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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

City Hides Developer's Payment Request During Council Presentation

During last night's Janesville city council meeting, the city administration and council had another one of those increasingly trendy hidden-government-crony-favoritism-double-standard-class-war-Janesville-style-politics moments when they quickly approved without discussion a request from a development investment firm to extend the term payback period for road and infrastructure assessments from 5 years to 10 years.
Janesville Online Excerpt:
Economic Development Director’s Recommendation. Staff recommends that SARA Investments be granted a ten year payback period for the extension of watermain and sanitary sewer along with road improvements instead of the normal five year period.
Much like the last time Janesville's city government reframed a corps-favor by burying it in a TIF agreement, this time not only did the administration official and council members completely avoid any reference to the payment term change, they also made no request to require any proof or documents of hardship from the firm for reason why an extended payment plan is needed in the first place. This was all in stark contrast to the council meeting two weeks ago when a Janesville homeowner requested a nearly identical payment extension (from 5 to 10 years) on $2,600 for a sidewalk installation. Keep in mind the homeowner's request is not a hand-out from city taxpayer coffers. It is merely a homeowner asking to have their payments spread out with the incurring interest over a longer period of time.

Although the homeowner's request was eventually approved based on hardship inflicted by high medical bills, two council members made a fuss that the city should establish better guidelines to prove hardship with tax records or other documentation when homeowners seek an extended payment plan. Apparently no such proof of hardship is necessary when investors call for the same favor.

It should be noted that the Janesville Gazette, yes even the Janesville Gazette, called reference to the firm's 10-year payback extension request in this article about the upcoming city council agenda published several days earlier. This relatively unfiltered coverage is so unusual it might be the result of a communication break-down or a squabble between the city administration and the newspaper. Anything is possible around here.

For the sake of appearing not too class-battle-hardened, lets forget all of the juxtaposition and obvious double-standard between the requests and just focus on why the city administration would deliberately hide any reference of the payment extension during the open-to-the-public council meeting. Are TIF agreements regularly being used as a vehicle to shelter other crony capital favors? Is the investment firm facing hardship for requesting the extension? Why was the city official's speaking presentation absent of any reference to the payment plan? Why didn't city council members inquire about the request?

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