Opinion Archives for 2017-05

Civil Discourse: An Occasional Attempt to Restore Civility to Our Civic Discourse

By Roger Utnehmer

The Door County Maritime Museum is a Sturgeon Bay gem.  The proposed Maritime Tower will make it even better.

The eleven-story tower will open space for more exhibits sharing the maritime history of Door County for generations to come.  Additional meeting space and an observation deck will be used by many and become an even better reason to visit Sturgeon Bay.

This is a waterfront development that is paid for by donations, not dependent on taxpayer expense, serves a public purpose and will become a significant tourist magnet in the heart of our community.

A major reason for Sturgeon Bay residents to be proud of this proposal is that it will be a valued resource for local residents as well as a welcome educational experience for visitors.

The tower, close to the iconic Michigan Street Bridge, will become a pair of visual images for which Sturgeon Bay will be known for generations into the future.

The current facility in Sturgeon Bay is one of the community's most valuable resources.  The museum excels at educating about the maritime history and preserving the memory of Sturgeon Bay's rich water-related heritage.

The Maritime Tower will fuel the future with an exciting and educational experience worth supporting with a visit, a donation and a word of encouragement to those responsible for its development.

The west side of Sturgeon Bay needs something positive, educational, economically stimulating and taxpayer-free and this project is just that.

That's my opinion.  I'd like to hear yours.

Letter To The Editor: Respect our County Employees

By John T. Pagel

To start I want to identify that there are a lot of good things going on to improve water quality in Kewaunee county. We have new farming practices being implemented that are more environmentally sound. There are multiple programs in our county, state and federal agencies that are helping in the water quality areas. There have been a lot of changes in our county that affects Kewaunee counties farmers. Some of these changes are related to our Soil and Water department for our county. In 2015 there was an ordinance passed that is part of a strategy to improve well water quality in our county. Kewaunee county has had well water issues for many years. Especially in areas of the county with shallow depth to bedrock. This ordinance has affected some farmers more than others based upon the soil types and depths on their farms. This is one area that has caused frustration for some farmers. Another area is a land use fee that was passed by the county board which equates to 50 cents per acre per year. These fees were set to help pay for the time that it takes for the Land and Water team to inspect our farmland to look for areas that need attention for conservation practices. Most of the farm owners also participate in the Farmland preservation program that pays $7.50 per acre to perform conservation practices. The reason I bring this to attention is that our Land and Water department team has been taking some harassment from frustrated farmers over how some of these changes has affected their farms. Our L &W team works very hard to make Kewaunee county a better place to live. Their responsibilities are governed by county and state regulations. They don't make the rules but yet they have to enforce them. Their main focus is to protect and improve water quality, ground and surface water in our county. Please understand that they are only trying to do their jobs as instructed. If you have frustrations, don't take it out on the staff. You can come to our L & W committee meetings that we have monthly to explain your frustrations and we can see what we can do to help. Or call any one of the L & W committee members. The contact information for our committee is on the county website. I want to invite our farmers to come to our L & W committee meetings. That's how you can influence how our department works with our counties farmers. Please treat our county employees with respect. Let's all work together to make Kewaunee a better place to live.
John T Pagel -Dairy Farmer and Chairman of Land & Water Committee

Letter To The Editor: Redistricting

By Susan Curran of League of Women Voters of Winnebago County and Lindsay Dorst of Citizen Action Northeast Wisconsin

Imagine going to a Packers game. You carefully tally the touchdowns and field goals as the Packers work to defeat their opponent, and it looks like they're going to win. However, when the game comes to a close, the Packers have lost, not because they didn't score more, but because their touchdowns and field goals counted for fewer points than their opponent's did.


Does that seem fair?


Unfortunately, that is exactly what's happening when it comes to voting in the state of Wisconsin.


For example, in the 2012 Assembly race, over 168,000 more Wisconsinites voted for one party, yet that party won only 39 of the 99 Assembly seats. The other party, which received fewer votes, won 60 seats. Likewise, in the State Senate, one party received 53% of the votes but only 50% of the seats. Why the disparity between votes and seats? It comes down to our voting maps.


Due to gerrymandering - deliberately drawing voting maps to create a partisan advantage for the party in power - the majority party has guaranteed they will remain in control of the legislature regardless of the votes cast for either party. Not only is this unfair, but a federal court ruled that Wisconsin's current voting maps are unconstitutional because they do not count Wisconsinites' votes equally. Many experts recognize Wisconsin as the most gerrymandered state in the country.


Fortunately, there's a solution. Senate Bill 13 and Assembly Bill 44 would establish a nonpartisan process based on the Iowa model to create fair and impartial maps.

Why are fair voting maps so important? Here are three things to know.


  1. Fair maps put voters first.


If it seems like your representatives do not listen to you, you are probably right. Due to manipulated voting maps, they no longer need to listen because they are virtually guaranteed re-election if they do what their party leaders tell them to do. This puts the party in power - not voters - in charge because elected officials are selecting their voters instead of voters selecting their elected officials.


Fair maps would put voters back in charge. Our representatives are supposed to work for us, and fair maps would make elections competitive again and ensure that elected officials have a vested interest in listening and responding to their constituents.


  1. Fair maps save money.


Developing and legally defending the voting maps that were drawn in 2011 has cost Wisconsin taxpayers over $2 million, and the price tag is still growing as these maps head to the Supreme Court. So not only are our constitutional rights being violated, but lawmakers are spending our tax dollars on this unconstitutional practice.


By comparison, the maps drawn by a nonpartisan agency in Iowa cost only about $20,000, which means that we could direct millions of taxpayer dollars back to services that citizens care about, such as education and fixing roads.


  1. Fair maps promote political balance.


When voting districts are competitive, elected officials must listen to voters on both sides of the aisle to get re-elected. Rigged maps lead to extreme partisanship because moderation and compromise get pushed aside in favor of party loyalty. This does not reflect the political reality of Wisconsin, a purple state that can go either Republican or Democratic by a small margin from election to election.


What can you do?


If you want to put voters - not politicians - back in charge in Wisconsin, please contact your state senator and assembly person and urge them to vote yes to SB-13 and AB-44. It's time for the Wisconsin legislature to represent its voters again.

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