As the host of a community radio program, I’m often frustrated by the polarized nature of today’s society, especially when it permeates local communities like Janesville. In the passion for their ideals, backers of each of the two visions of the downtown ARISE initiative are in danger of escalating their disagreements into a dysfunctional mess.
That prediction is not without evidence as the Monterey Dam issue has already escalated to a level that has cost the city at least one grant, and possibly others, and will ultimately increase the costs associated with whatever ultimately happens with the dam.
One vision of Janesville’s downtown includes a bright, sunny sky with a summer breeze kissing the hundreds of pedestrians, bikers and river lovers around the area. They are dining at outdoor cafes, fishing, kayaking, shopping, working out, enjoying an interactive water feature and anticipating a summer festival filled with activities. It’s a video clip right out of Mayberry, though updated with a 21st century look.
The other vision is more like Gotham City. A series of dark, dirty streets and sidewalks with cars competing for the short supply of parking spaces if only to get its occupants into a run-down tavern or two without walking. A muddy-bottomed smelly river laps at the weathered steps of the old town square, while a mixture of litter takes flight with each wind gust through a vacant, vandalized exercise court and non-functional water park.
Oh, if only there were a superhero to come to the rescue!
Since neither of these visions are currently reality, my question is simple: Which vision are you behind?
Some callers to my program are almost gleeful in their disparagement of any ideas put forth if they are in any way connected to the success of ARISE. Others, mostly advocates of the plan, seem to go out of their way to avoid truly listening to residents with concerns about aspects of the project.
From my position, it is incumbent on our city leaders to make the first move in resolving this stalemate between the city and a group of residents. It’s also up to disgruntled residents not to slap the olive branch out of the hands of city leaders.
For me, I’m a realist. Strangely, that makes me an oddity in today’s world, which wants to pigeon-hole and label everyone. I’m either a pessimist spreading gloom by asking questions and looking for weaknesses in plans before they are implemented, or I’m a mindless city cheerleader who wants to waste tax dollars by hoping for the best possible outcome in a city plan that can’t possibly succeed.
In the end, the tale will end up with only one vision as reality. I’m hoping all involved will “arise” and join in a unified goal of giving downtown Janesville the best chance to thrive instead of making it into a place where the only rescue can be from a superhero.