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Editorials
Fight for the lighthouse PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 12 August 2015 20:59

It’s an absurd policy that doesn’t give preference to Port Washington to become the next owner of its lighthouse, but the city has a strong case to make

It’s hard to believe the federal government would give Port Washington’s lighthouse to any organization other than the City of Port Washington.

    But then it’s hard to believe the feds are actually giving away their lighthouses.

    Nevertheless, that’s the state of things. Since 2001, the U.S. government has divested itself of 154 lighthouses. Port Washington’s is now on the list of those slated to go to a new owner.

    The new owner will not necessarily be the City of Port Washington, and that is ridiculous.         The city wants the lighthouse. It is Port Washington’s most recognizable symbol, after all. If the lighthouse is no longer going to belong to the federal government, then it must belong to the city. Yet, in its mysterious bureaucratic protocols, the General Services Administration, the agency that disposes of federal lighthouses, has no policy of giving preference to the communities that have lived with these structures since they were built.

    To get ownership of their lighthouses, municipalities have to compete with non-profit organizations that have expressed an interest in acquiring them. And, sure enough, an organization that wants Port’s lighthouse has surfaced.

     The want-to-be owner of our lighthouse is named the Geek Group and describes itself as “a non-profit organization which is dedicated to scientific and technological research and education and having a fun time.”

     As reasons for existence go, those, including having a fun time, are just fine, but that doesn’t mean the group deserves to own and have fun with the Port Washington lighthouse. It would be a blow to the city—a below-the-belt punch—if the GSA gave it to the Geek Group, which is based inland at Grand Rapids, Mich.

    In that event, Port Washington would have no control over the symbol that identifies it in its logo, signs and printed pieces and in the minds of its residents and visitors. The Geek Group could paint it day-glo green or let it fall into ruin. Or the organization could go out of existence and abandon the lighthouse.


    Fortunately, Port Washington officials recognize the value of the lighthouse and are willing to fight for it. The city has submitted a letter to the GSA indicating it is interested in owning the structure and Mayor Tom Mlada has urged the Common Council to approve submitting a formal application to acquire it.

    In another good move, the mayor has appointed a large committee with a membership that spans many interests in the city to guide the application process. The committee needs to make a strong case to the GSA that the lighthouse must go to the city. Here is some ammunition it can use to do that:

    In the 80 years that the lighthouse has resided at the end of the north breakwater, it has become an icon that is of incalculable value as a symbol of this port city. In the hands of non-resident owners, the city would not be able to control the appearance of its symbol.

    The city, with the help of community organizations, is prepared to take responsibility for the maintenance of the structure that has long been neglected by its current owner, the federal government. And it is in its interest, more than that of any organization, to do it right.

    The city has demonstrated its willingness to do that with its commitment to the improvement of its waterfront facilities and its ability to secure funding to rebuild parts of the north breakwater on which the lighthouse sits.

    The City of Port Washington will always be here to take care of the lighthouse. The longevity of the Geek Group, which says it wants to use the lighthouse for unspecified research, is unpredictable, but there certainly are no guarantees of a long-term commitment to the lighthouse.

    And the final point: Giving it to the community that has grown up with the lighthouse, through most of the 20th century and into the 21st century, is simply the right thing to. Even the dispassionate bureaucrats of the federal government should understand that.


 
The cost of coal PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 05 August 2015 19:21

Wrongly said to be cheap energy, coal is coming back to haunt We Energies ratepayers, and exacting a high cost from area residents who are getting no help from elected officials

Coal is cheap energy.

    That is the conventional, and politically convenient, wisdom, and it is patently false.


    Coal-fired electricity is anything but cheap. After all of its costs are accounted for, it may be the most expensive of any other source of energy.


    We Energies customers, especially those who live in parts of the Town of Grafton and the Town and City of Port Washington, are about to get a reminder about the cost of coal that endures long after it is burned to make electricity.


    A contractor working for the utility will soon dig up 53,000 cubic yards of toxic ash buried in a six-acre landfill near Stonecroft in the Town of Grafton and truck it to a 70-acre landfill near the intersection of Highway 32 and I-43.


    The ash is the residue of coal burned in the old Port Washington coal-fired power plant. It has resided for some 50 years, unbeknownst to officials of the Town of Grafton, in a landfill at the end of Stonecroft Drive that is now considered unsafe for the storage of fly ash that contains numerous elements harmful to humans.


     To move the ash will require 3,500 trips by very large dump trucks on Highways C, CC and 32, six days a week for many weeks, 12 hours a day.


    The financial cost of this massive undertaking, surely well into seven figures, including up to $200,000 to rebuild Stonecroft Drive after it is ruined by the massive trucks, will be paid by We Energies ratepayers.


    The cost in terms of inconvenience, aggravation and danger on the roads will be paid by people who drive their vehicles, ride their bikes, walk or run along the pretty country road that is Highway C, as well as those who use Highway CC (also known as Sunset Road) and Highway 32.


    Homeowners who live along those roads will pay a price in the noise and traffic generated by the parade of trucks.

    Members of the Grafton Town Board, who represent many of the people affected by the ash hauling, last week approved a terrible agreement that gives We Energies absurdly easy restrictions in the fly ash operation, much to the detriment of their constituents and the affected residents of the Town and City of Port Washington.

    Allowing trucks to start hauling at 7 a.m. and work until 7 p.m., as the agreement does, is an intrusion into the lives of residents along the route and puts the trucks on the roads during peak early morning and late afternoon traffic hours.


    Even worse, what were board members thinking when they agreed to allow the ash trucking to be done on Saturdays, the day Highway C is most heavily used by sightseers and bicycle riders and nearby homeowners are likely to be outside enjoying their properties?


    The Town Board needs to rethink its priorities. Pleasing the utility that owns the fly ash and did not even inform the Town Board of its presence when land around the ash dump was rezoned for residential development should certainly not be one of them. The board should move quickly to renegotiate the agreement to limit operations to shorter hours and weekdays only.


    The prices, financial and otherwise, to be charged the public for the ash moving operation can be added to the long list of costs that contradict the notion that coal is cheap energy.


    That list, beyond the price utilities pay for coal as fuel, includes the environmental damage caused when coal is dug out of the earth, the pollution including soot, smog, poisonous mercury and acid rain produced when it is burned, the problem of safely storing its ash forever and coal’s impact as a powerful driver of global warming with the prodigious production of greenhouse gases worldwide.


    This apparently is news to a number of state governors, including Wisconsin’s, who are planning to sue to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from enforcing stricter limits on power plant emissions.


    They’re saying the restrictions will increase the cost of using coal. They will—but for good and necessary reasons.


    Besides, coal never was cheap.


 
Sex offenders among us PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Thursday, 30 July 2015 14:35

A state law setting uniform standards for sex offender residency is needed; until that comes, the City of Port’s proposed ordinance is a good solution

Passing laws restricting where sex offenders can live has become an act of self-defense for Wisconsin municipalities and towns. So many communities, including every one of the 19 municipalities in Milwaukee County, have such laws on their books that those without them fear they will become magnets for sex offenders looking for homes.

    That helps explain why both the City of Port Washington and the Town of Port Washington are on the verge of enacting ordinances aimed at people on the state registry of sex offenders, even though there is little evidence these ordinances are needed to ensure the safety of the public.

    The problem cries for a remedy from the state Legislature—a statute that would supercede local ordinances and set a state standard for sex offender residency restrictions.

    In the absence of a state law, the City of Port Washington is approaching the issue in a way that makes more sense than banning sex offenders from living in certain areas of the community, as do most local sex offender ordinances, including the one being considered by the Town of Port Washington.

    The city ordinance would prohibit registered sex offenders from loitering near places where children congregate, including schools, day care facilities, parks and playgrounds.

    An official of the state Department of Corrections said at a Common Council meeting last week that the ordinance would work better than housing restrictions that “tell people here is where you can and can’t sleep. A loitering ordinance regulates where a person spends their time.”

    In support of the proposed ordinance, Police Chief Kevin Hingiss told aldermen that regulating loitering is more effective in keeping children safe than residency laws that prevent people convicted of sex offenses from living in certain areas of the community whether or not they pose a threat to children.

    The chief pointed out the fact that “everybody who’s a registered sex offender isn’t someone who’s attacking or had sex with a child.”


    An infamous testament to his point is the case of the Port Washington High School senior who in 1997 at the age of 18 was charged and convicted of a crime for having sex with his 15-year-old girlfriend. The result of this prosecutorial excess was that he was a registered sex offender until his name was removed from the list by court order after the Legislature made an exception for offenders 18 years old and younger.

     According to Stan Stojkovic, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, only 3% to 5% of the sex offender population has committed crimes against children.     

    Misconceptions nonetheless persist. “In most people’s minds,” Stojkovic told a National Public Radio interviewer, “when they think of sex offenders, they think of a person in the bushes or a stranger preying on children.”

    The Port Washington area experienced the effect of such misconceptions in 2009 when a small group of residents waged a campaign to force a registered sex offender to leave his parents’ home in the Town of Port Washington.

    The vigilante action, driven more by hysteria than reason, included posting the man’s photo with a warning at Possibility Playground, the YMCA and parks and was so strident that a Sheriff’s Department spokesman labeled it “harassment.”

    The harassment fizzled to a deserved demise when Ozaukee Press reported that the man had been listed as a sex offender after pleading no contest to having sex with two 15-year-old girls. He served a one-year sentence in the Washington County jail.

    Six years later, when he was targeted after his residency in rural Port Washington was announced in anonymous emails, he had a job, lived with his  parents, had no further offenses and was not, by any stretch of the imagination, a threat to the public.

    The understandable fear and loathing for the evil 3% to 5% drives the adoption of local sex offender residency ordinances. But the measure being considered by the Port Washington Common Council would do more to protect children from recidivists among that group than prohibitions on residency.

    The council should heed the police chief’s advice and approve this ordinance. It will serve until the Legislature does its duty and enacts a state law that codifies a uniform, reasonable and fair protocol for regulating the residency of sex offenders in communities.



 
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