Our Views: Thumbs up/down for Monday, Dec. 11

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Monday, December 11, 2017

Thumbs up to SHINE sticking to timelines. The company deserves credit for the progress it’s making on constructing a prototype facility on Highway 51 in Janesville. SHINE had envisioned opening a manufacturing plant years ago but has repeatedly delayed the project. Skepticism mounted when the company pitched a new plan this year to first construct a prototype, prompting the city council to provide an additional $1.5 million in tax incentives. We’ve questioned whether enough investor interest for this project exists and whether the city might be better off directing tax incentives elsewhere. But SHINE officials say they expect the prototype to open next year, and so there’s hope for a future manufacturing plant.

Thumbs up to Hedberg Public Library. Predictions that libraries would become irrelevant in the digital age are proving misguided. Libraries have embraced digital content, most recently by upgrading their catalogs to include both digital and paper publications. As a result of switching to a new system, the Hedberg library plans to more than double the number of items available for checkout, from 750,000 to 2.1 million items. Patrons will be able to use their library cards at 28 libraries in Rock, Walworth, Racine and Kenosha counties. Meanwhile, Hedberg Public Library remains a popular gathering spot for children and adults, demonstrating digital devices haven’t replaced people’s need for human interactions. The new catalog system is further validation of the library’s importance, giving the community another reason to support the library’s $2.8 million remodeling project.

Thumbs down to secret, taxpayer-financed settlements. Revelations that taxpayers coughed up $75,000 to settle a sexual harassment and discrimination claim against a former state senator shows once again why the Legislature should release harassment-related documents. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel also reported last week three other sexual-harassment complaints in the Legislature have been filed in the past decade. But both Assembly and Senate leaders have refused to release complaints or investigations, arguing doing so could reveal the victims’ identities. But as we and many others have pointed out, the Legislature can redact the names of victims and other information that might reveal their identities. Ongoing efforts to keep secret sexual misconduct is a disservice to voters, who deserve to know whether their representatives have engaged in immoral or unethical, perhaps even criminal, behavior.

Thumbs down to few people attending Medicaid hearing. First off, kudos to the few people who attended a hearing in Janesville on a waiver that allows Wisconsin to administer its version of Medicaid instead of implementing a federal expansion plan. Given the large number of people affected by health care and the high poverty rates in this area, one might have expected greater interest in attending this hearing, one of only two in the state. (The public can submit comments via email at wisconsin1115clawaiver@dhs.wisconsin.gov until Jan. 4.) Wisconsin’s Medicaid program cost $8.6 billion last year, and state taxpayers picked up about one-third of the bill. Medicaid’s share of the state budget has grown steadily over the years, while health care will remain a major issue in next year’s elections. Whether you’re for or against Medicaid’s expansion, it’s important to stay engaged and let officials know where you stand on the issue.

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