At least two of the three subjects in this space of your favorite weekly newspaper probably deserves its own column, and may get just that in the future, but not now:
From Mr. Negative Vibe: Some observers, including the second letter-writer this week, seem to have taken what I did at UW–Platteville Nov. 19 as an attack upon Bishop Robert Morlino or the priests at St. Mary’s and St. Augustine’s, or even the Roman Catholic Church. It was not. Trying to take a public event private because you don’t want the news media there is an attack on our rights as taxpayers and our own First Amendment rights. That’s true whether or not it was a Catholic bishop or someone from another religion, or someone from no religion, or someone from anywhere else. Contrary to the suggestion of one online poster and someone who emailed me (who apparently doesn’t want his thoughts as a letter in The Journal), I am not going to apologize for that.
The most disturbing thing about all this was the comments of two UW–Platteville students in the Wisconsin State Journal story that seem to indicate their lack of grasp of the First Amendment for, perhaps, anyone besides themselves. That alone deserves further future comment.
Management: Platteville will be looking for a new city manager, following the city’s historic three- to four-year cycle of employment of city managers, after Larry Bierke’s resignation last week.
When I interviewed Bierke last week, he said that everything he did, including such controversies as reducing city hourly employee work weeks from 40 hours to 37, was at the behest of the Common Council. I know people in Platteville who would swear that the opposite was the case — that the city manager was telling the council what to do — and that is probably a statement about Bierke’s predecessors as much as Bierke. Either there is a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of the city manager, or the Common Council hasn’t properly supervised Bierke or his predecessors.
Bierke accused “senior members” of the Common Council of micromanaging city operations. Of course, micromanagement is in the eye of the beholder, since Platteville residents vote for aldermen, and not for the city manager. But as you know from this space two weeks ago (and, well, the previous 2½ years) I am not really a fan of the Common Council’s decision-making process. That reveals itself every year during budget time, and it also reveals itself in such controversies as downtown parking, where changes were made without enough time to evaluate the first set of decisions.
The first thing that should be said about the search process for the next city manager is that it needs to be more open to public input than, I’m told, the last city manager hiring process. The Common Council makes the decision, but more people than aldermen need to have input into the next city manager. (For one thing, as happened with Bierke, those who approved his hiring are not guaranteed to be on the council indefinitely.)
The one thing that should not happen is a return to the elected mayor position. (It may be worthwhile to have the municipal code changed to where the Common Council president must be one of the at-large aldermen instead of one of the district aldermen.) Similar to the fact that no Grant County supervisor is qualified to run Grant County, no alderman is qualified to run the City of Platteville. Hire a city administrator, and you end up saving nothing in money anyway.
Coachspeak: As someone who saw a lot of Platteville girls volleyball this year, I was floored to find out that some parents of Hillmen volleyball players want coach Yvette Updike fired after a state-tournament season.
The presence of more supporters than those trying to get Updike fired should raise questions about at least the interpretation of the accusations of verbal abuse and bullying. For one thing, as sports editor Jason Nihles points out, it is unlikely that one’s behavior in practice won’t become one’s behavior at a game. And not only was there no sign of tension between Updike and her players during the matches we saw, there were no signs of tension between players we could see during matches, even the tense matches.
No one likes to get yelled at, but raised voices and hearing things about yourself that you don’t want to hear do not necessarily constitute verbal abuse. And it’s entirely possible that Platteville High School students will be the future recipients of yelling from future bosses, or statements that they are underperforming from future college professors or bosses.
What can be said with certainty is that a public attempt to fire a successful PHS coach undermines not just all the other PHS coaches, but the ability to hire future coaches. (And, more importantly, teachers.) What quality coach is going to want to coach somewhere where parents of players, who do not see practices, try to undermine coaches in public over things for which the coach is responsible? The correct parent’s role, as Lisa Emendorfer, wife of UW–Platteville coach Mike Emendorfer, correctly put it is to tell their child how much they enjoyed watching them play, and ask them where they want to go for dinner. Period.