Our Views: Liebert, Marklein, Tidwell, Williams merit Janesville City Council seats

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April 3, 2015

Janesville residents should appreciate that five of the six residents seeking four city council seats are solid candidates.

This election is important. Depending on how Tuesday's vote goes, the seven-member council might have five new faces. Last month, the council appointed Rich Gruber to finish the term of Matt Kealy, who resigned. Brian Fitzgerald and DuWayne Severson aren't seeking re-election, but Sam Liebert and Douglas Marklein are.

The Gazette editorial board supports Liebert, Marklein, Carol Tidwell and Paul Williams.

Liebert is seeking his third two-year term. He impresses us more each time we meet with him. At 29, he's young but maturing. He was too partisan in his first term but has tempered his politics. He suggests he's learning to collaborate, govern by consensus and now most appreciates local government because its decisions directly affect people. He's working toward a degree in public policy and administration with an emphasis in local government at UW-Whitewater.

Proud of Janesville, his home since age 5, Liebert is becoming more invested in the community. He sat on the committee that crafted the new downtown revitalization plan and wants to make Janesville attractive for families.

Marklein, seeking his second term, remains impressive. This homebuilder brings business acumen to the council. He pushed to hold down costs of the new fire station. He's a good listener and explains his decisions. Believe him when he says he has no agenda. Marklein voted against the skatepark, suggesting supporters, not the city, should cover a funding gap. He backed the Riverside Park splash pad because closing the pool will save lifeguard and maintenance costs. Critics label both projects “wants” rather than “needs.” Marklein counters, “If you take all the 'wants' away, no one would want to live here.”

When City Manager Eric Levitt resigned two years ago, Marklein backed hiring more of a leader in Mark Freitag. He credits Freitag for moving the city forward but realizes the council, not the city manager, must remain the boss.

Our lone big concern—a big one—is Marklein's view on transparency. Marklein backed Freitag's decision to pass his budget to council members but not The Gazette until the first budget meeting. That defied the open records law. Marklein also supported the administration's reluctance to share Freitag's performance reviews.

Tidwell is the most impressive newcomer. She's on the zoning board of appeals and used her experience as a lawyer and federal mediator to chair the 2012 sidewalks committee, which made decisions by consensus. Her problem-solving skills and willingness to listen, learn and understand issues should serve her well. Tidwell moved here in 2010 and says she is committed to Janesville and “couldn't be happier” here.

We appreciate Tidwell's view of open government. Access and transparency, she notes, are hallmarks of public institutions and must be priorities in Janesville. “You can set yourself back a long way by how you're doing something even if what you're doing is a good thing,” she told us.

Williams served on the council eight years before stepping down in 2008. A driver for Wurtz towing service, he's civic-minded, dedicated to Janesville and a keen observer of city operations. He values quality public services and economic development that bring good jobs. Count on him to research issues and do what's best for the city and taxpayers.

He can be a contrarian, but Williams also could serve as a counterpoint to the administration. He knows the council must remain in charge. He's a strong advocate of openness. He's smart and understands parliamentary procedures. Had he been on the council, the city might have avoided confusing language that doomed last year's referendum on street repairs.

A fifth candidate, Kay Deupree, is caring and compassionate. She has been active in the community, but her positions on issues weren't as strong or as well thought out as the four candidates we're endorsing.


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