Our Views: Thumbs up/down for Monday, June 19

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Monday, June 19, 2017

Thumbs down to texting at stoplights. Some drivers understand texting while driving is dangerous, but they give themselves a pass at stoplights because they think waiting for a light to turn green doesn’t count as driving. Wrong. It’s driving, and these drivers should stop using red lights as an excuse to troll the internet or compose a text. A red light is not permission to zone out. Studies show texting while driving can be as dangerous as drunken driving, but many people still don’t take texting and driving as seriously as they should. The best advice we can give—which some people will certainly ignore because they don’t think texting and driving is a big deal—is to put the smartphone in “airplane mode” while driving. That way, there’s no temptation to respond to friends and family wondering where to meet on Saturday night or what to buy at the grocery store. In other words, develop some self-discipline, even when waiting at a stop light.

Thumbs down to tripling of the state’s prison population. The Legislature is finally listening to calls to reform the prison system and has included in the proposed biennial budget funding to study ways to reduce the prison population. The main culprit is revocation, often involving people sent to prison for non-criminal violations of their probation or parole conditions. The head of the Ex-Prisoners Organization, Jerome Dillard, addressed on June 8 the NAACP in Beloit about ways to save tax dollars and limit revocations without compromising community safety. “We as a community need to be embracing these young men. That is what is going to make a change,” he said. For example, instead of sending someone to prison for a non-criminal probation or parole violation, that person could perform community service. By avoiding prison, this person would have a better chance of becoming a productive citizen and avoiding future criminal behavior, thus saving taxpayers.

Thumbs up to the federal Surface Transportation Board. We’ve voiced skepticism about some of the board’s decisions related to the proposed Great Lakes Basin Transportation rail proposal, but it deserves acknowledgment for releasing a list of 10 principal shareholders in the company. The company had opposed releasing the information, filing a motion for a protective order to conceal the list. There’s been no shortage of mistrust between local residents and Great Lakes Basin over this project, and concealing the list would have only fueled speculation about the company’s motives. With the list now public, residents know the project’s backers, and the list revealed few surprises. Most of the company’s shareholders are company executives, with President Frank Patton owning the largest interest—87.2 percent of the stock.

Thumbs up to more states suing opioid makers. Ohio appears to have started a trend. It filed a lawsuit this month against several opioid makers over their roles in the opioid epidemic, and now several more states are joining forces to investigate these companies, The Wall Street Journal reported last week. Not all of the states have been identified, but it appears Wisconsin is among them. In a June 7 editorial, we called on Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel to join Ohio in suing the opioid makers, and a spokesperson at the time responded Schimel “has not ruled out such a lawsuit.” The Capital Times reported last week Schimel is now part of a bipartisan group of attorneys general investigating the opioid makers to determine “what role the opioid manufacturers may have played in creating or prolonging this epidemic...” We encourage Schimel to dig deep and help create the largest lawsuit this nation has seen since 1990s when Big Tobacco was forced to pay out billions of dollars.

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