New Janesville City Council president wants to revisit controversial votes
JANESVILLE—Doug Marklein, the Janesville City Council's new president, says his top priorities include revisiting some of the council's controversial votes.
Marklein, who was re-elected April 4, was sworn in Tuesday at City Hall with new council members Sue Conley, Tom Wolfe and Jim Farrell.
Besides picking Marklein as president, the council also selected Rich Gruber as vice president.
Marklein said he'd like to examine issues in which the council voted against the will of city staff. Those include the council's decision to create an ordinance establishing just cause and progressive discipline policies for city employees, which staff thought was unnecessary.
Councilman Jens Jorgensen and former members Sam Liebert, Carol Tidwell and Kay Deupree supported the ordinance. Considering the narrow 4-3 margin, city staff's opposition and the new council members, Marklein said he thought the issue was worth revisiting.
Marklein said he doesn't know where the new council members stand.
In Gazette Editorial Board meetings, Conley said she backed the ordinance, while Farrell indicated he opposed it. Wolfe wasn't sure which way he leaned.
Marklein also wants the council to address an idea by Jorgensen that would give the council the ability to approve spending on consultants the city manager wants to hire.
“I think that's a waste of staff time,” Marklein said.
Marklein doesn't want to reconsider the council's decison to remove the Monterey Dam. That vote passed 6-1 and had the city's support, he said.
Another priority for Marklein is an open, informal council meeting in May where members will discuss—but take no action on—Janesville City Council Policy 88. The policy dictates expectations for council members' conduct, including how they use personal electronic devices during meetings.
Discussion of the policy surfaced after several council members and residents criticized Jorgensen's use of his personal cell phone during a council meeting.
Marklein wants to examine the policy to make sure everyone is on the same page regarding what it calls for and how it should be followed.
Also at the meeting, members will discuss what they want the council to address over the next year. Marklein compared it to organizing a strategic plan for the council.
After his re-election, Marklein noted that the council would have to address the issue of public mistrust. Politics shouldn't play as big of a role as they have in the past, he said.
Marklein is considering setting up informal listening sessions, where two or three council members gather in a public place to hear residents' concerns.
“I think most of it's going to be setting a good example,” he said.
Marklein served as council president in 2015. Liebert, the previous president, didn't run for re-election.
Marklein said he met individually with all but one council member over the past week and a half. He said each one asked if he would be president.
Still, he didn't expect to be unanimously elected president Tuesday.
“I bring a comfort level. They've seen me in action,” he said. “We saw today that's the direction the council wanted to go.”
Jorgensen, who recently quarreled with Marklein over a comment about Jorgensen's youth, nominated Marklein.
As president, Marklein chooses where each member will sit. He placed Jorgensen on his left.
“He's a very good council member. He's trying real hard, and he's learning,” Marklein said.
Marklein said he didn't put too much thought into where council members were seated, but he made sure each new member had someone with experience on either side.
The new council's first meeting will be at 6 p.m. Monday at City Hall, 18 N. Jackson St.