One of the features of this job and my line of work in general is the number of newspapers I read. (Since, according to my parents, I was 2 years old.)
A dozen or so newspapers come here from elsewhere in this area (which make up our Southwest Journal in section B each week). My wife can attest that as long as she has known me whenever we go someplace I grab a copy of the local newspaper, to see if that newspaper is doing anything I can steal — I mean, adapt for my own use.
I believe Platteville is the news capital of the broadest possible definition of the words “Southwest Wisconsin,” as the past two weeks have demonstrated. That doesn’t mean Platteville has all the area’s news, though, although in at least one sense maybe a recent City of Platteville issue inspired a parallel development.
That would be in Fennimore, whose city council voted to require that dogs and cats be leashed in public places. That sounds unremarkable until you read that no longer can dog owners take their dogs to the city’s Oakwood Nature Park for unleashed exercise. Unlike Platteville and its dog park, there apparently is no similar facility in Fennimore.
Similar to the ill-conceived pit bull ban proposal in Platteville, the leash law was prompted by an attack upon a dog by an unleashed dog. Similar to Platteville, the proposal was made despite the fact that the current system worked — the owner of the unleashed dog was cited for allowing his dog to run at large.
The lone person to speak against the proposal pointed all that out, but was overruled by two rhetorical devices — an “it’s for the children” argument and the “one-bad-apple” argument. One alderman said Fennimore police were unlikely to cite a dog owner for having an unleashed dog that was clearly under its owner’s control, but the mayor said that was tantamount to inviting people to violate the ordinance.
Meanwhile, in my father’s hometown, Richland Center, the City Council rejected a proposal to allow chickens to be kept within the city. (Platteville allows poultry, but not poultry houses within 40 feet of a house. Platteville does not allow ownership of horses, cows, goats, sheep, donkeys, ponies or mules within the city unless you have one acre of room for the first animal and one-half acre per additional animal.)
Since my grandparents lived in Richland Center until my grandfather’s death, I got to see Richland Center’s interesting approach to municipal law. Until the 1980s, the city banned alcohol sales. However, you could drink as much as you like at the Richland Country Club (my grandfather may have been on the board; he was a president of the chamber of commerce) or the American Legion or VFW post, since none were in the city limits.
The mayor observed that chicken ownership seemed to be supported by those younger than 40 and opposed by those older than 40. (Anyone who has purchased chicken eggs from farms or farmers’ markets knows the difference between those and store-bought eggs.) He also said that there were chickens in Richland Center now without complaint, though apparently illegally. (See the leash law argument.)
One commenter said that allowing chickens could open the door to cows and pigs: “Why don’t we get an ordinance for the whole farm in town? If chickens come into Richland Center, I’m buying a cow.” Which is a strange thing to say since the city would have to legalize cow ownership first.
(Platteville’s football team played in Richland Center Friday. The game was not at Krouskop Park, where my father played football for the Hornets and where, it is believed, he once scored a touchdown as a punter after the punt snap sailed over his head. Many people run faster when chased, but in his case he was on a state champion half-mile relay team.)
Then there is the Battle of Bridgeport, the town north of the Mississippi River in Crawford County that wants to incorporate as a village to stop future annexations by the City of Prairie du Chien. The city’s response was to offer to annex the entire 23.2-square-mile town into the city. As with many communities along the Mississippi River (as I was reminded driving to Holmen earlier this year), Prairie du Chien is spread out as it is.
Earlier this year, the Dodgeville Common Council approved a conditional use permit for a gun and ammunition business, joining Walmart and Farm & Fleet. The permit passed with one no vote, with the statement “I don’t think we need another gun shop in town. I think the city should be cracking down on those.” In addition to lacking understanding of how free markets work, that alderman won’t get any organization’s Second Amendment support award. I walk past Bullseye Sports in downtown Platteville at least four times a day. It may be the safest business in town, and it’s certainly safer than those that post No Weapons signs, since criminals ignore the law.
For those who think Platteville is the home of all bad ideas or bad decisions of elective bodies, unfortunately, we’re not alone.