Man Climbs Cow Statue, Gets OWI. So What’s Our Beef?

high-BAC OWI for climbiing now? No.It began as it always does: with a citizen reporting that someone was trying to climb a cow.

It ended with an OWI and a fine of $937.50.

The cow is a statue that stands on South 10th Street in Manitowoc. Bernice is the cow’s name, and she has stood for many years in front of the Cedar Crest Dairy.

The climber is allegedly one Mike Howe (“My Cow” – get it?), an alderperson who, for some reason, is on the public safety committee in District 1. A caller reported that some people were trying to climb the cow, and after the attempt, got in a car. The driver seemed not up to the task of driving – hence the police call.

The alderperson was found to have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .168, or more than twice the legal .08 limit.

This incident raises a lot of questions:

  • Why did they want to climb a cow?
  • Why does Wisconsin not treat a drunk driving incident more seriously, given that the BAC was twice the legal limit?
  • Why did they want to climb a cow?

High-BAC OWI Offenses: An Extra Measure of Danger

We’ll take the second question first. Wisconsin does actually have a “super-drunk” law. Any offender with a BAC of .17 or more must pay a doubled fine.  A number of other states are tougher on first offenders with a high BAC. In neighboring Illinois a DUI with BAC over .16 results in 100 hours of community service. Iowa sends the offender to jail for 48 hours. Minnesota compels the offender to abstain from alcohol and submit to daily monitoring. And a good number of states, including California, Colorado, New Jersey, and Texas, order an ignition interlock.

In those states a high-BAC drunk driver is seen as a significant public danger. The ignition interlock –  a device which prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking – is a proven public safety measure.

Wisconsin lags behind other states in adopting effective, proven anti-drunk driving measures such as ignition interlocks for first-time offenders. The famous drinking culture and lax laws (a first OWI is not even a criminal offense) has led to a tolerance of drunk driving that would seem shocking in most other states. Little wonder that more than a quarter of Wisconsin adults have admitted to driving under the influence of alcohol. That’s too many.

We still don’t know why a Manitowoc alderperson wanted to climb a cow. But our real beef is with Wisconsin’s lax high-BAC OWI laws.