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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Media Effort Underway To Destabilize Majority On Ice Arena Boondoggle

After reading the Gazette's Tuesday article about the Janesville ice arena boondoggle, I found the newspaper's ramped up story-line reminiscent of past publishing activities the newspaper undertook to pass the school referendum or to sell the wealthy investor's county land-swap deal to an unsuspecting public.
In addition, the Gazette published two major editorials on their arena position in four days.

In Tuesday's city council article, the paper makes no reference to Council member Yuri Rashkin’s well contrived blizzard of common sense he displayed for explaining his opposition vote of the administration’s arena plan. Not one word. I don't want to make too much of it, but his position was not only unique from the others, it was built on startlingly profound judgement. Now, if you're a regular visitor here, you'd know that doesn't come easy for me to say, particularly about someone who I have had very little to agree with on. So please don't think I'm in the tank here. Rashkin did mention the word “grassroots” somewhere in his logic and that alone could be enough to get excommunicated from the country club set here in Janesville. For obvious reasons, the Gazette so far has shut down all opposition talk in their so-called objectively written articles on the ice arena.

But it really hit home when I watched the short 6PM news report on Channel 15-WMTV out of Madison (Channel 5 Charter) about the Janesville Ice Arena on Wednesday. They described the ice arena debate as a controversy but proceeded to televise a very one-sided account absent of any real controversy! Rashkin was not given any face time to respond for the 6PM newscast and had a short uneventful moment at 10PM. Instead they put a pro-hockey spokesperson on camera and proceeded to oversimplify the deal as a positive development and about sending a message that Janesville is looking out for it's kids.

In a related article in today's (Thursday) Gazette titled, "We need to pull together" is another timely piece by the newspaper to sway public opinion towards the socialized losses incurred from public-private partnerships. The article contains an interesting list of local people from what can be viewed as the area's Bilderburg group."

For small town politics, this is big-time stagecraft.

Read WMTV's report and view video here. The video broadcast on television was 1 min. 28 sec. long.

Some additional Boondoggle notes

* The two sheet ice arena is now being marketed as a regional facility primarily to attract non-Janesville users from Beloit and Walworth County. In exchange, Janesville will lose its public-use community centered ice rink.

* The land site of the new arena has an approximate value at least equivalent to the price thrown around for land acquisition for the fire station - around $1 million dollars. The land value puts the city's share at $3.5 million instead of the reported $2.5 million and it will not generate property taxes over the lifespan of the arena.

* The old ice arena has a replacement cost value of at least $2 million in its current condition. The structure is expected to be bull-dozed.

* The date (March 1st) is arbitrarily set by the city administration. It holds little power or importance to the actual deal and will be changed or extended anytime to fit the requirements of the private investment group. My guess is they will be given all the way to 2011 or 2012 to raise the money.

* The plan to move the ice arena to the southern edge of the city will remove another community facility from the city's central core and will help steer more traffic away from the downtown district. In other words, it is consistent with the city's comprehensive growth plan.

* During the WHP contract discussions, the handful of previous ice arena user groups were promised little disruption of their use schedules - according to the media. Now they've suddenly become a group that's clamoring for ice time and in need of a home - according to the media.

* The current ice arena subsidies and attendance figures have been unfairly compared to other public use facilities in Janesville such as the Senior Center and the Hedberg Library. The ice arena is the only one that has been privatized for profits while socializing the capital investment, operating losses and maintenance onto the taxpayers.

* The next inner-city facility expected to fall at the hands of the country club set are the batting cages on Jackson Street.

* The astro-turf group behind the regional two sheet ice arena are the same folks who succeeded to foist (with help from the Gazette) a $70.5 million tax hike upon Janesville school district taxpayers.

This list will be expanded and reposted as more information becomes available.


Mary K said...

What I find perhaps the most chilling is the arrogance that pushed this project through. As a former journalist I sat in on many a council session (not in Janesville) and learned quickly and well that the residents of communities are invisible until something that might concern them comes up. The rest of the time the council has little opposition. When something of real concern arises these same residents rant and rave, but the council, fully vested in the knowledge that they are able to do exactly what they want, do just that. This project - with every visible wart and flaw - particularly the current facility's inability to even achieve break-even gate stats - was never about what was best for the community at large. This was a pet project, pure and simple.

Couldn't agree with you more, Lou.

Lou Kaye said...

Thanks Mary. We don't have to agree on everything. If we did, I'd begin to worry about you. But everything surrounding the new ice arena and the WHP contract smacks of politics, favoritism, cronyism and a completely phony growth policy that would've made King Daley of Chicago proud. While certain groups of very wealthy folks around Janesville have the capital and media to organize, the working class stiffs are made to feel like divisive and negative poewer grabbers if they even attempt do the same.

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