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Eclectic, colorful, untidy signs of life PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 29 January 2014 15:22

The profusion of signboards is testament to the Port Washington downtown’s new vitality; officials bent on regulation should keep their hands off

Once upon a time the City of Port Washington employed a public works director who was so affronted by clutter on downtown sidewalks that he waged war with merchants over signboards and in a remarkable incident recorded in detail by the local newspaper confiscated the folding sign of a defiant business owner.

    All we can add in defense of that crusading engineer is that his signboard war was fought in the early years of the 21st century when such signs were a new phenomenon in Port Washington and were perhaps viewed with suspicion as harbingers of change.

    They were signs of change, all right, the beginning of the commercial rebirth of an economically depressed downtown. Today signboards abound in an eclectic, colorful and slightly disorderly array that is testament to the renewed vitality of the Port Washington business district.

    As a marker of a downtown that is now humming with commercial activity, the abundance of these portable, two-sided signs touting the offerings of shops and restaurants should be cheered. But in a reversion to the mindset manifested in the signboard war of yore, some members of the Plan Commission are not cheering.

    At a recent meeting, the commission separated into pro- and anti-signboard camps. Members of the latter group, complaining that the signs give the downtown an unkempt appearance and interfere with pedestrians, called for increased regulation.

    Imposing the neatness and uniformity the anti group wants seems contrary to the city government’s own vision for the downtown. There is a lot of stuff on the sidewalks along Franklin Street and most of it was put there by the city. This includes trees in protective cages, rubbish containers in decorative enclosures, bicycle racks and a plethora of large concrete planters.


    These items take up far more sidewalk space than signboards, but no one is complaining. They add to the friendly downtown ambience the city sought when it rebuilt Franklin Street several years ago, just as do the benches some businesses place on the sidewalks, the sidewalk dining offered by restaurants during the warm months and those ubiquitous signboards.

    The signboards that some officials see as fodder for a new ordinance are nothing less than signs of life in a resurgent downtown.

    Those signs of life come from merchants and restaurateurs who are working hard to succeed in the challenging business environment of a small-town downtown. If the city government means to be supportive of their efforts—and why wouldn’t it?—it should shun any move toward nitpicking legislation over signboard appearance and location. Better to enjoy the profusion of signs as an expression of the free market, which, by the way, is rarely neat and tidy.

    Several Plan Commission members get it about signboards. Ald. Dan Becker, saying he liked “the individuality of all these little signboards,” urged the commission to not “overanalyze this to the point where we handcuff our businesses.”

    The current public works director, Rob Vanden Noven, joined in, making it clear he won’t be confiscating any sandwich boards. “My opinion,” he said, “is this isn’t something we should over-regulate.”

     On the other side of the debate, Randy Tetzlaff, director of planning and development, submitted a list of 13 proposed new signboard regulations.

    That is 13 too many.



 
Are we there yet? PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 22 January 2014 16:43

Grafton hopes to save money by revamping its transportation operation, but the priority should be shorter rides for kids, some of whom now spend two hours a day on the bus

Imagine a job that requires a morning and afternoon commute of at least an hour each way—two hours or more on the road every day.

    A few workers manage it, but for most of us it would likely be a burden that would diminish our performance at work and diminish the enjoyment of life beyond work by stealing precious time from it.

    Yet many children are made to endure commutes to their schools that require more than two hours daily on school buses. Some of them live in the Grafton School District.

    This came to light in a presentation to the School Board on student transportation problems last week. Following it, the board asked School Supt. Mel Lightner, who has been carrying on an assessment of the district’s transportation plan since September, to prepare proposals for busing changes.

    A revamp of the bus program is needed; that is obvious from the very fact that some children are spending more than two hours a day on school buses, which ought to be unacceptable to all of the district’s decision makers.

    With an improved busing plan, board members and administrators hope to save money and make the system more efficient. Cost cutting is a good thing, and the district certainly needs it, considering the $850,000 deficit it is facing for the 2014-15 year. Increased efficiency serves that end. But what should matter most in the transportation overhaul is the impact on students. Shortening overlong bus rides should be a priority whether or not it saves money.

    Regardless of the priorities, rejiggering the bus routes is a daunting proposition. Grafton’s busing plan is devilishly complex, with 24 morning routes and 25 afternoon routes serving students attending four schools in kindergarten through 12th grade at a cost of $650,000 a year. Changes affect not only the routes buses follow, but the starting times of schools and thus the routines of students and their families.

    Unreasonable travel times aside, Grafton’s current transportation policy is generous. While state law requires bus service for students living two miles or more from their school, Grafton K-5 students get bus transportation if they live more than one mile from their school.

    The district also goes the extra mile, in effect, by allowing 160 students who live within walking distance of school to be picked up by school buses at day-care facilities located in the walking area.

    Eliminating the latter is one of Lightner’s money-saving recommendations. He also proposes changes, some quite radical, in the starting times of school days to allow more efficient use of buses.

    While adjusting school starting times to facilitate double runs of buses makes sense in theory, it can be problematic in practice. Under Lightner’s plan, elementary schools would not start the school day until 8:40 a.m. A parent at last week’s School Board meeting pointed out that children involved in an after-school activity might not be see their parents until 5 p.m. or later.

    The most important recommendation on Lightner’s preliminary list is to require the district’s school bus contractor to use routes that limit the duration of rides to no more than 45 minutes.

    Three-quarters of an hour, or an hour and a half a day, on a bus is still too long, but in this case it would at least be progress.

    Any money saved with the school bus changes should be considered a bonus. The revamping should be judged a success if it merely shortens bus rides.

    Society today demands more than ever from its public school students. Assigned homework that would make their parents and grandparents blanch and pressured to perform at high levels on tests whose results affect not only their college aspirations but ratings of their schools and teachers, they should not have to devote unreasonable amounts of time to the numbing process of getting to an from school on a bus.

 
The heroin reality check PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 15 January 2014 15:40

This drug is a serious local problem that needs a multifaceted response; the Ozaukee County Heroin Summit later this month is a good start

It’s time to dispel the myths about heroin.

    Myth 1: Heroin only appeals to hard-core drug addicts and isn’t available or used in middle and upper-class neighborhoods like those in Ozaukee County.

    Myth 2: Heroin users can stop taking the drug anytime they want because it’s not addictive or deadly.

    Myth 3: Heroin only affects the people who use it.

    Myth 4: Locking heroin users and dealers in jails and prisons will solve the problem.

    Now, the reality:

    • “Heroin is the No. 1 worst problem I’ve seen in Ozaukee County in my 24 years on the job,” Lt. Rodney Galbraith, who leads the Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Department drug unit, told Ozaukee Press last month.

    Made readily available by drug dealers from Milwaukee and elsewhere who market their product to suburban customers with the means to purchase it, heroin is the drug of choice for a surprising demographic — typically 18 to 30-year-olds who are often productive members of society, among them standout high school athletes and students, as well as hard-working adults with supportive families.

    • The path to heroin addiction is a steep, slippery slope, and many of the users who make the quick slide and hit bottom never escape the grip of the highly addictive drug. Either their lives are twisted by the physical and metal damage done by heroin or they die of an overdose. According to Undersheriff Jim Johnson, eight Ozaukee County residents died from overdosing on heroin and another opiates in 2013. Dozens more overdosed but survived.

    • The destructive tentacles of heroin reach far beyond its users who, desperate to fuel their addictions, end up stealing from family, friends neighbors and strangers. The sheriff’s department estimates that 80% of the property crime it deals with is drug related. Then there is the enormous cost to society of treating and incarcerating drug users.

• The response to the heroin crisis by the county’s law enforcement agencies and the judicial system has been swift and sure, but for every drug user and dealer arrested and punished (and, in many cases, given a chance to overcome addiction), there is another user and dealer. And although the message being sent — that participating in the Ozaukee County drug trade will be punished severely — seems clear, it is often lost in the fog of addiction.

    The fact is, law enforcement is the last line of defense. The war on heroin and similar drugs needs to begin with a focus on prevention, and it’s going to take more than officers on the streets to win.

    A good start is the Ozaukee Heroin Summit from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 29, at the Ozaukee County Pavilion at the county fairgrounds in Cedarburg. Proposed by State Rep. Duey Stroebel of Cedarburg and hosted by law enforcement officials and representatives of other agencies, the summit is intended to brief the public on the heroin problem and its affects.

    The heroin saga is a compelling story in much the same way a horror story is, and unfortunately there is no shortage of local anecdotes to illustrate its scariest chapters.

    Like the young Grafton man who is serving a 25-year prison sentence for selling heroin to four people between the ages of 18 and 47 who died of overdoses.

    Or the 26-year-old Fredonia man with a good job, supportive family and girlfriend who, authorities say, bought a fatal dose of heroin from a Milwaukee dealer and died of an overdose.

    Or the 70-year-old mother from the Town of Saukville who cries when she tells the story of her son, her sole caregiver who is now in jail facing a prison sentence because his addiction to narcotic pain medication, prescribed by a doctor after an accident, led him to heroin.

    Stories like that will be told at the Heroin Summit. They’re hard to listen to but worth hearing because they dispel the myths about heroin use in Ozaukee County. And that’s the first step toward the type of community-wide response that is needed to confront the heroin epidemic.


 
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