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Editorials
Celebrities among us PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 07 January 2015 18:54

A fight in a Port Washington bar on Dec. 25. Women shoving each other, throwing punches. Men grappling. Some blood flowing. A report of a knife.

    As Christmas stories go, this one was pretty sordid. Still, it was instructive. There are things to be learned from the aftermath of the bar fight that left a former TV actor charged with stabbing a Port Washington man.

    One lesson is that, contrary to popular belief, celebrity is not fleeting. In some cases, it apparently just goes on and on as though it’s ageless. It has been 22 years since Dustin Diamond, the man facing felony and misdemeanor charges in the scuffle, played a character in a TV sitcom. Yet when word got out that he was in trouble with the law, media folk flocked to Port Washington.

    Predominant in this group were representatives of the news operations of TV stations, whose behavior offered another lesson, a reminder that in their line of work what passes for news is often barely distinguishable from entertainment.

    Which explains why people with video cameras and microphones staked out not only the tavern that was the scene of the crime and the jail and courts where Diamond was incarcerated and appeared before a judge, but also stores and gas stations where Port Washington residents were going about their business of buying things and putting fuel in their cars.

    One TV reporter’s idea of covering the story was to give a woman pumping gas in downtown Port an opportunity to appear on the nightly news by answering his question—does she think Dustin Diamond needs to carry a concealed weapon to be safe in Port Washington?

    That was about as silly as the antics of Screech, the character in the 1989-1993-era TV teen comedy “Saved by the Bell” who was played by the current defendant in the bar stabbing. No surprise there. Like the sitcom, the question was meant to produce entertainment.

    By fortunate happenstance, a story in the same issue of this newspaper that reported on the celebrity bar fight and its media attention also gave readers a look at celebrity of a more appealing nature.

    That was the story of Audra Daniloff, a Port High senior whose heartwarming surprise was seen by millions of people who clicked on a YouTube video posted by her father.

    Audra was first introduced to Ozaukee Press readers early last year as the member of the high school varsity dance team who struggled through a performance but was so exhausted afterward that she ended up in Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, diagnosed with a deadly disease that attacked tissues and organs.

    After treatment for months with chemotherapy and other therapies, Audra recovered to the point where she is back on the dance team. As a special Christmas present for the daughter he says would not be with him were it not for the doctors at Children’s Hospital and her fighting spirit, Audra’s father bought her tickets to a New York concert by her favorite band and airplane tickets to travel there with him. It was the way the gifts were presented that delighted 2.4 million YouTube viewers.

    Her father, Marc Danilof, asked his hometown police chief, Saukville’s Jeff Goetz, if a police officer could present the airline and concert tickets as part of a good-natured hoax. The chief agreed, and one day Audra was pulled over while driving in Saukville by a young cop named Brandin Depies and issued two tickets—not traffic tickets, but concert and airplane tickets. When the surprise was revealed, Audra and Officer Depies were all smiles, as, one supposes, were the people all over the world who saw the video.

    Besides offering a glimpse of one family’s happy moment, this little vignette says something about police and their relationship with their communities at a time when those relationships are at breaking points in some places.

     No one would say the challenges faced by Saukville’s police officers are anything like those faced by their brethren in New York City, but the big-city and small-town departments have one thing in common—they can’t function effectively without public support and public respect. Chief Goetz earned tons of both for his officers by granting a grateful father’s simple request.

    Two celebrity tales. One is a nice story.


 
Riding into 2015 PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Tuesday, 30 December 2014 16:32

Public transit use is surging across the country and in Ozaukee County, where taxi service  hours should be expanded to meet growing demand

You would expect people to be driving more, considering the falling price of gasoline, but what they’re really doing is riding more.

    More Americans used public transit services in the third quarter of 2014 than in any comparable time period since the American Public Transportation Association began recording ridership numbers in 1974.

    The association reported that 2.7 billion passenger trips were taken on transit systems in the third quarter of this year, 48 million more trips than in the same period last year.

    The numbers are significant because:

    This year’s increased public transit use comes on top of record-setting 2013 ridership numbers. There is a trend here, and the arrow is pointing up.

    The trend has developed in spite of strong political opposition to investing in public transit systems, all of which require government subsidies. Municipalities that have persisted in improving mass transportation in the face of opposition from interests that prefer to have government transportation money spent on highways are being rewarded with strong public support for convenient, traffic-hassle-free light rail, street car and bus systems as well as the economic growth that is fueled by efficient public transit.

    The increased transit use is seen as sign of a shift away from the old suburban model for development—which is the father of urban sprawl—in favor of living in more compact communities where driving is less necessary.

    Public transit ridership is surging in Ozaukee County too, but here it’s not driven by convenience or lifestyle changes. It’s driven by need.

    Business is booming for the Ozaukee County shared-ride taxi service, which is now averaging more than 400 riders a day. Some days, well over 500 use the service.


    Most shared-ride taxi customers, lacking vehicles, driver’s licenses or the ability to drive, don’t have a good alternative. They depend on the shared-ride sedans, vans and compact buses for everything from going to work to seeing a movie.

    The aging of the population makes annual increases in the county taxi system’s ridership almost automatic. For a variety of reasons, many senior citizens don’t drive. Ozaukee’s elderly population is growing by about 4% every year. In 20 years, it is expected that senior citizens will make up fully one-fourth of the Ozaukee County population.

    With the steadily growing need for public transportation, it makes sense for the county’s Public Works Committee to approve a proposal to extend taxi service hours from 9 to 10 p.m. daily.

    With 25 vehicles and a full staff of drivers provided by a private contractor in place, adding the extra hour of daily service can be easily done and at small cost to taxpayers, an estimated $7,500 a year.

    In a time when it is popular to disparage the competence and cost-effectiveness of government operations, the shared-ride taxi stands out as a model of efficient service funded by a combination of federal, state and county tax money plus a significant contribution from the fares paid by riders.

    The system could not function without government subsidy. Any taxpayers who are bothered by that might keep in mind that supporting public transportation is a more efficient use of tax dollars than spending on highways, which like public transit, are paid for by general tax revenue as well  as user fees.

    The Ozaukee County shared-ride taxi service is a better value than usual this week. The service’s fleet and drivers will be standing by to give folks going out on New Year’s Eve a safe ride to and from their place of celebration. All it will take is a phone call, and people needing a ride will be picked anywhere in the county from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. And the rides will be free, thanks to the business sponsors underwriting the service.

    So add this to the manifold benefits of a well-run Ozaukee County public transit system: a safer New Year’s Eve on the roads.


 
It’s about peace, not war PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Tuesday, 23 December 2014 15:34

Christmas is in good shape, healthy, vigorous, more popular than ever.

    This is not good news for the sourpusses who keep yakking about all the awful things being done to Christmas.

    Outstanding among them are the cable TV talkers who rant about what they call the war on Christmas.

    Experts in the ancient art of setting up flimsy straw men and then knocking them over with a great show of bravado, they go to the ramparts each December to defend Christmas against supposed attacks by secularists, atheists and non-Christians among others who might deviate from what they certify as Christmas orthodoxy.

     Theirs is an orthodoxy that has somehow missed the fact that America embraces believers in a spectrum of religious faiths, as well as atheists who reject all faiths, and that for some Christmas is more a beloved national holiday than a day of religious significance.

    These yuletide defenders soldier on, though their fight must be frustrating, there being so little evidence of anyone actually making war on Christmas. They have to settle for outrage over the few objections to overtly religious Christmas displays on government or public school property that make the news each year and reports of people committing the offense of conveying well wishes of the season by saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”

    Most Americans could not care less about such manufactured outrage, and are probably as likely to believe the Santa myth as the war-on-Christmas myth.

    Polls conducted by the Pew Research Center found that Americans love Christmas as it is. More than 90% of us celebrate Christmas. About half of the population observes it as a religious event, the other half as a holiday.

    On the subject dear to the hearts of the war-on-Christmas platoon, the poll found that 46% prefer “Merry Christmas” and everyone else thinks “Happy holidays” is fine or that it doesn’t matter what words we use to express happy wishes to folks during the season. As in much about Christmas, it’s the thought that counts.

    One of the nice thoughts about this Christmas is that those who have been getting mileage out of the phony war on Christmas seem to be running out of steam. Fox TV’s Bill O’Reilly, who pretty much invented the term “war on Christmas,” if not the war itself, has found so little to be outraged about this Christmas that he declared in a recent program that he and his cohorts have won the war.

    While elaborating on this, he was interrupted by a commercial break that featured a Fox News graphic wishing viewers “Happy Holidays.”

    Intentionally or not, the network’s choice of the generic holiday greeting that infuriates one of its stars underscored the absurdity of trying to make Christmas controversial. Whether in its religious or secular form, observed as the anniversary of the birth of Christ or as a national holiday, Christmas is a phenomenon that for a few days each year unites most Americans in the spirit of kindness, generosity and empathy.

    Christmas is about peace, not war.

 
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