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A city without a grocery store? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 18 October 2017 16:07

“A good corporate citizen.”
    People in Port Washington are using those words to describe Sanfilippo Sentry, the city’s only supermarket.
    They are not using them to describe the new owner of the NorthPort Shopping Center, and for a good reason: That company’s restrictions on its property could leave the city with no grocery store at all.
    PJR Properties LLC of Sheboygan, an affiliate of the Piggly Wiggly Midwest supermarket chain, bought the shopping center in August and is advertising the space occupied by Sentry for lease with the restriction that it not be used by a supermarket.
    Besides leaving Port Washington without a food market for perhaps the first time in its 182-year history, the demise of Sentry would eliminate a competitor to the Piggly Wiggly market in Saukville.
    Sentry owner Joe Sanfilippo’s lease will expire May 30, 2018. Though he has the option to extend it, there are indications he wants to sell the business. But that option is complicated by the restriction against renting to another supermarket operator.
    The possibility of a thriving community of nearly 12,000 people not having a store that sells the fundamental necessity of life is a measure of economic evolution. When Port Washington’s population was about half its current size, the city had as many as eight grocery stores, plus three meat markets, two bakeries and two fish stores.
    Any one of today’s supermarkets likely has more food offerings than all of those stores combined. Size and variety are not the only aspects of the food business that have changed. So has the competition—it’s fierce. Even though Sentry is the sole supermarket in Port, competitors are but a few minutes’ drive from the city’s west side, and it is no secret that Sanfilippo Sentry has had plenty of challenges.
    But make no mistake, the loss of Sentry would be a blow. For many residents, it’s a convenient alternative to the two big Saukville markets, Walmart and Piggly Wiggly. As a competitor to those stores, it’s part of a dynamic that helps careful shoppers find the best food values. People who live near Sentry and appreciate the benefits of needing only a short drive, or maybe a walk, to buy groceries would especially miss it.
    And there’s more at stake. The perceived inability to support a grocery store would dull some of the lustre on the city’s image as a progressive community attractive to new residents and businesses. It would not go unnoticed that the other Ozaukee County communities of Port’s size, as well as the smaller Village of Saukville, have no dearth of supermarkets.
    A fond hope occasionally voiced in the city is that Sendik’s, the independent, Wisconsin-owned and much respected supermarket company that has stores in Mequon and Grafton, would come to town and succeed Sentry in the NorthPort Shopping Center. That’s probably a fantasy, and in any case the anti-competitor restrictions stand in the way.
    To its credit, Port Washington’s city government has taken a role in trying to save or replace Sanfilippo Sentry. It is the right thing to do, but the city’s options are limited by the lack of a building suitable for a supermarket other than the restricted NorthPort Shopping Center space. Nonetheless, there is some hope that incentives offered by the city will attract a buyer that could carry on the Sentry business under the lease.        
    Against a deadline of October 31 for informing his landlord he intends to extend the lease, Joe Sanfilippo is working with city officials to find a way for the Sentry store to carry on under its lease, which is in keeping with his approach to doing business here. He has been a generous supporter of community causes. That is the characteristic of a good corporate citizen.
    What is not a characteristic of that is the message on the shopping center’s sign advertising for a new tenant for the Sentry space: “Not available for supermarket use.”

A new drug menace and no place is safe PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Thursday, 12 October 2017 15:52

There is no safe haven from this plague.
    Places like Ozaukee County—with its appealing suburban and rural character displayed in small communities with educated and relatively prosperous populations—were once unlikely to be touched by more than a glancing blow from the drug miseries that plague America’s biggest cities. No more. Drug addiction is now a fact of life here and virtually everywhere. And everyone is paying for it one way or another.
    Here is one way, as explained by Ozaukee County Administrator Jason Dzwinel: “Opioid addiction and mental health issues, which are pretty much entwined, drive a significant amount of our budget. Look at the case load in the child protective services and you’ll see it’s drastically up. We don’t have enough foster homes for kids. This is being driven by mental health problems and opioid addiction.”
    The costs are paid in other ways too: In drug addiction’s growing demands on local and county police and prosecutors; in the burden on health care resources; and, most tragically, in its human toll—the ruined lives of adults and the psychological and physical damage to the children of parents too dependent on drugs to care for them. It’s happening right here in our beloved small towns.
    There is no mystery about the cause of this pain. It is the addiction to prescription pain pills such as oxycodone that act like opium and heroin and are just as addictive. Addicts not only support a criminal black market in the drugs, but are vulnerable to becoming heroin users.
    The financial burden caused by opioids has become so significant that government agencies in many states are turning to the courts in the hope of compensation from the pharmaceutical companies that market narcotic pain pills.
    Ozaukee County has been asked to join a lawsuit brought by the Wisconsin Counties Association against so-called Big Pharma. The suit claims the companies should be made to pay because they “flooded the market with highly addictive drugs claiming they were safe and efficacious for long-term use, manufactured studies to support those false claims and knowingly misrepresented the addictive nature of these drugs.”
    There is no question the counties could use help in dealing with the opioid epidemic. Their state association asked the Walker administration for an additional $13.5 million is state funding for child and family services related to the epidemic, but were granted less than half of that in the state budget.
    Ozaukee County should sign on to the suit. As a plaintiff, it would only have to document its costs of dealing with the societal ills of opioid addiction. There would be no financial commitment, yet the county would share in any settlement or court-awarded payment.
     There are caveats, though. One is that winning the suit may be a long shot. Successful lawsuits by the states against tobacco companies are seen as the model for the litigation, but the parallels are fuzzy. Unlike cigarettes, the narcotic pain-killers are FDA approved medicine that when properly used serve a legitimate health care need.
    Another is that even a court victory with a big payoff, while it would help agencies cover the costs of dealing with the results of opioid addiction, would not slow the epidemic. That will take work to prevent addiction, which should be a state and federal responsibility, including efforts to control the over-prescribing of narcotic pain pills by physicians and counseling patients about the risks of opioid use even when needed after surgery or injury.        
    Meanwhile, more Americans are dying from drug overdoses each year than from car crashes and gun violence. Two-thirds of those deaths are blamed on opioids, and some are happening here in our communities. It will take more than lawsuits to change that.

Footsteps on the land PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 04 October 2017 16:25

“Andy was Riveredge, and Riveredge was Andy.”
    That sentence is from the front-page Ozaukee Press obituary for Andy Larsen. The remarkable thing about the words is that they were said by so many people that the quote was attributed to “friends and co-workers.”
    From the earliest days of Riveredge, the nature preserve that embraces 379 acres of land in the Town of Saukville, Andy Larsen was its abiding spirit—working in the field, teaching, leading, inspiring.
    With its array of hills, valleys, forests, ponds, prairies, plants, creatures and river banks, Riveredge is a showcase for the glories of nature. But is also, thanks to Mr. Larsen’s efforts and example, an important influence in support of the moral imperative for humans to be good stewards of the planet’s irreplaceable land.
    The legacy of Mr. Larsen, who died Sept. 22 at the age of 78, is not just Riveredge; it is also the defenders of the environment he inspired. Anyone who visits Riveredge and strikes up a conversation with folks there is likely to hear stories of how the teachings of Andy Larsen, often absorbed when they were children, motivated them to be advocates for conservation.
    It seems wrong to say that defenders of Earth like these one-time Riveredge kids are needed today more than ever, but it is true. For after years of progress, some elected leaders seem intent on taking the country backwards in environmental protection.
    This is evident on a national scale in the dismantling of Environmental Protection Agency regulations promised and being carried out by President Trump and in the plans to sell public wilderness areas that are so valuable as assets of nature that they have been designated national monuments.
    A similar disdain for government’s role in environmental protection is at work in Wisconsin, which, ironically, is considered by many to be the cradle of the conservation movement. Here, amid an ongoing effort to weaken air, water and land-use restrictions on industry, the Walker administration has offered to waive or relax environmental regulations as an incentive to lure a Taiwanese company’s massive manufacturing operation to the state.
    The rationale for this environmental backsliding is invariably that a prosperous economy is dependent on capitalism unfettered by the inconvenience of abiding by rules protecting natural resources.
    It is a false notion that has been disproven time and again, most dramatically by California, which has the country’s most stringent environmental regulations and, according to a U.S. News ranking, the most friendly-to-business environment of any state.    
    Yet Americans are told it is necessary to allow pollution of air and water by coal in order to save miners’ jobs and Wisconsinites are told that it is OK to let wetlands be destroyed in building the Foxcon plant that will sprawl over hundreds of acres of land in southeastern Wisconsin because it will be the biggest economic development project in the state’s history.
    This goes on in spite of that fact that a majority of the public, according to numerous polls, supports regulations to protect the environment and efforts to preserve land in its natural state. Simply put, people understand that when natural areas are built on, paved over or plowed, they are lost forever.
    Andy Larsen engendered that understanding as part of his life’s work encouraging people to experience the majesty of nature. It is fortunate for us that he inspired so many to follow the footsteps he imprinted on the land.

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