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Excerpts from recent Wisconsin editorials

November 12, 2018

The Journal Times of Racine, Nov. 12

No more kids killed by impaired drivers

Three Girl Scouts — two age 10, one age 9, all three in fourth grade — killed in a traffic accident, along with the mother of one of the girls.

News so sad, so tragic, that if feels as though it physically hurts your heart.

The Nov. 3 news from Lake Hallie, Wisconsin, near Chippewa Falls, of the four deaths — caused when a pickup truck went off the road near a highway overpass and struck the four as they were collecting litter as part of the Adopt-a-Highway program — was senseless.

It was rendered even more senseless, as if that were possible, by the news that the driver was allegedly impaired. Driving while high, in other words.

The driver and passenger of the pickup truck were inhaling Dustoff, a computer keyboard cleaner they “huffed” to get high, as they drove, and as the truck veered across the centerline they each took the wheel before the crash, according to formal charges filed Nov. 7, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.

The allegations and the outcome — an impaired driver striking and killing a pedestrian — have an all-too-familiar ring in Racine County.

It’s been a little more than three years since Aug. 9, 2015, when another driver, under the influence of drugs and alcohol, crossed two lanes of traffic and struck Sara Dresen, 13, killing her as she walked along the side of Middle Road near her Caledonia home.

That driver was sentenced, on Feb. 17, 2017, to a total of 20 years in prison: Five years in prison for the negligent homicide charge and 15 years in prison for the homicide by vehicle with use of a controlled substance, the maximum for the crimes.

“The gravity of this offense is staggering,” Racine County Circuit Judge Emily Mueller said on the day of the sentencing.

Staggering is a good word to describe both the death of Sara Dresen in 2015 and the deaths of Jayna S. Kelley, 9; Autumn A. Helgeson, 10; Haylee J. Hickle, 10; and Haylee’s mother, Sara Jo Schneider, 32, on Nov. 3 in Lake Hallie.

“It’s not really fair,” said 16-year-old Jorie Reitan, whose mother baby-sat Haylee and her brother, Jasper. They were all too young, Reitan said, her eyes filling with tears. “They don’t get the chance to do the things that they wanted to grow up to do.”

No, they don’t.

Do you want to be the person that steals the lives of children?

Of course not. No one does. No one starts up a vehicle intending to hurt anyone.

But people who have been drinking, or getting high, hurt others when they get behind the wheel.

Please, let us not have any more stories like that of Jayna Kelley, of Autumn Helgeson, of Haylee Hickle, of Sara Jo Schneider.

No more stories like that of Sara Dresen.

If you’re drunk or high — even if you’re “just a little buzzed” or “just a little high”— please leave your keys in your pocket.

Call a cab. Call a ride-sharing service. Call a friend. Or stay where you are.

Don’t turn yourself into the central figure in someone else’s death.


Kenosha News, Nov. 11

Compromise the only way out of our mess

When did “compromise” become a dirty word?

In school, we were taught that compromise was a good thing — that for the greater good, it’s better for both sides to give up a little.

But our rhetoric these days suggests otherwise.

Many politicians have embraced the term, “I refuse to compromise,” as if it is a symbol of strength.

Here’s the truth — that’s actually a sign of weakness.

Anyone who says “I refuse to compromise” is actually saying, “I refuse to learn; I refuse to understand the other side; I refuse to do what is in the best interest of all people.”

It’s this embrace of refusing to compromise that has led us to our highly polarized state.

Instead of our elected leaders working together to solve problems, we have developed a winner-take-all mentality that involves beating the other side, not embracing them.

Instead of doing what is best for everyone, we have politicians basically saying, “I know what is best for you, and I’m going to ram it down your throat whether you like it or not.”

Wow. How did we get to this place?

It seems the term “statesmanship” has been abandoned, and it’s all about winning, not serving.

Politics is not a game; why is it that our elected leaders treat it like one? When all you think about is winning, you lose sight of reason.

We realize that compromise does take place in the halls of government and that some of our representatives really do reach across the aisle and work for the greater good.

Unfortunately, these aren’t the stories we see, and it’s certainly not the rhetoric we hear.

Maybe President Rutherford B. Hayes said it best in his inaugural address in 1877: ”... we ought not to be, in a partisan sense, either Republicans or Democrats, but fellow citizens and fellowmen, to whom the interests of a common country and a common humanity are dear.”

Hayes was right.

It’s time for politicians to put aside this juvenile mentality of “refusing to compromise” and be adults about their jobs. And that means talking to — and listening to— the other side, working to find common ground and being mature enough to embrace compromise.

It’s the only way out of the mess we’re in.


La Crosse Tribune, Nov. 11

Western Wisconsin has plenty to offer our new governor

Wisconsin Gov.-elect Tony Evers certainly has a long list of issues to work on.

The list is not just long, it’s daunting, from equitable education funding to road improvements and expanded broadband; from protecting our natural resources and determining the best course for health care funding.

This is the first time that control of Wisconsin’s government has been divided for a full legislative session in a decade. And talk of a lame-duck legislative session to curb the powers of the governor before Democrat Evers takes office is more than lame. It’s an embarrassing power grab by people far more interested in political preservation than principle.

With all that to navigate, we have a suggestion — one of many Tony Evers is already no doubt receiving.

Listen to Wisconsin voices outside of Milwaukee and Madison.

Speaking parochially, we hope the new governor is much more inclusive to western Wisconsin on boards and commissions that help shape policy and direction in our state.

As a former teacher and principal in Tomah, Evers certainly understands the need for a rural voice.

While big electoral wins in Madison and Milwaukee had a lot to do with the governor’s election Tuesday, he’ll be governor of all of Wisconsin — rural, urban, west, east.

(For the record, Evers won 56 percent of the vote in La Crosse County with an amazing turnout of more than 85 percent of registered voters.)

In her book, “The Politics of Resentment:” Rural Consciousness and the Rise of Scott Walker,” University of Wisconsin-Madison political science professor Katherine J. Cramer went to rural areas throughout the state and listened much more than talked.

She heard loud and clear the resentment of many who live in small towns and rural areas.

That’s one of the reasons that getting more voices from throughout the state is bound to provide more diverse feedback on such issues as education funding and rural infrastructure.

As superintendent of public instruction, Evers has been a longtime ex-officio member of the UW Board of Regents, and he can certainly appreciate the importance of understanding the network of campuses and their specialties and contributions to their regions and beyond.

As we have repeatedly editorialized, the La Crosse area — with arguably the top comprehensive campus in the UW System — has been without a member of the Board of Regents for several years while other areas are represented by multiple members. We don’t think it’s equitable or wise, and we hope that’s something that Gov. Evers moves quickly to fix.

As we head toward the 2020 census and the need for redistricting, we hope the new governor pushes for an independent redistricting commission, like Iowa has used since the 1980s.

When you look at some of the Assembly Districts in western Wisconsin, you understand the confusion caused by splitting a rural county into multiple legislative districts.

As we’ve written before, voters should pick their representatives, not the other way around.

Remember that Tommy Thompson had a great deal of success working in a split statehouse.

He used a lot of charisma, charm and collaboration — and an incredible love of Wisconsin.

It truly can happen again in Madison.

In fact, it needs to.

But the foundation should come from people who live throughout our great state.

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