Drive Sober campaign no more in Mondovi, but issues remain

 

My goal has and always will be that the public needs to be aware of what goes on at the City Council meetings, and transparency is crucial in keeping it all honest. Forgive me if I refer to this town as mine, or I use the word “we,” but I am only referring to the town that I call home.

I have an opinion, just as everyone in this town should, on issues that affect all of us. I also feel that if you feel strongly about an issue you should be willing to stand up for what you believe. Lots of discussion takes place during the Council meetings and these meetings are taped. I would again ask citizens to come to these meetings and hear firsthand what is being said.

I am at the meetings; I have listened; I have commented; I have taken notes; I have learned a lot.  I will be the first to admit that I do not agree or like everything that goes on, BUT I attend the meetings and stay informed.

The most recent meeting was an emergency meeting called by councilman Dave Holden to discuss the Drive Sober grant that our police department was involved in. With only 24 hours notice on this emergency meeting, I feel that the majority of citizens had no idea this meeting was taking place and therefore could not attend. It was brought up that our town is being divided. I agree, but I also believe that there will always be controversy, and any time difficult decisions are made, there are going to be conflicting sides. But that doesn’t mean that everyone should just sit back and ignore issues that might cause controversy.

Social media was blamed for some of that division. Yes, social media is a source that people can voice anything they want... and lots of people can read it, and some of the comments do not remain respectful. But, social media is also a way to get information to people very quickly. It is the modern tool for communication. For instance, when an emergency meeting is held, and the public has no idea that it is going on, it can be used to quickly get the word out. Putting an ad in the local paper doesn’t do any good at that point. People should be mature and respectful when using social media, but the morals and standards of each individual cannot be controlled.

The current issue with the Drive Sober grant being retracted by the Council is obviously a very hot topic. It is over. The Council voted 4-3 to end it after hearing complaints by local bars and business owners. Go to the state of Wisconsin website, and read the details of the Drive Sober program, and the goals. Their goal is to end all alcohol related fatalities. Saving lives is the ultimate goal.

An argument was that only two OWIs were issued in 80 hours of overtime. But consider this—if people avoided drinking and driving because they knew police would be watching for it, that is the deterrence the grant is after. There are no statistics to show how many accidents or fatalities were PREVENTED because people chose to not take the chance of getting pulled over, so they stayed away.

It is unfortunate that this seemed to have a direct financial hit to the bars, but again, it wasn’t just Mondovi. This is a state and national campaign. The Mondovi Police Department laid out all the details of the grant at a meeting in September, and the Council voted unanimously to accept and participate in the grant.

If seeing an increase of traffic stops deters people from getting in their car after they have been drinking, then it is working. I personally have had several people very close to me that have been victims of accidents involving drunk drivers. I personally feel if the grant program prevents  even ONE accident or fatality, it is worth it.

I believe that if you are not breaking the law, you should not be concerned if there is an extra officer patrolling. I have a hard time considering one extra patrol car a show of force. I find it sad if people really choose to not come to a town and do business because they have a police force willing to pull people over. Our bar owners stated that they can arrange for rides if anyone needs one. Come and support the bars, be responsible, don’t break the law, and there should be no problem. But, that wasn’t enough for their customers apparently. It was made clear that the bars and business owners felt that our police presence was keeping customers away. 

As for the constant argument of people being harassed and pulled over for simply walking out of a bar, I think everyone—especially the police department—would like anyone to come forward that this really happened to. Several interviews have since been on TV and in newspapers, and Officer Smith has repeatedly stated that people were not pulled over for no reason. PLEASE come forward if you in fact had this happen to you. Expired license, tail light out, rolling a stop....these are all breaking the law, so that is a reason to get pulled over, like it or not.

Beth Kraft had some great points in her editorial last week about our town finding solutions for the good of the community. I don’t believe anyone’s intention is to divide the town, and I in no way want our bars or restaurants to go out of business. I don’t honestly think that is anyone’s wish. We do need to come together and keep our town thriving.

Keeping our city thriving and running efficiently and keeping our citizens safe is the big picture. But, I would ask all of you a simple question: Was taking away a grant for a Drive Sober campaign the answer? 

 

Lori Falkner

Mondovi

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