A fire last week at a townhouse rental displaced a mother and her two kids. The cause appears to be a burning bedroom candle. The woman was using a candle because her power had been shut off. Without power, the hard-wired smoke alarms didn’t sound. The woman was hospitalized for smoke inhalation but the kids weren’t hurt. For newer buildings, shutting off power for unpaid utility bills means shutting off hard-wired alarms. That’s a tragedy waiting to happen. It’s probably a rare situation but one that should be addressed.River Falls has some taggers on the loose. To label these vandals “graffiti artists” gives them too much credence. They destroy private property and make downtown brick- and metalwork look like an urban rail yard. Keep your eyes open. When you spot something suspicious, stop, study the situation and, if warranted, call police. Consider how you’d feel if someone were painting gibberish on your garage door or mailbox. It’s senseless vandalism. It can be controlled by citizen vigilance.Planning for a new City Hall moves forward. Opposition from various citizens and a petition with more than a thousand signatures demanding a referendum on the project continue. The Journal has supported building a new City Hall because the old one is cramped, has roof leaks and other functional shortcomings. Having said that, it’s clear the city did a poor job of getting the message out. Last year’s public informational meetings on the upcoming East Cascade Avenue renovation project were well publicized and attended. A few public forums explaining the need for a new City Hall and having some Q&A sessions might have been equally helpful.On the other hand, city leaders seemed to have learned a lesson from last summer’s drought — and from the summer before. They are set to establish water-use restrictions for this summer before things dry up and a well runs low. The new law is sensible advanced planning that encourages a good conservation practice.Step outside most any evening in River Falls and chances are you’ll hear the ping of ball vs. bat. Youth baseball is alive and well as various teams compete with those from surrounding towns. Volunteers recently spent a chilly Saturday morning purging dandelions from the infield at the Kinnickinnic Town Field — the newest local ball diamond. Last Tuesday night a 13-year-old River Falls team christened the field with a win over a Hastings, Minn., team. Evening games look like a scene from a Norman Rockwell painting. If you’re in the mood for baseball next weekend, River Falls will play host to a 48-team tournament, Friday through Sunday, with games at Hoffman Park, and at the middle and high schools.Better than a garage sale? That’s what some claim about the bargains found at the thrifty FISH store in the Ingram Center, soon to go out of business. This week and next, the bargains get more tempting. Every item is marked for a quarter! Hours are 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Stop in at the corner of Maple and Lewis streets for clothing, books, games, tools and assorted household items while they last.The late-night, pedestrian bridge knifing that seriously wounded a Hudson man is a reminder that even in River Falls crime happens. It’s another reason police have installed two surveillance cameras covering Main Street and the Riverwalk alley behind so that such acts can be captured on video. Unfortunately, the alley camera aimed at the alley behind Veterans Park wasn’t recording properly during the stabbing. Officers, however, got surveillance video from inside a Main Street bar to help identify the suspect who is now charged with attempted murder. Technology rules.Even in a bad economy with rising fuel prices, River Falls residents remain environmentally committed, though it costs them extra. How else to explain, for the third time in four years, the city’s top 10 national ranking for investing in renewable energy? More local households and businesses are buying renewable energy blocks. Each block adds $3 to monthly utility bills but the money is used to invest in wind turbines, biogas and water power. We know it’s important to reduce dependency on fossil fuels. Renewal energy blocks are one of many small steps in that direction.School Superintendent Boyd McLarty’s leadership and foresight will be missed. School district deficits in the late 1990s often appeared of the blue — literally. No one could explain them. No one was prepared. Last week the school board passed $235,000 in cuts for next year because forecasting figures changed the outlook. Outlook is the key word. The cuts are made before the new budget is even passed. That’s foresight. That’s because of McLarty, the sheriff brought in to bring budget law-and-order to River Falls. In retirement he rides into the western sunset having done so.
ri er, falls, opinion, editorial
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