Several 3rd Ward neighborhood residents urged the Eau Claire City Council on Monday to reconsider last month’s decision to build a roundabout at State Street and Roosevelt Avenue.
Three of four property owners the city intends to negotiate with to buy a portion of their lawns for the roundabout were among those who spoke against the project during Monday night’s public comment portion of the council meeting.
“It is not safe because it will bring an increased flow of traffic closer to our residences and where our children play,” said Eric Torres, owner of a home at 1716 State St. and a member of the Eau Claire school board.
He also said that noise and light from cars making their way around the roundabout will decrease the quality of life for people living at that intersection.
On March 12, the City Council voted 10-0 to approve an amended State Street project that includes a roundabout at the Roosevelt Avenue intersection.
Plans presented by city engineers had recommended keeping the existing intersection there but adding a concrete island in the middle of a section of State Street between traffic lanes to give pedestrians refuge while crossing the street.
Councilman Jeremy Gragert said during that meeting that while the roundabout will cost more, it will improve safety and slow traffic at the bottom of the State Street hill near the UW-Eau Claire campus.
Monday night was the first chance for 3rd Ward residents to reply to the decision — a March 25 council meeting was canceled due to lack of agenda items — in person to the entire council. Ten people spoke against the roundabout.
Sharon Hildebrand, who lives elsewhere in the 3rd Ward but also opposes the roundabout, asked Councilwoman Kate Beaton to hold one end of a tape measure. Hildebrand walked 13 feet backward and said that would be the distance between homes and traffic in the roundabout, based on early designs for it.
Liz Kennedy-Wiechert said she’ll no longer feel comfortable allowing her children and their friends to play in her yard at 304 Roosevelt Ave. because the roundabout will bring traffic closer.
Stacey Haslow showed a map with her home and an orange triangle highlighted on it where the proposed roundabout would take part of her lawn. As a mom of three boys, she said she’s very concerned about losing that buffer between her house and traffic.
Laura Bucholtz, who lives two blocks north of the proposed roundabout, said while roundabouts do slow down traffic, they have more crashes of lower severity.
Haslow agreed that the crashes she’s seen at the current intersection, which has stop signs on Roosevelt Avenue and through traffic on State Street, have been minor.
“The fender-benders I’ve seen out there (have been) from people watching their cellphones,” he said.
Other neighborhood members remarked that they felt blindsided at the addition of the roundabout to the project.
“I was very surprised when there was mention of the roundabout on Roosevelt,” said Sally Ronstrom, who lives on McKinley Avenue, a couple of blocks away from the proposed roundabout.
She then said she’s worried that reducing the value of the four houses at the intersection by taking parts of their lawns will have a domino effect on the neighborhood.
“Once those properties are somewhat blighted, than that blight continues,” she said.
Ronstrom suggested keeping the Roosevelt-State intersection as a two-lane road, but adding signage.
The entire State Street road construction project stretches about a mile from Garfield Avenue south to the city limits and will mostly happen this year. However, the addition of a roundabout at Roosevelt Avenue pushes that section of the project back to 2020.
A couple of 3rd Ward residents also spoke Monday night during a public hearing about UW-Eau Claire’s plans to build a two-story building on Roosevelt Avenue.
“We don’t have any problems with the visitor’s center,” said Kevin Rosenberg, chairman of the 3rd Ward Neighborhood Association.
Hildebrand did raise concerns about limiting light pollution and ensuring there’s an adequate buffer zone between it and a neighboring home.
Angi Goodwin, an Ayres Associates engineer on the project, said lights in the building’s parking lot will be on posts shorter than others on campus and new shrubs will be planted on the edge of the property to buffer it from the nearby home.
The council will vote today on a rezoning the university needs to proceed with starting construction this year on the $5.5 million, donor-funded building.
It was said they were like brothers.
“When Cary came in as a freshman, I took him under my wing,” said teammate Tim Golden, a retired Eau Claire police officer. “But I think he taught me more than I taught him.”
The two close friends would go on to write their names in bold letters and from opposite sides of the line of scrimmage in the annals of UW-Eau Claire football.
Cary Osborn, 49, died well before his time on Sunday.
“I stopped at his house Wednesday,” Golden said, “and we talked about the old times, all good.”
Golden could not say enough about Osborn.
“He was a phenomenal athlete. He gave 100 percent in everything he did,” said Golden. “He dedicated himself to everything.”
Osborn came to Eau Claire from Augusta in 1987 and helped make the Blugolds a championship contender the next four years as a running back.
He broke in as a freshman and went on to rush for 3,262 career yards, which nearly three decades later still ranks fifth on the all-time list. He also ranks second in touchdowns with 48.
“For his size, it was unbelievable how good he was,” said Geno Golden, Tim’s uncle and an assistant coach at the time. “He wasn’t that big, but he was fast and quick and tougher than heck.
“He had no fear running the ball. He could run inside or outside and when he was going to be hit, he just put his head down and bowled the defender over.”
Tim Golden, who was team MVP as a defensive nose tackle in 1989, said it took opponents a while to find out how good Osborn was.
“He was extremely undersized and extremely underestimated. But it didn’t take long for people to realize how talented he was and how tough it was to face his tenacity and will to win.”
Osborn was second team all-conference as a sophomore and first team as a junior and senior and was the Blugold captain and MVP as a senior. He played in 20 Blugold wins.
The talent was inherited and also came from a disciplined training program. Osborn and Tim stayed for a time at Geno Golden’s home lifting weights and working out together.
Cary was the son of Jim and Lynda Osborn. Jim was an outstanding passer at Augusta and later Superior State, where he was good enough to attract the attention of the pros.
At Augusta, Cary made quite a name for himself. He is one of the few athletes in Northwest Wisconsin history to make the All-Northwest first team as a basketball and football player.
Listed at 5-9 in 1987, Osborn scored 630 points as a basketball senior and ranks as one of only a handful of players to average 30 points a game in one season to this day. He had a high game of 42 and totaled 1,385 career points.
That was coming off a Beavers’ 8-3 football season that saw him rush for 1,678 yards and score 149 points with the help of his outstanding ability as a placekicker. He scored 297 points in his last two years.
But he pushed his accomplishments as an athlete aside in recent years as a proud and dedicated spectator at Regis football, basketball and baseball games in which sons Cody and Cade followed in his footsteps as standout athletes.
But he was crushed when Cody, a senior, suffered a broken leg in the first game and missed the entire 2016 football season.
It was no secret that Cary, who was involved with well-known people in successful developments and investments, struggled in recent years.
“He did everything full speed; he never slowed down,” Tim Golden said. “He didn’t know how to relax. That may have caused some issues for him.
“He had a lot of people helping him. He was in the hospital last fall but got out and was back in full health.”
Osborn will be remembered for much more than being an athlete.
“Everybody got along so well from being with him,” said Geno Golden. “He was the best friend you could ever have.”
“He had that perpetual smile on his face and was a guy everybody wanted to be around,” said Tim Golden.
Greg Kinsley of Madison says marijuana reduces gut pain and inflammation from Crohn’s disease.
If he stops using the psychoactive plant, his digestion “doesn’t work right,” said Kinsley, 55, an electronics engineering technician.
Bunny Balk of Columbus says marijuana prevents pain from fibromyalgia and controls anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. Before she started smoking marijuana, or cannabis, she was addicted to opioids prescribed by doctors, she said.
Marijuana “lets me continue my life without being in bed and looking for that next pill,” said Balk, 60, a grandmother of six and former real estate broker.
Wisconsin, which has not joined 34 states in approving medical marijuana, might be inching closer to making the move. New Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has proposed it, and a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the Republican-controlled Legislature is working on a bill.
But while Assembly Leader Robin Vos, R-Rochester, has said he’s open to the idea, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, has said he and most Senate Republicans are opposed.
Doctors, too, are divided on whether the state should authorize marijuana for therapeutic uses, as neighboring Iowa, Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota have done.
Dr. Michael Miller, a recent Wisconsin Medical Society officer and past president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, said marijuana can be addictive, isn’t better than approved drugs and is unpredictable because purity and potency vary.
Proponents are pushing legislatures to circumvent the Food and Drug Administration drug approval process for medical marijuana because they want to allow pot for any use, said Miller, a UW-Madison clinical instructor and psychiatrist with the Rock County Drug Court.
“The therapeutic use is, I think, a subterfuge,” he said. “It’s a transitional step toward legalization.”
‘Not for everyone’
Dr. Angela Janis, director of psychiatric services at UW-Madison’s University Health Services, cautions against marijuana use in childhood and adolescence, when it can affect long-term cognition and mental health.
But she said research has found considerable benefit in adults for pain, nausea and muscle spasms, and some studies suggest help for sleep disorders and neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease.
“There’s benefit, but it’s not for everything, and it’s not for everyone,” said Janis, chief medical officer of LeafLine Labs, one of two companies permitted to sell cannabis products for medical use in Minnesota.
Dr. Zorba Paster, who works at SSM Health in Oregon, said he supports medical marijuana. He brought attention five years ago to a little-used state law that already allows residents to possess marijuana with the “valid prescription or order of a practitioner.”
Paster wrote a letter saying Kinsley, one of his patients, could use marijuana for his bowel symptoms. When Baraboo police officers confiscated a small amount of pot from Kinsley’s car in 2014, Kinsley showed them the letter, which led them to forgo charges.
Paster said that after the incident he turned down numerous requests for such letters from people who weren’t his regular patients. He writes a weekly column for the Wisconsin State Journal and regularly appears on broadcast media.
“I think medical marijuana should be legalized because right now opioids kill people and marijuana does not,” he said.
Report: benefits, risks
A 2017 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine said cannabis can treat chronic pain, nausea from chemotherapy and muscle spasms from multiple sclerosis.
“But it’s not clear that it’s better than other options that are out there,” Dr. Robert Wallace, a University of Iowa health scientist who worked on the national report, said at a forum at the state Capitol last month.
The national report focused mostly on potential harms, saying cannabis use before driving increases the risk of traffic crashes. Cannabis impairs learning, memory and attention immediately after use, and likely increases the risk of psychosis, the report said.
Smoking cannabis can make respiratory problems worse, but it doesn’t appear to increase the risk of lung, head and neck cancers, as smoking tobacco does, the report said.
Some studies suggest legalized medical marijuana decreases opioid use and overdose deaths, but there’s not enough evidence to confirm the finding, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Between 9 and 30 percent of marijuana users may develop a use disorder, including addiction, the institute said. The majority of marijuana users don’t go on to use harder drugs.
Research on marijuana is limited because the federal government considers it a Schedule 1 drug, the most restrictive of drug categories, and the official supply available for studies is hard to obtain.
Wisconsin allows residents to use CBD, a non-psychoactive ingredient of marijuana, from any source if they have a doctor’s note — a requirement Evers wants to eliminate. No doctor’s note is required to possess CBD from hemp produced through a state program.
A CBD-based drug, Epidiolex, was approved by the FDA last year for two forms of severe childhood epilepsy. Two drugs containing THC, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis, are approved for nausea from chemotherapy and weight loss caused by AIDS.
Some GOP support
Voters appear to want Wisconsin to approve medical marijuana and also recreational use of cannabis. In November, in 16 counties and two municipalities, including some that typically support Republicans, voters overwhelmingly approved nonbinding advisory referendums — some to legalize medical marijuana, and others for recreational use.
In a Marquette Law School poll of Wisconsin voters in January, 59 percent of respondents said marijuana should be legal.
“The face of this debate has shifted dramatically in just the past eight to 10 years,” said Sen. Patrick Testin, R-Stevens Point.
Testin and state Rep. Mary Felzkowski, R-Irma, a cancer survivor, are working with Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, and Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, who have previously introduced a medical marijuana bill, on an updated version of the measure.
Testin said his grandfather used marijuana to ease pain and increase his appetite while dying from cancer about 20 years ago. Veterans have told him they’ve turned to cannabis to get off opioids, he said.
“It’s unfortunate that men and women who serve our country have to essentially do criminal activity to get relief,” he said.
Gary Storck, of Madison, has long used cannabis for glaucoma he developed as a child, and says it also helps with pain from arthritis and prostate cancer, which he was diagnosed with last year.
Like Kinsley and Balk, Storck has no trouble getting or using cannabis, despite Wisconsin’s lack of an approved program.
But legalization “would take away the fear factor,” said Storck, 63, who blogs at cannabadger.com.
Evers replaced Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who opposed medical marijuana. Testin has replaced another medical marijuana critic, Leah Vukmir, as chairman of the Senate health committee. That means it’s likely the medical marijuana proposal will get a hearing this legislative session, which hasn’t happened since 2009, Storck said.
“At least it will be talked about,” he said.