This space this week looks at not only what has happened, but what is going to happen:
Doggone ban: I tried to come up with a pun for the apparent death of the proposed pit bull ban, and couldn’t come up with anything better than “dead dog,” which seemed tasteless to a dog owner. (Pit bull ban is roadkill? As limp as a chewed up dog bone?)
There are some who might say that it was a good discussion to have even if no action was taken. I am not one of those people, because I believe the result is far more important than the process. Perhaps it’s the result of my observing too much process — that is, covering too many meetings over the years — but the cynicism I used to reserve for Washington and Madison seems to apply to at least my two favorite local elective bodies (he wrote sarcastically), the Platteville Common Council and the Grant County Board of Supervisors. If an idea is a bad idea to begin with, it doesn’t deserve to be considered.
(I am well aware that not every Platteville alderman makes poor decisions because of his or her or their poor decision-making process. The problem is that every elective body is judged by its collective work. Decisions approved 7–0, 6–1, 5–2 or 4–3 have the exact same legal weight.)
Ald. Mike Denn, the proponent of the pit bull ban, didn’t help his cause by making assertions about the incident that apparently provoked the ban attempt that were proven incorrect through public records. Denn’s claims that the ban was never about dog bites, but about dog-attack fatalities doesn’t make sense either given that the number of communities rescinding their pit bull bans appears to exceed the number of communities passing new pit bull bans. If a pit bull is so dangerous that its very presence in a community must be banned, why are communities rescinding their pit bull bans?
Two votes April 24 demonstrate that in this Internet age actions have consequences: An online petition to defeat the pit bull ban generated 57,812 signatures worldwide. On another subject, as reported on page 1, the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority, which has to approve a funding mechanism for the proposed Library Block project, apparently questioned whether the city was really committed to the project based on the council’s 4–3 vote on the Chestnut Street and Main Street facades.
I’m agnostic on whether or not the changes to the Library Block design are improvements from the original. Regardless of your position on the Library Block project’s aesthetics, both the pit bull ban and the council’s deciding to revise the Library Block design, regardless of the council’s reasoning, continue the council’s reputation for micromanaging, as well as for ducking more serious and more pertinent subjects. This should serve as a warning for the four finalists for city manager, who will be in Platteville this weekend, of how their would-be bosses exercise leadership.
Next election: The fact that the last three Common Council elections have had candidates for the at-large seat every year but candidates for district seats only once (District 1 in 2013) suggests that the council should consider changing the city charter to make all council seats at-large, or perhaps to require that the Common Council president be selected from only the at-large seats. This is not a comment about the current or a past council president; the at-large seats are the only seats where everyone in Platteville gets to vote, and the council president is the top elected official in the city.
Class division: By the time you get this week’s edition of your favorite weekly newspaper, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association will be holding its annual meeting, which could make major changes to the high school sports landscape.
The biggest news will be what high schools decide to do about small high schools’ concerns about competing in the same enrollment classes with similar-sized private schools. The committee assigned to the issue came up with the “success factor,” with points assessed to schools based on state tournament trips, independent of whether a high school is public or private. The two school district administrators who brought up the issue introduced a proposal to reduce enrollment by 40 percent of a school district’s free- and reduced-lunch enrollment. And the original proposal to increase private-school enrollment by 165 percent for enrollment class purposes may return too.
I have yet to see a solution for this issue without potential unintended consequences, including penalizing private schools that are not the athletic factories that Whitefish Bay Dominican (boys basketball), Waukesha Catholic Memorial (girls volleyball), Wausau Newman (girls volleyball) and Burlington Catholic Central (football, which is not part of this discussion) appear to be. So do you want to handicap private schools, most of which do not have athletic programs going to state every year, or do you want to handicap schools that do make regular trips to state? That seems to be the WIAA’s choice.