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Footsteps on the land PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 04 October 2017 16:25

“Andy was Riveredge, and Riveredge was Andy.”
    That sentence is from the front-page Ozaukee Press obituary for Andy Larsen. The remarkable thing about the words is that they were said by so many people that the quote was attributed to “friends and co-workers.”
    From the earliest days of Riveredge, the nature preserve that embraces 379 acres of land in the Town of Saukville, Andy Larsen was its abiding spirit—working in the field, teaching, leading, inspiring.
    With its array of hills, valleys, forests, ponds, prairies, plants, creatures and river banks, Riveredge is a showcase for the glories of nature. But is also, thanks to Mr. Larsen’s efforts and example, an important influence in support of the moral imperative for humans to be good stewards of the planet’s irreplaceable land.
    The legacy of Mr. Larsen, who died Sept. 22 at the age of 78, is not just Riveredge; it is also the defenders of the environment he inspired. Anyone who visits Riveredge and strikes up a conversation with folks there is likely to hear stories of how the teachings of Andy Larsen, often absorbed when they were children, motivated them to be advocates for conservation.
    It seems wrong to say that defenders of Earth like these one-time Riveredge kids are needed today more than ever, but it is true. For after years of progress, some elected leaders seem intent on taking the country backwards in environmental protection.
    This is evident on a national scale in the dismantling of Environmental Protection Agency regulations promised and being carried out by President Trump and in the plans to sell public wilderness areas that are so valuable as assets of nature that they have been designated national monuments.
    A similar disdain for government’s role in environmental protection is at work in Wisconsin, which, ironically, is considered by many to be the cradle of the conservation movement. Here, amid an ongoing effort to weaken air, water and land-use restrictions on industry, the Walker administration has offered to waive or relax environmental regulations as an incentive to lure a Taiwanese company’s massive manufacturing operation to the state.
    The rationale for this environmental backsliding is invariably that a prosperous economy is dependent on capitalism unfettered by the inconvenience of abiding by rules protecting natural resources.
    It is a false notion that has been disproven time and again, most dramatically by California, which has the country’s most stringent environmental regulations and, according to a U.S. News ranking, the most friendly-to-business environment of any state.    
    Yet Americans are told it is necessary to allow pollution of air and water by coal in order to save miners’ jobs and Wisconsinites are told that it is OK to let wetlands be destroyed in building the Foxcon plant that will sprawl over hundreds of acres of land in southeastern Wisconsin because it will be the biggest economic development project in the state’s history.
    This goes on in spite of that fact that a majority of the public, according to numerous polls, supports regulations to protect the environment and efforts to preserve land in its natural state. Simply put, people understand that when natural areas are built on, paved over or plowed, they are lost forever.
    Andy Larsen engendered that understanding as part of his life’s work encouraging people to experience the majesty of nature. It is fortunate for us that he inspired so many to follow the footsteps he imprinted on the land.

How a game became a forum for protest PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 27 September 2017 16:59

Millions of words about the game-day protests by National Football League players have been written, printed, posted, spoken and tweeted since last weekend, but it is unlikely that any have been more heartfelt, moving and, for those who agree with their sentiment, more compelling than those of Ozaukee Press reader David Shaw of Belgium in his letter published on this page.
    The letter to the editor includes the text of a letter Mr. Shaw sent to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell criticizing his failure to take action against players who make gestures of protest during the singing of the national anthem.
    The letter begins, “Dear Mr. Goodell: Enclosed are a few pictures of my son. He was a Marine combat veteran. He deeply loved America. He never complained about his injuries. He killed himself Nov. 13, 2015. Unlike your pampered celebrity millionaire athletes, he never cried about how unjust the world is. You have allowed the blatant disrespect for our national anthem by your players.”
    Not only heartfelt by the writer, the words surely go straight to the hearts of readers. In writing them, and in having them published in a newspaper protected by freedom of the press, Mr. Shaw exercised free speech rights that are guaranteed to Americans by the First Amendment, including his right to, as referred to in his letter, boycott NFL games as a form of protest.
    Empathy is the right response to the letter, but so too is an understanding that the Americans who play football for the NFL have the same rights as Mr. Shaw.     
    Mr. Shaw’s letter was written before President Trump attacked players in a speech Friday and in a barrage of tweeted screeds that followed it. Before Trump barged in, player demonstrations—kneeling or raising a fist during the anthem—were limited mainly to a few African American players drawing attention to racial grievances. But on Sunday, hundreds of players protested, in one case an entire team.
    These protests were more than a show of solidarity with black players. They were a rebuke of a president who showed his contempt for free speech by calling any player who protests during the national anthem “a son of a bitch” and telling team owners to fire protesters.
    What was perhaps most remarkable about the response was that many of the NFL owners Trump tried to goad into firing protesters defended the players and criticized the president. Even New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, a one-time Trump supporter who was reported to have donated $1 million to his inauguration, said he was “deeply disappointed” by Trump’s comments and defended his players’ rights to “peacefully affect social change and raise awareness in a manner they feel is most important.”
    Green Bay Packers president Mark Murphy rapped Trump for “using his immense platform to make divisive and offensive statements about our players” and voiced support for “any of our players who choose to peacefully express themselves with the hope of change for good.” And then he reminded the president: “As Americans, we are fortunate to be able to speak openly and freely.”
    Fans are divided and many no doubt share the sentiments expressed by Mr. Shaw. It’s a fair assumption, however, that most of them would wish that they could enjoy just watching a football game without the distraction of politics.
    It’s a nice thought, but that ship sailed a long time ago. Football games have been formed into something resembling patriotic exercises. Players are called warriors. Military metaphors are used to describe their efforts to lay waste to opponents. Some NFL games feature fly-overs by military aircraft during the singing of the anthem. Once upon a time at Green Bay Packers games, during another period of civil unrest, this one over the Vietnam War and racial inequality, players and fans were expected to recite the Pledge of Allegiance before singing “The Star Spangled Banner.” The result is that football games have become an apt forum for protest.
    NFL football has been inflated into many things, but at its most basic it is nothing more than an amusement and its players are the highly paid entertainers who provide it. They are, precisely as David Shaw wrote, “pampered millionaire celebrity athletes.” But they are also Americans who do not forfeit their freedom of speech when they put on cleats and shoulder pads to perform for their audience.

The marina that saved downtown Port PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 20 September 2017 19:19

Yippie! High fives! Uncork the champagne! The Port Washington marina is in the black!
    We are as pleased as the officials quoted in last week’s Ozaukee Press news story about the marina being on track to close the year with a healthy profit.
    But we will curb our enthusiasm enough to observe that this is not astonishing news. By reasonable standards, the marina is always in the black. It is a city service, a public amenity and a presence  buoying the city economy that has functioned for decades without cost to taxpayers. In fact, it has generated hundreds of thousands of dollars of revenue for the city.
    Under the operating plan for the marina, the facility is required to make an annual contribution to the city’s general fund described as a “payment in lieu of taxes.” In rare years when the marina falls a bit short of paying the designated amount in full, hand wringing by Common Council members ensues—the marina’s in the red, put it up for bids by private operators, replace the harbormaster, etc., etc.
    The rationale for the payment in lieu of taxes apparently is that if a private development were in business on the space occupied by the marina, the city would collect property taxes. Ergo, the marina should pay a “tax.”
    This ignores the fact that a commercial development on public land at the edge of the harbor would be intolerable.
    This is not to say the marina’s contributions to the city coffer are not welcome. They certainly are, particularly in light of the fact that in recent years the city has been generous in funding lakefront improvements.
    But there are reasons the marina should not be judged by business standards. The small-boat harbor that is an essential element of the marina was built with federal money and the marina was built with the help of state grants. This was federal and state aid awarded to the City of Port Washington to provide a service for the public. It is relevant too that a substantial percentage of marina users are city residents who pay city taxes and pay full price to launch boats at the marina ramps or moor them in marina slips.
    The marina’s pleasing 2017 financial results can be attributed to fine early-summer weather, an improving national economy and a modest increase in rates. Like the water level of Lake Michigan, the finances of the marina have always ebbed and flowed, but over the years it has remained a well-managed, city-operated facility whose performance compares favorably with municipal marinas elsewhere run by private operators.
    The impact of the marina on the community’s economy can be measured not only in the business it generates for local commerce—the shopping, dining and lodging expenditures by visitors attracted by the marina and the fees paid to the boat operators of one the largest charter fishing fleets on the Great Lakes—but also in its influence on downtown investment.
    The brave, visionary aldermen who voted in the late 1970s to build the marina not only gave the city, which was long plagued by a dangerous commercial harbor unfit for recreational boating, a safe harbor of refuge, but launched the renewal of a waterfront blighted by industrial use.
    The original marina improved and claimed the lakefront and its views, water access and maritime ambience for the public. When the brilliantly designed north slip marina addition evolved, this public development that brought the beauty of Lake Michigan into the very heart of the city set Port Washington apart from other lakeshore communities. That unique intimacy with the lake is what drives the private development now surging in the downtown.
    What would the elected officials who made that happen and completed the erasure of the last vestiges of the industrial blight that held the city back for so long think of the Common Council vote in 2016 to sell a part of the marina—the north slip parking lot—for a commercial development that is called a factory (the Blues Factory) and would be housed in a building designed to look like a factory?
    They would be appalled.   

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