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Warriors in the nickname battle PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press Editoral Board   
Wednesday, 03 March 2010 15:49

Might as well nickname a team the “Big Brothers,” what with the state intruding into what should be local decisions about school mascots

Members of the Spirit Lake Tribe of Sioux Indians in North Dakota are suing over the use of their tribal name as a nickname by the University of North Dakota.

Before you think, “Here we go again,” get this: The tribe is not suing to force the school to stop calling its sports teams the Fighting Sioux, but rather to force it to continue using the nickname and a logo depicting an Indian brave with feathers in his hair.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association had tried to make the university give up the Fighting Sioux moniker, but the school fought back in court and in a settlement won the right to keep the nickname if Sioux tribal councils approved.

 The Spirit Lake Tribe has given its permission, and the other Sioux tribe in the state is debating it, but the state board that controls university policy now wants to drop the name anyway. Which leaves a tribe of Sioux Indians defending a nickname that some people think is insensitive to Indians.

A tribe member articulated the reason for that to a New York Times reporter: “I am full blood and grew up on the reservation. I have to tell you, I am very, very honored that they would use the name.”

That two-sentence explanation exposes the folly of heavy-handed attempts to impose rigid rules concerning Indian nicknames on schools. Most such names are not offensive per se, and are intended as tributes, and not affronts, to Native Americans.

Yet the culture police draw no such distinctions in their efforts to quash the right of schools to choose the symbols and mascots that are part of the fun of school sports.

These efforts to enforce a close-minded standard have come mainly from sports governing organizations like the NCAA (whose motivation, we suspect, has more to do with the image of the multi-billion dollar machine college sports have become than concern for the sensibilities of Indians) and its high school equivalents and some Native American groups. But now, here in Wisconsin unfortunately, government wants to get in on the act.

A bill in the Wisconsin Legislature provides for fining, in some cases, school districts that use Indian nicknames. It was approved last week by a narrow vote in the Assembly. If the Senate and the governor follow suit, the nicknames of school sports teams, unimportant but still enjoyable features of elementary, middle and high school experiences, will become a matter of state law.

As the North Dakota example demonstrates,  some native Americans are honored by the use of Indian nicknames. How arrogant of the state to presume to tell them such names can’t be used.

Decisions about school nicknames belong with the elected representatives who determine policy for the schools—school boards.

School boards surely understand Indian nicknames can be offensive. “Redskins,” though used without qualms by the Washington, D.C. NFL team, is a pejorative term that schools should have no part of. Team logos that use cartoonish or mocking images of Indians should be banished. Names of specific Indian tribes, such as the Sioux in North Dakota, should be used only with permission of the tribes.

Yet to reasonable people, the Indian nicknames that are most common, the likes of Warriors, Braves, Chiefs, Chieftains, Indians, are not demeaning by any definition of the words, but on the contrary, are generally perceived as being laudatory of praiseworthy characteristics of Native Americans.

These nicknames were no doubt chosen in the hope they would inspire boys and girls to emulate the physical prowess, courage and dignity with which the names are historically associated.

Some schools with nicknames as innocuous as “Warriors” caved in early on. In the case of one of them, Marquette University, there are signs of regret.

Others, such as the Northern Ozaukee School District, have remained Warriors in spite of the pressure—to their credit—because there is not so much as a hint of offense to Indians.

The issue was born and is kept alive by the belief held by some that every Indian-based nickname causes or implies racial discrimination. If only it were that simple. In the scheme of America’s sordid history of persecution of Indians and the discrimination that lingered, school nicknames are a trivial matter that deflect attention from more serious ramifications of America’s relationship with its native peoples.

Yes, some Indian nicknames are offensive. Others are neutral or respectful of Indians. Reasonable people know the difference.

Cut the carbon PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press Editoral Board   
Wednesday, 24 February 2010 15:32

Even global-warming deniers should be able to agree that filling the atmosphere with carbon dioxide from fossil fuel is a bad thing

The global-warming legislation proposed by Gov. Jim Doyle is apparently quite warm itself, as in too hot to handle in its present form. This became evident when one of the governor’s political allies, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, announced he couldn’t support it without “significant changes,” meaning changes that would soften the impact of some of the measures to reduce greenhouse emissions.

Barrett is running for governor and is wary of having to campaign with the bullseye of a potentially unpopular environmental bill pasted on his chest, demonstrating once again that politics is a formidable impediment to progress on global warming.

The legislation will now go in for retooling to make it more palatable, not an easy process in that any effort to reduce carbon dioxide emissions will likely involve short-term pain (higher energy costs) to achieve long-term gain.

The ensuing debate should be about how much the state can reasonably accomplish in reducing greenhouse emissions and how its economy can benefit from energy efficiency and renewable energy.

What it should not be about is the validity of climate change and the crackpot proposition that global warming is a hoax. One way to avoid that dismal prospect might be for Wisconsin legislators to observe the behavior of some of their brethren in the U.S. Congress concerning this issue and resolve to never talk so foolishly about something so important.

A number of Congress members could not resist making statements to the effect that this winter’s heavy snowfalls in Washington, D.C. disproved findings that the atmosphere is warming. Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina posted his scientific analysis on Twitter: “It’s going to keep snowing until Al Gore cries uncle.”

It’s probably too much to ask that members of Congress, who should be helping to craft a coherent American approach to climate change, do a bit of research on the subject, but with a little reading they would have learned that global-warming studies have consistently predicted that a prominent symptom of climate change will be bizarre weather, the likes of droughts in rain belts, floods in arid regions, more severe hurricanes—and record-breaking snow in the capital.

Scientific findings that manmade climate change has the planet on course for disaster are persuasive to many, but not to a significant faction that seems convinced global warming is a fraud. Progress toward an effective climate policy might be easier if the issue were scaled down to several points on which more people could agree.

Who can’t agree that releasing an enormous and ever increasing volume of carbon into Earth’s atmosphere cannot be good? Global-warming deniers may claim it doesn’t cause climate change, but almost everyone should be able to agree that it can make the air dangerous to breathe by, as the Environmental Protection Agency recently found, “contributing to air pollution that may endanger public health.” Why keep pumping the stuff into the air?

And who can’t agree that, without even factoring in global warming, there are good reasons to curtail energy production from fossil fuels, not the least of which is that the supply is diminishing and America doesn’t have enough to meet its needs, with potentially dire economic and military consequences.

These are givens, justifying no further argument. Dealing with them requires new technology and bold initiatives—just the sort of challenge America once welcomed.

Unfortunately, it is now China that is welcoming this challenge and is forging far ahead of the U.S. with clean-air technology, suggesting the possibility that when the U.S. wakes up to the perils of climate change it will have to buy the pieces and parts for the remedy from its rival for global supremacy.

Back in Wisconsin, Doyle’s proposal is at least a good starting point for legislation that will get the state on the right track. Its goal of generating 25% of the state’s electricity from renewable sources in 15 years, though criticized as a job (and profits) killer by business lobbies, should not be dismissed without an honest evaluation. It was proposed, after all, by a task force that included business as well as environmental interests.

The question of whether the proposal will cost jobs or create them should be answered. A study by the economics departments of Michigan State University and the University of Southern California that predicts Doyle’s energy proposals would create more than 16,000 jobs and add $4.9 billion to the economy over the next 15 years must be taken into consideration.

The recommendation in the Doyle proposal that the state’s ban on nuclear reactors be relaxed should be accepted. Nuclear energy produces no carbon dioxide and is relatively cheap. Safety remains a concern, but experience in Europe, which has 195 nuclear power plants (more that three-fourths of France’s electricity comes from nuclear sources) proves it can be managed.

Let Wisconsin show how this should be done—without politicians playing at science and drawing simpleminded conclusions from a snowy winter in Washington.

A fair tax for libraries PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press Editoral Board   
Wednesday, 17 February 2010 17:22

Ozaukee communities without libraries should support a small library tax increase in fairness and to protect a vital service for their residents

When the Fredonia Village Board and the Fredonia Town Board were asked in January to approve resolutions supporting a five-year plan to provide adequate funding for library services, both boards deferred action in order to study the request further. Prudence and due diligence are commendable, but in this case the trustees should have acted without hesitation to endorse a proposal that is clearly a benefit to their constituents.

It’s a benefit even though it comes with a small tax increase.

The five-year plan prepared by the Ozaukee Sheboygan Joint County Library Planning Committee calls for increasing the library tax paid by property owners in communities that don’t have libraries, including the Village and Town of Fredonia, by 1% a year from 2013 through 2015.

The added tax would be tiny and fair, yet important in helping to ensure the future of the smooth-working system that makes comprehensive library services available to residents of communities that don’t have their own libraries.

Seven Ozaukee County villages and townships do not operate libraries, but their residents are entitled to use the libraries in the Eastern Shores Library System, including those in Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Cedarburg, Mequon-Thiensville and Cedar Grove.

And thousands of them do. Roughly 20% to 30% of the users of libraries in Ozaukee County are residents who do not have local libraries.

Currently libraries are reimbursed for less than 90% of the cost of providing this service. This is not only unfair to the taxpayers in the communities that have libraries, but it undermines the sustainabilty of what is a marvelous arrangement for making the manifold benefits of public libraries universally accessible.

The joint committee plan logically and equitably calls for increasing the reimbursement to 100%. In the increments suggested, this would be almost painless to taxpayers, a few extra dollars over four years.

Beyond the services its makes available to the people in non-library communities, the county library tax helps protect the integrity of the institution of the free library, which has survived since ancient times as a testament to the value civilizations place on the collection and dissemination of knowledge.

Charging users to pay for library services—a fee to rent a book, for example—is a bad idea that crops up from time to time, recently at last month’s Fredonia Town Board meeting, where it was suggested that, as an alternative to increasing the library tax, libraries charge for services.

David Weinhold, director of the Eastern Shore system, had an excellent answer for that: “Libraries are built on the premise that free services should be provided to all. It is the philosophy of the public good.”

Precisely. And thanks to the county library tax, this public good is available to people whose communities do not yet have the wherewithal to establish their own libraries.

Fredonia—the village and the town—should give their enthusiastic support to the plan to gives libraries fair reimbursement for this service, as should every Ozaukee community without a library.

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