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Editorials
Like it or not, Harley party will rock Port PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 24 April 2013 16:22

A huge motorcycle rally aimed at getting the city in on the action of the Harley Davidson anniversary celebration comes with concerns

It is safe to say that when the Port Washington Main Street program was started more than four years ago no one expected it would sponsor a motorcycle rally that could fill the downtown with 20,000 Harley-Davidson owners and their machines.

    Yet that is exactly what Main Street is doing with an event on Aug. 30 that it is calling Rock the Harbor. And, yes, organizers are predicting it will attract 15,000 to 20,000 riders and Harleys.

    Port Washington Main Street’s mission, to be carried out with the assistance of the state Main Street organization, is essentially the economic redevelopment of the downtown. What does a massive motorcycle rally have to do with that? Good question.

    Part of Main Street’s reason for existence is promotion, and its greatest success has been in this area, with events such as the Community Street Festival, Kiss of Indulgence and the Maritime Heritage Festival, all run effectively by the corps of volunteers Main Street has organized. But it has never done a promotion like Rock the Harbor.

    The name is only partially descriptive of the event—it’s going to rock things, all right, not just the harbor area, but the entire downtown, with reverberations throughout the city from 3 to 11 p.m. on Friday of the Labor Day weekend.

     Franklin Street, Washington Street and a block of Grand Avenue will be closed to traffic. Marina parking lots and nearby parks will be commandeered for the event. Marina launching ramps will be closed. Bands will play and motorcycles will rumble throughout the duration of the rally.

    Rock the Harbor organizers associated with Main Street, who are working with a Harley-Davidson dealer from Thiensville in putting on the event, are confident in predicting one of the largest crowds in Port Washington history because hundreds of thousands of Harley owners will be in the Milwaukee area during the week of Aug. 26 for Harley-Davidson’s 110th anniversary celebration.

    It should be a great time for the bikers—partying with kindred spirts on a summer afternoon and night in a pretty place by the lake with plenty of music and refreshments and, for variety, a selection of inviting restaurants, bars and shops nearby.


    Whether it will be a great time for Port Washington residents is another story. Certainly some will want to join the party, listen to the music and check out the arrayed Harleys. But those who want to enjoy one of the last days of summer by launching their boats to go fishing or visiting downtown parks or taking in the ambience of the lakefront will probably not find the event so enjoyable.

    The many residents who live downtown in townhouses, condominiums and apartments will be participants in the festivities, at least in an auditory way, whether they want to be or not.

    Unlike other downtown events, which are geared to appeal to residents and non-residents alike, Rock the Harbor will mainly be for visitors who will take over the downtown and waterfront for an eight-hour party.

    Some in the city have criticized the event as out of character with a community whose appeal derives from quiet enjoyment of its splendid aesthetics and historic downtown embracing a beautifully developed lakefront. On the other hand, many downtown business people, a number of whom will move their wares outside in vendor tents, are enthused about the Harley rally. That’s understandable, considering the magic of the Harley-Davidson name.

    Truly one of America’s great brands, the Wisconsin company’s iconic products are emblematic of the free spirit ingrained in the American psyche. Moreover, Harley customers span demographic categories in age, income and occupation but are similar in that they are invested heavily, both financially and emotionally, in their two-wheeled machines, and represent a powerful consumer force.

    Rock the Harbor organizers see the event as an opportunity for Port Washington to bathe in some of the reflected glory of Harley-Davidson.

    We hope that pays dividends and downtown businesses have a tremendously successful day on Aug. 30, and this newspaper will support the event with continuing coverage as planning progresses and in other ways.

    Rock the Harbor is not likely to be repeated anytime soon (at least not until the next Harley anniversary). Which is fine, because Main Street has more important work to do.


 
Fredonia should say no to the DOT PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 17 April 2013 14:32

The village should control the rebuilding of Fredonia Avenue; the result will be a better main street, without condemning property and wasteful spending

The Fredonia Village Board is on the cusp of doing something rare in the annals of municipal government. It’s about to make a decision that could please everyone.

    The decision is to refuse state money for the rebuilding of Fredonia Avenue, the village’s main street. By doing that:

    • Fredonia will get a street better suited to the scale and character of a small town than if the state were controlling the reconstruction.

    • Residents and business owners along the street will not have to fear their property will be condemned in order to widen the street.

    • The rebuilding of the street, which is rapidly deteriorating, will be completed sooner without the complications of state involvement.

    • Village taxpayers may actually pay less for the new street because it will come without the expensive strings attached to a state-financed project.

    Fredonia officials seem to understand a fact of life other communities have had to learn the hard way: The Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s priority is moving traffic, and it has little concern with the effects of doing that on the communities through which its roads pass.

    Illustrations of that priority abound. In the Town of Cedarburg, residents are fighting a DOT plan for a massive widening of Highway 60 that they consider out of proportion for a road through a scenic countryside.

    Several years ago, the City of Port Washington rebuilt its main business street and made it a substantially narrower replacement for the street the state DOT put in place years earlier that was so excessively wide it encouraged fast driving and endangered pedestrians.

    Port Washington’s South Spring Street was rebuilt as a DOT project with the dimensions of a four-lane highway. Traffic volume is so far from needing this that two of the lanes are not open to traffic.

    In the case of Fredonia Avenue, the DOT is insisting that if it funds the project, the street must be widened by 10 to 12 feet to include bicycle lanes. Besides inflating the cost by a huge factor, this would put the street virtually at the front door of a number of homes and businesses and require the purchase, possibly through condemnation, of some properties to widen the right-of-way.

    Cost and private property disruption aside, the bike lanes would be an extravagance of dubious value. Bike lanes make sense on higher-speed, more heavily traveled roads. On a street with a low speed limit in a small village, they are not essential and could even have a negative effect by making the street appear wider, encouraging fast driving.

    The case against making Fredonia Avenue a state project was strengthened as additional facts emerged at a Village Board meeting in early April: Expensive surveying would be needed for a wider right-of-way; the DOT’s reporting requirements are so elaborate they could cost more than the project’s engineering; with the state involved, the project might not be started for another five years, but could start next year with the state out of it; because the street is also an Ozaukee County highway, some county funding would be available.

    Trustee Don Dohrwardt predicted that if the project were funded by the state, the village’s 10% of the cost would exceed the amount of money it would cost Fredonia taxpayers to finance a less extravagant project with help from the county.

    It should be easy for the Village Board to do what it seems prepared to do and say no to the state—because that would be a sensible decision almost everyone would like, maybe even the DOT, which, as always, has more than enough highway-widening projects to keep it busy.


 
A state going backward on education PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 10 April 2013 18:00

The governor’s budget gives short shrift to public schools at a time when revenue is increasing; how can Wisconsin prosper when it shortchanges education?

“What’s happening to our children isn’t fair.”

    That comment happened to be made by a member of the Port Washington-Saukville School Board, Sara McCutcheon, but words like it are being spoken at school board
meetings around the state as public-school officials come to grips with the treatment of education by Gov. Scott Walker’s budget.

    What is being heard is not so much outrage, but expressions of frustration by disheartened and puzzled school board members and school administrators. They cannot
understand how the state, after cutting education funding deeply for years under the pressure of a faltering economy, now projects a budget surplus but provides no additional
aid to public schools.

    The proposed budget does not even maintain the status quo. Districts will get essentially the same amount of state aid as in the last two-year budget, but their education
programs will get less because operation expenses—for school-bus transportation, electricity and gas for school buildings and a long list of goods and services needed to
keep schools running—are rising.

    The Port Washington-Saukville School District faces a $600,000 deficit in the next school year if the governor’s budget is approved as proposed.

    The state budget proposes a $129 million increase, or 1%, in spending on education. Of that amount, only $39 million is designated for public schools. Even that number is illusory— most public schools won’t get any of it.

    Because the state revenue cap will not change, schools districts would be able to spend additional state money only by going through the costly and complex process of holding a referendum. As a result, most of the tiny state funding increase designated for public schools will end up as small increments of property tax relief.


     There is more bad news for public schools in the budget. More than $68 million in new spending is earmarked for private voucher schools in a number of school districts. Public schools are not only denied the education money going to charter schools, but stand to lose more funding as they lose students to those schools.

    Gov. Walker’s push to expand public funding for voucher schools is not unexpected—it’s on the to-do list of conservative Republican governors in a number of states. Perhaps it makes some sense as a political decision, but there is little if any reason to believe that diverting more tax dollars to charter schools is a good education decision in Wisconsin.

    Wisconsin has had a state-funded school voucher program for 20 years. Data collected during this long-running experiment do not show that children in voucher schools learn any better than those in traditional public schools.

    The budget’s approach to education should be puzzling not just to school officials, but to all state citizens. Gov. Walker has made the restoration of Wisconsin’s economic vigor, with accompanying growth in jobs and entrepreneurial initiatives, the primary goal of his administration. It is hard to imagine that goal being reached and sustained without adequate investment in public education.

    Investment in education started going the wrong way under Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, who cut school funding by $400 million. Gov. Walker followed with cuts of $750 million. Act 10, the legislation that ended collective bargaining by teachers and reduced their benefits, was oversold as a school funding panacea. The money subtracted from teacher compensation is simply not enough to balance the losses in state funding.

    McCutcheon, chairman of the Port-Saukville

School Board’s Finance Committee, wondered how people will understand that “we simply can’t afford the same education for our children.”

    That same thought is weighing on some legislators in the governor’s own party, which offers a glimmer of hope that the budget’s harsh treatment of public education could be softened. Senators Mike Ellis and Luther Olsen, who are among a number of Republicans expressing unease over the education budget, are proposing to increase the revenue cap by $150 per student.

    That would make what is happening to our children slightly less unfair.



 
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