Thumbs down to lack of Janesville candidates. Nobody except incumbents is running for Janesville School Board, and the Janesville City Council race--with four seats up for election--features only one challenger. A second possible challenger failed to file the necessary paperwork by the Wednesday deadline. A dearth of candidates is often a problem in small towns, but a city of nearly 63,500 people should be able to have contested elections. Maybe this lack of interest is symptomatic of people's satisfaction with the incumbents, but it's more likely a reflection of people's apathy. Challengers are good for democracy because they force incumbents to defend their positions, ultimately bringing more accountability to the office they're seeking.
Thumbs up to ice castle in Lake Geneva. Somebody needs to remind this area that it's winter. A Utah-based company called Ice Castles is building a castle in Lake Geneva with plans to open it sometime this month. It's been poor building weather over the past month, however, with temperatures in the mid-30s to low-40s. It won't get much better this week, either, with rain in the forecast. A spokesman for Ice Castles expressed confidence the structure will be ready at some point. He just can't provide an exact date. "You can expect a 100-percent unique experience," he said. Hopefully, that experience won't involve a massive pile of slush.
Thumbs up to record attendance at Rotary Gardens. The warmer weather has been bad news for outdoor sports, but it delivered a windfall to the Rotary Gardens. Its Holiday Light Show drew 57,822 people this year, breaking last year's attendance record of about 46,000. Only two years ago, the lights display drew 26,000 people. The show is the Rotary Gardens' biggest fundraiser, and Executive Director Becky Kronberg estimates this year's show will generate $260,000. That means the garden staff will be able to invest more in beautifying the grounds with plants for the display of nature that everyone should see starting this spring.
Thumbs down to government shutdown. Gazette reporter Nate Jackson searched but found few local effects of the partial government shutdown. But the Janesville area won't go unscathed if the shutdown drags on. Only about one in eight Internal Revenue Service employees are working, which would become a problem once tax-filing season hits. The IRS would collect taxes, but it considers issuing income-tax refunds a "non-expected activity." Shutdown worries would disappear, of course, if Congress and President Trump reopened the government. House Democrats and a handful of Republicans passed last week a spending package that would reopen the government and buy more time for competing sides to reach a longer-term agreement. Now it's up to the Senate—usually the most sensible of the two chambers—to put the country's interests ahead of partisanship.