The list runs in reverse order, from mildly frightening to super scary. (Before I begin, I’ll note that I think this last year was the worst in recent memory, a time of hardship and loss, often ignored or rationalized, for so many.)
10. Apartment Buildings (Big Ones). We’re fine at building grand things we don’t need, but opposed to building large practical things of which there’s great need. We have a campus, and so many homeowners next to it who are just shocked, shocked that students might want to live nearby their university. Who knew? Oh dearie me — there’s a university next to this house I’ve bought!
That we must not have — it’s an historic neighborhood after all, with signs that declare as much to all the rest of the city.
So be it. Save your embarrassingly dramatic speeches about how you live here, you live here — they do, too.
If you’ll keep renters out, through every restrictive, intrusive approach, they’ll have to live somewhere. A large and well-designed apartment building would be just the thing. Yet, for some, that’s the last thing we should have. Worse, the restrictions were a first option, and a large and attractive apartment building, well, let me see, we’re working on that…
For all the talk about planning, comprehensive plans, provisional plans, plans for nighttime, plans for daytime, plans for twilight, plans for days when it’s just kinda cloudy, etc., even a simple sequence of events is too hard.
9. Responsibility. Did something go well today, in Whitewater? If so, then that accomplishment is the sole achievement of a longtime local resident, an honest, decent, hardworking descendant of Whitewater’s very founders. He or she sprang from the soil, a son or daughter of the pure and noble settlers who built this town, and achieved what he or she did owing to that lineage, and the genius consequently and necessarily inherited.
Did something go poorly today, in Whitewater? Damn it! Those filthy outsiders, those out-of-town reporters, outspoken residents, and those leftwing fanatics from Madison, they’re coming down on us, hammering us, again and again!
Besides, we wouldn’t have problems if people didn’t point them out, for goodness’ sake. We shouldn’t be held to the standard of other, normal towns; we should be able to establish our local standard.
Stop trying to hold us to the standards of Wisconsin, America, and the rest of the civilized world; we don’t deserve that kind of abuse.
8. Drink specials. In a town with economic problems, and problems in the fair enforcement of rules and regulations, here’s an idea: Ignore all that, and regulate all-you-can drink specials.
Sure, the regulation would use regulatory authority to favor some merchants over others, but why not hide that fact behind a laundry list of supposed harms that you would speciously prevent. Just list all the possible problems from alcohol — absolutely anything — with no need for a solid link between drink specials and any of the harms. Science, schmience — why solve a problem like over-consumption through education when one can offer a parade of horribles? After the regulation, the same problems will still take place, but grandstanding officials will have scored their victory, and fawning reporters will take their leads from those officials: Move along, nothing to see here.
7. Conflicts of Interest. Who cares how many different roles, often contradictory to each other, someone plays? If the man playing them insists he can set aside one role, and decide from another, based on his unquestionably exquisite judgment, who are you to doubt him? It’s true that in the rest of Wisconsin, or the rest of America, those conflicts would be obvious and prohibited.
This isn’t the rest of Wisconsin, or the rest of America — this is Whitewater! Shucks, son, that’s the way we do things around here.
6. Criticism. You know, and I know, that outspoken citizens and pesky bloggers in Whitewater aren’t supposed to call for a better standard. They’re supposed to shut up and sing.
If they offer any criticism, it needs to be appropriate, acceptable, approved, and proper. Tone must be watched very carefully, lest you criticize anyone in town with the same vigor that normal Americans criticize their officials elsewhere.
Well, that idea is an infringement on one’s rights as a citizen, and requires obeisance to mediocre officials. Americans are a robust and vigorous people — we need not live the frail and obsequious lives that a third-tier bureaucrat or his few remaining sycophants might want. Not having been born a rabbit, there’s no reason to live like one.
In any event, there will be no going back for Whitewater — on the contrary, there’s so much more yet to write.
5. Time. There’s a line from the series the Tudors, where Henry tells a nobleman that the most precious commodity is time, as it’s the “most irrecuperable.” That’s true. Every day we spend on silly projects and puffery takes away from the real needs of the city.
4. Chocolate Pouring. It’s been a long time since I’ve read Dickens, but I distinctly recall a scene from A Tale of Two Cities, book 2, chapter VII:
Monseigneur, one of the great lords in power at the Court, held his fortnightly reception in his grand hotel in Paris. Monseigneur was in his inner room, his sanctuary of sanctuaries, the Holiest of Holiests to the crowd of worshippers in the suite of rooms without. Monseigneur was about to take his chocolate. Monseigneur could swallow a great many things with ease, and was by some few sullen minds supposed to be rather rapidly swallowing France; but, his morning’s chocolate could not so much as get into the throat of Monseigneur, without the aid of four strong men besides the Cook.
Yes. It took four men, all four ablaze with gorgeous decoration, and the Chief of them unable to exist with fewer than two gold watches in his pocket, emulative of the noble and chaste fashion set by Monseigneur, to conduct the happy chocolate to Monseigneur’s lips. One lacquey carried the chocolate-pot into the sacred presence; a second, milled and frothed the chocolate with the little instrument he bore for that function; a third, presented the favoured napkin; a fourth (he of the two gold watches), poured the chocolate out. It was impossible for Monseigneur to dispense with one of these attendants on the chocolate and hold his high place under the admiring Heavens. Deep would have been the blot upon his escutcheon if his chocolate had been ignobly waited on by only three men; he must have died of two.
Here, in our time and place, an American man or woman should be more than some asinine, third-tier official who expects the world of others in deference and supplication. No one should seek, and no one should be sought, to pour another’s chocolate.
3. Tax Incremental Districts. Oh, what a mess tax incremental financing has been for Whitewater. Predictably, one hears that failures here were the result of a bad economy.
That’s nonsense, and just excuse-making. All Wisconsin felt a bad economy these last few years, but only a small minority of Wisconsin communities have had problems with TID districts as we’ve had. It’s well-past time to except that the fault is a local one, of official bungling and blame-shifting.
2. Big Projects in Small Places. Our so-called Innovation Center is just corporate welfare for the upper-middle class, helping no one — no one — truly in need. All those millions in grants and bonds are misspent on this effort. Other communities would have used this money to a better end.
The lies and emptiness of this project are exceeded only by the vanity of the undertaking.
1. Poverty. We’re a small town with extraordinary poverty among families and children. That’s the real “Banner Inland City of the Midwest,” and all the cheerleading and self-congratulatory rhetoric on earth won’t change that grim truth — that a few officials put their pride ahead of others’ needs.
There’s a way out, and it will come to Whitewater, in time — a smaller government, with good leaders, fewer burdens & regulations to encourage private investment, and an end to cheerleading bureaucrats.
What we have now will be set aside, in favor of a better politics, and our present leaders will be recalled mainly as cautionary examples, of what one should not do.
That better day draws closer, every day.