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Local Government

Sad Spectacle in Jefferson, WI (and How to Do Much Better)

For four years, either Edgerton or Jefferson, Wisconsin has hosted a costume festival (originally a Harry Potter Festival, this year a Warriors and Wizards festival). Despite three years of disappointment, Jefferson held the festival again this year (after having – astonishingly – signed a five-year deal). I’ve followed the event over the years, and it…

The Walker Cabinet Officers’ Open Letter

Four cabinet secretaries of the Walker Administration have come forward to criticize the governor, and three of them have co-written an open letter against Walker’s relentless emphasis on political gain over sound policies. One of the signatories of the letter is Paul Jadin, who was Walker’s first Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation leader. It says all…

Act Utilitarianism Isn’t Merely a National Scourge

Trump justifies his treatment of Christine Blasey Ford by the outcome of the Kavanaugh hearings: “It doesn’t matter. We won.”

One wouldn’t have to go to Washington, or wait for Trump to speak, to find this sort of act utilitarianism. Long before Trump’s 2016 campaign, officials and self-described community leaders in small towns across America shared a similar calculus. For the sake of some imagined overall gain, individual injuries and injustices have been swept aside.

And so, and so — officials justify financial and personal injuries to individuals on behalf of the supposed greater good of being ‘community-minded,’ of defending the ‘university family,’ or some such collective claim.

Trump’s act utilitarianism did not begin with Trump: it grew in cities and towns in which factions decided they’d take what they want, and conveniently sweep aside others by use of nebulous ‘community’ principles. (In the video above, Trump betrays his amorality early on, as he shrugs his shoulders when part of Christine Blasey Ford’s injury is recounted to him.)

In most of these cases of supposed collective gain, of course, it turns out to be a particular politician, particular businessman, or particular university official who reaps the most at the expense of ordinary individuals, but these community leaders would prefer one didn’t look too closely into that selfish benefit, thank you kindly.

Whether a highly-placed person’s selfish gain, or community’s supposed overall gain, the disregard for individual rights reveals a dark, calculating amorality.

Found Footage: Daily Union Arrives on Subscriber’s Doorstep

See from the Daily Union Bus routes, security and parking addressed for Jefferson festival and Final preparations for Oct. 19-21 festival under way in Jefferson (reporter Ryan Whisner & publisher Brian V. Knox). But see Sean Biggerstaff’s thread on Twitter (“I am disappointed and also angered to say that I will not be appearing at the @WandWFestival in Jefferson,…

Why Dirty Dogs Roam With Impunity

I’ve written before about the foul mess that is the ‘Warriors and Wizards’ festival in Jefferson (formerly a Harry Potter festival before Warner Bros. shut that usage down). So, how is it that city officials, ‘development professionals,’ lying publishers, and bottom-shelf promoters get away with wasting tens of thousands in public funds each year while simultaneously…

Who Will Jefferson’s Residents Believe: Officials or Their Own Eyes?

For three years, the Harry Potter Festival (in Edgerton and then Jefferson, Wisconsin) has been a fiasco and disappointment. (Note: I’ve not experienced personal disappointment: hundreds of patrons have.) It’s now re-branded as the Warriors and Wizards festival – because ignorant promoters ran afoul of the intellectual property rights of Warner Bros. – and with…

The ‘Republican’ Candidate’s Meet and Greet

One reads that the self-described Republican candidate for the 43rd Assembly District will hold a meet and greet next week at a private establishment in town. Good for him – free speech is a core political right. (He’s also scheduled to appear at a local candidate’s forum this week. See The First & Last Questions.) He’s a…

Majority of Walworth County’s Renters are Rent-Burdened

A new study, Paying the Rent, from the Wisconsin Policy Forum finds that a majority of Walworth County’s renters are rent-burdened, placing the county in the top five most distressed in the state by that measurement. (There are, of course, 72 counties in Wisconsin, so Walworth County is among the weakest of a very large…

No Principle But Principle

Over these years that I have written, Whitewater has seen two city managers, three chancellors, four district administrators, and dozens upon dozens of other municipal, school district, and university officials. During this time, this ilk has relied on projects, press releases, committees, and conferences to advance itself at the expense of the community it professes…

Walworth County’s Working Poor

In Whitewater and throughout Walworth County, huge numbers of residents are “asset limited, income constrained [yet] employed” (ALICE®). A report from the United Way of Wisconsin, entitled ALICE® ASSET LIMITED, INCOME CONSTRAINED, EMPLOYED WISCONSIN, reveals the truth about many in our community. Walworth County measures slightly worse than the already-disappointing state average. The talk of…

Self-Defined Notables (in a Small Town)

Over these years of writing, I have sometimes referred to self-important political and community figures in Whitewater as notables, town squires, etc. It should be clear (at least one hopes!) that these descriptions rest not on the basis of others’ actual talent as elites but instead on their overweening (ludicrous, unjustified) sense of entitlement. (Most…

On New Market Tax Credits for a Fairfield Inn and ‘Community Engagement’

The use of government-issued New Market Tax Credits will bring Whitewater a Fairfield Inn and a building for the existing local campus to lease. Proponents of an ordinary hotel and a lease agreement for the university cannot offer any evidence that these projects will boost local individual or household incomes. What one can show –…

The Two Questions that Haunt Old Whitewater

Two questions haunt Old Whitewater (where Old Whitewater is a state of mind rather than an age or a particular person): What does it mean to be a college town? and What is meaningful community development? (There are other serious questions, but one can be sure – at the least – that these two have Whitewater…