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Monday, February 09, 2009

Reversal Of Pursuit Is Key For Council Rubber Stamp

At the last meeting, the Janesville City Council deleveraged city assets when some council members (even without an agreement!) telegraphed their positions in favor of the private business hockey group. While it was the private business group who first approached the city about using the Ice Arena for junior hockey games, the city manager and council actually turned the pursuit around. It now appears the Janesville taxpayers are the ones on the hook to satisfy the demands of the private business group.

This role reversal in pursuit is the key to watch for at all Janesville city council meetings, as it has been a common occurrence and signature trait of many deals struck between the City of Janesville and private developers. Nearly all TIF's, forgivable loans or other taxpayer hand-outs presented by the administration on behalf of a developer or special interest group, have been rubber stamped by the city council with little discussion. If it’s any consolation, the capital assets traded away can at best be viewed as - stimulus pork. If it makes you happy.

And the opposite can be said, if a special interest group is left to their own devices to demonstrate their presentation to the council, it's almost a disqualifier. In those cases, the administration employees were not directed to shape the presentation. The Fourth of July Celebration by the Jaycees is one example. They eventually got support, but not without getting publicly scolded and threats of less cooperation from the city in the future. It was a very tough sell without the insider choreography.

Now, I'm not saying that the city administration should be completely unattached during council presentations, their input is absolutely critical in negotiations. It's the reversal of pursuit which eventually leads to selling off Janesville's capital, infrastructure and service assets that is of the greatest concern and loss to the city.

Two weeks have passed since the Janesville City Council enthusiastically rubber stamped their intentions to allow the junior sports team to use the taxpayer funded Janesville Ice Arena. And other than some anonymous comments in the Gazette’s “Sound Off”column or the paper’s regular briefing on the next council agenda, the newspaper has published no additional information since then to help taxpayers and interested residents better form a knowledgeable opinion. Not a single new thing on the direction of the hockey team or the agreement which council members will be voting on very soon. This, despite a commitment of open communication and transparency from the new Janesville city manager.

But just try to hide the details of a closed-door meeting being held between the School Board and an attorney, and the newspaper will publish multiple articles implying the paper is being shut out and denied access to bring their readers information.

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