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Government work worth a cheer PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 07 September 2016 17:59

Disgruntlement reigns over the land. Significant numbers of Americans are disappointed, angry or even outraged over what they see as the failure of their government and other institutions to do enough to give them the opportunities they deserve to make their lives better. It’s a recurrent theme in this year’s bitterly fought presidential election race.

People who read the remarkable news about a new nature preserve in last week’s Ozaukee Press should be feeling better about those institutions. The news was that four levels of government and a nonprofit organization are giving the public, and in particular the people of Ozaukee County, a gift of everlasting value that will enhance the quality of the lives that make use of the gift, lives here today, and those of future generations.

The gift is 102 acres of lakeshore land that will be protected from development and preserved for use by the public. The gift was given by the governments of the United States, the State of Wisconsin, Ozaukee County and the City of Port Washington and the Ozaukee-Washington Land Trust.

The most remarkable part of the news was that no local tax money will be needed to create what will be called the Clay Bluff/Cedar Gorge Nature Preserve. The land will be paid for by the federal government through a $1 million NOAA grant channeled through Wisconsin’s Coastal Management Program and by the state with a $1 million grant from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program. 

Both the county and the city had committed to paying a significant part of the cost. That won’t be needed now, but their commitment was a key factor in making the preserve a reality. The overall driving force, without which the initiative could not have been successful, was the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust, whose efforts facilitated the generous grants.

The Land Trust will use grant money to purchase the land. It will then deed it to Ozaukee County to be part of its park system, the same type of partnership that gave the public the Lion’s Den Nature Preserve with its dramatic landscape above the lakeshore a short distance south of the new preserve.

To fully appreciate the value of protecting one of the last undeveloped tracts of land on the Lake Michigan shore in southeast Wisconsin for public use, consider what might have been. The land was part of the 227-acres of Town of Grafton farmland that was annexed by the City of Port Washington in 1995 for a massive subdivision that would have taken possession of the lake bluffs, beaches and forested gorge and ravines for the enjoyment of those who could afford to buy the development’s luxury homes or to stay at its resort hotel.

This egregious example of urban sprawl was undone by the financial collapse of the would-be developer—a misfortune for the company known as VK, a blessing for the public.

The nature preserve’s positive impact includes its role as the linchpin of a 73-home development designed with environmental sensitivity and set back from the lake bluff to be called Cedar Vineyard in recognition of the vineyard that will be established nearby. 

A few City of Port Washington officials have been heard to complain that there is too much parkland in the city. But there are no complaints about the sprawling Clay Bluff park, for it is an essential element of the salvation of the VK annexation.

As an additional bonus, nature preserve fees charged to Cedar Vineyard homeowners will pay for maintenance of the preserve by the county.

Overall, there is so much to benefit the public in the creation of the Clay Bluff/Cedar Gorge Nature Preserve that even folks who tend to see the glass half empty when it comes to the performance of their government may want to raise that glass and give a cheer.

The sting of greed PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 31 August 2016 20:29

It’s yellow jacket season in Wisconsin, the time of year when aggressively nasty black and yellow striped wasps buzz around places where humans are eating or drinking and sometimes deliver smarting stings to those who get in their way.

Wasp stings are painful for everyone, but for some they can be deadly, triggering an allergic reaction that can send victims into shock that can cause death. People at risk for severe reactions from insect bites and other sources, including food allergies, carry EpiPens.

Many a life has been saved by the shot of adrenaline dispensed by one of these devices. EpiPens are lifesavers that millions of Americans, many of them children, dare not be without. Which makes the greed of the pharmaceutical company that markets the EpiPen all the more unconscionable. 

People who have to buy EpiPens as a life-saving measure for themselves or their children are appalled that Mylan, the company that acquired the decades-old product in 2007, has raised the wholesale price for a two-pen set by 500% to more than $600. 

There is no justification for the exorbitant price increases. The EpiPen sold today is essentially the same product it was when it was being sold for $100 per set.

Those vulnerable to deadly allergic reactions are advised to carry two EpiPens at all times. The devices, which with a stab in the thigh deliver an injection of a powerful dose of epinephrine to counter extreme swelling and closing of airways, usually have to be replaced each year because of expiration dates.

Public outrage has spread to Congress, where there are calls for investigations and hearings. That’s fine, but Congress needs to do more.

Allergy sufferers in countries such as Canada and Britain pay far less for EpiPens (and most prescription drugs) because their governments are empowered to negotiate the price of drugs with pharmaceutical companies on behalf of national health care programs. That is not the case in the United States, but Congress could make it so.

Overall, the price of prescription drugs in the U.S. has increased 38% in the last decade. Inflation in that period was 18%, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports.

When it comes to prescription drugs, the law of supply and demand can be a burden on the American health care system. In the case of EpiPens, Mylan controls the supply, having a virtual monopoly (the only alternatives to EpiPens are syringes and vials of medicine, which are difficult to carry and clumsy to use, and a single competing product that is hard to find and rarely prescribed), and the demand will be strong for as long as humans suffer from allergies. 

Mylan has taken full advantage of the situation. Its revenue from EpiPen sales is estimated at $1 billion per year by Bloomberg News, up from $200 million when it acquired the product.

Even those in Congress who genuflect to the ideal of totally unfettered free market capitalism must see that failure to apply anti-trust regulations to companies that game the system by fighting the development of less costly generic drug products and that the resistance to allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices are taking a toll on the economic health, as well as the physical health, of Americans.

Yet Congress has shown few signs of acquiring that vision. Perhaps its eyesight is clouded by the enormous amounts of its profits Big Pharma spends on political contributions and lobbying.

Feeling the heat PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 24 August 2016 20:18

Global warming is a hoax perpetrated by China to trick the United States into cracking down on carbon emissions and making itself less competitive in the world economy.

Donald Trump said that. Considering the source, most people know the statement is utter nonsense.

“The climate hasn’t warmed in quite a few years. That is proven scientifically.”

That’s nonsense too. But the source wasn’t Trump. The outlandish statement was made  by U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, and it was surprising. Coming across as sincere, thoughtful and committed to conservative principles, Johnson seems like the quintessential anti-Trump Republican.

Johnson’s comment, made in an interview on a Racine radio station, received national attention because it was so astonishingly wrong. 

NASA reported in January that an analysis by its scientists and a separate study by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration both found that surface temperatures on the earth in 2015 were the warmest since modern record keeping began in 1880.

The NASA report noted that 2015 temperatures extended a long-term warming trend, with 15 of the 16 hottest years on record occurring since 2001.

Johnson’s comment went even further than Republican climate-change-denying orthodoxy, which must have disturbed some of his environmentally aware supporters in Wisconsin.

Before he became successful in politics by defeating Russ Feingold in the 2010 Senate race, Johnson was successful in business. If he would apply some of the acumen that made him a lot of money in the plastics business to the issue of global warming, Johnson might see what is becoming clear to business leaders throughout the developed world: The cost to national economies of failing to deal with climate change will be far greater than the cost of reducing carbon emissions.

Multiple studies, including one by the international finance and banking giant Citigroup, project that the effect of global warming on agriculture, water, biodiversity and human health will cut gross domestic product by economically crippling amounts as early as 2030. By 2100, the Citigroup report says, unchecked global warming could erode world GDP by 23%.

ExxonMobil, which got to be the second largest company in the world by selling carbon in the form of petroleum, agrees that fossil fuel emissions cause warming and have to be reduced. The company states on its website that global warming could raise Earth’s surface temperature by a calamitous 6 degrees Celsius or more if steps aren’t taken now to slow the release of carbon. The Exxon website calls for a revenue-neutral tax on carbon-producing oil, gas and coal.

And speaking of China, in 2015 it spent $103 billion, more than any other country, on renewable energy, suggesting that America’s biggest business competitor sees global warming not as a Trumpian hoax, but as a threat to its economic interests.

Meanwhile, the process of harnessing renewable energy is achieving cost efficiency faster than almost anyone predicted, as technological breakthroughs in harvesting and storing energy generated by the sun and the wind outpace predictions. In the U.S., which can claim to be the birthplace of the entrepreneurial spirit, the shift from earth-warming fossil fuel-derived energy to renewable energy technology should be seen as an opportunity for history-making economic stimulus.

Worldwide, energy from renewable sources has risen to 15% of all energy production, a trend that could literally save the world if it continues.

Sen. Johnson must be aware of this. We’re pretty sure he doesn’t want any political tips from a community newspaper as he campaigns to keep his Senate seat, but we’ll offer some well meant advice anyway: Avoid insulting the intelligence of Wisconsin voters by denying climate change. In this (and in everything else) you can’t go wrong by being an anti-Trump Republican.

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