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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Ice Arena Donors Want Something In Return

In case you hadn't noticed, 2010 started off with a bang of controversy in Janesville when the Gazette decided to partner with and carry the water for several individuals wishing to destabilize the Rock County coroners office. Their mission seems to have morphed now from personal complaints into a campaign to wrest the coroner's office away from the voters. We'll have to keep a close watch on that one.

On an entirely different issue and without pause, the group of self-described community "donors," who earlier made a commitment to raise $1.5 million to "donate" to the construction of a new city ice arena in Janesville appear to be backpedaling their generosity. On the Janesville city agenda for Monday evening is a proposal to sell city intellectual property, namely "naming rights," with proceeds of the sale going towards the special interest group's capital promise for a new ice arena.
City Agenda Excerpt:
...approve authorizing the selling of naming rights of the building for an amount not less than $500,000 and the two sheets of ice for not less than $250,000 each and that the naming rights would need to have final approval of the City Manager.
As usual, the ice arena memorandum for Monday's council agenda is written like a better Gazette article, where citizens are left guessing on their own to figure out what's really going on here and what's at stake. Nowhere in the memo was any mention of who is the recipient of the sale proceeds from the city property. The focus of the proposal is instead placed on moving the new ice arena to a different site than earlier proposed. The memo does however drop the hint that the sale will enhance the donor groups efforts. With that we must assume that the sale of publicly owned rights is meant to paydown the private donor's commitment to the ice arena. With Janesville city government's long history of coddling wealthy insiders, we should fear the worst here.

First off is the fact they are SELLING city property. That goes without saying. Naming and advertising rights are intellectual property rights owned by the taxpayers. Besides, Janesville taxpayers have already out-bid everyone else for the naming rights when the council put the taxpayers on the hook for $2.5 million and city land worth about $1 million for the project. Now, unless the private group would like to purchase the rights to buy down the taxpayers $2.5 million commitment, that's different. But that's not the case according to the memo.

But even if the city were to entertain the idea of selling naming rights, why would we need a salesman or a middleman? Remember these folks are supposed to be "community donors," not agents in a sale's transaction for someone else's property. The bottom line here is somebody in the administration is either completely off their rocker to even jokingly entertain the donor's request OR they are in the tank with them instead of defending taxpayers interests. Right now I think it's a little of both. The city management and council's job is not to be looking out after anybody's interests but ours.

The main point to my position is; should the city decide to sell naming rights to the ice arena, the proceeds should be used to pay down the taxpayers commitment or the operational expenses - NOT used to make good on a private party's charitable promise.

Second is the assuming characterization and short shrift given from both, the city administration and newspaper, about the naming rights give-away. For the newspaper to merely regurgitate the naming rights portion of the memorandum and attempt to pass it off without the obvious question or clarification in such an assuming way is proof enough of a complicit and failed watchdog media. The paper has a long history of turning on and off the information spigot at will to serve their own socio-political agenda.

In a most simple rule of common sense we try to teach children, the naming rights proposal violates the most basic fundamentals of possession. It is theft by deception and to have city management agree in principle with the request is a double-troubling kick in the face. That the donor group label has been supplanted by Janesville Youth Hockey seems like a ploy to deflate any opposition. If the donor group cannot make good on its promise to collect $1.5 million on their own account, they should just say so and call it quits.

Janesville taxpayers and residents will likely ignore all of this as they have done in the past. But make no mistake, we are the ones getting screwed if this request moves forward. So you might as well get used to it, grab your ankles and hang on.


Anonymous said...

I don't know why I bother commenting here but blaming management or the city manager for this is absurd. If you care to read the gazette article even the manager thinks this is being fast-tracked. This a proposal from the Youth Hockey and they are merely asking to be heard.

Lou Kaye said...

I read the article. Levitt made a statement on a widely held observation, that the ice arena is being fast tracked. But what exactly does that mean if you're constantly keeping your position open ended? In the memo however, he plans on suggesting siting alternatives and is in general agreement to give the donors the right to sell the naming rights. He calls it a necessary trade-off. You've got to kidding! That doesn't look like an effort to slow down the track in my view.

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