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Platteville council: Browning critical of city manager, council decisions
Darrel Browning

Darrel Browning is trying to disprove the maxim that you can’t fight city hall.

“I honestly and truly do not like the way the city is being run, and do not feel that it’s fair and equal,” said Browning.

Browning has written several letters to The Platteville Journal claiming that the city has been issuing him repeated citations for violations of municipal codes at his U-Haul dealership and car repair facility on South Chestnut Street. He also has accused the city of going after elderly homeowners for code violations.

“They contacted me,” said Browning of the latter charge. “Since the city contacted me and I put up a fight, they backed off then.”

Browning believes city building codes are “too confusing; they overlap.”

Browning sees himself as an advocate for those who believe the city doesn’t treat everyone fairly.

“If I have an opinion and I think I’m right and I think that a problem possibly needs to be brought to the city leaders, I’ll try to do it,” he said.

Browning is a particular critic of City Manager Larry Bierke, who he said the city “hired without qualifications or knowledge or experience to run a city as complicated as this one.”

Browning is also critical of the council’s supervision of the city manager position.

“If I get elected, one thing I will find out is what our city employees are doing,” he said. “And second, I will check up on them.

“There isn’t anybody on that city council who’s been a boss. Until you’ve been a boss and look people in the eye and told them you’re fired … you don’t know how difficult that is. There are times you listen and there are times you talk, and you better know the difference.”

While state law prohibits requiring that city employees live in the city limits, Browning believes state law does not prohibit tying “raises and incentives” to living in the city.

Browning is critical of the city’s economic development results. He said the expense of bringing in Emmi Roth USA, including spending for improving stormwater management, for 30 employees is not “a good return on our tax dollars. It’s wonderful that they came and made the investment, but the majority of it isn’t taxable. There had better be a return. There better be so many jobs with decent wages in return.”

“Too much emphasis has been placed on the university to grow and be the only new job provider,” said Browning, who believes the city needs to be more active in finding industrial park tenants. “More emphasis has to be brought to bringing quality jobs in here.”

Browning disagrees with the decisions the council made on downtown parking in the past two years.

“It’s beyond me how they could screw up parking any more than they have,” he said. “All I can say about parking downtown is that none of the council lives in the permit parking area.

“Somebody has to have a pretty good idea — and I’d say it’d be the business people living downtown, people affected by that chaos — what could solve the problem, or at least alleviate it. Anybody that can come to me that makes sense, I will support.”

Browning isn’t a fan of the city’s budgeting either. “The city has a balanced budget; they keep raising taxes to balance it,” he said.

Browning, a four-decade member of the Fire Department, believes the fire station could be expanded to the west, but “it doesn’t make any sense to go south.” He believes Platteville EMS should “probably build a place” separate from the Fire Department, because building at the fire station “does not work.”

As for the proposed Southwest Health takeover of EMS services, he said, “I’d want to find somewhere that did that before, and what their costs were.”

Browning does not favor combining city and Grant County dispatch.

“Dispatch needs to stay here in town,” he said. “If this town was to get hit, and Lancaster was to go down, it would be total chaos. In my opinion, we are setting up the city for disaster, and if that is moved out, it would endanger people’s lives.”

Browning isn’t taking a position on proposed Municipal Building renovations, though he mentioned the possibility of a new city hall building somewhere else.

“I want to know what it costs to redo it,” he said. “I want to know what maintenance on that old building is, vs. putting it in the O.E. Gray parking lot, and over the long haul how much a new building would save.”

Browning doesn’t intend on keeping his position on issues to himself before votes.

“On big issues, you will find out my opinion before the vote’s taken,” he said.