Beloit is the unwilling poster child for sex offender release reform.
HATS OFF TO BELOIT Police Chief David Zibolski for telling it like it is on a state plan to release a potentially dangerous sex offender from La Crosse County into the city.
"I think it's an egregious application of the law and I think it endangers our community," Zibolski told the Beloit Daily News. "This is insulting to our community."
It is all that and more.
It also is clear as day the Beloit area's legislators - Rep. Mark Spreitzer, Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, Sen. Janis Ringhand and Sen. Steven Nass - need to set aside political differences and do something about it.
HERE'S THE CONDENSED version of why Zibolski and many Beloiters feel ignored and imposed upon by the scheduled release of Steven M. Schuelke, who is set to be relocated at 2219 Euclid Ave. by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
Schuelke was convicted for crimes in 1993, 2003 and 2006 for forcing himself on multiple victims, including two under the age of 16. The property where he is to be placed in Beloit is near another home where a minor resides.
State law would not permit Schuelke to be placed there if he was classified as a "serious child sex offender."
But he's not - only because prosecutors gave him a deal to plead guilty to reduced charges.
Obviously, that deal doesn't make Schuelke any less dangerous to vulnerable individuals with whom he could come into contact. The very fact he has been convicted of multiple offenses separated by several years suggests Beloiters have good reason to worry.
LOOK, WE GET IT. People who go away to prison, in the vast majority of cases, are not going to stay there forever. That goes for sex offenders, too. Eventually, they get out and have to go somewhere.
And it's not like Beloit is off-limits territory. The community currently has more than 200 registered sex offenders living here.
But each case is different and there should be more consideration of circumstances that could create safety hazards for neighbors and citizens in a community. We believe Zibolski is right to be outraged. If not for a plea deal this particular offender would not be coming to Beloit, and neighbors would not have him to worry about.
Likewise, the heavy hand of the state is objectionable. Essentially, the state comes into a community, dumps off a problem, and tells local folks who protest, "too bad, so sad." The idea that authorities here and neighbors have no say in the matter smacks of Big Government at its worst.
BY ALL INDICATORS, Beloit is going to have to live with Steven M. Schuelke. The levers of power are in others' hands.
So we challenge the people who are supposed to be representing us in the Wisconsin Legislature. Do your job. Don't let this happen again, here or anywhere else.