Thumbs up/down for Monday, Dec. 23, 2013

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Monday, December 23, 2013

Thumbs up to Ed Sokolowski’s lifetime of service. It’s rare these days that people stay dedicated to a cause for a decade or more. Imagine, then, how this man not only supported but helped lead the Walworth County Fair for almost 30 years. Sokolowski, a Vietnam veteran, died Dec. 15 after a sudden heart attack. He started his lifelong passion for the fair in 1957 when he started showing animals from his family’s dairy farm near East Troy. This kind and compassionate man was elected treasurer of the fair board in 1983 and held that spot until being elected president in 2004—a role he maintained until the end. Susan Pruessing, county fair manager, said Sokolowski loved children and never missed a day of the fair in the past 30 years. That’s dedication—a commitment that will be missed.

Thumbs up to Edgerton businessman Dan Rinehart. As Rock County rebuilds its economy in this post-General Motors era, people such as Rinehart are risking their financial futures to help us move forward. As The Gazette detailed last week, Rinehart in 2012 finished restoring a two-story tobacco warehouse just west of downtown Edgerton into two-bedroom apartments. Instead of falling so far into disrepair that it would be demolished, the warehouse is full of residents. Now, Rinehart is months away from finishing a revitalization of a second tobacco warehouse, this one three stories, into studio and three-bedroom apartments. The larger apartments will include open lofts, and he’s trying to retain as many original features as he can. Yes, city tax incentives are helping Rinehart, but the value is threefold: He’s saving historic buildings, remaking them into something useful and boosting the city’s tax base.

Thumbs down to declining health in Wisconsin. Hey, you over there. That’s right—you who’s about to down a second serving of those Christmas treats. Didn’t you catch the news? Wisconsin experienced the biggest decline of any state in the 2013 America’s Health Rankings. Wisconsinites fared worse in several categories, including a 7.2 percent increase in the proportion of adults who are obese. Thirty percent of us are obese. We have low per capita public health funding, a bad habit of binge drinking and a high rate of infectious diseases.  None of these measures is a reason to toast this holiday season. Instead, we need more education and self-control. Also, when the next temptation is as close as the next holiday buffet table, remember: Everything in moderation.

Thumbs up to Janesville’s Bird City designation. A state organization has awarded Janesville this label. It’s fitting in this “City of Parks” and given Janesville’s 15 miles of greenbelt. To get and retain this designation comes with responsibilities, however. These include striving to improve habitat, managing our urban forest and reducing bird deaths caused by windows or roaming cats. Many residents let their cats wander off their yards—in violation of city ordinance—and stake out birds. Deserving credit are a handful of residents including Neil Deupree and Ryan Stahl and 10 local conservation groups that teamed up to achieve the Bird City label. They’re organizing a festival May 10, International Migratory Bird Day. It will include a bird walk and education. Organizers hope to get more volunteers to nurture Janesville’s feathered friends. Scouts and other youth groups could do so. Many people love watching and feeding birds. If you’re among them, consider stepping forward. Contact Deupree at deupreen@charter.net or 608-752-8342 or Stahl at ryan_stahl@yahoo.com or 608-921-2537.

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