The only primary election in Grant County will be held in Platteville Tuesday.
Three candidates are running for the Platteville Common Council at-large seat held by retiring Ald. Patrice Steiner. The top two vote-getters will advance to the April 1 general election.
The three candidates for the at-large appeared at a forum sponsored by The Platteville Journal and the Platteville Main Street Program Wednesday evening.
Two of the three candidates, UW–Platteville sustainability coordinator Amy Seeboth and Browning Motors and U-Haul owner Darrel Browning, see how the city is doing differently.
“I’ve seen the city budget get balanced over the past few years — we’re in a much better fiscal position than we were three years ago,” said Seeboth. “Those sort of indicators say to me we’re doing well and we’re on the right track.”
“Right now, I do not feel the city treats everybody fair and equal,” said Browning, who has been dealing with city building code citations for his South Chestnut Street business.
The third candidate, engineer and painting business owner Brian Chapman, took a different tack, saying he was going to keep an open mind on issues affecting the city.
“I don’t have all the answers,” said Chapman. “I think I can be a benefit. I do have some life skills and some experiences. … I do have some Christian values I think would be an asset to the city. … As a city, I can help us determine what our true needs are, and what our needs and our wants are.”
Seeboth sees the top issue as “our unprecedented growth,” and “managing that growth in a sustainable, continued way.” She wants to see “a city where young professionals want to stay, to create jobs and opportunities for them, to create housing stock that they want to live in, and to create outdoor opportunities for them to recreate in.”
“Managing our debt is a big thing — living within our means,” said Chapman, who said the city needs to “look at ways to lower that debt or keep it the same while improving some of the things that need to happen in town, such as our streets.”
Seeboth cited her experience with the Southwest Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission.
“Your city government’s only as good as your council, and it’s on the shoulders of the council to be as informed and educated as possible,” said Seeboth. “The job of the council is really to keep that big picture, that vision in mind, and to be as educated as possible so we’re asking the right questions of the [city] staff.”
Browning said the city council isn’t sufficiently directing the city manager.
“If you do not stay on top of them, they will take things into their own hands, with or without your knowledge or without your approval,” said Browning. “I feel that right now our city manager has been given too much rein. He is implementing personal things that he thinks the city should be doing, and I’m sure he believes that he is benefitting the city, but I don’t think the council when he does a lot of things are aware of it until somebody comes up and complains.”
“That’s why you have a council — to help keep the city manager accountable, to have advisors, different opinions,” said Chapman.
Browning and Seeboth also had different opinions about business development.
“I am excited to see that we have had a lot of new businesses come to the university recently,” specifically Emmi Roth, said Seeboth. “I’m also excited that downtown is relatively vibrant — compared to many main streets in Wisconsin we have had really good business retention keeping our shops and stores open.”
“I don’t think we are promoting the city and/or downtown,” said Browning, who noted that other communities are “constantly doing promotions” on radio. He said some downtown businesses “feel more should be done; what that is, I do not know.”
As far as future development, Seeboth wants to see development within the city limits instead of expanding the city limits.
“Platteville has a lot of opportunity in redeveloping our older community housing stock and our older buildings, to bring new value to the lots and the parcels that may have seen better days in the past,” said Seeboth, who also advocates “infill development and building property value growth within the resources that we already have.”
“In order to expand the income of the city and not raise taxes, we have to make sure Platteville in the Tri-State area is the number one place to locate a business or your home,” said Browning. “The solution to the declining enrollment in the school system is very simple — all you have to do is create jobs that families can live on.”
“In 2020 we could have probably two or three more manufacturing plants or some kind of industry,” said Chapman. “I’d like to see at least one or two more manufacturing plants. … Obviously I think we can see more of our roads repaired.”
Browning believes the Municipal Building should be open on Fridays. The building has been closed since city hourly employees went to 37½-hour workweeks in 2012.
“Anybody that is trying to grow or bring new jobs to this community calls when they have time, and if they call and nobody answers the phone, they don’t call back,” he said.
Browning said the city allowed UW–Platteville to build a dorm “without regards to parking,” thus requiring southwest-side residents to have parking permits. “A lot of the parking [problem] could be solved if the university addressed their parking problem.”
Seeboth disagreed, saying, “I think that the university and the city have taken really great strides towards fixing it and finding a solution that works. I think the big vision is that we would like — the city and the university both would like — to have students not bring their cars to the community. … If we can get students to be on campus and in the city without cars, it will be beneficial eventually to all of us.”
Seeboth is a graduate and employee of UW–Platteville.
“The university and the city have a lot of mutual goals,” she said. “I think it’s important to think of the university like it’s another business in many ways. To that end, the university wants us to be a community that will enable them to recruit and retain good employees. So they’re looking at quality of life issues just like the city is, and they’re looking at whether or not we have good housing and good resources that will allow the new staff that they’re hiring to come and want to stay in Platteville.”
“Without the university Platteville would not have grown the way it has,” said Browning. “The city should treat it no different than any other business or resident in town — fair and equal.”
Voting for Tuesday’s primary will only be at the National Guard Armory, 475 N. Water St. There will be no voting at the UW–Platteville Markee Student Center for Tuesday’s primary.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The forum can be viewed in its entirety at www.youtube.com/watch?v=eABKY2vt1aY.