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Concealed carry is coming—will rules come with it? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press Editoral Board   
Wednesday, 18 May 2011 15:33

It is a foregone conclusion that in a very short time it will be legal to carry concealed guns in Wisconsin. The only question left concerning so-called concealed carry is whether the legislation that allows it will include basic requirements such as training and permits so that the law its supporters say is needed to increase public safety will not do the opposite.

One of the concealed-carry bills in the Legislature would make it legal to carry concealed guns any time, virtually any place, without background checks, safety training or a permit.

The rationale for what is called constitutional carry is derived from the notion of purely unfettered liberty as the foundation of American democracy: gun ownership is a constitutional right and therefore the state may not put any restrictions on it.

This makes for interesting, if not entertaining, times in the Wisconsin Legislature. Some of the same representatives who are bent on passing a law that would in effect require a permit to vote—a photo I.D. card that must be produced at the polls as a condition of voting—support a law that would require no permit to carry a deadly weapon.

In another oddity, supporters of constitutional carry don’t mind borrowing one of the arguments used against the voter I.D. bill. Critics of the voter bill say the photo I.D. requirement would make it difficult for poor people who don’t own motor vehicles and thus don’t have drivers licenses to vote. Picking up on that theme, a National Rifle Association official told legislators last week that gun safety training course should not be required because that would make it difficult for poor people in Milwaukee to get permits to carry guns. As we said, interesting times.

Legalizing concealed guns is one thing, but doing it without requiring safety training and permits would be risky business.

Most Americans, including members of the editorial board of this newspaper, support the right to own and use firearms. The idea that there can be no restrictions on the exercise of that right may be a bold-faced item on the gun-lobby manifesto, but even the conservative majority of the U.S. Supreme Court, in a decision holding that the Second Amendment applies to individual gun owners, has held that reasonable restrictions by government on guns are permissible.

What would be reasonable restrictions to include in Wisconsin’s concealed-carry law? For openers, a list of places where guns may not be carried, including: domestic abuse shelters, where women seeking a safe haven already fear for their lives; taverns, where alcohol fueled fights don’t need to be made more lethal by adding guns to the mix; and schools, about which nothing more needs to be said.

Permits are reasonable and necessary as a means to enforce a requirement for gun safety training. Some who will acquire handguns in the stampede likely to follow enactment of a concealed-carry law will be experienced in the ways of firearms, but
some won’t be, and the thought of clueless individuals bringing guns into public places and, even more frightening, into homes with children in them should be enough to persuade lawmakers to add a safety training restriction.

Elections, as they say, have consequences, and one of the consequences for Wisconsin is that it will no longer be one of the last hold-outs against legalizing the carrying of concealed guns. Concealed carry has long been part of the Republicans’ agenda, and now that voters have put them in control of both houses of the Legislature and the governor’s office, it is neither surprising nor inappropriate that it is made law.

It’s an open question whether concealed-carry laws make the public safer. Nevertheless, that is the justification claimed by supporters. But if safety is the goal, passing a constitutional-carry law without sensible restrictions cannot be considered responsible lawmaking.

It might help legislators who are in a quandary about this if they would keep in mind that their responsibility is to do what is good for the citizens of Wisconsin. Their oath of office said nothing about a duty to make NRA dreams come true.   

If Wisconsin must have a concealed-carry law, make it one with rules for those who carry to follow. Society is full of rules. There is no reason people who choose to be armed should be exempt.

Green, beautiful and symbolic of sound priorities PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press Editoral Board   
Wednesday, 11 May 2011 14:14

Trees absorb so much carbon dioxide that it can be measured in pounds. One tree can remove 13 pounds of carbon from the air in a year, according to scientific estimates. What trees give back to the air can also be measured. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says one acre of forest puts out 8,000 pounds of oxygen per year.

Benefits like these are of particular interest during this era of accelerated global warming, but they are just two items on the long list of gifts trees confer on the planet. Much of what trees do is good for the environment—the cooling effect of a young tree, for example, is said to be the equivalent of 10 room-size air conditioners running 20 hours a day—but the contribution that is most universally appreciated is the beauty
they add to the world.

Places devoid of trees, particularly treeless cities and subdivisions, appear stark and barren, uninviting. Places graced with many trees, with the planes and angles of manmade structures softened by the shapes, textures and colors of trees, appear to embrace life and invite it. That is the beauty of trees.

The beauty of the City of Port Washington will grow every year, thanks to the thousands of trees that the city has planted in the 21st century. In the past month alone, Street Department crews have planted more than 400 trees, most of them along newly rebuilt streets.

These are small trees, but when in leaf even these young specimens will add beauty, which will increase year by year, and finally, when the trees are mature, the ranks of sturdy trunks will hold up in their branches a glorious, green canopy.

Port Washington’s admirable tree-planting program shows that government still has a role in improving community life

Such canopies already exist in some mature Port Washington neighborhoods, though they were more prevalent before Dutch elm disease wiped out many blocks of handsome elms. Another natural disaster, a tornado in 1964, destroyed many of the gorgeous old trees that sheltered the blocks of Grand Avenue west of Spring Street with a canopy so thick driving on the street was like passing through a sylvan tunnel.

For residents of Port Washington, the trees are important not just as enhancements to community aesthetics, but as symbols of a local government that still recognizes that part of its reason for existence is to improve the lives of its citizens.

The bill to buy and plant the trees will come to about $3,000 this year. The cost is included in the financing plans for street projects, so it does not come from the operating budget. Still, it’s taxpayer money.

Though some might frown on even this small non-essential expenditure during what has been labelled with the buzz-term “tough economic times,” maintaining the tree program is an encouraging sign that the city has not fallen for the notion that municipalities have to retreat into survival mode, limit services to the most basic at best and deny taxpayers anything resembling an amenity.                

The model for this dark ages mindset is the proposed state budget, which seems to be as much a creature of an ideological bent to shrink the size and influence of government as it is of diminished revenues. The budget holds that recycling programs and other conservation programs are luxuries to which the people of Wisconsin are no longer entitled, even as business taxes are cut and spending on highways is increased.

These are odd priorities. Dealing with an economic downturn is all about priorities, finding ways to get by with less revenue while still demonstrating that government is not a necessary evil, but an institution that has a role to play in making lives better.

The new trees of Port Washington, planted and nurtured even in hard times, are evidence that the city is trying hard to get its priorities right.

Welcome to the marina—you’re being watched PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press Editoral Board   
Wednesday, 27 April 2011 16:48

Port Washington city and harbor officials are thrilled—thrilled!—by plans to install a network of sophisticated video cameras to provide 24-7 surveillance of the marina and nearby waterfront to be monitored by city police, county emergency officials and unnamed others with the proper password. The amazing thing about these surveillance cameras, besides the fact they will be so high-tech they’ll be able to read small print hundreds of yards away, is that they’re free. Well, sort of.

There’s something else amazing about the cameras—the marina is going to get them even though they’re not needed. There is no crime problem at the marina, because it is well managed, well lit and located a scant two blocks from the headquarters of an excellent city police force and because Port Washington is a safe small town that doesn’t have much in the way of crime.

Why are officials thrilled about getting 24-hour surveillance cameras that aren’t needed? The only reason cited is that the electronic eavesdropping will be a comfort to people who keep their yachts in the marina.

They’re probably right about that. Not for nothing are the vessels moored in the marina called expensive toys. And at least some of their owners will surely view the electronic security as a perk of being a Port Washington Marina tenant, even though, as Harbormaster Dennis Cherny said (in praising the surveillance cameras), “We don’t have a crime issue at the marina.”

Exaggerated fear of marina crime is not new. When the marina was built in 1982 it was guarded by a six-foot high chain-link fence. It wasn’t topped with barbed wire (though that was probably considered), but the fence did lend a concentration campesque look to what was supposed to be the jewel of the lakefront and left the taxpayers who paid for it looking at the boats, piers and lake beyond through a wire mesh.

Surveillance cameras aren’t needed to fight crime on the Port lakefront, but they’re likely coming anyway, in the name of port security, and they’re free—sort of.

The fence is long gone—good riddance— replaced by gates at the base of each pier. Truth be told, the gates could be defeated easily by anyone bent on theft, vandalism or other criminal activity, but for the reasons mentioned earlier there has been almost none of that.

But whether it’s needed or not, a gift of an expensive surveillance camera array is hard to resist, especially when it comes courtesy of Ozaukee County.

Readers will be forgiven for asking: What’s wrong with this picture? This is the same Ozaukee County, after all, that is so tight-fisted that it regularly threatens to stop funding the rescue boat that is moored in the marina and saves the lives of boaters using the county’s only lake port.

The explanation for this anomaly is that the county Emergency Management Department is hoping to get a federal Port Security Grant to pay for the surveillance system. It’s probably safe to say the grant application won’t mention providing security for expensive toys in the marina. The stated purpose of the cameras is to guard against terrorist attacks on waterfront facilities such as the power plant and the water filtration plant. (Surprisingly, the sewage treatment plant wasn’t mentioned; imagine what havoc a terrorist could wreak with mischief there.)

As to the cameras being sort of free to the city, it is fair to ask, given the extremely low priority of terrorist targets in Port Washington, whether surveillance cameras at a marina are a wise expenditure of federal tax dollars. It sounds a lot like some of that wasteful federal spending that adds to the deficit, and begs the question: Where are the Tea Party true believers when we need them? (Not that we’re suggesting a rally at the marina with “Don’t Tread on Me” flags flying.)

On being briefed on the surveillance camera plan, one city Harbor Commission member said that signs should be posted informing visitors to the marina that they are on television. He is right—people should know when they’re being spied on.

On the other, not-so-positive hand, the signs may give out-of-town visitors the impression that this beautiful little city by the lake is so crime ridden it has to eavesdrop on marina activity.

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