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DNR missfires on rifle rule PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 23 October 2013 14:35

This urbanized county’s abundant deer need to be hunted, but the DNR is wrong to say it should be with long-range arms that increase risks for non-hunters

Like all political organizations, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources endeavors to please a few influential constituencies. High on that list are deer hunters. Low on the list, or not there at all, are people who live near deer-hunting areas. That is evident in the DNR decision to allow rifles to be used for deer hunting everywhere in the state, including in urbanized areas like Ozaukee County.

    The decision overturns the wise rule that has been in effect since deer hunting was first allowed in Ozaukee County: Hunters must use shotguns that fire slugs (or muzzle-loaders in a special season) rather than rifles.

    The intent of the rule requiring short-range ammunition was to limit the chances of an errant shot traveling far enough to endanger people living near hunting grounds. Because Ozaukee County is not “up north” with vast unpopulated areas of deer habitat, there are many homes, even neighborhoods, within a rifle shot of places where deer are hunted.

    Slugs fired from shotguns start losing velocity rapidly after 60 yards, according to the National Rifle Association, and travel only several hundred yards. The range of a typical .30 caliber deer-hunting rifle is 4,457 yards, or nearly three miles.

    The DNR gave two reasons for its decision. One was that the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, an organization that advises the DNR and is made up of five elected delegates from each county, voted in favor of it.

    The other was statistics showing that shotguns were involved in 42% of hunting accidents in the decade ending in 2008, which a DNR official told Ozaukee Press “shows rifle hunting is no more dangerous—in fact it may be less dangerous—than hunting with a shotgun.”

     We don’t fault the DNR’s data, but its interpretation seems skewed. The great majority of the victims of hunting accidents are hunters. It stands to reason that shotguns could be as dangerous to other hunters as rifles. But the shotgun deer-hunting rule was intended to protect non-hunters. It defies logic to say rifles would not be more hazardous to distant bystanders not taking part in the hunt than shotguns.

    The county official in charge of Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve, where deer hunting is allowed by permit, understands the hazard. Andrew Struck, director of planning and parks, said the county will continue to prohibit rifles in the park and may seek an ordinance to lend more authority to the rule.

    “Clearly the neighbors would have some serious concerns if we lifted the rifle prohibition,” Struck said.

    A number of other deer-hunting areas in the county have neighbors as close as those clustered around Lion’s Den. Fortunately, there is a way to give them piece of mind too. The DNR rule allows towns to pass ordinances countermanding the new rifle regulation; town officials should take advantage of this before the Nov. 23 start of the deer-hunting season.

    By way of perspective, it should be pointed out that, based on statistics, deer hunting is not dangerous. Hunters, with few exceptions, take seriously the fact that their recreation requires the use of lethal weapons, and they are careful. The numbers of hunting accidents have been steadily declining, and involve but a tiny fraction of the more than 800,000 deer hunters afield in Wisconsin.

    Ozaukee residents should hope that deer hunters here shoot not only safely but accurately. The exploding deer population is a full-fledged nuisance, laying waste to farm fields, gardens and home landscaping, while making roads more dangerous, all at significant cost. Hunters are the only means available to counter the nuisance.

    They can do that effectively with shotguns, especially those purpose-made for deer hunting, which have evolved into sophisticated hunting arms that are as accurate and deadly as rifles at moderate ranges.

    On that note, we have to wonder why the DNR, instead of causing anxiety for rural homeowners by allowing rifles in areas once restricted to short-range arms, has not been more creative in giving hunters opportunities to harvest more of the deer that plague developed areas of the state.

    Why is the deer hunting season here only nine days long?

No more taxes for sports ‘amenities’ PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 16 October 2013 14:11

Residents of Ozaukee and other counties who are still on the hook for more than $100 million to pay for Miller Park should not be taxed  for a new basketball arena

You say a privately owned professional basketball team wants a new place to play and the public should be taxed by the state to pay for it? Are you nuts?

    Only a visitor recently arrived in Ozaukee County from a distant planet would think that’s crazy.

    Taxing the public to pay for sports facilities that enrich team owners is common in America. Ask anyone living in the seven counties, including Ozaukee, whose residents have paid more than $400 million to build and enhance Miller Park in Milwaukee through a sales tax surcharge enacted by the Wisconsin Legislature and are on the hook for at least $100 million more before the tax is retired.

    That is, if it’s retired. Trial balloons have been launched suggesting that after the Brewers’ stadium is paid for the tax should live on to fund a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks.

    The Ozaukee County Board last week took a potshot at those balloons by passing a resolution opposing any new regional sales tax. The Racine County Board passed a similar resolution in August.

    Those were good shots, but probably not enough to prevent future flights of schemes to involve the public in paying part of the cost of a replacement for the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Expect to hear a lot of talk about the Bucks leaving Milwaukee if they don’t get a new building.

    The Bucks have a generous and fair-minded owner in Herb Kohl, but he won’t be the team owner forever. The National Basketball Association has already butted in by lobbying for a new Bucks facility. The NBA’s deputy commissioner toured the 25-year-old Bradley Center recently and found it seriously wanting. “It doesn’t have the kinds of amenities we need,” he complained.

    Sports franchises’ need for amenities has cost taxpayers dearly in cities across the country. In every case, the rationale has been that taxpayers benefit from the economic development spurred by big-name sports teams, so they should help pay for their stadiums and arenas.

    The problem with this reasoning is that stadiums are not good financial investments for taxpayers, according to numerous studies. In the book “Sports, Jobs and Taxes,” public finance experts Roger Noll and Andrew Zimbalist say it plainly: “No recent facility appears to have earned anything approaching a reasonable return on investment.”

    Analyses of cities with publicly financed sports venues have found no significant employment increases or economic growth in attributable to the facilities.

     In most cases, there is plenty of economic growth for team owners, however. When the Miller Park stadium taxing district was established in 1996, the value of the Milwaukee Brewers based on its stock price was $96 million. By 2012, a study by Forbes magazine found the team was worth $448 million. According to the magazine, the increase was a result of building Miller Park.

    If the economic growth argument doesn’t work for the cities in which the sports facilities are located, how can anyone say with a straight face, as was argued during the debate leading up to levying the stadium tax, that outlying counties such as Ozaukee benefit so much that their residents should help pay for the facility?

    Let’s wish the Bucks and Milwaukee well and hope the team stays and that somehow a way is found to provide the amenities the NBA wants so badly.

    Note: In lieu of tax money, these good wishes will be sent with a copy of the Ozaukee County Board’s no-tax resolution.

Lighten up on team nicknames PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 09 October 2013 14:28

Offensive American Indian team nicknames are as obvious as they are reprehensible, but the nickname police should lay off of those that merely imply respect

There is nothing subtle about offensive racial stereotyping. Everyone with a normal quotient of human sensibility knows it when they see it.

    Even so, some people and institutions, by dint of hair-splitting and arcane definition, seem compelled to discover it where it is not evident. Among them are some of the crusaders against American Indian nicknames for sports teams.

    The nickname police have been on their beats for years. Many of the monikers they have pressured schools to drop were innocuous or even respectful references to American Indians. Meanwhile, they’ve had no effect on some of the most obviously offensive team nicknames that continue to be flaunted. In the plains states, a number of high schools call their athletes “Savages.” In the NFL, the Washington, D.C. team offends on a national stage by refusing to retire the racially pejorative name “Redskins.”

     In 2010, Wisconsin became one of the few states to pass a law regulating school nicknames. Soon its Legislature may pass a law undoing that poorly drafted statute.

    It would be best if the state kept its hands off the nicknames schools choose for their sports teams, but Wisconsin couldn’t resist, so the new statute is needed to temper the overly stringent measure made law three years ago.

    Under the ridiculously low standard of the current law, a school district can be forced to change its team nickname if a single person complains. The burden of proof is on the district to show the name is not discriminatory. The Department of Public Instruction decides and has the power to order name changes.

    Under a bill introduced by Republicans in September, objections to nicknames would have to be accompanied by petitions signed by a number of residents equal to at least 10% of the students in the district. The complainant would have to prove the name promotes discrimination or stereotyping. The state Department of Administration would decide.

    The proposal is a reaction to the DPI’s order to the Mukwonago Area School District to stop using the sports nickname “Indians.”

     Mukwonago has defied the order on the sensible ground that the name does not discriminate. “Mukwonago” is a word from the language of the Potawatomi tribe. “Indian” remains a generally acceptable word for Native Americans. Where’s the offense?

    The Mukwonago nickname is akin to the Northern Ozaukee School District’s “Warriors,” though no one has complained about the NOSD team name. No one has reason to complain, because the term connotes nothing derogatory.

    On the contrary, such nicknames imply respect. There is no mystery as to why so many teams have adopted Indian names. Sports teams aspire to physical prowess, courage and determination, traits associated with American Indians throughout their history, be it triumphant or tragic.

    The variations on Indian-inspired nicknames that are offensive per se are obvious. Perhaps one day there will be enough public disgust to make them go away.

    But certainly society can tolerate, indeed cheer for, those that are meant to inspire athletes to demonstrate qualities found in this country’s historic perception of Native Americans. Long live the Braves, the Chiefs, the Chieftans, the Indians and the Warriors.

    Polls show American Indians are divided on the issue. Some see the nicknames as terms of respect, others take offense. Nonetheless, these are generic terms and no one owns them. Used as many schools and athletic organizations use them, they do not suggest racial discrimination, no matter how     the nickname police spin their meaning.

    The Legislature should pass the bill that fixes the 2010 law. The new law will still provide means to challenge questionable nicknames, but will apply reasonable standards.

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