Monday, November 29, 2010

Sign outside court commissioner’s courtroom discourages, practically denies, open court access

I had occasion last week to accompany someone to a small claims civil proceeding being held before Court Commissioner David Keck. Outside his courtroom was a sign telling people there was a hearing in progress and to wait until your case was called. When her case was called, the bailiff would not allow anyone in other than the parties involved in the case. The person whose case I was there for may have been calling me as a witness, but more importantly she wanted me there for moral support. She had a friend there for moral support also and this bailiff wouldn’t let anyone in other than the parties named in the case.

Afterward I questioned Commissioner Keck about this and he said, yes, courts are open, but that I likely was not allowed in because I was a possible witness. I have never seen or heard of witnesses in a small claims civil action not being allowed in a courtroom until they’re called. (I have seen that in criminal cases, however, and the one exception I’ve seen where hearings or trials are often, if not always, closed to the public are when the case involves a minor, such as in molestations or related type cases.) But even if that’s how Commissioner Keck wants to run his courtroom, that didn’t explain the bailiff not allowing in the other person who was there with her. Moreover, according to this woman, Keck never even asked her if she had any witnesses she wanted to call.

The bottom line is, all of that notwithstanding, courtrooms are open to the public – that’s the law – and the very fact that Commissioner Keck has this sign outside his courtroom telling people to wait until their case is called discourages, and essentially denies, the general public the ability and right to see their courts in action – at least this one. That right is further denied by a bailiff who won't allow anyone in the courtroom not named as a party to the complaint. These are bad policies, and ones I believe Commissioner Keck needs to change so the public has the same access to his courtroom that we do all others in this county and state, and as we are entitled to under the law.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Proposed New Warnings and Graphics for Cigarette Packs and Advertisements Unveiled

[Washington D.C.]—The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services last week released a new comprehensive tobacco control strategy that includes proposed new bolder health warnings on cigarette packages and advertisements. Once final, these health warnings on cigarettes and in cigarette advertisements will be the most significant change in more than 25 years. These actions are part of a broader strategy that will help tobacco users quit and prevent children from starting.

Tobacco use is the leading cause of premature and preventable death in the United States, responsible for 7,700 deaths each year in Wisconsin and about 200 deaths in Winnebago County. Thirty percent of all cancer deaths are due to tobacco.

"Every day, almost 4,000 youth try a cigarette for the first time and 1,000 youth become regular, daily smokers," said Emily Dieringer, Coalition Coordinator for re:TH!NK. "Today marks an important milestone in protecting our children and the health of the American public."

The strategy included a proposed rule that details a requirement of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act that nine new larger and more noticeable textual warning statements and color graphic images depicting the negative health consequences of smoking appear on cigarette packages and in cigarette advertisements. The public has an opportunity to comment on 36 proposed images through January 9, 2011.

All US cigarette packs must contain the new warning labels by October 2012.

“Research shows that large and graphic warning labels increase knowledge about risks associated with smoking,” added Paulette Stoltzmann, Public Health Nurse with Winnebago County. “Warning labels motivate smokers to quit, discourage nonsmokers from starting, and keep ex-smokers from starting again.”

The new federal warning labels will assist WI's effort to prevent youth smoking and help smokers quit. While the percentage of smokers has decreased in recent years, nearly 1 in 5 WI adults and youth still smoke. “Wisconsin must capitalize on the Federal momentum through continued support for its comprehensive Tobacco Prevention & Control Program,” commented Dieringer. “Without adequate funding, gains will disappear.”

For more about the announcements and new guidelines, go to

Safe winter driving tips

Much as some of us would like to avoid it, and as lucky as we've been so far with much unseasonal temperature, winter is coming. This time of year is always challenging to drive in, especially during the first couple of snowfalls. And this year we have several roundabouts in town that many drivers are still trying to learn how to drive in. That will make many driving experiences even more challenging. But accidents can be reduced or, in some cases, even avoided, by following some simple winter driving tips, such as these offered by the Oshklosh Police Department.

Safe winter driving tips

- Clear snow and ice from all windows and lights - even the hood and roof - before driving.

- Pay attention. Don't try to out-drive the conditions. Remember the posted speed limits are for dry pavement.

- Leave plenty of room for stopping.

- Leave room for maintenance vehicles and plows. The law requires you to slow down or move over when approaching emergency or maintenance vehicles, including snowplows, parked on the side of the road when they have their flashing lights turned on. If you approach a parked emergency or maintenance vehicle during a winter storm and decide to change lanes be extra careful. The passing lane may be in worse shape than the driving lane. There may also be a snow ridge between the two lanes. Avoid making an abrupt lane change. If approaching a snowplow, stay back at least 200 feet (it's the law!), and don't pass on the right.

- Know the current road conditions.

- Use brakes carefully. Brake early. Brake correctly. It takes more time and distance to stop in adverse conditions.

- Watch for slippery bridge decks, even when the rest of the pavement is in good condition. Bridge decks will ice up sooner than the adjacent pavement.

- Don't use your cruise control in wintry conditions. Even roads that appear clear can have sudden slippery spots and the short touch of your brakes to deactivate the cruise control feature can cause you to lose control of your vehicle.

- Don't get overconfident in your 4x4 vehicle. Remember that your four-wheel drive vehicle may help you get going quicker than other vehicles but it won't help you stop any faster. Many 4x4 vehicles are heavier than passenger vehicles and actually may take longer to stop. Don't get overconfident in your 4x4 vehicle's traction. Your 4x4 can lose traction as quickly as a two-wheel drive vehicle.

- Do not pump anti-lock brakes. If your car is equipped with anti-lock brakes, do not pump brakes in attempting to stop. The right way is to "stomp and steer!"

- Look farther ahead in traffic than you normally do. Actions by cars and trucks will alert you quicker to problems and give you a split-second extra time to react safely.

- Remember that trucks are heavier than cars. Trucks take longer to safely respond and come to a complete stop, so avoid cutting quickly in front of them.

- Go slow! Be safe!

City-wide Neighborhood Watch Meeting planned

Oshkosh Neighborhood Watch . . . Making Neighborhoods Better

Reminder -- Attend city-wide Neighborhood Watch Meeting
· Next Thursday, November 18, 2010
· 6-7:30 p.m.
· Senior Center (just north of the FVTC Riverside campus off of Witzel)

Remember -- Neighborhood Watch is under new management. An elected board of neighbors now provides leadership. All are volunteers. The Board has been working since May to answer these kinds of questions: What do neighborhoods in Oshkosh need? What is the role of block captains? What is the Board’s role? What kind of training do we need? What kind of relationship do we want with police officers and sergeants? How can we help make neighborhoods better?

We Believe that better neighborhoods result when . . .

· Neighbors know each other.
· Homes are well-maintained.
· Neighborhoods are safe.

If you share these values, if you care about your neighborhood, if you want to do your part to make your neighborhood better, then put November 18 on your calendar right now AND ATTEND.

Thatcher Peterson, President
Oshkosh Neighborhood Watch Executive Board

Crime Prevention Academy

You are invited to participate in the Crime Prevention Academy being held by TRICOM, a citizen-based crime prevention organization. The Crime Prevention Academy is an eight-week program designed to empower participants to make a difference in their community. The program consists of classes and discussions held on Tuesday nights from 6:00 to 8:15pm. Dinner and snacks will be provided starting at 5:30pm. The Academy runs for 8 weeks starting January 25 and ending March 15. Class size is limited and is filling up quickly.

The ultimate goal of the Crime Prevention Academy is to create awareness about the basic principles and programs that will assist in creating the development of partnerships with law enforcement, local coalitions and each other. This program will give participants the opportunity to express their concerns and ask questions, as well as to gather a working knowledge of crime prevention and how it applies to their every day life.

For an application or more (920)967-3550 or e-mail: or see our website

Thank you again for your interest in our community.