Thumbs up/down for Monday, Aug. 19, 2013
Thumbs up to a park honoring Edgerton's Pauline Jacobus. Next year, a vacant half acre next to the Edgerton City Hall could be landscaped to pay tribute to Jacobus, who became a nationally known pottery artist. Pauline Pottery moved from Chicago to Edgerton for its quality clay in 1888. The company employed up to 40 people before a nationwide financial panic doomed it. Jacobus, known for her floral decorations, continued her craft in a home studio until fire struck in 1911. Plans for turning the lot on the corner of Fulton and Albion streets into Pottery Plaza include pottery-themed sculptures, stone walkways and earthen mounds looking like clay globs that flew off a potter's wheel. Residents have voiced support for the idea. Preliminary cost estimates are $150,000, much of which would be paid through fundraising and donated materials and labor. The city could invest some money from a tax increment financing district. This public-private partnership sounds like a great way to build a plaza that would reflect a key piece of the city's heritage.
Thumbs down to less disclosure on campaign donations. Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, has proposed legislation that would decimate Wisconsin's campaign finance disclosure laws. Now, anyone giving $100 must disclose his or her job and employer. Grothman's plan would raise that minimum to $500, though the Legislature wisely ignored a plan during the last session to raise the threshold to $250. The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign points out that 96 percent of the 860,000 donations in its database are for $500 or less. Grothman previously argued the law should no longer require disclosure of employers after union-led boycotts of businesses whose executives supported Gov. Walker. Yet a prominent businessman was caught funneling more than $60,000 to Walker through his employees. Having those workers disclose their employer helped investigators build their case. Our elections need more transparency and disclosure, not less.
Thumbs up to adding a town of Beloit police officer. Police Chief Steve Kopp will request another officer during 2014 budget discussions. He points to calls for service increasing 17.6 percent from 2010 to 2012 and says this year's are up 8 percent compared to the 2012 pace. The department has nine full-time and four part-time officers, as it had when Kopp was hired in 2011. An extra officer would help during domestic disturbances and other calls when backup is desirable. It would reduce the town's reliance on Rock County deputies or city of Beloit police for aid. Another officer would also help reduce overtime—now budgeted at $91,000—and the number of times when just one officer is on duty. Public safety should be a priority, and so should the safety of police officers. Kopp's numbers suggest his proposal has merit.
Thumbs up to Don Bolton and VFW Post 1621. Bolton is commander of Janesville's Veterans of Foreign Wars post and its Ladies Auxiliary. He has led them to worthy recognition. The post and auxiliary received the VFW's Outstanding Community Service Post Award at the national VFW convention, and Bolton earned All-American Post Commander honors. The post helps military families and veterans and provides honor guards during veterans' funerals. Bolton's honor isn't surprising given that he has signed up 107 members, more than anyone else in Wisconsin, and helped boost Post 1621's membership to 864, also tops in the state. Bolton approaches anyone wearing military clothing or displaying a bumper sticker and simply uses the VFW motto of “veterans helping veterans.” That's commendable given that many veterans struggle when returning to civilian life and too often deal with post-traumatic stress disorder, disabilities, substance abuse, joblessness and homelessness.