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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Janesville City Council Rejects Committee Reform

Note to readers: This posting concerns the Janesville city council decision to reject changing the city's committee appointment process, and is a rebuttal to statements made by a Janesville resident (D.M.) who spoke at the Janesville City council meeting this past Monday in support of rejecting the change.
Council Excerpt:
"Secondly, it treats the president of the council as if he or she was a mayor. We have a system with a council president and the role of the president is to preside over this body and not as a mayor. It might make sense under a mayoral form of government to have a mayor appoint the folks who are addressed under this ordinance." --D.M.
It doesn’t make sense under any form of government.
Council Excerpt:
"Fundamentally, under the system we have, the manager has some of the responsibilities a mayor might have under a mayoral form of government. This is one of those (to appoint committees) responsibilities. The intent of the current system as it exists is to depoliticize the appointment process. There’s no secret about that, it is fundamental of the council/manager form of government. That’s why we have the city manager make these appointments." --D.M.
To the contrary, if leaving the appointment process in the hands of a city employee does anything - it politicizes the process. The city manager’s responsibilities in Janesville are much closer to an administrator than a mayor, and the Janesville city council’s role is to serve as a voice for the people. As our representatives, not as our leaders and not as our mayor. This is just one of the reasons why Janesville’s city government is inadequate - it is, despite all of its seemingly good intentions, essentially leaderless.
Council Excerpt:
“Well, would if the city manager chooses to effectively politicize the process of appointment? I think that’s anticipated in the ordinance itself as it exists. You’ll note the ordinance provides and I quote ”with the approval of the council” we have a check and balance built into the existing system. I think it is an effective and appropriate one.” -- D.M.
Calling the city council the check and balance to the city manager and administration under this form of government is quite a stretch. The hands have no idea what the feet are doing. But that is precisely what appeals and oversight committees are for - to serve as the check and balance between the “people” and the administration.

One of the fundamental problems D.M. has, along with many others who oppose a change in the committee appointment process is, they take the charter change as an affront to their precious manager/council form of government. When it really doesn’t matter what form it is. A bad committee appointment process is a bad committee appointment process. A mayor making appointments to a committee that may eventually appeal or oversee his administration is just as corruptible and political as a city manager making those same appointments. The same can be said for those who refuse to change the ordinance because they think it just takes the power away from one individual (city manager) and hands it to another (council president). So why change it at all? That position shows a huge lack of understanding and depth to the problem.

On the other hand, the city council and council president are at the top of the power pyramid in Janesville city government. A citizen can publicly appeal a council decision only during council meetings, but within city government, there are no committees, mechanisms or processes to oversee or appeal any of the council's decisions. Beyond that, a council decision can be challenged in county or state court. This is one reason why the Janesville city council also should not be in charge of all committee appointments. There are too many conflicting points of oversight or appeals interest.
Council Excerpt:
“It is not about who is occupying the office at this point in time, it’s about the integrity of the system.” – D.M.
Oh? But it is precisely about the person in office if that person is allowed to compromise the integrity of the system by appointing the committee to serve as the check and balance to their own administrative mandates. Opposing good clean government for the sake of propping up a certain style of government should be an affront to all served by that government.

If an individual appoints the people on committees to oversee, negotiate or appeal that individual's own actions and administrative mandates isn’t wrong – then nothing is wrong.

Quote of the Council Meeting
“Again, the zoning board of appeals is a body that is directly appointed by the city manager, and again, this is supposed to be a board reviewing decisions made by administration, but being appointed by part of the administration. So I think that’s another reason why we should have a citizen nomination committee to pick these people, rather then be appointed by the city manager.” – Council member Amy Loasching
Note: This posting is the independent and sole opinion of its author. Initials (D.M.) were used to avoid search engine web robots.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

YES YES YES, thank you.

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