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Monday, March 17, 2008

Minimal Government Asking For Maximum Help

The Sunday Janesville Gazette reports that the Janesville City Council will be asking for citizen input this time around when they decide to pick a job applicant to manage city affairs. The current manager, Steve Sheiffer has announced his retirement beginning sometime this fall. The council will give residents one opportunity on April 2nd to tell the administration what they would like to see in a new city manager.
JG Newspaper Excerpt:
Two sitting council members – Russ Steeber and Bill Truman – said they would not favor additional involvement.
I may not agree with their reasons as to why, but I certainly agree with that position. Part of the major problem I believe that faces the city council on nearly every issue requiring a responsible decision is the uncertainty surrounding the leadership vacuum this form of manager/at-large council government brings.

As much as I am vehemently against this form of city government, it is what it is. And trying to turn it into something it isn’t by requesting extensive resident input on issues such as hiring a new manager is either nothing more than an attempt to pacify a minority of democracy promoters(including myself) or create a larger pool of stake-holders to endorse this increasingly difficult decision. Under different circumstances, this request might lead to a new beginning, but unfortunately, the rules are set, consultants are hired, qualifications have been pre-determined and the added suggestions and great but useless ideas will come from those who don’t grasp the system or the task. We must remember, Janesville’s style of city government with manager-only guidance and a seven member at-large council is about as minimalist as you can get, and still get away calling yourself a democracy. Much like other issues that have gone unresolved for decades, heavy citizen participation or influence won’t help a city council make the decision. It may in fact make matters worse, as it has done in the past. Again, I’m not blaming individuals in city government, but I do blame them for letting this folly continue.

I can’t believe that from a city of over 60,000 people, we don’t have local home-grown smart individuals capable of balancing a budget. But here’s a suggestion. The city council should adopt new rules placing residency high, and disqualify all out-of-state applicants for vacant top positions. In fact, the only qualification necessary for the job should be the applicant must be a product of Wisconsin schools and a current resident. It makes no sense searching nation-wide for this position and doing so creates animosity and puts a new manager at a tremendous disadvantage not of their own doing. It’s unfair to the candidate – and it’s unfair to Janesville.


Anonymous said...

You've made a great point. Since the city and the media defend this beloved form of dictatorship, they should stick with it. Let the council members dictate who the manager should be. That's how it's set up and how it was done before.

Those who disagree with Truman and Steeber should start a petition drive to change the system for better and larger representation instead of perpetually requesting more public participation. Great point, good going there.

Lou Kaye said...

Well, thank you. That is exactly the point. But you know what will most likely happen. They'll make this system work if it's the last thing they do simply BECAUSE others like me have said its broken.

Anonymous said...

Did you catch the council candidate on TV-12 answer the question about what more can Janesville do to go "green?' He said stop the sidewalk program!! Is that guy for real, I think his name was Mark.

Lou Kaye said...

Yes I did. I think he misunderstood the question and mixed "environmental green" with "greenbelt green." But this candidate started saying water run-off has no place to go with sidewalks and seems to connect sidewalks with everything that is wrong with Janesville anyways. I wonder if he has a driveway or a patio on his property?

Anonymous said...

Wishful thinking Lou, but they'll never hire Janevilleans to lead Janesville. The town is too divided and clicky with all the class bias and jealousy baggage.

Amiable outsiders provide a cushion of safety for their government and the disconnect they seek - if a candidate has too many ideas like passion, commitment, opinions and strong leadership qualities for Janesville, they'll be viewed as a threat with underlying intentions - they won't get hired.

Plus, Janesvilleans don’t care if they are under-represented or that the administration is selling out their rights and mismanaging their assets or that the council is in way over their heads, most people would rather protest sidewalks for a sense of civic duty. They don't care this will cost them more down the road, as long as they get it on the cheap now.

But I'm not telling you anything new. The system has to change dramatically to get out of this 90 year rut.

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