Living in interesting times…

Wausau Aerial - Sunday - 022

It’s been kind of a strange week. The biggest thing going is the “prayer death case” of Dale Neumann, whose daughter, Kara, died of diabetes last year. Leilani Neumann, the mother, has already been convicted in her trial. The Neumanns are religious zealots who felt that their daughter should be healed through prayer and they therefore did not seek medical attention for the condition — something that could have easily saved her if it had been done in a timely manner.

In my own mind, their insistence on pursuing their religious beliefs to the point of their daughter’s death was wrong and they need to be called to account for it, but I don’t see much value in sending them off to prison. Court supervision that would assure that the medical needs of their other children are attended to would be appropriate, but other than that, the Neumanns aren’t some kind of danger to society and prison isn’t likely to change them, either. As I write this, the jury hasn’t been able to reach a verdict. I suppose it’s even possible that Dale may walk and the reaction to that in the community would be very interesting. Regardless of the trials, there is no question that they’ve given up a lot in the course of this whole ordeal, beginning with their daughter.

Anyway, the reason I bring it up is because I ran into the Neumanns at the courthouse Monday and we ended up making some small talk, which, for some reason wasn’t nearly as weird as it probably sounds. You can believe it or not, but I think that most people would probably like them if they met them. It’s not like they’re not nice people or anything. I also kept running into Dale’s defense attorney, Jay Kronenwetter all week. I see him a lot anyway because we go to the same coffee shop. Jay is a sharp guy. He ran for mayor when he was in high school and while he didn’t really have a huge shot, it was easy to see that he was someone who was going places and I’m glad he came back to Wausau with his law degree. Working on a high-profile case like this can only be a good thing and he obviously gave the jury plenty to think about.

Tuesday, we had the big public hearing for the 400 block plan and I was surprised at how overwhelming the support was for making improvements. I really thought it would be more evenly split, but the people who are against making improvements really don’t have a great case to make. It mostly boils down to money and personal opinions. The money part has been effectively taken off the table by a consensus to proceed with private funding. For those who value expert opinions and successful models, there is not much to recommend another decade of vacant lot-dom. It would be good to get this long-standing nagging issue behind us and do what it takes to realize the true potential of this valuable public space. The plan is measured, but it will represent an extreme makeover in comparison to continuing with the do-nothing approach. It still needs to pass the council for the fundraising to begin.

Our city pool attendance is still above last year’s total to date, even though we have just completed one of the coolest months of July on record here. The first week of August doesn’t look so hot either. It’s time to think about fried green tomatoes because a lot of them won’t be turning red before the frost in September (which I’m sorry to report to you is now next month.)

The recession drags on, but the downward momentum has slowed to a crawl and it now appears that the worst is behind us. There are hopeful signs and green shoots starting to emerge. July was a very good month for people who have been waiting for some good momentum in battered 401(k) accounts. I’m starting to hear more substantial plans for development projects and when things like that are flying around with greater frequency, it’s only a matter of time before somebody breaks ground. I expect two new downtown businesses to open in the next few months that will fill a couple of currently vacant storefronts. The airport restaurant will re-open this month. Cash for Clunkers needed an infusion of cash as U.S. consumers headed back to the car lots to take advantage of the opportunity to turn in their clunkers.

Check out the canoe competition this weekend, hit the farmers market today, enjoy the concert in the garden at the historical society beginning at 6 p.m. and then enjoy the Wizard of Oz on the 400 block tonight. It might not feel like summer out there, but it’s a lot better than winter for these things, too.

JR

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