Since we have run out of 2013 issues of your favorite weekly newspaper, it’s time for That Was the Year That Was 2013, reflected in your Christmas lights, or the glow of holiday leftover iteration number seven. (Flaming turkey wings?)
Reading through last week’s Retrospect 2013 section could make one think that 2013 featured enough crime for an entire season of “CSI.” The Wand brothers were sentenced to life in prison for as heinous a crime as can be imagined. Jaren Kuester, who based on our page 1 story could be the most dangerous inmate in the history of Lafayette County, and James Kruger may end up in mental institutions for the rest of their lives as a result of their crimes. Robert VanNatta got 15 years in prison for a collection of crimes for which he could have been sentenced to 907½ years in prison, and nearly a year later the difference between those two numbers still makes no sense.
On a much lower scale: The Platteville Common Council approved in July an ordinance banning public intoxication. Detractors said police would be giving tickets to people who had been drinking and, say, stumbled on the sidewalk. Over the six months since the ordinance became law, the reality has been that the best way to get ticketed is to pass out in a reasonably public place — a restaurant open past midnight, the middle of a street, or along Rountree Branch after you ditch your friends at a restaurant, to name three examples.
Speaking of the Common Council, there was the usual (or at least usual based on a year and a half of observation) dysfunction among the Common Council, the city manager, and the people each is supposed to represent and work for, the citizens of Platteville. A common vision seems to be lacking, and plans to reach goals (for instance: communication with the public) either don’t exist or aren’t communicated. Voter discontent, perhaps not with what was being done but how it was being done, unseated two incumbents in 2013. Two more seats are up in April.
This year’s doubly ironic moment was the unsuccessful effort to stop the city from cutting down six trees as part of the North Fourth Street project. Irony number one was that the trees were cut down on, of all days, Earth Day. Irony number two was the rot inside at least two of them, noticeable only upon toppling, which probably meant the trees were not long for this Earth anyway.
Then there’s the crash, on U.S. 151 south of Platteville, of a brand new rented Ford Msutang convertible into a trailer being pulled by a tractor. The trailer was, as you know, hauling liquid manure, which spilled on a nice 80-degree day. The next time you have a bad day, imagine yourself having to call the car rental agency to tell them what happened to the brand new Mustang you just rented.
In addition to the Common Council and school boards (which have election years every year), the coming year is an election year for the Grant, Lafayette and Iowa county boards. The Grant County Board continued its institutional disrespect for open meetings, joined, apparently, this year by the Town of Kendall board’s disrespect for open records. In the latter’s case we have the arrogance of the board, and its supporters, saying that complaints about the town’s violating the state Open Records Law are merely sour grapes by the losers of the last town board election. Read the Open Meetings (chapter 19.21) and Open Records (chapter 19.81) laws, and you will find no provision negating them based on the motivations of those alleging violations.
This fall, the governor, attorney general, state Assembly and half of the state Senate are up for election, including the 17th Senate District, represented since 1991 by Sen. Dale Schultz, who may or may not be running for reelection, and may or may not be running for reelection, speculation goes, as a Republican. (Schultz’s potential replacement is Rep. Howard Marklein (R–Spring Green), which means Marklein’s 51st Assembly District seat will be represented by someone else in 2015.) So, yes, you will be inundated with more politics than you can stand, particularly in our zero-sum-gain poisoned political atmosphere.
Not all was bad in 2013. As a parent of three of its students, obviously I’m pleased about the Platteville School District’s continued high grades on the state report card. Readers in the school district should be similarly pleased about the count of national board-certified teachers now reaching seven, more by far than any other school district in this area. Residents of the Belmont and Potosi school districts should be similarly pleased that attempts to eliminate the “Braves” and “Chieftains” on specious grounds will now be more difficult.
One of the most cool things to watch was the growing fame of That Tree, photographer Mark Hirsch’s year-long Facebook project, then book, and now nationwide (at least) tour. There was also the happy return of the Wisconsin National Guard’s 229th Engineering Company, all 143 members of which left in August 2012 for Afghanistan, and all 143 of which returned in July.
And there was one of the most remarkable high school sports teams this area has ever seen, the 2013 Platteville Hillmen football team, whose 1–3 start certainly didn’t foreshadow how the season finished, at Camp Randall Stadium in the WIAA Division 4 championship game. Coaches since, well, sports began have emphasized overcoming adversity, and the next play being the most important thing, and so on. It has to have been great for the coaches to see all those lessons they emphasize followed up with team achievement.
As always, may your 2014 be better than your 2013.