Green Tier is no-go, for now
JANESVILLE After a two-hour public hearing, the Janesville City Council narrowly defeated a proposal to enter a sustainability partnership with the state Department of Natural Resources.
However, the issue will return before the council once the city attorney researches more information about the program.
Council members made it clear they support the idea of sustainability and have not dismissed getting involved in the Green Tier Legacy program. The city's sustainability committee has recommended Janesville join five other state communities in the legacy program.
Green Tier is an agreement with the Wisconsin DNR. City staff worker Al Hulick said it simply is a planning document to guide future decisions regarding sustainability.
The council would have to approve any expenditure associated with the program.
City Manager Eric Levitt said nothing in the agreement would stop the city from withdrawing at any time. He noted Gov. Scott Walker has endorsed a similar program for businesses that want to set goals higher than required compliance.
This is the third time people have spoken out to council members against the Green Tier program. Monday's audience, however, was the largest, and many gathered were not from Janesville.
About 20 people spoke, and roughly a third of those were from elsewhere in southern Wisconsin. Three Janesville residents spoke in favor of the program.
Those speaking out against Green Tier said it:
-- Is a conspiracy that will require everyone to ride bicycles.
-- Has roots in Agenda 21, a United Nations initiative that undermines the U.S. Constitution with a goal of socialism.
-- Takes away personal rights and private property.
-- Does not allow the city to leave the program without huge fines.
"In reality, it is a land grab scheme and it is terrible," said one woman from Fort Atkinson.
A Lake Mills woman said the program gives foreigners control over Wisconsin. She noted the audience recited the Pledge of Allegiance before the meeting.
"I don't think we'll be able to do that if this comes in," she said to applause from the audience.
Patricia Schuler, 1126 Woodman Road, Janesville, said the country is suffering now because of the population control efforts of the '70s, and that there aren't enough people to support the older generation.
"There's nothing wrong with our planet," she said.
Neil Deupree, 419 S. Franklin St., Janesville, was one of three city residents to speak in favor of the program. He said the community has a responsibility to make the planet a better place for future generations, and he believes Green Tier would do that.
Laurel Sukup of the DNR said the program has no intent to take away private property. Rather, it is a way for communities to share information, such as the best permeable surfaces to install or the best trees to plant to help control stormwater.
Councilman DuWayne Severson repeatedly questioned City Attorney Wald Klimczyk on whether the city could be fined for leaving the program. Klimczyk said he wouldn't guarantee that because the agreement did not address that issue.
A motion to join Green Tier failed on a 4-3 vote, with council members Kathy Voskuil, Matt Kealy, DuWayne Severson and Deb Dongarra-Adams voting "no" and Russ Steeber, Sam Liebert and Jim Farrell voting "yes."
Severson then made a motion directing Klimczyk to research possible penalties and bring his research back to the council.
"I don't know the reason to jump into this," Severson said, despite a warning by Steeber that delaying a decision and bringing it back will mean another late meeting.
"In my experience, even if Wald gets an answer, I don't believe that it's anything they're going to put in writing for us," Dongarra-Adams said.
Voting to bring the issue back were Severson, Steeber, Farrell, Kealy and Voskuil.
The Janesville City Council on Monday:
-- Unanimously voted to sell for $73,000 a home the city bought and repaired at a cost of $158,000. The sale is part of the city's effort to improve inner-city neighborhoods.