Tuesday is spring Election Day, in addition to April Fool’s Day.
(You’d think the state would have changed the date to the first Tuesday after the first Monday in April, similar to the fall election dates, to prevent someone from making the joke I just did.)
Within the circulation area of your favorite weekly newspaper, there are two, and only two, county board races — Grant County District 17, in the Dickeyville area, and Lafayette County District 1, in the Belmont area. That either indicates Grant and Lafayette county residents are satisfied with county government (on which, as regular readers know, I tend to have an opposing view, at least in Grant County), or they don’t want to have the headache of being a county supervisor.
As for the Lafayette County Board race: We don’t know how Sup. Patrick Shea feels on any issue, because Shea didn’t return the newspaper questionnaire sent to him. If that seems like a remarkably arrogant thing to do, well, the voter can decide how he or she feels about that April 1.
As for the Grant County Board race, the question to ask the candidates is whether they will decide issues on their merits, and only on their merits, not on whether the county board chair, whoever he or she is, supports or opposes something. There have been factions reflexively supporting or opposing the county board chair dating back at least as far as Francis Busch. That is wrong, whoever the county board chair is. Taxpayers or anyone else else are not served by unlabeled partisanship, which is one of the board’s many problems.
The Platteville Common Council at-large race between Darrel Browning and Amy Seeboth seems at first blush to be an outsider-vs.-insider race. I think Browning’s fine with that label, though Seeboth specifically disclaimed that label. And that’s good, because no government body is doing its job when it rubber-stamps leaders or city staff. Government bodies are responsible for far too much to avoid asking difficult questions when making decisions.
It’s interesting that both Browning and Seeboth identified the same issue — economic development. Seeboth worked at the Southwest Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission before UW–Platteville, while Browning is a business owner. Browning and Seeboth represent something Platteville needs more of — in order, business owners and young professionals. The challenge in each case is how to get more of each, and each seems to think the city is specifically lacking in its approach. Neither named the Platteville Regional Chamber or the Platteville Area Industrial Development Corp. or any other organization as not doing their job; they both mentioned the city as needing to step up.
I said here before the primary that the council’s role has most to do with decisions in two areas — hiring and supervision of city management, and policy. The question voters need to answer is who will make the best decisions, and lead other aldermen to make the best decisions, because bad decisions now lead to consequences later. Those best decisions may or not be what city staff recommend; again, votes shouldn’t be on reflexive approval or disapproval of what city staff suggests doing.
The decision-making process is important, not merely the result. I’ve watched two budget creation processes, and was impressed with the 2014 budget only slightly more than the 2013 budget, which impressed me not at all. It remains unclear to this voter that the council has priorities or a plan on how to reach those priorities. If, for instance, I was a member of the city hall task force, I would wonder why I spent all those hours I’ll never get back creating a plan that the council apparently isn’t interested in pursuing, without even an explanation from the council of how the plan is lacking. (Even if I can gue$$ what the problem i$.)
It’s also critical that whoever wins Tuesday be a fiscal watchdog. Taxpayers perhaps should have been a little uncomfortable with how readily the council jumped to choosing the most expensive option for the Broadway project, and for how quickly they jumped up to quadruple the city commitment for the PCA Trail. This is not to say that either project is unworthy of what the council decided to do. In the case of the PCA Trail, I assume that no Department of Natural Resources grant means no paving and lighting project. I can see arguments in favor of concrete instead of asphalt on Broadway, one reason being that the first part of Broadway was already done in concrete. That, however, was a lot of money to spend, or commit, without much discussion about how to pay for those six- and seven-digit spending commitments.
I’ll repeat something else I wrote in this space before the primary election because it came up at that same council meeting. The challenge of being a critic is to be an effective critic. Someone on the wrong end of a lot of 6–1 votes — or someone who makes motions that die for lack of a second — obviously disagrees with the majority, but that makes one wonder the extent to which the opposing voter has attempted to persuade others of his or her point of view. A legislator — a county board member, or a municipal board member, someone who makes legislative decisions — needs to do more than just vote; he or she needs to get others to vote in a similar direction, and obviously the right, as in correct, direction.
Cast an informed vote Tuesday.