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Brothers’ decision halts ‘good fight’

By Paul Snyder

When I was younger, I used to taunt my younger sister into fighting me. I never instigated matters with physical violence, but sooner or later my words would make her throw a punch.

And when that happened, gender and age difference didn’t matter. We were just two siblings locked in mortal (or at least until our parents broke things up) combat.

We fought so often that my uncle started repeating this phrase to us as if it were a mantra: “It’s nice to be nice.”

I hated that phrase. I always understood it, of course, and actually find myself agreeing with it more often than not. But sometimes, a little commotion is needed to bring attention to some perceived injustice.

So when the news broke this afternoon that the owners of Brothers Bar & Grill dropped their lawsuit against the state for the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s use of eminent domain to acquire their property, I was a little miffed.

Maybe it’s selfish of me. I was kind of looking forward to two or three days of testimony in Dane County Circuit Court and hearing both sides argue about when the state is within its right to take property and what a judge had to say about it. Then, if one party didn’t like what the judge had to say about it, I looked forward to covering the appeal process and whether a higher court might see the matter differently.

Now, we don’t know all the details yet as to why this months-long melee came to an end on the eve of the trial. The Fortneys’ attorney said putting the matter to bed and letting the UW System build its estimated $43 million new music building was the “right thing to do,” but wouldn’t go into any more detail.

On the UW System side, its spokesman said it’s nice not to have to spend money on a trial, but the agreement won’t change the way the Board of Regents thinks about or uses eminent domain in the future.

It still seems to have the makings of a good fight. But when I think about the commotion surrounding this in the past few months — a sign draping Brothers, companion bills in the state Assembly and Senate designed to police future eminent domain use by the UW System, the Fortneys taking out ads in local newspapers — I suppose it did get a lot of attention.

Maybe that’s enough for now. After all, my sister and I did learn how to get along. I still know how to tick her off if I need a laugh, but even though it comes at the expense of some cynical fun, things are generally better when we’re in agreement.

I (begrudgingly) guess sometimes it’s nice to be nice.

Paul Snyder is a staff writer at The Daily Reporter. He suddenly has some extra time on his hands.

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