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Etc.: A note or five
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A few thoughts while we ponder the reality that the dead of winter begins at whatever point the Packers’ season ends:

Mostly right: While I might have voted to rent two small parking lots, not just one, the Platteville Common Council made the right decision in following the recommendation of the Downtown Redevelopment Authority to slowly start renting downtown parking.

While an argument could be made that opening just seven spaces to rental won’t be an accurate test of demand for renting parking, opening up all 92 spaces, as was initially considered, and finding most don’t get rented is certainly a worse alternative. Nothing would be more deleterious for downtown than having visitors come upon empty parking spaces that they nonetheless cannot use. The idea is to give those who need a guaranteed space — business owners and their employees and downtown residents — the ability to get one while still maintaining parking availability for downtown businesses’ customers. And, as the RDA recommended, renting as many spaces as demand exists.

It took more than a year for someone to finally come up with the correct answer to Common Council President Mike Dalecki’s question of why taxpayers should subsidize downtown parking. The answer is that parking anywhere other than on private property is subsidized by our tax dollars, whether that’s downtown or anywhere else in the city. Anyone theoretically can park on any city street, whether downtown or elsewhere, subject to the city’s paint chip collection of parking regulations.

Another salutary feature is the fact that enforcement is not going to be the responsibility of the Police Department, which has better things to do than figure out whether a vehicle parked in a certain space is authorized to be there.

Lather, rinse, repeat: No sooner had the ink dried on this column of last week than came news of the Lafayette County Board’s decision to double-down on its disregard for the Open Meetings Law — which means its disregard for all Lafayette County voters — by discussing removing sheriff’s deputies who work in the County Jail from protective-occupation status in closed session next Tuesday.

To claim the Open Meetings Law personnel exemption is a stretch. The County Board is not talking about a specific employee; it will be discussing benefits for a class of county employees, which is not the same thing. More importantly, it will be having that discussion away from those employees, as well as the people paying their salaries.

There is no guarantee in a democratic republic that elected officials be shielded from people expressing their disagreement with elected officials’ decisions.

First, do no harm: In the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school shootings one month ago, a number of school districts, including Platteville Monday night, are reviewing their buildings’ security. That is a good idea regardless of national events, and a way for people to do something instead of waiting around for politicians to do … something.

Decisions about school building security need to be based on effectiveness, reality and practicality. You probably have not heard over the past month that statistically speaking, schools are about as safe as any public building anywhere. Spending good money to install, for instance, bulletproof glass or metal detectors at every school is not a wise use of funds, and it doesn’t seem likely to be effective against someone with evil motivations but different plans. As Platteville School District Superintendent Connie Valenza put it Monday night, “You can have outstanding security measures, and you may not change the outcome.”

We adults need to be careful about what we’re teaching our children in moments like this. You can suggest banning certain weapons, and that is likely to die in Congress, since that runs afoul of the Second Amendment. You can suggest banning violent videogames, and that runs afoul of the First Amendment. You can suggest locking up the mentally ill, and that potentially runs afoul of more than one part of the Constitution. And none of that will really work anyway. We can’t live our lives in fear, and we shouldn’t legislate based on fear.

The pigskin pause: That forum of reasoned thought, Facebook, was dissonant with demands the Packers fire everyone below and perhaps even above defensive coordinator Dom Capers after the Packers’ season-ending 45–31 loss to San Francisco Saturday. That came 11 days after the Badgers lost their third consecutive Rose Bowl, this time to Stanford 17–14 New Year’s Day.

The football losses that upset me are losses the team I’m rooting for should have won but didn’t. That cannot be said to be the case with either Stanford or San Francisco. The Cardinal and the 49ers, respectively, were the better teams that played better than the Badgers and Packers did. For the third year in a row, the Packers have proven that the regular season and the postseason are really two separate seasons, and what works in one doesn’t necessarily work in the other.

I’m also old enough to remember when football was really bad in this state. (In 1988, the Badgers and Packers were a combined 5–22. Really.) So perhaps I appreciate getting to the Rose Bowl and the NFL playoffs more than younger fans because I remember when the football season was over before Christmas. (And realistically, by Halloween.) As with state tournaments, getting there and losing beats not getting there at all.

The run-up to the Rose Bowl was enlivened by the surprise search for a new UW coach after Bret Bielema (foolishly) left for Arkansas (where he is likely to be fired within the decade for not winning enough to satisfy Razorback fans). It would have been really cool for Platteville’s Paul Chryst to have been selected to replace Bielema, but there’s something refreshing in a world where contracts mean nothing (see Bielema, Bret) for Chryst to stick to his commitment to Pittsburgh.