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Editorial: Speak up and give thanks

Thanksgiving Day is upon us. Traditions and bountiful feasts aside, Americans dedicate this day to thanking God for what is good here.

We place prominently on that long list our guaranteed freedoms — especially this year the freedom of speech, including the freedom to hold tough conversations publicly.

Consider recent weeks' multitudinous headlines and social media posts about sexual harassment allegations involving everyone from icons to national and even regional leaders. No one really wants to talk about this, yet we're thankful that the massive outpouring of women's stories may at last bring a stop to something that the powerful in society ignored and condoned.

We also appreciate how local citizens continue to speak up in our communities. By raising their voices, they help to improve government.

When people champion a civic project, challenge a proposal or raise a new idea, they are exercising an ability to improve where and how they live — something people in most nations only dream of doing.

In River Falls, we have sparring factions on "freeing" the Kinnickinnic River. One side wants to remove two dams and the impoundments they say are damaging not only the Class A trout population, but possibilities for a beautiful downtown river corridor. The other wants to leave the dams in place, although both sides seem to agree revamping the river's downtown shores is a must. Nonetheless, healthy debates are taking place in person, in print and online.

In St. Croix County, citizens are helping lead the fight to protect drinking water. The process began at the county government level but the manure leak/spill at Emerald Sky Dairy ignited citizen involvement. Thanks to everyone's input, improved data-gathering, transparency and weighing current farming and environmental regulations led to the Water Quality Study Group recommendations being overwhelmingly approved by the St. Croix County Board this fall.

The Ellsworth School Board voted to reconsider demolishing Prairieview Elementary School. That fight is far from over, but citizens on both sides of the issue should appreciate that our free, representative system of government is working thanks to citizen involvement.

Also in Pierce, if it weren't for freedom of speech and open records, Bay City folks and those beyond might never have heard of an ongoing eminent domain land dispute between village citizen David Meixner and the Village Board that has not only spurred legislation and court action, but people to become informed on what their local governments are up to.

Yes, we are thankful for free speech.

As you gather around the table, give thanks for all that's good. Be thankful, too, that we have the right to exercise our freedoms and, in so doing, strive to make things better.