Thumbs up to approval of rental housing plan. A plan to build 115 apartments near the intersection of Woodman Road and Mount Zion Avenue cleared the plan commission last week and heads to the city council for final approval. As many Janesville residents know, the rental market is extremely tight, and a dearth of housing projects over the past 10 years is largely to blame. In some cases, not-in-backyard protests have prevented proposals from coming to fruition. Kudos to the neighbors of this proposed development, called Diamond Ridge, for not turning up their noses at the idea of living near apartments. They've been mostly receptive and did not try to stop the plan commission from approving the project.
Thumbs up to the House of Mercy shelter. A growing number of families are struggling to find a place to live, and the shelter responded last week by increasing the maximum stay there from 30 to 60 days. Five families were nearing their 30-day limit when the House of Mercy agreed to extend their stay. The situation is dire because one of Janesville's largest charities, ECHO, has stopped issuing hotel vouchers. ECHO has run out money for vouchers, Executive Director Karen Lisser told The Gazette last week. Janesville needs other groups to step up as the House of Mercy has done. Ask yourself: Is there something more I can do to help the homeless?
Thumbs down to HIPAA paranoia. The Rock County Health Department recently put out an urgent message, warning people a dangerous batch of fentanyl-laced heroin is circulating in the community. But oddly, Rock County epidemiologist Nick Zupan wouldn't tell the public how many people had overdosed from the tainted drugs. He claimed a provision of the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act prohibited the release of this statistic. Huh? HIPAA includes provisions to protect the identities of patients, but The Gazette didn't ask for names or any other identifying information. County officials believe they did the right thing in withholding the numbers, but it defies common sense to think that telling the public how many people overdosed could expose their identities.
Thumbs down to U.S. travel warnings. Amnesty International and two foreign countries issued travel warnings for the U.S. in wake of mass shootings in Ohio and Texas. These groups are more interested in making a political statement than they are giving travelers practical advice. Amnesty International advises travelers to "avoid places where large numbers of people gather, especially cultural events, places of worship, schools and shopping malls.” Warnings like this only serve to confuse people and fuel misconceptions. The truth is, people are much more likely to die in a vehicle crash. The National Safety Council puts the lifetime odds of dying in a crash at 1 in 103 and mass shooting at 1 in 11,125.