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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Local Media Circus Goes Nuclear Defending Legislator's Residency

Like running a thread through a needle, the Janesville Gazette knew exactly what to publish when the City of Janesville issued their results of a city code inspection on a city council candidate's remodeled basement. The basement in question is where State Rep. Joe Knilans claimed he was domiciled since June of last year. On the city's property website, it was listed as unfinished square footage.
JG Excerpt:
While the drywall walls were not taped and mudded, that is not a code requirement, he said. Price inspected the property Tuesday and will mail a letter to the home's owner, Michael Knilans, outlining his determination.
Why bother? Once the city chose to issue their inspection determination through the media, what is there left to outline? Let's not kid ourselves here, there's more. It should be obvious to those following the basement residency story about legislator Joe Knilans that the Gazette published only part of the city's judgment. Would it have been too much for the newspaper to ask whether the work was done with the necessary permits? Nah's nobody's business.

Unfortunately, the city and the Gazette both have a history of heavy media filtration and playing cat-n-mouse games when it comes to informing the public. In this case, it's hard to figure which party is at fault for the incomplete information, but history dictates it is the Janesville Gazette and their selective lack of curiosity and partisan journalism that is to blame for the perpetual spread of missing information. Simply put, it was the newspaper's job to ask the questions and publish the city's response, not the city's to offer unsolicited.

Speaking of partisan journalism, the Gazette and their supporting cast of political operatives have gone nuclear in their attack on the democratic party for daring to keep Joe Knilans' accountable or to question statements he made during his campaign about his residency.

The democratic party got slammed for being upfront and open about their partisanship and concerns, while their complaint is raked over the coals instead of being allowed the right to the due process it deserves. Nobody has to agree with the democratic party or their intentions, that is not the issue here. But partisanship should not be allowed to diminish the validity of the complaint or impair the ability to achieve due justice, at least not until all the facts are in.

Instead of addressing the questions about his residency and statements he made during his campaign directly and with substance, Knilans, including the editorial staff at the Gazette have decided to attack the complainant and deflect the issue any which way they can. Their goal appears to not allow Knilans to stand alone on his own merit against the complaint.

While the Gazette slams the complaint for it's partisan undercurrents, the newspaper itself answers back for Knilans with nothing but partisanship, hypocrisy and deflection. Stan Milam for instance, in a column published in the hard copy Gazette, claims to be irritated by partisans who criticize the other side for doing the same thing they supposedly were guilty of in the past. Yet Milam's then justifies whatever wrongdoing Knilans has been accused of by rerunning Mike Sheridan's, John Gard's and Martin Schneider's residency problems, as if they have anything to do with Knilans current predicament or the complaint. Deflect, deflect, deflect.

The Gazette editorial on the other hand, implied that because the Governor, state houses and attorney general are all republicans, justice will not likely prevail for the democratic party's complaint. Who's the partisan?

State Sen. Tim Cullen (D) perhaps offers the most backward yet comical defense for Knilans that I’ve heard yet. He suggests that the problem was created because Knilans home unluckily happens to be outside the district. Hello, hello? But that – it’s a border districting problem created by Janesville’s growing population - not necessarily a problem Knilans himself had contributed to. Hello? It’s worth a chuckle.

The other popular narrative used in the legislator’s defense is that everyone knew he was living outside the district. That’s not entirely true. Plenty of folks heard that Knilans was domiciled in his brother’s basement (inside the district) almost three months before the primary. Just ask radio talker Dan Conry, he knows this for a fact. Or how about the defense that everyone in Janesville knows how hard it is to sell their house. It's true, everyone knows. Everyone but Joe Knilans. He thought his home would sell in just a few short months. He had to think that to believe he would be living in the district he ran in by the time he was sworn in.

Oh well look, I realize everything I’m bringing up here sounds extremely petty if not juvenile. That's because it is! These aren’t my defenses or opinions on his residency situation. These are statements from newspaper professionals and their political operatives whose sole purpose is to destroy the due process the complaint deserves and turn the simple complaint into a personal attack mudfest. This is their baby.

A side story to the Gazette's intentionally fabricated political mudfest and perhaps driving the newspaper's animosity is the fact that an outside media source entered the Gazette's turf when an ungazetted reporter challenged the legislator's basement living arrangement with the city. The Gazette was clearly upstaged while at the same time having their selectively partisan journalism exposed to the world.

As a bystander trying to sort through the spitballs repeatedly thrown by the Gazette, justice will likely never be served for Knilans or the democratic party so long as third parties like the Gazette are allowed to poison the discourse and damage the process. Their purpose is not to publish the news, but to change it.

We're used to it in Janesville.
Question For The Week
Why does it seem like the same group of partisans pushing for voter ID have no problem when a legislator can’t produce a valid ID to vote in the district that he represents?
Note: This posting is the independent perspective and opinion of its author and is NOT affiliated with any political party, political candidate or media source.


Anonymous said...

As always, the politicians operate under a do as I say but not as I do clause. What I would like to know is this: can Knilans actually prove he is living there? Will neighbors sign sworn affadavits that they have seen him living there at least four days a week? Are his clothes and toiletries kept in the house? Is he getting his mail there? Is his car parked out front every night? If I rang the doorbell some evening would I find him at the table sharing a family meal? If the answer to these questions is no, then I would argue that he is not living there. I don't care if the basement is up to code or not. People can and do live just about anywhere. But if he is not living in his district at least 51% of the time, then he is not in compliance with the statute. Period. If he intends to serve then he needs to establish a permanent residence in his district and take responsibility for his situation.

Richard Costerisan said...

A few days ago the Gazette boasted about their code of ethics. All the comments in this article clearly demonstrate they just don't get it. Whether they take bribes is not the question. Real ethics involve being unpartisan and truthful. This is the role our founding fathers saw for the press and the reason for protecting their rights in the First Amendment. Funny how the Gazette ignores this responsibility to the American public. Is this ethical?

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