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Nine face off for four seats on Janesville City Council

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
March 29, 2012
— Nine candidates are seeking to fill four, two-year terms on the Janesville City Council in the April 3 election.

Only one incumbent, Kathy Voskuil, is seeking re-election. Tom McDonald and Yuri Rashkin will not seek another term. George Brunner resigned part way into his term.


Joseph Hoppenjan, 50, of 1112 Burbank Ave., is running as a registered write-in candidate. In forms filed with the city March 6, he listed his occupation as disabled.


The nine candidates who will be on the ballot—Jim Farrell, Matthew Kealy, Andy Murray, Billy R. McCoy, DuWayne Severson, Angela Smillie, Michael Southers, Kathy Voskuil and Troy Zimdars—answered the following questions:


Q: Why are you running? In light of recent charges of partisanship in the city council, do you see yourself some day running for statewide office?
Farrell: Farrell's business background and education would be an asset to the council and community in making decisions on issues such as land use, development, capital improvement, financing and strategic planning, he said.

"I am not a one-issue candidate," he said. "There are many issues facing the city council, and I want to make sure that those decisions are made in a fair and thoughtful manner that benefit the citizens of the community."


Farrell said he has "absolutely" no intention of running for state office.


Kealy: Kealy said his family has lived in Janesville since the late 1800s, the city has provided him with a great quality of life, and he hopes to raise a family here. As a small business owner, the success of the city and its residents are important to him and 37 employees, he said.

"I am not one to sit on the sidelines and not ask questions. This, I feel, will be a great asset to a council member.


"I am not running as a stepping stone for state office," he said. "I am running as my way to give back to a community that has been so good to me."


McCoy: McCoy said he is running to "better the community in which I live and to be a voice for citizens I feel are not being heard at city council meetings."

He said he doesn't plan to run for a statewide office.


Murray: Murray is committed to making a difference in Janesville by using his communication skills, enthusiasm and work ethic to make informed decisions on behalf of taxpayers, he said.

"There is nowhere else I would rather raise my family than Janesville."


Murray's focus and commitment is on the city.


"Then, based on the work I do today, will determine if my peers will consider me a trusted public official in the future," he said.


Severson: Severson would serve Janesville residents by making tough budget decisions during difficult economic times, he said.

"We need to restore consistent common-sense financial priorities for Janesville."


Smillie: Smillie said she is not afraid to ask difficult questions or make tough decisions to minimize sacrifices and maximize prosperity.

"I've never been one to stand on the sidelines, and now is not the time to start," she said. "Change is inevitable, and the majority of the time it's uncontrollable. It is our duty as city leaders to determine how these changes will impact our citizens, current businesses and potential future businesses."


She would listen and be fair, she said.


Any plans to run for public office are not "in my five-year or even 10-year personal-life plan," she said.


Southers: Southers grew up in Janesville and remembers the "lush days" when the local economy was strong, he said.

"I wish to return Janesville the same lush days that I enjoyed as a child for all the children of Janesville citizens."


Southers doesn't plan to run for anything other than local office, he said.


Voskuil: Voskuil is seeking re-election to the council to continue to serve residents here and establish good public policy to make Janesville a better place, she said.

She does not envision running for statewide office.


Zimdars: "I would like to bring some fiscal common sense to city government," he said.

He does not plan to run for any statewide office.


"I am not a politician," he said.


Q: Did you agree with Gov. Scott Walker's initiative that requires city employees—with the exception of firefighters, police officers and bus drivers—to pay into their pensions? (Public works employees do not pay now but will be required to when their contract expires in 2012.)
Did you agree with the council's decision last year to give back to non-union workers the money the city saved through the initiative?
When contracts expire in 2013, the council will have greater say over working conditions, one of the "tools" Walker said he wanted to give cities to save money. For example, parks workers are paid double to empty trash on Sundays in Janesville because contracts specify the hours of a working day. Would you advocate using the "tools" the Legislature provided when it removed the right to negotiate working conditions from some public employees?
Farrell: All workers should have the rights to negotiate in good faith for their wages, hours and working conditions, Farrell said.

"Act 10 and any other legislation can be overturned in the 2012 or subsequent elections. Many cities and counties have reached excellent contracts with their employees without using the tools established by Act 10 and still have harmonious relations with their workers."


Farrell did not agree with the decision to give back the money associated with the initiative "just because there were savings," he said.


Kealy: "I see no problem with government employees helping contribute to their pensions," Kealy said. "This is a first-class pension program that they will be receive back upon retirement."

He disagreed with the decision to return through bonuses the money saved last year.


"It was to be used to offset the cities' liability to their health and pension programs. The city was facing a deficit, which I would have applied the savings to, instead of borrowing to fill the budget gap.


"I feel the city employees work hard for the city," Kealy said. "I will work with the employees to maintain safe working conditions. I feel it is important to make sure our employees are happy and rewarded for the job they do."


McCoy: McCoy only addressed the money that was given back to employees.

"I don't disagree with the fact that it was done," he said. "I am upset with the process of how the money was given back. The money given back could have been in the form of credit toward city of Janesville services."


Murray: Murray said it would be his job as a nonpartisan council member to listen to other points of view, communicate with the public, research the issues and, "most importantly, talk with our city employees/leaders to determine potential directions to take. With this firmly in place, we must negotiate in good faith and work together to find the best possible solutions for everyone involved," he said.
Severson: "The role of the city council is to provide the highest quality of services at the most economical expense in order to minimize the tax impact on its citizens," Severson said.

The council is elected to make decisions on issues before it, and the debate on decisions made at the state level is not the council's role, he said.


In regards to returning the money, Severson said: "Janesville businesses and its workers are struggling financially; the give-back to non-union workers was not in line with the financial reality city taxpayers are living.


"In order to minimize tax impact on its citizens, the Janesville City Council must use all tools available to deliver high quality services at the most economical expense," Severson said. "All tools must be used by the city of Janesville to reduce taxes on its citizens."


Smillie: "We frequently hear this as being 'shared sacrifice.' As your city councilwoman, I would like to look at areas other than our city employees for future sacrifices that will need to be made," Smillie said.

"As a public employee, I was also forced to sacrifice and endure these cuts. As a result of these cuts, I am no longer able to donate to the charitable organizations like I used to. My ability to be a strong advocate and supporter of shopping at locally owned businesses and restaurants has decreased dramatically. Discretionary income is no longer existent in my monthly budget because it's not there.


"As a community, I'm concerned we have not seen the collateral consequences of the cuts to public employees and would refrain from supporting budgets that promote more cuts," she said.


"Morale amongst public employees, union and non-union, is low. We cannot help but take the decisions that were made a year ago personal. I think the council's decision last year to return the unspent and unbudgeted savings to the city employees was the right decision to make. If, at the very minimum, they eliminated potential animosity amongst city employees as well as helped to retain quality staff that the city of Janesville currently employs."


Smillie said she would not make "unilateral decisions on working conditions without input from all the stakeholders involved. Decisions about working conditions should not strictly be whether or not something is financially beneficial for the city of Janesville."


Southers: Southers doesn't agree with the legislation that virtually eliminated collective bargaining for most public employees.

"Many communities that have had their union contracts expire have discovered that Governor Walker's 'tools' to save communities money do not equal the cuts in state aid," he said.


"Given (that) before the 'tools' existed, the state routinely had unfunded or under-funded mandates placed (on) local municipalities, it does not surprise me that many communities continue to have budget deficits.


"With that being said, I was concerned about the prior council's decision to give back money," Southers said. "Sometimes, money can only be used in certain spots. If there were no other alternative use for the money, then I would have supported it.


During his campaign, Southers said he has found union representatives willing to listen and talk about issues.


"They realize Janesville's economy is suffering," he said. "The residents are hurting, and as a result, I believe they would bargain in good faith so as to work together to find efficiency (and) modifications to contracts in order to save taxpayer money."


Voskuil: Her agreement or disagreement with Gov. Scott Walker's initiative was "offset by the fact that I was disappointed in the outcome, as there was no debate or compromise within the Legislature to come forth with better solutions regarding the budget and economic deficits for state, county and local governments," Voskuil said.

Voskuil, an incumbent, noted she voted to give back to non-union workers the money the city saved through the initiative "based upon the circumstances and the information available. When the contracts expire in 2013, I will do what is best for the city of Janesville and prioritize what is needed to maintain the workforce," she said.


Zimdars: Zimdars said he agreed with Gov. Walker's initiatives that required city employees to pay into their pensions.

He disagreed with the council's decision to refund the money that the initiative saved for the city.


"Agree with the initiative or not, it saved the taxpayer's money—as it was designed to do," he said. "The council gave the money back because it made more sense to mandate a wheel tax or to borrow an extra $192,000 we would not have had to?"


Zimdars would use the "tools" the Legislature provided when it removed the need to negotiate working conditions for some public employees.


Q: Are you happy with the city's priorities for needs and wants—maintaining streets and public safety while also subsidizing parks, the ice arena, senior citizen center and golf courses, for example?
If not, what would you cut?
Farrell: "We have to look at the whole picture of needs and wants if we want to attract business to Janesville and keep people here," Farrell said.

He noted excellent police and fire departments, the Lincoln-Tallman Restorations, Janesville Senior Center, the parks and recreation and said the city must maintain the quality of life residents have enjoyed.


"In order to attract investors (businesses), we need to show everyone that we have a great deal to offer anyone who moves here, whether it is to start a business, invest in manufacturing or move into the school district," he said. "Letting things slide until 'things get better' will only result in things getting worse.


"Everyone on the city council needs to roll up their sleeves, get informed, be proactive and get to work. We can't wait."


Kealy: Kealy said it is important for a council member to consider needs versus wants on every issue. The council has an obligation to the taxpayer to maintain infrastructure and provide high-quality police and fire.

"While recreation will most likely have to be subsidized in the future, it is important to continue to look at reducing those subsidies," he said. "We need to think outside the box and work with the city employees in exploring our options to do so."


McCoy: McCoy said he has championed improved street and bridge maintenance for years.

"I feel those are very important public safety issues" that are needs rather than wants, he said.


Another need is maintaining city buildings.


"A 'Building Budget Plan' should have been put into effect for each facility a long, long time ago," McCoy said. "I feel the golf course should be privatized. That would give more money for the parks."


Murray: Murray said he loves Janesville because of its "great parks, schools, public safety, and recreational activities; therefore, I am happy with our mix of needs and wants. Meanwhile, (I) will do my best to maintain our quality of life and service levels."
Severson: Public safety and street maintenance must be maintained as basic city services, he said.

"We need to look at any possible re-engineering alternatives to maintain these service levels," he said. "During difficult economic times, non-essential services must be examined to determine service levels and alternate revenue sources. If these steps do not assist in balancing the budget, then services must be reduced."


Smillie: She said her goal is to maintain or improve the quality of life by providing dependable local services.

"City spending needs to be prioritized. Core services, specifically police, fire, and infrastructure, should receive our undivided attention. We then need to carefully analyze the necessity of specialty projects, and if approved, that the projects are completed in the most efficient means possible."


Southers: Southers said he is concerned that some of the city's needs are sidelined while the wants get more attention.

"Many of Janesville's wants have the support of groups such as the skatepark and ice arena. However, those groups that claim there is interest have not been able to raise the sufficient funds to fulfill their commitment in developing those," he said.


Transportation and safety are two critical components to ensuring quality of life, retaining and encouraging existing businesses to expand and attracting new ones, he said.


Voskuil: Balancing the city's needs and wants is about priorities and opportunities, Voskuil said. Infrastructure and public safety are priorities and of "uppermost importance," she said.

She believes other quality-of-life amenities such as parks, golf courses and recreation provide opportunities to create public/private partnerships.


"We need to balance our city's needs and wants to create economic development opportunities that will create jobs, expand the tax base and diversify our revenue base," she said.


Zimdars: Zimdars is not happy with the mix of the city's needs and wants.

"After the city's needs have been met, we start with wants. I'm an avid golfer, but I don't expect taxpayers to pick up the tab. The people that use the ice arena should be the ones paying for the ice arena."


Q: What would be your top priority if elected to the city council?
Farrell: Farrell's top priority is economic development that would include excellent job opportunities and subsidiary industrial/business development to lead to sustained economic growth.

"The council needs to be very proactive in this area," he said.


Kealy: Economic development is Kealy's top priority.

"I will work with and support our city employees in being proactive in bringing new jobs to Janesville and work to encourage existing businesses to expand in the city we all call home, Janesville," he said.


McCoy: McCoy said his top priority is to create jobs that people in the community are trained and capable of doing immediately and to decrease spending on TIF districts.
Murray: Murray's top priorities are job creation and economic development.

"Additional priorities include maintaining service levels, downtown development, partnering with non-profits and process improvements."


Severson: The council must eliminate barriers for business development to bring new jobs to Janesville, Severson said.

It must increase its involvement with Forward Janesville, Rock County 5.0 and the state to explore all options to enhance the business climate.


"Appropriate incentive packages with clear milestones of success must be included with any incentive package," Severson said. "The growth of jobs will be the engine for recovery for Janesville."


Smillie: "Our local government, businesses, schools and citizens have endured some painful economic times and as a result pessimism runs deep," Smillie said. "I am seeking a seat on the council in hopes of minimizing this unconstructive mindset.

"I will deliver a common sense approach with a high level of enthusiasm, energy and optimism. I will also continue to encourage transparency on how the city conducts business and makes decisions.


"I hope to increase the level of citizen involvement with local politics and in doing so become more proactive than reactive."


Southers: Economic development is the top priority, Southers said.

"Janesville must work to diversify its employer base so as to not take such a devastating hit should any one employer close in the future."


The Janesville area has many great assets to help toward this goal, including Forward Janesville, Rock County 5.0, Blackhawk Technical College and UW-Rock County.


"I would work to maintain and expand these relationships to ensure they will be available in the future," he said.


Voskuil: Voskuil said she has three top priorities: job creation, neighborhood restoration and downtown development.

"I will continue to explore and expand our economic development, job investment incentives and tools," she said.


She would continue to work collaboratively with Rock County 5.0, Forward Janesville and business owners in Janesville to create jobs, retain jobs and broaden and diversify the tax base.


She would continue to support the city's Poverty Initiative, which includes home rehabilitation, the elimination of neighborhood blight and the Big Give Food drive; and downtown development opportunities, especially with the removal of the parking plaza over the Rock River.


Zimdars: Zimdars said he would "do what needs to be done without imposing any more taxes or fees."
JANESVILLE CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATES

Jim Farrell


Age: 65


Address: 1427 N. Harmony Drive


Occupation: Retired industrial accounting manager from Orchid Monroe, a metal stamping manufacturer.


Education: Bachelor of Business Administration from UW-Milwaukee; certified public accountant; studying for a master's degree in business administration from UW-Whitewater.


Community service: Volunteer at Roosevelt Elementary School; lunch buddy for the Boys & Girls Club; AARP tax aide at the Janesville Senior Center; Kiwanis Club member; Optimist Club youth cross country meet volunteer.


Elected posts: Ran unsuccessfully for Janesville School Board in 2008


***


Matthew Kealy


Age: 29


Address: 1203 Winchester Place


Occupation: Owner of Kealy's Kafe and Matt's Dog House


Education: 2001 Parker High School graduate


Community service: Worked with ECHO, Rotary Gardens and YWCA.


Elected posts: None


On Facebook: kealyforjanesville


***


Andy Murray


Age: 33


Address: 2211 Browning Drive


Occupation: Financial representative with Northwestern Mutual


Education: 1997 graduate of Craig High School; Bachelor of Science degree from UW-Milwaukee.


Community service: 2010 campaign co-chairman for the North Rock County United Way


Elected posts: None


***


Billy R. McCoy


Age: 59


Address: 1326 Putnam Ave.


Occupation: Retired from General Motors


Education: High school degree, some college hours.


Military service: Served in the Army in Vietnam from 1970 to 1972 and in the National Guard for three years.


Community service: Volunteer coach for the YMCA and volunteer football and wrestling coach for Edison Middle School, both in the early 1990s; Neighborhood Watch leader; organizer of a move for property tax reform in 2002; member of the house committee at the VFW Post 1621, also serving as past house chairman and helping with bingo events; member of the Military Order of the Cooties; president of Citizens Bettering the Community from 2002 to 2004.


Elected posts: Ran unsuccessfully for city council in 2008, 2009 and 2011.


***


DuWayne Severson


Age: 54


Address: 56 S. Martin Road


Occupation: Director of sales and network development for Mercy Health System.


Education: Bachelor in Business Administration from UW-Madison; certified public accountant.


Community service: Member of the United Way allocation committee; president of the Pregnancy Helpline of Janesville; president-elect of the Janesville Morning Rotary Club; leader with the New Life Assembly of God scouting program; Alzheimer Support Center Dancing with the Stars volunteer.


Elected posts: Nine years with the Janesville School Board, with two of those serving as president.


Website: seversonforcitycouncil.com.


***


Angela Smillie


Age: 31


Address: 921 N Garfield Ave.


Occupation: Wisconsin probation and parole agent


Education: Bachelor's degrees in behavioral science and in law and political science from UW-Madison, 2002.


Community service: Member of the Janesville Alcohol License Advisory Committee; lunch buddy for Big Brothers Big Sisters; involved in the Salvation Army Angel Tree and Rock County Homeless Intervention Task Force homeless count.


Elected posts: None


On Facebook: Angela Smillie for Janesville City Council


***


Michael Southers


Age: 40


Address: 1841 S. Chatham St.


Occupation: Computer instructor/user support specialist for Rock County.


Education: Parker High School graduate in 1989; bachelor's degree in business management from UW-Whitewater in 1993; Blackhawk Technical College police recruit academy graduate in 1997.


Community service: Member of the parent-teacher organizations at Lincoln Elementary School and Edison Middle School; volunteer at Edison recreation nights.


Elected posts: None


On Facebook: Michael-Southers-for-Janesville-City-Council


Website: sites.google.com/site/southersforcitycouncil/


***


Kathy Voskuil


Age: 52


Address: 3417 Amhurst Road.


Occupation: Sales at Pfizer


Education: Master's degree in audiology from UW-Stevens Point.


Community service: Chairwoman of the Janesville Plan Commission; member of the Downtown Development Alliance; school volunteer.


Elected posts: Serving her second term on the Janesville City Council.


***


Troy Zimdars


Age: 43


Address: 709 N. Wuthering Hills Drive


Occupation: Installation specialist for Honeywell International, Madison.


Education: Associate of science degree from the Wisconsin School of Electronics


Community service: None


Elected posts: None



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