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Spare Fish Day a needless mandate PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Thursday, 11 June 2015 21:28

Requiring thousands of Fish Day attendees to wear wristbands in order to buy a beer is a solution in search of a problem

Let us now accept guidance from an ancient aphorism that has proved valid time and again in the course of human events. Expressed in proper English, it counsels would-be do-gooders: If something isn’t broken, don’t try to fix it.

    Port Fish Day isn’t broken. It doesn’t need fixing.

    Fish Day is a smooth-running operation that on a single day brings thousands of people to downtown Port Washington, shows them a good time and raises a lot of money that civic organizations invest in maintaining the good life in the community.

    It is not broken, not in need of a tune-up, not even a squirt of WD-40.

    Yet now it is being pressed to make a repair it doesn’t need or want.

    Police Chief Kevin Hingiss has proposed that people buying alcoholic drinks at Fish Day be required to wear wristbands.

    It may sound like a small thing, but nothing is small about Fish Day. The celebration can attract as many as 30,000 people. Fitting wristbands on the vast number of them who wish to buy a cold beer to go with their fish and chips would be, as one Fish Day official aptly put it, a “logistical nightmare.”

    Under the proposal, people would have to line up at points near the entrances to the celebration grounds, present a driver’s license or ID card and, if 21 or older, have a band sealed around their wrists. The point of this exercise, the chief says, would be to combat underage drinking.

    The police chief’s interest in Fish Day is quite understandable. It’s a big day for police, and not in a festive way. Merely the presence in the downtown of a crowd more than double the size of the city’s population presents challenges. Add to that the impressive quantity of beer consumed in connection with the event, and it is safe to say Port police officers earn their pay on Fish Day.

    But this is not to say that Fish Day is some sort of bacchanal. On the contrary, drink-induced misbehavior has been relatively minor considering the size of the crowd. Over the years, the problems police have had to deal with mostly involved people of legal drinking age, many of whom did their imbibing at private parties or local taverns. Wristbands would do nothing to alleviate these problems.

    The wristband requirement would add a new complication to the already complex process of managing the celebration. Imagine the length of the lines of Fish Day goers queuing up for the mandatory bands. Logistical nightmare indeed.

    Beyond the impact on Fish Day organizers, consider the effect on the people who come to downtown Port Washington to enjoy Fish Day. Whether they are visitors or residents, these folks are all Fish Day’s guests, and they deserve hospitable treatment. What’s more, they are customers whose purchases are important to the community. Regardless of their age, every one of them who might want to buy an alcoholic drink—even senior citizens—would have to endure the aggravation of waiting in line and producing identification for the privilege of wearing a wristband.

    The volunteers who work at Fish Day stands are well trained in the law’s requirements for alcohol servers and diligent in applying them.

    Fish Day servers control underage drinking by employing that marvelous quality called human discretion. If a person looks to be too young to drink, they don’t serve him or her without checking IDs to verify they’re over 21. If a person’s appearance makes it obvious that he or she is old enough to drink legally, they sell them a beer.

    Members of the city’s Finance and License Committee expressed sensible reservations when the wristband idea was first proposed. There are ample reasons for the committee to reject it altogether. The most compelling one is that Port Fish Day doesn’t need a gratuitous mandate from the police department. After more than 50 years of operation, it knows how to run a successful festival safely and efficiently.

    It’s not broken. Therefore, it doesn’t need to be fixed.

Thanks for the federal interference PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 03 June 2015 17:37

This federal tax and mandated state spending show that sportsmen and tree huggers have common cause in conservation

The elected officials currently in charge of the government of the state of Wisconsin have made clear their disdain for the federal government and taxes. They’ve demonstrated the former by rejecting more than $5 billion in federal money to expand Medicaid and build a high-speed railroad line and the latter by refusing to rely on taxes to meet critical needs, such as paying for road maintenance.

    But they are sure to make an exception in the next few weeks when a big check arrives from a federal program that is funded entirely by taxes, a substantial portion of which are paid by Wisconsin residents, and mandates millions of dollars in spending by the state.

    The program is named Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration and Sport Fish Restoration. This year it will give Wisconsin $36.5 million for conservation, and will require the state to match 25% of that amount.

    You won’t hear this federal intrusion into state government being bad mouthed in Madison, because even the most obtuse politicians have learned that the people of Wisconsin support taxing and spending on conservation.    

    The program is funded by federal excise taxes on boat fuel, fishing tackle, archery equipment, firearms and ammunition and is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

    This federal aid was established by Congress in 1937 to fund programs for conservation of wildlife habitat, but over the years it has supported the preservation of natural resources and outdoor recreation in other ways and has benefitted every American who appreciates nature and the outdoors.

    The director of the program, Dan Ashe, put it like this: “These funds are the cornerstone of state-based efforts that are critical to the preservation of America’s wildlife and natural resources. . . . providing opportunities for the next generation of Americans to get outdoors, experience our wild places and learn the importance of conserving our natural heritage.”

     The success of the program illustrates a phenomenon state politicians bumped into this spring when Gov. Scott Walker’s budget sought to shut down the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program: Hunters and fishermen and environmentalists are kindred spirits when it comes to protecting the state’s natural resources.

    Led by a diverse aggregation of conservation minded groups including land trusts and hunting organizations, public reaction was so opposed to shutting down the program that has protected endangered forests, waterways and prairies that the Legislature is moving to reject the governor’s budget proposal and renew stewardship funding.

    The defense of the Stewardship Program and the popularity of the wildlife and fish restoration program show that the groups that might be categorized as sportsmen and tree huggers are not exactly strange bedfellows. When it comes to the environment, whether they value it for hunting and fishing or merely to pass through as hikers or birdwatchers, they have a common cause in supporting government action to protect it.

    As an ironic aside, it is interesting to note that the federal wildlife and fish program will distribute more money to the states this year than every before thanks in part to the surge in firearms sales.

    There may be a few hard cases in the political crowd that has demonized federal authority over states who object to the wildlife restoration program, but they wouldn’t dare say it out loud. For the people of Wisconsin know this is a federal law, tax and mandate that help ensure that our great outdoors will remain great.

Own the lighthouse PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 27 May 2015 16:49

Port aldermen made the right move in starting the process to acquire the lighthouse; now organizations and citizens should join the effort

It was refreshing to hear members of the Port Washington Common Council talking at their May 19 meeting about acquiring something of value for the public, rather than, as at some other recent meetings, selling public property such as a harborside parking lot and some parks.

    To their further credit, the councilmen didn’t just talk about it, they acted, voting to take the first step toward city ownership of the Port Washington lighthouse.

    It was the right thing to do, and it deserves strong support from the community in every way, especially in the financial way.

    This is an urgent matter. The lighthouse is up for grabs. The federal government has made it official that it is ready to give it away or sell it. If a government agency or non-profit organization does not step up to take ownership, it could be sold to a private buyer. The city can’t let that happen.

    The 80-year-old lighthouse, as we noted in an editorial last year when the first signals of an imminent federal decision appeared, is Port Washington’s most recognizable symbol, officially in its logo and wayfinding signs, and informally in its prominence in popular images—photographed, painted and imagined—of the city. The distinctive tower standing on a massive concrete base with arched portals for waves and walkers to pass through is a destination for the thousands of residents and tourists who transit the half-mile long north breakwater each year to visit it.

    The city needs to be in control of the structure that is so much a part of its identity. Under private ownership, there would be no standards for maintenance or the appearance of the lighthouse (though its navigational functions would still have to meet federal requirements).

Last week’s council vote authorized the city to submit a letter of interest in acquiring the lighthouse. After July 14, the city and any other interested parties will have 90 days to apply to become the owner of the lighthouse.

    As a government entity, the City of Port Washington could acquire the lighthouse at no cost if the transfer is approved by the General Services Administration. There would be a substantial cost, however, in dealing with deferred maintenance. The federal government hasn’t lifted a finger to maintain the lighthouse in decades. At a minimum, painting of the rusting steel structure and replacement of broken portholes will be needed.

    The city doesn’t have a stash of unspent tax revenue lying around, so the funds will have to come from other sources. The good news is that taking care of the lighthouse is a project well suited to a community effort. The cost will be significant, but it won’t be a million-dollar blockbuster. Small contributions will make a difference.

    It’s not too soon for a community organization, or several of them, to gear up to adopt the lighthouse, or for individuals to form a new non-profit group, one that might be called something like Friends of the Port Lighthouse or the Port Washington Lighthouse Preservation Society.

    Since it was built in 1935, it has been called the Port Washington lighthouse. Now it is time to make that true in every way, with official ownership by the City of Port Washington and emotional ownership by citizens dedicated to keeping the lighthouse an enduring symbol of a community whose past, present and future are inextricably linked to its place in the world as a Great Lakes port of call.

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