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Bang, ping, zing, varoom PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Thursday, 27 April 2017 19:40

There’s a Target down range, but that doesn’t mean it’s all right to blast away with various types of firearms a scant half mile from the Village of Grafton’s shopping mecca at its intersection with the I-43 freeway.

The Target we’re referring to is a department store, one of a plethora of retail establishments in the sprawling commercial district at the eastern border of the Village and Town of Grafton, not one of the targets aimed at by the shooters who were creating a nuisance on a nearby Arrowhead Road property.

There were no reports of bullets hitting Target or any other stores, but the proximity of  the private firing range to the shopping area was considered when the Grafton Town Board cracked down on the shooters recently.

The board revoked the firearms discharge permit for the property owned by Michael and Dean Hoppe in February and refused on April 12 to grant their request that it be reissued. It was the right decision, one that highlights the growing conflict between urbanization and the remaining countryside of Ozaukee County. 

The possibility of bullets straying into the busy shopping complex was mentioned by Town Chairman Lester Bartel, but even more worrisome to board members were reports from town residents.

One told of shooting by “multiple weapons and rapid, successive firings taking place,” accompanied by continuous gunshot noise, “zings and pings.” She added, “I felt like I was in a war zone and not in a quiet, calm country residential home.”

A neighbor said he lost count after hearing 400 rounds. Another reported the shooting going for four to six hours one day.

Theresa Stay expressed what no doubt were the sentiments of many Town of Grafton residents when she told the board, “I expect where I live to be somewhat quiet and peaceful.”

That expectation, of course, is what motivates people to move to the Town of Grafton and other once rural areas of Ozaukee County. Numerous country-style subdivisions have sprung up on what was once farmland in the Town of Grafton, whose tax roll is swelling with the value of homes on large lots. Elected representatives have a responsibility to work to keep threats to that peace and quiet at bay.

In the eastern part of the Town of Grafton, a growing source of incursions into the peace of the countryside is the county road that runs through it, Highway C. Designed to be no more than a country road, it has become a heavily traveled alternative to state Highway 32 and I-43 and a joyriders’ speedway.

Commercial vehicles, including semi-trailer trucks, traveling between Port Washington and points south are part of the traffic that frequents the road. Conflicts with residents who use the road in a different way are inevitable. The mix of bicycle riders, runners, walkers, jogging mothers pushing strollers and even horseback riders with this excessive motor traffic can lead to nothing good.

As for quiet, that is a forlorn hope on any warm weather weekend when fleets of motorcycles take over the road. Realistic residents of Wisconsin, home of Harley-Davidson headquarters, have given up expecting police in this state to enforce exhaust noise limits for motorcycles, but enforcing speed limits for them, which it seems is not happening much on Highway C, should be another story.

The county should do its part to protect the peace and quiet of the Town of Grafton countryside by applying weight limits to keep large trucks off of Highway C and increasing attention to the road by sheriff’s department patrols.

Country living is a quality-of-life alternative that is attracting many families to Ozaukee County. Residents lured by that lifestyle shouldn’t have to have a shooting range in their backyards—or a country road that acts like an urban thoroughfare. 

Revenge of the cattle class PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 19 April 2017 21:22

The cattle class will be cheering for Dr. David Dao when he sues United Airlines.

The millions of Americans who have been treated like herded livestock while traveling on commercial airlines make up the cattle class, and they will surely be pulling for a court to inflict maximum pain on United. 

But no matter how substantial that financial punishment will be, it won’t be as painful as the injuries done to the physician when he was dragged off of a United plane in Chicago last week—a concussion, broken nose, lost teeth and sinus injuries said to require reconstructive surgery—for refusing to kowtow to an order to leave the plane to make room for airline employees. 

Dr. Dao’s suit against United is inevitable, but he likely won’t be able to sue others responsible for the deplorable treatment of air travelers. That would include the federal government.

Airlines can get away with treating travelers like cattle because the Federal Trade Commission under the Obama and Bush administrations blessed the mergers of the country’s largest airlines. As a result, four companies now control well over two-thirds of U.S. air travel. Due to the dominance of airline hubs at some airports, many travelers have only one airline option. The lack of competition breeds contempt for customers.

The U.S. Transportation Department has failed air travelers as well with anemic regulation of airlines. Air travel should be viewed as an essential public service like electricity and water, and providers should be regulated at least somewhat in the way of utilities.

The outlook, unfortunately, is for less, rather than more, airline regulation. The Trump administration has shelved an Obama proposal to require airlines to more clearly inform the public about extra fees, such as for luggage and various upgrades from the lowest cattle-class status, and has promised to weaken or eliminate other airline rules.

Someone should also be sued over the storm-trooper mentality that has captured the minds of air travel law enforcement authorities. Exhibit A would be the Chicago airport police who thought it was perfectly all right to assault and bodily remove a 69-year-old airplane passenger at the request of a corporation that wanted his seat for an employee.

Some airline travelers don’t check their bags, but everyone of them checks their civil rights at the door when they enter an airport. Look askance at an airport cop or a TSA agent, and your trip, if not your freedom, is in jeopardy.

The traveler who made what was by all accounts an innocuous comment to Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke on an airplane in January can relate to that. He was met by a squad of deputies when he left the plane, and was detained, questioned and, he said, threatened. Had his remark been made at a restaurant or a mall instead of on a plane, not even a self-styled tough hombre like Clarke, a John Wayne legend in own mind, would have dared use the police-state tactic.

Outrage over the assault and battery of Dr. Dao, recorded by cell phone video and seen by hundreds of millions of viewers, has drawn attention of one of the most reprehensible affronts to air travelers—the practice of overbooking flights.

United had sold every seat on the flight from O’Hare to paying customers and then decided it wanted four of those seats for members of a United crew bound for Louisville. When no one responded to a call for volunteers to give up their seats, passengers were selected and told to leave the plane. Dao, who was traveling with wife (also a physician, as are four of his five children), refused, saying he had to get home to see patients.

Though it has become standard operating procedure, overbooking is a practice that serves only the interests of airline companies and smacks of fraud. Passengers, after all, reserve and pay for their seats, yet are routinely denied the use of those seats when it serves the airlines’ convenience.

Airlines should either use the technology needed to avoid overbooking or live with the possibility that there could be a few empty seats on flights due to cancellations.

United couldn’t even manage to apologize properly after the images of what its CEO called “reaccommodating” a passenger by having him dragged off a plane bloody and concussed went viral, so a significant increase in respect for passengers is probably too much to hope for.

But at least members of the cattle class will be able to enjoy the pummeling United is going to get from the “reaccommodated” passenger’s lawsuit.

The Blues Factory referendums PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 12 April 2017 22:45

Voters of Port Washington made their choices yesterday, and as a result our Common Council will have new members. We will miss our departing colleagues, who have served their city with dedication and diligence, but we respect the will of the people and look forward to working with the new aldermen in the best interests of our community. We congratulate them on their election to the council.

That is what was not said at the council meeting on the night after last week’s election. 

Instead of an appropriate and gracious acknowledgement of their election victories, the two newly elected aldermen who defeated incumbents were subjected to an insulting, demeaning lecture by Ald. Dave Larson.

“I think this was a situation where you took advantage of a low-turnout election,” Larson said, addressing John Sigwart and Mike Gasper from the council dais. He went on, admonishing them that it was “important to understand” that they do not represent only those who voted and attributing their election success to a “vocal minority.” 

“This was a vocal minority that took advantage of a low-turnout election,” Larson said. “I think that the silent majority is going to become very vocal soon.”

He told the new aldermen: “You’re not one of us.”

It was a low, embarrassing moment for Port Washington’s elected city government.

Elections, as grade-school pupils know from their introduction to civics, are determined by the majority of voters. In Sigwart’s case, the majority was overwhelming—260 votes for him, 98 for the incumbent Dan Becker. 

More than just a landslide, the victory by a 73% to 27% margin was a repudiation of the council’s unrelenting campaign to sell public land overlooking the harbor as a site for the Blues Factory music attraction in spite of broad public opposition.

The impact of the lopsided vote was heightened by the fact that the incumbent, Becker, was not only the president of the council, but was a respected and capable aldermen who had served on the council since 2009 with evident public support until he alienated voters with his push for harbor land sale. 

The council ignored petitions to hold a referendum on the issue, so the voters gave it not one but two referendums of their own on the land sale—in the 3rd District, where the incumbent and outspoken Blues Factory supporter Bill Driscoll was eliminated in the primary election and will be replaced by Gasper, and in the 7th-District Sigwart-Becker race. The dominant issue in both races was the Blues Factory land sale. The challengers opposed it.

The referendum results: rejection of the Blues Factory.

As for the Blues Factory itself, it slipped closer to full fiasco status last week when the council approved the latest of numerous extensions of the deadline for purchase of the land by the developer. 

The stated reason was to give the city time to repair underground tiebacks supporting the harbor wall in preparation for constructing the two-story brick Blues Factory building on the north slip parking lot. 

The delay also serves to keep the Blues Factory proposal on life support by giving the hesitant developer more time—until February—to find the will and the financing to buy the land.

Larson’s bitter response to the election, which suggests that he and perhaps other aldermen will continue to push the land sale regardless of the unmistakable messages from voters, can be taken as a measure of the corrosive effect the issue has had on the community. There was a time when it would have been unthinkable for a city official to use the privileged perch of his office to publicly belittle city election winners and the citizens who voted for them.

Citizens have expressed their opposition to using public lakefront land for the Blues Factory in every way available to them, including the ballot box. But they do not have the power to stop it. 

That power resides with the Common Council.

Dissolving the agreement to sell the harbor land would go a long way toward restoring respect between the citizens of Port Washington and their elected officials.

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