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Editorials
Lighten up on team nicknames PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 09 October 2013 14:28

Offensive American Indian team nicknames are as obvious as they are reprehensible, but the nickname police should lay off of those that merely imply respect

There is nothing subtle about offensive racial stereotyping. Everyone with a normal quotient of human sensibility knows it when they see it.

    Even so, some people and institutions, by dint of hair-splitting and arcane definition, seem compelled to discover it where it is not evident. Among them are some of the crusaders against American Indian nicknames for sports teams.


    The nickname police have been on their beats for years. Many of the monikers they have pressured schools to drop were innocuous or even respectful references to American Indians. Meanwhile, they’ve had no effect on some of the most obviously offensive team nicknames that continue to be flaunted. In the plains states, a number of high schools call their athletes “Savages.” In the NFL, the Washington, D.C. team offends on a national stage by refusing to retire the racially pejorative name “Redskins.”


     In 2010, Wisconsin became one of the few states to pass a law regulating school nicknames. Soon its Legislature may pass a law undoing that poorly drafted statute.


    It would be best if the state kept its hands off the nicknames schools choose for their sports teams, but Wisconsin couldn’t resist, so the new statute is needed to temper the overly stringent measure made law three years ago.


    Under the ridiculously low standard of the current law, a school district can be forced to change its team nickname if a single person complains. The burden of proof is on the district to show the name is not discriminatory. The Department of Public Instruction decides and has the power to order name changes.


    Under a bill introduced by Republicans in September, objections to nicknames would have to be accompanied by petitions signed by a number of residents equal to at least 10% of the students in the district. The complainant would have to prove the name promotes discrimination or stereotyping. The state Department of Administration would decide.


    The proposal is a reaction to the DPI’s order to the Mukwonago Area School District to stop using the sports nickname “Indians.”

     Mukwonago has defied the order on the sensible ground that the name does not discriminate. “Mukwonago” is a word from the language of the Potawatomi tribe. “Indian” remains a generally acceptable word for Native Americans. Where’s the offense?


    The Mukwonago nickname is akin to the Northern Ozaukee School District’s “Warriors,” though no one has complained about the NOSD team name. No one has reason to complain, because the term connotes nothing derogatory.


    On the contrary, such nicknames imply respect. There is no mystery as to why so many teams have adopted Indian names. Sports teams aspire to physical prowess, courage and determination, traits associated with American Indians throughout their history, be it triumphant or tragic.


    The variations on Indian-inspired nicknames that are offensive per se are obvious. Perhaps one day there will be enough public disgust to make them go away.


    But certainly society can tolerate, indeed cheer for, those that are meant to inspire athletes to demonstrate qualities found in this country’s historic perception of Native Americans. Long live the Braves, the Chiefs, the Chieftans, the Indians and the Warriors.


    Polls show American Indians are divided on the issue. Some see the nicknames as terms of respect, others take offense. Nonetheless, these are generic terms and no one owns them. Used as many schools and athletic organizations use them, they do not suggest racial discrimination, no matter how     the nickname police spin their meaning.


    The Legislature should pass the bill that fixes the 2010 law. The new law will still provide means to challenge questionable nicknames, but will apply reasonable standards.


 
Yes, county does belong in nursing home business PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 02 October 2013 14:19

With vote on additional investment in Lasata, County Board members should recommit to providing affordable care for the elderly

Should Ozaukee County be in the nursing home business?

    That question has been asked and answered a number of times. The answer has always been yes. It is the right answer.

    In 2008, after years of study and debate, the County Board voted to authorize construction of the Lasata Crossings assisted living facility adjacent to the Lasata Care Center nursing home in Cedarburg.

    “Loud and clear, we accepted the mission of Lasata and decided to be in the nursing home business,” said Cynthia Bock of Mequon, chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee, mincing no words about the sincerity of the county government’s commitment to services for the elderly.

    Yet when her committee voted this summer to recommend spending $10 million to build a facility on the Lasata campus where frail elderly people can live with assistance and to renovate the nursing home, the old argument that the county should not be providing services to the elderly in competition with private businesses resurfaced.

    In opposing the recommendation, committee member Richard Bauzenberger, also representing Mequon on the County Board, said, “There are a lot of people in Mequon who are asking why is the county in this business.” He asked for yet another study of the viability of the Lasata operation.

    What the critics of government involvement in caring for aging citizens don’t understand is that Ozaukee County is suited for the nursing home business precisely because it is not a business. The priority for businesses is profit.For the Lasata complex, the priority is meeting the needs of county residents facing the health challenges of old age.

    That is why, unlike many private elderly-care facilities, Lasata accepts as many residents who need Medicaid assistance to pay their nursing home fees as it has room for. More than half of Lasata’s residents are on Medicaid. The nursing home loses $55 a  day for each of them.

    This is an irresistible target for  people who buy into the shrink-government-at-all-costs mindset, even though the assisted living facility and independent senior living apartments added to the Lasata complex in recent years have balanced the books for the operation.

    The nursing home’s financial drag will be further offset by the proposed $10 million investment, which will include upgrades to make the nursing home more efficient, as well as new assisted-living units that will operate at a profit.

    Selling the Lasata’s unprofitable skilled nursing care facility to a private operator would be a betrayal of the philosophy that has guided the county’s services for the elderly—that the county has an obligation to provide affordable care for its oldest residents. Lasata has been a comforting presence for Ozaukee County families for nearly 50 years, often providing the only nearby option for families dependant  on Medicaid.

    The time for more studies is past. The County Board is expected to consider the Lasata expansion and improvement proposal this week. That vote should be viewed by supervisors as an opportunity for an emphatic recommitment to service for the county’s elderly.

     It’s easy for Lasata’s critics to make glib pronouncements about the availability of private nursing home services, but the fact is that many of those facilities refuse Medicaid recipients or limit the number of them they will serve. They may also be priced beyond the means of people who don’t qualify for assistance. None offers the priority for admittance to which Ozaukee County residents are now entitled at Lasata.

    The proposed new investment in Lasata makes fiscal and moral sense. Supervisors should vote for it confident in the rightness of the county’s commitment to its elderly citizens.


 
A place too beautiful to put children at risk PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 25 September 2013 16:27

The city has done good work making the park that will officially open this weekend a place to experience the glory of the lake—but the job won’t be done until a needed safety feature is added

Be prepared to be awed.

    That’s our advice to folks who have not yet visited Port Washington’s newest park but plan to be there for the official opening this weekend.

    The awe will be provided by seascapes crafted by the whims of wind and waves to range from the haunting beauty of a lake so calm it will appear to have been painted to the visual drama of an inland sea in the throes of a furious gale.

    The perspective from which to behold these awe-inspiring scenes is provided by the rectangle of land that juts into Lake Michigan on the south side of the Port Washington harbor and is now named Coal Dock Park.  

    In a radical repurposing, 13 acres of land that were contaminated by 70 years under the mountains of coal used to fuel the adjacent power plant have been cleansed and made into a place to enjoy the purity of nature.

     Guided by a committee of citizens and officials, the makeover, including the creation of green spaces, trails and boardwalks and the planting of 63 trees, was done with a commendable restraint that keeps the focus on the natural beauty of the place.

    That less-is-more approach fits the character of the new park, except in one of its most appealing features, where something is obviously lacking. The dock where coal freighters once moored, now a broad promenade along the entire north edge of the park, needs a guard rail.

    The dock is more than 1,000 feet long and 18 feet wide, surfaced in smooth concrete. It poses little risk to any alert adult. But the same certainly can’t be said about a child. It’s not hard to imagine a young boy or girl running heedlessly on the inviting paved expanse and tumbling off the edge into the harbor.

    That could be a tragic fall. The dock is nearly 10 feet above the water. Rescue would be difficult.

    The lack of a railing was not an oversight. The park planners properly understood that the deep water dock is an important asset to the city. They didn’t want to hinder access to the dock by ships by installing a guard rail at its edge.

    But maintaining access to the dock by vessels and providing park users with the security of a railing need not be mutually exclusive. A railing could be set well back from the edge, leaving ample space for vessels to handle mooring lines.

    The Parks and Recreation Board has recommended installation of a guard rail.

    A similar recommendation, but with a more emotional tone, came from the writer of a letter to the editor published in last week’s Ozaukee Press. Robert Mueller, a Port Washington resident who fishes frequently off the Coal Dock Park dock, wrote that he has observed several close calls involving children, including one in which an untended stroller carrying a small child started coasting toward the water.

    Mueller expressed fear of the loss of a child’s life in such circumstances, and he knows whereof he speaks. His 6-year-old sister Chris drowned in 1969 when she fell into Port Washington’s inner harbor at a place where there was no railing. The tragedy moved city officials to order a guard rail installed.

    The archives of Ozaukee Press fill in the tragic details of that accident. Chris Mueller’s distraught father dived repeatedly in the dark waters of the harbor, which were swirling with the current from the power plant discharge, to no avail, and nearly drowned himself.

    Coal Dock Park is a beautiful place that will attract families with children. Nothing more needs to be said to make the point that its signature dock needs a guard rail.


 
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