A longtime Boy Scout Camp near Janesville will be sold to help settle a national lawsuit involving thousands of sexual abuse cases against the Boy Scouts of America.
The Glacier’s Edge Council Executive Board posted the news on its Facebook page this week, saying councils across the country were required to contribute to a compensation fund for victims of abuse.
Dr. Paul Romanelli, a longtime Janesville Scout leader, said the camp opened 75 years ago, so generations of Cub and Boy Scouts camped there.
“I’m terribly disappointed,” Romanelli said. “None of us saw this coming.”
Romanelli believes the council has no alternative.
In response to an interview request, the council released a statement saying, “We are committed to meeting our social and moral responsibility to equitably compensate survivors of past abuse. We are confident this decision is the right course of action to ensure the future of Scouting in our communities and remain dedicated to delivering our nation’s foremost youth program for character development and values-based leadership training to families across southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois.”
The 173-acre camp is on North River Road and includes Rock River frontage and a pond. Plans are to keep it open until it is sold.
The amount of the local contribution was based on a formula, “including but not limited to, the number of victims in the area, available assets, and when the suspected allegations occurred,” according to a letter to members the council posted on its Facebook page.
The local contribution is estimated at $580,000 and will need to be paid by August, but the final amount won’t be known until terms of the lawsuit are completed, the letter states.
The Glacier’s Edge Council doesn’t have cash on hand to cover that amount, and its endowment fund is restricted and can’t be used for that purpose, according to the letter.
Selling the council’s service center would not produce enough money, and if it were sold, the council would have to lease office space, the letter states.
“My condolences to anyone in a GEC leadership position left holding the ball to make these hard decisions,” wrote former Scout and youth leader Rob McCoy on the council’s Facebook page. “Bad decisions at all levels have brought us here. ... When you talk to your Scouts about this, please remind them that they aren’t being punished. The activities they love and the bonds they make in Scouting still exist. This movement was created by kids buying a book and following its lessons, not by a council level or nation wide corporation. We can all get through this as upstanding people. living up to the ideals of the Scout Oath and Law.”
Former Eagle Scout Trevor Olson wrote on the Facebook page that he had great memories of the camp.
“My son is on his first year of Cub Scouts, and I was looking forward to him creating his own memories there as well with his friends,” Olson wrote.
Camp Indian Trails has been appraised at $750,000 to $1.2 million, the letter states. Proceeds from the sale also will help pay off a line of credit attached to the property.
A $650,000 improvement project was started at the camp about five years ago, with most of the cost borne by two anonymous donors, according to previous news stories.
Janesville voters will choose from among six candidates to fill four city council seats in the April 6 election, and their selections will determine the shape of an almost entirely new council.
Doug Marklein is the only incumbent trying to retain his seat. Sue Conley, Jim Farrell and Tom Wolfe have chosen not to run.
Jack Herndon, Michael Jackson, David Marshick, Heather Miller and Dan Neal are the other five challengers. All are newcomers to Janesville politics. At least three of them will be elected.
Finding balance, problem solving and growth were common themes at a candidate forum Thursday night attended by the six candidates running for city council this spring.
The candidates have participated in two publicly broadcast forums, where they shared their thoughts on a proposed transportation utility, downtown redevelopment, economic development, a proposed new sales tax and other issues.
As individuals nationwide plan how to spend their upcoming stimulus checks, candidates for city council were taken to task on how they would prioritize municipal COVID-19 relief funds.
The Gazette asked candidates these questions to expand on the conversations in recent forums.
Q: What options do you want the city to consider for road funding? Are there funding options you don’t want the city to consider?
Herndon: The proposed transportation utility recently presented to the city council is not acceptable, he said.
He would support Gov. Tony Evers’ proposed half-percent sales tax increase for municipalities if it was moved forward by the state Legislature.
Jackson: He opposes a transportation utility because it would put Janesville at a disadvantage for attracting new businesses.
The city should continue to consider a transportation utility moving forward, but it would have to be modified, he said.
Jackson would support a half-percent sales tax increase, but he does not expect it to receive legislative approval.
Marklein: A new council gives the city a chance to start over and look at the root of its road funding challenges, and then work from there, he said.
The council should lay every option on the table and consider a blended approach for road funding, he said.
Marklein thinks solving the city’s road funding issues will take a long time and will need community buy-in. He favors assembling a panel of community representatives to help guide decision-making.
Marshick: No options should be off the table as the council considers how to pay for roads, he said.
The transportation utility is worth pursuing further, Marshick said, but the ultimate solution likely will be multifaceted and include a combination of borrowing, transportation utility, wheel tax, a referendum to approve a levy increase, potential sales tax or other solutions.
Miller: Now is not the time to pursue a transportation utility, considering so many people and businesses are still financially impacted by the pandemic.
Council members need to review detailed information on how much a transportation utility would cost each business or resident before voting on it, she said.
Neal: He would support bringing a half-percent sales tax increase to voters if the state Legislature allows it.
He also wants to explore whether federal COVID-19 relief funding could be used to boost the city’s road maintenance program.
The transportation utility as proposed is not a good solution, Neal said. The council should revisit all the transportation utility framework provided and look for a better solution.
Q: What specific role do you think the city should take in pandemic recovery?
Herndon: Relief funding should be used to get local businesses back on their feet, he said.
He is afraid people will lose their homes when the federal eviction moratorium expires, and the city should consider funding programs to help people secure housing.
Jackson: The city should support the Rock County Public Health Department in promoting vaccination, testing and reliable information about COVID-19, he said.
Funding should help individuals and small businesses first, he said. Then the city should consider paying off its own debts or use funding to offset costs to residents.
The proposed indoor sports complex should receive aid funding only if there is money left over after other priorities, he said.
Marklein: Council members need to consider the conditions the federal government will place on relief funding before making decisions, he said. Small businesses, landlords and tenants should be the city’s top priorities.
Marklein also thinks the city should look at using aid to recover expenses related to COVID-19 preparedness or safety guidelines.
Marshick: The entire community needs to work together to follow safety guidelines as life returns to normal, he said.
Small businesses should be prioritized for federal funding. Other funding decisions will have to be made quickly and stay within the federal government’s guidelines.
Miller: She believes less government interference with reopening is better.
Businesses and individuals have been financially strained because of the pandemic, and it is time people get back to work and back to normal, she said. Federal relief money should be used to help small businesses, and the city should analyze which businesses have lost the most revenue and use that to drive decision-making.
Neal: Businesses that were financially affected because of occupancy limits should receive federal help, he said.
Neal believes the council also should consider using the money to offset costs and ease the financial burden on taxpayers.
Q: Police reform and police funding have been at the forefront of national conversations. Do you think the council should consider police reform or police funding as a priority? If so, what specific changes do you think should be made in local policing?
Herndon: Local police are doing a great job with the funding they have, he said, noting he is a passionate supporter of first responders.
Jackson: Police Chief Dave Moore is sensitive to the issues facing police across the country and does a great job of training his officers not to use force, he said.
The city’s crime rate is at a historic low, which is a testament to strong policing, he said.
Marklein: Nationwide, discussions about policing are important and are long overdue, he said.
Marklein thinks Moore does a great job of training officers and doing community outreach to establish trust between police and people of color. The city’s police force is strong, he said, but there is always room to improve, and the department should continue to be willing to learn.
Marshick: He said Janesville is fortunate to have Moore. The police department’s outreach is breaking down barriers between police and the community.
The department should continue to keep the mental health of people it serves at the forefront and consider adding more mental health resources as needed, he said.
Marshick does not support defunding or cutting funding to the police department.
Miller: The city’s police department is doing a great job, and Moore is well aware of the challenges the nation faces, she said.
Miller also praised Moore, calling him a great leader who is in touch with the people he serves.
The department was smart to add a social worker to aid officers, she said.
Neal: “I am opposed to any type of police reform,” Neal said.
Janesville does a good job with policing, he said, and he supports more training and educational options for officers.
Kimberlee Liedberg wears her mask up high while in public and squints so that, maybe, people won’t notice she’s of Asian descent.
The Janesville woman is afraid she could be a victim of the attacks perpetrated against people like her around the country in recent months.
Or, she could face an indignity like the one that happened a year ago as the coronavirus pandemic began.
She was buying dog food last March when she heard a man behind her:
“Oh, she’s one of those, an Asian.”
“I hope she doesn’t cough,” a woman added.
She looked back at them. They moved out of the checkout line.
“I didn’t want to go out after that. I was afraid,” said Liedberg, a sales representative at The Gazette.
Liedberg, 27, said the recent spate of attacks against Asians around the country have reinforced her fears.
Liedberg’s reaction might seem extreme, especially considering she isn’t Chinese, and the hateful acts seem to be connected to the apparent origin of the coronavirus in Wuhan, China.
Also considering she was adopted from South Korea by white parents in northern Wisconsin as an infant.
Also considering that even if she were Chinese, she is no more likely to spread the virus than any other American.
Not every person of Asian descent in Janesville is as worried as Liedberg.
Danny Zhang, who has lived here 20 years and manages the King Wok restaurant, said he feels safe.
“People here are so nice,” Zhang said, adding that Janesville is not like a big city.
Thanh Vo, manager at Lee Lee’s Nails & Spa, said the business has seen no problems but added “It breaks our hearts to see what’s happening right now.”
Keiko Tsuyama, a Japanese correspondent for Business Insider in New York City, who has visited Janesville several times to report on politics and the economy, posted a photo of herself on social media last week.
She wore a face mask and sunglasses. It’s something the Japanese consulate advised its citizens living in the United States to do, she said.
“I have experienced, literally for the first time in my life, something really uncomfortable when I’m walking,” Tsuyama said. “People go to the other side of the road.”
Tsuyama knows others who have had it worse. A friend was attacked and robbed and had her hair pulled out by two assailants in her apartment building. It’s difficult to tell if it was a hate crime or just a robbery.
Asian women, especially, are often small and look fragile, which can make them targets of crime, something the consulate also warned about, Tsuyama said.
Tsuyama knows a jazz pianist, Tadataka Unno, who was attacked by people who used racist language at a subway station last fall. They broke his collarbone, among other injuries.
“He needed multiple surgeries,” Tsuyama said. “He couldn’t play piano. He raised money for his surgeries by crowd funding.”
“I try not go out at night. For the past year, my friends and I try to be on alert when we go out,” she.
Tsuyama has covered many protests, but this is the first time she has seen Asians turning out in large numbers in New York. She believes the Black Lives Matter movement, which similarly points out long-ignored problems, inspired the turnout.
Kevin Miller, a Janesville businessman who has worked in China, doesn’t think the March 16 killings of eight people in the Atlanta area, most of them of Asian descent, is connected to the pandemic, but he sees other attacks coming from people who blame the Chinese for the virus.
However, Miller’s wife, Xiuxiu, who is Chinese, is visiting friends in Florida and playing it safe because the man arrested in the shootings said he was headed to Florida.
Miller said he and Xiuxiu have discussed this, and their biggest fear is the Atlanta shootings will inspire others to do the same.
“Where we live, it’s not an issue,” whether it be attacks on Asians or the concerns of the Black Lives Matters movement, Miller said. “It seems like Janesville is insulated.”
A Janesville woman who came here 13 years ago said most people are nice here, but she has experienced people responding to her coldly in public.
The woman was in tears as she discussed the attacks around the country and asked her name not be used in this article because she fears being targeted.
When the pandemic broke out, she feared getting the virus, especially because people would say she brought it here.
“We came here for better life, and we work hard,” she said, and she wishes more Americans understood the history of Chinese people in America going back to their major role in building the railroads.
“I feel helpless,” she said, and friends around the country are discussing the fact that their small stature makes them targets, especially in big cities. They are discussing learning martial arts or getting guns, something they didn’t have in China.
“I want to learn martial arts. I want to learn how to shoot,” she said. “I want to learn everything to be stronger.”
Liedberg said even words people say can sting.
“We don’t realize some of the things we say,” she said. “Words are so powerful. … I like to say there’s a lot of differences between the Asians, but unfortunately, people only see one thing, where they kind of bunch you all together,” Liedberg said.
“I’m thankful to be in a company and a community that does embrace differences and does embrace diversity,” she added.
However, Liedberg added, “I feel like this isn’t going to die down anytime soon because people want to fight for a cause and want someone to blame, and it seems like right now, this is it.”