‘Make haste slowly’
The Platteville Common Council met Jan. 12 to decide whether to vacate a section of Jones Street that contains public parking space to John Patakos.
To take parking away from public use and give to one particular business in Platteville is like dangling one’s foot in a pool filled with piranha. The end result is destined to be a painful experience.
So why would the city do such a thing? Enter Delta 3 Engineering with its electric light PowerPoint presentation of a grandiose unsanctioned yet-to-be-approved plan to build a brewery and restaurant onto the side of Steve’s Pizza Palace. Some of the city council members’ eyes light up as John Patakos reveals his dream like a child at Christmas to see his present unwrapped at the top of Main Street.
Herein lies the dilemma. Will this plan be a gift for Main Street or will it play itself out like the second coming of Chucky the doll from the “Child’s Play” movies?
Like a toy that requires batteries to operate, this project requires adequate on-site parking to succeed. No one is buying in on the smoke and mirrors of alternative off-site parking. This plan should not infringe on the closely connected businesses neighboring it. It should not usurp the existing parking spots the downtown needs to survive and grow. I believe public sentiment is growing against this project.
City decisions have created a financial dilemma with the Library Block project. Questionable too is the decision to venture the city into a real estate purchase of the Boldt properties. Now the Common Council weighs in on a very questionable risk to return project that adds an insufferable burden on the already heavily burdened parking/traffic situation on Main Street. How much traffic can Chestnut Street take between Main Street and Pine Street before gridlock blocks this most congested part of town?
It seems we are giving up on smart economic growth and buying into any kind of growth. Some smart people got the state of Wisconsin to place three interchanges off the U.S. 151 corridor. Smart economic growth has followed. Platteville has become the strategic, logistical oasis of Southwest Wisconsin.
As with success also comes failures. Recent city moves will have to play out to see which side of the ledger they fall. The pizza pipe dream poses not only obvious but dangerous misgivings. Parking and derailed traffic lead these negatives.
Let’s think things through before taking action that may be irrevocable. As the old Dutchman would say, “Now is the time to make haste slowly.”
On ‘a true Catholic’
On Jan. 12, I attended what was called a “work session” held by Platteville’s Common Council following its regular meeting focused on what was designated as “proposed St. Augustine development parking options.” I was there not only because I live in proximity to the proposed multimillion-dollar development project, with its attendant parking problems, but also because as one who was a supporting member of the St. Augustine University Parish family from its beginning in 1974, I was interested to know what the latest justification would be for the demolition of the current St. Augustine’s, its replacement by a larger structure, and the additional building of 40 units (144 beds) of student apartment housing, or what is now being called “faith-based student housing.”
The consultant’s presentation, accompanied by several pages of print and graphics, and the ensuing discussion was almost solely about the housing part of the project and its parking implications. What I found particularly interesting, however, was the consultant’s stress from the beginning on the need for the housing part to generate a source of revenue, “to support Newman Center staff and programs.”
It’s no secret these days that St. Augustine may be financially insecure given the kind of exodus from it that has occurred on the part of many of its (former) parishioners. Readers may recall The Journal’s Dec. 9 letter from Jerry Huebner that described in detail some of the reasons for parishioners departing. While St. Augustine’s new development director, Steve Davies, makes no reference to the exodus, he does acknowledge its consequence when, in last month’s newsletter, The Augustinian, he says, “Currently, the small population of resident parishioners and some parents of students bear the continually daunting task of funding the operations of the parish.”
Other remarks in this same December newsletter as well as various statements made by the consultant last week emphasize what in part reflects the recent burgeoning of UW–Platteville’s student body, “the ever increasing population of students utilizing the Newman Center,” and hence the need for more space and more financial support “to provide programming and ministry” for these students.
Who could not be in support of such a worthy cause? As odd as it may initially sound, the answer to that question is: anyone who wonders if what appears to be the prevailing ethos of St. Augustine’s “programming and ministry” may be doing students more harm than good.
I am obviously now referring to what may frequently be cited in private, but is seldom noted in public. It is the peculiar vision and orientation that underlies what St. Augustine has become. I’ll offer just three illustrations of what I mean by this “vision and orientation.”
First, there is the fostering of a siege mentality regarding Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular (some have called this a “persecution complex”). A classic example was displayed about three years ago in a meeting at St. Augustine’s when a student who was about to become a seminarian announced that he thought UW–Platteville was one of “the most anti-Catholic institutions” he could imagine. (Upon hearing this, I, having a close association of over 40 years with the university, found the comment ludicrous.) Just last month, moreover, another young man, while reporting in The Augustinian his plans, too, to enter a seminary, referred to our time, “when Christianity, and especially Catholicism, is under such fierce attack.”
Second, there is a promotion of a spiritual life rooted in a God of certitudes, about all manner of things, from what hymns are acceptable for singing, to the notion that only males are suited to receive all the sacraments of the church. For anyone younger than 25, such an orientation is usually a sign of a combined sense of enthusiasm and vulnerability; for anyone older than 25, however, sadly it can be a sign of the marriage of ignorance to arrogance.
Third and finally, there is the cultivation of the belief that there is only one way of being Catholic — i.e., “a true Catholic” — and, of course, those in the current ecclesiastical leadership of St. Augustine’s are the ones who know what that “one way” is. No better example of such a belief can be found than in the lead article of (again) last month’s Augustinian, where the priest who is the “Parochial Vicar” of the parish approvingly reports his hearing a student challenging another one by saying, “There are two kinds of Catholics, those who call themselves Catholic, but really aren’t, and those who live it … what type of Catholic do you want to be?”
Just as there are many ways of being a Christian, however, so, too, there are many ways of being a Catholic. To be in denial of this implies a serious case of historical (not to mention theological) amnesia. And such amnesia perhaps can help explain why St. Augustine’s current leadership, being unable to attract the allegiance of those it deems not true Catholics, must seek its financial salvation in real estate.
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