Editor’s note: The weekly “Thumbs Up-Thumbs Down” editorial offers opinions on highs and lows in the news.
THUMBS UP: Chris Kroeze had quite a run.
The Barron singer was one of the final two standing Tuesday night during the finale of “The Voice” on national TV. He finished as the runner-up, but that ever-present smile never left his face.
His good-ol’-boy style endeared him to viewers and his bromance with coach Blake Shelton made for great TV. Kroeze already has parlayed his national TV exposure to land gigs on the main stage at Country Jam and an appearance at Ashley for the Arts.
Expect more good things to happen to this likable long-haired country boy from west-central Wisconsin. He’s a true feel-good story.
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THUMBS DOWN: Hand-wringing time is about over. The Eau Claire school board has wrestled with the financial ramifications of paying retirement benefits to its employees for far too long and needs to decide how to deal with the ever-growing problem.
The unfunded liabilities for so-called other post-retirement benefits has reached $125 million. Staff members showed up at this week’s school board meeting to protest proposals for retirement cuts. After the administration recommended capping health and dental benefits for next school year, the school board voted against the idea and decided more study was needed.
Staff members rightfully are concerned about their benefits, but the status quo doesn’t get the district out of a $125 million hole. The school board has been discussing the issue for more than two years without finding a solution. Postponing the inevitable is not the answer. Tough decisions about how to reduce the unfunded liabilities need to be made, and soon.
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THUMBS UP: A portrait of a former Cadott naval aviator is the latest effort by a 95-year-old World War II veteran from Pennsylvania to honor his military comrades.
A portrait of Lt. j.g. Jerry Irwin, killed in a 1968 aircraft crash, hangs in the Wisconsin Veterans Home in Chippewa Falls this week thanks to the artwork of Alexander Yawor. Irwin’s mother, Doris, is a resident of the veterans home. Yawor painted Irwin’s portrait from a photo, the 163rd portrait he’s created of veterans.
Irwin’s portrait is a way for his family, and others at the veterans home, to ensure the veteran never is forgotten.
— Gary Johnson, editor