Committee appointee is no slam-dunk

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011
— Three city council members on Monday tried to blackball a resident recommended to serve on the city's transportation committee, saying he had been too critical of certain council members.

This marked the first time the council questioned the recommendations of a citizens committee whose job it is to suggest volunteers to various city committees. The citizens committee was formed several years ago with the goal of removing political sway in appointments.

The city manager made such recommendations in the past.

Councilman Tom McDonald said he was uncomfortable appointing Edwin James to the transportation committee.

McDonald said James had written emails and letters to the editor of the Gazette that have "essentially alienated himself from a portion of the council" and that he also has "lost" members' trust.

There are plenty of other volunteers willing to serve, McDonald said.

"I'm not looking for a 'yes man' on the council," McDonald said. "I want someone who is able to work with the council, and this person, I don't think, can do that based on comments this person has made."

Councilmen Russ Steeber and Yuri Rashkin agreed.

However, councilman Frank Perrotto said individuals do not alienate themselves just because they voice opinions.

Councilman Bill Truman agreed, saying, "That's why we have the committee appointments, so the council doesn't pick and choose the 'yes' and 'no' men on the committee."

The council should welcome varying opinions, he added.

"We don't say a council member needs to leave because he's alienated somebody."

The vote was 4-3 against asking the committee to search for another volunteer, with Kathy Voskuil, Perrotto, Truman and George Brunner voting "no." Steeber, McDonald and Rashkin voted "yes."

A second 6-1 vote seated James, with Rashkin voting "no." However, Rashkin later changed his vote to "yes."

James wrote the email in question after Rashkin and Perrotto argued over whether Rashkin should have left a Forward Janesville banquet before a speech by Gov. Scott Walker.

Upon leaving the event, Rashkin joined people outside protesting Walker's proposed cuts to collective bargaining rights. He then posted a disapproving email from Perrotto on his website, reminding people Perrotto was up for re-election.

Perrotto was not re-elected to the council during last week's elections.

In his email, James decried partisanship on the council and pointed to Rashkin as a prime example. He commended Perrotto for "resisting the political moves" of Rashkin and also commended Truman for saying that he, too, thought Rashkin crossed the line.

"Non-partisanship is now more important than ever before," James said in his email.

The email also reads:

"Mr. Rashkin has had his 'Tim Cullen Moment.' I first viewed him as a political groupie. He has now graduated to political wannabee. Mr. Rashkin—please go elsewhere or leave the council if you want to play your little games. Our council needs men with the personal character of Mr. Perrotto."

Last updated: 5:00 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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