A Review of Whitewater’s Economy is Like Peeling an Artichoke


Artichokes, of course, symbolize the idea of multi-layered things, of peeling back an exterior to discover an interior truth.

Whitewater’s economy is like that – one needs to peel away layer upon layer of happy-talk headlines to address the truth of our present condition. (In a way, the only indubitable success those headlines assure is the continued employment of press-agent reporters and incumbent bureaucrats.)

A traditional presentation in town might start with how wonderful something might be, but place costs, difficulties, etc., only deeper inside, where those critical facts would be obscured and (it might be hoped) forever ignored.

There’s a more reasonable order through which to consider policy in town: begin with our actual conditions, assess previous policies designed to address those conditions, assess whether those policies have been effective, thereafter suggesting either more of the same or, if necessary, something different.

It’s quite the task, both because a good amount of policy in Whitewater seems to end with headlines themselves, deeper and disappointing layers of the municipal artichoke being obscured, and because actual policies are less often self-contradictory or jumbled in odd ways.

It’s a worthwhile project this August to consider (1) the economy of the city, (2) the policies meant to advance that economy, (3) a how those policies have fared (a comparison of claims and results), and (4) what that comparison suggests about effective future policies.

Working though an outline for a series of posts along these lines, one point seems to stand out: major municipal projects in this city often depend on the fiscal account rather than as truly shared public-private ventures.

(An approach like this might seem to be the same as the principle behind tax incremental financing, but it differs in relative public-private share, guarantees of private investment, and suitability for areas outside of those truly blighted parts of the city. If anything, I think one can show that it’s a misunderstanding writ large of the supposed principles underlying tax incremental financing).

This underlying misunderstanding also explains the operative motivation behind a land sale from the city to the Community Development Authority.

Lots to consider, but easily worth pondering. I’m an optimist about the longterm future of the city, and am convinced that looking closely advances good policy.

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