Two roads diverged
Fitchburg residents Bill McCarthy and Ted Collins' proposal that the state Department of Transportation create a southwest reliever along Highways M and 14 in lieu of DOT's eight lanes of pavement for Verona Road is worth considering ('An Alternative to Beltline Gridlock,' 11/10/06).
Not only would it separate the heavy truck traffic from the automotive traffic, but also move traffic further out from the city, so fewer people would be affected by roadside dust, exhaust emissions and noise.
The only problem is that neither their plan nor the DOT's proposal does anything about accommodating the increasing traffic on the Beltline east of Park Street. The levels from Park Street to I-90, across the Upper Mud Lake marsh and further east, are already at peak capacity much of the day.
Overall, DOT estimates that the number of vehicle miles traveled in Dane County in 2003 was 4.8 billion, up from 3 billion 1990 ' a 60% increase. Dane County's population, in contrast, grew by 22% during that same period.
Thus, the number of vehicle miles traveled per year in Dane County increased nearly three times the rate of Dane County's population. The road builders and DOT would have us believe that the only thing left to do is expand the capacity of highways to accommodate more commuters. But there's a limit that any given geographical area can safely assimilate.
In my opinion, that limit was exceeded in 1990. Since then, air quality has been worsening in the Madison area, noise levels have gone up, and traffic safety problems have increased.
Yet the DOT still plans to spend more than $200 million to expand Verona Road on Madison's west side, to add two more lanes to the West Beltline between Mineral Point Road and Verona Road, and to increase the number of Beltline interchanges on the west side.
Fortunately, alternatives do exist. McCarthy and Collins' proposal should be coupled with a program that will financially reward individuals and families in Dane County who put significantly fewer miles on their vehicles than the state average of 10,900 vehicle miles traveled per person each year.
Your article on charter schools discussed the very real need for families to have different styles of educational experiences available to their sons and daughters ('Chartering Change,' 11/10/06). The local school system offers an excellent alternative with Shabazz High School. Another alternative founded two years ago by several parents, educators and counselors is Horizon High School.
Horizon provides a small, intimate learning environment where the needs of the whole person are considered. Students have daily group counseling sessions, and there is a focus on life skills. The impetus for the school was the problem that some parents faced after their kids had returned from drug/alcohol rehab programs. These kids had acquired a level of sobriety, but fell back into negative behaviors when they returned to their old school.
I'm sorry if this shocks people, but our high schools are full of drugs. Take it from a parent whose son has 'been there, done that.' Not all kids are using drugs (but most are drinking alcohol), and those kids with academic, social or psychological difficulties easily make friends in the 'drug crowd' and can quickly spiral downward.
Horizon works well both for kids who are trying to stay clean, as well as for kids who need a smaller learning environment 'where everyone knows your name.' We need more small educational environments where young people can feel they matter and are not anonymous faces in a huge institution.
John Fournell, President Horizon High School www.horizons.org
What's the problem?
Re: the Watchdog column dealing with a mentally impaired individual who had been employed to make photocopies for the Wisconsin Disability Determination Bureau ('Work Made Man Freer,' 11/24/06). Most of the column dealt with how well the work had gone and how well he was liked.
The 11th paragraph has one line that gets to the meat of the matter: The photocopying job had been made obsolete by new paperless systems, and there really weren't any other tasks to do except 'make-work' chores.
So the job had become obsolete. I guess that's why the successful program got shut down. One draws the inference that Bill Lueders would also have hotly disapproved of terminating the old lamplighters on the advent of electric bulbs.
'Work Made Man Freer' is a sad story. I was glad to see Isthmus calling attention to the dilemma of the mentally ill not receiving necessary work programs in our community.
Employment is therapeutic; it provides structure to the day. Funding sources need to reevaluate their programs. Supported work programs should be at the top of their list, not at the bottom. Sheltered workshops are not the answer.
Stories like Howie's are needed. With so much stigma attached to mental illness, I commend Howie for telling the story of his lost job.
Janet E. Woider
You kids get outta my yard!
It's not hard to find things to love about Madison, but I wouldn't count 'students' as one of them ('150 Things We Love About Madison,' 11/24/06). If you live and work downtown, students are best known as the people who leave vomit all over the sidewalks, vandalize property for kicks, and threaten life and limb with those goddamned scooters.
Obviously, I'm not talking about all students. Most are reasonably well behaved. But the damage done by a few ' the ones roaming the streets at bar time, who have no stake in the community and take no responsibility for their actions ' outweighs the positive aspects of all that 'new blood.'
I commend Police Chief Noble Wray and Ald. Austin King for their efforts to help Patty heal from her ordeals with the legal system. I hope an apology, $35,000, and acknowledgment that our city and courts failed her help her to put these events behind her.
I have just finished reading Bill Lueders' book Cry Rape, and I recall his Isthmus articles over the years that likewise cried out that injustice was likely loose in our system. There is no doubt in my mind that Bill's efforts resulted in whatever relief Patty will achieve.