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Risky crossing needs quick fix PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Tuesday, 24 December 2013 13:28

A dreadful collision at the dangerous intersection of Highways W and V got officials’ attention; now they have to act fast to prevent others

Our vote for the most dangerous intersection in Ozaukee County goes to the crossing of Highways V and W just southwest of the I-43-Highway 32 interchange in the Town of Grafton.

    Collisions are commonplace here. In November, a two-car crash left five people seriously injured, one of them critically. There could easily have been multiple fatalities.

    One of the drivers was clearly at fault and was cited for “causing great bodily harm” by failing to yield the right of way, but the intersection is so intrinsically hazardous that it invites collisions, not all of which are the result of careless or unskilled driving.

    The intersection design might work in an urban setting with slow speeds and narrower streets, but it is manifestly unsuited to be a highway intersection, because:

    • Highway V (an extension of state Highway 32) is a wide four-lane highway. Vehicles crossing V on W often have to do it in stages, waiting in the space between the east and westbound lanes. The space sometimes cannot accommodate the vehicles waiting to cross, leaving some exposed in traffic lanes and pressuring those in the space to cross when it might not be prudent.

    • Vehicles often turn into the intersection simultaneously from lanes going in both directions, further complicating safe passage through the crossing.

    • The speed limit is 55 mph, making it difficult to judge the closing distance of vehicles speeding by the intersection and increasing the odds that collisions will have serious consequences.

    • Traffic is heavy at the intersection and getting more so as Highway W is widely used as a convenient shortcut to reach the Aurora medical complex, the Costco store and the rest of the sprawling Grafton commercial complex on the west side of I-43.

    The November crash that left so many injured, including two teenagers, got the attention of the Ozaukee County’s Traffic Safety Committee and the Grafton continue to increase, along with the severity and number of injuries at the intersection.”

    The county is already on the case. Highway Commissioner Bob Dreblow is seeking a proposal from a consulting engineer for an evaluation of the intersection, and the county will likely ask the Department of Transportation for special hazard elimination funding.

    That’s all good, but fast action should be emphasized. Elaborate long-term solutions such as a roundabout aren’t relevant now. The priority for highway engineers has to be a quick fix, though it doesn’t take an engineering degree to figure out that part of it should be to lower the speed limit.

    Until changes are made, drivers will have to treat the V-W intersection as what it is—the proverbial accident waiting to happen.

A white, and black, Christmas PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 18 December 2013 16:12

A Christmas wish: that Santa Claus can be any color anyone wants him to be and that it’s OK for Black Peter to be black

Until several years ago, Port Washington’s Christmas on the Corner event featured a black-faced fellow who roamed Franklin Street with St. Nicholas. That was Black Peter, whose role as St. Nick’s sidekick is engraved in the Christmas traditions of Luxembourg, Belgium and Holland. Black Peter was disinvited from Port’s downtown Christmas celebration because some parents said he scared their children.

    Even in one of the birthplaces of the legend, the Netherlands, there was an attempt this fall to kick Black Peter, who in Dutch tradition is the helper of Santa Claus, out of Christmas celebrations. The anti-Black Peter movement was based on the notion that portraying the helper as a black person was suggestive of treating people of African descent as second-class citizens.

    The ensuing brouhaha featured a rousing debate in the Dutch parliament and the creation of a pro-Black Peter Facebook page that immediately received 2 million “likes.” Black Peter survived.

    Back in the U.S., controversy flared this Christmas season not over Santa’s helper, but the main man, Santa himself. It started when Alisha Harris, a writer for the online magazine Slate, questioned whether Santa could only be a white man. This infuriated Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, who responded on TV by declaring, “Santa just is white.” Not only is there no question that Santa is a Caucasian, she said, but it is just as certain that Jesus Christ was a white man.

    Though it is widely taken for granted that opinion is frequently substituted for fact at Fox News, Kelly’s pronouncements brought a fusillade of corrective responses, the gist of which was that there is no basis to state with any certainty that the skin of the mythical Santa, whose genesis was not in Europe but in Turkish lore, or the historical Christ, who was of Middle Eastern descent, was white.

    We’ll leave further discussion about the ethnicity of Christ to biblical historians, theologians and philosophers, but concerning Santa Claus and his helpers, we have to ask: What is it about the skin color of made-up Christmas figures that gets people so riled up?

    As a mythical character, Santa Claus can be any color anyone wants to make him, including black. The Dutch tell their children Black Peter’s skin is black because he does the work of delivering gifts via sooty chimneys for Santa. Since the American version of Santa does the chimney descents himself, it seems logical the job could make him, at times, a black Santa. Or maybe, to paraphrase Fox News, Santa “just is” black.

    Because Black Peter’s color is part of his name, there really is no easy way to make him a different color. But that didn’t stop some folks in Holland from trying by organizing a parade that was to feature (we’re not making this up) Green Peters. The parade was cancelled amid threats of bodily harm to its planners.

    The most remarkable thing about the Dutch fuss over black Christmas characters was that it was started by the United Nations with a letter from the U.N. High Commission for Human Rights to the Dutch officials calling on the government to abandon a centuries-old tradition and stop using the name and image of Black Peter.

    And so in a world in which famine haunts vast areas of Africa, North Korea works on missiles to deliver its nuclear bombs and hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians, including children, have been killed in military assaults, starved, gassed and made into refugees, the world peace organization is worried about the skin color of an ancient Christmas character.

    To the U.N., the commentators at Slate and Fox News and anyone else trying to stir bitter controversy into the otherwise sweet mix of Christmas, we offer the following advice in the spirit of the season:

    Stop trying to turn the secular celebration of Christmas into another one of the world’s problems. Let it be what it is meant to be—a time for children to enjoy the wonder and mystery of its traditions and legends and for adults to be considerate and generous. And, please, stop obsessing over the skin color of the major characters.

A call for empathy PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 11 December 2013 17:59

Russ Limbaugh characterized the pope’s criticism of ‘the culture of prosperity’ as Marxism; others recognize it as an appeal for compassion

The pope is a communist.

    No, make that—The pope is a communist! Loud, with an exclamation point, the way Russ Limbaugh talks to his millions of radio listeners.

    Pope Francis issued a statement recently on the Catholic church’s role in the modern world. The document was translated into many languages, including English, but it was all Greek, or Latin, to Limbaugh, who railed against it as “pure Marxism coming out of the pope’s mouth.”

     This is some of what came out of the pope’s mouth: “The worship of the ancient golden calf has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose.”

    He added, “The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase.”

    And, “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”

    After the inane analogy to communism, Limbaugh offered further proof that he could not understand what the pope was talking about by saying Francis went “way beyond matters that are ethical.”

    Way beyond? Hardly. The pope’s message, as an affirmation of the moral principles that guide human behavior, was wholly about ethics.

    Perhaps the words out of the pope’s mouth that really sent Limbaugh into a red-in-the-face, desk-pounding diatribe were those criticizing the “trickle-down” economic theory that is dear to the hearts of those like, well, Rush Limbaugh who believe that economies and governments should not be fettered by provisions to ease the lot of the less fortunate.

    The pope was hardly plowing new ground in debunking the notion that the poor and middle classes benefit when the rich get richer. Trickle-down has been thoroughly discredited and nowhere more so than in the United States, where in the aftermath of the Great Recession the wealth of the top 1% has soared, while many of those lower on the economic scale have treaded water at the diminished level left by the economic crisis.

     Limbaugh doesn’t get what Francis was saying, but surely most people who have read the pope’s words understand that he was essentially calling for empathy, the ability to understand the plight of others and act generously in response.

    He was speaking as much to the Thanksgiving night shoppers who in their greed were photographed exchanging blows over a piece of merchandize as to Wall Street titans taking home an eight-figure bonus checks and members of Congress pushing to cut funding for food stamps.

    The pope’s words were not new or revolutionary. They were inspired by someone who walked this earth long before Francis but mouthed similar words. It wasn’t Karl Marx.

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