Janesville52.6°

Barrett pays visit to Janesville

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Jason Smathers
August 20, 2010
— Robert Wells and his wife, Jane, just wanted a nice day out of the house.

At 100 and 94, respectively, the Beloit couple sat down at Mocha Moment on Thursday morning for a few cinnamon rolls with their grandson.


They just happened to come at the same time as another high-profile patron: Gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett. The Democratic candidate and Milwaukee mayor was making a campaign stop with Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan.


Robert Wells didn’t care much for politics—he said at his age he’s too old for “issues.” But he bonded with Barrett through Barrett’s wife, who’s from Beloit. Wells recognize her maiden name, saying he used to bowl with Barrett’s father-in-law.


While Barrett’s brief spin around the coffee shop mostly consisted of meet-and-greet campaigning, the candidate did get some probing from retired Janesville schoolteacher Randall Ryan.


While Ryan quickly joked that Barrett “might have heard of my son (referring to Republican Congressman Paul Ryan),” he admitted from the start that he was a staunch conservative who looked for a different way to run government.


“My feeling is that government is getting to be a business and should probably be run by a businessman,” Ryan said.


While that means he has leaned toward supporting Republican candidate Mark Neumann, he’s not yet made up his mind.


Barrett laid out his priorities with Ryan and a few other patrons: tying tax credits to job creation and reducing the state’s two billion dollar deficit.


Barrett also supported Gov. Jim Doyle’s decision to push forward the expansion of I-90/39. Barrett said the Transportation Project Commission needed to be called not only to handle the discussion of expansion, but also to start prioritizing highway projects in the state, especially given the influx of federal stimulus money.


“The important thing is the process,” Barrett said. “The Transportation Project Commission needs to be convened so that it can conduct an analysis and do this the right way.”


Barrett also emphasized the need for an overhaul of state economic development, including the creation of a unit within the governor’s office to oversee state job creation efforts and the establishment of a venture capital fund for small businesses.


Barrett also said he’d streamline the process for permitting through the Department of Natural Resources, so businesses looking to locate in Wisconsin get a quick answer one way or the other, rather than having to delay decisions because of red tape.


During his time in Rock County, Barrett said all residents have focused on the economy and that social issues have been a low priority. Ryan provided the one question in the social realm when he asked for Barrett’s position on abortion. (He’s pro-choice.)


Yet, most patrons made at least a brief mention of his most visible feature: the hand he injured after trying to stop a domestic dispute at the State Fair last year.


When Ryan said he was looking for a candidate that was “the same person Saturday night that is Sunday morning,” Barrett lifted the still-recovering appendage.


“This was my Saturday night,” Barrett joked.



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