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Friday, February 23, 2018

Just Another Day At The Races In Janesville

Wait. Janesville has an "African American Liaison Advisory Committee?" For the Police Department? A department that hired its first black officer in 2016?

I didn't think it was that big of a deal at first when the Janesville city council instructed the Freitag administration to seek out a temporary polling place other than the police station for residents of the city's west side neighborhoods. Those neighborhoods have the highest concentration of the city's black population. I figured they would do the right thing.

In Janesville however, the problem is much deeper than the stark historical realities between black and white. You see, Janesville's type of city government is an "at-large" system of representation that by design guarantees special interest domination. Its defenders claim the system provides that only the city's "best," (an inherently racist statement) regardless of where they live in the city, are elected to the council. That logic in turn feeds the fallacy that these "best" citizens are then charged and do only what's "best" for the city and not just your neck of Janesville's woods.

Do you see the problem with that? I certainly do.

Secondly, there are council members who believe that because of the Police Chief's well-intentioned community outreach efforts, it would be a slap to his face to reject a polling place in the station. That's just divisive and plain wrong.

I agree that Chief Moore has done an outstanding job in that regard, but only given the circumstances. But to the contrary, I think it's a slap in the face of any community to place the concerns for any group, police included, above the concerns of even a single voter on Election Day. Election Day is simply not the day to test your police outreach program.

Given the circumstances and acknowledgment assuming the concern for Janesville's black and minority population in those two voting wards is indeed genuine, the decision to put a polling place in the police station MUST come from that community. Not from the police or the "best" officials who don't live there.

But because there are no elected alderman representing those wards, they don't have a voice in city government. They'll have to resort to protest or petition to send a message and that's very unfortunate on every level.

But I also now wonder, if they really want to test their outreach efforts, why the police officers living in those wards don't step up to take a leadership role in this decision. Are there any? That wasn't meant to be a trick question.

The bottom line is; nearly half of Janesville, geographically, does not have representation in our city government. It is a race thing if you believe district representation is "forced diversity." But it's also a community thing and in Janesville, it's broken.

In Janesville, we have a long way to go on both fronts.

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