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Monday, May 05, 2008

When Phony Non-Partisans Come Home - Part 2

One month has passed since the residents of Janesville elected three new city council members and unfortunately for me, a bad taste still continues to linger on. A recent anonymous comment here got my wheels turning again and pointed me back to the earlier primary election articles published by the Gazette reporting that one of the top vote getters in the primary, KellyO, had a police record.
JG Excerpt:
Convicted of disorderly conduct in 1999 after an incident at the Dart Inn. -- Convicted of disorderly conduct in 1996 after a confrontation with her ex-boyfriend in Traxler Park. -- Convicted of battery in 1994 after a fight with a woman in Beloit.
This article was published on March 6th, just a couple of weeks after KellyO collected huge primary vote numbers as reported in this February 20th newspaper article.

At least two points should be considered here. One: After debating well and gaining heavy voter support, it turns out two popular candidates, KevinB and KellyO, literally fell out of the sky. In the grand scheme of who's who inside Janesville politics, they were virtually unknowns, at least to the Janesville Gazette.
Two: After the newspaper received some public criticism about the criminal report article, the Gazette claimed they investigated KellyO only after receiving a tip about her background from a reader, and to be fair and balanced, they proceeded to check public open records of all the remaining candidates. The Gazette later published that the others apparently were “clean.” Fair enough.

Soon afterwards, another resident tipped off the paper in a letter about his concerns of political partisanship entering the city council election, a valid concern. The writer claimed KevinB, one of the top three vote getters in the primary, had ties to union labor and the Democratic party and that full disclosure was necessary. So be it.

Some residents in Janesville want supporters to disclose their associations, but not the candidates to disclose their associations. Very bizarre. Personally I believe all candidates should disclose their guiding political principles and philosophy including association with any politically active groups. This is a huge step forward in Janesville elections. Disclosing their community volunteerism, church attendance or education may work for some, but it doesn't cut it for me.

But something strange happened after this one. Instead of publishing the results of an inquiry of all the candidates ties or membership to local quasi-political groups, like the KellyO investigation, they chose to target KevinB alone. After thoroughly dismantling election chances for KellyO to stand on her own appeal, the Gazette proceeded to throw KevinB and his openly public supporters under a bus. At no time after the watershed article “When politics comes home” or during their endorsement editorial of council candidates did the Gazette claim to investigate or question the other five candidates as they claimed to have done with the tip they received previously about KellyO’s record. Of course after the lopsided negative publicity targeting KevinB and KellyO, the two favored primary candidates failed to make the final cut.

Instead, the people blindly elected three candidates without any record disclosing their connections to quasi-political groups published in the Janesville Gazette. For reasons of their own, the Gazette deliberately failed to inform their readers.

Afterwards, during the three weeks following the April election, the Gazette brazenly integrated the political views and opinion commentary from members of the political action group Forward Janesville in a variety of articles and editorials dealing with important city government issues. No connection?

Although it's too late for the election, residents should request that the three newly elected council members disclose all their community memberships to the Gazette, and demand the Gazette to publish the information. Not because an open democracy demands it, but because a “fair and balanced” newspaper neglected to.

I missed this aspect of the newspaper hit job at the time primarily because I wanted to keep blogging support to a minimum for my council picks as an experiment of sorts. Never again.

I also want to thank Anonymous 8:39PM from April 30th with the "skate right in" comment for helping me connect the dots.

Note: As a courtesy to the two candidates in this posting, abbreviated names were used to avoid search engine robots.

7 comments:

Rich said...

I am a bit of a packrat so I went back and read again the articles and letters as well as the podcasts on WCLO. I am in full agreement with you about KellyO but not KevinB. The letters to the Gazette which may have kicked things off said nothing about his labor connections. He revealed those himeself in campaign materials and on the Stan Milam interview. Fair enough. However, the letter writer had a problem with his and YuriR's involvement in the Democratic party which neither disclosed. In no interview or campaign material, or newspaper letters of endorsement was KevinB's chairmanship of the Rock County. Democratic Party mentioned in his resume. The writer also had a problems with the many letters of endorsement printed in the Gazette from officers and activists in the Democratic Party including assemblyman MikeS, Sherrif RobertS, and Democratic activist and KevinB campaign manager DeniseS. This is where the partisanship comes in and was intended to give KevinB an advantage over others including the wronged KellyO. That is simple influence peddling in excess of anything done by Forward Janesville. There were also a very few letters from members of the ineffectual Rock County Republican Party. I believe the Gazette is involved in a lose lose situation here. In the past candidates would run newspaper ads printing the names of their supporters. The Gazette has lost that revenue stream but now prints free "letters to the editor" amounting to the same thing but in a manner that can fool some people into believing those letters are spontaneous. KevinB made several mistakes which inevitably did him in. First he moved to Janesville and immediately ran for council. At least YuriR lived here a couple years longer and did join some civic groups. If KevinB were to pay some more dues he could well get an endorsement from the Gazette next time around. Secondly, he clearly spent the most money of any candidate. I had to "go green" and walk our street picking up the plastic bags with his flyers which were left on every mailbox and then blew away. Finally, I am at a loss as to why he did not disclose his political party background. All of this stuff should be in the public eye. That it led to his defeat is also "fair enough".

Louis Kaye said...

I can't hope that WCLO, the Janeville Messenger or another news source provides the information missed by a separate entity. My rant here was strictly to demonstrate that tips or concerns to the Gazette regarding the background of candidates were treated very differently. I'm at a loss why the Gazette chose not to apply the same scrutiny to the other candidates when the question became political. Were they privileged because they paid their dues? I congratulate the candidates who won - but I'd like to know what quasi-political organizations they belong to, BEFORE I vote for them.

Anonymous said...

They also totally failed to mention the hugely partisan "non-partisan" vote for the new chairman of the RC Board. The vote went right down party lines.

Harv said...

The partisanship cuts both ways for sure. But I agree here that the more voters know - the better. The primary purpose of the Fourth Estate is to inform.

Anonymous said...

One other factor for me that they blind sided Bishop was that they failed to mention a certain AmyL's affiliations. She's as UAW as they come. She was an elected UAW officer and currently I believe she got appointed to an International UAW position. Something like that you don't get without being the "right" kind of person.

Louis Kaye said...

But did the Gazette make an effort to deliberately hide the community activism or membership background of AmyL at the expense of anyone or to change the outcome of the appointment? I don't think so, and that's the question here regarding the approach they took with KevinB. Others MAY have gained by withholding the same background information. It could have been a win-win situation for the Gazette had they treated everyone the same as they did with KellyO. I can never argue with too much information unless it's been weaponized to defend others. Again, as far as I'm concerned, finding out whether civic leaders are UAW, Left, Right or Forward Janesville is meaningless - after the vote.

Rich said...

While we disagree on some specifics it seems that everyone here agrees that the public should be given all available information to help folks make up their minds. By the way the Gazette and WCLO did mention a few months ago about the new job for AmyL. It also wouldn't hurt if the candidates had spoken up over the unfair treatment of KellyO. KevinB, YuriR, KathyV, McDonald etc - none of them spoke publically when the Gazette wrote about her. They all probably felt "ok - now my chances are better". The biggest rap on the Gazette over this came from the letter writer who started the KevinB thing. The letter writer said if the Gazette checks up on her they should also check the court records on KevinB which revealed his recent move to Janesville. The newspaper should be consistent. Another point of our agreement.

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