Michael Denn is one part of a two-person ticket, so to speak, for the two Platteville Common Council seats in the Feb. 19 and April 2 elections.
The names of Denn and Barb Stockhausen are both on yard signs, even though the two are on the same ballot as at-large Ald. Steve Becker in Tuesday’s primary. The primary will reduce the number of candidates from three to two.
“I spent more than 60 years in Platteville and I’ve gotten to know Platteville as a very nice community in the past,” said Denn. “The things I’ve seen in the past six, 10 years make me think we need to take and look at the people who are paying all the bills in the community. I feel I have a good handle on what people would like to do with this community.”
Denn believes there is a “more favorable environment” for reform of city government, “to be able to work better to do more things for the city. We can’t do things for a few. We need to do things for the well-being of the city.”
Denn also believes more civility is necessary during council meetings. “Whether you like it or not, you have to bite the bullet sometimes — you just have to respect others, no matter what the situation is,” he said.
This is Denn’s first run for elective office. He previously served on the city Plan Commission and the Park Board.
“The city council we’ve had in the past has not done a very good job when it comes to the taxpaying base of Platteville,” said Denn. “According to the information I have there are 2.47 people per household in Grant County. Our poverty rate is 24.7 percent. They send out 3,000 property tax forms for the City of Platteville, so they’re paying for the whole ball of wax.”
Denn is opposed to the staffing plan created by City Manager Larry Bierke, saying it creates too many upper-management positions.
Denn also opposed the cut in hours for hourly employees from 40 to 37 per week. “You upset how many families for $107,000 in savings?” he said.
Denn said the council needs to do a better job of supervising the city manager position.
Denn believes the city has cut back too far on city services, such as less-than-weekly leaf collection — which he said causes storm sewer problems — and brush collection. “So now we’re not doing the same services,” he said.
He favors reinstituting city hourly employees’ 40-hour work week and reopening the Municipal Building and the Police Department on Fridays. “City offices need to be open five days a week, like a normal workweek,” he said.
Denn is critical of the city’s economic development efforts, including “giving away land in the industrial park for $1 an acre.”
He favors pursuing “any type of industry we can look at that pays a reasonable rate, and something that’s going to help the community.” But, he said, “We’re going to be hard-pressed to get any of it done” because of increasing employee costs due to federal health care law.
In addition, he added, when communities looking for the same kinds of industry Denn mentioned were brought up, he said, “It’s cheaper to live in every one of those towns than Platteville, and that’s something that’s basically non-controllable.”
Denn doesn’t favor the $60 garbage fee instituted this year. “We need to put a hold on fees; they keep going up and up,” he said.
Denn, a UW–Platteville graduate and financial supporter, described the university as “a very integral part of this community, and I would never tell you it isn’t. When we allow that to be the controlling factor and people in the city have to pay for it, that’s not right.
“When the university needs to add, they need to do it on university property so it doesn’t affect city property.”
Denn believes the new Rountree Commons dorm forced permit parking south of downtown by the university’s not providing enough parking at Rountree Commons.
More generally, Denn is not a fan of how the council handled parking issues this past year. He suggested parking meters might be useful “as control for parking” more than as a revenue source. He opposes the city’s plan to rent parking spots.
“Our population in Platteville is being more elderly and it’s very difficult to parallel-park on Main Street when it’s a two-way street,” he said. “Those people when they rent downtown should know they don’t have parking down there. Why should the city subsidize parking at the cost of the city for people who could live on campus?
“Merchants should not have to pay to park in the downtown area, nor their employees. Our merchants pay more than enough in taxes, and if you load more fees on them, it’s not right — pretty much you won’t have anybody downtown.”