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Editorials
Spring ahead, fall back, go away PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 13 March 2013 14:39

It would be easier to put up with daylight-saving time if it did something good, like save energy, but there’s no evidence it does

Memo to conservative members of Congress: Please add abolishing daylight-saving time to your to-do list of changes needed to limit the intrusion of the federal government into the private lives of its citizens.

    Daylight-saving time is a mandated annoyance that disrupts the lives of Americans while offering no offsetting benefit.

    The “spring ahead” clock change last Sunday caused Wisconsin residents to give up an hour of sleep for the privilege of rising when mornings are still dark and having extra light after supper to watch snow melt at a glacial pace.

    The purpose of this clock-setting by government decree is to save energy. If it actually did that, there might be a reason to continue putting up with it. But it doesn’t. It is more likely that daylight-saving time wastes energy.

    That is evident from a study conducted by Profs. Laura Grant of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Matthew Kotchen of Yale University.

    When some Indiana counties that had refused to go on daylight-saving time were forced to adopt it in 2006, it gave the researchers an opportunity to compare energy use with and without the effect of daylight-saving time.

    They found that daylight-saving time increased energy bills in the affected counties by $9 million during the months of a year when it was in effect. They calculated that this added 188,000 tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

    The study found that the biggest energy-use increase under daylight-saving time is caused by morning heating in fall, but close behind is summer air conditioning.

    If daylight-saving time does not save energy, why put up with a twice-a-year nuisance?

    It might have made more sense when Benjamin Franklin suggested a voluntary version of daylight-saving time as a way to get an extra hour of daylight and save on candle use. More than two centuries later, we save a bit on our version of candles—electric lights—but blow the savings on air conditioning in the extra hours of sunlight.

    Give Arizona officials credit for not letting that happen there. Because the last thing that sun-baked place needs is an extra hour of sunshine, it is one of two states (Hawaii is the other) that reject daylight-saving time.

    Railing against overreaching by the federal government in everything from health care to school lunch guidelines is daily fare in Congress. Last year a number of House and Senate members made a fuss over federal rules that prevent the manufacture of most incandescent lights bulbs. The administration defended that Big Brotherly intrusion on grounds that the use of fluorescent bulbs saves energy. At least that claim, unlike the one about daylight-saving time saving energy, is true.

    Congress has only itself to blame for daylight-saving time. Twice it has lengthened the number of months it’s in force, most recently in 2007 when it moved its start into winter on the second Sunday of March, thus giving many Americans weeks of black mornings and lighted evenings of no use. If doing away altogether with daylight-saving time is deemed too radical, its annual duration should be cut back.

    Libertarians in Congress, unite! Save your people from the tyranny of daylight-saving time.


 
Residents shovel, village splits hairs PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 06 March 2013 17:13

Saukville’s refusal to agree that a DOT pact requires snow removal on walkways along Highway 33 deprives the public of the use of taxpayer-funded improvements

For a hypothetical exercise in culture shock, consider a lifelong resident of Florida moving to, say, Saukville last week. The bitterness of the cold and the ubiquitous piles of snow would be mind bending, but the most shocking revelation about life in the northern latitudes might be the display of sidewalk stewardship. What would the newcomer make of the hundreds of residents out in the elements engaged in the taxing physical labor of clearing a blanket of water-laden snow a foot or more thick from public walkways?

    Denizens of the snow belt take this sort of thing for granted, but that makes it no less an amazing phenomenon—private citizens routinely doing hard work for the public good.

    Yes, removing snow from sidewalks adjacent to private property by owners is required by ordinance. But here it’s done more out of a sense of pride and duty than out of fear of the consequences. Except in extreme cases, the law is not enforced because it doesn’t have to be. Residents of the communities of Ozaukee County shovel snow as a civic responsibility.

    Make no mistake, for many dealing with the results of last week’s epic snowstorm, the work was brutal. Those equipped with only shovels or small snow throwers used muscle power to move what could have amounted to tons of snow from some stretches of residential sidewalk. All to make sidewalks safe and convenient for walkers.

    This prodigious effort by private citizens makes any failure of government or commercial sidewalk stewards to do their winter duty all the more disturbing. Such a failure has been evident along Highway 33 between Port Washington and Saukville this winter.

    Long stretches of the sidewalk and paved multi-use path beside the highway have been made impassible or treacherous by accumulations of ice and snow. This has not only discouraged pedestrians from using the route, but has forced those who insist on doing it, or in some case have to do it because walking is their only means of travel, to walk, run or ride in the four-lane highway.     

    The writer of a letter to the editor published in Ozaukee Press last week put that in perspective by pointing out that traffic on the road is deemed so dangerous that the U.S. Postal Service will not deliver mail directly to homes along it.

    The path and the sidewalk were touted as significant improvements in the recently completed reconstruction of the highway, and rightly so. The old narrow-shouldered road without walkways was a menace to anyone on foot or a bike. It’s a sad comment that the marvelous improvements that came with the new road cannot be used during part of the year.

    An agreement drafted by the state Department of Transportation calls for the city to maintain the portions of the path and sidewalk east of Jackson Road and the village to take care of the part west of that dividing line, even though some of the area for which they are responsible is located in the Town of Port Washington.

    The city has met its responsibility, but Saukville has refused to plow snow beyond the village limit. Saukville Village Attorney Gerald Antoine informed Town of Port Washington Attorney Steven Cain in a letter dated Feb. 28, 2013 that the village contends the DOT agreement applies only to repair of the concrete sidewalk, not to snow removal on the sidewalk or to any maintenance of the multi-use path.

    The letter goes on to say that the village “for the moment” and “at the village’s discretion” will provide snow and ice removal on the sidewalk, but “has no responsibility for the multi-use path and it will not perform maintenance or snow and ice removal on the multi-use path.”         This narrow interpretation of the agreement the village signed when it authorized the Highway 33 reconstruction is hair-splitting of a high order that has the effect of depriving the public of the use of taxpayer-funded improvements.            That hypothetical newcomer would be impressed by the citizen snow removal phenomenon, but would surely notice an embarrassing quirk: Homeowners break their backs to clear walkways but, in the case of Highway 33, their government doesn’t want to be bothered.


 
The high cost of shunning federal health help PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 27 February 2013 17:55

Wisconsin’s poorest residents and every taxpayer will pay a high price for the governor’s plan to give Obamacare a poke in the eye

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker detests the Affordable Care Act. Like many conservatives, he finds fault with the law’s expansion of the federal government’s role in health care. Like every American citizen, he’s entitled to his opinion. Like every elected official, he’s entitled to use his office as a soapbox to promulgate his views. But when he indulges his ideology at the expense of the taxpayers, he should be ready to explain how this serves the interests of the people of Wisconsin.

    No such explanation has come from the governor concerning his decision to turn down billions of dollars in federal Medicaid assistance. There have, however, been explanations by health and insurance analysts and even Walker’s health secretary of the impact of the governor’s decision, and they are disconcerting.

    According to Health Secretary Dennis Smith, the governor’s alternative to accepting federal money would require state taxpayers to pay $650 million in Medicaid costs over the next two years—costs that would be paid by the federal government if Wisconsin would agree to expand Medicaid under the health care law. What’s more, Walker’s proposal would cover fewer low-income residents than the ACA option.

    Walker’s plan is to force about 87,000 people now on Medicaid out of the program and into new insurance exchanges created by the ACA in order to accommodate extending Medicaid coverage to an additional 82,000 needy people who currently don’t qualify.

    The plan is complex and in terms of the number of people covered inadequate. On the other hand, the federal program Walker rejected is simple: The federal government pays 100% of the cost of expanding Medicaid to cover all Wisconsin residents eligible under federal guidelines (28,000 more than Walker’s plan would cover) for the next three years and 90% thereafter.

    Walker used to be a member of a large chorus of Republican governors who lustily sang their contempt for Obamacare, but that group is shrinking as the benefits of the law to states become apparent. Seven GOP governors, several with records at least as conservative as Walker’s, recently agreed to join the states participating in the federal program.

    Gov. Rick Scott of Florida had been adamant in his opposition to the ACA until last week, when he reversed himself and announced he wants his state to take the federal money and expand Medicaid.

    Walker could learn something from Scott’s concise and utterly logical explanation for his decision: “To be clear: our options are either having Floridians pay to fund this program in other states while denying health care to our citizens, or using federal funding to help the poorest in our state with the Medicaid program as we explore other health care reforms.”

    Note the part about funding other states’ programs. If Walker’s decision stands, Wisconsin residents will in effect be helping to pay for Medicaid in other states while getting no help to pay for their own Medicaid program. Federal Medicaid money not spent in Wisconsin will go elsewhere. Opting out will not save a penny in federal tax dollars.

    The only practical reason the governor gives for refusing the money under the ACA is the notion that the federal government could conceivably not be able to make good on its commitment to pay 90% of the cost after 2016. That’s mere speculation, and even if it came to pass Wisconsin would have the option of replacing the federal program with one of its own.

    The reasons for accepting the deal offered by the federal government are humanitarian and financial and both are persuasive: It would give coverage to more people who cannot afford health insurance and it would do it without burdening state taxpayers.

    But Walker’s plan is not about such down-to-earth matters. It’s about giving a poke in the eye to Obamacare. Wisconsin taxpayers should not have to pay for that indulgence.

    The Legislature should block the Walker plan.



 
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