We veer from story to story at The Journal, sometimes from day to day, and sometimes during the same day. In chronological order:
The Blue Devil bummer: After ending undefeated Kentucky’s season short of an undefeated season, Wisconsin’s defeating Duke to win the NCAA Division I men’s basketball championship seemed shockingly likely.
And then it wasn’t. There are worse men’s basketball programs to lose to; Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski does things the right way, unlike too many programs. But still, when you get to the championship game, you want to win it, particularly when it looks like your last chance for who knows how long. Bo Ryan has coached longer than he’s going to coach, national player of the year Frank Kaminsky and the player who could have been next year’s player of the year, Sam Dekker, are leaving, replaced by, really, no one. Thanks in part to dubious officiating (the impact of which will never be known), Wisconsin’s last, best chance at a national championship ended when the sound of the buzzer stopped echoing in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Of course, as I keep pointing out to those unsatisfied with getting to bowl games and NCAA tournaments every year, it wasn’t that long ago that neither was taking place. (In 1988, football fans watched the BADgers go 1–10 — “veer” is a four-letter word — and the pACKers go 4–12. On the other hand, the Badgers got to the National Invitation Tournament, their first postseason since 1947, though not the NCAA tournament.) Things are happily different in Madison today, so expectations are higher.
Why the referendum won: The $15 million Platteville Public Schools referendum, it turned out, was really never in doubt, given its more than 2-to-1 vote margin. I thought it was going to win because of the lack of organized opposition, even though people don’t have to put out yard signs or buy ads; all they have to do is vote No.
The referendum approval is, I suspect, not just a judgment in favor of how the proposal dealt with better grade-to-school alignments, or building security issues. I think it is a general vote in favor of how the school district does things generally, including how the School Board makes decisions. (I have a hard time believing that a similar City of Platteville vote would get approved, if the law required voter approval for borrowing for big-ticket projects.) There has always seemed to be higher expectations of public schools in college towns, and in Platteville’s case the continued high grades in school comparisons, as well as the achievements of Platteville students, seem to meet those expectations.
Another example is how the school district shares City of Platteville and UW–Platteville sports facilities — Legion Park for baseball and softball, Ralph E. Davis Pioneer Stadium for football, and Williams Fieldhouse for swimming. Some people I knew would prefer that those facilities be sited at Platteville High School. As big a sports fan as I am, I don’t see the justification in, for instance, spending a couple of million dollars in order to have a football stadium that would never be able to match Pioneer Stadium. Yes, city tax dollars are separate from school district tax dollars, but they come out of the same taxpayer pocket.
No parole this time, and maybe never: Back in 1990, when Gregory Coulthard was sentenced to life imprisonment for first-degree intentional homicide with first parole eligibility in 2015, I was told that those convicted of first-degree intentional homicide are almost never granted parole upon first eligibility.
Twenty-five years later, that prediction proved correct, but for reasons not necessarily predictable in 1990. Later that decade, state Rep. Scott Walker (R–Wauwatosa) sponsored a truth-in-sentencing law that eliminated parole. That became law as of 2000, which didn’t affect Coulthard’s sentence. Walker’s getting elected governor in 2010 may have had a bigger impact, given that the governor names the head of the Parole Commission, and that Walker has not pardoned a single person since he took office. Pardons and parole decisions may not be directly linked, but the attitude toward one seems to predict the other.
I thought about doing a SWNews4U.com poll on whether Coulthard should get parole, then decided against it. Most people I’ve talked to, though not all, said Coulthard should never be paroled, because of the seriousness of his crime, an assault against authority and the rule of law. Some believe his young age at the time should be a mitigating circumstance and ask if anyone is so incorrigible that rehabilitation is impossible. Well, yes, there are some people who cannot be rehabilitated. I’m not sure Coulthard’s one of them, but I’m also not sure he’s ever going to get that opportunity.