This is part two of That Was the Year That Was 2014, because 2014 couldn’t be summarized in just one column.
It was a professionally weird year for me. (Besides what you’re about to read, I’ve never been part of a Facebook meme before this past year.) For the first time, one of these Etc. columns was used as an alleged example of prejudicial pretrial publicity. (That was two years after an area public defender called me the mouthpiece for the then-state attorney general, someone I’ve never met.) I thought it was strange to be hearing about the deficiencies in the building where I work, but then again I’ve never spent several months working inside a barricaded building. Most people do not get phone calls on a weekend saying that police put up barricades in front of your building because pieces were starting to fall onto the sidewalk.
Given that the Platteville Common Council seems to have set a precedent by lending money to a downtown building owner for building repair (and while exterior repairs could be said to improve downtown ambiance, interior repairs would seem to benefit only the building owner), it seems likely that the city will be fielding numerous requests for funding of downtown building improvement projects.
Strange as those moments seemed, they pale in comparison with my impromptu meeting with Bishop Robert Morlino of the Madison Catholic Diocese at UW–Platteville. Whatever he had to say about evil he said in front of an audience that, unlike your typical university environment, is unlikely to have been very challenging to Morlino and his points of view. I am pleased that most people understand that Morlino had no right to ban the news media — or anyone else, for that matter — from a speech at a public institution, whether he wanted them there or not. I also heard from people who were happy that I stood up to Morlino, which is not a statement about me, but about how local Catholics feel about their bishop, though they may not air those feelings publicly. Dislike of authority is as American as apple pie.
The sports highlight of the season for Platteville fans was the Hillmen volleyball team’s going to state for the first time in 20 years. One would not expect that to be followed by the coach’s being unwillingly replaced. Two months after that transpired, it still seems obvious that this has undermined the position of every other PHS coach (including the next football coach) and teacher, regardless of whether you believe Yvette Updike should have been retained as volleyball coach. The school district denies my assertion. I guess we’ll find out who’s right when the next coach and teacher hiring processes take place.
More happily, UW got its second coach with Platteville ties when the Badgers hired Hillmen alumnus Paul Chryst as its new football coach. Which made the first UW coach with Platteville ties, Bo Ryan (whom you’ll recall from his pre-2014 Final Four trips and, by the way, national sports media, four national championships), wonder what Paul’s father, George, would have thought of both of them working at UW, which is an amusing thought even for those who didn’t know George.
Speaking of replacements, the City of Platteville will be finding a new city manager this year after Larry Bierke resigned, and not quietly. Bierke said one reason he quit was his disagreement over the council’s desire for him to live closer to Platteville. Those requirements for employees are no longer legal under state law, the result of the state Republican Party’s trying to stick it to Milwaukee, which required its employees to live within the city limits. Whether or not it’s required, the issue is a perception issue for those whose tax dollars pay one of the highest salaries in Platteville.
There is not enough space here to chronicle my own favorite moments from 2014. One was the dedication of the Firefighter Memorial, which included my son the Fire Explorer. There was also watching the Heartland Festival’s “Shrek,” with my other son and daughter as two of the Seven Dwarfs. (How do you know your kids are engaged in an activity? They don’t complain about going to practice.) There was also the grand reopening of Culver’s, with the news of owner Bruce Kroll’s paying his employees’ salaries between the 2013 fire and the reopening. I was also amused at having Homecoming parades on consecutive days, though those who marched in both may not have been. And seeing the UW Marching Band, which included me in years beginning with the number 19, entertain thousands at the Belmont School and Community Fair was cool.
This didn’t happen in 2014, but at the UW–Platteville men’s basketball game Saturday night, I saw a couple of kids wearing shirts that referred to “The Ville.” There certainly is no place around here like The Ville, is there?
As always, may you have a better 2015 than 2014.