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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Sidewalk-Less Property Sales In Janesville Should Be Illegal

During Monday night's Janesville city council meeting, the council was confronted by the city administration over the city's broken sidewalk program.

For starters, we'll have to go back to 2008 when the council directed the administration to plan for and build nine miles of sidewalks per year for the next seven years in an effort to catch up to the backlog of existing unwalkable streets and sub-divisions within city limits. However, during a council meeting in April of this year, the council cherry-picked through a list of streets tabbed for sidewalks by the administration in the scaled down 1.5 mile plan for 2010 and exempted most of the properties. Of course the council faced about 25 angry residents at that particular council meeting, but that's what they should expect since it's the council that demands final approval. The administration appears to be the bad guy by following their directive, while the council sets themselves up as the good guy by opting-out a mob of angry property owners. This only defers the day of reckoning for the city council to face another angry mob again next year.

So who could blame the administration for suggesting that the city should scrap the sidewalk plan entirely and develop a petition process for residents who might want to opt-in for a $2,500 sidewalk? You know how far that one will go. At least that suggestion called the council's bluff on the sidewalk plan so to speak, forcing the council to either terminate the plan or re-issue their support for it.

After some discussion, the council did issue their unanimous support for the sidewalk plan, but scaled back the 9-mile target to a 5-mile minimum primarily because of the poor local economy. With that said, the council did not address why they enjoy cherry-picking through a list of properties every year to exempt. This is where a lot of the trouble comes from. Once property owners see their name on a list, they should have an appeals process away from the council to appeal to. But since sidewalks are mandatory in Janesville, the reason for exemption would have to be pretty darn serious. But wait! The "progressive" government of Janesville does not have a genuine appeals system. The council is it.

At Monday's meeting, Council member Bill Truman said he still wants to know the addresses involved in future sidewalk planning. For what? That's just laying the groundwork for more of the same old anger management politicking.

What needs to be done is a complete restructuring of Janesville city government and its processes. But it took them almost 90 years to create this mess. You think they have the stomach for progress? Not a chance - they like it like this.

One of the best ideas I've heard on the perennial Janesville sidewalk fiasco came from a comment at the Gazette blog.
Gazette Blog Comment:
"It's real simple. When the current home owner sells the house, side walks go in. Period. Let the new and old owners dicker over who is paying." -- Lifelonger
Great idea! The city absolutely should not allow any sidewalk-less parcels with or without a home to change ownership without setting up a sidewalk escrow account built into the sale price. No ifs, ands, or buts. click cartoon


Anonymous said...

It's asinine. Sidewalks or no sidewalks, but please make a decision! Either they are important everywhere in Janesville or nowhere. What are the criteria used to exempt some in the cherry picking process? Wealthy vs. poor neighborhoods? Busy street? I would be happy NOT to have a sidewalk. Can I have mine removed?

Lou Kaye said...

They pulled streets out of the administration's sidewalk list in April because they faced an angry mob and partly because of the economy. But you're right, if they went with the petition process to exempt certain streets, why couldn't those already with sidewalks petition to have them removed?

My main point is that once the council approves of a program, why in the world are they holding meetings later to discuss the streets chosen? It's a done deal.

Anonymous said...

Was there, or is there, an escrow account sit side for sidewalks in Janesville?

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