Winston Churchill once quoted an unnamed person’s observation that “democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
I wonder if Churchill might have stopped at “worst form of government” after witnessing the Platteville Common Council over the past few weeks. Had you witnessed the March 24 meeting, you might have concluded that the entire council needed to be replaced. And that was before the March 30 Freudenreich Animal Care Fund committee hearing (about which more momentarily).
It began with Ald. Ken Kilian’s snit over not having gotten a second to reconsider an appeal of a Certificate of Appropriateness denial for work on a house being used as a business on Market Street. You might think having served on the council as long as he has, Kilian would be aware that discussion on a motion doesn’t take place until it’s seconded. Apparently not.
The lack of second thwarted Kilian’s attempt to reconsider on a motion he voted for two weeks earlier. This is the house that has a front porch clearly newer and bigger than every other house on the block, and yet, according to Kilian, removing that porch is anti-historic, or something.
That segued nicely, if wrongly, into the discussion about the design of the Library Block project — a design approved by the Plan Commission, but not as approved by four amateur architects on the Common Council. (And aldermen wonder why there are so many vacancies for city committees, commissions and boards.) This was despite the fact that the city has spent exactly zero money on design of the Library Block, which by the way is a project the city does not own.
I am told that the Plan Commission violated the historic preservation standards the city council passed three years ago. That is interesting considering that, if I’m counting correctly, three aldermen were on the council when those standards were approved, and yet they all acted as if they’d never heard of those standards at the meeting.
The council then spent too much time arguing over the design of one driveway of the proposed new McDonald’s on Progressive Parkway. (“Progressive” is an ironic term given the council’s decision-making process, not to mention its decisions.) That was after an excessively long discussion over what the Main Street Program should charge prospective renters for space in the former police headquarters in the Municipal Building for a startup project.
Then came the discussion on Platteville Public Transportation, the merged taxi and shuttle, in which Ald. Mike Denn continued his efforts to kill the merger before the merger takes place. (The new hours and shuttle routes don’t take effect until after UW–Platteville’s spring semester ends.) Denn appears to be opposed to anything that appears to benefit UW–Platteville students, apparently ignoring the fact that improved shuttle service would benefit non-UWP students too, such as public school students, the elderly, and people who don’t own cars or have them out of service.
Six days later, the Freudenreich committee met, having been given the hot potato of the wrong-headed pit bull ban. (The committee handles the Freudenreich funds, not policy, though it’s hard to determine where in city government the pit bull ban should have gone other than the nearest trash can.) At that meeting, in addition to using statistics of dubious accuracy, Denn repeated statements he has made at previous council meetings about supposed police inaction on the May 2014 attack by a pit bull on another dog.
Unlike what Denn said, the owner of the pit bull was fined $200.50 for violating the current animal ordinance. As we reported last week, the owner of the pit bull also was sued by the owner of the injured dog in Grant County Circuit Court, and the injured dog’s owner won. Also as we reported, the dog was removed from Platteville after police told the owner he would be fined for harboring a dangerous animal every day the dog was in the city.
(Go to our Facebook page if you want to read interesting observations on this case. The comments are not G-rated.)
Put all of that together, and it seems to me that the dangerous-animal ordinance worked as it was supposed to work, as is, without the pit bull ban the Freudenreich committee unanimously rejected. And then Denn made this threatening statement: “We’ll take care of it when we get to the council.” Exactly how are we supposed to interpret that?
It could be said that the council’s decision-making process works as well as CenturyLink’s Internet service. (Said the editor who didn’t have email for three days last week.) Or perhaps the council makes correct decisions as often as NCAA Final Four referees make correct calls. Regardless of how you look at it: Platteville deserves better than this.