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Letters to The Platteville Journal for April 1
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Against breed bans

There are many, many reasons why breed-specific legislation is a bad idea for the Platteville community.

First and foremost, many well-respected organizations agree the BSL does not work. Not that it’s “mean” or “unfair,” it quite simply does not have the desired effect of preventing dog attacks. The Humane Society, the ASPCA, and the American Kennel Club all agree on this point.

Second, there has been much research demonstrating that it is nearly impossible to enforce such legislation, because it is very difficult to determine whether or not a dog is a pit bull or pit bull mix by sight, and even DNA testing is often inconclusive. There is no point in banning a breed if nobody is actually capable of differentiating between the banned breed and other breeds.

Thirdly, the ban is illogical. Many other big, strong breeds are found at the tops of lists of dog bites and attacks, including German Shepherds, Rottweilers, collies, and spaniels. Why target this single group of breeds when many other breeds have the same tendency for aggression and potential to do great harm?

The simple fact is that there is no credible argument to ban pit bulls and pit bull mixes. Our community’s resources would be better utilized in educating the people about more reliable ways to prevent dog attacks, including common-sense things like leashing, fencing, training, and early socialization. And when incidents do occur, it makes far more sense to hold the person at fault accountable for their irresponsible actions.

Carla Schmidt Holloway

Opposed to Walker

I am overwhelmed by Gov. Walker’s budget for 2015–16. Cutting public school funding, making unequal judgements of schools by giving letter grades, a juvenile act, to public schools but not voucher schools. Allowing voucher schools to choose the tests they give students instead of giving the same tests as public schools so a fair comparison may be made of how each school is doing.

The governor is cutting public funds from state parks so they will have to rely on fees, or worse, naming rights for parks, probably with the hope of privatizing the parks eventually. What could be better than privately owned state parks? Tourism is a big part of Wisconsin’s income but without great parks with reasonable fees, failure in fish and wildlife experiences, poor environmental conditions who wants to come?

The budget strips the Natural Resources Board of its powers making it advisory only, giving all of the power to the Department of Natural Resources secretary who is appointed by the governor. For 88 years, governors have appointed seven volunteer citizens who set DNR policy and vote on rule changes, with legislative oversight. The budget includes the reduction of DNR science research positions, research that is fundamental to all of the fish, wildlife, land and water management, research largely funded by sportsmen and women and not by general revenue. Cuts include conservation and environmental education, something the governor seems not to value.

The governor proposes to eliminate local property tax assessments and give the job to the county government. The Wisconsin Towns Association believes this will be costly. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that this will cost us a lot more, for example, when the per parcel cost for the city of La Crosse are applied to all of La Crosse County, their costs increase 403 percent, $1.24 million.

By now we know the governor wants to cut $300 million in funds to the UW Systems and allow the system more autonomy, this could be a step down the road to partial privatization of the university system. The UW System is an economic driver of the state contributing $15 billion from an investment of $1.2 billion. Where is the savings in the $300 million cut?

In the transportation budget Walker would borrow $1.3 billion and he will not raise gas taxes or fees, this may sound good, no taxes, but how do we plan to pay? The transportation borrowing has increased in the last 12 years and the debt service will rise to 20 percent this year and in 2016–17 the debt service will be approximately 23 percent.

Other things to think about: what are Walker’s plans for the Commission on Aging and Disabilities? What are the plans for drug testing people seeking unemployment? He says he wants to help them overcome their problem but we don’t know how or where or who pays. Why does he want to put the independent Judicial Commission under control of the Supreme Court when the commission is the one that investigates complaints against the Supreme Court. There are so many questions, so much to know.

Annie Waitzman

Open school records

Platteville Public Schools has recently posted several open positions within the school district. Being a long-time educator in Southwest Wisconsin, as well as a resident of Platteville, I have been asked by several parties about the salaries and benefits of positions held within the Platteville school district. I have attended several school board meetings and have not witnessed the approval of administrators’ contracts for Platteville Public Schools. I have been informed that most area school districts have this information in their school board minutes that are released to the local newspaper.

Since administration’s salaries and benefits are not in the Employee Handbook, I made an open records request for this information.  The information I requested shows the salaries of Platteville’s administrators:
•    Superintendent Connie Valenza: $117,832.
•    Business Manager Art Beaulieu: $91,753.
•    Platteville High School Principal Tim Engh: $95,000
•    PHS Athletic Director Eric Newton: $78,000.
•    Platteville Middle School Principal Jason Julius: $81,000.
•    Neal Wilkins Principal Kris Brown: $82,000.
•    Assessment coordinator Lisa Finnegan: $82,000.
•    Director of student achievement and intervention services ReNah Reuter: $81,323.

These salaries do not include the cost of additional benefits.

As a taxpayer, I found some concerns with this information. This includes dates that don’t match up to actual start times, contracts that are not signed by administrators, and approval dates of contracts that are not reflected in the school board minutes or agendas.

Other concerns I have is that the administration does not carry out several school board policies. For example:
•    Policy ABC: Student Involvement in Decision Making.
•    Policy BA: Board Operational Goals, which states, “To conduct official Board business openly.”
•    Policy BDDA: Notification of Board Meetings, which states, “The Platteville Board of Education recognizes that the public is entitled to the fullest and most complete information regarding the affairs of the Board as is comparable with the transaction of Board business.” Administration contracts are not approved in open session of board meetings. Nor do the agendas identify the approval of administration contracts.
•    Policy CB-R: Job Description of District Administrator, which states, “Provides the board with sufficient information that they can stay abreast of issues and activities make informed decisions and establish necessary policies,” and “Direct the development and implementation of school district policy as necessary to promote school district goals and satisfy legal and mandated requirements.” Why did it take over a year for our administration to address the math and science requirements that will now affect the sophomore class and beyond? That could cause hardships for those students in order to meet the high school graduation requirements.

I truly hope others in the Platteville community will actively get involved and hold our Platteville Public Schools’ administration accountable in carrying out the responsibilities and duties with complete openness and transparency.

Sue Wehnke

The Platteville Journal will print most letters to the editor, regardless of the opinion presented. The Journal reserves the right to edit material that is libelous or otherwise offensive to community standards and to shorten letters the Journal feels are excessively long. All letters must be signed and the signature must appear on the printed letter, along with a contact number or email for verification. Some submitted letters may not be published due to space constraints. “Thank you” letters will not be printed. All letters and columns represent the views of the writers and not necessarily the views of The Platteville Journal.