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Lake effect conundrum PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 09 November 2016 20:42

Movers and shakers of Port Washington once preached that the city was condemned to slow growth because its unfortunate place on the Lake Michigan shore prevented it from developing to the east. 

No kidding. We’re not making this up.

Fast forward a few decades to 2016 and you will have trouble finding anyone in Port Washington who doesn’t think that concept of the lake effect was utter nonsense.

Today everyone gets it that the city’s place on the littoral of a Great Lake is a gift that is driving the city’s robust economic development. 

The downtown is full of people, including smiling merchants and restaurateurs. Fnishing touches are being put on the $7.5 million Harbour Lights condo development overlooking the harbor that will bring new residents, a restaurant and retail business to town. Meanwhile, plans are in the works for multiple millions of dollars’ worth of residential and commercial investment in the marina district and along the lake bluff. Credit the new lake effect for all of it.

City elected officials, led by Mayor Tom Mlada, deserve credit for pushing three public initiatives that have further empowered the lake effect. Outstanding among these has been making Port Washington the part-time home port of the tall ship Denis Sullivan, Wisconsin’s flagship.

The green-hulled, 137-foot recreation of a 19th century Great Lakes schooner brought visitors to town, gave them and many residents the experience of sailing on the rolling seas of Lake Michigan and was a perfect complement to the downtown’s maritime atmosphere. 

The sight of the Sullivan in her berth, banners snapping in the breeze on masts towering over the lakefront, her 40-foot bowsprit soaring over the water of the harbor, surely printed on the minds of all who saw her an image that proclaimed: This is a seafaring town.

Some public funds were spent on the Sullivan visits, as were sizable contributions from the Port Washington Tourism Council, the Business Improvement District and several business sponsors. In all cases, it was money well spent.

The challenge now is to keep the tall ship coming to Port in the future. It’s a costly proposition; however, it is one that pays off not only in city promotion, but in the fact that the tall ship’s presence has renewed the commercial-port status of the harbor, which has opened the door to federal funding for harbor improvements.

Thanks to that funding, as well as some grants, another of the those lake-related city initiatives, the north breakwater, is no longer merely a protective arm of the harbor, but has been rebuilt as a safe and easy-to-use attraction for visitors who crave proximity to the lake.

The breakwater leads to the third initiative, the historic pierhead lighthouse that is the city’s most recognizable icon, the symbol that defines the community’s relationship with the water. With the federal government intent on divesting the structure, it was imperative that the city acquire it, and with the mayor again leading the way, that has been accomplished.

These efforts propelled by the city government have in common that they all add to the public’s visual and physical access to the lake.

Which leads to the question: How can city officials who support these initiatives justify carrying on their campaign to force an unpopular, financially risky commercial development called the Blues Factory onto public land at the edge of the downtown harbor?

The Blues Factory entertainment complex, a graceless factorylike building whose brick walls would block lake views, has no place on a lakefront admired for its nautical beauty.

Perhaps answering the following question would help the mayor and aldermen understand that their insistence on this development counteracts the good they have achieved in enriching Port Washington’s lake effect:

What word or pair of words in this list doesn’t belong in the same group?

Tall ship



Blues Factory 

The question is a variation of a standard IQ test question, but it doesn’t take a genius to get the correct answer.

‘I voted’ PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 02 November 2016 17:54

“I voted.”

Those are the words on the little red, white and blue stickers that voters in Ozaukee County and elsewhere are given as they leave polling places to wear to announce that they’ve done their civic duty and to encourage others to do the same. 

The stickers come with a wrapping of nostalgia, for they date to a time—not that long ago—when Americans of all political persuasions agreed on the need to encourage people to vote.

For a vibrant democracy, the United States has a chronically low rate of voter participation. In many elections, fewer than half of those eligible cast a vote. Changing that has been not only a long-standing mission of good-government advocates, but a point of national consensus: People should vote.

Judging from current political affairs, today some regard that as a naive, obsolete belief. In coded words and actions, they are saying: Some people should not vote.

It is no longer a matter of conjecture that by describing the presidential election as “rigged” and calling on supporters to act as vigilante poll watchers to root out fraudulent voters, Donald Trump is advocating voter suppression. A senior campaign aide confirmed it in a widely quoted interview with Business Week magazine.

In Wisconsin, Rep. Glenn Grothman, who is running for re-election in the congressional district that includes Ozaukee County, confirmed suspicions that the intention of the state’s Voter ID law is to suppress voting turnout in large cities. He said so two years ago in a television interview; a video of the interview is still running on You Tube.

Federal courts have found parts of Wisconsin’s Voter ID law unconstitutional and ordered changes. Recently Federal Judge James D. Peterson angrily chastised state officials for making the ID application process exceedingly difficult to navigate for some residents whose right to vote was threatened by requirements of the Voter ID law.

According to court documents, 300,000 registered Wisconsin voters do not have a photo identification card required for voting.

That surely includes some residents of the small communities of Ozaukee County. For most voters here, producing driver’s license when voting is easy. But consider those who don’t have that form of ID, perhaps elderly people who have given up their driver’s licenses. If they have Social Security numbers and can prove citizenship, residence and identity, they can get a nondriver ID, but it’s a hassle and imposition for people who likely have been responsible voting citizens for decades.

This is why Voter ID laws look like the voter suppression tactic Grothman described. They make it harder to vote. 

The irony is unmistakable: Voter ID laws were passed with the justification of preventing voting fraud. But respected studies have determined that in-person voter fraud—the only kind of fraud Voter ID laws could affect—almost never happens in the U.S. The obvious conclusion is that Voter ID laws don’t prevent fraud—they prevent voting.

What an unfortunate turn backward this is from the time when we all agreed: People should vote. 

In search of a bright side, at least it can be said this state of affairs gives a bit more significance to that “I voted” sticker.

Wear it proudly.

Goverment work better than ‘good enough’ PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 26 October 2016 18:33

Good enough . . . for government work. 

The expression has been around forever implying that work done on the public payroll is somehow inferior to that of the private sector and has to be judged by a lower standard.

This disdain is amplified by the government bashing that is ever present among politicians at the state and national levels, where government employees are frequently characterized as lazy, incompetent and overpaid to justify efforts to privatize government services and, particularly in Wisconsin, to weaken unions representing public workers.

Anyone who has ever seen government work performed by Dave Ewig and his street and water department crews knows that such derisive generalizations do not apply in the City of Port Washington.

Ewig is retiring after nearly 40 years on the city payroll, many of them as head of those two departments that are so crucial to the smooth functioning of the city. 

From a story about his career on the front news page of last week’s Ozaukee Press, a portrait emerged of a government employee who never forgot that the people who paid his salary—the taxpayers, big and small, of Port Washington—were entitled to nothing less than the best service possible.

It made no difference to Ewig whether  the taxpayer affected by a water main break was a corporation with a workforce of hundreds facing a loss of production or an aged widow living alone who was fearful that her house would be without water. He gave them the same consideration, did his best to accommodate their needs, got the job done—and done well.

Public Works Director Rob vanden Noven put it like this: “If he gets a complaint, he takes it personally and works to fix it.”

Accolades reported in the Press story were so numerous they fairly leaped off the page, but the ultimate comment on Ewig’s work for his city’s taxpayers is the consistently high quality of the service provided by the departments he has managed.

Ewig’s career has been exemplary, but his commitment to giving city residents the respect they deserve as consumers of government services is not unusual among public employees. Many share that ethic. In Port Washington, they are the hard workers in various departments who, in Ewig’s words, “keep the city running on a day-to-day basic.”

Dave Ewig is 65 years old, but even so we’re going to call him a boy—a poster boy who represents all of the industrious, skilled and caring public employees whose work is far better than “good enough.”

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