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Sunday, January 15, 2017

Tools Of The Janesville Kleptocracy Clash. Urban Rural Conflict Emerges

Here's a newspaper article about an important event that took place recently between Janesville city council members and a few area state legislators. I recommend my humble readers go to the Gazette and read the article first to better understand the gist of my perspective. Unfortunately, they are a pay site.

The story is centered around Janesville officials lobbying for more state "funding" or aid that is annually distributed to communities (using a formula based on year 2000 conditions) around the state.

Although the article fails miserably in background information and overall context, it does pass the minimum test for what I would call acceptable Gazette journalism. The most notable feature (to me) in the published exchange between city officials and legislators are the names of people absent and not quoted in a story of such significance and topic. That is, not mentioned are members of Scott Walker's booster club Forward Janesville.

But in truth, why should they answer to anyone? Over the past ten years, Forward Janesville lobbied state legislators heavily with annual junkets asking for income tax cuts, tax credits, picking winners and losers among communities with enterprise zones, portable tax credits and TIF District "reforms," just to name a few. Forward Janesville shares much responsibility for pushing ALEC-like proposals having roots in a much broader nationalized trickle-down economic program that shifts wealth not by free market demand inspired by education, labor or innovation, but by opening back doors into local tax treasuries.

In short, they already "got theirs."

The problem for the Janesville taxpayer is much of it came at our expense because local leaders supported and endorsed Forward Janesville's legislative agenda and few if anyone (me) objected.

By far the most important context missing from the article is the fact that Janesville officials sold out decades of future tax revenue growth at a time when the state linked hikes in local budget spending to property evaluation. The last thing locals should be doing, given those restrictions on local budgets, is accelerating the TIF District tool that quarantines the very tax revenue growth they require to keep up with public obligations. Janesville of course went the wrong way.

Some Janesville residents place blame on the city for pouring money into a new bus garage, fire station or even bike trails for the budget shortfalls. Yes, those cost money to keep and run. But if the failure to grow revenue annually in the near-term is the complaint, look toward those council maneuvers that shifted millions in future public dollars away from public obligations and into the hands of wealthy private entities. It's the "new" form of creeping privatization. The privatization of public revenue.

So, the reality is city officials have boxed Janesville into a corner by selling out most of the city's future growth in tax revenue and now they want more. They need to be rescued. But they have no one to blame but themselves. That the architects of this charade were rewarded with raises is doubly outrageous.

But the most notable aspect delivered by the newspaper about the event was the discussion involving a municipal sales tax. This is where the politics of resentment reared its ugly head when a spokesperson for republican Sen. Steve Nass suggested that because a sales tax would benefit only the city collecting the tax, it would do little for most towns.

So therefore resentment logic applies; if it doesn't benefit red county rurals, blue city urbans can't have it either. It's the same with keeping poll offices open after working hours or on weekends. If rurals can't afford to staff it, urbans shouldn't have it either. See? Equality!

Ignore it at your own peril, but I believe the concept of resentment politics driving the rural red - urban blue divide is powerful enough to be the top reason (outside of the Comey scandal) why Donald Trump is the next president.

Most democrats, liberals and progressives trying to comfort rurals with more aid find themselves scorned as pandering for votes or promoting liberalism. And, denigrating red county rurals as backwards or uneducated doesn't help the situation. Plus, it's just the wrong way to win hearts and minds. On the other hand, republicans offer rurals very little except for some emotional relief by clawing down urban centers. That's how rurals achieve more equality - so it seems.

Occasionally, republicans will throw rurals a bone like basic broadband or a few more dollars for local operations. But by and large, rurals seem to get their greatest satisfaction through prevention and subtraction of forces outside of their environment.

It's a sad situation all around that Gov. Scott Walker and state republicans continue to play this marked joker card to divide and conquer state constituencies.

Democrats (but only a few) are only now beginning to understand the dynamics behind it after years of mishandling. The solution won't be easy, but I think it begins by NOT offering rurals more things they don't want and never asked for. Understand that principle first and then open dialogue to reach out and discover what rurals want ...without taking away from others.

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