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A win for the dirtiest fuel PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 16 November 2016 18:43

Old King Coal was not restored to its throne in last week’s presidential election, but it got a boost toward that goal from the outcome. 

The winner promised to push America to burn more coal.

If the new president keeps that campaign promise, more coal will be used to generate electricity instead of clean-burning natural gas and renewable energy sources, air quality will worsen, and the worldwide effort to stave off the most dangerous predictable impacts of global warming will be set back. 

Coal is the dirtiest power-plant fuel, a fact that is ingrained—as in grains of soot—in Port Washington’s history.

The coal-fired power plant that operated on the city’s lakefront for 70 years exhausted into the air thousands of tons of carbon dioxide, soot and fly ash laden with heavy metals and poisonous chemicals.

The pollution was bad for the earth’s atmosphere, but it was particularly harmful to the air over Port Washington and the surrounding area. The noxious emissions could be seen, smelled and tasted. 

On some days, the sky downwind from the power plant stacks (as many as five during one period in the plant’s history) was stained yellow. In some atmospheric conditions, laundry hung outside to dry was turned gray, as was white siding on houses. Boat owners attracted to the city’s newly opened marina found decks stained with soot and rust from the metals falling from the power plant smoke.

The health effects of the Port power plant’s pollution were not carefully documented during the plant’s tenure, but based on what medical science knows today, it can be assumed that long-term breathing of the air contaminated by the coal plant’s emissions caused illness and premature death.

 
Lake effect conundrum PDF Print E-mail
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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

Breakwater 

Lighthouse

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
News
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.

 
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