Even though it may feel as if we are surrounded by what Allstate Insurance characterizes as Mayhem, there is good news.
One piece of good news is Platteville’s becoming a finalist in the All-America City competition, the only Wisconsin finalist. Between 10 (the usual number) and 14 (last year’s number) of communities will be named All-America Cities in June.
Being named an All-America City can be a big deal. Madison was named an All-America City in 1977 and 1978. Madison still calls itself an All-American City. (The Madison I grew up in is not an All-America City today, either officially or in reality, but that’s another subject.) Dubuque is trying to get the All-America City designation for the second consecutive year and the third time since 2007.
One interesting fact: The National Civic League, which sponsors the All-America City Awards, created a Model City Charter in 1915 that specified two features that can be found in Platteville city government — a city council with at-large seats (of which Platteville has three to go with its four aldermanic districts), and a city manager, with a “nonexecutive mayor.” Platteville technically has no mayor, but the Common Council president (who in some council–manager cities is called the mayor) could be said to be “the chief legislator, the leader of the policy-making team.”
In mid-June a delegation from Platteville will be going to Denver to make their presentation as to why Platteville should be an All-America City. A few things that may or may not fit the National Civic League’s criteria come to mind.
One reason for Platteville’s finalist status is the fact that this year the NCL is spotlighting community-wide initiatives that honor and benefit veterans and their families. The Veterans Honor Roll fits that description perfectly. The visit of the Vietnam Moving Wall in 2009 got the idea of a permanent veterans memorial going. The first veterans memorial in City Park dates well before that, of course.
Recall the comment of Tim Hall of Rolling Thunder at the Veterans Honor Roll dedication Independence Day: “Every time I come to Platteville, someone says thank you for serving. This is the only place where someone will always say that to me.” Platteville has a long history of veterans serving and the rest of us honoring veterans for their service.
Speaking of service, there is the all-volunteer Platteville Fire Department, whose members drop everything the moment their pagers go off to fight fires or assist in crashes in Platteville and beyond. (The Model City Charter mentions the concept of regionalism too.) The Fire Department isn’t the only Platteville organization that provides its services for free, but it is one of the most visible.
I think being a college town fits the All-America description well. The American educational system has a lot of critics, but one area where this country is the generally acknowledged world leader is in four-year colleges. (Name a world-class university outside the U.S. Unless you work for UW–Platteville, you might be able to name one, and only one.) Personal experience proves that the public schools in college towns are better because parents demand schools be better.
UW–Platteville fits into another theme this year, entrepreneurship. Any college indirectly creates jobs because businesses open to serve students. Beyond that, though, many UWP graduates stay in this area to start or buy their own businesses. UW–Platteville has an ambitious Innovation Center in the works to create more businesses and more jobs.
Being in the middle of an agricultural area suits the “all-American” description as well. In a state well known for its work ethic, ag areas are also known for having a lot of mechanically capable people. Farming generates additional complementary jobs.
Since this is an immigrant country — that is, nearly all of us have ancestors who came here from somewhere else — it’s appropriate that downtown Platteville was designed like an early 1800s British village. (For better or, as we all found out during last year’s parking controversies, worse.) Thanks in part to being a college town, Platteville has a lot of retail within walking distance to downtown.
Platteville is a city that is comfortable with its history, as demonstrated by the number of buildings that date back to a year beginning with the number “18.” Despite the number of bars whose overserved patrons get negative attention, Platteville has a lot of churches that generate positive attention, as you can read on page 3B of this week’s edition of your favorite weekly newspaper.
Off to our east, but with a Platteville address, is the world’s largest M. To have something that belongs in the Guinness Book of World Records is a quintessentially American thing.
The M (and its ability to hold 250 people dressed in black to form mouse ears) got us Mickey’s Hometown Parade in 1998 (attended by 60,000), which begat the Hometown Festival, which is one of the most event-filled events in the entire state. Recall that Disney decided on Platteville on the grounds that Platteville epitomized the values of small-town America.
Let’s just hope the committee doesn’t award All-America City status based on weather.
Oops: Platteville Ald. Dick Bonin pointed out that, contrary to what I wrote about the city hourly employee reduction from 40 hours per week to 37 hours per week that he did not vote for the cutback. He couldn’t have voted for or against it, because he wasn’t on the Common Council in late 2011.