The blueprint for opening Walworth County’s first domestic violence shelter in downtown Elkhorn seems almost too good to be true.
Because it is very nearly a perfect plan, watching it get stonewalled by self-serving neighbors and misguided politicians is all the more painful.
We hope the New Beginnings organization for domestic violence victims will not give up the fight. This is too important of an issue, and it is too good of an opportunity to let slip away.
As we said earlier this year, New Beginnings deserves Walworth County’s gratitude and support for putting in the time and energy necessary to make this domestic violence shelter possible. With all that went into crafting such a golden opportunity, none of us deserved what we got Aug. 19 from the Elkhorn City Council.
By a narrow 4-2 margin, the city council refused to grant a permit for the shelter to open inside a vacant former medical clinic at 20 N. Church St. The aldermen voting against the shelter — Tim Shiroda, Karel Young, Tom Myrin and Ron Dunwiddie — all did a disservice to Walworth County.
Not only did they commit a horrible blunder on this important issue, they were not even honest about it. They measured inches of pavement in a parking lot and concocted phony excuses for sabotaging New Beginnings.
Elkhorn Mayor Howie Reynolds also opposed the shelter in a plan commission recommendation that ended in a disheartening 3-3 tie.
We hope voters in Elkhorn remember this moment if the mayor and those aldermen ever get their names on a ballot again.
New Beginnings has been combating domestic violence in Walworth County for many years, currently working with about 600 victims a year. With no emergency shelter locally, the organization is forced to send survivors to Madison, Milwaukee or elsewhere to seek safe haven from their abusers.
Last year, the organization found an ideal place for Walworth County to establish its own shelter. The former medical clinic on Church Street would place domestic violence survivors in the heart of the community — figuratively and literally — surrounded by churches, social agencies, and other resources that would help in their recovery.
As an added bonus, the owners of the building, Aurora Health Care, are donating it to New Beginnings — a gift to everyone in Walworth County who cares about stopping domestic violence.
The proposal had the support of law enforcement, health care professionals, social service providers, city planners, pro-women advocates and others. Who opposed it? A handful of neighbors who — with their lawyers in tow — brazenly advanced one flimsy excuse after another for shutting domestic violence survivors out of the neighborhood.
It is maddening to see New Beginnings dealt a setback by such myopic and transparent politicking.
Maddening, but not deflating.
We urge New Beginnings and its supporters to redouble their efforts. Hire your own lawyers. Work to elect a new city council. Even remeasure the parking lot, if necessary.
Do not give up. On behalf of all current and future domestic violence victims in this county, keep fighting.
The shelter proposal on Church Street seems too good to be true, but it is not. It is just right. It is what Walworth County needs. And it is still within our grasp.
Do not let this be the end. Let it be a new beginning.