The thoughts of a journalist/libertarian–conservative/Christian husband, father, Eagle Scout and aficionado of obscure rock music. Thoughts herein are only the author’s and not necessarily the opinions of his family, friends, neighbors, church members or past, present or future employers.
Tonight I am doing something I’ve never gotten to do before, and something I won’t do ever again.
The pitcher depicted in this GIF …
… has had quite a week, beginning with channeling his inner Terry Kath at his last high school concert …
… followed by playing the National Anthem before his last conference home game:
I have announced a lot of different things in my more than 30 years of sports announcing on the side, but until tonight I have never announced a child’s game, though I once announced a state soccer match with a child, a goalkeeper:
Platteville is playing Madison Edgewood at Sun Prairie (the future Sun Prairie East, by the way) today at 5:40 p.m. on WPVL in Platteville. If Platteville loses, that will end Dylan’s baseball career, and his parents’ watching him play baseball since he started playing T-ball years ago.
That will apply to all the parents of the seniors on tonight’s losing team, though at least two of them plan to play at the college level. It will also apply to the losing coach, because the Platteville coach’s stepson and the Edgewood coach’s son play for their fathers. It may make for an emotional postgame, less for being eliminated from the postseason as for the end of a season and, like graduation five days ago, the last time this group of players will ever be together, given future life circumstances.
I did announce a few games of Dylan’s and his teammates the summer before his freshman year online …
… but with no other children in the house who compete in sports that are covered on the radio, Dylan’s last game will be the last game of a child I will announce.
Playing for your father means you’re usually expected to be a “coach on the floor,” as the phrase goes. They’re also usually expected to be go-betweens between their coach/father and their teammates. Conversely, coaches of their kids can treat their players as they see appropriate, but they go home with their kids, and the line between coach and father may be at the front door, or not. When I do pregame interviews with coaches whose kids are on their team, I usually ask them about what that’s been like for them, and I always get interesting answers, though none like former Marquette coach Al McGuire, who when asked why his son Allie was starting over another player, replied, “Because I’m sleeping with his mother.”
(Less colorful but as honest was McGuire’s answer when a player asked him why he wasn’t starting over Allie: “Kid, you can’t be as good as my son to be in the starting lineup, you’ve got to be better than my son because he’s my son.”)
I have one tenuous connection to Edgewood, whose most famous alumnus is probably the late Chris Farley, who was a year ahead of me in high school. Edgewood played Madison La Follette in a nonconference football game in the early 1980s. Chris played offensive and defensive line. I played trumpet.
Farley is buried in Resurrection Cemetery in Madison, the final resting place of my older brother 33 years earlier. He is buried in Resurrection’s mausoleum, and you can imagine that gets a lot of visitors.
Former Leftist Madison Mayor Paul Soglin once gave Cuba’s brutal communist dictator Fidel Castro the key to the city.
Anarchist Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway has turned over the key to a hate-filled mob.
Rhodes-Conway has used her white privilege to appease the militant radical protesters and rioters who have ripped up the Isthmus and firebombed the City-County Building.
She’s become perhaps the most pandering member of the “Free Yeshua” movement. Devonere Johnson, 28, who fancies calling himself Yeshua Musa, was arrested Tuesday after walking into a Capitol Square restaurant with a baseball bat and a bullhorn. He more than disturbed the peace; he was a public menace.
It took five officers to bring the flailing, kicking, resisting Johnson into custody, and even then he had to be apprehended again after he bolted from the squad car and tried to escape. As he was being arrested, Johnson put on a big show for the radicals who were videotaping him, at one point yelling, “I can’t breathe.” The phrase was intentional. That’s what George Floyd cried out during the agonizing minutes of his last minutes of life. Floyd, a middle-aged black man who died at the hands of a a white Minneapolis police officer, became the symbol of a sweeping protest movement against racism and police brutality.
But the movement has also been co-opted and led by radical socialists looking to “reorganize” America in their redistributionist image.
Rhodes-Conway shares their vision, even if she bristles a bit at some of their methods.
This week she asked that Johnson’s initial appearance in court be expedited “so he can be released on bail.” This is a guy with at least one violent felony on his rap sheet. A further investigation led to more charges against the black “activist,” including extortion-related offenses.
Police said Johnson and Gregg A. James Jr., 23, have been charged with threats to injure. Another fine fellow, William T. Shanley, 25, was charged with being a party to a crime.
Johnson and James, according to police, demanded free food and drinks from restaurants in exchange for protecting them from the destruction of demonstrators. In one case, they demanded free stuff or an employee would be injured, according to the police report.
Johnson also faces federal charges. A complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin on Friday alleges Johnson attempted to obtain money and property by “threatened use of force, violence and fear.” Johnson, according to the complaint, threatened that windows of a business would be destroyed unless he received payment via his Venmo account. He also is charged with threatening to shut down and destroy another business.
This is the guy Madison’s mayor wanted out walking on bail.
Following Johnson’s arrest, the radical mob demanded his release from the Dane County Jail. They toppled iconic progressive statues at the Capitol, smashed windows,tossed Molotov cocktails into public buildings, and beat up an openly gay Wisconsin senator.
“I recognize that we need better options to deescalate situations and offer restorative justice in our community,” Mayor Satya wrote in her blog, using the gobbledygook language of liberals who have completely lost their minds.
Then she doubled down on her mob-friendly rhetoric, calling on the City Council to terminate the police department’s contract with the school district, and take school resource officers — police — out of the city’s high schools.
It’s a bold move that simultaneously communicates the city’s liberal leaders hate cops and that Madison teachers, parents and students are truly on their own.
She said as much in her blog.
“Over the past weeks, we have heard chants of ‘Who keeps us safe? We keep us safe!”’ It’s time for that ‘us’ and that ‘we’ to include everyone in Madison,” she wrote.
“Because every single person who lives here deserves to be and feel safe in our City. And it is up to every single one of us to make that true. Everyone – police, protester, elected official, business owner, resident – everyone must find it within themselves to show compassion and kindness for each other, and to care about each other’s safety and well-being.”
The kind of compassion that Mr. Bat and Bullhorn showed businesses and patrons on the Square?
When the police and the consequences are gone, who’s going to protect Madison from Mayor Satya’s sunshine daydream?
Over at Isthmus, Dylan Brogan has committed some excellent journalism on Madison’s public schools. We’ve linked to his piece on the chaos at Jefferson middle school, where parents and public wonder why a 13-year-old student who shot another student with a BB gun remained in school after 25 previous, serious disciplinary incidents. We know about that sorry history only because a whistle blower released the disciplinary file to Channel 3000.
His news story is headlined “A rotten semester.” It is the No. #1 trender at Isthmus on-line and has attracted considerable comment, including this brilliant insight from Blaska:
Behavior education plan
The late Milt McPike is revered as an educator because for 23 years as principal (and 5 years as vice principal before that) he ran a tight ship at East high school. The man was known to frog march a miscreant student outside to the waiting squad car. The WI State Journal reports a revolving door of principals at 9 of MMSD’s 12 middle schools in the last 3½ years.
Not coincidentally, that followed the bureaucratic behavior education plan that Jennifer Cheatham imposed on the district, removing control of the classroom from teachers and schools from principals. Cheatham was supported by a school board invested in “white privilege” and “implicit bias” to excuse the chaos in the schools.
This trenchant observation drew a response from one Stan Endiliver, who (contrary to his intention) betrays why virtue-signaling progressives like himself are piping at-risk kids to disaster by playing the victim dirge on the blame-someone-else fife of victimhood. (Whew!)
MMSD teacher here; relax
1. If you are a parent of a student in MMSD, you have nothing to fear.[Blaska: as long as you stay out of the line of fire.] There are many caring teachers and principals that are doing great things. Our district is not perfect, but we are doing our best to serve all kids …
3. If you are looking to Blaska as a saviour, just move. [Blaska: Which is why Sun Prairie is building a second high school] He has no idea what he is talking about. I am in a MMSD school every day, and have been for 15 years, and his vision of us is ludicrous. Leading kids out of school to squad cars is exactly why we are in the position we are in. We have a lot of kids dealing with real trauma and there are a lot of problems that are rooted in mental health issues. Give the district more resources to heal, and that would be a great place to start.
5. It all comes to back to race. Have you done your homework on Madison? The zoning? The fact that our schools were only fully integrated in 1983? The days of blindly complying with your teacher are over, but many people would love to go back to the time when it was like that.
I hear teachers say things like “when I was in school, you would never…” well guess what, when we were in school we were being socialized into a white supremacist system. That system is coming down, and this worries a lot of people, whether they consider themselves woke or not. — Stan Endiliver
That system is coming down
Yes, Mr. Endiliver, the days of blindly complying with your teacher are, indeed, over. Now we have 15 to 20 middle school students trashing Lakeview branch library and taunting the first responders, “We don’t have to listen to the police” and “You can’t touch us.”
Progressives like Endiliver might call that progress. We do not. At some point, these kids will have to blindly listen to someone, some place: if not the teachers or the librarians, if not the police — then whom? Certainly not an employer or a customer. At what point are they — and you, Endiliver — going to quit blaming the past for the present? These kids’ parents were out of school by 1983! And do not tell me that Madison 1983 resembled in any way Selma, Alabama 20 years earlier.
I do not know where you were schooled, Endiliver. But my schools in Sun Prairie, public and Catholic, did not socialize anyone “into a white supremacist system.” To the contrary, it reinforced our responsibility to family, community, and our God. But you are correct on one point, MMSD teacher, that system is, indeed, coming down.
Blaska’s Bottom Line: This quote attributed to America’s unofficial poet laureate, Bob Dylan:“A hero is someone who understands the degree of responsibility that comes with his freedom.”
But wait, there’s more!
As if proving MMSD teacher Endiliver’s pont about the system coming down:
NBC TV-15 reports: Five school-aged teenagers were arrested Tuesday afternoon (01-21-2020) following a high-speed pursuit that wound through several Dane Co. cities before the suspects abandoned the vehicle on the Beltline.
Three of them, Ashanti Freeman (age 17), Toneice Horne (17), and Reginald Sexton (18), were booked into the Dane Co. jail on multiple counts, while the other two teens, ages 15 and 16, were taken to the Juvenile Reception Center. The 16 year old had seven active arrest warrants.
According to the Monona Police Department, all five were piled into a GMC Acadia as it raced away from a Dane Co. deputy around 1 p.m. January 14 along the Beltline. Town of Madison officers laid stop sticks along the road, near Rimrock Rd., that punctured its tires, but the suspects kept going.
Monona Police say its officers joined the pursuit near South Towne/West Broadway and followed the SUV until it stopped near Monona Drive.
About that kid nabbed with a gun at West high
From Madison police blotter: South District detectives have developed probable cause to arrest a teen, arrested earlier this week at West High for having a gun at school, for armed robbery and disorderly conduct after connecting him to a drug-related holdup.
Tyrese T. Williams, age 18, Madison, is accused of pointing a handgun at two other teens, both acquaintances, after the victims picked him up under the premise that Williams was going to purchase a small amount of marijuana from one of them. The trio drove to the 1900 block of Post Rd. where the crime was committed around 2 p.m. Saturday.
Instead of providing cash, Williams pulled out the gun and ended up fleeing on foot with one victim’s backpack.
Blaska’s second Bottom Line: Yes, teacher Endiliver, the days of blindly complying with your teacher are over, but many people would love to go back to the time when it was like that. Blaska is one of them.
If you ever needed evidence that the People’s Republic of Madison is full of people no one should want to have as co-users of oxygen, read Empower Wisconsin:
Is one of the wokest cities in America woke no more?
Harassment, discrimination, bullying have all besmirched Madison’s city government, arguably one of the more politically correct bureaucracies this side of Berkeley.
A survey conducted by Madison’s Multicultural Committee and Women’s Initiative Committee (what’s more woke than that?) found a quarter of city employees who responded said they experienced bullying, discrimination or workplace harassment in the past year.
The survey found a lot of fear of retaliation, ostracism and shunning at work, and trust issues with the compliance process.
Forty percent of respondents said their peers instigated the harassment and bullying, while 33 percent said their supervisors were the bullies. Another 18 percent said they had been harassed or bullied by patrons and members of the Madison’s peace-loving public.
Remember, this is the same progressive paradise whose former mayor once gave Cuban communist despot Fidel Castro the keys to the city.
It appears some of Fidel’s management tactics have rubbed off on Madison’s less-than-all-inclusive bureaucrats.
Long-time (or perhaps long-suffering) readers know that I’m from Madison, I watched a lot of TV as a youth, and I have an interest in media history, including Madisonmedia history.
All of that came together when I was as usual looking for something else and came upon a bunch of TV Guide ads from Madison TV stations that apparently are for sale on eBay. The possible irony here is that my parents never subscribed to TV Guide, though my grandparents (who were able to get both Wisconsin and Iowa TV stations due to living in Southwest Wisconsin) did.
… was Madison’s first commercial TV station after the Federal Communications Commission lifted its Korean War-era moratorium on new TV station licenses.
The owners of WKOW ended up creating their own statewide network, starting WAOW-TV in Wausau in 1965, then WXOW-TV in La Crosse, and then WQOW-TV in Eau Claire. (There is also WYOW-TV in Eagle River and WMOW-TV in Crandon.) The TV stations were sold to one company in 1978, another in 1978, and another in 1985, around the time that I was sitting in UW–Madison journalism classes listening to the School of Journalism director say that TV stations were “licenses to print money.” Six years later, WKOW’s owner filed for bankruptcy, meaning either that my prof was wrong or that TV stations were not always licenses to print enough money. WKOW was then purchased by its previous owner, who had purchased a “beautiful music” FM station in Baraboo with a freakishly large FM signal, changed its format to oldies, and made enough from one radio station to repurchase four TV stations.
WKOW was originally a CBS station because WKOW radio was a CBS affiliate. Station number two was WMTV, originally at channel 33, which went on the air about a week after WKOW.
WMTV also originally carried NBC, ABC and Dumont, a practice that in some TV markets continued into the 1980s.
The Dumont network died in 1956.
WISC-TV arrived in 1956 as Madison’s only VHF station, on channel 3. WISC-TV was started by WISC radio, which became WISM radio, which was Madison’s top 40 radio station, and thus the station most non-adults listened to.
CBS decided that being on channel 3 (more coverage for less power) beat being on channel 27 and moved to WISC, which left WKOW without a network until it got ABC from WMTV, which moved from channel 33 to channel 15 in 1960.
That, however, isn’t the whole story about WISC. My source is the late John Digman, former WISC reporter and weatherman (not “meteorologist”) who talked to my high school journalism class while working in Madison radio, and sadly died of a heart attack at 40. (His daughter went to La Follette.)
Digman told the class (and I may have been the only student listening to this) that WISC was supposed to be on channel 21 while WHA-TV, the state’s first noncommercial TV station, was supposed to have channel 3, but WHA went on the air in 1954 not on channel 3 and WISC went on the air in 1956 not on channel 21.
Speaking of WISC … Bill Dyke had one of southern Wisconsin’s most interesting careers. He was a disc jockey at WISC and WISM and did sports (at least in 1959 here) and other things on channel 3. Dyke was credited by Vilas Craig, who created southern Wisconsin’s first rock and roll band, for playing Vicounts records (with, as you know, my father on piano) on the radio.
Dyke parlayed his broadcast career into two two-year terms as mayor of Madison. Then he was defeated by Paul Soglin in 1973. Then after Soglin left the first time (voluntarily, as opposed to the other two times), Dyke, who as a side thing was a producer of the movie “The Giant Spider Invasion,” …
… and Soglin did a weekly point/counterpoint appearance on WISC’s Live at Five. Dyke ended up as Iowa County circuit judge before he died.
This is from 1964, when apparently ABC’s and WKOW’s evening news were 15 minutes each. Cochran was a former FBI agent who got to announce John F. Kennedy’s assassination on ABC’s glitch-filled newscast. Russell later became WTSO’s station manager.
That same year …
Jerry Deane (real last name Druckenrod) did the news. Bill Brown did weather before moving to news when Deane was moved to “The Farm Hour,” where he read not just the news but farm prices. I remember watching Deane reading farm prices and having no idea what any of them meant. (My first Boy Scout Scoutmaster, who worked for Oscar Mayer, told me what “canners and cutters” were.) Mader was better known in Madison for being the morning DJ on WIBA radio and for narrating Zimbrick Buick commercials.
Schermerhorn started in sports, and then apparently moved to sales, but was best known for hosting “Dairyland Jubilee,” a Sunday morning polka show.
By 1969, Bob Miller was the sports guy on WKOW TV and radio and its Wausau station, WAOW-TV. Miller’s radio duties included Wisconsin Badger hockey, which meant Miller got to announce the Badgers’ first national championship. That proved good for Miller’s career, because on the recommendation (following pestering, the story goes) of Los Angeles Lakers announcer Chick Hearn, the Lakers’ owner hired Miller to announce the Kings hockey team.
Miller’s replacement was Paul Braun, who had been announcing hockey (and, one assumes, other sports) at WMAD radio. While Miller got to announce UW’s first hockey championship, Braun got to announce the next four (on WTSO and then WIBA), and did cable TV for national championship number six.
This is from 1977, back when WKOW’s month of state tournament coverage began with a tape-delayed broadcast of state swimming from the UW–Madison Natatorium and then live coverage of the state wrestling finals. (Which I got to cover on radio last year for the first time.) One week later was state hockey, followed by girls basketball and then boys basketball — in this case, my alma mater’s first state title.
After Miller and before this, WKOW employed Gary Bender, who went to college with the eventual owner of the station. Bender was a busy guy, doing the sports in Madison, announcing Badger football on Saturdays and then announcing Packer football on Sundays, both with Jim Irwin.
WKOW’s news anchor for most of the 1970s was Milwaukee native (or so I’m told) Roger Mann, who came to Madison, left and then came back.
After and before Mann was John Lindgren, who went to WKOW from WISC when in-market moves were hardly ever done (and it’s still rare in the Madison market).
… Terry Kelly, who was the first in Madison to have the cool weather gadgets, most of them developed by his company, Weather Central. Kelly also was known for horrible puns just before going to commercial.
Kelly’s predecessor was Tom Skilling, who worked at WKOW and WTSO while he was a student at UW–Madison. Skilling then spent three years at WITI-TV in Milwaukee, where he did forecasts with Albert the Alley Cat. Those were the days.
This next photo almost needs no introduction …
… Marsh Shapiro, sportscaster, and before that “Marshall the Marshal,” and along with that owner of the Nitty Gritty bar, along with …
This apparently is also from 1977. WISC was the first station in the market to do news besides noon, 6 and 10. Before that WISC ran a one-hour “Eyewitness News” at 6 p.m. starting in 1971. (According to Digman it was because WISC was having license problems. Also according to Digman the news was a little thin at times.) “Eyewitness News” was replaced by “Action News,” with a 5 p.m. newscast that became “Live at 5,” which is still on.
By 1980, Mann was gone, replaced by two people, Paul Pitas and Suzanne Bates. The last time I saw Pitas, he was doing public relations for Culver’s, which is probably not a bad gig.
Finally, here is something you never see from radio or TV stations anymore:
It’s a radio- and TV-station-sponsored bake-off, which was cosponsored by a TV station that, I assume, didn’t have a strong enough signal to get to any of the counties whose cooking women were eligible for the contest. (I wonder how Wausau viewers felt about that.) Click here for the recipes.
I am, I must say, opposed to Jay Wilson’s retirement from WISC-TV in Madison.
I’m opposed because I remember when WKOW-TV in Madison hired Wilson to do weekend sports. Then he left for WISN-TV in Milwaukee, and then he came back as WKOW’s sports director when I was a sports intern there, working mostly with Paul Rudy, now found in San Diego.
One of my highlights was when he sent me (and my then-girlfriend) to Green Bay to pick up videotape from the Packers–Chicago Bears game:
I also interviewed then-New Orleans Saints coach Jim Mora and UW hockey players after their 1988 WCHA Final Four title (where I played for the UW Band).
I went into print instead of TV largely because I got my first job offer from a weekly newspaper instead of a radio or TV station. But working at 27 was an interesting experience, including answering the phone and hearing someone say “somebody’s going to blow up your fucking TV station” because the station chose to run informercials instead of Formula 1 racing that Sunday.
He has always presented himself as someone who doesn’t take himself too seriously and has fun doing what he’s doing, but is always informative and insightful. The first piece of advice in broadcasting is to “be yourself,” but if I were showing a college student how to be a TV sportscaster, I’d show him Jay Wilson video. The reason he was called the dean of Madison sportscasters was not just because of his longevity, but because his work was good enough for much larger markets.
My favorite work of his was in 1993, when Wisconsin needed Michigan to beat Ohio State to give the Badgers a chance at the Rose Bowl. All Wilson did was show highlights of the game with no narration, but the Michigan fight song, “The Victors,” which the Wolverines were that day. That came a few weeks after the Camp Randall Stampede, when the Badgers’ win over Michigan was concluded by students’ trying to rush the field and getting crushed against a nonmovable fence, resulting in 70 injuries. Wilson demonstarted that he could report news as well that day.
One perk of being WKOW’s sports director is getting to announce the state basketball tournaments on TV. That is one thing I’ve wanted to do and have never been able to do since I’m not on the air for one of WKOW’s owner’s stations. (That, though, comes with its own challenges due to the WIAA, from what announcers have told me.) Wilson got to announce state games, and I was always impressed at how well he did on play-by-play for someone who didn’t do play-by-play on a regular basis. Most people get good at it only by seasons’ worth of games.
For a few years Jay and I would run into each other at the WIAA state football championships, where he called games for Fox Sports North. I have been privileged to announce a state game for four years in a row on the radio. (Including, this year, the game that had the first two replays in WIAA history.) Since WISC’s parent company also owns the stations where I broadcast, I guess that made us coworkers of a sort.
Wilson calls his departure a “resignation, not a retirement.” Let’s hope we see him on the air around us.
C & P Drive-In market sign, 3830 Atwood Avenue, featuring Borden’s Ice Cream and Waterloo Sausage Co. Also shows John Olson’s Standard Service Station sign. The location is the corner where Atwood Avenue ends and Monona Drive begins and Cottage Grove Road (Co. Highway goes off to the east.
By 1968, this is what Atwood and Cottage Grove looked like:
The C&P was built on a sloped lot, with the drive-up at the bottom of the east side of the building, at the bottom of a big ramp from the checkout lanes on the south side of the building. If you were the right age, you would of course race down the ramp.
As if the Pentagon didn’t have enough to worry about with Iran, North Korea and hostile governments elsewhere, it must now contend with the Madison School Board.
The School Board decided Monday to ask the U.S. Air Force to reconsider stationing F-35 fighter jets at Truax Field unless the negative effects identified in a draft environmental report — noise being chief among them — are found to be overblown.
“The issues identified in the draft will negatively impact learning in our schools, reduce the property tax base, decrease school enrollment in the affected area, and disproportionately affect children and families of color and people with low incomes,” read the board’s resolution.
That’s an ominous prediction. Never mind that new workers attached to the 20-plane squadron of F-35s might choose to live on the east side near Truax, send their children to city schools and generally contribute to the community as well as the national defense by upgrading the current squadron of F-16 fighters.
Along with misgivings that have surfaced within city government and from people who have testified at public hearings, the pattern is a familiar one. Madison is a very conservative city when it comes to embracing any kind of physical change. Examples abound.
• Motorists would still be navigating the asphalt cow path that was the original 1947 Beltline Highway if some public officials had their way over time.
• The Monona Terrace Convention Center would still lie fallow on the late Frank Lloyd Wright’s drawing board if civic leaders had not pulled together in the 1990s to overcome 60 years of opposition.
• The Overture Center wouldn’t be home to countless concerts and cultural events if Jerry Frautschi and Pleasant Rowland hadn’t stepped forward with $205 million and broken a logjam that included debate over whether to preserve outmoded buildings.
• University Research Park on the city’s west side might still be an experimental farm had not civic leaders, a crusading editor and the late Chancellor Irving Shain agreed that bright ideas born on campus or tied to its graduates needed a place to plant roots and grow into successful companies. Today, 125 companies, 4,000 employees and millions of dollars of value stand as proof the 1984 research park decision worked.
Madison has been described as “the city that can’t put two bricks together” by those who are frustrated by the penchant of elected officials and others to debate everything to death. The counter-argument from supporters of endless process is that Madison is merely looking out for the under-represented, the historic and the environment. Besides, they say, those projects eventually came to fruition. They just took longer.
And how many people died on the old South Beltline waiting for a safer road?
They don’t always happen. In the mid-2000s, UW-Madison was very much in the running to become the anchor for a new National Bio and Agro-Defense facility to replace the aging federal laboratory in Plum Island, New York. Opposition from residents near the proposed site and the Dane County Board of Supervisors eventually took the Madison area off the list for the Department of Homeland Security, even though UW-Madison’s range of scientific disciplines — veterinary, agricultural and biosecurity — was an ideal fit.
Today, the National Bio and Agro-Defense facility is under construction in Manhattan, Kansas, home to Kansas State University. The $1.25 billion center will feature a biosafety level-4 laboratory, employ hundreds of scientists and technicians, and open by 2022-23. The economic impact on that region will be significant for decades to come.
While it is doubtful the Pentagon will buckle under to the Madison School Board and suddenly abandon plans to base F-35s at Truax Field, first activated as a military base in 1942, a similar episode took place a little more than a decade ago with the bio-defense facility. It could happen again.
After a heated months-long battle with the city of Madison over whether Edgewood High School’s athletic field can be used to host games, the Catholic school filed a federal lawsuit against the city Wednesday alleging religious discrimination.
The lawsuit claims Madison has imposed city ordinances in an “arbitrary, unequal and unlawful” way by restricting the use of Edgewood’s athletic field to only team practice and gym classes, and refusing to give the school an electrical permit to add lights to the field.
“All of the city’s public high schools and the University of Wisconsin-Madison share the same zoning classification as Edgewood, yet the City is imposing these restrictions on Edgewood alone,” the lawsuit states.
In a statement, Edgewood said it needed to file the lawsuit to meet a deadline, and is still interested in other ways to resolve the issue with the city.
This past spring, the city’s zoning department issued Edgewood two notices of ordinance violations for hosting athletic competitions on its field, including a girls’ soccer game, after the zoning administrator said the school’s master plan prohibits Edgewood from using the field for athletic contests.
Madison’s Zoning Board of Appeals upheld that interpretation at a July meeting that drew some 170 people, most in support of allowing games on the field along with some neighbors who argued competitions bring traffic, noise and environmental concerns. Edgewood’s lawsuit also appeals the zoning board’s decision.
Wording in the school’s master plan describes the intended use of the field as being for athletic practices and gym classes — without mentioning competitions.
Edgewood’s attorneys have contended that wasn’t meant to be an exhaustive list of uses, while residents have suggested games were intentionally left out to allay neighbors frustrated with the increased use of the field since it was upgraded in 2015.
Residents of the surrounding Dudgeon-Monroe neighborhood have organized against Edgewood’s attempts to bring further improvements to the field — especially a 2017 plan that would have added stadium seating, lights, a sound system and permanent bathrooms — arguing that the field disrupts their quiet neighborhood. Many put signs in their yard reading, “No new stadium.”
Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway had initially sponsored Edgewood’s request to repeal the master plan but withdrew her support in light of the lawsuit.
“The City of Madison does not discriminate against any religion,” Rhodes-Conway said in a statement Wednesday. “Edgewood High School is free to pursue the repeal of its Master Plan utilizing normal city processes.”
Madison’s public high schools do not have master plans, while UW-Madison does. In its federal complaint, Edgewood lists 11 facilities that it says UW-Madison uses for activities not specified in its master plan.
The facilities listed include the Near West Fields, the Near East Fields, the Natatorium and the Goodman Softball Complex, which the complaint maintains are all used for competitions without that use being specified in UW’s master plan.
Edgewood argues it is being discriminated against on the basis of religion because it is being treated differently than secular schools in the area. It also argues that the First Amendment and due process rights of its students, its property rights and state-level religious protections have been violated.
The lawsuit also argues that hosting games furthers Edgewood’s “religious mission” by helping students develop discipline, moral standards, character and unity. By restricting these games, the complaint alleges the city of Madison imposed a “substantial burden” on Edgewood students’ religious exercise, which it states is a violation of federal law.
Edgewood also claims the city has discriminated against the school by not giving it an electrical permit to install outdoor lights on its field in a timely manner. According to the complaint, Edgewood’s lighting application was found to be in compliance with the city’s lighting and zoning ordinances, and was approved earlier this year, but the school has still not received its permit.
City Attorney Michael May said the city does not believe it has violated Edgewood’s religious rights.
“It is disappointing that Edgewood chose the route of a lawsuit rather than following the City’s zoning process as other landowners do,” May said.
In its statement, Edgewood said it filed the lawsuit when it did because it wanted to “preserve its ability to challenge the Zoning Board of Appeals decision” that was made in July. The school needed to appeal within 30 days of when that decision was filed, according to the lawsuit.
Edgewood said it was disappointed to learn that the mayor had pulled her support for the school’s request to repeal its master plan, especially since Rhodes-Conway and May were the ones who had recommended it. Edgewood said it told the mayor and city attorney’s office weeks ago that it needed to file the lawsuit before the master plan repeal came before the City Council for a vote in order to meet its deadline.
“It is our hope that the Council will still pass the ordinance, but we are reviewing all of our options for ensuring that our students are treated equally,” Edgewood said.
Another option available to Edgewood would be to apply to modify its master plan to include athletic competitions as an intended use of its field. At July’s meeting, zoning board members encouraged Edgewood to go through this process so they could get the community on board.
In its lawsuit, Edgewood contends that it has the right to play games on its own field, as it has been doing “lawfully and openly” for nearly 100 years.
The request to repeal Edgewood’s master plan is scheduled to go before the City Council Sept. 3.
I will admit to not having a whole lot of sympathy for Edgewood specifically and religious high schools who, it is alleged, swipe athletically talented students from area public schools. .(Though that is increasingly a moot point given public school choice, and the reality is that public schools that are powers in certain sports were magically finding students who didn’t live in that school district playing for the school.)
But the neighbors’ opinion is ridiculous. None of them have been in that neighborhood longer than Edgewood High School and Edgewood College have. The “disruption” of, for instance, high school football games ends by 10 p.m., and no one has more than five regular-season home games. It is even more ridiculous to claim that a high school sporting event is disruptive, but a UW football game — where people park in every possible place, including front lawns — isn’t disruptive.
It’s also amusing me for the officially atheist City of Madison to be sued for religious discrimination. I suspect that should this lawsuit go forward, whatever liberal Madison judge will rule for the city, and that judge then will be reversed either at the appellate level or certainly by the state Supreme Court.