Thumbs up/down for Monday, July 29, 2013

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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Thumbs up to the Mercy Regional EMS Training Center. Janesville's Mercy Health System is investing $1.2 million in the center, which will be completed this year and housed in the former Dean Riverview Clinic building that Mercy bought. The center will be almost triple the size of the former one, which was in the basement of Mercy's cancer center. Coupled with more instructors, it should double the number of paramedics the center can train. Also important, the expansion will offer more opportunities to simulate realistic rescues like those paramedics will experience on the job. New training options through Mercy and Blackhawk Technical College should reach a bigger demographic of students. At a time when fire departments and private emergency medical services will be pressed to fill job openings, and the role of paramedics is expanding into home-based care, Mercy's investment deserves applause.

Thumbs down to the state's delays in financial transparency. The 2011 state budget mandated an expenditure disclosure website called OpenBook Wisconsin, overseen by the Department of Administration. Don't look for it online; it's not there. As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported, a January 2012 letter from department Secretary Mike Huebsch said to expect the launch around the end of last year. Word came in February that the program would start by the end of that month. In March, Huebsch issued a news release boasting of a spring launch. Now, officials aren't even giving a new goal. No wonder Wisconsin was one of just five states earning an “F” for transparency from the U.S. Public Interest Group. Wisconsin's Contract Sunshine lists some spending, but critics say it's incomplete, hard to use and contains much less information than OpenBook, designed to list any agency spending of more than $100. Huebsch has blamed “aged and disparate” systems with making the launch difficult. Whatever the problems, the delays give the public no confidence. Imagine what would happen if a local government failed to follow a state mandate.

Thumbs up to the Summer Saunters program. The summer program involving students in Janesville and five other Wisconsin districts is another one of those that nudges kids off the couch, away from their electronic gadgets and out the door to discover all the wonders of nature. The week-long program also introduces a way to fight childhood obesity and is designed to curb “summer slide”—the loss of knowledge during the lengthy break. Students hiked a different segment of the Ice Age Trail each day and trekked 15 miles total. As The Gazette's Samantha Jacquest reported, the scheduled week was hot, muggy and bug-infested, but most of the 33 students in Janesville elementary and middle schools who signed up were undeterred. Those she interviewed were excited about their experiences and accomplishments and said they would enroll again if the program were offered next summer.

Thumbs up to the clothing business Cy-Va at 222. Janesville has a history of entrepreneurship that produced jobs for thousands, from Parker Pen to Lab Safety Supply and many smaller companies. The loss of GM stirs that need even more. It’s with that spirit that this small custom sewing business is growing on West Milwaukee Street in downtown Janesville. Cynthia Walker, whose husband lost his job at GM, and her daughter Valerie Brinkman-Kampmann opened the shop two years ago and struggled. They used their own money to pay bills and keep the doors open. Suddenly, business tripled as the women sewed up deals with new designers and smaller high-end designers seeking their artistic clothes and accessories. Now, the business needs more space and industrial machines. Its future is uncertain given that so much clothing is produced overseas in factories offering low pay. Credit these women, however, for finding a market niche that, at least for now, is keeping them in stitches.

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