Contrast

The Scene from Whitewater, Wisconsin Consider the contrast between how the Janesville Gazette‘s publisher want his city to be seen, and how an economics reporter describes the Janesville area:

Janesville Gazette editorial, A question for Janesville to consider:

[James] Fallows and his wife learned the differences between success and failure during a 54,000-mile journey across the United States in a single-engine plane. They hopped from city to city (though didn’t pass through Janesville) and wrote several pieces for The Atlantic. We examined Fallows’ criteria and, from our admittedly biased vantage point, are happy to report Janesville meets many of them.

Perhaps the one exception is the first sign on Fallows’ list: Divisive national politics seem a distant concern. But in all fairness, how many cities have a Congressional representative who is speaker of the House? Furthermore, many locals are less obsessed about national politics than outsiders who occasionally parachute into Janesville to protest, study the city or otherwise seek attention.

Much of this attention is out of Janesville’s control, but residents and local leaders should take to heart Fallows’ assessment: “Overwhelmingly, the focus in successful towns was not on national divisions but on practical problems that a community could address. The more often national politics came into local discussions, the worse shape the town was in.”

Janesville does better with other markers on Fallows’ list. Fallows says successful cities have a downtown, and they have big plans and public-private partnerships….

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, John Schmid, Wisconsin childhood trauma data explodes myth of ‘not in my small town’:

Of Wisconsin’s 72 counties, Rock County falls into the highest tier of overdose deaths, hospitalizations and emergency room visits linked to opioids and heroin, as ranked by state health authorities….

Once solidly middle-class Rock County today harbors the state’s highest scores for childhood trauma, the deepest plunge in income since the turn of the century, and one of the most extreme drug epidemics.

Of the state’s 72 counties, Rock County is home to the fourth-highest share of single-parent households (17.6%) behind Menominee, Milwaukee and Kenosha counties (28%, 23% and 18.4%, respectively). In the last 20 years, households in the county accepting FoodShare entitlements rose 310%. In the last 15 years, childhood poverty surged 150%, the second fastest increase in the state. The rate at which babies in the county are born with opioids, heroin or other addictive drugs in their bodies more than tripled from 2013 to 2016.

“Soon, we’ll have a whole generation of grade school kids who all have in common a parent who overdosed and died of heroin,” said Janesville police officer Justin Stubbendick. “It breaks my heart to think”….

I  invite readers to read Fallows’s original Eleven Signs a City Will Succeed. (Two posts about Fallows’s article appeared here over a year ago: Part 1, Part 2.)  If there’s anyone who sees Janesville in Fallows’s article he or she needs critical assistance in reading comprehension.

For the Gazette, careful consideration looks like troublesome news from “outsiders who occasionally parachute into Janesville to protest, study the city or otherwise seek attention.”

Actual conditions – of so many in Janesville, Whitewater, Palmyra, Milton – fall below what one might expect in a successful, prosperous community.

A community cannot fix what its leaders will not acknowledge is broken.

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