Mon October 15, 2012
Road to November: Janesville Residents Want Job Creation
Sunday was a bustling afternoon at the Janesville Mall, where Mark Lestarge was taking a break from his studies at Blackhawk Technical College. After twenty years in the declining neon sign business, he decided to go back to school and study an industry with a brighter future - information technology.
Lestarge is just one of many in Janesville whose eyes are closely watching the presidential race, especially vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan. He says his biggest concern this election year is the economy.
“It’s not a one party issue,” he lamented.
Lestarge says he will vote for whomever is more willing to work with the other side. He’s part of the minority who hasn’t decided who would make a better president. At this point, however, he sees President Barack Obama promoting more bipartisan efforts than Governor Romney.
“I see Mitt Romney saying it as, ‘We have to do the change. We have to make the change,’” Lestarge said.
Evansville residents Jeff and Lori, who declined to give their last name, were also at the mall shopping for new work clothes. After five years of working on and off, Jeff finally nailed down a secure job in the transportation industry.
The two were not as convinced as Lestarge that whomever is elected president can make a difference.
"No one individual is going to create jobs,” Jeff said. “I’m really tired of hearing how they’re going to create jobs … like they’re going to appear out of thin air.
He said it seems to him that most politicians failed Economics 101. “They don’t realize that no business tax break in the world is going to motivate a consumer to buy something she or he doesn’t want.”
According to Dave Shaw with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, jobs are an issue for many in the Janesville area. At its worst, unemployment in Janesville was at 15 percent after the General Motors plant closed; now it’s just below 9 percent.
"Other parts of the state have seen recovery more quickly than this area,” he said. “I think as time goes by we’re going to catch up with those areas."
While many were shopping, other Janesville residents were braving the wind and rain on the edge of town at the Rock County Farmer’s Market. Lisa Byrd and her husband were there picking up cabbage. Byrd wants job creation, but she doesn’t think Romney can follow through on his promises to encourage employers to make hires.
"I’m not an idiot,” she explained. “You can only do so much as president. If Mr. Romney thinks he can do it better [than President Obama] I wish him luck, but I’m not behind him."
Others shared Byrd’s opinion. At a produce booth across the way, Irene Hensley of Edgerton was foraging through a basket of hot peppers. As she was deciding whether or not to buy some, she talked with the stand’s vendor about her son who lost his job when General Motors closed five years ago.
She says that now, he works at plants in Indiana and Missouri and only sees his family in Janesville once a month. "And he said ‘I miss them dearly. I need to be home with my son because he plays football … He needs a man behind him.’"
Hensley wants the next president to help those out of work even though she’s not sure how Obama or Romney could accomplish that.
"I just want them to help the poor people. That’s me. The one that needs it. The poor ones that suffer out there. I want people to think about them. Not the rich."