Sidewalk struggles continue in Janesville
JANESVILLE City Manager Eric Levitt suggested Tuesday the sidewalk committee throw out its so-called consensus model in favor of majority rules after members could not reach agreement on sidewalks for street after street.
"Is this an exercise in futility?" facilitator Carol Tidwell asked.
In the end, members decided to keep struggling through about 140 remaining streets they must discuss in the next month or so.
The council in 2008 approved a seven-year sidewalk plan to create safe passage to public facilities and to close gaps. Most sidewalks would be paid for by abutting property owners.
The council delayed implementing the plan until 2011 because of the economy.
Residents on the 2012 program formed a political group and convinced the new council to form a study committee.
The committee, meeting since May, created criteria and rankings to help decide which sidewalks are needed.
It also asked the council whether it would give residents on streets designated as local streets ten years or until they moved to build sidewalks, and the council agreed. Some committee members hoped that would make it easier for committee members to agree where to put sidewalks.
Committee members had been asked before Tuesday's meeting to indicate via email which sidewalks remaining in the 2012 program and in the 2013 program they wanted to review. Two committee members—Scott Bever and Dan Warden—asked to review most of the streets.
The pair consistently protested sidewalks, even when those ranked well above a cut-off set by the committee.
Wuthering Hills Drive remained a major stumbling block, with all but Bever or Warden deciding sidewalks were needed on both sides. Both Bever and Warden are members of the Committee for Sensible Sidewalks, the political action group formed by residents protesting the 2012 sidewalk program on the east side of town.
In addition, neither agreed to put sidewalks along segments of Woodhall Drive, where Warden lives.
After the committee decided Tuesday to forward 11 segments to the council with no recommendations, Levitt noted that minorities on both sides seemed entrenched in their opinions. Giving all the power to one or two people to veto or insist on a sidewalk was not his intention when he recommended the consensus process, which relies on members reaching agreements, Levitt said.
He suggested the committee switch to making decisions by majority vote.
Committee member Bob Yeomans said several committee members were being "completely dogmatic."
Bever admitted he didn't agree with the premise of the council's plans, which is to create connectivity throughout the city.
"At what price are we doing that?" he asked.
The committee members agreed to continue with the consensus model.
When committee members couldn't reach agreement on the east side of town, they shifted to the southwest side.
There, they found agreement a bit more quickly and recommended against five segments of sidewalk and in favor of sidewalks on another three.
"Gosh, it's so much easier when you don't live over there," Yeomans said.
The committee agreed to meet again, but a date was not set.
That leaves about 125 segments the committee must discuss in the next several weeks. The council wants to provide at least six months notice for people on the 2013 program.