If, as the state Government Accountability Board predicts, only 20 percent of voters in this area vote, they are going to have a lot of say.
For a spring election, there are a lot of races, for everything from town boards to the state Supreme Court. If you live in the Platteville school district, you have two referenda to consider — the $15 million building project (about which more shortly) and the statewide referendum on whether the most senior Supreme Court justice should be chief justice, or whether the justices should choose.
About the latter (and the accompanying Supreme Court race) I’ll say only it demonstrates the increasingly tiresome habit of running to the courtroom when things don’t go your way in the political arena, or that the courts are merely the branch of the legislature that wears black robes instead of suits. Some might argue that that’s evidence that Supreme Court justices should be selected, not elected, and that will be fine until voters have problems with the selector(s), which is where politics will rear its ugly head yet again.
Every election is a referendum on the incumbents that are running. There is no incumbent running in the Platteville Common Council at-large race, because Ald. Dick Bonin is retiring. Had you attended or watched the March 24 Common Council meeting, you would reasonably conclude that the entire council should be replaced, based on what the council did that it should not have done. (More on this possibly next week, depending on intervening events.)
Fortunately, there are two capable council candidates, Tom Nall and Angie Donovan, each of whom brings different qualifications, slightly different priorities, and similar experiences of being part of non-elective city government. The number one priority of the council needs to be improvement in its decision-making processes, including more frequent realization of when the council needs to listen to its committees and not engage in, say, amateur architecture. (Being able to figure out what is important and what isn’t would be useful too, particularly when choosing the next city manager.)
I hosted The Journal’s Platteville School Board candidate forum Wednesday. I came away conflicted over whom I’d vote for because all of the candidates (including, following a phone conversation, Jamie Brogley, who was ill and didn’t attend the forum) sounded as if they would be good contributors to the School Board. (I particularly liked incumbent Eric Fatzinger’s observation about the importance of non-STEM subjects in school because regardless of your post-high-school path, you still need to study human behavior.) The School Board remains this area’s best governing body by far, as shown by the school district’s continued high grades in comparisons with other school districts across the state.
That doesn’t mean everything’s perfect — if everything was, there wouldn’t be six candidates for three seats. (One year ago, until the last minute there were only two candidates for three seats.) More candidates may reflect interest in the referendum. The fact that spouses of teachers ran suggests some friction between the school district and its teachers in our post-Act 10 world. The School Board will also get to hire a volleyball coach to replace a coach whose contract wasn’t renewed after the Hillmen made their first state trip in 20 years, as well as a new football coach. And then there’s the continuing squeeze between the cost of things and the money the state is giving to school districts. (One suggestion based on the forum: Figure out how to grow the school district, even if that means marketing yourself in this school choice world.)
The biggest local election is probably the Platteville Public Schools $15 million referendum. The Journal is not endorsing a vote for or against the referendum, because we endorse neither candidates nor referenda. I am voting for the referendum because, as a parent and taxpayer, it looks to me to be the best way to address the school district’s building issues without a big tax impact, since it will replace the late 1990s borrowing that gets paid off next year. Putting fourth-graders at Westview Elementary School instead of Platteville Middle School makes more educational sense. And there is not a single Platteville school entrance that complies with today’s standard of secure access. The alternatives to the building plans don’t seem palatable — moving seventh and eighth grade to Platteville High School, or trying to fund building needs out of the operating budget, which would squeeze things out of classrooms, the reason, after all, for a school district’s existence.
As always, cast an informed vote Tuesday.
One other thing: The Journal’s annual April Fool’s story can be found on page 17B this week.