339 South Locust Street, Janesville, Wisconsin, 53548-4655

Dirty Laundry Updates

April 2005 “City Manager Shenanigans”

I. The Dirt:
Let me get this straight. According to gazette article 04-12-05, page B1, the Cullen outfit managed to get the low bid on the police station construction project by overbidding the project a whole half million dollars, a full 10% of the project. My, my, how do they stay in business when they can be so far off the mark? No mystery there. And I guess the over-inflated project was scaled back after the contract was awarded.

Then the city manager has already spent that half a million extra before the people even know it is available. He rearranges the city hall 3rd floor to hide the antics of the code department behind fake walls and a fake name, the “Community Development Department”, instead of just calling it the “Code and Planning Department”. The new walls do not allow us to keep an eye on our city employees any more. What else is the city manager trying to hide? There are no load bearing walls inside our city hall, so a quickie “renovation” did not cost no half million dollars to take out fake walls and put in more. Where is the rest of our money? And a longtime people requested renovation would have put our citizen city hall meeting room on the first floor where we walk in the front door, instead of it being hidden on the fourth floor behind double closed doors and misnamed “the council chambers”. And the sign out front still says “municipal building” incorrectly implying a city employee building instead of the building owned by the people and for the people.

On top of that, the city manager has already cut and mailed the check to demolish our historic building at 23 S. Franklin Street. When did our historical society discover this? The very same day of the slam-dunk ramrod rubber-stamp of our puppet self-interest council. What is our building being exchanged for? Grass.

It gets better. Where will they get the $80,000 to destroy this building? From the affordable housing neighborhood money called the federal block grant money that is supposed to be funding our neighborhood community center. How are the poor people in my Fourth Ward neighborhood going to benefit by this square of new grass in the downtown? By the way, only one member of the Community Block Grant Board that allocates the spending of our neighborhood money is from the neighborhood. And that board is misnamed the Community Development Authority Board.

While code department is misnamed the “Community Development Department”, the real Community Development Department spending the community development federal block grant money that is supposed to be spent improving affordable housing neighborhoods is misnamed “Neighborhood Services”. And they are being moved to the new cop shop. How would that be appropriate? Administration says drug lords live in my neighborhood so they can justify spending our money on their cop budget. But the drug lords have homes in way more expensive neighborhoods. The Community Development Department (a.k.a. “Neighborhood Service”) uses our money to blight our neighborhood, to remove affordable housing, and level our homes and fund riverfront and downtown fat-cat redevelopment projects. That’s why the city manager put a cop in our little Wilson grade school where the Asian children are blowing the math curve and upping the bar at the spelling bees. The cop-in-the-grade-school tactic dropped property values in the neighborhood a good 10% to 30%.

Meanwhile, after city council publicly slams the historical society as having no clout, no authority, no opinion, and no input, our Maurice Montgomery will be allowed to make the eulogy prior to the demolition ball. Why does the city not rent out the historic building, instead of renting out the ugly building on the other corner at 200 West Milwaukee? Why don’t they demolish the ugly building? Oh, they will. On a project we won’t hear about until after they are done with it. We need four out of seven city council seats to be people candidates. Then we will bump the fat cat dictatorship, put a leash on the city administration, revamp the Citizen Board of Appeals to be a true citizen watchdog, and create a citizen generated vision of the future of Janesville.

In the meantime, our current city government is a Jerry Seinfield stand up comedy routine.

City council meetings are every second and fourth Monday evenings at 7:00 p.m., Janesville’s very own reality TV sitcom.

II. City Council Call to Action;
Re-vote to save 23 N. Franklin.

Call the Code and Planning Department just that, and not “Community Development Department”.

Call the real Community Development Department just that, and not “Neighborhood Services”.

Give back to the neighbors our federal block grant money so we can get our community center. We will have our own Community Development Board, which will meet at our community center.

Get the cop out of the grade school and into our community center.

Put our Community Development Department in our community center.

Replace the municipal building sign with “City Hall of Janesville Wisconsin”.

Put citizen meeting room on the first floor of City Hall.

Hire a goal and vision consulting firm for the Citizen Planning Commission.

Revamp the Citizen Board of Appeals, currently misnamed the “Zoning Variance Appeals Board”.

III. Quote of the Day:
“City growth-growth-growth … when did cancer become a good thing? Oh yes, it’s only good for the tumors. We need to get the tumors off city council.” by Tim Gavin

Make your submissions of information, ideas, calls to action and quotes to;

C.A.R.D. Dirty Laundry Update
339 South Locust Street
Janesville, Wisconsin 53548-4655
U.S.A.
Phone: 608-754-3999
Fax: 608-754-3939
Web: www.changeforjanesville.com
Submissions may be anonymous.

 

 

 

May 2005 “Fair and Equal Representation”

I. The Dirt:
The facts about Janesville city mismanagement, misallocation of funds, citizen violations, TIF abuses, etc are embarrassing. Not liking those unfortunate facts does not make them untrue, and ridiculing the people that point out these disturbing facts does not correct the situation.

But we could very quickly and easily change the cause of these embarrassing problems and fix the situation by updating our city council system.

Currently, Janesville has four recognized neighborhoods; the West Side, the South Side, the East Side, and the Historic Hub. Everyone, including the current city council recognizes these four natural neighborhood districts in the city as is demonstrated by the regular “Listening Sessions” which are held in and for the West Side, the South Side, the East Side, and the Historic Hub. These four districts conveniently divide themselves equally into 6 to 7 wards each. Yet these four areas of Janesville do not have fair and equal representation on the city council.

Currently the city council has seven seats, the same number of seats for the last years, since Janesville’s population was one-fourth the current size. Now each city council member is expected to represent all of the current 60,000 plus citizens. 60,000 citizens is the average number of citizens in a senate district, for which the senator has a salary, staff, and budget. These seven city council members has none of that.

Right now the South Side has two city council seats; Greg Addie and Tom Brien. The West Side has no seats. The Historic Hub has no seats, though one or two candidates from this neighborhood ran in the last four elections. The East Side has five out of seven seats. This is a grievous imbalance, which is the source of our festering city problems.

There is a very simple solution. We increase our city council seats from seven to nine. We have two seats for each of the four neighborhood districts, and one at-large seat.

With this configuration, in our most recent election Addie and Brien would have been shoe-ins for the South Side. Nan Chesmore could have run again and the Historic Hub would have chosen two out of their three candidates between Chesmore, Wixom, and Briarmoon. The West Side would have two seats to fill and at least two candidates would have stepped forward, now that they could win without having to be members of the Country Club living on the East Side. And the East Side would have had no seat openings to fill, since they already had their two seats filled, as well as the at-large seat with Degarmo, Williams, and Tim Wellnitz.

Today we can update our city council system for the next election on April 5, 2006. The South Side will have one more year of two-year terms for their two city council seats with Addie and Brien. The West Side will finally have their own two seats to fill. The Historic Hub will have their two seats to fill. And the East Side will already have their two seats with Tom Wellnitz and George Brunner. The at-large seat would go to the highest vote-getter of the additional candidates from each neighborhood. So Craig Degarmo and Paul Williams and Tim Wellnitz would be running against each other and against any other neighborhood district runners-up for the one remaining at-large seat.

That is, the East Side would never be able to have more than three out of the nine city council seats. The rest of the citizens would have a voice. We would get the other 90% of the input we, the citizens of Janesville, so desperately need in order to be able to give adequate and appropriate direction to our current city administration employees so that they are not running amuck. Then we will have eliminated the source of Janesville’s most embarrassing problems.

II. City Council Call to Action;
We, the Citizen Association for Rights and Dignity, request that Greg Addie make this motion, that Tom Brien second this motion and that Tim or Tom Wellnitz and George Brunner vote in favor of this motion. For a majority of at least four out of seven votes to update our city council system, so that city council is capable of functioning appropriately for fair and equal representation of all the citizens of our wonderful city.

Please make the motion that the number of city council seats be increased from seven to nine. That there be four alderman neighborhood districts, with 6 to 7 wards each, called the Historic Hub (District 1), the South Side (District 2), West Side (District 3) , and the East Side (District 4). That each of the four districts has two seats each with the ninth seat being at-large going to the top vote-getter of the runner-ups from each neighborhood district. That ward divisions for each district to be as follows; The Historic Hub (District 1) to be Wards 3, 13, 14, 15, 16, 23, and 24. The South Side (District 2) to be Wards 19, 20, 21, 17, 22, and 27. The West Side (District 3) to be Wards 1, 2, 4, 5, 18, 25, and 26. The East Side (District 4) to be Wards 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12.

Please make and pass this motion tonight for fair and equal citizen representation. Please update our city council system tonight

III. Quote of the Day:
“Those who profess to favor freedom and yet renounce controversy, are people who want crops without plowing the ground.” Fredrick Douglas

City council meetings are every second and fourth Monday evenings at 7:00 p.m., on the fourth floor of City Hall (currently called the “Municipal Building”), at 18 N. Jackson Street, Janesville, Wisconsin.

Make your submissions of information, ideas, calls to action and quotes to;

C.A.R.D. Dirty Laundry Update
339 South Locust Street
Janesville, Wisconsin 53548-4655
U.S.A.
Phone: 608-754-3999
Fax: 608-754-3939
Submissions may be anonymous.

 

 

May 29, 2005 “How the City Manager Became a Dictator”

I. The Dirt:

How did the city manager turn himself into a dictator? The following describes the seven steps he took to dismantle our democratic process. We let down our vigilance turning our back on local government and he took us to the cleaners.

Step 1. Removed Citizen Protection;
The Citizen Board of Appeals is the citizen watchdog group. They have the authority and responsibility to reverse any city employee action that causes unnecessary hardship to a citizen or was administered contrary to the intent of the law, even if the city employee followed the ordinance to the letter of the law. The board can choose to over-ride any code or ordinance or zoning if to do so is in the best interest of the public, or to protect vulnerable citizens, or to make sure that common sense continues to be the norm. How did the city manager dismantle the authority and responsibility of this board? The city manager changed their name to “Zoning Variance Appeal Board”.

The city manager chooses the board members, which city council rubber stamps. The city council elected officials do not themselves advertise, interviewed, or choose the board members.

In addition, the board is not trained by an outside citizen-advocate firm. Instead, the city manager trains them. He tells them that they can not reverse anything a city employee does unless the city employee can be proven to have violated the letter of the law based on the city employee interpretation of the letter of the law, terms, and definitions of that law. The city employee easily justifies anything they do to anyone.

Also, the board is not their own secretary, nor do they hire their own secretary. Instead, a city employee acts as the board secretary and controls the inspection of citizen complaints, and the writing of the board agenda, minutes, and decisions.

Nor are citizens informed of their appeal rights when contacted by a city employee. Instead, city employees tell folks that there is no appeal process except to sue the city municipality in a circuit court of law if the citizen is unhappy with anything a city employee has done.

If the citizen does actually discover the Citizen Board of Appeals, the city employee refuses to accept their complaint, says they are not eligible for an appeal, and refuses to put them on the agenda. He also says they may not attend the meeting unless on the agenda.

The application fee to file a complaint with the Citizen Board of Appeals is $200 (two hundred dollars) instead of $20 (twenty dollars). If the citizen sends the complaint directly to the board members, the city employee charges $200 dollars per each item on the citizen complaint. So, for $200, the city employee puts only one of the twelve complaint items on the board agenda, and then says the other eleven complaint items have missed the deadline.

Step 2. Lined Up the Allies;
The city manager uses fat contracts to grease the palms of 4 out of 7 city council members. They must then abstain from many critical votes do to conflict of interest. And they vote an automatic annual pay raise to the city manager in gratitude for their contract windfalls. City council elections are at-large so that only the well-to-do bother to run. They take turns with each other to fill new vacancies, so that voter apathy abounds. When the occasional loan shark gets elected who is sympathetic to citizen rights, he is subjected to rapid burned out. Other members shut him down, keep him off committees, refuse to second his motions, etc. A loan shark for the people usually doesn’t last for more than one term and has never lasted long enough to get three more allies on the city council with him in order to have a majority for the people. Right now only special interest has the majority representation on city council.

Step 3. Eliminated Citizen Input;
The city manager makes sure citizens have no appeal process, no voice, no representation. He labels wronged citizens as “ax-grinders”, and accuses them of trying to interfere with progress that is in the best good of the whole. He does anything to prevent alderman districts. Refuses to allow ward supervisor elections or representation. Provides no meeting rooms for political groups or issues. Encourages that citizen comments be limited to 3 minutes at the end of the city council meeting. And he has the neighborhood “listening sessions” run by and over-run with city employees.

Step 4. Orchestrated Rhetoric and Seating;
The city manager has city employees seated up on the stage with the elected city council members, giving them the same nametags and allowing them to appear as though they have equal authority as our elected city council members. Four of the eleven seats are city employees. He has the city attorney, in conflict of interest, interrupt and intimidate the council members any time they get an original idea. He uses intimidation, insults, arrogance, condescension, insider-club peer pressure, etc to manipulate the members and to silence the citizens.

Step 5. Set Up the Henchmen and Assassin;
The city manager has added loopholes to the ordinances that allow code department threats to be made against any citizen including chamber of commerce members, who would have their businesses closed down on them by code inspectors if they squawk. He gave a blank check to the legal department so they can defend anything done by a city employee against a citizen. He gave code inspectors the authority to write citations. He conducted a Test Case in 1986; he found an attorney with business partners who owned rental property. He condemned one of their rentals saying the repair cost could exceed what the city allows. Watched them choose to demolish the building rather than incur the cost and time of municipal litigation and city retaliation. Declared victory and proceeded to raze and take any property wanted by the city, without just compensation to the owners. Janesville averages 18 to 24 raze order per year compared to sister cities who raze 2 or 3 buildings per year. Then he turned this practice of using the code department to confiscate property and he turned it on the affordable housing neighborhood to save cost on redeveloping the riverfront. He put individual neighbors into foreclosure, bankruptcy, and homelessness. And he watched four city council members look the other way while they wait for his redevelopment contracts.

Step 6. Dodged the Resistance;
The city manager dodges the resistance if angry citizens make an outcry. He reorganizes the departments. He recently split the Code Department into two departments. He put half the code department with Planning and called it “Community Development Office”. He put the other half of the code department with Neighborhood Services and called it Neighborhood Services and Nuisances. He added additional layers of bureaucracy by assigning a pencil-pusher to be director over the head code inspector. He targets the citizen instigators by sending the code inspectors to their properties and writes them up for a list of allegations while ignoring the grandfather clause. He hand-picked a pretend citizen investigation committee, and limited their criteria. Dictated what they may inspect. Provided the few “solutions” from which he said they were allowed to choose. He gave last minute notice for one public hearing so that very few people found out about it or were able to attend. He provided a city employee to be secretary to the citizen committee to steer them and to sensor any information coming to them.

Step 7. Bought the Local Media;
The city manager controls the local paper and radio with a TIF district. He gives them a TIF (Tax Increment Finance) district for the building of their new facility so that they will get a ten year break from property taxes that will save them millions of dollars. Plus the small amount of taxes that they actually do pay for ten years will be used to eliminate their special assessment costs, saving them even more. The paper and radio will thus gladly slander the citizen insurgents, tell half the facts, and protect city employees from exposure of their citizen abuses. He makes sure the big paper buys out alternative newspapers like the Messenger and the Jotter. He tells the starters of new papers that they need city council approval to open their new paper, and makes sure it is turned down. He has the city own the cable TV network and control the public access TV station.

Step 8. Bought the Biggest Gun for Court;
If a citizen actually is willing and able to sue the city in a circuit court of law, the city hires the top municipal attorney in the state, Ted Waskowski, who also is the paid lobbyist for the state’s City Manager Club and paid him top dollar. Spent $35,000 to $65,000 on attorney fees and city employee resources to try tromping a citizen over a $400 storage shed, against the Briarmoon Carriage Barn.

In Conclusion; We are not willing to abandon the democratic process for an increase of expediency in special interest growth. The City of Janesville is capable of growth in a way that does not harm vulnerable citizens. The City of Janesville is capable of incorporating all the ideas that matter into our plans and goals for the city.

Even though democracy takes more time and patients and input than a dictatorship, the rewards far outweigh the additional cost.

We need to end the city manger dictatorship. We need to return Democracy to the government of our city.

II. Call to Action:
Express your support in the following ways. Call and write your city council members and the gazette letters to the editor.

Speak at the city council meetings and talk to your friends and neighbors. Print this information and pass out copies.

Financially support and vote for people-responsive candidates. Collect signatures.

Support the following. The formation of four neighborhood alderman districts. An election of our two-year term ward supervisors. A revamp of the Citizen Board of Appeals. An appeal of the TIF district for the Bliss Gazette/Radio facility.

A drastic salary reduction for the city manager. A lid on city attorney budget. City Council approval requirement for law suites allowed against a citizen. A renaming of the code department to be “The Code Department”. A cleanup of the local ordinances.

III. Quote of the Day:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has” Margaret Mead

City council meetings are every second and fourth Monday evenings at 7:00 p.m., on the fourth floor of City Hall (currently called the “Municipal Building”), at 18 N. Jackson Street, Janesville, Wisconsin.

Make your submissions of information, ideas, calls to action and quotes to;

C.A.R.D. Dirty Laundry Update
339 South Locust Street
Janesville, Wisconsin 53548-4655
U.S.A.
Phone: 608-754-3999
Fax: 608-754-3939
Submissions may be anonymous.

 

July 14, 2005 “Not Illegal to Have a Garden”

I. The Dirt:

It is not illegal to have a garden in your yard; vegetable, fruit, flower, exotic plant, bird, or butterfly. You do not need a permit to have a garden in your yard. Plants you purchase from a nursery or transplant from someone else’s yard are not “noxious weeds”.

But the city employees send a letter saying that the citizen must mow the entire yard or that a city employee will trespass and destroy the garden and send them the bill. That their garden is “noxious weeds” and in violation of the ordinance for height allowances of a lawn. They also use the “vision triangle” excuse for destroying the corner fencing and landscaping on a citizen’s property.

They actually do this. Without writing a citation, without a court order, without legal authority to do so, without informing the citizen of their appeal process, without permission from the citizen to come onto their property, and without the citizen being present – the city employees trespass and do property damage with city-owned equipment and then send a bill to the property owner.

This happened to me. When I got the letter, I called immediately. I explained the difference between the lawn, which surrounded the garden and was mowed up to the garden, verses the garden of natural plants for butterflies and birds. He assured me that my call took care of the situation and that they would cancel the work order. The “work order”? Yes. They already had a work order to hack down my seven-year garden if in ten days I had not already done so.

And that is exactly what they did to me. They had “forgotten to pull the work order”. They used a sickle. It looked terrible. I was heart broken. Then they sent me the bill anyway, and threatened to put it on my property taxes if I did not pay it!

I told them that I would make a police report for trespassing and property damage and that I would pay one-hundred dollars to open a file at the court house and sue the city. They retracted the bill. But they did not pay for the damage they had done or pay restitution for the incident.

At the time I gave the city employees the benefit of the doubt. That this had been a mistake. But now I know that this is their procedure. That to treat people this way is their policy. That they reek havoc on countless citizens every year. This city procedure to skip the citation against the citizen, and go directly to trespass and property damage is in violation of constitutional and private property rights. This city acts like a Hitler police state with Gestapo code inspectors, per the direction of the city manager.

II. Call to Action:
Every contact from a city employee needs to include a pamphlet with the appeal process of the Citizen Board of Appeals. The Citizen Board of Appeals is currently mislabeled “Zoning Variance Appeals Board”, and their name needs to be corrected. The pamphlet needs to tell the citizen to come directly to the next meeting with their concern, so the citizen can avoid the city employee aggressive attempts to derail them from an appeal. Meetings are the fourth Tuesday at 4:30 in the city hall on the fourth floor meeting hall, open to the public. The appeal fee needs to be $20 dollars, not the current $200 dollars

.

Tell your story at the next city council meeting and at the next Citizen Board of Appeals meeting. Write a letter to the editor and bring copies to the city council members and Citizen Board of Appeals members. Make a police report. Inform the city employee that you are willing to physically defend your property if necessary from unlawful trespass and threat of property damage. WI Statute 939.49 allows you to do this. (This works. They run scared and complain that their job is “dangerous”.) Call the C.A.R.D. organization to find out how to open a file for a lawsuit against the city for one hundred dollars to be able to tell a judge your story for restitution of damages done. If the city threatens to take you to court, welcome it; our constitution and your property are worth protecting. Post your property with “no trespassing” signs. Get the city manager fired.

III. Quote of the Day:
“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.” William James

City council meetings are every second and fourth Monday evenings at 7:00 p.m., on the fourth floor of City Hall (currently called the “Municipal Building”), at 18 N. Jackson Street, Janesville, Wisconsin.

Make your submissions of information, ideas, calls to action and quotes to;

C.A.R.D. Dirty Laundry Update
339 South Locust Street
Janesville, Wisconsin 53548-4655
U.S.A.
Phone: 608-754-3999
Fax: 608-754-3939
Submissions may be anonymous.