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Monday, August 10, 2009

Children's Museum Lobby On Track For Local Aid

On Friday, the Janesville Gazette gave front page headlines to a privately funded group of activists pushing to prove how desperately the Janesville community needs a children's museum. The article titled "Not Just Fun And Games" and subtitled, Children's museum group hopes field trip to Illinois museum exhibits similar need described how the group hopes the field trip will further convince "community members" to support the museum sponsors efforts. But who is behind the children's museum and who paid for the field trip? For the answer, we have to go back to 2007.
JG Excerpt: (Nov.20, 2007)
Members of the Janesville Museum, Inc., steering committee are about to find out, thanks to a $30,000 grant offered by Alliant Energy and two charitable organizations. Alliant Energy, the Janesville Foundation and the Nancy B. Parker Charitable Trust approved the grant, which will fund a feasibility study for the proposed museum.
And of course, the idea grew out of a think tank at Forward Janesville. The children's museum it turns out, is just another project in a long line of pet projects designed to be built using a majority of local taxpayer dollars, but initiated and sponsored by folks who complain about high taxes and demand tax credits for themselves. Why are they so willing to enlist taxpayer dollars and government participation in so many of their projects? Simply because, from start to finish, these ventures are unprofitable. Members of Forward Janesville are not stupid. They are in business to make money. So for these red-ink projects, they turn to government (never mind that they think government is too big and incompetent) under the guise of a public/private enterprise.

The Janesville city council was first approached on the museum idea back in the summer of '08.
City Web Site Excerpts from Council Agenda: (Aug. 12, 2008)
Annual operating costs for such a facility are estimated at $648,000 a year with a full time staff of seven.

Childrens Museum’s do not operate at a profit.

The Administration is suggesting that the children’s museum be developed as a public-private partnership in which the city funds the capital building costs.
City Web Site Minutes From the Meeting:
Councilmember Voskuil moved to support Alternative 1 which includes $5.0 million in public capital costs and up to $125,000 in annual operating costs for the museum with the condition that the private sector raise $3.0 million to support this project. The motion was seconded by Councilmember Rashkin and passed unanimously.
None of this should surprise anyone familiar with Janesville's form of insider driven non-representative government. Yet after reading some comments over at the Gazette blog from the current article, some residents think that the current state of the economy warrants a stronger defense in the name of taxpayers. One commenter even suggested the council create a simple wants and needs list when deciding on the necessary things for the city. The fact is, it was just one month ago when the council re-affirmed their position by creating their own agenda which included continued support for the children's museum.
JG Excerpt: (July 10,2009)
-- Start a facility maintenance and replacement program to address major capital/facility needs such as Fire Station No. 1, the transit facility, children’s museum, aquatics, Tallman House and the ice skating center.
City council members adopted these plans during their July 13th meeting with little to no public opposition at the meeting.

I wrote my take on it here.

The bottom line is the children's museum lobbyists are doing all they can to petition for tax dollars in order to fund their unprofitable venture. They have that right to public resources just like the WHP. The Janesville city council committed the taxpayers to these projects in funding and in general agreement. The monopolized media has already framed the museum as a family issue, for the children and the community. The truth is, not enough citizens have the same commitment as Forward Janesville and paid lobbyists to organize and take back their local government.

It's time to give it up - stop fighting the power.

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