FREE WHITEWATER

CDA

Daily Bread for 2.1.24: Private Company, Public Company, Public Agency

 Good morning.

Thursday in Whitewater will be partly cloudy with a high of 47. Sunrise is 7:08 and sunset 5:08 for 9h 59m 35s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 63.9% of its visible disk illuminated.

Whitewater’s Ethics Committee meets at 5 PM

On this day in 1942, Voice of America, the official external radio and television service of the United States government, begins broadcasting with programs aimed at areas controlled by the Axis powers.


There’s a difference between a private company, a public company, and a public agency. Ordinary people understand this difference, but special interests conflate these three different arrangements to maximize their influence over wholly public agencies. 

First the distinctions, with help from Matt Levine’s description of Elon Musk’s influence on private companies as against public companies. A private company is held individually or by shareholders with shares that do not trade on a public exchange. A public company is a private enterprise with shares that do trade on a public exchange (e.g., the New York Stock Exchange). Levine writes of Musk’s considerable leeway with a purely private company like SpaceX:

At all but one of his companies, he could stroll into the boardroom, throw a big bag of ketamine down onto the table, and say “I need the company to spend $50 million to build a giant golden statue of me riding a rocket,”1 and

  1. the board would be like “yes definitely let’s do it,”

  2. the board members themselves probably are, or represent, big shareholders of the company, and as shareholders they would happily go along with the statue plan to keep Musk happy and dedicated to their company,

  3. the other shareholders, the ones without board seats, are probably even bigger Musk fans, and are probably working on their own Musk statues in their garages anyway, so they’ll be fine with the company spending their money on a corporate gold statue, and

  4. nobody else really has any standing to complain.

And so in fact when Musk went to SpaceX and asked to borrow $1 billion until payday so that he could buy Twitter Inc., the board was like “here’s the check, we’ve left the amount blank, take whatever you need.” And, look, was there a Wall Street Journal article saying “hey that’s weird”? There was; it was weird. Did anything come of that? No. SpaceX could just do that: Musk controls SpaceX, the board loves him, the shareholders love him, nobody in a position to complain has any complaints, and everybody else is in no position to

SpaceX is a bigger version of many private companies: these companies may have one or more owners, and those owners may be shareholders, but those shares are not available for ready trading by the general public. These owners have considerable leeway. 

By contrast, a public company is also a private enterprise, but it offers shares on a public market to which the general public has access during trading hours. Trading on public markets comes with public — governmental — rules & regulations. (There’s a Securities and Exchange Commission, after all.) Levine explains how rules for a public company like Tesla limit Musk:

Tesla is a public company, which means that, even if 99% of shareholders love him, if 1% of shareholders don’t, they can sue.3 They can say: “Look, the board has a fiduciary duty to manage the company on behalf of all shareholders. Giving Musk a giant golden statue of himself is not necessary, or a good business decision, or fair to the shareholders; it’s just the controlling shareholder fulfilling his own whims with corporate money, and an ineffective board of directors giving him whatever he wants. He should have to give it back.” And they will go to court, and the shareholders will make those arguments, and the board will say — accurately! — “no you see giving him this giant golden statue is necessary for us to get more of his incredibly valuable time and attention,” and that will sound bad in court. And then a judge will get to decide whether the deal was fair to shareholders or not, and if it was not, the judge can make Musk pay the company back. Even if the board, and 99% of the shareholders, want him to keep it!

Levine’s description of Musk ends here, understandably, because Levine is writing about Musk’s role in private and public companies. An analysis of these companies is distinct — as Levine knows intuitively — from public agencies and governmental bodies. 

Special interests, however, don’t see it that way: they look at public bodies (a town council, a school board, or a community development agency) and expect that they can manipulate and control that public institution like a private company. They see a public body as another of their private possessions. 

No, and no again: formed only by statutes and ordinances, maintained only under statutes, ordinances, and publicly-adopted policies, these councils, boards, and agencies are public from alpha to omega. 

Special interest men in Whitewater take public bodies and illegitimately and wrongfully refashion them through catspaws into versions of private companies. In this way, they place their hands around a public agency and squeeze until it does their private bidding.  

Which appointed officials come along matters less to the health of this community than that special interests meet their match from among residents until attrition and exhaustion take their toll on that scheming faction. 


What’s in the Night Sky February 2024

Daily Bread for 1.26.24: For Years Ahead, Whitewater Will Have to Adjust from Plugging Leaks to Surfing the Waves

 Good morning.

Friday in Whitewater will see light rain with a high of 36. Sunrise is 7:14 and sunset 5:00 for 9h 45m 46s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 99.1% of its visible disk illuminated.

On this day in 1915, an act of Congress establishes Rocky Mountain National Park.


Policymaking in Whitewater has traditionally been slow, short-sighted, and dull.

For the next few years, at least, to be successful Whitewater will have to adjust from plugging leaks to surfing the waves.

At first, wave upon wave will seem unpredictable, as though the water, itself were awry, askew. And awry comes at you fast:Foresight allows the avoidance of many problems, yet not all. For the unavoidable remainder, it’s “what alternative mission profiles may be feasible at this time.” Whitewater, historically, has never been adept at either foresight or alternative missions.”

The tired refrain that this is how we do business around here won’t be good enough. Not even close to good enough.

Over time, the skillful and adroit will manage the waves and enjoy the ride. 


Protesters across Germany rally against the far-right:

Daily Bread for 11.28.23: Opportunity If We’ll Take It

 Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will be partly cloudy with a high of 23. Sunrise is 7:03 and sunset 4:22 for 9h 19m 44s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 98.4% of its visible disk illuminated.

Whitewater’s Finance Committee meets at 5 PM

  On this day in 1895, the first American automobile race takes place over the 54 miles from Chicago’s Jackson Park to Evanston, Illinois. Frank Duryea wins in approximately 10 hours.


  A 11.21.23 essay from Brookings by author Homi Kharas describes what fuels middle-class optimism. (Kharas has a new book, The Rise of the Global Middle Class, that I have not yet read. For today, this post confines itself to Kharas’s 11.21 essay.) 

Kharas notes the rise of a global middle class:

Joining the middle class has been a ticket to the good life for two centuries now, a history I trace in a new book “The Rise of the Global Middle Class.” The American Dream, the glorious years of European reconstruction after World War II, miracle economic growth in Japan and other East Asian countries, Xi Jinping’s great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, and India’s software revolution each brought hundreds of millions of people into the ranks of the global middle class. Today, thanks to this progress, most of the world, upwards of 4 billion people, enjoy a middle-class or better lifestyle for the first time ever.

Yes. (I’ll note that the period of China’s greatest economic success came only after liberalizing her economy toward freer markets, and that period of liberalization is regrettably over.)

Here’s how Kharas describes middle-class optimism:

Middle-class life satisfaction rests on two pillars. The first is the idea that hard work and self-initiative will lead to prosperity. The second is that thanks to this prosperity, the children of middle-class families will enjoy even more opportunities for the good life.

There’s a local aspect to this. To be successful, a community needs to have middle-class success. 

In Whitewater, CDA types in the decade from 2010-2020 failed to capitalize on state and national economic gains. See Whitewater’s Still Waiting for That Boom. (“While Wisconsin and America advanced, these gentlemen were left admitting reluctantly their own poor performance. (There was a national boom, uplifting many cities, but it passed by Whitewater. What did Whitewater get after the Great Recession, years into a national boom? Whitewater received a designation as a low-income community.  The gentlemen speaking, these ‘Greater Whitewater’ development men, were by their own accounts at the center of local CDA policy during most of the years that the state and national boom ignored Whitewater.) See also A Candid Admission from the Whitewater CDA (“This new EOZ program allows for private investments to be made, with significant tax benefits, in lower income communities like ours that need a boost to their economy,” said Larry Kachel, Chair of the Whitewater Community Development Authority (CDA).” Emphasis added.)

We have a chance for better. See A Development Director for Whitewater (“Whitewater’s development policy is meant to be a community development policy, not one captured against the public interest by a few. Who owns Whitewater? The proper answer — the answer suitable for a beautiful, well-ordered American town — is everyone and no one.”)


Rescued baby turtles scurry into the sea:

Daily Bread for 11.24.23: A Development Director for Whitewater

 Good morning.

Friday in Whitewater will be partly sunny with a high of 30. Sunrise is 6:58 and sunset 4:24 for 9h 26m 18s of daytime. The moon is a waxing gibbous with 90.1% of its visible disk illuminated.

  On this day in 1971, during a severe thunderstorm over Washington state, a hijacker calling himself Dan Cooper (aka D. B. Cooper) parachutes from a Northwest Orient Airlines plane with $200,000 in ransom money. He has never been found.


Like most people, this libertarian blogger likes to listen to music. Much of my favorite music is jazz, and some of that jazz music is played on a piano. I, however, do not play the piano. (A cat walking across the keys would produce a more pleasing sound than any effort of mine.) 

And yet, and yet, like so many others who don’t play the piano, I can tell the difference between competent playing and… something less.

Now, I’m not a ‘development’ person (and have never claimed to be one). Instead, any critique of Whitewater’s traditional development approach offered at FREE WHITEWATER has rested on simple, fundamental analyses of economics, evidence of performance, logical reasoning, and good government.

On this last point: Whitewater’s development policy is meant to be a community development policy, not one captured against the public interest by a few. Who owns Whitewater? The proper answer — the answer suitable for a beautiful, well-ordered American town — is everyone and no one.

Soon, the City of Whitewater will have a new Economic Development Director. WhitewaterWise reports Berg hired as city’s economic development director:

The Whitewater Common Council Tuesday learned from City Manager John Weidl that Calli Berg has been hired as the city’s new economic development director.

According to her resume, Berg brings 25 years of experience in “all aspects of economic development, including business retention, attraction, and expansion,” along with other skill sets, including financial analysis and packaging, grant writing, administration, fund management, and tax increment and credit programs.

She is currently employed as the director of economic development, Milwaukee County, serving in that position since January of 2022. Prior to that, she worked as the director of economic development in the city of Franklin, between 2018 and 2022, and was the president and owner of BDM Services, a company, according to her resume, which provided consulting services to municipalities regarding economic development activities. The business began its operations in 2008.

Berg has additionally held such positions as business development manager with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and director of the Coloma-Watervliet Area Economic Development Corporation, in Berrien County, Mich.

She holds an undergraduate degree in business administration-marketing, and is certified by the International Economic Development Council as an economic developer. She is recognized by the National Development Council as an economic development finance professional and has been named by West Michigan Business Direct Weekly as a Business Leader Under 40, and has earned the President’s Award for Outstanding Achievement from the Michigan Economic Developers Association, according to her resume.

Ms. Berg has an impressive background in development policy.

This libertarian blogger is a tragic optimist, but the fundamental outlook of tragic optimism is, happily, optimism.  

While so very many in the city will be rooting for Calli Berg’s success, no one in Whitewater will be more hopeful than I’ll be. 

One wishes the very best for Ms. Berg in applying her experience and her insight to advance Whitewater’s community development on behalf of all our community.


James Webb Space Telescope captures stunning view of Milky Way’s heart:

Daily Bread for 10.12.23: National Inflation Rate Holds Steady (and Local Implications)

 Good morning. Thursday in Whitewater will be cloudy with intermittent showers and a high of 56. Sunrise is 7:05 and sunset 6:16 PM for 11h 11m 23s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 4.6% of its visible disk illuminated. Whitewater’s Finance Committee meets at 6 PM.    On this day in 1614,…

Daily Bread for 10.2.23: City Staff Members Speak on Behalf of City Manager

 Good morning. Monday in Whitewater will be sunny with a high of 82. Sunrise is 6:53 and sunset 6:33 PM for 11h 39m 56s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 87.7% of its visible disk illuminated. On this day in 1780, John André, a British Army officer, is hanged as a spy…

Daily Bread for 10.1.23: The Shamelessness of the Special-Interest Men

 Good morning. Sunday in Whitewater will be sunny with a high of 84. Sunrise is 6:52AM and sunset 6:35 PM for 11h 42m 48s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 93.3% of its visible disk illuminated. On this day in 331 BC, Alexander the Great defeats Darius III of Persia in the…

Daily Bread for 9.30.23: Fierce or Bust

 Good morning. Saturday in Whitewater will be sunny with a high of 82. Sunrise is 6:51AM and sunset 6:31 PM for 11h 45m 41s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 98.2% of its visible disk illuminated. On this day in 1954, the U.S. Navy submarine USS Nautilus is commissioned as the world’s first…

Daily Bread for 9.25.23: The Special-Interest Hierarchy of a Small Town

 Good morning. Monday in Whitewater will be partly cloudy with a high of 73. Sunrise is 6:46 AM and sunset 6:46 PM for 12h 00m 06s of daytime. The moon is a waxing gibbous with 78.7% of its visible disk illuminated. The Whitewater School Board goes into closed session shortly after 6:30 PM and returns…

Daily Bread for 9.22.23: A Dog-Bite Story (That’s Not Only About Dogs)

 Good morning. Friday in Whitewater will be mostly cloudy with a high of 76. Sunrise is 6:42 AM and sunset 6:51 PM for 12h 08m 45s of daytime. The moon is a waxing crescent with 47.2% of its visible disk illuminated. On this day in 1862, a preliminary version of the Emancipation Proclamation is released…

Daily Bread for 9.21.23: What’s Left of Old Whitewater’s Politicians Put Past Practice Ahead of Principle or Reason

 Good morning. Thursday in Whitewater will be cloudy with a high of 77. Sunrise is 6:41 AM and sunset 6:53 PM for 12h 11m 37s of daytime. The moon is a waxing crescent with 36.5% of its visible disk illuminated. On this day in 1780, Benedict Arnold gives the British the plans to West Point.…

Daily Bread for 9.19.23: There’s a Reason Some Local Politicians Have No Platform

 Good morning. Tuesday in Whitewater will see morning rain with a high of 69. Sunrise is 6:39 AM and sunset 6:57 PM for 12h 17m 24s of daytime. The moon is a waxing crescent with 18% of its visible disk illuminated. The Whitewater Common Council meets at 6:30 PM.  On this day in 1982, Scott…

Daily Bread for 9.13.23: Who Holds the Leash?

 Good morning. Wednesday in Whitewater will be partly sunny with a high of 66. Sunrise is 6:33 AM and sunset 7:07 PM for 12h 34m 37s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 2.2% of its visible disk illuminated. On this day in 1948, Margaret Chase Smith is elected United States senator, and…