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Our Views: We back the Clinton police

A Clinton bar owner who’s also the village’s chamber of commerce president says he’s not opposed to the police enforcing drunken driving laws, but he thinks local police are being overzealous in traffic enforcement.

Sorry, Tim Pogorelski, but you can’t have it both ways.

Deterring drunken driving starts with police officers enforcing traffic laws, watching for drivers rolling through stop signs, drifting across the center line, operating with burn-out taillights. Looking the other way is akin to tolerating drunken driving, and that’s unacceptable in this age.

More than 150 people turned out for a meeting in Clinton last week about a controversy over police pulling over drivers for supposedly minor infractions. The owner of an antiques store, Steve Bailey, even claimed his business has dropped by 95 percent as a result.

From Bailey’s description, you’d think Clinton has turned into Singapore, where a person can get fined for spitting in public or a two-year prison term for selling gum.

No, Clinton hasn’t become Singapore. Rather, Clinton police officers have stopped ignoring infractions. The officers are doing their jobs, though previous laxness creates the appearance of a crackdown.

Village Board President Connie Tracy correctly summed up the situation in an interview with The Gazette: “The problem is, Clinton let things go too long. I’ve lived here all my life, and there was a time they were told, ‘Don’t pull anybody over. We don’t want to upset anybody.’”

We applaud Police Chief David Hooker for enforcing the law, though it feels odd to single out a police chief for doing his job. Hooker has acknowledged enforcement was lax in previous years, and younger officers who replaced retirees are no longer turning the other way. That we feel a need to defend Hooker and these new officers speaks to the absurdity of the complaints against them. Pogorelski, Bailey and others seem to have naive notions about how law enforcement should operate.

According to Hooker, the number of intoxicated driving arrests have risen from 12 last year to 18 so far this year. Even fewer arrests were made in previous years, and therein lies Pogorelski’s problem. He might deny his criticism is about drunken driving arrests, but who is this bar owner kidding? Of course this about drunken driving arrests and the likelihood that some of Pogorelski’s patrons either don’t visit his bar now or don’t drink as much as they might have during the days of lax enforcement.

Bars are in the business of selling intoxicating beverages, and it only takes a few drinks for a person to be driving with blood-alcohol levels above the legal limit. This dilemma extends far beyond the village of Clinton. Every city, town and village is grappling with a seismic shift in the public’s attitude toward drunken driving. We’ve experienced too many deaths and have seen too many lives destroyed because too many people have decided to drive under the influence.

Last week, for example, came the story of a Footville man arrested on suspicion of his eighth drunken-driving offense 19 years after injuring a local man in a drunken-driving crash.

While we empathize with bar owners struggling to figure out how to operate in an age of increasing intolerance toward drunken driving, we contend that state and local governments must work to combat drunken driving.

Someday, we suspect, people will look back at these times and wonder in bewilderment: How is it possible that someone could rack up eight drunken-driving arrests? How is it possible that we permitted such egregious assaults on public safety?

Hooker and his force in Clinton have the right approach to law enforcement. They represent a safer future, while Pogorelski and his allies belong to the past.

Cyr: Examining history is vital to the Confederate monument debate

Symbols of the Confederate States of America have emerged as contemporary political targets, and the word “target” in this case has at least two meanings—a topic of intense debate and the focus of despicable violence. In Charlottesville, Va., the local council voted to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from a public park. Opponents of the decision went to court and secured a six-month delay in the move.

The standoff has made the particular monument a symbol for both supporters and opponents of the political-social activist goal of taking down statues honoring Confederate leaders. As usual, the mass media guarantee national and international attention to what began as a local event, feeding as well as highlighting developments.

On Aug. 12 in Charlottesville, a car drove into a crowd protesting a pro-statue rally that included white nationalists and other fringe groups. The driver killed young civil rights activist Heather Heyer and injured 19 others, some seriously. Violence has punctuated the ongoing opposing demonstrations in Charlottesville and elsewhere.

This is a controversy rooted in history, though there is precious little calm and serious discussion of the genesis in today’s dangerous conflict, or even of the creation of the Confederate statues. In our contemporary environment of nonstop “news” and associated speculative talk, driven relentlessly by profit concerns, serious analysis is more important than ever.

This is particularly the case since the historical issues are profound, including first and foremost the issue of slavery. Distinguished Princeton University historian James McPherson wrote an essay on the causes of the war, which cost more than 600,000 lives. “Southern Comfort” appeared in The New York Review of Books April 12, 2001.

McPherson begins by quoting President Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address in early 1865, which included the statement that slavery “was, somehow, the cause of the war.”

When the war began, Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Vice President Alexander Stephens and other secession leaders had publicly declared maintaining slavery was paramount among incentives, but after the war, this changed.

The rights and sovereignty of individual states, a main sticking point for the framers of the U.S. Constitution, suddenly became central reasons for trying to leave the Union.

Mythical alternative history termed “The Lost Cause” took hold. During this period, statues honoring the Confederacy emerged. The Charlottesville statue of Lee appeared in 1924.

Ironically, Lee strongly opposed such monuments. As Chris Boyette of CNN and others point out, he felt the symbols “keep open the sores of war.”

Even more important, Lee was crucial in ending the Civil War. When federal cavalry trapped his retreating army, there was strong sentiment for disbanding and carrying on a guerrilla war. That would have maintained fighting for many years, conceivably into our own time.

Lee rejected the option as dishonorable.

Arthur I. Cyr

Sound Off for Sunday, Aug. 27

On Aug. 20 story about vacant buildings in downtown Janesville: No wonder businessmen are not interested in moving into downtown offices when, as the article says, Economic Development Director Gale Price said it would cost around $300,000 to update one particular building. We don’t have that kind of money to invest.

So we have a downtown full of vacant buildings and a city council willing to spend millions to revitalize it, and yet everyone is seriously considering putting a bar into a residential neighborhood (at 2100 E. Milwaukee St.), where the neighbors don’t want it. Come on, licensing committee and city council. This is a no-brainer. Vote no.

Thank God that they did the two-way Milwaukee Street. That really helped save the downtown Janesville, or did it?

On removing the Monterey Dam: This is concerning the Aqua Jays. Will taking out the Monterey Dam harm them in their championship?

On Tuesday photograph, Page 8A: Did anyone share my alarm at seeing the charming picture of two 9-year-olds gazing up at the eclipse? Where were the protective glasses? The Gazette in choosing to publish the picture at least should have pointed out the danger, and I feel even the photographer bears some culpability.

On Wednesday editorial: OMG, I was so shocked I could hardly believe it. The Gazette in its editorial today finally joins the vast majority of us in being ‘sick of Ryan’s talking points on health care.’ Welcome to reality and congratulations.

On Aug. 20 Sound Off caller complaining about man’s dogs: Can you not show compassion for another human being? The man in the motorized wheelchair who is taking his two dogs for a walk is going out to get fresh air and getting maybe his only friends out of the house. You can’t take two seconds to help him out? Help him out and his friends.

On divisive politics: I would just like to ask all these people, left and right, who are calling names: What good does that do for our country? Our country needs to be united and stand up against this hate that has come out of the shadows. We have to stand together as one people to fight this hate.

If we’re going to rally against those who discriminate like the neo-Nazis or the white supremacists, why do we allow official sport teams like the Washington Redskins to keep their names? This is the ultimate insult to our Native Americans.

On removing Confederate monuments: There’s one overriding issue here, and that is the fact that these statues pay tribute to traitors. The rebels of the Confederacy were a group of individuals who took up arms against the United States of America. To pretend that they were American soldiers who deserve recognition is just plain wrong. For the period of time that they were killing U.S. soldiers, they were not Americans. They do not deserve recognition. They never have deserved recognition.

This has to do with people knocking down statues of just about anything that doesn’t please them. I’m sure God is probably looking down on us and thinking, ‘Well, maybe I should eliminate the human race because they have turned into a total disgrace.’

On former Janesville School District Superintendent Karen Schulte: The Aug. 21 Gazette contains minutes of the July Blackhawk Technical College District Board meeting. Karen Schulte is still on the board. Wouldn’t all be better served if new Superintendent Steve Pophal was on the Blackhawk Tech board?

On Walworth County Food Pantry: A heartfelt thank you to Susan and John Hughes for taking over operation of the Walworth County Food Pantry. They are marvelous people to do this, and there is such a great need. Anyone could wind up needing help from a food pantry if they are having a life crisis. These people are truly wonderful.

On early-bird education: Such a happy story (Thursday, Page 1A) to read about the Janesville school teachers going into students’ homes before the new school year begins. Also, congrats to Parker High School for celebrating its 50th year. Janesville does a great job maintaining and remodeling their facilities, making us proud.