Janesville44.3°

Downtown skateboarding ordinance fails

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
December 11, 2007
— Skateboarders still can skate Janesville’s downtown sidewalks and public areas.

Council members on a 4-3 vote Monday defeated an ordinance that would have banned all skateboarders from a designated downtown area in an effort to reduce skateboarding and hopefully vandalism to businesses.


Voting against the ordinance were Bill Truman, Tim Wellnitz, Paul Williams and Amy Loasching. Voting for the ordinance were Craig DeGarmo, Russ Steeber and George Brunner.


Downtown business owners had requested the ordinance, citing thousands of dollars of damage to their properties.


But most who spoke at a public hearing and some council members said the ordinance would have punished the good youths along with the bad and that the police have other ordinances they could use to stop vandalism.


Staff found that 12 of 16 peer cities surveyed had ordinances that regulate skateboards.


Karl Dommershausen said the downtown business owners have wanted an ordinance for at least two years to not only prevent damage but also promote the safety of skateboarders and those around them.


He said the ordinance would be another tool police could use that might prevent damage.


But Steve Olson, 814 Eisenhower Ave., the parent of a child who skateboards, appeared to explain that not all children with skateboards damage property.


“Some do just use it as transportation to the library and the schools in the downtown district,” he said.


Stephen Monroe, 217 Cornelia St., asked to look at the map to see if his kids could get to the library from his home or even skateboard outside his home. He asked whether kids could at least carry a skateboard in the downtown district and, if they could, asked how police could tell the difference between the ones causing vandalism and those simply passing through.


“I don’t think the ordinance is meant to prohibit or attack law abiding citizens moving through the downtown,” said Craig DeGarmo, adding that the intent is to curb vandalism.


“I agree that not all skateboarders are bad … (But we) have to make a stand somewhere (against) the vandalism downtown.”


“I don’t think there is any intent to defame or to say that all skateboarders, or (the) sport, is bad,” Russ Steeber said.


“We’re trying to say it has gotten to the point where people aren’t responsible for their actions and, therefore, we’re required to act.”


“I can certainly sympathize with the business owners and property owners that incurred thousands of dollars of damage,” Williams said. But the city already has laws against disorderly conduct; obstructing highways and traffic; refusing to move from public property; and vandalism and trespassing.


The ordinance would punish all the skateboarders because of a few bad ones, Williams said.


“Kids need something to do,” he said. “We just need to enforce the laws we have and punish the ones being bad, not the ones being good.”


Amy Loasching also said she had some concerns about some of the locations in the prohibited area, including the Boys & Girls Club of Janesville.


Other business

In other business, the Janesville City Council on Monday:


-- Annexed about 17 acres to the city, which includes the Janesville Terrace Mobile Home Park and the sales lot at 3225 Highway 51 South.


-- OK’d a one-year lease of the Lincoln-Tallman House with the Rock County Historical Society. The city will give the society an operating subsidy of $57,264 and a grounds maintenance subsidy of $4,400.


-- Bought a vacant lot at 1120 S. Cherry St. for $1 plus closing costs, which are estimated at less than $500. The lot is near the General Motors plant. It was owned by Best Assets, a program that manages HUD-financed properties. The city will give the lot to Habitat for Humanity to build a home for low-income residents.



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