As if you need proof that the editor of your favorite weekly newspaper is a news magnet (not magnate): In my nearly three years here, this spring will feature the third consecutive contested Platteville Common Council election.
That’s “contested,” not “contentious,” except that there are differences between the candidates. Watch Thursday’s Common Council forum at www.youtube.com/watch?v=cnPnIZr3mNw and you’ll see those differences.
It is interesting to note that over the past three years there has been an at-large race every year with enough candidates to require a primary for the past three years. There has only been one aldermanic-district race over the past three years. It seems unlikely that voters think the district aldermen are doing a much better job than the at-large aldermen, and so it makes one wonder whether, to increase democratic participation, the city should consider switching all council seats to at-large. (Though there are downsides for those who believe the city’s biggest employer and renter has inordinate influence in town.)
Darrel Browning is running as the outsider candidate for the second consecutive election. If you don’t think things are going well with city operations, he is your man. If you think, as he obviously does, that the city doesn’t fairly enforce its ordinances, he is your man as well.
Browning does have a constituency among city voters, as demonstrated by his surviving last year’s primary to finish second. His comments about uneven enforcement got a reaction of approval from some in the audience, which makes one believe he’s not the only person who feels that way, whether that’s an accurate appraisal or not.
Tom Nall and Angie Donovan thus are more insider candidates, except that each is running for office for the first time. Nall has business experience (there are few lines of business that see more in terms of how things are going than real estate agents), while Donovan is a former city employee who has business promotion experience, having worked for Lancaster’s chamber of commerce.
Donovan used the word “collaborate” a lot. Which is good, because the city needs to collaborate to stretch the tax dollar more than it has been, given that the cost of things like health insurance aren’t dropping, energy prices are going in an upward direction, and there are a lot of things, ranging from computer systems to streets, that have large price tags looming on the city’s horizon. The city particularly needs to collaborate with, for instance, surrounding towns in such areas as big-ticket equipment purchases.
Here’s one reason why: Nall noted that the city has one of the highest property taxes in the area. (He could have said that school tax rates are higher than city tax rates, but to most homeowners, or would-be homeowners, concerned about property taxes, I wonder if they make the distinction between units of government, or just notice the final bill.) It is interesting to note that there were two fiscal conservatives on the council two years ago, and they’re not on the council anymore, though that could be the result of how people viewed their personalities rather than the positions they took.
I haven’t said anything here about the School Board eight-headed race, because The Journal will reach subscribers before the candidate forum tonight. (Attention primary survivors: The Journal will be setting up a candidate forum before the election.) I am interested to hear the candidates’ positions on the $15 million referendum to fund the $16.6 million building project, including what should be done if the referendum fails.
I am intrigued by candidate Curt Timlin’s statement about Platteville lacking, for lack of a better term, community-wide school spirit, in his view as a PHS graduate. I suppose it’s possible that the local school district could get short shrift in a college town, particularly when the college in question takes up basically half of the city. But the schools have been a huge investment for this community for decades, and they rate very well (including most recently, as reported on page 3A) in this era where schools are compared with each other like seemingly everything else.
The one advice I would give is to beware the single-issue candidate, regardless of said single issue. What does a candidate support or oppose once that issue is resolved? (I suppose downtown parking is an issue that will never be really resolved, short of completely redesigning downtown for these things called automobiles, something lacking when downtown Platteville was designed in 1835.) Even controversial issues like the Platteville volleyball coaching position will be solved one way or another. Then what?
More on this, well, before April 1.