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Daily Bread for 4.19.24: Barca Declares for Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District (Yeah, That’s Not What Extreme Looks Like)

Good morning.

Friday in Whitewater will be windy with a high of 53. Sunrise is 6:04 and sunset 7:42 for 13h 38m 41s of daytime. The moon is a waxing gibbous with 83.5 percent of its visible disk illuminated.

On this day in 1775,  the Revolutionary War begins with an American victory in Concord during the battles of Lexington and Concord.


One reads that Democrat Peter Barca announces bid for Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District (‘Barca stepped down as secretary of Wisconsin’s Department of Revenue earlier this month’):

Democrat Peter Barca, a former state representative who served in Congress 30 years ago, announced a new congressional run Thursday. 

Barca will attempt to unseat incumbent U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil of Janesville, a Republican, to serve Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District. Barca most recently served as the secretary of Wisconsin’s Department of Revenue, but he stepped down from that role earlier this month.

….

Barca previously served as a U.S. representative for the 1st District from 1993 to 1995. 

The Kenosha resident spent a total of nine terms as a representative in the Wisconsin State Assembly. That included a stint as Democratic minority leader before he stepped down from that role in 2017.

The GOP offered a typically calm & understated reply:

In response to Barca’s announcement, Mike Marinella, spokesperson for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said Barca would be “too extreme for Southeast Wisconsin.”

“Peter Barca has consistently put his out of touch policies ahead of Wisconsinites, and Bryan Steil will have a resounding victory this November,” Marinella said in the statement. 

Barca as extreme would only make sense to people who haven’t seen or heard of Barca. Marinella’s reply is tailored to low-information diehards who think every last person who’s not bright red is, definitionally, an Extremist-Radical-Leftist-Marxist-Socialist-Rastafarian-Syndicalist-Epidemologist.

If anything, Barca is too mild in manner and too tepid in rhetoric for these times. Steil, by contrast, will say whatever he needs to get his base to the polls. If Barca gets the nomination and makes it a close race, then the 1st Congressional District (and Whitewater, especially) can expect Steil to say anything whatever to motivate the conservative populists of the district. If that means falsely describing Whitewater as a dystopia, then Steil (like Trump in Green Bay on 4.2.24) won’t hesitate.

See also The Local Press Conference that Was Neither Local Nor a Press Conference.


Mount Ruang eruption in Indonesia sparks tsunami fear as hundreds evacuate:

Mount Ruang has repeatedly erupted since Tuesday and officials fear it could collapse into the sea and cause a tsunami, as happened in 1871. The alert level for the volcano, which has a peak of 725 meters above sea level, was raised from three to four, the highest level in the four-tiered system

Daily Bread for 4.8.24: The Practical Limits of Closed-Session Meetings in Whitewater

Good morning.

Monday in Whitewater will be sunny with a high of 64. Sunrise is 6:22 and sunset 7:30 for 13h 08m 9s of daytime. The moon is new with .1 percent of its visible disk illuminated.

The Whitewater Unified School District holds an electoral canvass at 4:30 PM. Whitewater’s Planning Commission meets at 6 PM.

On this day in 1959, a team of computer manufacturers, users, and university people led by Grace Hopper meets to discuss the creation of a new programming language that would be called COBOL.


For today, a practical consideration of closed-session meetings in Whitewater. (This leaves aside for now the role of closed sessions as a matter of law. That’s a topic for another time.)

There are two practical reasons to have a closed session: for elected or appointed officeholders (1) to conceal permanently information from public or (2) to conceal information temporarily while discussing action that may become public later.

Both cases have obvious practical limits, for the same reason: as the community is factionalized, and goverment in Whitewater often lacks a strong public consensus, the officials’ closed sessions will lack broad support (or even respect).

In a community where residents are skeptical of officials’ motives, let’s-go-to-closed session looks like officials’ self-protective action. (‘We’re doing it for the community’ isn’t often compelling; ‘we have the right to do it’ falls flat without community support.)

In a community where residents are skeptical (or unaware) of officials’ motives, major announcements upon returning to open session turn skepticism into cyncism. For both the city since last summer, and the district in December, major discussions in closed session have had almost no prior public foundation by those public boards. (Residents, yes, but not boardmembers themselves.) Boardmembers and councilmembers cannot expect that their concerns will resonate with residents unless those officials, themselves,  build a compelling public case, open session after open session.

Coming out of closed session with an announcment without building a predicate foundation with the commmunity makes only a faint sound. It doesn’t matter how much some officials think of themselves (and oh, brother, do some of them think highly of themselves) most residents aren’t impressed. A generation ago more residents might have been deferential to officials’ claims. That was then, this is now.

For better or worse, benefit of the doubt doesn’t appertain in Whitewater’s politics. Elected or appointed officials looking for that benefit will not find it here.

If, for example, someone is sitting in her district office wondering why others aren’t persuaded (let alone obedient!), the answer will be found by looking first to herself. One won’t be persuaded by detailed arguments someone else won’t make, or thoughtful words someone else won’t speak.

If, for example, a long effort council is mostly a closed-session effort, then the lack of a sequential public explanation leaves the closed effort as little more than an exercise in private catharsis.

No one is required to come to table and make a public case. Those who are not at table, however, cannot expect to be among those who enjoy the meal.


Daily Bread for 4.5.24: Before & After the Spring General Election

Good morning.

Friday in Whitewater will be partly sunny with a high of 46. Sunrise is 6:27 and sunset 7:26 for 12h 59m 36s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 14.2 percent of its visible disk illuminated.

On this day in 1792, President Washington exercises his authority to veto a bill, the first time this power is used in the United States.


Before the Spring General Election: Economics to Socio-Economics to Chronic Hardship.

After the Spring General Election: Economics to Socio-Economics to Chronic Hardship.

Before the Spring General Election: What Ails, What Heals.

After the Spring General Election: What Ails, What Heals.

There are fundamental conditions and principles, and then there’s everything else. 


The U.S. economy — national totals — added 303,000 jobs in March. No time to waste this time:

Last time in Whitewater before the pandemic: Whitewater’s Still Waiting for That Boom

No reason to rely on the men who have fumbled again and again, for a generation, in this town.  

Daily Bread for 4.4.24: Economics to Socio-Economics to Chronic Hardship

Good morning.

Thursday in Whitewater will see scattered morning snow showers with a high of 41. Sunrise is 6:29 and sunset 7:25 for 12h 56m 44s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 23.6 percent of its visible disk illuminated.

The Whitewater Common Council meets tonight at 6:30 PM

On this day in 1949, twelve nations sign the North Atlantic Treaty creating the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.


Consider the claim, in a comment at FREE WHITEWATER from two days ago, that some in the retail and service sector in the city (and other area communities) would find lack of confidence akin to low confidence “not in the height of the 2008 recession but certainly in its lingering aftermath.” 

What to make of the claim?

It’s accurate, that’s what.

The Great Recession (2007-2009), more even than the pandemic, was and remains the most important economic event of our time. (The pandemic had immediate and tragic consequences for many lives, but it was the failure to address the Great Recession’s effects that set Whitewater and other places on their economic and socio-economic course.)

Whitewater, in particular, could not have had worse leaders than the ones from that time in grasping and responding to the Great Recession. A few are still around, as feckless and ineffectual as they were then.  

How to think of that time: like a man with a disease untreated, or a broken bone left unset: other maladies or deformities have sprung from the failure to treat effectively the original condition. 

Some of us have, of course, done well even in hard times for others, as an earlier generation did even during the Great Depression. 

Can we who have done well not see that, in our very community, there are longtime residents who through necessity now barter for diapers, baby food, and small appliances? 

That’s hardship for them and policy failure for us. (For advocates of free markets, like this libertarian blogger, these questions arise: did markets reach everyone, if they did not why not, and if they did why were they ineffective in specific cases?)  

Greatly simplified (as these are not wholly separate forces): Economic loss leads to socio-economic dysfunction and socio-economic dysfunction leads to community fragmentation, strife, and chronic hardship.


Daily Bread for 4.3.24: The Easily Predictable, Unsurprising Local Election Results for Whitewater

Good morning.

Wednesday in Whitewater will be snowy with a high of 37. Sunrise is 6:30 and sunset 7:24 for 12h 53m 52s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 35 percent of its visible disk illuminated.

Whitewater’s Lakes Advisory Committee meets at 4 PM and the Landmarks Commission meets at 6 PM.

On this day in 1865, Confederate soldiers abandoning Richmond accidentally kill several people and burn down much of the city:

After a long siege, Grant captured Petersburg and Richmond in early April 1865. As the fall of Petersburg became imminent, on Evacuation Sunday (April 2), President Davis, his Cabinet, and the Confederate defenders abandoned Richmond and fled south on the last open railroad line, the Richmond and Danville.

The retreating soldiers were under orders to set fire to bridges, and supply warehouses as they left. This included exploding the Powder Magazine in the early AM of April 3, at the Shockoe Hill Burying Ground, where the Alms-house was also located. The explosion killed several of the paupers who were being housed in a temporary Alms-house, and a sleeping person on 2nd St. The concussion shattered windows all over the city.[8] The fire in the largely abandoned city spread out of control, and large parts of Richmond were destroyed, reaching to the very edge of Capitol Square mostly unchecked. The conflagration was not completely extinguished until the mayor and other civilians went to the Union lines east of Richmond on New Market Road (now State Route 5) and surrendered the city the next day.


Yesterday’s Spring General Election in Whitewater, for local races in the city and school district, ended predictably. 

In races for the Whitewater Common Council, Greg Majkrzak won an at-large seat over Keith Staebler (786 to 532 votes), Brian Schanen was elected unopposed in the city’s 4th District (359 votes), and Orin Smith was elected unopposed in the city’s 2nd District (63 votes). These are all unofficial (yet decisive) totals.  

In the race for two seats on the Whitewater Unified School District Board to elect two boardmembers, the results were similarly clear (and predictable): Maryann Zimmerman received 1636 votes, Jeff Tortomasi 1562, and Larry Kachel (on the ballot but not seeking re-election) received 919.

While I think Zimmerman would have had a good chance of re-election in any event, various claims and actions against her (a self-injurious cease-and-desist demand from the district superintendent or others’ accusations against her that were irrelevant to her voting record) didn’t prevent Zimmerman from becoming the top vote-getter in all three counties of the district.

Honest to goodness: it’s closer to the truth to say that a few current & former officeholders proved — not for the first time — that it is they who don’t know what they’re doing. 

Update, Wednesday morning: Boardmember Zimmerman’s concerns could (and should) have been addressed promptly and openly between December 2023 and January 2024. The failure to do so, and the serial mistakes this board president, superintendent, and sundry others made could have been avoided.  Secretive, yes. Inept, most definitely. 


Moment huge earthquake strikes captured on cameras across Taiwan:

Daily Bread for 4.2.24: Wisconsin’s Economy and Perceptions of It

Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will be rainy with a high of 40. Sunrise is 6:32 and sunset 7:23 for 12h 50m 59s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 48 percent of its visible disk illuminated.

On this day in 1865, defeat at the Third Battle of Petersburg forces the Army of Northern Virginia and the Confederate government to abandon Richmond, Virginia.


An improving economy will not reach everyone simultaneously, as quickly as one would hope, or even feel like it has arrived after it does. 

Of those not  reached (and worse for not having been reached), Natalie Eilbert reports Wisconsin’s homeless rate edges upward, after nearly a decade of a downward trend:

Wisconsin’s homelessness population is on the rise for the first time in a decade, a trend that will likely grow as federal pandemic-relief programs end and living costs continue to surge.

The trend, in a report by Wisconsin Policy Forum released Wednesday, appears to be driven by the economic hardships and layoffs that have become synonymous with the pandemic, and consequently, the jump in housing costs in the pandemic’s aftermath.

COVID-19 relief dollars managed to head off the pandemic’s impact on Wisconsin’s homeless rate, but that quickly changed when relief dollars expired and eviction moratoriums lifted, said Don Cramer, the Wisconsin Policy Forum researcher who authored Wednesday’s report.

….

That translated to a 13% increase in Wisconsin’s homelessness rate between 2021 and 2022, and another 2% increase between 2022 and 2023. To put this into perspective, 6,055 Wisconsinites were registered as homeless in 2014, but by 2021, that number had fallen to 4,237 — a 30% drop. As of 2023, Wisconsin reported 4,861 homeless individuals.

“The lowest (homeless) numbers in 2021 happened when the state got the most funding from relief dollars,” Cramer said. “When different aids start falling away, we see higher homeless rates.”

While Cramer attributes success against homelessness to federal and state relief funds, this approach (however successful, even temporarily) was destined to be limited by the availability of those funds. A funding program may be vital during an immediate crisis but insufficient afterward. To call upon economic growth to uplift the homeless, however, is to call upon powerful forces that do not reach everyone, or for those with several maladies, will not reach them without intermediate growth among supportive professions and sectors of the economy. (A person who needs medical care, even after finding permanent accommodations, needs an economy that produces doctors and the means to reach them. Productive and prosperous economies create diverse opportunities beyond mere employment for one population or within one sector.) 

For many consumers, Casey Quinlan writes Experts say the economy is getting better, but consumers don’t feel that way. Here’s why:

Consumer sentiment, a smaller survey [as against consumer confidence] conducted by the University of Michigan, also gauges people’s sense of the economy overall, the labor market, and how they see inflation. On Thursday, U.S. consumer sentiment jumped to 79.4 from 76.9 in February and 62 a year earlier, making this its highest level since July 2021.

Joanne Hsu, director of the survey, said in the report that this number is an indication that consumers believe the economy is “holding steady.”

“As the election season progresses and debates over economic policy become more salient for consumers, their outlook for the economy could become more volatile in the months ahead,” she added.

Kevin Kliesen, business economist and research officer at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, said consumer confidence and consumer sentiment are still far below pre-pandemic levels and that it’s a puzzle as to why when the economy has “been growing fairly strongly” in the past year and a half. But like Pancotti, he added that high prices at the store compared to pre-pandemic prices may be playing a role in those measures.

“If you’re like me, you look at something, and you go, ‘Oh my gosh. I remember when it was so much less before the pandemic.’ So I think that calls into question, probably, a lot of people’s perceptions of the overall state of the economy and importantly their consumer finances,” he said.

There’s sure to be a debate about whether perceptions of particular costs, for example, accurately reflect consumers’ general, measurable gains of the last few years. It may be puzzling that consumer confidence and sentiment are lower than an economist might expect, but it’s sensible to say that there’s likely to be a cause, important to those with low confidence and sentiments.

Perhaps higher prices, perhaps something else, but unlikely either magic or delusion.  


No sweat: Moisture-wicking device keeps wearable-tech dry:

Daily Bread for 4.1.24: The Changing University Landscape

Good morning.

Monday in Whitewater will be cloudy with afternoon rain and a high of 47. Sunrise is 6:35 and sunset 7:31 for 12h 45m 13s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 58.8 percent of its visible disk illuminated.

Whitewater’s Equal Opportunities Commission meets at 5 PM, and the Whitewater Common Council holds a special session at 6:30 PM

On this day in 1976, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak found Apple Computer, Inc.


One could say that, in a dynamic society like America’s, every generation’s university landscape is changed from the generation before. In our time, one of those changes is online university education. Earlier this winter, Corrinne Hess reported Universities of Wisconsin launch website to market online degrees (‘Wisconsin Online aims to make it easier for students to register for online classes’): 

On Feb. 1, the system launched Wisconsin Online at online.wisconsin.edu. The website provides access and information about the UW’s 10 associate, 99 bachelor’s and 95 master’s degree programs.

“We have taken a more deliberate approach to this,” Rothman told WPR. “Our role is to use the trusted brands as the Universities of Wisconsin to offer a world class, online educational program.”

The UW has 18,000 “traditional” students who have now gone fully online, Rothman said. 

But the new online portal is also focused on the more than 700,000 people in Wisconsin who have some college credit who now want to finish their degree online, Rothman said. 

“We have a number of students who also want to get their MBA this way,” Rothman said. “So it is simply a way to further address and meet the students where their needs are. “

These programs expand the reach of college education while requiring communities like Whitewater’s to balance new online opportunities with in-person instruction. Successful campus communities will have to advance on both fronts. 


What’s in the night sky | April 2024:

Daily Bread for 3.27.24: “Nice Person, But…”

Good morning.

Wednesday in Whitewater will be windy with a high of 39. Sunrise is 6:42 and sunset 7:16 for 12h 33m 37s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 95.1 percent of its visible disk illuminated.

On this day in 1975, construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System begins.


Yesterday’s post, These Aren’t the MAGA Claims You Were Looking For,  seemed clear to me. While opinions on local issues differ, residents should be able to discern plainly-stated views. (Opinions in Whitewater — and even basic accounts of events — vary among residents now more than at any time since FREE WHITEWATER began publication in 2007. See Rashomon-upon-Cravath.) 

Of that post, summarized:

(1) The post was about open government1.

(2) A more detailed series on the district and proposals to improve governance can wait until after the election.

(3) Too many people in this town have election fever, and it’s left them dehydrated and decomposed. Their malady is not mine.

(4) The claims and proposals that boardmember (and whistleblower) Maryann Zimmerman has made since December are not conservative populist claims. They are claims of no single ideology or partisan view.

(5) I’ve never met Mrs. Zimmerman and it’s not as though we’re in a knitting club together2.

(6) The current board president has done no better than to beg off every question with the false, self-protective claim that he cannot speak for legal reasons and the district has a superintendent who not only won’t speak but has tried to prevent others from speaking.

That’s yesterday’s post in a nutshell. 

And yet, and yet, a community leader wrote me last night to explain to me that, thirteen months ago, Mrs. Zimmerman voted not to deny a petition to alter district boundaries regarding a taxed property, concluding from her vote that Mrs. Zimerman was a “[n]ice person, but she does not know what she is doing.” (I responded bluntly via email.)

This emailer’s claim might as well have been a parody of whataboutism3.

The overall policy competency of this boardmember wasn’t the point of my post.  (It’s evident that she’s as capable as others on the board. Practically, whether intentional or not, this boardmember alone has been able to knock the board president and the district administration back on their heels. It’s much easier to paint a single boardmember as ignorant than it is to admit — or perhaps grasp — that official responses to that boardmember have been strategically and tactically inept. That’s not the fault of students, parents, or residents. It’s the responsibility of boardmembers and administrators who’ve exacerbated the issue through their own responses.)  

A tax issue from thirteen months ago matters not at all now. The insular frustration that’s come to district officials from more recent events, the excuse-making and rationalization of fumbled and self-injurious responses, evidently grips them.

What matters most is a better path than the one that overreaching and underthinking officials have taken. 

Other district officials made that mess.

Nice people, but they do not know what they’re doing.


Belgian farmers spray manure towards police who respond with water cannon4:


1. Of limited, responsible, open government with individual rights, of progressive theology through traditional liturgy, and of cats, this libertarian blogger is, it happens, a true believer.

2. It’s not as though Boardmember Zimmerman and I are in a knitting club together. I don’t knit, and have no idea if she does. Nonetheless, all my best to the knitters of Whitewater and the sheep who’ve supplied their yarn. I have only love in my bleeding-libertarian heart for all of them.

3. The emailer pointed me to the minutes of the year-ago discussion, but in any event, the minutes are not the first place to look. A recording of the meeting would be the first, best place to look. Again and again: no record like a recording. After reviewing the recording, it seems to me that there were issues that no one considered fully. It certainly wasn’t obvious — except to those of narrow and motivated reasoning — that there was one only way to vote on items. 

4. Does anyone know if some of these district officials have visited a Belgian farm lately?

Daily Bread for 3.21.24: The Agenda for the March CDA Meeting

 Good morning.

Thursday in Whitewater will be cloudy with a high of 39. Sunrise is 6:53 and sunset 7:09 for 12h 16m 06s of daytime. The moon is a waxing gibbous with 88.4 percent of its visible disk illuminated.

Whitewater’s Community Development Authority meets at 5:30 PM

On this day in 1963, Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary closes.


Linked above is the agenda for the 3.21.24 meeting of the Whitewater Community Development Authority. Embedded below is the agenda for that meeting.


Athens zoo welcomes the birth of a rare pygmy hippo

Daily Bread for 3.20.24: A Legal (and Free Market) Victory Against the National Association of Realtors®

 Good morning.

The first full day of Spring in Whitewater will be sunny with a high of 40. Sunrise is 6:55 and sunset 7:08 for 12h 13m 11s of daytime. The moon is a waxing gibbous with 81.3 percent of its visible disk illuminated.

Whitewater’s Parks & Recreation Board meets at 5:30 PM

On this day in 1815, after escaping from Elba, Napoleon enters Paris with a regular army of 140,000 and a volunteer force of around 200,000, beginning his “Hundred Days” rule.


 

For generations, the National Association of Realtors® has controlled (as though it were part monopoly, part cartel) the process of buying and selling homes. That control has now come to an end with much of the credit going to a personal injury lawyer in Missouri and his five clients. 

The end of the Association’s stranglehold on the housing market is a legal victory that’s brought about a free-market victory for buyers and sellers. See Powerful Realtor Group Agrees to Slash Commissions to Settle Lawsuits (‘The National Association of Realtors will pay $418 million in damages and will amend several rules that housing experts say will drive down housing costs’) and Five Ways Buying and Selling a House Could Change (‘The National Association of Realtors has agreed to change its policies to settle several lawsuits brought by home sellers — a move that could reduce commissions’). 

These changes won’t solve housing shortages in Whitewater or other small towns, but they will benefit buyers and sellers across the nation in reduced commissions. (America has had among the highest commission fees in all the developed world.)

Well, done, Missouri attorney Michael Ketchmark and clients. You’ve helped all the nation end entrenched, expensive, anti-competitive practices. 


Notre Dame Cathedral could reopen at the end of 2024 as new spire emerges:

Daily Bread for 3.19.24: Better Days for the Whitewater Schools

 Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will be windy with a high of 53. Sunrise is 6:57 and sunset 7:07 for 12h 10m 16s of daytime. The moon is a waxing gibbous with 73.1 percent of its visible disk illuminated.

The Whitewater Common Council meets tonight at 6:30 PM

On this day in 1918, the US Congress establishes time zones and approves daylight saving time.


I went to sleep last night nearly a pessimist; I awoke this morning an optimist yet again. People choose freely, sometimes well, sometimes poorly. For the Whitewater Unified School District, these many months — ending at last night’s board meeting — were a time of free choice for the district’s board president and the district’s superintendent. 

The board president has chosen not to run for reelection; the superintendent has chosen to seek employment elsewhere. In both cases, those decisions are right for those officials and for the Whitewater Schools. Some relationships, including political and employment ones, sadly become irretrievably broken. Repair requires reconciliation, and reconciliation requires a willingness to accept the principles on which a sound relationship rests.

For the Whitewater Schools, reconciliation required these officials to make a choice and commitment they chose not to make. See Speech & Debate in the Whitewater Schools.  See also What Ails, What Heals, and Heals & Ails, General & Particular, Public & Private.

No one should be compelled to choose; it must be a free decision. One wishes the best to both — truly — in the future.  They deserve situations suitable to them. Not every fit is a good fit. The Whitewater Unified School District’s board will soon have the opportunity to choose a new president. That board will be able to oversee the selection of a new superintendent at the earliest opportunity, either through her employment elsewhere, a settlement agreement, or if regrettably necessary through lawful public action of the board.

For Whitewater, the daunting — yet hopeful — building of a new administration in a new district awaits. We need not fear that a choice today will lead to worse outcomes tomorrow. This community can achieve for its students academic success, athletic accomplishment, and artistic achievement under principles of individual rights and tolerance for all, without prejudice toward race, ethnicity, gender, or orientation.

The principles of limited, open, responsible government and individual rights hold the commanding heights. They occupy good ground; they have a defensible position. Those who hold these values will over-match those who oppose them. We need not be afraid of what comes next — we will shape what comes next. 

The work of crafting a new district begins. It is the work of years to come. It will require ongoing attention. Sometimes hard, but easier if we join together. Sometimes daunting, but always possible. 

It’s spring break for the Whitewater Schools next week, but while our students, teachers, and families enjoy their well-deserved vacation, others of us can begin our reflections and recommendations for the future. 

The Whitewater Schools will come through just fine.