A Janesville, Wisconsin Resident on His Town’s Politics (with Similarities to Whitewater) | FREE WHITEWATER
FREE WHITEWATER

A Janesville, Wisconsin Resident on His Town’s Politics (with Similarities to Whitewater)

Over at the Real Janesville™ Twitter feed, a resident of that nearby city offers observations on his city’s politics. In a tweet stream from 3.11.21, he describes the election scene in Janesville.

First the feed, then a few remarks of mine on Whitewater.

Advice for Janesville city council candidates: Don’t think you’re an agent for change. You’re not. If elected you will be expected to approve the city’s agenda and directives. You can suggest minor adjustments but most decisions are unanimous.

2) In our at-large leaderless system, the agenda at city hall is not yours or the people who elected you. It doesn’t matter whether we have 7 council members or 99, Janesville may as well have just one council member calling the shots.

3) If there is nothing or little you would do differently than past council issues and decisions, chances are you’re running to “contribute and do your part.” #StatusQuo

4) Any candidate who disagrees with the city’s current direction and policies would have to vote negative on nearly every request. That, and attempting to open insider conversations would be seen as divisive and an act of hostility.

5) Promoting issues important to your particular neighborhood, not on the agenda or that run counter to city directives would also be seen as self-serving and not in the city’s interests. You will be scolded and shut out.

6) Candidates in particular who win endorsements from local special interest groups tied into economic development such as downtown, realtors, chambers and unions are agents for the status quo. None want change. Same old. Same old.

Although Janesville’s city council members are all elected at-large (unlike the mixture of at-large and district elections in Whitewater), that difference isn’t significant in Whitewater when overall participation in government is low in any event. Large parts of Whitewater’s population pay little attention to the city’s electoral politics.

Different factions within the city argue year after year over who’s a real resident, a permanent resident, or a long-term resident, etc. (Old Whitewater is seldom creative except in ways to distinguish between itself and student-age residents.)

Running to “contribute and do your part” is a version of Whitewater’s adult in the room standard, where candidates tout their own maturity despite maturity being only a minimal condition of effective adult participation in society. Making a virtue of the ordinary isn’t praiseworthy, but candidates who think of themselves this way imagine they’re paying themselves a compliment.

The endorsements of development men, in Whitewater or Janesville, are probably the only notable feature of local politics. These men expect nothing but the same, and candidates come and go based on their willingness to support redirecting public money to favored business interests, through crude manipulation of public institutions to private ends. Some of them will, in moments of candor, admit that decades in support of redistribution of public money to private ends have left Whitewater no better than a low-income community.

They will, of course, reach out to self-identifying moderates, liberals, or classical conservatives if those candidates will sacrifice their own beliefs to support a right-of-center business welfare policy.

Indeed, there will often be one or two needy moderates or liberals who’ll align themselves against principle for the sake of developers’ support toward a spot on city council.

These men have two lines, used respectively with newcomers or incumbents:

“Psst, you. How’d you like a spot in government? It’s yours, if you’ll promise us only one thing…”

or

“Hey, haven’t we been good to you? Now, how about you be good to us? It’d be a shame if one of our friends ran against you in a primary…”

Preoccupation with particulars obscures enduring, general trends (in Janesville, Whitewater, or myriad other places).

2 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
A Town Squire
2 months ago

Funny because it’s true. Yeah you got it right.
A lot of people bought the business speak 20 years ago. (I did). Its a joke now so people write it off. People are broke and busted so what good was it? After awhile more people know this so that’s why participation is low. It’s pretend now.
It’s different from 20 yrs ago when people watched candidates better and cared about city elections. Council today is nothing like it was then.
There really is a same old, same old.