Here's another story that began with the task of deciding the future of the Monterey Dam in Janesville evolving into yet another example on why Janesville's form of city government, mayorless and without sturdy rules governing administration duties or routine spending authority, must be reformed.
The latest begins with Jens Jorgensen, one of seven elected city council members, daring to step outside of Janesville's kleptocracy and ask some simple questions of the status quo in charge of city hall.
More to the point, Jorgensen saw city spending on consultants with little oversight skyrocket over the past few years. He's right. Upon asking the city administration for records regarding consultant activity so he can be armed with the facts to develop a new ordinance, Jorgensen was met with stiff resistance from city staffers.
The city manager, Mark Freitag, a retired army colonel (paid handsomely by Janesville taxpayers), apparently saw the young council member (mature beyond his 19 years) as the belligerent non-conforming agitator Pfc. John Winger (Stripes) and ordered staffers to ignore Jorgensen's request. Freitag, it was reported "declined Jorgensen's request in part because he didn't believe Jorgensen was being cooperative."
From there, the situation only got worse. Freitag wanted to know in detail WHY the council member wanted the information. That in turn made Freitag appear as if he is hiding something. If anything however, it shows a second ordinance is needed to establish rules and a trigger for the administration to follow when council members request draft ordinances or public records.
This episode also goes a long way to show Janesville's city manager/at-large system of government is in desperate need of wide-ranging reform. In truth, the administration should have no skin in the decision-making game. It is only the council that may need consultation since they are ones charged with making the decisions.
Except in Janesville, not only does the administration have unchecked funding and maintain exclusive guarded access with consultants as demonstrated by the city manager, they can and have used the reports AND city committees as tools for their benefit by shaping them into presentations to fit their goals and to steer a rubber stamp from the council.
To make matters worse, the "conservative" Janesville Gazette, instead of defending Jorgensen's request for open records and supporting an ordinance for more fiscal accountability, felt their "government watchdog" inadequacy challenged once again and editorialized against the council member. They wrote that Jorgensen was grandstanding and taking advantage of people's negative perceptions of consultants and called his ideas "a solution in search of a problem."
That's what is said when somebody else does your job.
Just more of the same shameless partisan hackery I expect from the vacant Gazette.
My last point is; I've seen problematic events very similar to this one unfold several times before between council members and the city administration only to be suddenly dropped from sight with congratulations and pay raises for everyone.
So residents shouldn't expect much forward progress if any will arise this time around. But it's fun to hope and keep those fingers crossed. * eyeroll *
My advice to Jens Jorgensen is a quote attributable to Andrew Breitbart:
"Walk towards the fire, don’t worry about what they call you. All of those things are said because they want to stop you in your tracks."