JG Excerpt:Some would have you believe that TIF district hand-outs, state grants, tax credits, zoning changes, utility perks, water and sewer give-aways, growth plans and government control have nothing to do with it. Yet, most free market “entrepreneurs” refuse to initiate their personal income venture without getting what they can from the local tax base. The entire north side retail blow-out was city hall zoned and rubber stamped consistent with city "Growth Plans." To think otherwise is absurd. Don’t be fooled, Janesville fueled this with incentives on purpose, not by accident of the free market will.
What happened to Neighborhood commerce?
We have commercial districts, sure--Milton Avenue, West Court Street, Center Avenue, East Milwaukee Street. But they're mostly made up of strip malls and parking lots, or little clusters of standalone buildings. There are no streets with sidewalks full of walk-up storefronts that give a neighborhood a central focus.
But I also would say there is more than just a relationship "stretch" between Janesville’s at-large city government and the at-large city planning and development style. There are no truly delineated community districts in Janesville with political representation bargaining for or negotiating on behalf of the district’s residents or neighborhoods. Unfortunately, without someone fighting for neighborhood (district)interests, most of Janesville's developmental growth came at zero-sum. What new growth we gained at the fringes, came at the nearly equal cost and expense of what we lost inside. In Janesville, it’s a 90 year-old plan that is defended by those who know better, and by those who don't.
When the at-large city officials and it's business insiders want community involvement, they commission for it in a neighborhood meeting at their request, not ours. The residents jump at their command for a sense of involvement. This “disconnect” gives nearly total control to a handful of city hall individuals who by nature do what they believe is best for the "at-large" interests of the moment, not for the neighborhood. Because inherent to this form mirrored by the lack of democratic district representation is precisely what the Gazette writer noticed – the lack of friendly neighborhood stores and gathering places walkable from your home.
Unless you enjoy living near the warm and walkable downtown like I do, you're probably in an unwalkable yet delightfully tacky suburban setting in the city. I don't knock it. Many like it that way.