Film: Tuesday, June 27st, 12:30 PM @ Seniors in the Park: Lion

This Tuesday, June 27th at 12:30 PM, there will be a showing of Lion @ Seniors in the Park, in the Starin community building.

Lion (2016) is the story of Saroo, who “years after he got separated from his family, at a train station in India, and long since adopted by an Australian couple, decides to go searching for his birth family.”

Garth Davis directs the one hour, fifty-eight minute film, starring Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, David Wenham and Nicole Kidman. Lion received 6 Oscars nominations, including nominations for Best Picture, Supporting Actor (Patel), and Supporting Actress (Kidman). Lion carries a PG-13 rating from the MPAA.

One can find more information about Lion at the Internet Movie Database.

Enjoy.

Whitewater, Cultures & Communications, June 2017 (Part 13: That Which Paved the Way)

This is the thirteenth and final post in a series considering related local topics of cultures & communications within the city.

Some months ago, I wrote a post that described my thinking about Whitewater’s current situation: her weak, superficial, conflict-riddled politics, and that of so many other places, was that which paved the way for Trumpism —

More than a few town notables in places like Whitewater paved the way for Trumpism. They made this possible. See, along these lines, The National-Local Mix (Part 2). Those of us in an implacable resistance have much work hard work, and likely many hard losses, before we prevail in opposition.

When we do, Trump will go, and Trumpism with him. More than that, however: the causes of Trumpism in places like Whitewater will go, too.

About eighteen months ago, thinking only of these earlier causes, I wrote in reply to a prominent social & political figure in town, predicting that ‘not one of those practices will endure to this city’s next generation.’

Whether she believed this, I don’t know, and candidly it matters not at all what either of us believes.

The prediction will prove true nonetheless.

This is where the city is, where the state is, where the country is, in a continental conflict that will grow yet worse before it ends.

There are local matters to address, but now in the context of the cumulative damage from many localities’ wrong choices.

The series: Parts 1 (introductory assumptions), 2 (population), 3 (oasis), 4 (demographics), 5 (working age), 6 (divided), 7 (how it was supposed to be), 8 (nearby), and 9 (small-town harvards), 10 (mailers), 11 (fiestas and apple orchards), 12 (messaging), and 13 (that which paved the way).

Whitewater, Cultures & Communications, June 2017 (Part 12: Messaging)

This is the twelfth post in a series considering related local topics of cultures & communications within the city.

There are several news (or news-release dependent) publications in Whitewater: the Daily Union, Gazette, and Banner. Add to that over a dozen Facebook pages, and a few local government websites (city, school district, university in particular), and one might expect a diversity of opinion. (I’d certainly favor that diversity.)

It’s not yet here, however. These publications share a similar point of view: touting the local (or hyper-local) as exceptional, from an almost uniformly right-leaning direction. (Right-leaning as they see it: support for government intervention in the marketplace and cultural conservatism everywhere else. There’s much talk about businesses, but almost none about the free markets that make business and labor transactions efficient.  Nor is there even one of these publications that’s introspective; indeed, on this last point, their publishers would probably mistake their own views for the natural order of the universe.

(I don’t know how many people on the planet treat municipal emblems with the kind of reverence that one might show for a holy icon, but if there’s a sociologist who’d like to study that outlook, Whitewater’s coördinates are 42°50’6″ N 88°44’10” W. )

Into this environment comes a public relations and media manager for the city of Whitewater. A sharp, long-time reader pointed out the problem with a public-relations manager for city government: the Banner’s politician-publisher now does that job for free. Not as stylishly as a media manager could, to be sure, but with a thrall to authority that never fails.  The advantages of a private publication are lost when its publisher has spent decades holding public offices.

Most of these publications have an elderly readership; the rest have elderly publishers or (for organizations with Facebook pages) an elderly membership. Those wondering what happened to the bobby soxers will find the answer at the city manager’s annual state of the city update, where senior citizen attendees turn out for autographs to listen appreciatively.

The real gap is a demographic one: Whitewater’s residents in their 70s & 80s don’t look like residents in their 20s and 30s. (For that matter, I don’t look like residents in their 20s and 30s, but then I don’t claim to hold anything other than a single perspective, as an emissary of one, so to speak.)

Whitewater’s mostly churning the same cream through similar churns, and finding that the butter all tastes the same.

Previously: Parts 1 (introductory assumptions), 2 (population), 3 (oasis), 4 (demographics), 5 (working age), 6 (divided), 7 (how it was supposed to be), 8 (nearby), and 9 (small-town harvards), 10 (mailers), and 11 (fiestas and apple orchards).

Tomorrow: Part 13.

Film: Wednesday, June 21st, 12:30 PM @ Seniors in the Park: A Man Called Ove

This Wednesday, June 21st at 12:30 PM, there will be a showing of A Man Called Ove @ Seniors in the Park, in the Starin community building.

A Man Called Ove (2015) is a comedy-drama about “Ove, an ill-tempered, isolated retiree who spends his days enforcing block association rules and visiting his wife’s grave, [who] has finally given up on life just as an unlikely friendship develops with his boisterous new neighbors.”

Rolf Lassgård stars in the one hour, fifty-six minute film, in Swedish with English subtitles, also starring Bahar Pars and Filip Berg. The movie was an Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Film, and received an AARP Movies for Grownups Award. One can find more information about A Man Called Ove at the Internet Movie Database.

Please note: this film is being shown on Wednesday, June 21st.

Enjoy.

Whitewater, Cultures & Communications, June 2017 (Part 11: ‘Fiestas and Apple Orchards’)

This is the eleventh post in a series considering related local topics of cultures & communications within the city.

In the Wall Street Journal, Pennsylvanian Crispin Sartwell writes of Fiestas and Apple Orchards: Small-Town Life Before Trump (“My corner of Pennsylvania was thriving again—until immigration agents began carting people away”):

I live in York Springs, a no-stoplight town near Gettysburg, in the middle of what’s known as the South Mountain Fruit Belt. Adams County grows more apples than any other in Pennsylvania and is fourth-highest producer in the nation. The fruit belt is not the Rust Belt, but the biggest employers are canning plants: Knouse, Rice and Mott’s. Down the road in Biglerville, they call the high-school teams the Canners.

York Springs, known locally as “Little Mexico” or “Rednexico,” has a population of 800 or so, 46% Hispanic, according to the 2010 census. This, I daresay, is now inaccurate: If you made the population 1,100 and 70% Hispanic, you’d be nearer the mark. Many people came to Adams County as seasonal apple pickers, and orchards need tending year round, so they stayed. Some became orchard managers, and some started businesses: hair salons and restaurants, grocery stores and landscaping companies.

The mix is a remarkable thing: Oaxaca in a Wyeth painting….

Now, however, York Springs has become a target for immigration enforcement. Statistics by locality are hard to come by, but an attorney speaking at a community forum last month at the Adams County Agricultural Center said there were at least 15 actions in York Springs during February and March, with many more since, including street arrests and traffic stops that have resulted in detentions. People are held at the prison in the city of York, 25 miles down the road, and the phrase “they took her to York” has become the expression for someone who’s been taken into the immigration system….

This stringent enforcement of immigration law is destroying a rich, new rural culture. It’s likely to destroy the economy, too. The orchards generate over $500 million a year, and, one way or another, most of the jobs. But the local growers, many of whom have been operating the family orchards for generations, worry they won’t have enough manpower this fall to harvest the crop.

More than one town in this country, meaning truly many of the people in those towns, will see ruin before this federal administration of the lumpen and the lying meets its end. The injustices inflicted, to be sure, will be worse for those who experience them than for those on the sidelines who merely find them uncomfortable, offensive, or unfair.

In all these things, however, it will be helpful to have a long memory.

Previously: Parts 1 (introductory assumptions), 2 (population), 3 (oasis), 4 (demographics), 5 (working age), 6 (divided), 7 (how it was supposed to be), 8 (nearby), and 9 (small-town harvards), and 10 (mailers).

Tomorrow: Part 12.

Whitewater, Cultures & Communications, June 2017 (Part 10: Mailers)

This is the tenth post in a series considering related local topics of cultures & communications within the city.

Worried over a large-scale party in 2016, Whitewater’s local government set about looking for a plan for 2017. College-aged adults are a plurality of the city’s population; they are a majority of the city’s adult population. Solutions included drafting a mailer (an early version of which I have embedded below), directing possible attendees to a website exhorting them to celebrate responsibility, and hoping for rain to dampen outdoor activities.

(It’s also worth noting that the city recently began using a new drug detection dog, whom officials believe will “just light-up a room,” and with whom residents are “sure to fall in love.” One wishes police K9 Ruso the best, but neither his animal magnetism nor his detection abilities would be of much use during a major celebration, or for many of the unfortunate crimes that otherwise beset small-town Whitewater.)

One can say with confidence that neither mailers, nor dogs, nor municipal websites, nor raindances, nor ice cream socials with elderly residents, nor pictures with smiling children, nor public relations managers are a substitute for the daily trust that comes from genuine community enforcement, with positive relationships with all members of the community. Arms length is no substitute, and belies the value of six, or twenty-six, or sixty-six – however many – proudly-cited years of tenure.

There are few more powerful indictments than decades wasted.

Download (PDF, 670KB)

Previously: Parts 1 (introductory assumptions), 2 (population), 3 (oasis), 4 (demographics), 5 (working age), 6 (divided), 7 (how it was supposed to be), 8 (nearby), and 9 (small-town harvards).

Updated: Sunday, 6.18: Part 11.

Whitewater, Cultures & Communications, June 2017 (Part 9: Small-Town Harvards)

This is the ninth post in a series considering related local topics of cultures & communications within the city.

Alana Semuels asks Could Small-Town Harvards Revive Rural Economies? Her contention, as she succinctly describes it:

 

College campuses and educational institutions can bolster the economies of small towns that otherwise would be struggling like many other rural locations throughout the country. Many of the rural areas that are thriving today are either home to natural features they can capitalize on—like Aspen, Colorado, and Jackson Hole, Wyoming, do with skiing—or they’re the home to colleges or universities. The main benefits of educational institutions are twofold: They often produce research and technology that can be parlayed into new businesses, creating jobs nearby. And they bring to the area students, who spend money on restaurants and services, and attract professors and administrators, who do the same and also buy houses and cars.

Pick out any rural college town and it’s likely doing better economically than other nearby rural areas. The unemployment rate in Kearney, Nebraska, home to the University of Nebraska at Kearney, for example, is 2.5 percent, compared to the state’s overall rate of 3.4 percent. In rural Corvallis, Oregon, the home of Oregon State University, the unemployment rate is 3 percent, while surrounding rural counties such as Lincoln have a rate as high as 4.8 percent. According to Jed Kolko, an economic researcher at the job-search website Indeed.com, non-metropolitan counties that are growing in population have 30 percent college graduates or more; those that are shrinking tend to have populations with less than 30 percent college grads.

It goes without saying that Whitewater has not seen the economic gains across the city that some of these communities have seen. There are a few reasons for this, among many:

1.  Limited community support for the university.

2.  Community support that’s not really support. University employees who make excuses for their own institution in order to ingratiate themselves into the part of town culture that has limited support for the university are third-tier advocates. Just about every university-affiliated town notable has this problem. (See, from yesterday, Nearby.)

3.  Ersatz tech development instead of meaningful achievements. The Innovation Center is mostly the CESA 2 building. It’s what one builds when one wants to misapply a big federal grant to claim a successful tech affiliation that, in fact, falls far short of its promise. Boasting about the Innovation Center is boasting for the gullible or ignorant.

4. Self-affirming studies from the university that look more like flimsy press releases (and are, from the very get-go, conceptually flawed).  (See, The Value of Sports.) Studies like that should be embarrassments to accredited, degree-granting institution.)

5. Too much administrative emphasis on sports victories. Winning seasons are hard, and are not the accomplishment of non-athlete administrators. Banking on victories, in any event, is hard when Wisconsin’s D3 environment, overall, is sufficiently balanced that victories will naturally be spread over several schools (each with the ability to do well nationally). Expecting a permanent place at the top is a sign of how little someone knows about the challenges of a competitive environment.

Worse, pressure to stay on top leads to injury to individuals for the sake of an administrator’s pride.

As a community matter, though, too few are committed to the university as a university. They advocate for it in timid, compromising, unrealistic, and ineffectual ways. A town grandee or two walking around in a purple jacket isn’t meaningful advocacy – it’s self-congratulatory fashion.

Whitewater’s not close to a university that advocates for itself powerfully. There’s scarcely anyone among the university-affiliated who’s also formidable advocate for the school within town, and not one on the Media Relations team. Good writing is not enough – one must be emotionally resolute. (If Sen. Nass & Chief of Staff Mikalsen can back someone off, one’s not up to the job.)

(Models of strength in advocacy: @JRubinBlogger and @sarahkendzior. They’ll see their views through, come what may. So very admirable.) 

The university won’t be what it can be until a new group of university advocates emerges.

Until then, we’ll not have the small-town Harvard we otherwise might.

Previously: Parts 1 (introductory assumptions), 2 (population), 3 (oasis), 4 (demographics), 5 (working age), 6 (divided), 7 (how it was supposed to be), and 8 (nearby).

Tomorrow: Part 10.

Whitewater, Cultures & Communications, June 2017 (Part 8: Nearby)

This is the eighth post in a series considering related local topics of cultures & communications within the city.

Just beyond the Whitewater proper lie several towns that form the rest of the Whitewater Unified School District. They play a key role in life within Whitewater, far beyond school policies.

A few observations:

The New Divide. Where once the main local issue was a town-gown divide within Whitewater (a divide that also represented political divisions between red and blue), the main divide now implicates small towns nearby. Whitewater proper (the city) will never be red again. The small towns nearby are likely to stay red, at least for years to come. See, Whitewater, Cultures & Communications, June 2017 (Part 6: Divided).

Affinity. In many ways, remaining red voters in the city have more in common with those in the nearby towns than they do with their fellow city residents. Whitewater’s red-leaning residents (especially the aged ones) are now probably closer politically with voters in the Lima Center or Richmond Township than they are with Whitewater’s average voter. I would venture that local politicians like Stewart or Binnie would run better outside the city than in it. It’s not that they couldn’t do well in the city – it’s that they’re now ideologically closer to those outside of it. They’ve not appreciably changed, but the whole city has evolved in ways that make their politics closer to those in nearby red towns.

Chief Otterbacher’s outlook certainly fits more closely with the towns near the city than within Whitewater.

Jan Bilgen’s longtime role on Whitewater’s PFC & as a university staffer who describes the students whose careers she’s supposed to be developing as though they were almost feral children, and Jim Winship’s political influence as a college professor who fought to restrict student housing from his own neighborhood, would probably play even better outside Whitewater than in it.

(Perhaps Winship would describe himself as a progressive, but his views on student housing have been a reactionary departure from, for example, genuine progressive Thurgood Marshall’s recognition of the importance of freedom of association against housing restrictions. I’ve written previously, from a libertarian viewpoint, in support of Marshall’s view, expressed in his dissent in Village of Belle Terre v. Borass, 416 U.S. 1 (1974). SeeWhitewater’s Planning Commission Meeting from 5/10/10: Residential Overlay.)

The more conservative views outside the city have allowed, or encouraged, officials to advance red-leaning policies that would have been rejected within Whitewater proper. (District officials Runez, Parker, and Jaeger would all fall within this category – this, however, is a longer subject for another series. For now, a theory: professions of neutrality have actually advanced right-leaning policies with disregard to a majority of city residents’ views. Those internally who would normally be opposed to these policies often yield to the first belligerent reactionary they encounter. Others are co-opted with awards,, etc., and become advocates or appeasers of views they would reject if not for their easily-manipulated vanity.)

Unrequited. If those outside the city represent a more right-wing view that would fail within the city, what do they give in return for appeasement of their politics?

Not their money, to be sure: the longstanding move of retail shopping away from Whitewater shows that if those in towns nearby want to see an imposition of red views, they still take their money to places beyond Whitewater. Grocery shoppers in area towns, who once shopped in Whitewater, have shifted to other places for their needs; one of the main challenges of a co-op is simply gathering retail demand that has found satisfaction in other cities.

Previously: Parts 1 (introductory assumptions), 2 (population), 3 (oasis), 4 (demographics), 5 (working age), 6 (divided), and 7 (how it was supposed to be).

Tomorrow: Part 9.

Whitewater, Cultures & Communications, June 2017 (Part 7: How It Was Supposed to Be)

This is the seventh post in a series considering related local topics of cultures & communications within the city.

Consider the contemporary town-gown conditions in Whitewater. Here I am referring to present-day conditions, over the last ten or fifteen years. Part of the solution to this, surely, was meant to come from university-connected residents serving in local municipal government (e.g., Stewart, Bilgen, Winship).

Who better, the theory goes, to bring harmony than those both working on campus and residing in town?

(In earlier generations, Whitewater also had a crossover between university-affiliated residents and local government. Those earlier experiences, however, occurred when the university was much smaller than it is now, with fewer students, when student housing needs were different, and when students were more like boarders than apartment tenants. Earlier cases, from the ’50s or ’60s, aren’t applicable, and are uninteresting as examples for current policy.)

So, how did this recent decade go, among relations between the largest number of Whitewater’s residents (college-age students) and the smaller number of working-age adults from 25-64?

One can guess not well, if Whitewater’s still contending over local parties, if her police chief is fretting over “mob rule,” and if Jan Bilgen is declaring – in 2017! – that a campus informational campaign would be “starting soon to remind students “how to be a good neighbor” and that any trouble that they might possibly have with law enforcement could have a detrimental effect on their standing as a good student on campus.”

UW-Whitewater’s Marketing & Media Relations might want to work on that as a campaign:

“Hey, Mom and Dad, those kids you raised, and on whose tuition we depend, need some work. Have you been raising them in a barn for their first eighteen years, or what? Try harder!”

Whitewater’s former police chief worried over ‘raucous’ behavior; her present one worries over ‘mob rule.’ All these decades, yet it’s mostly been treading water.

I’d guess a minority of university faculty or upper-level staffers even live in Whitewater. Of those who live here, an even smaller number seek influence within city government.

This means that those who are part of a city-university nexus are a minority of a minority. Those who have sought so strenuously to be a part of town & university affairs are hardly representative of the majority of their colleagues on campus. Whether those colleagues (had they been more interested) could have done more, one cannot say.

One can say, however, that these unrepresentative few find themselves contending with the same problems, year after year, without success. Perhaps a desire to be popular, to hold influence, leads them to compromise from both sides in ways that short-changes everyone. In any event, the theory of relying on those who are (or seek to be) both campus and town notables looks better as a theory than as a practice.

Previously: Parts 1 (introductory assumptions), 2 (population), 3 (oasis), 4 (demographics), 5 (working age), and 6 (divided).

Tomorrow: Part 8.

Whitewater, Cultures & Communications, June 2017 (Part 6: Divided)

This is the sixth post in a series considering related local topics of cultures & communications within the city.

Years ago (in 2010), I wrote of a red-blue divide within the city, where some elections favored red-leaning voters, and some blue-leaning voters. See, Why Whitewater Isn’t a Progressive City; Why Whitewater’s ‘Conservatives’ Hold the City Tenuously.

Over time, the city proper has become more dependably blue. State and national political trends, affecting local demographics, have probably assured this result. See, The (Red) State, the (Blue) City.

Look at the last presidential election: Clinton carried the city, Trump carried the outlying towns within the area of the Whitewater Unified School District. (See, results from Walworth, Jefferson, and Rock Counties.)

Where once there was a divide between red and blue within the city, there is now a reliably blue city; the divide is now between the city and the smaller towns outside the city.

Older residents remember a more conservative city; that past won’t return. Current residents know that the towns nearby are more conservative than the city; that will stay true for the foreseeable future.

The city-towns divide represents things as they now are, and has consequences of economics, fiscal policy, education, and culture.

Previously: Parts 1 (introductory assumptions), 2 (population), 3 (oasis), 4 (demographics), and 5 (working age).

Tomorrow: Part 7 (How It Was Supposed to Be).

Film: Tuesday, June 13th, 12:30 PM @ Seniors in the Park: Collateral Beauty

This Tuesday, June 13th at 12:30 PM, there will be a showing of Collateral Beauty @ Seniors in the Park, in the Starin community building.

Collateral Beauty (2016) is a drama about Howard, who, “retreating from life after a tragedy…questions the universe by writing to Love, Time and Death. Receiving unexpected answers, he begins to see how these things interlock and how even loss can reveal moments of meaning and beauty.”

Will Smith stars in the one hour, thirty-seven minute film, also starring Kate Winslet, Edward Norton, Michael Peña, and Helen Mirren. The film carries a PG-13 rating from the MPAA.

One can find more information about Collateral Beauty at the Internet Movie Database.

Enjoy.

Whitewater, Cultures & Communications, June 2017 (Part 5: Working Age)

This is the fifth post in a series considering related local topics of cultures & communications within the city.

To love something truly is to see it clearly, with dry eyes. So if federal census data show that the largest group in the city – by far – is college-age residents 20-24 (5,300), and that those young residents easily outnumber traditional working-age residents (3,892), what can one say about those 25-64 year-old working-age residents? (Quick note: I’m in this age bracket.)

The first thing one can conclude is that in absolute number, they’re fewer than nearby Fort Atkinson. I’ve written on this before (see, Data Around Whitewater’s Size), but it bears repeating (data from the American Community Survey using 2015 data as the 2016 data do not have demographics by age):

Whitewater, aged 25-64: 3,892.

Fort Atkinson, aged 25-64: 6,454.

There are implications to a smaller working-age population than a student population.

When working-age residents 25-64 insist they’re the real town residents, they’re doing so only from innumeracy or arrogance: residents aged 25-64 are a demographic minority.

There’s a second implication, too: in absolute terms, the 25-64 age group isn’t so large as it presents itself.

Indeed, it’s not so relatively large within the city, or relatively compared to a nearby city.

So if there’s a claim to a superior position, that group (of which I am a part) does not have a numerical claim to superiority.

Previously: Parts 1 (introductory assumptions), 2 (population), 3 (oasis), and 4 (demographics).

Tomorrow: Part 6.

Whitewater, Cultures & Communications, June 2017 (Part 4: Demographics)

This is the fourth post in a series considering related local topics of cultures & communications within the city.

Take a look at impartial census data for Whitewater, from the federal government (using American Community Survey population estimates for 2016 now available, and otherwise 2015 measurements).

Whitewater’s is a population that’s relatively young (where student-aged residents significanty outnumber non-student adults aged 25-64), and with a significant Latino community (almost certainly larger by percentage among the K-12 population than it is among older age groups).

These disparate groups most surely don’t have the same outlook. Pretending that there’s one, common outlook is at best mistaken, at worst arrogant. Seeing the city through the eyes of a few, without a dispassionate review of the city’s demographics, isn’t a reasoned outlook.

It’s nothing more than aged beholders’ nostalgia.

Data follow —

Download (PDF, 74KB)

Previously: Parts 1 (introductory assumptions), 2 (population), and 3 (oasis).

Tomorrow: Part 5.

Whitewater, Cultures & Communications, June 2017 (Part 3: Oasis)

This is the third post in a series considering related local topics of cultures & communications within the city.

So a blogger points out that the city’s population is mostly stagnant (with short-term decline), that the mean household income in the city is in decline, and that the city is beset with above-average child poverty (see, Whitewater’s Decade of Child Poverty).

That same blogger – the one writing this post, actually – then says that in these economic and municipal fiscal conditions, one should turn from local political solutions to private and cultural ones. See, An Oasis Strategy.

So, is it that simple? One merely moves from the failed political to the private cultural? As though it were, after all, just a jump to the left, and then a step to the right?

No, of course not: in that post, I wrote that “[t]his city’s not of one culture or one identity; we’re not a homogeneous place. We’re a diverse and multicultural community. Revanchism on behalf of some won’t make the city great for any. On the contrary, that path will prolong present difficulties, and delay significantly (although not prevent) this city’s more prosperous future.”

That is, after all, why this post is called ‘Cultures & Communications.’

So, how do others in the city see this, and whether they do, what can one say about a city of multiple cultures? The next few posts will address this topic.

Previously: Parts 1 (introductory assumptions) and 2 (population).

Tomorrow: Part 4.

Whitewater, Cultures & Communications, June 2017 (Part 2: Population)

This is the second post in a series considering related local topics of cultures & communications within the city.

U.S. Census data show that Whitewater proper (the city) has stopped growing, and is, in fact, experiencing a population decline.

From 2015-2016, the city lost about 1.1% of her population (168 people). Even over a longer period, from 2010-2016, she barely grew .8% (or 116 people).

Of those residing in Whitewater, in fact, there has been a decline of mean household income: from 47,073 in 2010 to 42,490 in 2015.

That’s longer-term stagnation with short-term decline. There are (of course) economic and municipal fiscal implications of this condition, but there are cultural ones, too.

Previously: Part 1 (introductory assumptions).

Tomorrow: Part 3.

Whitewater, Cultures & Communications, June 2017 (Part 1: Introduction)

This is the first post in a series considering related local topics of cultures & communications within the city.

I’ll start with an introductory series of assumptions, some I’ll flesh out in greater detail in the series, but all of which state plainly my views.

1.  In America’s current political climate, it’s national politics that necessarily predominates. See, The National-Local Mix (“Trump is a fundamentally different candidate from those who have come before him.  Not grasping this would be obtuse.  Writing only about sewing circles or local clubs or a single local meeting while ignoring Trump’s vast power as president – and what it will bring about – would be odd. Someone in Tuscany, circa 1925, had more to write about than the countryside.”)

2.  The near-term outlook for Whitewater’s economy is a mediocre one. See, Local Assumptions and Outlook, Winter 2016 (“I’d say the outlook is for turbulence in the national political-economy, and stagnation in the local one. See, The National-Local Mix and The Local Economic Context of It All.  The way out of several years’ local stagnation is a more decisive break with past, but there’s no evidence whatever that Whitewater’s local government will take this step; nothing else will be adequate.”)

3.  Stagnation is, in a wider economy that’s growing, relative decline.

4.  Stagnation has fiscal, economic, and cultural consequences.

5.  The long-term outlook for Whitewater is favorable, significantly because many existing practices and local notables’ advocacy of them have no long-term future.  See, New Whitewater’s Inevitability.

6. Grand public solutions in this environment will prove ineffectual; they’re what created these mediocre conditions. SeeThe Next Big Thing.

7. A strategy of advancing private over public accomplishments is the best way to weather hard time in a community drenched in public initiatives. SeeAn Oasis Strategy.

8. Whitewater is a multicultural city, no matter how hard some fight to hide or deny that simple truth. SeeThe Meaning of Whitewater’s Not-Always-Mentioned DemographicsA Small But Diverse City, Seldom Described That Way, and Parts and Wholes.

9. A strategy of making private cultural accomplishments, rather than public projects, a priority won’t work if one doesn’t distinguish between the vibrant and the moribund. 

10. Choices among local cultural options will shorten — or lengthen — the duration of local stagnation.

11. Local insider accounts help others understand policymakers’ thinking, but have little or no independent policy value. SeeThe Last Inside Accounts.

12. Particular local leaders are talented; their collective product is often sub-par, as a few hold the talented ones back. SeeWhitewater’s Major Public Institutions Produce a Net Loss (And Why It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way).

Tomorrow: Part 2.

Film: Tuesday, May 30th, 12:30 PM @ Seniors in the Park: Fences

This Tuesday, May 30th at 12:30 PM, there will be a showing of Fences @ Seniors in the Park, in the Starin community building.

Fences (2016) is the story of an African-American man, Troy Maxson, raising his family in 1950s Pittsburgh. Denzel Washington directs and stars in the two hour, nineteen minute film, also starring Viola Davis and Stephen Henderson. The late August Wilson wrote both the screenplay and the Pulitzer-prize winning play on which the film is based. Viola Davis received a 2017 Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role for her portrayal of Rose Maxson. The film carries a PG-13 rating from the MPAA.

One can find more information about Fences at the Internet Movie Database.

Enjoy.

Film: Tuesday, May 23rd, 12:30 PM @ Seniors in the Park: Hidden Figures

This Tuesday, May 23rd at 12:30 PM, there will be a showing of Hidden Figures @ Seniors in the Park, in the Starin community building.

Hidden Figures (2016) is the true story of a team of African-American women mathematicians who were vital contributors to the early America space program. Theodore Melfi directs the two hour, seven minute film, starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe. Hidden Figures received three 2017 Academy Award nominations (Best Motion Picture, Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role for Octavia Spencer, and Best Adapted Screenplay by Allison Schroeder & Theodore Melfi). The film carries a PG rating from the MPAA.

One can find more information about Hidden Figures at the Internet Movie Database.

Enjoy.

Film: Tuesday, May 9th, 12:30 PM @ Seniors in the Park: La La Land

This Tuesday, May 9th at 12:30 PM, there will be a showing of La La Land @ Seniors in the Park, in the Starin community building.

La La Land (2016) is a romantic musical comedy-drama about a jazz musician and an aspiring actress who meet and fall in love in Los Angeles. Damien Chazelle directs the two hour, eight minute film, starring Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, and Rosemarie DeWitt. La La Land won six 2017 Academy Awards (Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for Emma Stone, Best Achievement in Directing for Damien Chazelle, Best Achievement in Cinematography, Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures Original Score, Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures Original Song, and Best Achievement in Production Design). The film carries a PG-13 rating from the MPAA.

One can find more information about La La Land at the Internet Movie Database.

Enjoy.

Term Limits, Briefly Considered

There was a discussion last night at the Whitewater Common Council about term limits (if any) for appointees to city boards and commissions. The discussion followed a briefer one on 4.18.17.

I mentioned yesterday that this would be an interesting agenda topic, and it was. It’s worth noting that although I thought there should have been advance notice in the press about it, I don’t have a single strong opinion on this matter. Instead, for me it’s ambivalence: not indifference, to be sure, but rather conflicting sentiments. (Yesterday’s post described the topic as historical: “reflections not of where Whitewater’s going, as much as where she has been (and where she is)”).

The matter has been referred to a community involvement committee within the council, and they’ll consider options. One can write at greater length when there’s a proposal to consider.

Two quick points for now:

1. Remarks about the city needing to do more for those who have volunteered strikes me as right. Term limits or not, most committees have a useful role but not a particularly ideological one: volunteering should be rewarded. Whitewater, on her own, can easily come up with ideas for acknowledging committee and board members, including ones who currently receive less recognition.

2. It’s true that expertise matters. It may not matter everywhere equally, but it does matter. The trick here – one that could not be solved in brief remarks – is how to assess and select based on a broad understanding of expertise. It comes in more than one form, and extends beyond formal academic credentials to experiences in past or present work. Too much emphasis on formal work will be counter-productive.

Any discussion of expertise, of whatever kind, has to be done in an understated way to avoid creating unnecessary offense.

(It’s worth noting that in the ten years I’ve been publishing FREE WHITEWATER, I’ve not once held myself out as an expert, touted particular academic credentials or accomplishments, or professional work. There’s no fixed route to expertise; it’s for that reason that tribunals have discretion in certifying experts.)

It seems to me a general truth that in all communities one finds many sharp and capable people. Indeed, I am convinced that most people are sharp indeed, and that society could not function half so well if it were otherwise. One many need instruction of various yet particular kinds, but of natural ability one sees abundance all around, of any race, ethnicity, or gender. 

This means that to give reasonable form to an acknowledgement of expertise will take some review. Unlike what should be the overdue but easy fix of acknowledging existing committee members (internally done), a plan for evaluating expertise should look to what other communities have done successfully (an external review).

Critically, any plan this city might adopt regarding expertise, tenure, term limits, etc., must be neutral concerning gender, race, or ethnicity. No one would intentionally wish otherwise, but it’s necessary to avoid inadvertent yet nonetheless impermissible barriers to participation on those bases.

Whitewater is sure to have more discussion on the topic. Our community is more than capable of crafting a solid approach.