The list runs in reverse order, from mildly frightening to super scary.
10. Red Foxes. There are few people who don’t find red foxes beautiful; I’d guess that even people accustomed to the bright colors of the tropics would find a red fox’s coat impressive. But when one first appeared on campus, we might have thought that a Martian had encroached on the city, with warnings not to go near it, or feed it, or encourage it to stay.
We’re a rural area; people are familiar with wildlife nearby and know how to conduct themselves. It’s been here for a bit; in time it will move on. We’ll conduct ourselves properly around it until it leaves the area.
Besides, listen to how foxes sound:
9. Planning from Madison. Whether Democrat or Republican, planning from Madison doesn’t work well. When the WisDems controlled state government, Republicans were right to complain that state-initiated planning rested on dodgy ‘Madison Math.’
It did; they were right.
But now the WISGOP’s in Madison, and working on its own state-centric solutions to local issues, and we’re still stuck with planning that doesn’t work well. It’s right-leaning rather than left-leaning, but it’s still planning that’s as ineffectual or counterproductive as it was before.
8. Numbers Policing. Living one’s life with the outlook that every day is another long slog to hold back the tide must be a wearisome outlook. This city has not, and will not, get a handle on property and nuisance crimes until it gives up a perspective that rests on numbers – counting like that simply doesn’t add up.
There’s lip-service to community policing, but little more, by way of understanding or by daily practice. Us against them (with the feeling of us against the world) is a futile approach.
Managing a tide requires one to abandon one’s fear of the water, and to learn to swim in, and through, the ocean.
7. New People. They shouldn’t be scary, but for some they are. That’s too bad, because we’ve no positive future without an influx of new and energetic residents.
6. Consumer Preferences. Tastes change over time. There’s no reason to fear those changing preferences – they’re not imposed from a small elite, but are simply the consequence of thousands of daily, voluntary transactions and encounters between ordinary people.
5. Crony Capitalism & Big Projects. A few, who have much already, use government to amass more for themselves at the expense of common taxpayers. There is nothing good – but much that’s bad – about a Reverse Robin Hood.
Crony capitalism is false capitalism.
It’s not the poor, public safety, or the administration of justice these avaricious few have in mind – it’s their own enrichment.
We could make far better use of this money, with the best option being leaving it with taxpayers who earned it.
Still, all the hours of discussion, hundreds of headlines, and millions of dollars would have been better applied toward working out fusion power, or a cure for a deadly disease, or even a rewrite of the Obstruction rule in Major League Baseball. (By the way, congratulations, Red Sox – the use of that rule in Game 3 didn’t change your happy outcome.)
4. Empty Transit Buses. Just about any project would have been better than this year-and-a-half failed experiment. There’s more about this yet to be decided, and more to be said, next week.
3. Empty Jargon. Somewhere, there must be Rosetta Stone language software for empty jargon (Business-Speaking Made Easy, Conversational Bureaucratese, etc.) There must be, because one hears proposal after proposal where the substance goes no farther than synergy, leveraging, incentivizing, etc.
2. Conditions. For a few, it’s deeply disturbing to read about some of the city’s actual economic conditions. It’s as though citing statistics that describe material life here were akin to spitting inside the Sistine Chapel.
Quick reminder, to those concerned: it’s not like spitting inside the Sistine Chapel.
Anyone walking about knows that we’re a combination of great beauty and occasional economic difficulties. Anyone visiting will see the same, quickly and surely.
1. Fear Itself. I’m no one’s idea of a New Dealer – I think those varied programs actually forestalled better times. (Here I’m writing about economic policy. On foreign policy, it seems clear to me that any president who led America in a war against the Axis powers deserves humanity’s enduring gratitude.)
Still, I deeply admire Roosevelt and the New Dealers’ love for common men and women, their willingness to describe conditions honestly, and their correct assessment that an honest description would lead to better times.
Politics, policy, and sensible planning demand more than an over-use of exclamation points.
We have no reason to fear looking at hard economic facts; being afraid of the reaction of others, being afraid of what people might say, etc. – simply a general fear – is what’s really scary.
We’ve taken accentuating the positive so absurdly far – out of insecurity or pure vanity – that we’ve abandoned the realistic.
We surely do have a brighter future ahead in our small city – there’s no reason to be afraid to discuss in detail our present position and the road ahead.