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Editorials
One more reason to like public television PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 03 April 2013 15:03

Programs like the delightful ‘Around the Corner’ episode featuring Port Washington would not exist without PBS and its local stations

Do you think federal funding for Public Broadcasting Service television should be cut off as a deficit reduction measure?

    If that question had been asked of the taxpayers in the standing-room-only crowd at Memories Ballroom on March 25, the answer would have been a resounding and nearly unanimous “No!”

    Of course, that wouldn’t have been an example of scrupulously fair polling. The people in that group were hardly an unbiased sample. They had gathered to see the premier of  the “Around the Corner” television program that featured Port Washington, and they were clearly delighted with the production by MPTV, the Milwaukee PBS station.

    The crowd gave the preview showing of the program, and its producer and its star who were on hand to answer questions, a rousing ovation, and on the way out bought DVDs of the show by the score at $10 a copy.

    The DVD sales, though just a tiny drop in the bucket of support needed to keep PBS stations such as Milwaukee’s Channel 10/36 going, illustrate the dependence of PBS on diverse and often small sources of funding. Those sources include grants from foundations and corporations, the proceeds of fundraising events, private donations and money from the federal government.    

    Federal funding pays only 15% of the cost of operating PBS. Though the $445 million subsidy represents barely 0.014% of the federal budget and has an infinitesimal effect on the national deficit, it’s a frequent target of politicians intent on making a show of cutting federal spending.


    Viewers of last fall’s presidential debates will recall Republican candidate Mitt Romney’s pledge that he would eliminate PBS funding even though “I like Big Bird.” The mention of the popular character from the beloved PBS children’s program “Sesame Street” may have reminded voters of how much they too like Big Bird. Polling found that a majority of Americans approve of federal funding of PBS—not as overwhelming an endorsement as a poll of that enthusiastic group at the “Around the Corner” premier would surely have shown, but a solid majority nonetheless.

    The public gets it—public television elevates the nation’s culture by providing high-quality programs that commercial networks have no financial incentive to produce. In programs for children, no network or cable television effort has ever come close to the quality of the PBS children’s education shows “Sesame Street” and “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.” Programs that educate adults, the likes of “Nova” and “Frontline,” would not exist without PBS.

     In some instances, PBS shows have acquired such huge audiences that commercial networks would wish they had invested in the programs. The audience at Memories was told that on the night of the Super Bowl, “Downton Abbey” on PBS was the second most watched television show in the world.

    “Around the Corner” is a purely local effort by the Milwaukee PBS outlet that this year will profile 13 Wisconsin communities. That might not sound like a compelling concept for a TV show, but as viewers who have seen it can attest, the Port Washington episode is a cheerfully enlightening look, guided by amusing host John McGivern (his sausage-making adventure at Bernie’s Fine Meats is classic), at the people, places and businesses of this friendly small town by the lake, all wrapped in a slick, entertaining package by producer Lois Maurer and her editing staff.

    “Around the Corner” is popular throughout Wisconsin, but if it weren’t for PBS, it’s a safe bet a program like this would never be made. All the more reason to like Big Bird.





 
Some roads were meant to be slow PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 27 March 2013 17:04

The Port Washington Town Board asked for input on Green Bay Road, and got an earful about a curvy rural road made dangerous by a ridiculous 55 mph speed limit

There are no speed limit signs along most of Green Bay Road between Hillcrest Road and Highway 33, but if there were, they would say 55 mph.

    Which is ridiculous.

    Nothing about this Town of Port Washington road suggests it was meant to be a thoroughfare.

It traverses a countryside that, while surrounded by development, remains rural in character. It turns and undulates through rolling terrain, past roadside trees, pretty views, a farm or two and scattered houses and driveways before ending in residential neighborhood (where the speed limit is 35 mph).    

    It’s not a road to use to get anywhere fast. That was the point who live along Green Bay Road tried to make at a meeting held by the Town Board in early March.

    A number of them told of high-speed drivers making the road dangerous for pedestrians. “They just come flying through,” one said. A woman who walks the road with her dogs recounted having to seek refuge from fast traffic in driveways. Another resident said he wouldn’t allow his children to ride bikes along the road out of fear for their safety. It was good for Town Board members to hear this because they will be making some important decisions soon about the character of Green Bay Road. The road surface is in bad shape and will have to be rebuilt in the next several years.

    It would be a mistake to do anything in “improving” the road that would encourage faster driving. The emphasis in a rebuilding plan should be on making it safer for pedestrians and bicycle riders and residents turning in and out of their driveways.

    A number of once-rural roads in Ozaukee County are under the same pressure that is affecting Green Bay Road. These roads exist basically to serve people who live along them and are ill suited for fast travel. Unfortunately, as population and traffic grow, they are increasingly used as thoroughfares.


    In the case of Green Bay Road, it seems a number of drivers take it as a short cut from the north side of Port Washington to Saukville. This is a rather perverse use in that the new four-lane Highway 33, built at great taxpayer expense to provide a fast, safe trip to Saukville, is accessible through a roundabout only half a mile from the Green Bay Road access point.

    The problems of Green Bay Road will only be exacerbated if driving lanes are widened in the rebuilding. Besides a new surface, the road just needs a safe path for users not in motor vehicles—a separate paved multi-use path if there’s room in the right of way; if not, a wide, paved shoulder designated for users on foot or bikes.

    But what the road needs before that is some effort by the Town Board to get rid of the 55 mph speed limit set by the state. State statutes allow the town to reduce the limit by 10 mph. That would  be a start, and the board should do it, but 45 mph would still be too fast. A solution would be to designate Green Bay as a state Rustic Road.

    This idea was suggested by one of the folks attending the meeting, but was pretty much shot down by thetown engineer, who said the road wouldn’t qualify.

    This may have been a hasty judgment. The state Department of Transportation says that for a road to qualify for Rustic Road status it “should be a lightly traveled local access road, one which serves the adjacent property owners and those wishing to travel by auto, bicycle or hiking for purposes of recreational enjoyment of its rustic features.”

    This describes Green Bay Road perfectly with the possible exception of the “lightly traveled” part. It’s a good guess that there is some leeway in the definition of lightly traveled. A traffic count might support an application for Rustic Road status. It’s certainly worth a try, because if successful the town could lower the speed limit to, say, 35 mph. That would give residents a safer road on which to drive, walk or ride bikes and send a message to drivers that if you’re trying to get some place in a hurry, you’re on the wrong road.

    The Town Board asked for input from residents and it got it. Now it should act on it, working to slow down the traffic on Green Bay Road even before its starts the rebuilding project.



 
A citizens crusade to save lives at the lake PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 20 March 2013 17:55

Inspired by tragedy, a citizens group is leading Port Washington in a long overdue effort to make the enjoyment of Lake Michigan safer

The drowning of 15-year-old Tyler Buczek in Lake Michigan was truly, as characterized in Ozaukee Press news stories, “the tragedy that broke the collective heart of the community.” And how the people of Port Washington embraced Tyler’s family with an overwhelming display of empathy and shared both their grief and their pride in their son’s extraordinary accomplishments in his too-short life was truly a testament to the community’s character.

    That was remarkable, but not unexpected. It is natural for small-town communities to react to terrible events in their midst in this manner, though perhaps not to the amazing degree seen in Port Washington. Time heals, however, and often the good intentions expressed in the raw aftermath of those events fade.

    But not here. A citizens group has worked with unflagging fervor in the nearly seven months since Tyler’s death in the waves along the north beach and is ready to launch an ambitious campaign that should go a long way toward preventing a repeat of a deadly lake accident.

    The campaign will start April 17 with a presentation by the highly regarded Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. Organized by the citizens group called the Port Washington Waterfront Safety Advisory Committee, with assistance from the Greater Port Washington Kiwanis Club, the program will teach fundamentals of survival and rescue in surf conditions typical of Lake Michigan. It’s a public event open to everyone.

    This is crucial. Though an ever present fact of life in Port Washington, the lake remains a mystery to many residents, even as they are attracted to it by its beauty and recreational opportunities. Besides rescue lessons, the program will provide a primer on the power of a Great Lake.

    The committee has plans for much more: informational signs on the city’s two beaches about dangerous rip currents and life rings and throw ropes on the north beach, the breakwater and the entrance to the south beach. There are plans as well for 911 call boxes and video cameras on the beaches.

    These safety features, particularly the basic ones of throw ropes and life rings, have been needed for a long time on the popular city lakefront. This is another of those instances frequently seen in these times of strained municipal budgets when private groups have to fill a void on behalf of a public good that local government has failed to provide.

    The absence of life rings and sound ladders on the north breakwater has, for example, been a standing invitation to tragedy for years.

    Private fundraising will be needed to make the safety committee’s plans a reality, and we are confident organizations and individuals will come through to support this initiative. Nonetheless, the taxpayers should lend a hand. These are essential public improvements and room for financial support should be found in the city budget.

    Employees of city departments should be tasked to check, maintain and replace the safety equipment.

    Though tragedy was the impetus, the lake safety campaign is more than a response to last summer’s drowning. It is well-crafted package of education and safety aids that will add to the value of the city’s defining feature, its proximity to Lake Michigan. While making it clear that the potentially violent nature of that resource must be respected, it will enable its safe use.

    This good work is being done in Tyler Buczek’s name, and we can imagine no more meaningful tribute than a lake safety initiative that will improve the chances that the community will not have to endure another heartbreaking accident like the one that took a promising young life last Labor Day weekend.



 
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