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Lifesavers courtesy of Big Brother PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 30 May 2012 16:48

You can thank interference by the federal government in business and the lives of its citizens for the seat belts that make a life-or-death difference

The seat-belt letter to the editor written annually by the secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation prior to the Memorial Day weekend was published in last week’s Ozaukee Press. It urged readers to use seat belts and gave them a heads-up that police all over the state would be making an extra effort to arrest people who were driving or riding in vehicles without being buckled up.

    The letter no doubt was sent to every newspaper in Wisconsin. The Press doesn’t usually find space for such universally distributed generic messages, but we made an exception because in a way it was a local letter. The current DOT chief, Mark Gottlieb, lives in Port Washington and is well known to many Press readers. Besides, his advice about the good sense of wearing seats belts, while hardly news, was worth reading.

    Few issues are as black and white as seat belts; no shades of gray or nuances here. The correlation between seat belt use and vehicle crash deaths is perfect: More seats belts in use equals fewer highway deaths.

    In the letter, Gottlieb pointed out that 80% of Wisconsin drivers and passengers use seat belts. The number is both low and high. Low in that the national level of seat belt use is 85%. High in that not so long ago, certainly within the memory of many of the people who read Gottlieb’s letter, 0% of the people of Wisconsin and America used seat belts.

    That was because motor vehicles didn’t have them. It wasn’t until the late 1960s that cars and light trucks came with seat belts. That was not because they were being demanded by consumers or that auto makers had a eureka moment when they discovered that seat belts save lives and felt a moral obligation to provide them.

    No, seat belts appeared because the federal government forced carmakers to install them and in effect forced car buyers to pay for them. It was classic case of government interfering in free enterprise and in the lives of its citizens.

    It is also an inconvenient truth that exposes the nonsense of political rhetoric, currently so popular as to constitute a fad, that indicts government as an evil force that robs citizens of their liberty and tax dollars.                    

    Had seat belts been left to the free market, they would today be, at best, an expensive option on cars—and thousands more Americans would be car-crash fatality statistics.

    Government interference is currently benefitting car buyers in another way. While there is much angst over the price of gasoline, the fact is that even with today’s high gas prices it costs many Americans less to drive than when fuel cost less because today’s car are far more fuel efficient. Buyers can choose reasonably priced cars with conventional engines that easily deliver twice the fuel economy of cars of a few years ago—thanks to government mandated fuel economy standards.

    None of this, of course, will convince the government-is-evil crowd. Some of them still see seat belts not as a lifesaver, but as a menace to freedom.

    Wisconsin is one of 22 states with primary enforcement seat belt laws, meaning that people can be pulled over and arrested just for not wearing seat belts.

    These laws were not quite forced on states by the federal government; they were strongly encouraged by grants tied to enactment and enforcement of strict seat belt laws. And they are often cited as evidence of the malign influence of Big Brother.

    The Foundation for Economic Education, one of many libertarian organizations that rail against perceived government overreaching, calls them “an unwarranted intrusion by government into the personal lives of citizens.”

    These groups should choose a different battlefield than seat belts on which to wave their “Don’t Tread on Me” banners. Without government interference, many Americans would be riding in vehicles without simple devices that save the lives of thousands of them every year.

Cannery’s odor nuisance has to end PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 23 May 2012 16:29

Long-suffering residents have had to put up with noxious smells from the Lakeside Foods lagoon for too long; the village must act if the company doesn’t

Anyone who has ever been downwind of the Lakeside Foods lagoon in Belgium when it’s in use as a storage place for rotting vegetable waste can empathize with the residents who complained to the village about foul odors that ruined their outdoor Mother’s Day activities.

    The lagoon, to put it plainly and accurately, stinks. Sometimes the stench is so powerful it’s inescapable, inside or outside. Long-time residents have endured it for years, perhaps with equal measures of disgust and resignation. New residents are shocked; they didn’t factor noxious odors into their expectations for the good life in Belgium. They all deserve relief.

    The lagoon is a bona fide nuisance. Dealing with it is an imperative the village government can’t escape, yet it is one that is easier said than done.

    Village Board members have listened to the complaints and are looking for solutions. The state DNR won’t help because it says Lakeside is not violating its permit. That suggests that a more restrictive permit is needed, but local officials can’t do anything about that.

    There has been talk of passing an ordinance that would make an odor nuisance like Lakeside’s illegal. How to enforce it and maybe even whether to enforce it are conundrums.

    The imagined but still enormous gorilla sitting in the Village Board chamber during these discussions is the worry that cracking down on the nuisance could chase Lakeside and its jobs and tax base out of the village.

    Other communities will recognize the problem. Port Washington city officials, for example, have been as quiet as church mice about the odors emitted by the Kleen Test plant, not sewagelike as in Lakeside’s case, but, according to residents who have complained to city hall or in letters to the editor in this newspaper, laden with cloying chemical fragrance. It is conceivable that the fact that Keen Test operates two plants in the city and is a major employer has something to do with the lack of enforcement of the city’s nuisance ordinance.

    Some years ago, city officials did go to bat for neighbors of the city industrial park who were being kept awake by excessive noise at night, and were able to win concessions from the offending manufacturer.

    Town of Port Washington officials recently had success in dealing with Briggs and Stratton over complaints by residents over the racket caused by the firm’s 24-7 equipment testing. The company promptly made changes to end the nuisance.

    The best hope for the long-suffering residents of Belgium is that Lakeside can be persuaded to take responsibility for fixing the problem. A lot of lip service is devoted these days to the term “good corporate citizen.” It’s time for Lakeside to live up to that ideal. The company has been a citizen of Belgium for decades, and a good one in most ways, but not when its lagoon is reeking of decaying vegetable matter.

    The fact that the village is economically dependent on the company to some extent is not a license to saturate Belgium’s air with noxious odors.

    Surely the technology exists to deal with the waste in less offensive ways. The company, in fact, says it is exploring such means. Good, but there have been no indications of when some measure of relief might be coming. What is certainly coming is another wave of lagoon odors, expected in mid-July when the bean crop is harvested.

    Absent meaningful action by the company, the Village Board should enact an ordinance aimed at controlling the Lakeside nuisance. No matter how fraught the ramifications of that approach, elected village officials have to stand up for their constituents.

A retired teacher ‘who renewed my faith in citizenship’ PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 16 May 2012 16:09

The following essay was written by the mother of a Port Washington-Saukville School District student. Ozaukee Press is honoring her request that her name be withheld to
protect her son’s privacy.

    A few years ago, the Port Washington-Saukville School District adopted the Character Counts initiative. This program celebrates and advocates acts that express exceptional character in our community in six aspects of personality: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship. I love that our community embraces these concepts, and would like to share a story about someone who embodies every one of these principles through his charitable work at Port Washington High School.

    I am the parent of a child who is less-than perfect. He doesn’t get good grades. He occasionally gets in trouble. He has strong opinions and lacks a filter that lets him know when to not share them. Most parents don’t like him. Many teachers don’t like him. Although I have tried to raise him with good values, principles and morals, I confess that he does not always display these traits.

    I have watched, helpless, angry and frustrated, as others have taken delight in his personal failings. Societal shunning, coupled with poor judgment and his brazen personality, has had devastating effects. In a few short years, I have seen my child turn from a confident, self-assured and popular adolescent into a depressed, isolated, occasionally suicidal teenager. I fear for his well-being and his future every day.

    As this collapse has unfolded, I have reached out to teachers, coaches, therapists and friends to try and find my son some allies. I have pleaded for people to help him. For the most part, my requests have been dealt with coldly. Sadly, it seems that many people in positions to help him feel he is expendable.

    But this story is not about my son. This story is about one retired teacher who has renewed my faith in the spirit of citizenship. This story is about a man who helps me believe that there are still people in this world who are willing to give of themselves to help a person in need.

    During some of my most desperate moments, I found myself “creeping” on my son’s cell phone and Facebook account. I was trying to see who he was talking to and find out what he was talking about. Through all the teenage mumbo-jumbo, one contact stood out. It seemed my son was really connecting and sharing honestly with his former eighth grade teacher, Don Potter.

    Don taught at Thomas Jefferson Middle School in Port Washington and retired the year my son graduated. Throughout that eighth grade year, I had noticed real improvement in my son’s grades and overall demeanor toward school. He talked about Mr. Potter in ways I had never heard him speak of an authority figure. Now, when he was experiencing so much conflict in his life, my son was reaching out to Mr. Potter, talking to him more on line than any of his peers. The way that Don spoke back to him was remarkable. Kindness, understanding and support were in every line. He was honest and fair, but always supportive.

     I decided to reach out to this man that I barely knew. I don’t know what I expected, but I knew that my son was talking to him, and I needed to  connect with what seemed to be a source of refuge for him. I asked Don simply to “not give up on him,” and encouraged him to keep talking with him. I thanked him for being a friendly voice when my son had so many enemies.

    Shortly thereafter, Mr. Potter began driving from Milwaukee twice a week just to help my son. He asked for nothing. No repayment, no compensation. He tutors him. He supports him. He spends time with him at school and helps him believe that someone still has faith in him. He helps my son remember assignments and study and provides needed math help that I cannot. He has been his greatest ally through his most difficult time. While others choose to ignore or sit in judgment of my son, this man simply seeks to be his cheerleader.  

    He has been a constant source of support and strength for my child, and I will be eternally grateful for his efforts. One school counselor recently told me he wished he had 20 Don Potters to help kids like my son. So do I.

    I do not know if the school district has awards for people who display exceptional character. They should. If they do, I nominate Mr. Potter for exemplifying every pillar of character, as I feel he displays each trait in full color. There are  many people like my son in this world. In contrast, there are far too few like Don. I do not know if my boy will ever slay his demons. I do know that if he does, it will be in a large part because of the selfless acts of a retired teacher named Don Potter.

Image Information: Don Potter

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