The most controversial city issue of 2012 was downtown parking. The second most controversial city issue, which appeared relatively late in the year, was the new garbage fee of $60 for houses and $120 for duplexes. The garbage fee was instituted to shift spending from the city budget, and thus off property taxes. That means that the city (1) instituted a fee that is not deductible off your income taxes, and (2) increased property taxes anyway. (The latter was a bad choice on the part of four aldermen, but you knew that anyway.) For those who don’t like the $60 fee, it only covers half the cost, and if you predicted the other half will be part of the city’s 2014 budget, I think you would be making an accurate prediction.
The most quiet group, at least since I’ve been here, is the Platteville School Board. Of course, if you got banner grades in the first statewide school report cards, and still managed to reduce property taxes, why disagree? What I’ve seen in the Platteville schools so far validates our decision to live in Platteville and have our three children attend Platteville schools.
The term “Platteville schools” has usually meant Platteville public schools, but until June 1 that could also have meant St. Mary’s School. It is hard to believe that in such a Catholic area Platteville is the biggest city west of Madison and south of La Crosse without a Catholic school.
That is the one subject I declined to write about in this space this year because I couldn’t figure out what to say about it. (Pearl Swiggum, the Stump Ridge Farm columnist, was told early in her writing career to avoid writing about religion or politics. I never heard that advice.) That was an unusual day, because St. Mary’s Home and School Association gave the students quite a last day, with a picnic lunch, movie, pool party at the Family Aquatic Center and pizza party. You could tell that morning, though, how broken up the school staff and the parents were about seeing their school come to an end. The term “tragedy” is overused and really should apply only to the death of a person, and, yes, nothing lasts forever, but to not have a Catholic school in Platteville just seems wrong.
“Tragedy” is unquestionably the right word to use about the death of the three Wand boys. (There are other words, but those will have to wait until after the trials of Armin and Jeremy Wand.) I’m struck with Joe and Jennifer Wand, trying to help Joe’s sister-in-law and niece, the fire’s two survivors, and the UW–Platteville class helping the Platteville Wands and their three children.
Platteville had a number of opportunities to get media attention outside of southwest Wisconsin this year, if you want to call such news “opportunities.” One was the May 2 arrest of 21 people, 18 of them UW–Platteville students, on marijuana-related charges. In some years, that would have been the biggest story of the year. This year, that story is at the highest (?) top five.
The second biggest news day of the year was July 4, when the Veterans Honor Roll was dedicated in City Park. I came in at the very end of the project, but it’s still neat to see something of that scope reach its conclusion, and the participants’ reactions to reaching a project’s finish line, to see computer drawings become reality. Independence Day was kind of an ideal day if you think about it — patriotic, festive, loud (from the fireworks) and hot.
Hot, by the way, describes most of this past summer, as well as dry. The latter is not good, particularly in combination with the former, but, you know, summer is supposed to be hot. I look outside and see nothing but white, thanks to the Dec. 19–20 blizzard, and I think I’d like to go back, or ahead, about six months, at least weather-wise.
The biggest news day of this year certainly was Saturday, Aug. 25, when the Army National Guard 229th Engineer Company had its sendoff in Prairie du Chien while back in Platteville Chicago’s Best Restaurant was burning. That was one of those weeks where we could have used more than one front page. That was a day with a common theme in two different places — service to others, whether or not it’s convenient, whether or not you’re rewarded for it, and whether or not it’s dangerous. (The juxtaposition of those two stories with the third on the front page — the Grant County Board’s infighting — was ironic to say the least.)
The last page of last week’s Retrospect section chronicles what I found to be some of the stranger stories of the past year. I remain baffled at the torrent, if you want to put it that way, of public urination incidents in Platteville. How stupid do you have to be to take a leak outside the police station? (In math terms, I guess you could use the formula BAC > IQ.) And how disrespectful do you have to be to think that taking a leak on a veterans’ memorial on Veterans Day is a fine thing to do?
The last observation from working in Platteville for nearly eight months is a realization I had a couple weeks ago: For numerous reasons, some of which are difficult to describe, Platteville is like nowhere else in southwest Wisconsin. Platteville is like neither Lancaster, nor Darlington, nor Boscobel, nor Dodgeville, nor Richland Center, nor Prairie du Chien, nor even Monroe. Maybe someone should make “Republic of Platteville” T-shirts as a civic fundraiser.
Since I started here eight months ago, I’ve tried to provide the readers of The Platteville Journal a newspaper that is worthy of greater Platteville, in those areas that are my responsibility, including this column. My concern is that you read it, not that you necessarily agree with it.
I always close the TWTYTW column by writing this wish: May your 2013 be better than your 2012.