a vastly improved Highway 33 with smart use of roundabouts; the City of Port is making it even better by getting rid of an excess of unneeded signs.

On Nov. 14 the Port Washington Chamber of Commerce will present its annual City Beautification Award for “contributions to the community through beautifying our landscape.” We nominate the members of the Port Washington Board of Public Works and Common Council for this honor.

    They deserve it for standing up to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and insisting that some 30 redundant, unnecessary and unsightly traffic signs be removed from the new Highway 33 at the western edge of the city.

    That 30 signs can be removed without conflicting with federal highway safety regulations speaks volumes about the wretched excess of signage inflicted on this rebuilt highway connection to the Grand Avenue entrance to Port Washington.

    Port Washington officials were counting on the new and improved Highway 33 gateway to be an aesthetic upgrade, thanks to removing the Highway LL overpass, burying utility wires, installing decorative street lights and elaborately landscaping the median. But then came the DOT’s sign barrage.

    The DOT plastered the roadside, the median and even the sky with signs pointing out what, as one city official put it, was obvious to any motorist alert enough to qualify for a drivers license.

    Repetitive signs were posted around crosswalks already marked with large rectangles on the pavement. Left-turn lanes, which anyone in a conscious state could recognize as left-turn lanes and were marked on the pavement for good measure, were excuses for more signs. Beefy metal structures were erected for
elevated signs repeating information about roundabouts provided with other markers.

    The state initially resisted the effort to remove the superfluous signage, but the city persevered. The Board of Public Works voted to take down the sign clutter and the Common Council added an exclamation point to the action with a ratifying vote.    The city will have to pay the cost of taking down the signs. The estimated $2,000 to do that will be money well spent; the money spent by the DOT to erect the forest of signs was not.

    The Highway 33 project will be declared finished Friday morning with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. With construction lingering on for more than a year, it has been a long, difficult haul for businesses along the road and a persistent irritation for frequent travelers on the route. All things considered, though, it was worth the aggravation.

    Even though the four-lane highway/street has a lower speed limit than the old two-lane Highway 33 (rather counter-intuitively), it makes travel between Port Washington and Saukville quicker and more efficient, thanks to the wise use of roundabouts at three intersections.

    It is to the DOT’s credit that the agency specified the roundabouts even though they remain controversial in Wisconsin. When State Rep. Duey Stroebel of Cedarburg recently asked his constituents in a survey what they thought of roundabouts, 59% said they disapproved of them; only 37% liked them.

    This can probably be chalked up to merely an age-old distrust of the new and different, for roundabouts come with a host of advantages over traditional road crossings. For one, they’re safer. A wealth of data makes the case that roundabouts have substantially fewer serious crashes than traditional intersections.

    Beyond that, the charm of these traffic circles is that they keep traffic moving. This is critical at the two intersections in the Saukville portion of the new Highway 33 that have roundabouts. Before the roundabout was built at Northwoods Road and Highway 33, southbound and northbound vehicles had a hard time getting across the intersection at peak traffic times. Driver frustration probably contributed to a number of collisions    

    At the old Market Street intersection, waiting for permission from the fleeting green light to enter or cross Highway 33 could seem like an eternity. With the roundabout, there is less waiting, less fuel wasted idling and less frustration.

    It is true that roundabouts require something stops signs and red traffic lights don’t—making a judgment on when to yield the right of way. That’s hardly too much to ask of people licensed to drive.

    The new Highway 33 is generally a success and will be more so when the City of Port Washington rids the road of 30 unnecessary signs. The officials responsible for that deserve recognition for an act of civic beautification.


 
Another Saukville gas station? No (again) PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 19 September 2012 16:24

The village has repeatedly rejected a Kwik Trip outlet on prime real estate; it should reject a zoning change that would open the door

A 15-acre parcel of land in the northwest quadrant of the intersection of Highway 33 and I-43 has such commercial appeal that it should be a development magnet for the Village of Saukville. What’s more, the property is in the hands of a successful, aggressive real estate development company, Ansay Development Corp., that has the wherewithal to make something positive happen for village growth. So why in the world is a gas station even being considered for the site?

    The village government has made it plain that it does not want to consider it. Starting last year, the Village Board, the Plan Commission and the village president have said no in various ways to a proposal to allow a Kwik Trip gas station and convenience store on the property.        

    In August, the Plan Commission rejected an Ansay request to ease setback rules for gas stations. Two weeks ago, the Village Board unanimously rejected a zoning amendment requested by Ansay that would have cleared the way for Kwik Trip. Just last week, the Plan Commission rejected an ordinance change proposed by Ansay that would have empowered the commission to waive an environmental setback requirement.

    Now, unfortunately, a chink has appeared in the village’s armor. The Plan Commission recommended an ordinance drafted by its staff that would reduce the required setback from wetlands from 1,000 feet to 600 feet, the minimum allowed by state law, and would go even further by permitting gas pumps closer to protected areas if it is determined they pose no environmental risk. The ordinance would effectively open the door to Kwik Trip.

     Approval by the Village Board of this misguided ordinance, which will be the subject of a public hearing on Oct. 2, would be a two-fold mistake—weakening sensible environmental protection and accommodating a development officials have said is not what the village needs.


    The prohibition of gas stations within 1,000 feet of an environmental corridor or conservancy area was added to the zoning code in 2007. Nothing has changed since then except that Kwik Trip wants to build closer to a wetland that drains into the Milwaukee River than the ordinance allows. That is not a valid reason to change the ordinance.

    Environmental issues aside, village officials have been opposed to Kwik Trip because they think Saukville can do better than putting a gas station on a prime site.  

    The suggestion by Neil Tiziani, general manager of the Ansay real estate division, that a Kwik Trip outlet would encourage other development in Saukville is not persuasive. No disrespect intended to gas stations—communities need them and they are solid contributors to local economies—but gas stations do not spur development.

     In fact, Kwik Trip, a $9 billion chain with 580 stations in 10 states that boasts on its website that its “strategy is to be the dominant convenience/gasoline retailer in each market,” could have the opposite effect by putting existing Saukville competitors out of business. One gas station/convenience store is located adjacent to the proposed Kwik Trip site; another is about two blocks away.     

    Village planners have designated the site coveted by Kwik Trip as part of an entertainment district where a hotel would be an ideal land use. Granted, it could take some time to find a development of that nature. Also granted, Ansay has a development in hand, hence the ongoing pressure on the village.

    Tiziani was certainly right when he told the Village Board at a recent meeting, “This is a great location and there is no question that it is going to be developed.”

    But that is precisely why the village should not bend zoning restrictions for a development that does not fit its plans.



 
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