We are careening head-on into the event season, with 100-mile walks, new festivals and proms all in the same 30 or so hours …
Another Tuesday night: To paraphrase Forrest Gump, Platteville Common Council meetings are like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get. (But not nearly as tasty.)
For instance: On April 28 during a discussion about the annual sidewalk repair contract, Ald. Mike Denn made a motion to choose Lawinger Construction of Platteville, despite the fact that Lawinger was the second-lowest, not the lowest, bidder on the project. Denn’s motion failed 3–2 after City Attorney Brian McGraw said it was illegal under state law to not choose the “lowest responsible bidder.” Denn was the no vote on the 4–1 motion to choose the lowest bidder, J&T Concrete of Livingston, for the project.
Bidding is a process fraught with peril. A contractor told me a story about his company’s finishing second on a bid despite a huge amount of work putting together the bid. His father, the company CEO, said it was a good thing they lost the bid because they could not have made any money had they won the bid.
Leaving aside the fact that a Livingston business is as nearly local a business as a Platteville business from Platteville’s perspective: The difference between bids was $3,741, which may not seem like much until you consider that is probably the total property tax bill of two houses in Platteville. It is taxpayer money.
Then came new Ald. Tom Nall, who made quite the observation during a vote on rescheduling completion deadlines for two city loans to the purchaser of the 25 E. Main St. building. (Yes, that’s The Journal’s office. No, we are not the owner of the building.) Nall wondered where the buyer was, and said, “If she’s not here, that’s probably not a big priority for her.” That is a reasonable question to ask someone who is borrowing $252,000 of city and Downtown Redevelopment Authority money, which is, again, taxpayer money.
Of course, any brief good feeling was wiped out by yet another interminable discussion about sidewalks, following the interminable March 24 discussion about driveways. Some council members seem to not grasp that building sidewalks with no obvious present destination serves, among other things, to make projects more expensive, which makes Platteville less attractive as a place to do business.
And they said no no no no: The crush of high school spring sports obscured the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association member schools’ votes against, well, doing anything to address what the WIAA calls “competitive equity concerns” presented by the state’s smallest public high schools. The Wisconsin State Journal’s Art Kabelkowsky reports that private schools make up 16 percent of WIAA schools, but 38 percent of boys basketball champions, 36 percent of girls volleyball champions, and 23 percent of girls basketball champions since 2000.
The proposal to implement a “success factor” for high schools, public or private, that get to state that could have pushed them up a division, never got a vote. A substitute motion to multiply private high schools’ enrollment by 1.65, as Illinois does, failed by 152 votes. Another motion to reduce schools’ enrollment by 40 percent of their free- or reduced-price lunch percentages, as Minnesota does, failed by 98 votes.
This was a predictable result in part because there are flaws in any of those three options. On the other hand, the status quo is flawed too. Just ask, in a different realm, Southwest Wisconsin Conference athletic directors who have to find 12 nonconference basketball opponents out of SWC teams’ 22-game seasons. The WIAA isn’t interested in doing anything about that either, apparently waiting for schools to consolidate or something.
State Journal sports writer Rob Hernandez (a UW classmate of mine, by the way) predicts it may take 15 years to resolve the competitive equity issue. It may take 14 years to figure out the best way to resolve that issue.
You can remember him when: Saturday’s running back and forth between Derby Day downtown and the Platteville High School prom locations made me thirsty. (Which was dealt with at Derby Day and one restaurant.) On the other hand, the Dylan Scott concert was certainly worthy of the experience. I got to regale him Saturday afternoon with the story of my father (the first piano player in southern Wisconsin’s first rock and roll band) playing in Bobby Darin’s backup band, followed by an unexpected performance at a Ray Charles concert. (He appeared to know who Ray Charles was, which means there may be hope for musical taste after all.) Judging from the reaction of the crowd during the parts of the concert I got to see, Scott’s got quite the stage presence too. So if Scott makes it big in country, those who came to Derby Day can say they remember the fun night when he came to Platteville, if they don’t remember how many song titles I got into this column.