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Thumbs Up/Down for Monday, June 16, 2014

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June 16, 2014

Thumbs up to Cindi Dilley and Rockin’ Kids Christmas. Dilley worked with Hope for the Holidays the past five years but found the December project too stressful. So she founded the new Rockin’ Kids Christmas, which will work toward the holiday through the year. In the process, children who might help out will learn about the spirit of giving year-round. The charity had a fundraiser May 31 and plans others through early October. By November, Dilley hopes to have the names of needy kids from Child Protective Services of Rock County. Then, volunteers can shop so each child has a bag of Christmas gifts. For more details, call 608-352-7575 or 608-774-2040, click on rockinkidschristmas.org or follow the group on Facebook.

Thumbs down to lacking backbone on drunken driving. Ever wonder why Wisconsin can’t enact laws that curb drunken driving? Resignations from a drunken driving task force might explain it. On June 5, two doctors and two other health officials resigned. They said the state Department of Transportation ignored their input and expressed only mild interest in getting drunks off roads. Their resignation letter criticized the DOT for giving the Tavern League of Wisconsin a role to the exclusion of almost all other stakeholders. The DOT refuted those allegations and stated alcohol-related crashes, injuries and fatalities have fallen the past five years. Maybe the Tavern League deserves a spot on the 38-member task force. As the saying goes, however, where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire. The Tavern League has a conflict of interest, as those resigning suggested. That the league was the only nongovernment partner working on the plan reveals much about why Wisconsin’s drunken-driving fatality rate exceeds the national average and is much higher than in Illinois and Minnesota.

 Thumbs up to Rock County’s OWI Court. In contrast, a courthouse ceremony last week celebrated Beloit’s Donna Risch as the specialized court’s first graduate. Risch has been sober since an accident led to her third drunken driving arrest more than two years ago. Judge Alan Bates presides over the court and called it a special day. Risch, 27, is the mother of two young children and a therapist for autistic kids. The court reduced her sentence for completing the program, which includes meeting attendance, working and submitting to random drug and alcohol tests. State money helped start the court in 2012. It demands sobriety, and three of the 24 original participants dropped out. Research shows such courts work better than incarceration and treatment alone. Risch said she lost drinking buddies but persevered by gaining “true friends, people who actually cared about me.” We wish her and all participants success.

Thumbs up to Evansville’s Windmill Ridge. With only about 10 usable lots left in the city, it’s great to see Evansville about to approve a new west-side subdivision for 50 single-family homes. Roger Berg and his partners want to start building next year. They will be responsible for all roads and utilities in the 29-acre parcel and adding to Westside Park. A retention pond should prevent flooding. Evansville is an attractive, small city with good schools. Its affordability and proximity to Madison make it a near ideal bedroom community for commuters, but the Great Recession slammed the brakes on home building. Only about a dozen single-family homes have gone up annually since 2008. Mayor Sandy Decker suggests more Dane County wages are starting to flow into Evansville. That bodes well for the city’s businesses and tax coffers.



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