Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Why Bother To Attend Public Hearings and Meetings? Pt.2
In a concern troll sort of a way, several council members worried about the (high) costs for interested residents to keep and maintain four chickens and build a coop. Really! That those in support of keeping chickens can't possibly be smart enough to know the costs involved since they are stupid enough to even consider wanting chickens in their backyards in the first place. Sure, they didn't say it that way but that's the way I heard it.
Using their cost and supermarket analysis on the chickens ordinance, it’s very possible the fishing and the backyard swimming pool industries could be in jeopardy here in Janesville. Is the city council aware of the tens of thousands of dollars some fishermen spend on 200 HP Basstrackers, depthfinders and other exotic fishing gear? Just to catch a little fish that they can buy cleaned and breaded in the supermarket for just a few dollars? Or what about backyard swimming pools? Some homeowners spend thousands a year on an activity they can enjoy for free at Lions Beach. Did you ever smell rotting fish left in the yard? Or an unsanitized swimming pool?
Obviously, it was not only condescending and offensive to use costs as justification against the ordinance, but arguments such as these are also intellectually dishonest. Council members trying to use land covenants, costs and supermarkets were clearly stretching for reasons to deny the ordinance. But the main failure to this ordinance was the planning commission’s earlier incompetence when they failed to debate and plan for the necessary changes required to make the ordinance more palatable. Sitting in their high chairs, they instead lazily offered a negative edict against the proposal. The same can be said for the administration.
From another angle, council members Steeber and Brunner both claimed the residents they spoke to were heavily opposed to the proposed chicken ordinance, but apparently not opposed enough to come to the public meeting. At Monday's final public hearing, ten people spoke in favor of the ordinance, five were opposed. Again, 10 against 5 in Janesville means the 10 loses. This strikes sharply against the very purpose and intent to hold public hearings and to encourage citizens to attend meetings in Janesville. Why should people bother?
Still, another council member compared keeping chickens to a hobby, like archery, and thus should be denied - as if THAT makes sense. The council voted against chickens in the backyard by a 5 to 2 vote. McDonald and Rashkin voted for it, while the other five talked themselves out of it any way they could. Literally, it seemed like they were just making stuff up to reject the request.
But it got predictably worse. Later during the meeting, the city council entertained the Janesville Gazette's third request of the council to start meetings a half an hour earlier - from 7PM to 6:30PM. Although the request narrowly failed, Council member George Brunner echoed an earlier comment from McDonald and felt changing the city council meeting time to a half an hour earlier was about more than being only selfishly about the Gazette. He was worried how the little people in attendance who wanted to voice their concerns on an issue might leave early during late running drawn-out meetings. As if their voice really matters.
But the council saved the best for last. Here they dealt with a request from the city manager to extend (eliminate?) the deadline to help the wealthy private group meet it's fundraising goal by buying into a consultant study at the very last minute of the long and winding ice arena proposal. Although NOT ONE PERSON from the private group of wealthy investors thought it important enough to attend such a trivial hearing, the city council still agreed to pay for the study with $10,000 in a deal that might eventually involve giving away an additional $2.5 million in tax dollars. Talk about a kick in the face and loving it. When the Big 3 went to Congress for a hand-out, at least they attended the meeting even if they had to fly in on their private jets. The ice arena folks are above all that. After the council cowered in approval, council member Kathy Voskuil actually began questioning other council members apparent lack of enthusiasm towards public/private partnerships for economic development. No - really.
The Janesville city council as a unit can fool some folks, but they don’t fool everyone. From examples as lightweight as an urban chicken ordinance to the wild and open-ended ice arena fiasco, to the content, purpose and goal of each proposal on the council agenda, to the ideological and personal biases of the city council and administration, to the selective appointments for committees and their expected duties and responsibilities, and to the false democracy propped up by the at-large city council, Janesville city government, it’s organizational process and it’s power structure are in complete shambles.
If there’s one additional point that I’ve made in my blog that was driven home during Monday night’s Janesville city council session, it’s this:
The people the city council are listening to and taking marching orders from are obviously NOT the ones that show up.