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.


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.


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.


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.

Describing a Weekend

Here in this rural college town, so much has been written about last year’s Spring Splash weekend, and concern that a weekend college event this year (even without the same principal sponsor) might prove equally disappointing.

Discussions, debates, plans, hopes for a good experience, arguments about who was responsible for last year’s mishaps, a draft and a final mailer warning about penalties for nuisance-behavior: Whitewater saw it all. (I’ll write about the drafts & the mailer at a later time, as they’re an illustration of officials’ community outlook.)

And yet, and yet, here we are, after a cold and rainy weekend that surely discouraged time outside.

One key to this community’s culture will be found in how this successful weekend is described. Comparing headlines from the Janesville Gazette with the local Banner website is illuminating.

Janesville Gazette (main page link & article after link):

Whitewater party goes smoothly
No major issues in absence of Whitewater’s Spring Splash (article after link)

Whitewater Banner:

(May 1) Public Safety Maintained in Whitewater Throughout Weekend

Quite the difference. The Gazette describes a general success from the point of view of the festivities; the Banner (and local officials, presumably) look at this as maintaining order.

The two publications likely have similar demographics, but the Gazette is more distant from locals’ worries about college students, and so approaches the weekend without leading with the perspective that social events are about maintaining order.

Indeed, I doubt that most local officials could view the event in any other way; they’d not be able to write freely a headline like the Gazette‘s.

Fair enough, but one can see that the in-town headline is only useful in town: it’s no recommendation that after decades of living in this city, local officials still haven’t found a way to relate to the campus through a cooperative, and not an authority-driven perspective. To be candid, though, that’s what many non-college residents in Whitewater want.

One can view and respond to the university this way, of course, but only at the price of holding back the attraction of the campus relative to competitor schools with better town-gown relations.

The Parts of A Multi-Part Project


There’s been talk in Whitewater about an out-of-town developer’s plan for a hotel, library, and a local clinic.

The easiest way to consider the project is to ask a simple question:

Is there any part of the project without which the entire effort would not go forward?

Identifying an indispensable part, if any, reveals the essence of the project and the priority among its elements.

Afterward, a follow-up:

Does any party to the project have a non-negotiable position about the proper location of the project?

The answers to these questions will offer the most accurate description of the proposal.

Reading and Reviewing

There are two books I’m eager to review here at FW: Katherine Cramer’s Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker (2016) and Amy Goldstein’s Janesville: An American Story (4.18.17).  Like many others, I’ve been awaiting Goldstein’s book for some time, knowing that significant works take time.

For both books, I’ll proceed with a chapter-by-chapter assessment. I’ve the luxury of taking my time, for two principal reasons: first, blogging allows a self-chosen pace; second and more significantly, both books are worthy of detailed reviews.

There is a third reason, too, and particular to Whitewater:  this city’s local policymakers have a position so weak that their particular maneuverings are of little value. For them, unfortunately, it’s the fate of a grinding attrition for the near future. These political few, and those who have been part of this small group over the last generation, will have little part in whatever successful short-term events Whitewater sees.

A sensible, productive person would stay as far away as possible.  This class is, with a few exceptions, composed of individually capable people who’ve collectively thrown away capability. See, Whitewater’s Major Public Institutions Produce a Net Loss (And Why It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way). A political critique of Whitewater is now less a matter of advocacy as it is a recollection and narration of cumulative political errors.

The better approach for the city is a true private charity and a true private industry, unconnected to political policy. See, An Oasis Strategy.

Of Whitewater’s local politics, what once seemed to me primarily a matter of advocacy grew to seem more like a diagnosis, and now seems like epidemiology.

There’s a history to be written about all of this, incorporating particular projects into a bigger work, but for now it’s a greater pleasure to consider what others have written.

I’ll start Wednesday, and continue chapter by chapter, taking time with it all.

Less is Often More

Whitewater’s Common Council had a several items of interest on its agenda for last night’s meeting (among them A Hotel, a Party Plan, and a Dog).

The hotel and the dog (a police canine) were dropped from the agenda, and the item about a party plan (to address larger-scale social events) was discussed only in part. There was discussion of a mailing, with the latest proposal being a revision of an earlier mailing; the best practice will be to wait and see what a final product (if any) looks like.

As for dropping items from the agenda, as long as the items aren’t emergency needs (and neither a dog nor a hotel fits that category), I’ll suggest that less is more. As a procedural and as a legal matter under our Open Meetings Law, Wis. Stats. §§ 19.81-19.98, it’s true that ordinarily the concern is adding items, not omitting them.)

On a hotel in particular, there’s no reason concern oneself too much with it, as for the near-term it’s always been a longshot.

There’s something amusing in this matter from the Banner, whose publisher has flacked countless ineffectual capital-spending programs for years, showing apparent concern over a tax-credit-chasing hotel project for the center of town that’s unlikely to break ground there. In the improbable event that this should be a later-in-life conversion to a more prudent outlook, one should welcome it.

‘The Closest Thing We Have to State TV’

In the clip above, Seth Meyers considers the relationship between Fox News and the Trump Administration, concluding that Fox News is ‘the closest thing we have to state TV,’ represents ‘sycophantic coverage,’ and that ‘instead of a Bible, Trump should have been sworn in on a TV Guide.’ (H/t to Raw Story for the pointer.)

Small towns across America are familiar with publications that are – in support and in effect – quasi-government publications. In the Whitewater area, it’s nearly impossible to imagine the Daily Union or Banner as offering anything other than sycophantic coverage. It’s fair to qualify this as nearly impossible, as ever so rarely one of these publications will stray from an insider’s line, for reasons of personal pique if not actual substance.

We’ve had years of coverage like this, weakening the quality of our politics and thinking, so much so that those in authority sometimes (but not always) seem like parodies of ill-preparation and weak analysis. Low quality of this kind is That Which Paved the Way, enabling a federal government led by the very worst among us.

A Hotel, a Party Plan, and a Dog

A hotel, a party plan, and a dog might seem like three unconnected things (and normally they are, unless one is describing a dog show, I suppose).

In Whitewater, however, they’re connected: as items on the same agenda tonight at Common Council, and more generally as tactical solutions to a systemic problem: Whitewater’s economy is stagnant, the community divided along class lines, and the concept of genuine community enforcement in town isn’t even nominally convincing.

Into these conditions come discussions about a hotel, a party plan, and a canine. The city will hear more about all three tonight, but the discussions will be less revealing of where the city’s going (as we’re past the point where most sudden moves are worth much) than they will be of the current level of municipal management, such as it is.

Wisconsin’s Spring General Election

A few remarks on local and statewide races from the Spring General Election:

1. In Whitewater, incumbents seldom lose (and indeed, seldom have challengers). Yesterday falls within the realm of the seldom: a challenger in Whitewater’s District 1 race easily defeated the incumbent (Carol McCormick over Patrick Wellnitz, 164-87).

Whitewater’s challenge is not merely that candidates rarely run against (let alone defeat) incumbents. Her challenge is that individual candidates, however talented some might be, have trouble making a difference in a city that’s facing high poverty and economic stagnation. See, along these lines, Whitewater’s Major Public Institutions Produce a Net Loss (And Why It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way): “although members of the government are certainly also sharp and capable individually, they often produce collectively a product that’s beneath their individual abilities or that of other competitive Americans.”

On the national level, a choice between productivity and mediocrity presents itself, also, as Jennifer Rubin describes ably in Trump vs. an America that works.

2.  Statewide, Tony Evers easily defeated Lowell Holtz in the race for state school superintendent. Evers was well-liked and respected and Annyssa Johnson lists Holtz’s many self-inflicted liabilities (“Holtz had been dogged by ethical questions throughout the race, including accusations of nepotism, campaigning on work time, and an alleged scheming to land a lucrative state job with a driver and authority to dismantle the state’s five largest school districts“).

That Which Paved the Way

Adam Khan, writing at @Khanoisseur, has an answer for why Trump was able to prevail, despite myriad political & personal failings. Khan’s answer explains part of Trump’s success (and on the national front, I think he’s chiefly right):

Locally, however, in places like Whitewater there never was much investigative journalism, and newspapers became incurious boosters of small-town notables long before the Great Recession.

There’s something sad about local groups that believe (or at least pretend with apparent conviction) that adopting Babbitt‘s boosterism is a ‘visionary’ development. It’s an imaginative result only if one looks ahead believes that grandiose claims, dodgy data, an anti-market outlook, and nativist policies could possibly represent a hopeful future.

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.

What an Invitation Says (and Doesn’t Say)


Over at the City of Whitewater’s website, there’s a notice about a public meeting at which candidates for a city job will available to the public. Although the notice is formally correct (to meet the requirements of Wisconsin’s Open Meetings Law, Wis. Stats. §§ 19.81-19.98), as a community matter there’s something sad about it.

First, the notice (


TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN: The City of Whitewater will be hosting a reception for the candidates for the Finance and Administrative Services Director on March 29, 2017, from 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. at the Whitewater Innovation Center, 1221 Innovation Dr., Whitewater, WI 53190.

It is highly likely that quorums of the following Committees may be present at the reception:

Whitewater Community Development Authority;
City of Whitewater Common Council;
Whitewater University Technology Park Board; and the
Whitewater Plan & Architectural Review Commission.

It is possible that members of and possibly a quorum of members of other governmental bodies of the municipality may be in attendance at the above-stated meeting to gather information over which they may have decision-making responsibility; no action will be taken by any governmental body at the above-stated meeting other than the governmental body specifically referred to above in this notice.

Anyone requiring special arrangements is asked to call the office of the City Manager/ City Clerk at least 24 hours prior to the meeting.

Second, why it’s sad: there’s no mention of the applicants for the position, and no public information about them. For the City of Whitewater and the Banner, this probably makes sense, as they work on a those-who-need-to-know-basis, and for them the significant audience is their own small circle.

This is like receiving a wedding invitation where the names of the bride and groom are left blank:

Somebody requests the honor of your presence at the marriage of someone
to someone else on Wednesday, March 29, 2017, from 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. at the Whitewater Innovation Center, 1221 Innovation Dr., Whitewater, WI 53190.

Reception to follow.

The municipal notice is a community notice only in the narrowest sense, revealing that the position isn’t a community matter in the eyes of local insiders – it’s (effectually) a quasi-private meeting. The municipal government meets the terms of the law, but nothing more.

It should be a caution to sensible candidates: insiders may or may not buck up a fellow employee in difficult times, but no one inside will have much resonance with the community outside. There are two principal options: either spend each waking moment pleasing that tiny inside circle, or adopt a view that transcends the circle, and stretches much farther.

Film: Tuesday, March 28th, 12:30 PM @ Seniors in the Park: Jackie

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

Jackie recounts the life of Jacqueline Kennedy following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, as she fights through grief and trauma to regain her faith, console her children, and define her husband’s legacy.

Pablo Larraín directs the one hour, forty-minute film, starring Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig. Jackie received three Oscar nominations (Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for Natalie Portman,  Best Achievement in Costume Design, and Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score). The movie carries an R rating from the MPAA.

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


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

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 (

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.