Share this page on facebook
Another government shutdown PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 13 November 2013 00:00

Posting signs warning the public to ‘Keep Out’ of the Port breakwater is a sign of government negligence; join the fight to fix this essential infrastructure

Remember the federal government shutdown? While most Americans have been trying to forget that disgraceful game of political chicken
that deprived citizens of necessary government services, Ozaukee County residents got a flash of deja vu on Nov. 1 when a federal
agency shut down the Port Washington breakwater.

    The reasoning for this closure of a government facility valued by the public is about as tortured as the rationale for the government

    The breakwater, owned by the federal government, has been deteriorating for years but was ignored by its owner. After entreaties by
local officials and pressure from a member of Congress, the Army Corps of Engineers finally inspected the breakwater, and then
announced that, just as everyone had been saying, it’s in terrible condition. But instead of making plans to fix it, the agency posted
“Danger” signs telling the public not to use it, calling it a “Restricted Area” and warning people to “Keep Out.”

    This hurts Port Washington. Residents and visitors want to walk on the breakwater—to see the lake, to see the city from the lake, to
see the lighthouse up close, to take pictures, to catch fish. For any number of reasons, going out on “the pier” is a ritual for many
residents and an attraction for tourists.

    For some, the signs will be a turn-off; others won’t be stopped from walking on the breakwater, nor will anyone try to stop them. (This is
not law a enforcement issue.) The signs seem as much intended to cover the Army Corps’ backside as to warn of actual danger.

    The breakwater is probably no more dangerous to tread on now than it was a year ago or five years ago. In fact, it’s safer now, thanks
to the liferings and ladders installed recently by a citizens group.

    To walk on the breakwater has always been treated as an at-your-own-risk decision. The corps’ inspection revealed that the outer
portions of the breakwater are unsound and could fail, presumably when battered by storm seas. Prudence by breakwater walkers is

    The clearest message of the new warning signs is that the government has failed in its duty to take care of the public’s property.
Congress bears ultimate responsibility. Breakwaters like the one that is fundamental to the integrity of the Port Washington harbor are
basic infrastructure. The notion that this nation cannot afford to maintain its infrastructure is absurd, though it is offered as an acceptable
price to pay by those in Congress who rank deficit reduction gestures as more important than a government meeting its responsibilities.

    This leaves the Army Corps of Engineers rationalizing its negligence by saying fixing the Port Washington breakwater will have to wait
because the harbor no longer needs to accommodate commercial shipping. That’s a false priority.

    Elsewhere in this issue of Ozaukee Press, readers will find a news story detailing how the federal government recently rebuilt the
breakwaters at the city of Two Rivers in state-of-the-art fashion with special emphasis on use of the breakwaters by walkers. Two Rivers
has no commercial shipping.

    The only good news is that Port Washington is not taking this lying down. City officials have been pressing members of Congress for
relief and are amping up the pressure by urging the public to attend a meeting at city hall Thursday night. City staff and elected officials
will answer questions about the breakwater, but the real purpose of the meeting is to serve as a forum for a strong show of public

     A big turnout of citizens will bolster the message Mayor Tom Mlada and Ald. Dan Becker plan to take to members of Congress and
Army Corps of Engineers officials in Washington, D.C., next week. They will be saying many things to many people, but we’re pretty sure
the essence of their message will be:

    Don’t shut down our breakwater—fix it.

The demonizing of national education standards PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 06 November 2013 16:58

An enlightened move to elevate America’s public schools with rigorous common goals may be the latest hostage of ideology-driven politics

What is Common Core?

    One of two correct answers is: a set of voluntary standards for student achievement in math and English in all grades.     

    The other is: the subject of a conspiracy theory featuring the evil of federal control of local education.

    The Common Core State Standards were developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State Education Officers and were adopted with little fanfare or controversy by 45 states, including Wisconsin, starting in 2010.

    Three years later, Common Core has become the threat du jour of federal government take-over of life as we know it in America, no matter that the federal government did not create the standards or force states to adopt them. Political talk-radio performers find Common Core, which some have dubbed Obamacore, a useful alternative when a break is needed from ranting about the Affordable Care Act.

    The education standards were barely noticed in Wisconsin when they were first adopted, but since national groups identified with conservative political agendas began criticizing them as a federal curriculum forced on local school districts, Republican legislators have been busy in efforts that seem designed to limit or end Common Core in Wisconsin.

    The efforts included hearings around the state. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported last week that several out-of-state speakers who criticized Common Core at hearings in Fond du Lac, Eau Claire and Wausau were paid by the American Opinion Foundation, which is affiliated with the John Birch Society.

    The Senate and Assembly committees that conducted the hearings are considered hostile to Common Core, and it is widely expected they will recommend legislation to change or eliminate the standards.

    And so a set of teaching standards developed by a bipartisan governors group and a non-political education organization and intended to elevate the quality of education in American schools is starting to look like the next hostage taken by ideology-driven politics.

     The Common Core standards are an unlikely candidate for that fate.

    Wisconsin State School Supt. Tony Evers explained what they are and are not: “The Common Core State Standards are a set of expectations in English language arts and mathematics for what students should know and be able to do in every grade.” They are not a federal curriculum because “a district’s curriculum, textbook adoption and instructional choices all stay at the local level.”

    PolitiFact, the newspaper fact checking project, confirmed that Common Core is totally voluntary for states and found that the only involvement of the federal government is that it has included adoption of Common Core Standards as one of several ways for states to qualify for grants under the No Child Left Behind law signed by President George W. Bush.

    The standards are rigorous. They have to be to better prepare students to succeed in college and in careers that will inevitably be impacted by global competition. Starting in the 2014-15 school year, Wisconsin public school students will have to take standardized tests based on Common Core Standards. Teacher evaluations may be based on the results.

    No doubt, the standards put pressure on students and teachers, but that’s not what bothers most of Common Core’s critics. They have something a lot scarier to worry about—federal control of local education. It’s a conspiracy, you know.

Judges and justice PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 30 October 2013 15:07

With a just ruling that kept an offender out of prison, a court case revealed that the qualities required of local judges go far beyond being on the popular side of political issues

Ozaukee County voters chose a circuit court judge last spring in a bruising contest that saw raw politics trumping the usual judicial election issues of experience, knowledge of the law and philosophy of the administration of justice. The challenger ran on a single negative issue—that the incumbent, as a private citizen, had signed a petition calling for a recall election for Wisconsin governor and was therefore no longer fit to serve as judge. Joe Voiland, a lawyer with little trial experience, easily defeated Tom Wolfgram, who in 19 years on the circuit court bench had earned a statewide reputation for judicial excellence.

    Regardless of whom they supported in the election, the citizens of Ozaukee County should now be hoping that Judge Voiland proves to be a wise and effective jurist and that if he runs for a second term it will be not on partisan political issues but on his record of service on the branch two bench.

    If a reminder that judicial elections are too important to be decided on emotional political issues was needed, it was provided last week by a case that showcased with high-definition clarity the role of local judges in ensuring that justice reaches the troubled and powerless among us, no matter their guilt before the law.

    The example was provided by another Ozaukee County circuit judge, Paul Malloy, who prevented a classic miscarriage of justice by refusing to be persuaded by a prosecutor and a state bureaucrat to send a 50-year-old mentally-ill Port Washington resident to prison for painting graffiti on the Ozaukee Interurban Trail while on probation for a similar offense.

    Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey Sisley asked Malloy to follow the recommendation of a state parole agent and sentence Dale R. Ziegler, who had pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for the graffiti offense, to one to two years in state prison plus two years of extended prohibition.   

    Malloy minced no words in rejecting the outlandishly severe sentence recommendation: “We’re talking about sending someone to state prison for graffiti. Prisons are reserved for people who earned their way there. A person with cognitive disabilities who becomes a town nuisance by spray painting the bike trail...I have a hard time correlating that behavior with prison.”

    The job of prosecutors is to get lawbreakers convicted and punished. Concern for the perpetrators is not high on their list of priorities. (Probation agents, on the other hand, are expected to consider the offender’s interest as well as the public’s. What the prison-for-graffiti agent was thinking is anyone’s guess.)

    Prosecutors tend to be zealous in carrying out their mission; sometimes overzealous. Judges are the counterbalance. Had Malloy taken the easy way and rubber-stamped the sentence recommendation, the case would have closed with a failure of justice.

    Though Ziegler was found competent to stand trial after a psychological exam, his mental disabilities have been well documented. “You’re competent,” Malloy told him in court, “but not by much.”

    He was arrested last year for painting references to Hitler and Ku Klux Klan on the bike trail and the parking lot of St. Peter of Alcantara Church. The district attorney chose the harsh alternative of charging Ziegler with felonies for the latter on the ground that it was criminal damage to religious property.

    He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to nine months in jail, but was released after serving 30 days, contingent on probation rules requiring him to stay away from the bike trail and church parking lot and not possess graffiti materials.

    He violated those conditions earlier this year with the bike trail painting, and has been in the county jail ever since.

    And there he will stay for a while. Instead of prison, Malloy sentenced him to another year in the less threatening environment of the county jail and said the court would ask the county Human Services Department to find a group home for Ziegler to move into after serving his sentence.

    The group home “sounds like the best idea,” Malloy told him. “You don’t belong in prison.”

    What it really sounds like is justice. Finding judges who know how to recognize it and dispense it has nothing to do with politics.

<< Start < Prev 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 Next > End >>

Page 54 of 124