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A milestone not to be missed PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press Editorial Board   
Wednesday, 12 May 2010 15:23

It is the responsibility of elected city officials to lead the way in celebration of Port Washington’s 175th anniversary

Fathers are expected to remember their children’s birthdays. Yet Port Washington’s city fathers—its elected officials—forgot their city’s 175th birthday. And now, informed of their oversight, they’re saying, oops, that’s too bad, but it’s too late to organize a party.

Port Washington deserves better.

Port Washington is one of Wisconsin’s oldest cities, founded in 1835. That was 13 years before Wisconsin became a state.

The city can’t pass by this 175-year milestone with an oops and a shrug. That would be an insult to the memory of the men and women who built the community—the founders, the generations of entrepreneurs and industrialists, the builders and mariners, the civic leaders, educators, lawyers and doctors, the benefactors who shared the wealth their work here created and all the others who contributed to the vitality that has helped Port Washington endure and prosper.

The 175th anniversary must be celebrated as an expression of pride in what Port Washington has accomplished in its nearly two centuries of existence and as an inspiration to today’s citizens to nurture, strengthen and continually improve the community bequeathed to them by their civic forebears.

The responsibility to get this going falls right on city hall. There have been some murmurings about passing it off—perhaps to the Main Street organization, or the Historical Society, or the Tourism Council. It’s popular these days to farm out tasks that had once been done by government to other community organizations, “tight budgets” being the usual rationale.

That’s fine for some things, but this is a city responsibility. Besides, Main Street’s mission is to help the business district, and a 175th anniversary celebration would be for the entire city, not just the downtown. The Historical Society has limited resources and is hard pressed to support the services it now provides in maintaining the 1860 Light Station and in presenting a maritime museum during the Maritime Heritage Festival. And as for the Tourism Council, a city’s anniversary celebration is not a tourist event; it’s a birthday party for residents.

Citizens expect a lot from their representatives in city government; guiding an operation as complex and costly as a good-sized municipality is a demanding job. But there’s more to it than passing ordinances and approving budgets. There is also the imperative of being versed in the context of their service—the community’s heritage—and to ensure that such important markers of that history as a milestone anniversary are properly observed.

The city officials in office in 1935, 1960 and 1985 understood that well, judging from the celebrations they spearheaded for Port Washington’s 100th, 125th and 150th anniversaries, events that fairly glowed with civic pride. The 150th anniversary was such a momentous occasion that it was commemorated with a 152-page issue of Ozaukee Press.

The officials currently in office forgot to include something for the 175th anniversary in the 2010 budget. That, as they say, is history. It doesn’t get the city off the hook. There is still time to do this right. A city-sponsored celebration doesn’t have to be extravagant or expensive. (Let’s say for openers that we can forego fireworks.) Some seed money can surely be found in one of the city’s accounts.

Set a date, get the ball rolling. There will be plenty of help to keep it going. Citizens of Port Washington have demonstrated pride in their community time and again by volunteering, and they will step up for this. But they should be led by those who have the privilege of being elected to serve this vibrant community whose roots reach back 175 years.

Energy and consequences PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press Editorial Board   
Wednesday, 05 May 2010 16:35

The Gulf oil spill, already one of history’s great environmental disasters, reminds us that our energy demands exact a price in more than dollars

It’s no slight to the enormity of the disaster to say that a cartoon character may have the wisest take on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill that is sure to rank among the world’s worst environmental accidents:

“We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

Those are the words of cartoonist Walt Kelly, spoken by his possum-philosopher character Pogo, fittingly, in a poster promoting Earth Day 1970.

Any happening as awful as this—an oil rig explosion killing 11 people and resulting in 210,000 gallons of crude oil gushing into the Gulf daily with no end in sight, threatening wetlands, fisheries, the economy, in fact a way of life in Louisiana—requires something to blame. BP, the giant oil company that owns the out-of-control well, and government agencies are candidates.

When all is said and done, though, the blame cannot fall anywhere but on the unquenchable thirst for energy from oil. The enemy, indeed, is us.

The lesson is not that oil wells shouldn’t be in places where the environment is vulnerable. The way things stand, they have to be. We need the oil. The lesson is that until we reduce that need we will have to face the consequences.

You can say, if you actually want to repeat a mindless slogan of the last presidential campaign, “drill, baby, drill,” but know that a price will be paid in human and environmental consequences.

It is not the exclusive curse of oil. Coal is said to provide cheap energy, but the coal mine explosion in West Virginia in April reminds us that some pay a very dear price for it, including the 29 miners who were killed, and the many hundreds like them who have perished in coal-mining accidents over the years, and the thousands sickened by coal-related illnesses. The price the rest of us pay in the environmental degradation caused by coal-fired energy is less, but still a consequence to be reckoned with.

Government energy policy should be about mitigating and eventually eliminating the consequences. The Wisconsin Legislature’s failure to pass the Clean Energy Job Act means that this state still has no energy policy to do that.

The legislation would have set goals for reducing carbon emissions and increasing energy generated from renewable resources. Beyond that, it would have made a change in state law that could have had an important impact on converting to clean energy—it would have lifted Wisconsin’s moratorium on new nuclear power plants.

While the consequences of oil and coal accumulate in a grim toll of human and environmental suffering, nuclear power plants have been producing carbon-free energy in America for 55 years without the loss of a single life.

There is no more efficient way to produce clean energy in the volume needed to meet America’s needs than by nuclear reactors. Even though no new nuclear plants have been built in the U.S. since 1980, and some plants have been shut down, nuclear power is still able to produce 20% of the nation’s electricity and more than two-thirds of its carbon-free electricity. (Wind power produces barely over 1%.)

Think of the clean energy that could be produced, and the carbon the atmosphere would be spared, if construction of nuclear power plants were not discouraged or prohibited, but promoted as the way to meet growing power demand while cleaning the air by displacing coal plants.

Nuclear power relies on a process that is inherently dangerous and creates dangerous waste, but the technology to deal with those problems has advanced to the point where it is no longer responsible to restrict nuclear power options.

Until most cars are electric, of course, increased used of nuclear power would not prevent disasters like the one playing out in the Gulf of Mexico, but it would deal with one consequence of the demand for energy.

Church bells toll for themselves PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press Editoral Board   
Wednesday, 28 April 2010 14:57

The other Catholic church crisis—the priest shortage—is threatening to change a way of life in our rural communities

Catholics in the villages and townships of northern Ozaukee County and southern Sheboygan County knew circumstances in their parishes were not improving. They knew that the two priests serving their three parishes, condensed from five parishes some years ago, would be retiring soon. They saw that the large parishes of the Port Washington and Saukville area were down to two priests to meet the needs of thousands of Catholics attending three churches, work once done by as many seven priests.
Still, the news that the parishes of St. Mary’s in Lake Church, Holy Rosary in Fredonia and Holy Cross and Our Lady of the Lakes in Dacada and Random Lake may have to merge into one and that three churches could be shuttered and sold as real estate must be profoundly troubling—not just in a religious sense, but as an erosion of the foundation of these rural communities.
These churches are more than beloved places of worship. They are cultural and social centers that have nurtured community life, physically and emotionally, for Catholics and other residents as well, for more than a century. One of the communities, Lake Church, is named after its Catholic church, St. Mary’s, built in 1884.
The unsettling choices facing these Catholic communities are manifestations of a worsening crisis in the American Catholic church. No, not that crisis. The sexual abuse crisis, ongoing as it is replenished by new accusations and revelations, continues to sap the energy and financial resources of the church. But the crisis that afflicts parishes here and elsewhere in America most directly is the one caused by the failure of one of the world’s most powerful religious organizations to provide enough professional ministers to serve its faithful followers.
The priest shortage will mean the end of three parishes and three churches in this area if a recommendation by consultants is approved. Three northern Ozaukee-southern Sheboygan County parishes would merge into one parish headquartered at Holy Cross in the Town of Belgium. St. Mary’s Church in Lake Church, St. Nicholas Church in Dacada and St. Mary’s Church in Random Lake would be closed. St. Rose of Lima Church in Fredonia would become part of the Catholic school and not be used for regular church services.
The plan seems to make organizational and financial sense, but no one should underestimate its impact on parishioners. Some would have to travel many miles to attend a church service. Most would have to come to terms with the demise of a way of life in which loyalty to a hometown parish, long preached by the church, was a rock-solid element of the spiritual life of generations of Catholics.
Nonetheless, if the plan is adopted, we are quite sure the congregations will make it work. This has been the experience across the country as the rank and file of the church, whose membership, in spite of the challenges facing the church, is robust and growing, take on more of the responsibilities once handled by priests and accept change with, if not cheerfulness, at least resilience.
Even as they make the best of the situation, though, there must surely be a yearning among Catholics that the drastic changes they are enduring will somehow trickle up to the church hierarchy and encourage change in that rarefied atmosphere that could relieve the priest shortage on the ground in American communities—the other church crisis.
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