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Girl Scouts hold CookiePalooza


Grandparents should get out their checkbooks and make room in their freezers.

Girl Scout cookie sales begin Feb. 15, and based on what we learned at Sunday’s CookiePalooza, grandparents are the primary target market. Secondary markets include “bruthers” and “nabers,” but we’ll get to those later.

The CookiePalooza is the annual event designed to get scouts ready for the sale, explained Sara Leverton, scout leadership development specialist.

The CookiePalooza focuses on five financial literacy skills they’ll need to succeed in cookie sales: goal setting, people skills, money management, decision making and business ethics.

Angela Major 

Girl Scout Olivia Levia speaks to younger scouts about the different kinds of Girl Scout cookies at the Armory in Janesville.

Girls also learned about marketing, safety and how to talk to grownups about what they’re selling and what they hope to do with their earnings.

Many of the learning centers were run by Senior Scouts such as Elaina Jordan, 14, from Monroe Troop 3459. Elaina has been a Girl Scout for nine years, and based on the number of badges, patches and stars decorating her uniform vest, she’s made the most of her opportunities.

On Sunday, she was talking to younger scouts about goal setting.

“I usually tell them to pick a manageable goal,” Elaina said. “Some of them start by saying they want to sell 1,000 boxes. Selling 300 boxes might be a more manageable goal.”

Selling to family and friends always works, and often businesses will let you set up a table to capture customers, Jordan said.

Scouts can use their cookie bucks for prizes or to help pay for trips or summer camps. Elaina donates the money she raises from cookie sales to different causes. Last year, she donated money to help with the California wildfires. The year before that, she donated to an elephant sanctuary.

Angela Major 

Brownie Girl Scout Amaya Kundert, second from left, samples different kinds of Girl Scout cookies at the Armory in Janesville. Kundert is with troop 3241.

Gracie Driscoll, 6, wants to sell 350 boxes in order to get the “big fox,” a stuffed animal prize. Gracie already had a sparkly stuffed dragon with “Girl Scouts” emblazoned on its stomach. She held it up so that members of the media could kiss it, making journalism the only job in which you are paid by the hour to smooch stuff dragons.

Gracie has already been to sleepover camp. She claimed that she had been to camp, like, “four times,” but her mother said it was twice. Still, pretty impressive for a little kid.

“I brought my unicorn kitty,” Gracie said.

Her mother explained that this was a large, stuffed pillow.

Katie Krebs, 8, of Edgerton, wanted to sell 500 boxes. Last year she made it to 467, and that helped her earn a trip to the Kalahari Resort in the Wisconsin Dells. She went door-to-door and also sold cookies outside the Piggy Wiggly in Edgerton.

Katie is a big fan of the Caramel Delights, and so is her Opa—that’s her grandfather.

She predicts that her grandfather might buy as many as 10 boxes of cookies.

At a nearby learning center, girls wrote down on poster boards who might be willing to buy cookies. Grandfathers and grandmothers were most mentioned, although the spelling of those titles varied from “granddma” to “grampy” and everything in between.

Angela Major 

Girl Scouts make posters during the CookiePalooza on Sunday at the Armory in Janesville.

“Bruthers” appeared several times. Neighbors and their counterparts, “nabers,” were mentioned frequently, as well.

Girls can sell door-to-door, as long as a grownup is with them, Leverton said.

“It’s good for their people skills,” Leverton said. “And they learn how to respond when people say, ‘no.’”

For the older girls such as Elaina, the day was another opportunity to showcase the leadership skills they’ve learned in their years as Girl Scouts.

Elaina, already an extremely self-possessed and articulate 14-year-old, plans to go to leadership academy and would like to eventually be a camp counselor.

Her goal is to hone her skills so she can “nourish other girls” so they can become great leaders, too.

Angela Major 

Elizabeth Bravieri, right, helps Annabelle Schlegel, left, write their troop number on a poster during CookiePalooza on Sunday at the Armory in Janesville. The two girls are members of troop 7680 in Milton.

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OWI court is at capacity in Rock County


A Rock County program that keeps drunken drivers from repeating their mistakes has a problem.

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For the first time since it began in 2012, the program known as OWI court is close to its capacity of 35 participants.

“This year, we have just exploded. We are one below capacity, and we anticipate filling that one,” said county Justice System Manager Elizabeth Pohlman McQuillen, at a recent meeting of the county Criminal Justice Coordinating Council.

Officials don’t know why there’s a sudden interest in the court, which requires sobriety, backed up by therapy, drug testing and alcohol-sensing bracelets, among other requirements.

Since the Rock County OWI court began, it has had 117 participants. Results:

  • 69 graduated.
  • 33 were in the program as of Thursday.
  • 15 were dropped from the program for violating the rules.

Elizabeth Pohlman McQuillen

Pohlman McQuillen noted the program takes only people who have pleaded guilty to third-offense OWI and who have moderate to severe drug or alcohol disorder.

OWI court requires only 48 hours in jail, plus additional jail time if the OWI court judge imposes more days for rule violations. But it’s a 14-month program, which not everyone is willing to commit to.

The penalties for third-offense include jail time, but many are able to serve their time at home on a monitoring bracelet, Pohlman McQuillen said, and OWI court participants can’t avoid having the crime on their record, so there hasn’t been a great incentive to get into OWI court.

The dearth of people willing to sign up had led officials to consider expanding the court to fourth- and fifth-offense offenders, which is in early stages of discussion.

OWI court offers a variety of treatment options, depending on the person’s needs, and participants pay only $75 a month, which may be attractive to some.

“The deal is, you get the lowest penalties if go into OWI court and are successful,” Pohlman McQuillen said, but she doesn’t know why the court is suddenly more popular.

“I hope our track record of being a really good program is part of it,” she said.

An analysis of the program in November 2018 looked at criminal histories of graduates at one, two and three years after graduation.

One year out, two of 38 graduates had been convicted of a new crime, according to a program evaluation by UW-Whitewater criminology professor Paul Gregory.

At two and three years out, none of the 32 graduates had been convicted of a crime.

Intoxicated driving, which includes drivers who are drunk or drugged, is on the decline in Wisconsin.

In Rock County, the number of intoxicated-driving convictions has dropped by half since a peak in 2007, according to data provided by District Attorney David O’Leary at the recent Criminal Justice Coordinating Council meeting.

David O’Leary

It may be impossible to say exactly what is causing the decline, but O’Leary said part of the credit may be the OWI court, along with good enforcement, increases in penalties and people understanding the consequences.

OWI court still puts intoxicated drivers in jail, but participants can earn reduced sentences for following the rules, including staying sober. Officials recognize participants can fall back into alcohol or drug use, but repeated violations can result in expulsion.

The court takes offenders on a journey lasting 14 months (in earlier years, it was 18 months.). The goal is to turn participants into sober drivers, making everyone safer and reducing jail costs.

Sixteen Wisconsin counties, including Rock and Walworth, have OWI courts. Another 14 counties have a combined OWI/drug court.

O’Leary and other local criminal justice officials see the program as beneficial, so they’ve talked preliminarily about expanding it to fourth- and fifth-time offenders.

Intoxicated driving becomes a felony with the fourth offense, so avoiding incarceration would be a bigger incentive to join the program, Pohlman McQuillen said.

O’Leary estimated the court could double participation if it added the fourth- and fifth-time offenders, but the problem would be funding.

Rock Count relies on a state law that provides funding only for second- or third-offense offenders. Expansion would require a new funding source.

Grants might be available, but they likely would require matching funds, which would have to come from county taxpayers.

But keeping offenders out of jail or prison would result in a savings to taxpayers, O’Leary said.

O’Leary said legislators will from time to time propose increasing incarceration for offenders, but when they get an estimate of the cost, the idea dies.

Criminal Justice Coordinating Council Chairman Kelly Mattingly, a state public defender, predicted an expansion would encourage more to join the program.

“It’s encouraging that the (third-time offenders) are approaching capacity,” Mattingly said.

A major program cost is treatment, provided by Rock County Human Services, Pohlman-McQuillen said. This includes case managers, counseling and programs designed to change thinking known as Living in Balance and Moral Reconation Therapy.

Those who need it may also get group therapy for anger management, dealing with trauma, relapse prevention and domestic-violence problems.

Many who work in the local criminal justice system seem to believe in this carrot-and-stick approach.

“The old lock-’em-up adage does not work, and it’s not protecting public safety,” Pohlman McQuillen said. “So by addressing people’s underlying needs and getting them to change their behavior and getting them to be productive members of society, stop committing crimes and not putting the public in danger, it’s a win-win.”

In divided America, some voters tuning out impeachment trial


For all the gravity of a presidential impeachment trial, Americans don’t seem to be giving it much weight.

As House impeachment managers make their case to remove President Donald Trump from office, voters in several states said in interviews with The Associated Press that they’re only casually following the Senate trial, or avoiding it altogether—too busy to pay close attention, bored of the legal arguments, convinced the outcome is preordained or just plain tired of the whole partisan saga.

Web traffic and TV ratings tell a similar story, with public interest seeming to flag after the House voted last month to impeach a president for only the third time in U.S. history.

“I’ve been watching some really odd stuff just to avoid it,” said Kim Ashford, 50, a court-appointed advocate for foster children from Gilbert, Arizona. “In my circle, everybody’s tired of hearing about it. There’s nobody budging. Let’s just agree to disagree.”

Monica DeMarco, who voted for Trump in 2016 but doesn’t plan to do so again, said she hasn’t watched a single second of the trial, though she’s read a little about it in The New York Times.

“I want to watch something that takes me some place happy,” said DeMarco, 50, who lives near Hamburg, Pennsylvania, and works for a cargo hauler.

“What’s going to happen is going to happen and like the marching ants we are, we’ll go on,” DeMarco said. “Life’s going to go on tomorrow, the sun’s going to come up and we’re going to take care of what’s important in our lives.”

Many Americans are tuning out because they made up their minds about Trump’s impeachment months ago, said Eric Kasper, director of the Center for Constitutional Studies at UW-Eau Claire. In addition, he said, there’s little doubt about the eventual outcome—acquittal by the GOP-controlled Senate—depriving the trial of drama.

“If the story was still unwritten, so to speak, then people would still tune in even if they had personally strong feelings about how they would want it to end,” Kasper said. “It’s the fact that both of those things are the case—a lot of people have made up their minds, and it looks pretty clear what the outcome of this trial is going to be.”

Americans are sharply divided along party lines in their views on impeachment, and most say their positions are firm. Three-quarters say it’s not very likely or not at all likely that the trial will introduce new information that would change their minds, according to a poll this month from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

“I don’t think there’s any possibility of removal, said Montel Herman, 82, of Osage, Iowa, who described himself as a moderate Democrat. “I question whether this is worth it.”

Online and on TV, interest has waned since the House launched impeachment hearings into Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.

The six major networks drew about 11.8 million viewers on the first day of the Senate trial, when lawmakers debated the rules and argued over documents and witnesses.

Combined viewership plummeted to fewer than 9 million people on the trial’s second day, when House Democrats began making their argument to remove Trump from office, according to Nielsen.

By comparison, an estimated 13.8 million people watched the first day of the House impeachment hearings last fall.

“I think it matters. I think we should probably watch it,” said Lynn Jackson, 56, a library assistant from San Tan Valley, Arizona. But, she added, “I work all day, and then I get home and I’m cooking, cleaning.”

U.S. news sites have also experienced waning impeachment interest.

Around the time of the House impeachment vote last month, stories about impeachment averaged about 20 million page views each day. Last week, impeachment stories drew about 15 million page views daily, according to digital advertising and web tracking company Taboola. Google searches on impeachment have also declined since the House vote.

Interest was a little higher among some of the Democrats lining up to see their party’s presidential candidates in the early-voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire this weekend. But even those watching closely said they have little doubt the trial will end in acquittal.

“I’m a bit intrigued by it, but it’s a foregone conclusion. I had a kid sick kid last week, but that’s the only reason I watched for a while. And I fell asleep twice,” said Jeremiah Condon, a 38-year-old building contractor from Fort Dodge, Iowa, who attended a campaign event for Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg.

“It’s stunning how serious it is, and how little it seems to matter,” he said.

Up to this point, the Senate trial has featured evidence and arguments that have already been aired publicly, and it’s unclear whether senators will vote to hear from new witnesses that might heighten public interest.

“I’m not going to sit there and watch it word for word,” said Paul Faust, 69, an independent from Hamburg who voted for Trump and remains a supporter. “Every day it seems like they’re repeating the same thing over and over.”

Frank Sprague, chairman of the Claremont School Board in New Hampshire, said he’s finding impeachment interesting, but doubts most share his view.

“I think that there’s some fatigue around this,” Sprague said after an event for Democratic candidate Joe Biden. “The battle lines are drawn, the camps are where they are and some people are in intractable positions, left-right.”

Even though Dave Enslow knows how the trial will end, he said it’s still important to follow what’s happening.

“It’s a moment in history,” said Enslow, 41, who traveled to Iowa from his home in Seattle to see some of the Democratic candidates in person. “This is a big deal. ... In the political world I’m not sure it’s going to go anywhere, but it’s important.”