Our Views: Jim Farrell, Matt Kealy, Mark Bobzien are best picks for Janesville City Council

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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Two incumbents are among four candidates seeking three spots on the Janesville City Council in Tuesday’s elections.

Fortunately, all four are quality options. Our picks are councilmen Jim Farrell and Matt Kealy and newcomer Mark Bobzien.

Farrell and Kealy have served us well in their first two-year terms and deserve re-election.

Council service has energized Farrell, a retired manufacturing accountant. His financial sense helps the city’s fiscal management, and his industrial background is an asset to fostering business development. This earnest gentleman serves independently and spends much time researching issues. Farrell earns applause for getting out and talking with residents to understand their needs. He tends to waffle on some issues. However, his willingness to reconsider locations for Fire Station No. 1, after voting to expand on the current site, says much about his concern both for costs and the residents who might get uprooted.

At 31, Kealy helps represent the city’s younger generation. He also owns two restaurants, including one downtown. That gives him perspective on issues concerning small businesses and downtown revitalization. He’s outspoken and is one of the council’s best fiscal hawks. While his was the lone vote against the current fire station site, he disagrees that the discussion in closed session might have violated the state open meetings law. He earns credit, however, for suggesting he would prefer that all city business be conducted in the open.

The third choice is between George Brunner and Bobzien. Brunner spent six-plus years on the council before resigning in 2011. As the city’s former police chief, he understands Janesville’s neighborhoods, their problems and challenges. His policing and council service gives him institutional insight into city government. Still, we can’t help but think he had his time.

Bobzien is the better third pick. He’s a retired city firefighter who wrote a grant application seeking federal dollars to help rebuild Fire Station No. 1. But don’t think he’s the department’s handpicked candidate for steering its desires. He decided to run thinking the station location would be settled by now. He doesn’t even mention that issue on his campaign literature.

Also, don’t think we’re supporting Bobzien because he was schooled in journalism and his first jobs were in newspapers. Instead, he offers a fresh perspective. His firefighting days gave him insight into every corner of the city. He would be a strong advocate for downtown redevelopment and the city’s recreational and cultural assets. He’s well-spoken and provided good answers without hesitation. This Janesville native is friendly, knowledgeable, and vested in and passionate about a community that he continues to serve in various ways.

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