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Platteville Journal Letters to the Editor for Oct. 17
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Support the museums

This letter is written to enlist community support to help restore and preserve the Rollo Jamieson Museum budget. One of the important ways we educate youth to be confident and proud members of our community is to provide opportunities for them to understand what has been done to bring us to the quality of life we enjoy here today. Preserving the history of our community is vital to helping our youth become productive and sensitive individuals.

Recently, a Wisconsin State Journal writer stated that Platteville is becoming a boomtown. If that observation is true, it is very important that we preserve and utilize all the facilities we have to engage our current residents and the newcomers with the proud heritage of Southwestern Wisconsin.

Our Platteville leaders must make budgetary choices that affect the ability of our museums to provide the valuable educational opportunities that go beyond the classroom to educate our citizens of tomorrow. Those budgetary choices also communicate to visitors our sense of who we are and how we accept our place in a global world.

In August, it was a privilege to bring more than 80 guests to Platteville from 12 states and one foreign country. During their four-day stay in Platteville they visited our Rollo Jamieson Museum, The Mitchell–Rountree Cottage, and our home, Rountree House. They also attended regular sessions and held banquets at UW–Platteville.

The responses were entirely positive. The convention keynote speaker, President of the Isle of Man, Hon. Clare Christian, sent a letter stating: “Your decision to have it [the 51st Convention of the North American Manx Association] in Platteville was an excellent one; there was so much of interest to do and see within the locality and I enjoyed every minute of it.”

Both my husband and I have been teachers. My husband, Frank Evans, currently volunteers and mentors band students at the Platteville Middle School. I have been actively working to restore the historic Maj. John H. Rountree House and grounds since March 2000. We continue to pay Platteville property taxes and hope that those dollars will help support Platteville’s cultural elements that brought us to this community.

Mary F. Kelly, Ph.D.

More on the museums

For those who are not aware — and you wouldn’t be unless you had stayed around after Common Council meetings to attend Common Council 2013 Budget Work Sessions as there has been no publicity — there is a major attempt/intent to stop all city funding for the Platteville museums.

It began as a “suggestion” from Ald. Steven Becker at the Sept. 11 work session to phase out all city funding for the museums beginning with a 33-percent cut to the museums’ budget (down from last year’s budget of $271,000 to $180,000) starting with the 2013 budget. This would force an early retirement or layoff of the museum director, whose position has been eliminated under the city manager’s new Staffing Plan.

Over the next two budget years city funding for the museums would be cut an additional 33 percent each year with no city funding for the museums’ starting in 2015. This would also terminate the employment of the two remaining long-term employees at the museum.

At the Sept. 23 budget work session strong opposition to such cuts for the museums was voiced by Alds. Barb Daus and Eileen Nickels. Both have long and in-depth experience working with nonprofits and the Platteville Community Fund. Daus and Nickels both indicated that expecting the museums to take such a drastic cut to their operating budget in a little over two months before the start of the next budget, or expecting that a local non-profit could step in to make up the difference in the museum’s budget if they wanted to, is simply unrealistic and unfair. Ald. Ken Killian was also against cutting the museum so drastically, and none of these three council members were in favor of the City divesting itself from the museums completely.

Alds. Becker and Patrice Steiner and Council President Mike Dalecki all indicated that they supported significant cuts to the museums, with Becker stating that he believed that the cut ought to be closer to 45 percent this first year! Since Ald. Dick Bonin made no comments about the museum budget at either budget work session we have no idea where he stands on the issue of cuts to the museums, even though he made a big deal out of being a “strong supporter of the museums” when he was campaigning as a write-in candidate for Common Council last spring and garnered a lot of support from Jamison Museum Association members and other supporters of the museums.

At the budget work session held Oct. 9, Mr. Bierke presented his draft budget. All of the normal museum budget lines that have been part of the museum’s budget for the past three-plus decades have been zeroed out and a new budget line added, which simply says “Aid To Museum.” This budget also does away with three city employee positions, either firing or laying off the three current employees, who have worked at the museum for more 25 years and dedicated their lives to making Platteville a better place through their efforts at the museum.

In a cover letter to the draft budget, Mr. Bierke says that “This proposed budget anticipates that once the City Council budget is approved that a not-for-profit will step up to operate the City’s museum with a cash grant of $220,000. … The museum should become a private non-profit with a $220,000 grant from the City of Platteville in 2013. Each year after that the grant would be adjusted based on the City’s financial condition.”

The museum has always been a city department. Starting with the Mining Museum in 1968 and then with the addition, through a widely supported (greater than 75 percent) public referendum in 1980, of the Rollo Jamison Museum which opened to the public in June 1981.

As Daus and Nickels commented at the budget work session Sept. 23, no not-for-profits have the ability to take on this task in our area, and none certainly in the timeframe envisioned by the city manager (starting in January). I’m not sure what not-for-profit Mr. Bierke is “anticipating … will step up to operate the City’s museum …” but as president of the Jamison Museum Association, the only not-for-profit organization currently directly involved with the museum in any way, I am also a member of the city’s Museum Board, and there had been no mention to us of the proposed budget or a plan to transfer the museum in 2013 prior to the budget’s publication.

The city manager’s plan to divest the museum has several issues that have not been addressed. It is not as simple as writing the museum out of the budget and laying off/firing long-term employees. There is a city ordinance that empowers a museum board that would have to be changed, and that requires a supermajority to accomplish since there are portions of that ordinance that are governed by state law.

What happens if that supermajority fails to be achieved? Thankfully there are at least three supporters of the museum who I believe would vote against such an action and would that then nullify the museum budget changes? Could that be challenged in court or could the city be sued to continue supporting the museum?  What legal implications are there for the city in terms of the Hanmer Robbins School building, where the Rollo Jamison Collection is housed? Would that building then have to be returned to the Platteville School District?  What of the Trust Agreement the city signed with the Rollo Jamison Trust on Aug. 29, 1980 to accept the collection? What implications does the city divesting itself of the museum have in that regard? I don’t know the answers to these questions, and I believe the city manager doesn’t either.

From a recent report by the American Association of Museums: “Museums also count in ways that cannot be quantified. As stewards of our natural and cultural heritage, they preserve the collective natural and human experience … [museum collections] … can be quantified and categorized, but numbers in lists cannot convey the values and meanings museums hold for individuals, communities, and the nation.”

It would be a tragedy for the Platteville community to endanger our heritage in the manner proposed by some City Council or as proposed in the City Manager’s Draft Budget for 2013.

I urge all members of the Platteville community who care about our long-term future as a community with a commitment to a higher quality of life for its people — of which our collective history and the education of our youth about our history is a vital part, not to mention the economic benefits to the area as the only history oriented destination open to the public on a regular basis which draws people from around the nation and internationally — to contact your council members (district and at-large) this week, before the next budget work session to be held in the Platteville Police Department Community Room on Thursday, Oct 18 at 6 p.m., and let them know that you are not in favor of either drastic cuts to the museum budget or the city divesting itself of the responsibility of operating the museum as it has done since it was established and you expect them to listen to and reflect the views of their constituents, and not their own personal agendas.

Eric Fatzinger
President, Jamison Museum Association

Not in the debates

Listening to the presidential debate has been frustrating because I don’t hear any mention of the problems I consider important, and which I will list:

•    Climate change: It’s real and it threatens the whole of Earth. It has been buried in denial, business promotion, growth as seen from the standpoint of business. It needs to be recast as a survival issue.

•    Afghanistan: what national interest compels us to remain there?  Is it oil pipelines again?

•    Nuclear disarmament: While we quibble over whether Iran has a weapon or is headed for a weapon with which to defend itself from Israel, shouldn’t we press harder for nuclear disarmament, including Israel and Pakistan, both of which I regard as unstable?

•    Government surveillance including the Transportation Security Administration: It’s too much.

•    The number of Americans held in prison: Again, too many. Wasted lives, wasted human resources.

•    A bloated military–industrial complex: Our warmaking machine (Pentagon, CIA, contractors, veterans health care and benefits) consumes more than half the national budget, but the quibbles are over Obamacare, and subsidies for public broadcasting. If we are going to reduce our deficits we have to get serious about the big items.

I hope to hear more of this in the second and third debates. After the election, I hope to hear more of it in action to restore our faith in government.

Walt Wisnewski

Tommy on Medicare

Our former governor Thompson is supporting Medicare vouchers and increased out-of-pocket expenses for seniors.  It is a good thing that Tammy Baldwin will be there to defend all seniors against Thompson’s radical ideas to stick it to Wisconsin seniors with higher out-of-pocket costs for health care they have earned and already paid for.

Larry and Shirley Bowden
960 Broadway, Platteville

Ron Kading (Field)

I don’t really know who was behind naming the Potosi baseball field after me, but I want to express my appreciation. I don’t think any coach goes into a job, figuring they will name a field after him some day. It is an honor that I don’t think words can fully and accurately express. Gosh, I was just happy when they offered me a contract to coach each year. I would sign that contract and return it that same day, before they had a chance to change their minds.

It was awesome to see all the baseball alumni at the game. I wish I would have had more time to talk to you, and thank you for everything you have done for me. I know there were a lot of people that couldn’t get back. I got phone calls and emails from some, as well as people telling me that others wished they could have made it, but couldn’t. I’ve always enjoyed winning, but it is the people, the players and managers, that have made baseball so enjoyable.

It is also a huge honor to have Jerry Downs’ name on the field sign, too. Jerry has been my assistant coach since I began in 1978. I cannot even begin to count the number of students and players that Jerry has reached and inspired throughout the years. His loyalty, and passion for kids, is second to none.

It was also very special sharing the night with my brother Bob, and his wife Gale. They got to hear some pretty good stories. They got to meet the player who hit a grand slam home run, and got called out for missing home plate! I know they heard a lot more great stories throughout the night. So many funny and amazing things have happened during my career. The stories never get old, and they get funnier every time I hear them.

To me, it all comes down to the players and managers on the team. How one person can be so lucky, year after year, to get to work with so many amazing young men, is beyond me. The managers have also been very special. Some of the managers even knew a little about baseball!

Some people asked me if I was going to coach another 35 years. I told them that if the next 35 years would be as fun as the first 35, that would be awesome. It has been so much fun.

Whenever some of the baseball alumni gather together, a song pops up. It begins with “Old Ron Kading had a dream.” Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined having a field named after me. I am humbled and flattered. Everyone who was behind this, and all of those players and managers have made this such a great ride. My hope is that all of those kids that play baseball on that field in the future enjoy it as much as I have.

Ron Kading

From the PFD

The Platteville Fire Department would like to express our deepest appreciation for the help and support at the time of Chicago’s Best fire. In addition to fire departments and EMS from Cuba City, Lancaster, Belmont, Dickeyville. Potosi and Livingston/Clifton, we relied upon help from city police, the city Street Department, city Water Department, Grant County Sheriff’s Office, the Red Cross and retired firefighters. We could not have saved what we did without their help.

We were astonished by all the food, drinks and supplies donated, sent or brought to the scene by local businesses, organizations and individuals. As volunteers, we continue to be inspired by letters, notes and donations since the fire.

Members of the Platteville Fire Department