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Editorial: We have reasons to give thanks

This story began almost four years ago when a local four-month girl's arm was "inadvertently broken" by her father in what turned out to be a domestic abuse incident directed at the man's wife.

It ended last month when Gov. Scott Walker signed into a law a bill initiated by River Falls police investigator Chuck Golden and sponsored by state Sen. Sheila Harsdorf of River Falls. The bill adds an "aggravating factor" penalty that judges can impose on domestic violence offenders when children present are harmed -- even if injuries are accidental or unintentional.

Golden investigated the domestic case where the infant's arm was broken. It wasn't the first time he'd seen kids become unintended victims of domestic violence.

Unfortunately, the law didn't hold perpetrators accountable. Now it will.

Golden was troubled by the law's shortcoming. He bumped into Harsdorf one day, chatted with her about the issue that was troubling him, and together the pair started their efforts to broaden the law's reach to better protect the welfare of innocent children during instances of domestic abuse.

Here are two other reasons to give thanks recently:

--Our River Falls-based free health clinic serving Pierce and St. Croix counties has turned five years old. As the Journal's front page story noted last week, the free clinic has served thousands of patients, a fair number of whom work part- and full-time but don't have insurance coverage.

Even as the economy slowly recovers, the demand at the free clinic shows no signs of waning.

Many of those needing free-clinic services are middle-aged men and women. A sizable number of those have chronic diseases or conditions that have gone untreated because they can't afford to see a doctor or buy medications.

The free clinic won't erase the nation's health-care crisis. At best it's a bandage, but one that people around here should be grateful is available. Those treated by our free clinic are healthier and therefore less of a financial drain on the regular clinics and hospitals in our two counties.

--Another organization that, like the free clinic, depends on a legion of volunteers is the Kinnickinnic River Land Trust. Each year KRLT volunteers fan out along the banks of the Kinni to search for and drag away scraps of rubbish that people dump. We don't have a local landfill anymore, but some continue to use the river like one still exists.

For instance, during KRLT's April 21 cleanup, over 75 tires were collected and removed. Steel barrels, sheet metal fragments, a shopping cart and a gas mask were among the thousands of junked items purged from the river.

The Kinni is highly valued by most, but apparently not by all. Each spring KRLT's cleanup crews wipe away the vestiges of litter bugging. By doing so, they keep the river looking good and natural for the rest of us.

Online Poll: Recalls: Grin and bear it

The Journal's online poll question this week is: Are you looking forward to the upcoming recall primary and the June recall election? Results so far:

--NO, I hate them but will be forced to vote to stop the recall supporters, 73.1%

--YES, can't wait to vote to bring change and restore justice, 26.9%

--I'LL PASS, all this voting bores me, 0%

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