Local Government

Daily Bread for 3.1.24: Toward a Unified Public Board Theory in Whitewater

 Good morning.

Friday in Whitewater will be partly sunny with a high of 47. Sunrise is 6:27 and sunset 5:45 for 11h 17m 53s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 70.8 percent of its visible disk illuminated.

On this day in 1917, the Zimmermann Telegram is reprinted in newspapers across the United States after the U.S. government releases its unencrypted text.

Most of the run-government-like-a-business rhetoric leaves this libertarian blogger cold. There are fundamental distinctions between public and private that the mantra about making both run the same way ignores. And yet, ironically, a description of how private corporate boards work, from Matt Levine, is a good starting point for a discussion of public municipal boards. Levine explains when The Board of Directors Is in Charge (and when it’s not): 

The basic rule is that the board of directors of a company is in charge of the company, and when they are faced with a decision, the directors are supposed to make the choice that they believe is best for the company and all of its shareholders. The shareholders don’t make the decision; the board does.[1] 

Now, the directors are elected by the shareholders, and when the company has a controlling shareholder, the idea that the directors are in charge can feel somewhat absurd. The controlling shareholder — say, a founder and chief executive officer who owns 60% of the stock — can come into the boardroom and say “I want you to sell all of the company’s assets to me for $1,” and the directors will say “no, in our independent judgment that’s a bad idea,” and the founder/CEO/shareholder will say “okay you’re fired,” and she will replace them with more pliable directors. And she can do that, because she has the votes.[2] But still: The directors are supposed to exercise their independent judgment and do what is in the company’s best interests, and if they conclude that the founder/CEO’s plan is bad, they have to say no and get fired. They can’t just say “well, ultimately she controls the company, so we have to do what she asks.” Exercising independent judgment is their job.

I cannot promise that every board of directors of every company sees things this way — I think some directors of private startups see their job as “advise and empower the founder/CEO” rather than “exercise independent judgment” — but the courts in Delaware, where most US public companies are incorporated, definitely see things this way.[3] 

(Levine is always worthy reading — insightful and artful.)

There’s much in this description that one can apply to public councils and boards. 

First, ordinarily, a council or board is, and should be, the primary authority in a public institution. 

Second, they are to make decisions in the public interest (as directors are to make decisions in shareholders’ interests). 

Third, just as some shareholders gain so much leverage over an institution that they become controlling shareholders, so in disordered communities special interests sometimes gain control over a council or board and misdirect its attention and efforts to their own selfish ends.

Fourth, the distinction between private and public action is fundamental: public institutions belong to all, while private institutions belong to those who have ownership interests. In the case of Whitewater, the answer to the question Who Owns Whitewater? should and must be Everyone and Yet No One.  

There should be, and must be, a large space for private activity, but just as all cannot be public in a productive society that necessarily depends on private property, so not all can be private in a society that respects equally the rights of individuals. 

While controlling shareholders may dominate and manipulate a private corporation and its directors, however risky that may be, private residents must not dominate public institutions in the same way.

Reasonable people are able to make relevant and material distinctions between private and public

Applied to Whitewater: recently the Whitewater Common Council and for many years the Community Development Authority were run as though this city had a few controlling shareholders who counted for more than others. These controlling shareholders were no better than others, if not in many ways worse. 

There is reason to be concerned that the same special interests (acting as though they are controlling shareholders) are even now plotting a return, first to capture again the CDA and then to capture again the Common Council in the years afterward.

About these scheming men, see The Special-Interest Hierarchy of a Small Town.

Repeated encroachments will only lead to an escalated campaign against their efforts; a campaign against them will not stop until they stop. 

While the city has had a problem with a few residents who have acted as controlling shareholders and catspaw directors, the school district has a different problem: the district has a board that simply will not listen to any shareholders, and is run with, so to speak, a CEO and weak board of directors that allows too much from the CEO and listens too little to the shareholders. 

The city has seen too much influence from a few entitled men; the district has seen too little influence from well-meaning ordinary men & women. 

This, it seems, is the least responsive school board and administration since FREE WHITEWATER began publishing in 2007. (Honest to goodness, I never thought a board and administration would be less responsive than when Steinhaus was administrator, but never say never. See Dr. Steinhaus’s Glass House and Dr. Steinhaus vs. Student: Student Wins!)

I’ll offer a series next week on how we got here, and how to set the district on a better path. 

Jet suit pilots compete in first-ever race: 

Daily Bread for 2.17.24: Smell VR? Perhaps There’s a Use in Whitewater

 Good morning.

Saturday in Whitewater will be sunny with a high of 29. Sunrise is 6:48 and sunset 5:29 for 10h 41m 08s of daytime. The moon is a waxing gibbous with 60% of its visible disk illuminated.

On this day in 1965, the Ranger 8 probe launches on its mission to photograph the Mare Tranquillitatis region of the Moon in preparation for the crewed Apollo missions. Mare Tranquillitatis or the “Sea of Tranquility” would become the site chosen for the Apollo 11 lunar landing.

We Tried Smell VR – and It’s Better Than You Think!

When this libertarian blogger first watched the video, aroma-producing VR seemed clever but with no significant value. On reflection, I now see that my initial assessment was ill-considered. There are uses for aromatic VR.

In Whitewater, smell VR could be used to signal to those watching a public meeting when a notably bad proposal or suggestion is being made. At that moment, the smell of skunks, dog poop, or skidrow bum would flood the meeting chamber or emanate from someone’s home computer or cable box. (Admittedly, viewers would have to spray air freshener afterward, and in large quantities whenever a special-interest man took to the podium.)

Americans are creative; I’m sure we could work the bugs out. Now’s the time for the Whitewater University Innovation Center (honest to goodness, they still call it that) to start innovatin’. 

He’ll meet you at the door:

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Daily Bread for 2.7.24: What’s Next, Common Council?

 Good morning.

Wednesday in Whitewater will be cloudy with a high of 48. Sunrise is 7:01 and sunset 5:16 for 10h 14m 29s  of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 7.9% of its visible disk illuminated.

Whitewater’s Landmarks Commission meets at 6 PM

On this day in 1979, Pluto moves inside Neptune’s orbit for the first time since either was discovered.

  The Whitewater Common Council met last night, and appointed two residents to fill vacancies (Carol McCormick to fill an at-large vacancy into April 2024, and Patrick Singer to fill the District 1 vacancy into April 2025.)

In all that comes next, as with what’s come before, it’s what officeholders elected or appointed say and do: public words and public actions in sessions, on recordings, and in transcripts.

People choose freely, sometimes well, sometimes poorly. Whitewater deserves only the former.

California rains trap travelers like rats hotel guests:

Daily Bread for 2.6.24: The First Common Council Session in February

 Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will be partly cloudy with a high of 45. Sunrise is 7:02 and sunset 5:14 for 10h 11m 56s  of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 15.2% of its visible disk illuminated.

The Whitewater Common Council meets at 6:30 PM

On this day in 1862, forces under the command of Ulysses S. Grant and Andrew H. Foote give the Union its first significant victory of the war, capturing Fort Henry, Tennessee in the Battle of Fort Henry.

  Linked above is the Whitewater Common Council agenda for the first council meeting of February. Embedded below is the agenda for the session. Let’s see what happens: 

Why human brain cells grow so slowly:

Daily Bread for 2.4.24: Here & Now Reports on Whitewater’s Newcomers

 Good morning.

Sunday in Whitewater will be partly sunny with a high of 46. Sunrise is 7:05 and sunset 5:12 for 10h 06m 54s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 33.4% of its visible disk illuminated.

On this day in 1789, George Washington is unanimously elected as the first President of the United States by the U.S. Electoral College.

PBS Wisconsin’s Here & Now reports on immigration in Whitewater

On “Here & Now,” Nathan Denzin unpacks why large numbers of migrants are heading to Whitewater.

However unnecessarily controversial1 the issue has become, this libertarian blogger has not commented on a letter to Pres. Biden that led to state and national discussion of our small town. Not unwillingness but patience has prompted my stance: the truest test of what city officials profess and how they act will come if Whitewater becomes part of the national discussion during the fall election. I would hope that test does not befall our city; this community has endured even now too many lies and too much vilification. 

Knowing what has happened, local officials must be prepared to defend zealously and diligently should distortions of our city become part of a state or national campaign this autumn. 

X-ray sky as seen by eROSITA instrument in space:


1. This matter has been unnecessarily controversial. The closed ‘press conference’ of Sen. Johnson and Rep. Steil was all anyone needed to know to see how almost any further communication from the city would be misrepresented. Of the Johnson-Steil press conference see The Local Press Conference that Was Neither Local Nor a Press Conference. Of the sensible recommendation against highlighting migrants further as a staffing justification in 2024’s fraught atmosphere see More on the 11.21 Council Session:

If a [staffing] study on the matter points to the need for more officers, and if the method of hiring requires a referendum, then (but only then) the question of staffing becomes an electoral & political matter. There’s sure to be a desire, from city staff and the department, to address all of this now. Choosing among justifications, however, has political implications. 

How to present a referendum is a matter that can be addressed when the city is closer to a vote (likely spring 2025). 2025 may seem close, but there’s plenty of time.

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 1.30.24: Hey, Journal Sentinel — Yeah, Sure, They’re Both Old. If That’s All You Can See, You’re Politically Blind.

 Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will be cloudy with a high of 38. Sunrise is 7:10 and sunset 5:05 for 9h 54m 50s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 80.1% of its visible disk illuminated.

On this day in 1930, the Politburo of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union orders the confiscation of lands belonging to the Kulaks in a campaign of Dekulakization, resulting in the executions and forced deportations of millions.

Trump is old, and Biden is old. Neither is getting any younger. And yet, and yet, if that’s all someone sees in these men, then he or she is politically blind. Along comes the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel with a story that gives voice to the ignorant and obtuse among us in ‘They’re both dinosaurs’: Concerns about age drive lack of enthusiasm for Biden and Trump.

It’s much easier for the Journal Sentinel to publish a story with a handful of snide quotes from superficial voters than to use their print & web space to show political and legal differences between the candidates.

Perhaps that’s why the Journal Sentinel Has Lost 81% Of Readers. 

Meanwhile, in Whitewater, an evergreen reminder: Telling readers who the applicants are for local offices (before the deadline has arrived!) matters less than what those applicants believe and how they would act on those beliefs. 

I’ll wait.

Mona Lisa Glass Case Splattered With Soup by Food Protesters in Paris:

Environmental activists splattered the Mona Lisa with soup on Sunday morning as they called for the right to healthy and sustainable food. The protesters threw tomato soup at Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, which is protected by a glass case in the Louvre museum in Paris.

The painting wasn’t damaged and the gallery where it hangs was closed for an hour for cleaning, the Louvre said. The room reopened at 11:30 a.m. local time.

Quick comments: (1) Most performative protests are unproductive or counter-productive, (2) throwing soup at painting to protest for “healthy and sustainable food” is nuttily counter-productive, (3) Oh, my — France went from Devenue and Belmondo on the run to Riposte Alimentaire‘s soup-hurling act? That’s a disturbing devolution if ever there were one. 

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 1.25.24: Now is Whitewater’s Time to Seize an Improving National and State Economy

 Good morning.

Thursday in Whitewater will be cloudy with a high of 39. Sunrise is 7:17 and sunset 4:59 for 9h 43m 36s of daytime. The moon is full with 100% of its visible disk illuminated.

Whitewater’s Lakes Advisory Committee meets at 5 PM and the Board of Zoning Appeals meets at 6 PM

On this day in 1945, the Battle of the Bulge ends in an Allied victory. 

When the national economy is poor, it’s unlikely that Whitewater (having for years lagged the national economy) would do well. When the Wisconsin economy is poor, it’s unlikely that Whitewater (having for years lagged the state economy) would do well. Even when the national economy was doing well years ago, Whitewater was behind

As it turns out, happily, the state and national economies are again doing well. Those favorable economic conditions are an opportunity for Whitewater — now’s the time to join in America’s and Wisconsin’s achievements. Of those national economic gains, there’s more good news from across a continent with 340 million people. Ben Casselman reports U.S. Economy Grew at 3.3% Rate in Latest Quarter (‘The increase in gross domestic product, while slower than in the previous period, showed the resilience of the recovery from the pandemic’s upheaval’):

The U.S. economy continued to grow at a healthy pace at the end of 2023, capping a year in which unemployment remained low, inflation cooled and a widely predicted recession never materialized.

Gross domestic product, adjusted for inflation, grew at a 3.3 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter, the Commerce Department said on Thursday. That was down from the 4.9 percent rate in the third quarter but easily topped forecasters’ expectations and showed the resilience of the recovery from the pandemic’s economic upheaval.

The latest reading is preliminary and may be revised in the months ahead.

Forecasters entered 2023 expecting the Federal Reserve’s aggressive campaign of interest-rate increases to push the economy into reverse. Instead, growth accelerated: For the full year, measured from the end of 2022 to the end of 2023, G.D.P. grew 3.1 percent, up from less than 1 percent the year before and faster than in any of the five years preceding the pandemic. (A different measure, based on average output over the full year, showed annual growth of 2.5 percent in 2023.)

Emphasis added. 

Now’s the time. 

Rare double brood of cicadas will emerge this spring:

Daily Bread for 1.24.24: Rashomon-upon-Cravath

 Good morning.

Wednesday in Whitewater will be rainy with a high of 37. Sunrise is 7:16 and sunset 4:57 for 9h 41m 27s of daytime. The moon is a waxing gibbous with 98.8% of its visible disk illuminated.

On this day in 41, Claudius is proclaimed Roman emperor by the Praetorian Guard after they assassinate the previous emperor, his nephew Caligula.

  Whitewater has been in, and will yet remain for years, in a local version of Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon: people in the city will express markedly different, sometimes contradictory, accounts of behavior and events. While it’s natural for people to see events with slight variations, Whitewater is in a period where accounts and perspectives even within the same small town are now disparate and exclusive of other views.

And so, and so, not everyone will agree on which animals are leopards, so to speak. America is now like this, Wisconsin is now like this, and Whitewater is now like this. To say as much is neither a challenge nor a taunt. It’s perhaps the one observation on which everyone can still agree. (It’s true, by the way, even if others don’t agree.) 

A question for those in, and those following, local government presents itself: How will you manage in conditions where there are basic disagreements about the very facts under consideration?

Wanting conditions to return to yesteryear’s certainty (never as certain as assumed in retrospect) won’t work. Whitewater’s policymakers will not be able to reconstitute the past. Yesterday’s tricks won’t work with today’s dogs. 

Those who can adjust temperamentally and intellectually to uncertainty and essential disagreement will fare well (or well enough). Those who are looking for predictability and consensus will fare poorly. 

As always, a sound approach: The hotter the temperature, the colder the man. 

Rashomon is an extraordinary film. If you’ve not seen it, here’s a new trailer to entice you.

Daily Bread for 1.10.24: Leopards.Do.Not.Change.Their.Spots.

 Good morning.

Wednesday in Whitewater will be cloudy with a high of 32. Sunrise is 7:24 and sunset 4:40 for 9h 16m 29s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 1.1% of its visible disk illuminated.

On this day in 1946, the United States Army Signal Corps successfully conducts Project Diana, bouncing radio waves off the Moon and receiving the reflected signals.

If Whitewater ever needed a refresher on special interests in the city, here’s a maxim worth remembering:

Leopards do not change their spots. 

If a Getty Images photo of a leopard doesn’t convince (and honest to goodness it should), here are two posts relevant & material to this very topic — 

Whitewater’s Residents Have a Front Row Seat to the Special Interest Method:

Special Interests Would Rather Not Be Seen. Ideally, they will put their operatives and catspaws on boards and commissions without much attention. For elected positions, they’ll look for districts with no one else running. Districts like that are a golden opportunity to run candidates wholly devoted to them but so objectionable to ordinary residents that those types of candidates could never win otherwise.

Special Interests Typically Speak (Deceptively) in the Language of Good Government:

Typically (but not always), special interests speak deceptively in the language of good government. They will ask for cooperation, partnerships, collaboration, openness, and transparency. To get close, they will speak the language and make the sounds of those they seek to manipulate. 

Their technique is effective with well-intentioned people who assume (mistakenly) that everyone else is well-intentioned.

There are other approaches special-interest men will try, if they’re denied their unjustified requests. They may express outrage (how dare you?! insane! outrageous!). This outrage has both a cause and an intended effect. The cause is, most often, an insult to their excessive sense of entitlement. It hurts them that others do not see them as special, gifted, or better than others. So they squeal and shriek when someone reminds them that they aren’t what they think they are, or they don’t deserve an extra portion of dessert, etc. 

This expressed outrage often works an effect favorable to the special-interest types: others simply back down to avoid a confrontation.

If speaking in the language of good government doesn’t work, and if outrage doesn’t work, they may try to show how they are, in their view, more deserving than others. They will not do so themselves, however; they will find a catspaw who will praise how deserving they are in grandiose terms (how much these types supposedly love, care, or feel). These claims will not be measurable (one person’s love against another, for example). Indeed, how could they be? Nonetheless, grandiosity will be their starting point. 

Where they are, commentary & criticism will follow. Neither will stop until they do. 

What is the smallest country in the world? Here’s its area:

Daily Bread for 1.9.24: Awry Comes at You Fast

 Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will be snowy with a high of 34. Sunrise is 7:24 and sunset 4:39 for 9h 15m 07s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 4.8% of its visible disk illuminated.

Whitewater’s city hall and schools are closed today. Play responsibly. 

On this day in 2007, Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduces the original iPhone at a Macworld keynote in San Francisco.

Yesterday’s post included a video of the successful launch of a private lunar lander (see US firm launches moon lander to space).  Not long afterward, that mission went awry. Kenneth Chang reports American Company’s Spacecraft Malfunctions on Its Way to the Moon (‘After a flawless launch to orbit, the privately built robotic Peregrine lander is unlikely to reach the lunar surface because of a failure in its propulsion system’): 

The first NASA-financed commercial mission to send a robotic spacecraft to the surface of the moon will most likely not be able to make it there.

The lunar lander, named Peregrine and built by Astrobotic Technology of Pittsburgh, encountered problems shortly after it lifted off early Monday morning from Cape Canaveral, Fla. The launch of the rocket, a brand-new design named Vulcan, was flawless, successfully sending Peregrine on its journey.

But a failure in the lander’s propulsion system depleted its propellant and most likely ended the mission’s original lunar ambitions.

“The team is working to try and stabilize the loss, but given the situation, we have prioritized maximizing the science and data we can capture,” Astrobotic said in a statement. “We are currently assessing what alternative mission profiles may be feasible at this time.”

And there we are: 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. 

We can do much better. 

South Korea passes bill to ban dog meat industry

Daily Bread for 1.3.24: Hockey, Hayek, and Hope

 Good morning.

Wednesday in Whitewater will be cloudy with a high of 34. Sunrise is 7:25 and sunset 4:33 for 9h 08m 11s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 54.9% of its visible disk illuminated.

Whitewater’s Library Board meets in closed session at 4:30 PM

On this day in 1777, General Washington defeats British General Lord Cornwallis at the Battle of Princeton.

Whitewater has had significant political activity throughout 2023, and the local Spring Election awaits the city in April. 

There’s more than one way to think about these changes, but political, economic, and social dynamism is common across America. It’s not merely common, but felicitously a source of our national strength, making us the envy of other peoples around the world.

A few remarks about hockey and Friedrich Hayek (not usually associated) explain much of Whitewater’s recent politics. 

Consider ice hockey, starting with the rink on which that game is played.  

By Jecowa at English Wikipedia. Public Domain,

Odd, isn’t it? Circles and lines across a sheet of ice, on a rink where those markings and the players skating in competition would seem incomprehensible to someone unfamiliar with the game.

And yet, and yet, for a little bit of time and willingness, someone can learn about hockey and enjoy watching or playing a game. Indeed, without markings on the ice, and rules of the game, there would be no National Hockey League. A few people might be on a few rinks, but those few would never unite into a profitable professional association. 

As it turns out, local governments have their own version of rules from federal & state statutes, local ordinances, and local policies those communities adopt as binding. In Whitewater, relevant & material statutes, ordinances, and policies are compiled (in significant part) in the city’s Good Government Manual and the CDA Rules of Procedure.  

A key point that cannot be emphasized enough: these federal and state statutes, city ordinances, and local policies pre-date the current city administration. They are not a new development. They always should have been, and now are, being read and applied as they were meant to be applied. They were years ago lawfully drafted and adopted. If their application has seemed alien to some in Whitewater, then it is because some have unfortunately become unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the lawful rules and procedures for this very town. 

To do otherwise would be to expect the equivalent of a hockey game where players follow no rules or different rules, crashing into each other and the boards. 

And look, and look — this libertarian blogger is not a member of the government and never will be. This libertarian blogger has never represented the government and never will. It is right, however, to follow the rules properly established at federal, state, and local levels until they are lawfully revised. 

Deprecation of these rules does not advance this city; it perpetuates backwardness. 

This brings us to Nobel laureate Friedrich Hayek. Hayek was an opponent of most state planning, and rightly so. He understood, however, that some level of preliminary planning (and this meant government planning) was necessary to make private success possible. His remarks on this point in The Road to Serfdom are oft-quoted:

Nor is “planning” a medicine which, taken in small doses, can produce the effects for which one might hope from its thoroughgoing application. Both competition and central direction become poor and inefficient tools if they are incomplete; they are alternative principles used to solve the same problem, and a mixture of the two means that neither will really work and that the result will be worse than if either system had been consistently relied upon. Or, to express it differently, planning and competition can be combined only by planning for competition but not by planning against competition.

It is of the utmost importance to the argument of this book for the reader to keep in mind that the planning against which all our criticism is directed is solely the planning against competition the planning which is to be substituted tuted for competition. This is the more important, as we cannot, within the scope of this book, enter into a discussion of the very necessary planning which is required to make competition as effective and beneficial as possible. But as in current usage “planning” has become almost synonymous with the former kind of planning, it will sometimes be inevitable for the sake of brevity to refer to it simply as planning, even though this means leaving to our opponents a very good word meriting a better fate.

(Emphasis added.) 

F.A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom 89 (The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek, Volume 2 ed. 2007).

Government’s orderly planning, including the application of established policies, makes government responsible. It also leaves government in its proper, limited place. 

Hope for a better future is not only — and not principally — to be found within the walls of city hall. 312 W. Whitewater Street is merely one address in this city. Whitewater is a city of fifteen thousand, not fifteen. Whitewater’s many private needs will not be met through fights among government men or recriminations among them. 

The purpose of a well-regulated government, like a well-regulated militia, is (and must be) to protect the flourishing of private life. 

There is much that must be accomplished in this regard. See Waiting for Whitewater’s Dorothy Day, Something Transcendent, and in the MeantimeAn Oasis Strategy, The Community Space, People Bring Color. From Government, Failure is Both Loss and Distraction, and The Shape of Decline to Come (and How to Carry On).

Hope comes privately and stays privately. She’s more likely to arrive, and more likely to stay, in a city of rules-based limited government.

What’s Up: January 2024 Skywatching Tips from NASA:

Daily Bread for 12.22.23: The Never-Ending Pool Story

 Good morning.

Friday in Whitewater will be cloudy with a high of 45. Sunrise is 7:22 and sunset 4:24 for 9h 01m 44s of daytime. The moon is a waxing gibbous with 79.3% of its visible disk illuminated. 

On this day in 1864, Savannah, Georgia, falls to the Union’s Army of the Tennessee, and General Sherman tells President Lincoln: “I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the city of Savannah.”

 Whitewater has a pool and fitness center, and has had one for many years. The local school district owns the building and the city manages the pool. Negotiations for a new agreement between those two parties have dragged on for centuries decades a long time. 

There are only two ways for a serious person to describe the length of time these negotiations have carried on: as a straightforward, neutral account or as a farce. Professional reporting presents these events, as it must, straightforwardly (leaving readers to decide for themselves how nutty this all is). See School board says it will consider arbitration regarding aquatic center agreement; city cites contractual changes, issues of transparency.

Commentary, however, is not so constrained. And so, and so: These protracted negotiations have long ago descended into farce. What’s wrong with some of these people? Honest to goodness.

I have advocated for months in favor of an agreement. See The Pool (‘The rational course is a settlement that assures ongoing operation at minimal cost while further discussions on medium and long-term solutions are crafted. A reduction in political temperature — down to, let’s say, negative 30 Fahrenheit — would serve this community well’), Prioritization in a Small Town (There’s a tendency in Whitewater for people to flit from issue to issue, supposed crisis to crisis. For example, is there a need to address the substantive quality of a Whitewater public education, an athletic field, or a pool? Is there a need for housing, to address poverty, or to improve the lakes, etc.? These and other matters are important, but which matters more, and in which order should they be addressed?’), and Chronologies (‘From the school board, this has stopped being responsible dealmaking and has descended into negotiations as a fetish. Those who wish to be taken seriously behave seriously. These board changes aren’t serious; they’re ridiculousness cosplaying as seriousness’). 

And now, and now… the Whitewater Unified School District describes its view of the negotiations: 

To which the City of Whitewater comprehensively responds in a 49-page reply (link and see embed at the end of this post). 

A few key points.

This matter should have been resolved months ago. 

This matter was not, and could not, have been resolved by a councilman and a school board member sitting in the middle of a room tryin’ to hash all this out. It’s about a detailed contract, and hugging it out wasn’t going to work. 

Nothing about this matter will be settled by a ‘save the pool’ committee. A superintendent with an evident will to power was always going to walk all over that tiny band. See More on Messaging in Whitewater (‘At a council meeting about a month ago, a resident pointed out that the City of Whitewater’s success in moving toward a resolution of the funding dispute for the pool rested with Whitewater’s city manager, John Weidl. You know, although I’m not in the habit of touting the public sector, the resident’s observation is spot on. There was a ‘Save the Pool Committee’ formed in the winter or late spring of this year, not long before the April spring elections. That committee held a few of its own meetings, and leading members of that group attended a few public meetings, but it contributed next to nothing to the work that moved pool negotiations along’). 

The city administration suggested arbitration months ago; it would have been more economical than protracted negotiations. 

Money spent on the pool is a serious matter; time lost when this district’s board president discusses a pool rather than education is irrecuperable. 

Finally, the nuttiest development so far is the appearance on the Whitewater Common Council dais of the school district’s press release before the latest council meeting.

Here’s the reporting on the mysterious placing of those documents on the council table:

Responding to questions posed by WhitewaterWise, Whitewater City Manager John Weidl said that he was first made aware of the district’s statement when he found a copy “sitting with my (Tuesday common council) agenda packet materials at the dais.”

He noted that the council president, upon seeing the distributed statement, asked about its appropriateness as a handout.

Weidl said he told the council president that handing the statement out without it undergoing the appropriate process for inclusion on a council meeting agenda would be a violation of the city’s transparency ordinance.

Said Weidl: “I further explained that I would have the city clerk enter a copy of what was received into the public record at the next available opportunity.”

Weidl added, that, to “everyone’s credit, the paper copies were collected and given to the clerk.”

Wait, what? How did copies of the district’s press release appear at the council table before the recent council meeting?

Did Whitewater’s superintendent, ensconced in the district’s office, snap her fingers and summon one of her many elves to scamper across town to deliver the press release? 

And if so, did anyone see School Board President Larry Kachel anywhere near the city council table before the meeting?

The memo from the city administration in reply to the district’s press release appears below:  

Download (PDF, 1.58MB)