Council to look at charter ordinance changes

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Saturday, June 20, 2009
— Who should have the power to make appointments to city committees?

The city council has struggled with the question for almost a year and has made changes that affect eight committees.

On Monday, it will consider changing charter ordinances so the council would make appointments to the plan commission, board of review, library board, zoning board of appeals and community development authority.

The city manager now makes appointments to those boards.

Historically, the city manager made appointments to all committees, but some council members and residents were concerned that gave the city manager too much power.

Last year, the council created a process so residents can put their names into a pool of people willing to serve on committees. An advisory committee reviews the pool and recommends applicants to the council president. The president brings recommendations to the full council for approval.

Council members didn’t have a problem changing policy and basic ordinances to allow the president to make recommendations to the council. But several council members balked at changing charter ordinances, which were approved by referendum when Janesville’s government was organized in 1923.

Changing a charter ordinance means changing the style and essence of Janesville’s government, council member Russ Steeber said in January. He said that should be up to the residents, not the council.

The charter ordinances were meant to take away some of the power of the council president, he said.

Council member Tom McDonald said the change is a minor one, even though it would change a charter ordinance.

“The council president is going to have to have a pretty good reason not to follow the advice of the citizen’s advisory committee,” he said.

“Any time we change a charter ordinance, we need to … make sure it’s in the best interest for the citizens of Janesville,” McDonald said. “To me, the purpose of these committees is to help get the citizens involved.”

Because the council president is the highest elected official, it is appropriate that he or she make the recommendations, McDonald said.

Other council members such as George Brunner, though, worried the process now gives too much power to the council president.

Brunner and McDonald sponsored the ordinance to give the appointment authority for five committees to the entire council.


Fourteen city committees include residents:

--Eight have members recommended by the council president and confirmed by the council. Those committees include the alcohol licensing and Sustainable Janesville Committee.

--Four committees have members appointed by the city manager and confirmed by the council. They are the board of review, community development authority, library board and zoning board of appeals.

--Two—the plan commission and the police and fire commission—have members appointed by the city manager with no confirmation needed by the council.

State statutes control the appointment process for the police and fire commission, but City Manager Eric Levitt wrote in a memo to council members that he is willing to consider the recommendations of the advisory committee before making appointments.

A city charter ordinance regulates the plan commission. The plan commission is the most powerful committee in the city because it can grant conditional-use permits without council vote.


The Janesville City Council will meet at 7 p.m. Monday in City Hall, 18 N. Jackson St.

Items on the agenda include:

--A public hearing to change zoning at 120 N. Crosby Ave. so the owner can run a banquet hall in the basement of the facility, which is the former Moose Club. The building is now zoned for office use and has offices on the first floor.

--A public hearing on the conversion of North Franklin Street between Highland and Mineral Point avenues from a one-way to a two-way street.

--A recommendation by staff to borrow $1.75 million to do interior and exterior inspections of every Janesville property. The city must revalue for the 2010 or 2011 property assessments to meet state statutes. The council gave a tentative OK for the inspections at an earlier study session.

--Action to buy property at 417 N. Washington St., 414 N. Washington St. and 1728 N. Washington St.

Last updated: 10:39 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

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