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Paving the countryside a bad option for Highway 60 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 12 September 2012 17:16

The DOT remedy for congestion on the road is radical widening or land-consuming bypasses; affected communities want no part of either option, with good reason

Traffic is getting progressively heavier on Highway 60 between the villages of Grafton and Jackson. There is some congestion at peak commuting times that causes traffic to slow down and there have been some accidents at intersections.

    Sounds like there could be a problem here. What to do?

    Simple. Just replace parts of the road with magnificent new bypass highways that would be nearly three times as wide as the existing road and consume hundreds of acres of farmland, wetland and green space.

    That this is one of the options proposed by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation for the rebuilding of Highway 60 between the west side of Jackson and downtown Grafton suggests the department is lost in a time warp (circa 1960s) in which the consequences of urban sprawl, the benefits of preserving the green countryside and the wisdom of reining in highway spending are foreign concepts.

    These grand swaths of concrete are proposed to reroute the highway around Five Corners and Jackson. The Town Board of Cedarburg, in which Five Corners is located, and the Village Board of Jackson have approved strongly worded resolutions opposing the bypasses and every other option proposed by the DOT for reconstruction of Highway 60.

    They have plenty of company. A group of property owners organized under the name Mi60, the City of Cedarburg, business owners, homeowners and even Cedarburg’s St. Francis Borgia Catholic Parish oppose the DOT proposals.            

    Each of these stakeholders has specific reasons to fight the DOT proposals. The parish objects because one of the bypasses would go through land it owns in the Town of Cedarburg that is to be the site of a new parish school. Other opponents cite the damage to businesses caused by rerouting the highway and the loss of land, homes and commercial buildings that would be claimed for the wider highway right of way under the various DOT options.    

    Taxpayers who don’t own property along the highway and don’t drive on it regularly have a stake in the rebuilding of the highway too. For what the DOT is proposing would cost millions of tax dollars and the bypass plan would be a setback for enlightened use of the once-rural land west of Grafton that would be widely felt.

    The long, super-wide bypasses (270 feet wide compared to the current Highway 60 right-of-way width of 100 feet), like other Highway 60 widening proposals, would be a traffic magnets that would hasten the day when the rebuilt highway would be congested again.

    The DOT defends the bypasses as a better option than taking land, some of which is occupied by historic buildings in Jackson, to widen the existing highway.

    Here’s an even better option: Don’t widen the road in Jackson.

    Building a bigger highway is a typical first choice for DOT—a bureaucratic knee-jerk reaction from an agency whose highway budget for this year is just under half a billion dollars—but there are other ways to make the road safer and mitigate some of the congestion, using features like turning lanes and roundabouts, or opting for selective widening and speed limit reductions.

    Congested highways are the wages of development. Government has an obligation to take reasonable measures to abet safety, but there is no imperative to ensure that travel on roads like Highway 60 is fast or free of inconvenient slow-downs at all times.

     Congested roads are a gentle brake on speeding development, while wider roads built to facilitate faster travel fuel a revolving dynamic of wide highways leading to accelerated development leading to congested highways leading to pressure to build even wider highways.

    At a public meeting in Jackson starting at 4 p.m. Thursday, DOT staff members will present their plans for Highway 60. Their presentation will be met with well-founded opposition to excessive widening and wasteful bypasses. DOT decision makers should pay heed.

Wolf hunt another piece of botched legislation PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 05 September 2012 16:10

An undisciplined legislative majority’s rejection of moderaton and compromise has resulted in unworkable laws while sowing discontent

Moderation is a desirable human trait. We know that from advice received from learned mentors through the ages, the likes of Aristotle (“moderation in all things”) and Benjamin Franklin (“avoid extremes”), not to mention wise and sensible parents and grandparents.

    It is also a key to an orderly society. We can deduce that from the state of chaos that obtains in Wisconsin owing to the lack of moderation in an institution that requires it to be effective—the Legislature.

    Legislatures, where many discrete points of view collide as an inevitable part of the law-making process, can only succeed with compromise. Disdain for moderation, embrace of extreme positions and rejection of compromise have led to a string of costly legislative failures in Wisconsin.

    The latest is the botched attempt to legalize wolf hunting. Gray wolves are thriving in Wisconsin. It is estimated that there are more than 800 in Wisconsin, when 350 was the goal for recovery of a species once all but wiped out here.

    Livestock raisers citing depredations on their herds by wolves, deer hunters fearful that wolves will reduce the population of the game their sport targets and people who just want to kill wolves, supported by the Department of Natural Resources’ position that the wolf population needs to be controlled, clamored for a wolf hunt. It was understandable that the Legislature would oblige. But it couldn’t manage it without going to an extreme.

    A number of states that have robust wolf populations allow wolf hunting. None allows wolf hunting with dogs—except Wisconsin. That immoderate provision was thrown out by a judge last week, leaving the DNR’s wolf hunt plans in disarray.

    We can only wonder at the Legislature’s thinking when it blessed wolf hunting by dogs. Did the lawmakers think hunters needed an extra advantage in killing animals that are frequently sighted in the north woods and have not had the experience (at least not legally) of being threatened by humans?

    And how did the legislators not see the red warning flag waving over dog-hunting? Dogs are cousins of wolves. Wolves are essentially big dogs. Didn’t anyone think that loosing dogs on wolves would lead to dog-wolf fights? Or that animal rights supporters and dog lovers in general would find this objectionable?

    An affiliation of humane societies and individuals sued, with the result that a judge has ruled out wolf hunting with dogs and the DNR says the difficulty of getting new rules in place by the planned Oct. 15 start of hunting may rule out wolf hunting this year.

    Chalk up another piece of legislation as too extreme to work.

    The same can be said for the Voter ID law. Though there was no evidence of the kind of fraud a voter ID requirement would affect, it was part an agenda almost certain to be enacted in Wisconsin with Republicans in control of the governor’s office and the Legislature. Nothing shocking there—victors get the spoils in politics and government. But the victors could not restrain themselves from making Wisconsin’s law one of the most stringent voter ID requirements in the nation.

    The result? The law cannot be enforced because courts have ruled it unconstitutional.

    The pattern for this was set by Act 10. The majority of Wisconsin residents surely supported the reform of public employee benefits promised by Scott Walker in his successful campaign for governor. People of all political persuasions could agree that the disparity in benefits between public and private sector workers was inequitable and unsustainable. It was an opportunity for progressive change.

    But legislators could not discipline themselves to avoid a toxic extreme—outlawing collective bargaining by public employees—at the cost of upheaval in the state capital, millions of taxpayer dollars spent on recall elections and an enduring, debilitating bitterness in public affairs.

    Aristotle and Ben Franklin would be aghast, as should everyone of who understands the value of moderation and compromise and the consequences of extremes.

Seeing the light and feeling the heat PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 29 August 2012 16:01

Not even the doubters and deniers can ignore the evidence that human-produced greenhouse gases are the cause of global weather chaos

Have you heard the news about global warming?

    It’s going on now. It’s getting worse. It’s on course to become a disaster of biblical proportions. It’s caused by man-made carbon dioxide.

    To many people, of course, this is not news at all. A worldwide consensus of scientists has long warned of the catastrophic consequences of climate warming caused by carbon emissions.

    But it is news, apparently quite startling news, to the disbelievers and deniers who are just now seeing the light of global warming and feeling its heat.

    Earlier this summer, Richard A. Muller, physics professor at the University of California, a high-profile climate-change skeptic whose views were frequently cited by global-warming doubters, announced his conversion, writing that he had “concluded that global warming was real and that prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct.” And then he added a finding that has shaken the ranks of deniers: “Humans are almost entirely the cause.”

    Other public conversions followed the publication of a scientific paper this month by James E. Hansen, a much respected NASA scientist, that said there is no doubt that the drastic increase in the amount of the earth’s surface subjected to extreme heat in recent years and the resulting devastating droughts were caused by greenhouse gases released by humans.  

    Then cracks appeared in one of the most stubborn bastions of global-warming denial, the Wall Street Journal, when it published an op-ed essay by Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, urging political conservatives to face the reality of man-made climate change and come up with their own remedies instead of criticizing efforts to limit carbon emissions.

    There was nothing particularly remarkable about the writer’s sensible comments, except that they appeared in a newspaper whose editorial page has treated global warming as a hoax cooked up by environmentalists to cripple capitalism with carbon emission controls.

    The apparent dawning of climate-change reason is cause for relief, but not optimism. The folly of doubting for years the preponderance of scientific evidence may be ending, but the time lost by the highjacking of an environmental threat by politics has set back hope for a timely response.

    A climate simulation model produced by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology indicates there is a 10% chance the earth’s average surface temperature will rise by more than 12 degrees by 2100, warming so extreme that much of the life on earth would not survive it.

    Short of that catastrophe, frequent crippling droughts and heat waves are almost certain to plague the planet through the century. A report by the National Climatic Data Center predicted that the excess of heat and shortage of rain that broke records this summer—the last 12 months were the hottest one-year period ever in the United States—was a pattern that will assert control over the climate for the coming decades.

    Ozaukee County experienced enough of that this summer to see that global warming’s consequences go far beyond melting glaciers and threatened polar bears. Plant life suffered greatly as rain avoided the area for weeks at a time. Human life, even people who welcome summer heat as the antidote to frigid winters and chilly springs, suffered through successive days heated to the high 90s or low 100s, the fortunate among them finding relief only in spaces cooled by air conditioning chugging away and adding more carbon to the atmosphere.

    The drought here is in remission, but scars remain. Some of them are evident in Lake Michigan, so depleted by the lack the rain and the excess of heat-induced evaporation that its water level is nearly a foot lower than a year ago.

    That fits with the global warming scenarios projected by American scientists: higher water levels (dangerous flooding) along the ocean coasts due to the melting of the polar ice caps, lower water (an essential resource depleted) in the Great lakes due to drought.

    Thus does the evidence relentlessly build. It should be impossible to ignore, even by those who haven’t heard the news about global warming.

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