A Bit More on Examples | FREE WHITEWATER

A Bit More on Examples

I’ve written about Milton as a bad example for Whitewater, and I’ve written about Jefferson this way, too. See Sunshine Week 2018 (The Bad Example Nearby), Attack of the Dirty Dogs, and Thanks, City of Jefferson!.

The Milton-related post prompted two readers to ask about my connections to that troubled school district’s politics. I’ve replied to them directly, and I’ll share my general reply here (there’s nothing whatever confidential in it, and I’ve no connection).

A key practice for a town blogger is to be open to political events and readers’ messages without becoming part of the factions contesting over local events. The best policy is one of distance, detachment, and diligence (where diligence operates from a distant and detached perch). One cannot state how important this practice is: one loses much by becoming enmeshed in a factional conflict.

When one writes about another place, doing or well or poorly, it doesn’t mean that one is connected to anyone there. (Indeed, concerning troubled places, one would have no reason to want to be connected other than by observation and reflection.)

The Milton School District is struggling (honest to goodness, it’s a mess in many ways, and a case study in how not to manage, how not to serve on a school board, and how not to advise a school district). Jefferson’s Harry Potter Festival is an example of how shabby productions become entrenched when officials’ pride causes them to double-down on bad ideas. (Whitewater’s now-abandoned waste-to-energy scheme was like this: the city’s wastewater superintendent couldn’t on his own let go of an economically and environmentally bad idea.)

Milton’s taken the wrong course on open government, and serves as a bad example for us, but even without that example one could identify and rightly oppose a retreat from open-government in Whitewater.

So many local officials and local notables mistakenly, but hungrily, see themselves as cosseted celebrities. The limelight should belong to good ideas and good causes, and to the marketplace of ideas where good ideas daily contest against worse ones. More public information, of the most accurate kind, enriches.

As for following majoritarian fashion, one can happily leave that to others. British philosopher Adam Ant always inspires: “We don’t follow fashion/That’d be a joke/You know we’re going to set them, set them/So everyone can take note, take note.”

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