Twenty-Five Years On: School Board & City

Alternative title: Culture Advances While Beyond Politics Far Lags Behind.

Over at the Banner, there’s a new feature entitled, “A mini-look at local history – a new Banner Monday project!”  The 10.10.16 entry is about two public actions from twenty-five years ago.

I’m all for history (local or otherwise), but the entry is telling coming from a publisher who’s been in office, on either the School Board or Common Council, for most of the last quarter-century.  In fact, the entry shows how ineffectual Whitewater’s local political class has been for the last generation.  We’ve had significant cultural and demographic change, but government hasn’t kept up.

One reads that on October 10, 1991

[t]he Whitewater School Board is seeking volunteers from the community to serve on a task force charged by the board “to design and implement a student and staff training program to heighten awareness of, and skills responding to, racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity in Whitewater.”

Board members are particularly interested in having strong minority representation on the task force….

These were (and are) good & fair goals, but even a generation later, Whitewater’s political class is still having trouble finding, for example, Hispanic members of the community to take part on municipal political boards.

So much so, that in 2015, twenty-four years later, Whitewater’s City Manager Clapper requested and the city’s common council “authorized forming a community taskforce to investigate possible ways for the city’s Hispanic population to become more active in civic and governmental activities and municipal committees.”  See, Whitewater to seek Hispanic involvement, August 19, 2015.

Whitewater’s Hispanic community has grown considerably during this last generation, as have other groups such as students (of diverse ethnicity), but her political institutions have not kept pace.  Whitewater’s private life during these many years – the demographics and culture of our city – have grown in ways in which a small, insular political class has failed adapt.  (Among that small class, there are some who have even been all-too-evident revanchists.)

The responsibility of successfully encouraging residents to participate rests with the leadership class that governs – especially those who have been in government for decades – in this city. There are some leaders who commendably see this, but too many who’ve not kept pace.

Whitewater is overdue for a politics that matches her community.