Thumbs up to creating an Adopt a Fire Hydrant program. Janesville City Council member Jim Farrell offered this idea in his March 2 column about residents neglecting to clear their sidewalks of snow and ice. Particularly troubling was his claim that the fire department couldn't immediately access a fire hydrant during a Jan. 24 house fire. The department and a police officer had to shovel out the hydrant in the bitter cold, complicating what was already a dangerous situation. There's a lack of awareness about this problem--until there's a home burning and a nearby hydrant buried under a foot of snow. Farrell said other cities have Adopt a Fire Hydrant programs to keep hydrants clear of snow, and it sounds like something worth doing in Janesville.

Thumbs up to surge in hemp applications. It's amazing how markets come to life once government gets out of the way. The latest example is the surge in applications to grow hemp in Wisconsin. Nearly 1,400 individuals or businesses have applied to grow hemp this year, including 1,244 first timers. The state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection also received 692 processor applications, including 636 first-timers. Why so many first-time applications? That's easy. Only two years ago, growing hemp was illegal in Wisconsin, despite widespread demand for hemp-derived products. Hemp represents a great economic opportunity for Wisconsin, and it's only too bad lawmakers didn't legalize it sooner. 

Thumbs down to city assessor's righteousness. In a column Friday, City Assessor Michelle E. Laube pours on the righteousness with her objection to last week's "Thumbs down to inflated property assessments." She asserts legal challenges from national retailers--including poor bankrupt Sears--lead to "unfair and inequitable tax shifts from such properties onto everyone else." Laube picks on these brick-and-mortar retailers, even as many of them fight for survival against e-commerce giants. If Laube wants to bad-mouth businesses, she should direct her angst at the likes of Amazon, which don't pay a penny in property taxes to Janesville. Officials complain the so-called "dark store loophole" allows retailers to cheat the system when, in reality, these businesses merely seek fair treatment, just like residential property owners.

Thumbs down big pay hikes for Evers cabinet members. In granting several cabinet appointees significantly higher salaries than these same positions commanded under former Gov. Scott Walker, Wisconsin's new Democratic governor did nothing to dispel the stereotype portraying Democrats as free spenders. Collectively, 27 Gov. Tony Evers' aides will get a 6 percent pay bump this year over what aides made in Walker’s administration. That's well above the inflation rate, and at least 11 officials are getting at least 10 percent more. This is the kind of spending that turns voters and taxpayers against government and leads to the enactment of policies, such as Act 10, which seek to rein in government spending. Don't be surprised if, by the 2022 election, these pay hikes boomerang on Evers.

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