‘Right to know’
With an upcoming court date regarding a Wisconsin open records violation against the Town of Kendall board (see story, page 1), one wonders if perhaps we are living in the Deep South of the 1960s instead of enlightened Wisconsin.
Medgar Evers and other civil rights activists paid the price for defending the Constitutional rights of black people. We and others have been vilified for wanting First Amendment freedoms and open township government.
According to a Nov. 26 Wisconsin State Journal editorial, “The public has a right to know what its elected officials are up to.” But some feel otherwise.
An unsigned letter sent to us says that attempting to get the town officials to abide by the law is a “trivial” matter and a “frivolous legal action.”
It is not trivial or frivolous when the three members of the Town of Kendall board declare themselves above the Open Records Law. The letter also included a veiled threat, saying we should be prepared in the event town officials took “countermeasures” against us. But it’s a lot easier to make idle threats about countermeasures than it is to bring a successful action against someone for exercising their legal rights.
The letter writer states we should take shame that fines, if imposed, could better be spent on roads and bridges. We agree. Taxpayer dollars should not be funneled into court costs and fines.
After months of attempting to educate the board on state law, residents are then compelled to ask the court to intervene. The WSJ editorial goes on to say, “Wisconsin’s open records law heavily favors transparency. That’s something too many state leaders still don’t get.” And it seems to have filtered down to local town government.
Don and Colleen Schultz
I would like to address a recent Community Corner column by UW–Platteville Chancellor Dennis Shields, “The Opportunity of Disruption” Oct. 23.
I do understand that disruption, when used properly, can bring about some dynamic changes. One that comes to my mind is the working of Dr. Martin Luther King, who used mass marches to bring about change regarding the difference between people of color and whites. The second is Nelson Mandela, who served 27 years in prison and then after being freed from jail by a pro-apartheid leader spent the rest of his years ending apartheid in South Africa. This disruption was for the good of all and not just for one entity.
In Shields’ own words “UW–Platteville ... presented disruptive challenges for the campus and community regarding student housing. By developing new resident facilities we could not only create additional student housing, but also enhance [UW–Platteville’s] ability to fully engage students in academic and co-curricular activities which data indicates leads to increase retention, higher achievement and better graduation rates,” again for only UW–Platteville.
These words are coming from the same man that came before the Common Council and said that he wanted to be a “good neighbor.” This was the very same Common Council that had four members that were associated with UW–Platteville as either current staff, getting a paycheck from UWP, or receiving a pension check from them.
Four members out of seven means a clear majority of the council were voting their allegiance and not the good of the people of Platteville.
If one was to look into the Rules of Conduct of a University Employee, you will see terms like “unable to sign contract over $100,000 nor have any influence over projects that have to do with their employer,” yet four members of the Common Council paid no mind to that. The rules even go on to say that if there is a problem it would be decided by the Chancellor. Well, we know how that went.
I also find it very strange that Mr. Shields goes on to state that he worked with the Common Council, four of which votes are directly connected to UWP, and was able to circumvent the Municipal Code to place the problem of finding parking space for the 1,000 new students on campus onto the community instead of taking care of its own forced overcrowding.
Mr. Shields does not mention Washington Place Apartments that was also forced onto the community, again without adequate parking. The Washington Place Apartments were built so there would be available housing for new faculty and their children to live, yet the City of Platteville’s public school population has gone down.
Isn’t it better that UWP works in conjunction with the residents of Platteville instead of what I believe is a quid pro quo process?
Please do not get me wrong: I am all in favor of having new and innovative avenues for the City of Platteville to grow and prosper, but not by providing entitlements to UW–Platteville.
Another piece of information that I read on www,platteville.org website that has caused me to rethink the working of the current City Manager. It starts out with the plans to redevelopment of the Library Block and it states that the purpose “is to address the underutilized blighted properties on that block,” according to a 2010 study.
It goes on to state that this $20 million project will occupy 228,230 square feet, of which only 19,130 (less than 10 percent) will be used for commercial/retail space (there goes Main Street, Platteville, again), a 7,500-square-foot health clinic, 118,000 square feet of student housing (again to benefit UW–Platteville with room for 336 beds) and 22,000 square feet (less than 10 percent) for a new library with underground parking (for whom, students or retail shoppers or library use?). The project also includes a 60-unit hotel (again for the benefit of UW–Platteville).
Our City Manager goes on to state that this would be an ambitious project for the community and will boost customer base for the downtown area. But this is up to property owners to make it happen. (That means the city wants to buy the property for the lowest possible dollar it can and then do some cosmetic remodeling and then charge anyone wanting to rent retail space an arm and a leg.)
I was at the most recent Common Council meeting and our city manager stated that he has not seen any plan design or has he been in contact with any of the landowners as of yet. The city manager is also stating that ground should be broken next year.
From this writer’s point of view this is nothing more than an attempt to have the City of Platteville either spend an additional $20 million to help increase the size of the university and for the university to continue to feed off the city. This city is already in debt $21 million, and if we go ahead with this project that would increase our debt to $40 million, and that does not include the $8 million that UWP wants us to pay for the planning of an innovation plus whatever the cost of construction will be.
As far as I understand this is the City of Platteville, Wis., USA, and not the University of Platteville. I am sorry for all of my editorial comments that you will find in parentheses in this letter but these are my feelings and I am protected in my First Amendment right to say so.
The District 2 seat and an at-large seat on the Common Council are up for election this spring. Take out papers in the City Clerk’s office this month and run for office.
Michael V. Mayo
375 S. Chestnut St., Platteville
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