Today is

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Janesville Administration Talking About a Different Economic Development Strategy?

In the aftermath of the sudden resignation by Janesville's director of economic development, the Janesville Gazette asked city officials why he will be receiving his normal salary until July 1, the effective date of his resignation. Let me repeat, "the effective date of his resignation."

With the absence of additional information about his employment contract and other "agreed to" stipulations at the time of the apparent mutual termination, the newspaper still tries to make hay of his continued salary. Oh well, that's what the Gazette does.

But one statement from the Assistant City Manager told of the city embarking on a different path for economic development. That should be big news.

JG Excerpt:
“We’re trying to move forward with economic development, and based on our strategies and what’s been accomplished in the past, we wanted to move forward in a different direction,” Winzenz said. “The decision was made to move in that direction, and in reaching that decision, Vic decided to resign his position.”

There are several issues here but I'll poke at just two of them. Who is "we" wanting to move in a new direction? The city manager who might be on his way out in a week or two? The city employee administration? The city council? It's possible I may have missed the council meeting or newspaper article announcing a change of this magnitude in the city's economic development, but I doubt it. It would have been a major story around town and since there is no mayor of Janesville or figurehead, they really should have explained who is calling the shots on this. But we don't have an independent newspaper that asks the tough questions either.

Secondly, what economic direction can be different than the one Janesville has been heading in for the past four years since after the GM Plant closed?

Don't get me wrong, this has the potential to be good news. Janesville and Rock County wage earning taxpayers have been held hostage by the tax-shifting legislative agenda of the politically active Forward Janesville and Rock County 5.0 business groups without creating any real new jobs. So any different path might be welcome.

Sure, some "connected" building owners and businesses have picked up tax credits and forgivable loans, but I have yet to see proof where those re-distributive tools were responsible for creating additional jobs. Now, when I hear the words "economic development" repeated by local officials, I think of the "elimination of democracy."

According to the story, city officials will be holding a strategy session with representatives of FJ and Rock County 5.0 in a couple weeks to define that "new" direction of the city’s economic development efforts. That could be very bad news as they could be doubling up on those failed trickle-down policies. So I'm not holding my breath.

On the other hand, I am forever the optimist. If there is any real truth to Janesville heading in a "different" direction from past strategies in economic development, I can't wait to hear more. Because if it's a strategy away from the currently administered development by elimination and away from the steady beat down of constituencies, this could be a positive new beginning. In that case, I would be one of the first to notice AND also one of their biggest boosters.

But again. I'm not holding my breath.


Anonymous said...

The original story in the Gazette, which was published on Saturday, March 16, said the director of economic development resigned his position "effective at the end of the day Friday."

The city can hide much of the details of the termination agreement because its a personal matter. What they can't hide is the money part of it. Nothing wrong with a little accountability on the city's part. (Those are our tax dollars being paid to somone who sin't working for us any longer.) Maybe they should've offered up those details the first time around.

Lou Kaye said...

Absolutely. The story changed ...or was modified in the passing days by the administration. Again, I don't have the details regarding the termination agreement, or if there even was one beyond a wink and a nod. The compensation may have been in exchange for a gag order, or in exchange for his voluntary resignation (instead of being fired on record). I don't find any of that out of the norm from the city's past practice, but it's all pure speculation.

Would I want to get down to the truth of the matter? Absolutely, but what I thought was not speculation is the statement about the city going in a different direction from past strategies on economic development. To me, that revelation can have a much farther reaching impact on the community and its future than worrying over the deferred compensation of a city employee.

Post a Comment