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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

In Janesville, Less Leadership Is More

This was originally a draft I wrote after last year’s city council election and slightly updated for today.
JG Excerpt:
JANESVILLE — The top vote-getters in the Janesville City Council primary Tuesday said they look forward to getting their views out now that the field is whittled to six.
The best advice I could give to all six candidates is “don’t.” That is, don’t get your views out there too much, otherwise you could be viewed as an “extremist,” somebody with an agenda or with axes to grind. Do play up to the media and hint around to high value and low taxes, that’s always a winner. Volunteer community service with a college education fits the mold the status quo voters are looking for, so long as you don’t try to make it look like you can think on your own. Remember you’re merely a token representative of the entire city, not an agent for change.

The style and make-up of most (not all) of the remaining six candidates are proof that the Janesville City Council elections are nothing more than a personality contest and have little to do with actual governance, guiding principles or politics. The system is set up this way.

When I hear candidates talk about how it would be nice to have someone from the Look West, 4th Ward or south side neighborhoods of Janesville to represent them in council, I cringe. When I hear a candidate talk how they strongly support business interests, I nod my head side-to-side. The same goes for the candidates who talk about standing up for the “little people” and others who say the city is run just fine as it is. I did not vote for any of these because these candidates simply don’t understand what their role would be as a city council member. This is an at-large system which means each and every council member must represent the entire city, not just your special interest group, no matter how under-represented you think they might be. It is a laughably impossible task to accomplish with any real forward results. But they have been doing this for 90 years and the power players and insiders of the town just love it.

Just consider the recent waffling on the sidewalk program or the indecisiveness about the aquatics facilities for more proof. Each sitting council just keeps putting the tough choices that have to be made onto the next. And because previous councils have expectedly failed under the weight of this process, future actions just keep snowballing. Solutions and corrections just keep getting tougher. It doesn’t matter whether you have 7 councilmembers or 99, when it’s an at-large system, you may as well have just one council member. Nearly all council actions and decisions are arrived in unison.

But you can go back even further in time to see what damage this form of government has done to the city. They put a dump in the middle of the city irresponsibly close to ground water resources and then create a competitive economic policy to fill it. Justifying the current location of the dump by claiming the city grew around it doesn't help. It just highlights the poor planning even more.

They deliberately directed retail business focus and planning away from its downtown. They’ve turned away from the river and abandoned its most centralized and significant parks. Much of this would have never happened with a district representative screaming “not in my backyard” or “how dare you forget us” on behalf of their constituents and natural assets.

Now, just like this kind of leaderless system demands, the renegade Republicans who refused to accept and abandoned the second Progressive movement predictably enlist the help of consultants and other academics to tell them this, but it might not matter now because if it’s not almost too late, Janesville does not have the kind of governance or willingness to do anything about it. Anything the council would try to do will be viewed as dictator-like or too expensive. Remember, Janesville was run on a shoe-string budget when times were good relatively speaking, but now what?

But voting for one candidate over another allows us to pretend our voices are heard and that we can make some difference. It doesn’t - but at least it’s something to occupy our time. That’s one of the lesser reasons why I started this blog. Many people either don’t want to hear any of this or refuse to consider the positive steps necessary for change. That’s why citizen defenders and writers such as myself could never run for office or win. The right-wing establishment along with their media enablers have labeled independent citizen activists as negative, malcontents, extremists and radicals, etc.

In truth, it really doesn't matter which person you vote for, nothing will change to make any real difference until the process is changed. Things would’ve been very different if Janesville had democratic district representation and I don’t expect it any time soon because……. they like it this way.

This posting like most on this blog is not an attack on any person. It is a blunt criticism of failed policies and of those who perpetrate and endorse those failed policies. It's a shame I even have to make this clarification.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

RNReader
Nice post, louie! I don't recall anybody in janesville putting things the way you do. They certainly can't accuse you of plagiarism.

If I read this right, that means you couldn't vote for briarmoon or mccoy either? Be honest now.

Louis Kaye said...

Well, I'll take that as a compliment - I guess. Except for implying I might be dishonest. All kidding aside, I'm normally not shy about who I support and most of my picks have done very well coincidentally.

Again, although I don't think it matters who gets elected to the Janesville council, it does matter to the individual running. But this time around I won't name names because of the local media offensive to antagonize through disinformation.

If you send me your name and e-mail address, I'll tell you who I voted for. You probably would be surprised, but I won't post it on the open web. Thanks for reading.

nailgunner said...

You know janesville very well and your quite right nothing will change here. Do enjoy reading your comments. thanks

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