A Reminder on Dealmaking

David Frum, writing about Trump’s failure to advance health care legislation, observes the truth about Trump:


That’s right, and cannot be said enough: Trump’s a confidence man, and he preys on the unwary, desperate, or gullible.

There’s a local angle in all this: although Whitewater’s policymakers and town notables want to portray themselves as advancing sophisticated (often tech-oriented programs), their plans rest mostly on false claims and third-tier work hawked to an economically struggling community. They claim job gains without describing them in detail, they claim economic benefits without enumerating them in detail, and they hide costs and setbacks that would place in context any benefits they hazily claim.

The few, self-described ‘Whitewater Advocates’ who push these policies aren’t selling community betterment: they’re selling their own social advancement at the cost of the disproportionately large number of indigent and struggling residents in this city. And Like Trump, when they meet capable counter-parties, their scheming fares poorly.

They’ve had over the years, from their own perspective one supposes, public-relations success with dodgy proposal after dodgy proposal. I’d guess the high watermark for them was several years ago, around 2010-2012. They should have quit then, while the tide was still high. The water’s receding now, and one sees how much waste litters the shore.

How Foreign Powers Could Try to Buy Trump

Donald Trump is an unprecedentedly wealthy president, who owns or licenses his name to buildings, casinos, and luxury hotels around the world. An ethics watchdog group has already brought a lawsuit against him for violating the Constitution’s “Emoluments Clause,” which prohibits government officials from receiving gifts from foreign states. Trump has taken few steps to distance himself from his organization, and foreign governments could use the President’s business interests as bargaining chips to influence his policymaking. Atlantic writer Jeremy Venook has been monitoring the President’s growing list of conflicts of interests since November 2016, and breaks down some of the most alarming ones in this video.

There’s a local angle in all this: Whitewater is rife with possible conflicts of interest (although not of the same magnitude or kind as Trump’s, of course): from news sites that publishers claim have not simply advertisers but ‘sponsors’, dual roles as politicians and news people, and a general insider’s desire to boost well-positioned friends (even if the policy in question is, to use the technical term, a dog-crap policy).

Funnier still is the self-exonerating way that some try to avoid these conflict-of-interest problems (1) by insisting that they are immune from the psychological biases that would naturally beset billions of others on this planet or (2) by finding their way onto an ethics committee. (This latter way is not unique to Whitewater. After all, Saudia Arabia found her way onto the United Nations Human Rights Council.)

This is a way in which longstanding local mediocrity and the new national mediocrity present challenges in their respective venues. See, along these lines, The National-Local Mix (Part 2).

Preliminaries to a Discussion on Class

One finds a significant amount of information, in both lay publications and (of course) the careful studies on which they rely that working class Americans are faring poorly.

There are two broad aspects to this: (1) how working class Americans are faring, and (2) what this says about economic and fiscal policy at the federal, state, or local level.

A few recent accounts and studies come to mind (and these are only a few of a far larger number): New research identifies a ‘sea of despair’ among white, working-class Americans (Mortality and morbidity in the 21st century @ Brookings), The biggest beneficiaries of the government safety net: working-class whites (Poverty Reduction Programs Help Adults Lacking College Degrees the Most, @ Center on Budget and Policy Priorities), or Katherine J. Cramer’s Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker.

On the first aspect (how some are faring), evidence from any credible source, including of the left, is worth evaluating: reason compels that one address studies and their data dispassionately, analytically. In a place like Whitewater, or nearby towns, there’s much too much ‘can’t read this,’ ‘can’t read that,’ based on the idea that it’s too far left or too far right.

On the second aspect (economic or fiscal policy), ample evidence of hard times does nothing to excuse a retreat into nativism, bigotry, or the daily chumming of lies that Trump, for example, spills into the water to attract struggling Americans.

Nor does it excuse the third-tier boosterism that politicians and local publications like the Gazette, Daily Union, Register, or Banner use to hawk any project, at any public expense, on the theory that it just has to be done. The longer one considers economic & fiscal policy in a town like Whitewater, the more one comes to see that not one of these publications offers anything more than empty cheerleading. They might as well be working a long con on their communities, with their own self-promotion as a good part of the game.

There are obvious similarities between failed local strategies and national ones. SeeThe National-Local Mix (Part 2).

However difficult the times, there are useful works yet to be finished about how local notables push destructive projects (waste-to-energy), empty economic development plans (millions in Whitewater with mostly headlines to show for it), and how desperate communities fall victim to weak reasoning in the place of careful consideration.

All of this is a spur to work harder.

The Upcoming Spring Election in Whitewater

One, but only one, of Whitewater’s Common Council races is contested. Some readers have asked me, variously, if I would comment on the candidates in the contested race, and where one might find the candidate statements submitted to the local League of Women Voters chapter.

I’ll leave residents to consider the candidates (including the contested race between incumbent Patrick Wellnitz and challenger Carol McCormick in District 1) without comment.

For those who would like to see the statements that some candidates have submitted, they may be found at http://www.lwvwhitewater.org/elections.html.

It’s fair to say that I have conflicting views on the League of Women Voters: the national organization has done much good work, but the local chapter betrays some shopworn biases (probably without grasping that they’re biases at all).  The local chapter also has a skewed-old problem that leads to, and exacerbates, their declining influence. For a discussion of the local chapter’s unfounded assumptions, see On the Whitewater League of Women Voters Questionnaire (Spring 2017).

The best approach for any candidate will always be to prepare his or her own statement, apart from any organization, and have it at the ready for distribution to residents.

On Rumors

Whitewater is a small town, with a population under fifteen thousand, approximately half of whom are college students. One of the advantages of being far smaller than Los Angeles or Atlanta should be the ease with which municipal leaders and law enforcement can meet and talk to residents. A person of average health and energy could walk the town easily, talking with residents along the way.

How odd, then to hear some city’s officials bemoaning rumors about possible federal law enforcement actions. If there are rumors among residents, city officials have only themselves to blame: if they were closer to their own residents, and even partly knowledgeable about those residents’ day-to-day experiences, they’d have a better ability to manage these matters.

Ice cream socials at a senior citizen facility (honest to goodness – the softest audience on the planet) are not enough. Admittedly, officials burn very few calories driving to a retirement home, sitting & talking, but that energy savings is an underuse of a taxpayer-funded salary.

If it should be true that “the rumors have truly been disheartening and harmful,” then it’s time for officials to work harder – connecting through true community-based enforcement – to dispel what so disheartens and hurts. All the servile commission cronies in the world, and their conniving boosters, can’t do what publicly-paid officials should be doing each day.

After so very long, after over twenty-six years, one should have expected better results than this. But people choose variously well or poorly, and Whitewater has so many times chosen poorly, and consigned herself to a weak, short-sighted, addled leadership. She’ll stay stagnant, and so decline relatively, until she chooses another course.

In the meantime, these failings may yet prove a useful lesson to other communities, so that they might avoid the same mistakes.

On the Whitewater League of Women Voters Questionnaire (Spring 2017)

At its website, the Whitewater Area League of Women Voters has posted a questionnaire for the upcoming local election. For all the good work that the League does (and the national organization does admirable work in many communities), the questionnaire reveals an unsupported, narrow view of Whitewater’s local economy.

Consider the 7th question in the survey (http://www.lwvwhitewater.org/elections.html):

Q7. As University students move into available housing rentals in Whitewater, there is a chilling effect on single-family housing. What can be done to encourage more development of single-family homes and therefore an increase in that population?

A few remarks:

1. An assumption of negative effects. The question simply assumes a “chilling effect,” without even the slightest proof of one. (One can leave aside the misplaced use of chilling effect, normally a legal term applied to actions that stifle speech or lawful exercise of one’s rights.) If there should be a deterring effect in this case, can anyone at the Whitewater Area League quantify that effect? If not, then what makes this supposed effect more than any number of unfounded claims (e.g., four-leaf clovers, laetrile, Carrot Top as actually funny).

2. Whitewater’s economy. The questionnaire assumes, necessarily, the demand for rental housing makes single-family housing scarce. That’s most certainly not true of all college towns, many of which have large, well-cared-for single family residences. In those communities, single-family homes are desirable near a university (and so more of them are built). If there is no necessary connection, then the League has claimed one without evidence, and neglected other causes for the lack (in their minds) of single-family housing.

This is the key issue for Whitewater: When will policymakers stop blaming student housing for a lack of single-family housing, and start considering other causes for a (in their minds) a weak single-family housing market? (One could include among those other causes weak community relations – a lack of real engagement before enforcement)

3. Why only a negative effects? The questionnaire states effects in only one direction: negative, from student residents to non-student single-family home buyers. Even if one assumes some negative effects (and there’s no quantification of this), is there anyone who thinks that effects run only one way (that is, anyone outside of the League representative who drafted this questionnaire)? If so, those others have a paltry grasp of economic effects.

4. Why pick sides? An organization’s self-focused membership might assume that what they want is what (1) all others want or (2) what the community should have. These are market decisions among freely selling and purchasing adults, and those voluntary transactions prove that this community – in whole – wants and needs a robust student rental market.

5. Poor formation. The League’s seventh question isn’t even formulated correctly:  “As University students move into available housing rentals in Whitewater, there is a chilling effect on single-family housing” (my emphasis). No, a properly-formulated claim would not be about students moving into available housing rentals, it would be about single-family homes being converted into rentals.

6. Not a politician’s job. Why is it the task – as the League questionnaire assumes – that Whitewater’s common council should intervene in the housing market to advance an outcome that some (but not most actual buyers & sellers) prefer?

If government feels the need to act, it would do better to improve community-based enforcement, make basic municipal repairs, or care for the neediest members of the community: all these projects would be better than trying to rig the local housing market.

The most unfortunate aspect of the League’s question is that, for too many among this town’s policymakers, the Question 7 actually seems reasonable, indeed, obvious.

It’s nothing of the kind.

Film: Tuesday, March 14th, 12:30 PM @ Seniors in the Park: Manchester by the Sea

This Tuesday, March 14th at 12:30 PM, there will be a showing of Manchester by the Sea @ Seniors in the Park, in the Starin community building.

Manchester by the Sea is the story of an uncle who is asked to take care of his teenage nephew after the boy’s father dies.

The 2017 film won two Academy Awards (Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role to
Casey Affleck and Best Original Screenplay to Kenneth Lonergan). Lonergan also directs the two hour, seventeen-minute film, starring Affleck, Michelle Williams, and Kyle Chandler. The movie carries a rating of R from the MPAA.

One can find more information about Manchester by the Sea at the Internet Movie Database.

Enjoy.

Far Less Than 10.7%

Whitewater’s residents may have recently read (3.7.17) another City of Whitewater press release from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) – this time concerning more public spending on selected businesses.  (For remarks on a prior release, please see The Simplest Condition for a ‘Shovel-Ready’ Site is an Empty Lot.)

There are few better ways to argue against WEDC’s approach than by publishing press releases in full from that organization and its boosters.  (I have done so again with the latest release, at the bottom of this post.)

1. A tiny fraction of the award. On its face, there is something sadly desperate in saying Whitewater received only 10.7% of something: of the $700,000 awarded, 89.3% went elsewhere.

2. Tens of millions in public money has poured into Whitewater (state money, federal money, adding into the mix municipal bond debt) over the last decade. Even excluding the vast public sums supporting our local campus, this $75,000 is small compared to prior public spending in the city. If it’s 10.7% of the current totals, it’s far less than 1% of all that’s already come Whitewater’s way.

3. Alternative uses. These public funds are meant to be spurs to business development, but far greater sums have produced only paltry results – just about any allocation would be better than still more of the same.

4. ‘Technology-based, early stage companies.’ All of this is meant to awe and impress, but a level-headed person should be neither awed nor impressed. Public policy is more than a manufactured, unrealistic sense of astonishment.

Butterflies are amazing (truly); public allocations are practical decisions among many alternatives.

The best opportunity for a critic of these spending programs would be for the municipal government to put the full releases on giant billboards around the city. The more one hears of this, the less realistic it is.

Admittedly, we’d not be any richer for a billboard campaign…unless becoming an example of an unsound municipal economic policy somehow, itself, proved lucrative.

WEDC press release follows:

Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation Press Release: Organizations in Milwaukee, Oshkosh, Whitewater to match state’s investment in technology-based early-stage companies

MADISON, WI. March 7, 2017 – Three economic development organizations have been awarded a total of $700,000 in matching grants from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) to be used to provide seed funding for technology-based startups and early-stage companies.

The Milwaukee Development Corporation has received a $500,000 grant under WEDC’s Capital Catalyst Program for the creation of a $1 million seed fund to support companies in advanced manufacturing and other technology sectors. The fund will target seed-stage ventures, including graduates of local accelerator programs such as The BREW, WERCBench Labs, FaBCAP and Gener8tor to provide additional capital for activities leading to investment readiness or revenue generation.

The fund also aims to support growth-focused projects of existing tech companies, as well as other eligible seed-stage businesses with technologies outside the scope of existing area accelerators. The Milwaukee Development Corporation is the operating entity of the Milwaukee 7 economic development organization, which in January received a $60,000 Entrepreneurship Support Grant from WEDC to support its efforts to increase collaboration and develop common strategies to optimize Milwaukee’s entrepreneurship climate.

“Finding and filling gaps in funding for these growing companies – especially those in our most promising cluster industries – is critical to the success of individual businesses and the entire Milwaukee 7 Region,” said Pat O’Brien, Milwaukee 7 executive director. “We are grateful to WEDC for recognizing this need and providing a needed boost to these efforts.”

The Greater Oshkosh Economic Development Corporation has been awarded a $125,000 Capital Catalyst grant to fund a $250,000 program that will provide seed capital to local technology-based businesses likely to scale and grow to benefit the area workforce and economy. The seed fund will focus on sectors including aviation/aerospace, advanced manufacturing, information systems, agriculture/food processing and medical devices.

“This fund is the first of its kind in Winnebago County, the I-41 Corridor and northeastern Wisconsin,” said Jason White, CEO of the Greater Oshkosh Economic Development Corporation. “Greater Oshkosh’s economic development success is predicated on helping our existing businesses grow and showing our entrepreneurs that they are well-supported here in the Fox Valley.”

The Whitewater Community Development Authority has received a $75,000 grant for a seed fund that will provide a diversified portfolio of micro-investments and grants aimed at increasing the number of startups in the city and supporting emerging growth companies.

This marks that the fourth year that WEDC has awarded Capital Catalyst grants to the organization, which has provided capital to 21 technology-based companies to date. Those businesses have successfully raised $4.9 million in additional capital, have achieved over $2.4 million in revenue and employ more than 100 workers.

“I’d like to thank WEDC for this additional investment, which will help ensure that Whitewater continues to be a hotbed of entrepreneurial spirit,” said Jeff Knight, chairman of the Whitewater Community Development Authority. “The many startups that this program has already assisted is truly amazing. We’ve supported many new innovative businesses that would not have had a chance to get started without this very timely help.”

“These three organizations are playing a critical role in facilitating the development of high-growth business ventures in their communities,” said Aaron Hagar, WEDC’s vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation. “The Capital Catalyst Program has a proven track record of results, and we’re looking forward to continued success as we collaborate with these organizations to support next-generation companies.”

Since its inception in 2012, the Capital Catalyst Program has helped organizations and communities provide $3.5 million in seed funding to more than 100 businesses statewide that employ nearly 500 full-time workers. Those companies have generated $127 million in additional investment and revenue.

The program provides matching grants to seed funds managed by local communities or other organizations dedicated to stimulating entrepreneurship. These funds provide grants, loans and/or investments in startups or early-stage, innovative small businesses that operate in their region. Loan repayments and returns on investment stay within the fund to assist additional startups and create a supportive environment for entrepreneurs.

The Capital Catalyst Program is one component of WEDC’s suite of entrepreneurship resources, which includes support for startup accelerators, investor tax credits and technology loans. In addition, WEDC supports and engages an existing statewide network of partners that offers business training, mentorship and financing to aspiring entrepreneurs.

###
About the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) leads economic development efforts for the state by advancing and maximizing opportunities in Wisconsin for businesses, communities and people to thrive in a globally competitive environment. Working with more than 600 regional and local partners, WEDC develops and delivers solutions representative of a highly responsive and coordinated economic development network. Visit www.inwisconsin.com or follow WEDC on Twitter @_InWisconsin to learn more.

Via http://www.whitewater-wi.gov/residents/recent-news/3270-wedc-awards-700-000-in-grants-to-support-local-efforts-to-provide-seed-funding-for-startups.

The Simplest Condition for a ‘Shovel-Ready’ Site is an Empty Lot

Whitewater’s residents may have recently read (just yesterday) a City of Whitewater press release about a Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) designation for the city’s thirty-five empty acres of tech park land.

I’ve reproduced the release in full at the bottom of this post. A few key points:

1. The simplest condition for a “shovel ready” site is a vacant lot. Whitewater has (at least) thirty-five acres of vacant lot space. The city doesn’t need a ‘certified in Wisconsin’ designation to meet that condition; she only needs lots of empty space.

2. Millions upon millions of state money for businesses in this city, over so many years, and still here we are with another I-feel-it-this-time program.

3. The announcement is old news. The WEDC announced this program on December 15th, and a story about it ran in a local paper on December 16th. If this news were really so important, the municipal government wouldn’t have waited 75 days from the WEDC announcement date. (One should be fair: conservatively, it’s only been 74 days from the newspaper story.)

4. Now that the city’s raised the subject, how has Whitewater performed with the many grants and loans she’s already distributed, all these many years? Before actual performance, has the city been in compliance with even the weak standards the state has imposed on these programs?

There must be some way to determine that: what’s a five-letter word for an official inspection of an individual’s or organization’s accounts?

(If Whitewater ever came across something like that, surely they’d let the community know in full, promptly, as these are publicly-paid officials, extending publicly-funded grants and loans, and they’ve a publicly-fund funded website on which they could post that information.)

5. Where are those other “elite” locations the City of Whitewater press release mentions? Here they are: Beaver Dam, Beloit, Chippewa Falls, DeForest, Fitchburg, Green Bay, Howard, Janesville, Menomonie, Prescott, Stevens Point, Verona, West Bend, Westport and Wisconsin Rapids.

All black-tie locations, I’m sure.

6. Why is it so hard to speak in simple language (without describing everything in grandiose terms)? Whitewater has a high school and a university – is there no one in all the city who can teach officials to speak or write plainly?

City of Whitewater press release follows:

A Whitewater Site Joins the Elite List of Certified in Wisconsin Locations

Whitewater, Wis. February 28th, 2017 – The Whitewater University Technology Park joins 15 other locations statewide as a Certified in Wisconsin® site, allowing businesses and developers to have many questions answered and possible delays prevented prior to purchasing land for their growing companies.

The Certified in Wisconsin Program, offered in partnership by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) and Deloitte Consulting was created in 2012 in hopes to make the process easier in purchasing industrial “shovel ready” properties, 20 acres or larger in the state of Wisconsin. It has since seen 17 development projects completed or underway on 10 of the 16 sites, expecting to create more than 1,600 jobs and generate more than $315 million in capital investment when completed.

A site classified as Certified answers a wide range of concerns such as utility and infrastructure capacity, zoning property rights, environmental and geological factors, transportation access, and that the site is ready for industrial development. This information is already compiled and confirmed, allowing the decision process to be easier and less stressful for those in the market to build on a timeline.

The 35-acre site in Whitewater is located less than one mile from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. The new park will help to cultivate successful businesses and research by collaborating closely with UW-Whitewater and the City, serving as a foundation for a diversified and robust regional economy.

Lt. Governor, Rebecca Kleefisch and UW-W Chancellor Beverly Kopper have both spoken on behalf of the new site and discussed the positive opportunities that a partnership may burgeon between the university and the newly certified Whitewater University Technology Park.

“I know that property managers searching for industrial land want to minimize their risks,” says Whitewater Community Development Authority Chairman, Jeffery Knight. “They can be assured that when they look at Whitewater there is certainty, and what they get is the best the state has to offer”.

Whitewater will also have an ad in the Site Selection Magazine with details about the site and be included in the state database which allows site selectors to search for desired sites that meet their criteria in a fast and simple fashion.

To learn more about the Whitewater University Technology Park and other “shovel-ready” Wisconsin destinations, visit www.inwisconsin.com.

Via http://www.whitewater-wi.gov/residents/recent-news/3265-a-whitewater-site-joins-the-elite-list-of-certified-in-wisconsin-locations.

Whitewater High School, Monday Morning, 2.27.17

Update, 12:25 PM: Two suspicious packages were located and analyzed and were subsequently determined to be non-threatening. The interior of the buildings have also been search for any suspicious items. No additional suspicious items have been located in or around the buildings. 

Students and families will be notified via Infinite Campus once the building has been re-opened. Classes will resume on Tuesday, February 28th.” Via http://www.whitewater-wi.gov/residents/recent-news/3262-suspicious-package-found-at-whitewater-high-school.

Original post: 

There’s news about a Whitewater school this morning – Whitewater High School was evacuated this morning because of a suspicious object. For an account from Channel 3000 WISC-TV, see Whitewater High School evacuated because of suspicious package:

WHITEWATER, Wis. – A suspicious package found outside Whitewater High School prompted the evacuation of the school Monday morning.

A release from the school district said the package was found at 7:55 a.m.

The school was put on lockdown and students were moved to the school’s auditorium before they were moved to Young Auditorium on the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater campus.

The Whitewater Aquatic Center was also evacuated and nearby residents were notified.

The Kenosha Bomb Squad was called to the scene.

Students can be picked up at Young Auditorium and vehicles can be picked up after the site has been cleared.

Any residents looking for a place to stay can go to the municipal building community room or the Irving Young Library.

Film: Tuesday, February 28th, 12:30 PM @ Seniors in the Park: Queen of Katwe

This Tuesday, February 28th at 12:30 PM, there will be a showing of Queen of Katwe @ Seniors in the Park, in the Starin community building.

Queen of Katwe is a 2016 biographical drama about Phiona Mutesi, a Ugandan girl who sees her world rapidly change after being introduced to the game of chess.

The film is directed by Mira Nair, and stars Madina Nalwanga, David Oyelowo, and Lupita Nyong’o. The movie has a run time of two hours, four minutes and carries a rating of PG from the MPAA.

One can find more information about Queen of Katwe at the Internet Movie Database.

Enjoy.

Where Reaction Leads

What happens when the municipal officials of a small college town repeatedly malign – in print and on camera – a private business and college residents for the conduct of unrelated third-parties?

This is what happens:

The City of Whitewater Clarifies Recent Comments Regarding Spring Splash, Encourages Residents to Celebrate Responsibly 

Whitewater, Wis., February 11th, 2017 – For several years, many residents, primarily students, have come to look forward to gathering and celebrating together in early spring. Since 2013, Wisconsin Red has joined in the celebration through the organization and sponsorship of Whitewater’s Spring Splash. Spring Splash 2016 was, quite possibly, the most successful event to date; drawing more participants than prior years for what was a very well-run event.

While Spring Splash 2016 was well organized and free of problems, many other parties and events hosted elsewhere in the City [sic] were not. Due to the magnitude of visitors, many parties outside of Spring Splash outgrew their designated space resulting in large mobs of party goers roaming the city. Many groups quickly became unruly and dangerous.

In recent meetings with city staff, Wisconsin Red stressed that the events that transpired outside of Spring Splash were in no way representative of the organization’s mission or values. However, many officials believed that the successful promotional campaign on the Wisconsin Red website and social media pages had contributed to the large turnout of visitors and the mobs that continued throughout the day and night.

City staff met with Wisconsin Red representatives earlier this month to discuss its plans for Spring Splash 2017. While Wisconsin Red displayed great respect and organizational ability, anxiety over what could happen outside of the event prompted city officials to express continued concerns. After discussing the anticipated negatives that could result from a repeat of last year’s ancillary events, all parties agreed that it would be in the City’s best interest to cancel Spring Splash 2017 and consider revisiting in 2018.

“All the reports I’ve received regarding Spring Splash 2016 have confirmed that Wisconsin Red’s event was well organized and well run,” says Cameron Clapper, Whitewater City Manager. “It is the other parties and the meandering mobs we’re concerned about. Everyone deserves a chance to relax and unwind but no one can be excused from their civic responsibility to exercise good judgment, avoid dangerous behaviors and be respectful of our neighbors.”

The City of Whitewater recognizes most of the negative behavior that occurred last year was not from Whitewater students. The City does not want to limit celebrative opportunities for any group or individual but rather encourages safe and controlled gatherings.

The City of Whitewater and Wisconsin Red would like to express a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to all those who celebrated responsibly last year and who assisted with the clean-up following the day’s activities. Thanks to the volunteer efforts of many community members, including UW-Whitewater students, the city was cleaned-up in less than a day.

“We hope that if an individual or group chooses to celebrate and have gatherings throughout the year, they continue to do so in a safe and respectful manner as Whitewater students have been known to do,” Clapper says. “Encourage party hosts to be respectful of their neighbors as well as their guests by not promoting bad behavior or inviting those that would. We are proud of our student body and want to continue to support them in hopes they can support and care for the city they live in.”

The City of Whitewater provides efficient and high quality services which support living, learning, playing and working in an exceptional community. Visit www.whitewater-wi.gov for community information and updates.

Via http://www.whitewater-wi.gov/residents/recent-news/3257-spring-splash.

The simple truth is that Whitewater’s town-gown divide is debilitatingly wide, despite empty insistence to the contrary, her municipal officials shuttle between support of one contesting faction within the city and another, overreacting to events, with over-wrought assertions and language, and without the detached and dispassionate view that would prevent the need for printed clarifications.

Film: Tuesday, January 31st, 12:30 PM @ Seniors in the Park: Sully

This Tuesday, January 31st at 12:30 PM, there will be a showing of Sully @ Seniors in the Park, in the Starin community building.

Sully is a 2016 historical drama based on the story of Chesley Sullenberger, an American pilot who became a hero after landing his damaged plane on the Hudson River in order to save the flight’s passengers and crew.

The film is directed by Clint Eastwood, and stars Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, and Laura Linney. The movie has a run time of one hour, thirty-six minutes and carries a rating of PG-13 from the MPAA.

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

Enjoy.

At Whitewater’s Planning Commission: ‘Have you heard any rumors about..?”

There’s a brief discussion about a rumor that a new convenience store might come to small-town Whitewater that illustrates not only the problem of rumors, but others’ unwillingness to point out the problem of rumors. It’s the latter problem that is, in fact, the more serious one for Whitewater.

First, I’ve transcribed the exchange from the video segment above. (The full 12.12.16 meeting of Whitewater’s Planning Commission is online at https://vimeo.com/195844505.) Here’s the discussion:

Commissioner: Chris, have you heard any rumors about Kwik Trip?

Neighborhood Services Director: I, I have not heard anything about Kwik Trip.

Commissioner: ‘Cause I have.

Neighborhood Services Director: Well…

Commissioner: I heard somebody that works for Kwik Trip, they work in, like a big Kwik Trip, and they said that Kwik Trip, it has been approved to come to Whitewater, but not ‘til nineteen, ‘til twenty-nineteen or twenty-twenty.

Neighborhood Services Director: I generally don’t get involved unless…

Commissioner [interrupting, over-talking]: I’m just sayin’…

Neighborhood Services Director: No, I’m letting you know [unintelligible] I generally really don’t get involved until they’re they’re coming in for drawings, like that’s when they contact me because otherwise they’re contacting somebody like Pat [Cannon, contracted Community Development Authority director] so…

Commissioner: I understand they said they have approved it, it just needs to come later. It’d be nice.

Neighborhood Services Director: Yeah, it’d be lovely.

One can guess the problem the commissioner’s remarks make: they’re not just a rumor, but a rumor so light and trivial one might attach string and a tail to it and fly it on a breezy day. It’s that somebody heard that someone who works for… It’s undependable as offered. Relying on something like this would be relying on the unreliable.

There’s a second problem, though, that’s more important than a single commissioner’s over-credulous view of information. The more important problem is that no one bothers to state, clearly and on the record, the difference between substance and baseless speculation.

(It’s not enough to address this difference afterward, off camera; a firm commitment to sound thinking and credible evidence is a declaration to be made then and there, in opposition and correction to a shoddy case. Good reasoning need not – indeed must not – hide timidly in the shadows while rumor takes the center stage.)

There’s also a sign from this exchange that turning over more of the city’s meetings to the direction of common council members (however well-intentioned) will not work. It was, after all, a common council member who ran this meeting, and he made no effort to argue publicly for solid standards of evidence, and indeed made no response at all. There’s no point in having council members chair all meetings if, as in this case, most of them wouldn’t contribute where a contribution would be usefully instructive. (The Neighborhood Services Director does respond by explaining how a proper process runs, but she can’t be expected as an appointed employee to handle all of this.  The sensible course would have been for other commissioners to address the underlying lack of credible information.)

Rumor ruins policy, in small towns as well as large; the damage is worse when others (especially those elected to office) shirk from the obligation to contend for a better practice.

Film: Tuesday, January 24th, 12:30 PM @ Seniors in the Park: Florence Foster Jenkins

This Tuesday, January 24th at 12:30 PM, there will be a showing of Florence Foster Jenkins @ Seniors in the Park, in the Starin community building.

Florence Foster Jenkins is a 2016 historical comedy-drama about a New York heiress who dreamed of becoming an opera singer despite having a terrible singing voice.

The film is directed by Stephen Frears, and stars Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, and Simon Helberg. Just this morning (1.24), Meryl Streep received an Academy Award nomination for best actress for her role. The movie has a run time of one hour, fifty-one minutes and carries a rating of PG-13 from the MPAA.

One can find more information about Florence Foster Jenkins at the Internet Movie Database.

Enjoy.

More on the Right Social Conditions in a Small Town

I posted yesterday that Gentrification Requires the Right Social Conditions, contending in part that a small city like Whitewater remains divided (and by consequence limits its own attractiveness to newcomers) because it remains divided by town and gown (and divided within the town, itself, too).

Whitewater’s problem is not that different factions do not have a sense of their own interests, it’s that these factions do not see others’ interests adequately, and so both make accommodations less likely and (worse) even misperceive full measure of the very community in which they live.

It’s much easier to be a representative of a particular group (e.g., students, middle-aged non-student residents, elderly residents). (Obvious point, still worth making: I don’t claim to represent anyone else; I’m an emissary of one, so to speak.)

A few people saying they’ve solved problems of division doesn’t mean those divisions have been solved; it means a few people think (let’s assume sincerely so) that they have been, and hope to convince many others that their assurances are an adequate substitute for community harmony.

I’m increasingly convinced that the best efforts at community harmony and progress will not come from local government, or large local institutions, but from private charitable, small business, and cultural projects. Each of these has a chance of inspiring cross-cultural understanding as good or better than any factionalized political representation.

Cross-cultural understanding is a necessary condition of community progress.

Gentrification Requires the Right Social Conditions

I’ve written that Whitewater faces a choice between decisive action now (to lessen government’s role) or years of stagnation and relative decline before eventual gentrification (at which point longtime residents will have almost no say in redevelopment). See, How Big Averts Bad. As I doubt Whitewater’s local political class has the will for near-term changes, the best option during this long period will come from community-based, non-governmental initiatives and businesses. See, An Oasis Strategy.

Yet even an eventual, rejuvenating gentrification requires more than inexpensive, dilapidated properties to rehabilitate. Emily Badger makes this clear in How to Predict Gentrification: Look for Falling Crime: some minimal social conditions have to exist before risk takers are willing to commit to a community.

She writes (admittedly about cities, not towns) that

“But a huge piece of it,” she [Ingrid Gould Ellen, a professor of urban policy and planning at New York University] said, “I think is crime.”

New research that she has conducted alongside Keren Mertens Horn, an economist at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, and Davin Reed, a doctoral student at N.Y.U., finds that when violent crime falls sharply, wealthier and educated people are more likely to move into lower-income and predominantly minority urban neighborhoods.

Their working paper suggests that just as rising crime can drive people out of cities, falling crime has a comparable effect, spurring gentrification. And it highlights how, even if many Americans — including, by his own words, President-elect Donald Trump — inaccurately believe urban violence is soaring, the opposite long-term trend has brought wide-ranging change to cities.

Needless to say, small-town Whitewater’s problem is not urban crime (we’re not an urban area). There is, however, a level of division in the city along lines of cultural identity that is discernible to anyone observing the town with clear eyes, and that cannot be papered over with false contentions of town-gown harmony. The last thirty years have seen an increase in the size of our local campus, but city is still widely divided, and attempts at cultural harmony have gone nowhere as far as one might hope.

Lack of town-gown harmony is Whitewater’s analog to urban crime: it’s a cultural reason some people will (sadly) avoid the city.

Fixing this division will not come from public spending, nor public enforcement efforts, nor public relations. It will come, if it does, from private cultural, charitable, and business efforts.

Film: Tuesday, January 10th, 12:30 PM @ Seniors in the Park: Hell or High Water

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This Tuesday, January 10th at 12:30 PM, there will be a showing of Hell or High Water @ Seniors in the Park, in the Starin community building.

Hell or High Water is a 2016 crime drama about a divorced father and his ex-con older brother who devise a criminal scheme to save their family’s ranch in West Texas.

The film is directed by David Mackenzie, written by Taylor Sheridan (screenwriter of Sicario) and stars Dale Dickey, Ben Foster, Chris Pine, and Jeff Bridges. Hell or or High Water is a Golden Globes nominee for best film (drama), as is Jeff Bridges as a best-supporting actor nominee (any motion picture).   The movie has a run time of one hour, forty-two minutes and carries a rating of R from the MPAA.

One can find more information about Hell or High Water at the Internet Movie Database.

Enjoy.