FREE WHITEWATER

Poverty

In Whitewater and Elsewhere, Employment’s Only Part of the Story

 In times of high unemployment, of course it makes sense to get people back to work. Jobs, jobs, jobs isn’t a bad mantra when people don’t have work.  (Work isn’t simply about an income, but a place in society.)  Today is not, however, the Great Depression. Listen to ‘development professionals’ go on about job-creation at…

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…

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…

Coerced Beauty Isn’t Beautiful

 

For a thousand years, some men in China insisted that a woman wasn’t beautiful, desirable, and worthy unless her feet had been bound into an unnatural and distorted form.

Rather than allow women to develop normally, these men insisted that their own imposed desires were superior to the natural feminine form.  The price of this imposition was a woman crippled and dependent for life.

If it should be true – and it is – that big-ticket projects in Whitewater have failed the fundamental test of community development (improvement of widespread personal and household economic well-being), then what shall one say of a generation’s efforts in that regard?

If it should be true – and it is – that unfettered demand heavily favors rental housing over single-family units in Whitewater, then what shall one say of a generation’s obsession with promoting a less favored arrangement over a more popular one?

It’s fair to say that some in Whitewater have supported these efforts in the belief that such programs might somehow make life better here. Such support, running contrary to the free, voluntary consumer demand in the whole area, might have been well-meaning, but was no less misguided.

For others, however, there must have been – and must be – some awareness, either partial or complete, that their efforts could – and can – neither meaningfully improve individual well-being nor change appreciably the overall housing stock of the city.

Empty programs attract notice that diverts attention from actual needs, and send resources in the wrong direction.

Community development in Whitewater, as it has been publicly advanced for the last few decades, looks nothing like the development of personal and household economic well-being.  Time and again, public resources have been directed at the bidding of a private business lobby.  Indeed, Whitewater’s Community Development Authority looks as much like a private 501(c)(6) business league as anything else.

Perhaps some in this city can’t imagine otherwise, in the way that years ago some men in China couldn’t imagine beauty unbound.

When the Whitewater CDA’s executive director rattles off an alphabet soup of public agencies to meddle in the marketplace, he’s parroting the sham capitalism so popular among fast-talking officials statewide.  State &  crony capitalism have the same relationship to free-market capitalism as pig Latin has to genuine Latin: they share some of the same letters, but mean very different things.

For a fraction of the public funds wasted on sketchy tech ideas and out-of-town businesses wandering nomadically for a handout, our city might have developed directed programs for the poor, and for in-town enterprises.

If it’s ‘community-minded’ to spread economic myths and reinforce empty boosterism, then to be community-minded has an unworthy meaning.

There is, of course, community happily to be found now in Whitewater, but it rests in private undertakings, apart from those who have directed public institutions to narrow and futile ends.

PreviouslyTwo Truths of Whitewater’s Economy.

Two Truths of Whitewater’s Economy

  There are two truths of Whitewater’s economy, each fundamental and each a refutation to the last generation’s myth-making. For today, it’s enough to list the two fundamental truths.   Large Public Projects Haven’t Overcome Weak Household-Income Levels in Whitewater. This is true both in aggregate, and for age brackets (children, adults 35-64) not representative…

About that Trump Tax Plan

In Whitewater, by press release (twice), one can read about the supposed benefits of the Trump tax plan. The Whitewater Community Development Authority’s executive director, Dave Carlson, was quick to push a portion of the plan as good for Whitewater. In doing so, he conceded what anyone observing Whitewater with care and concern already knew:…

Whitewater Listed as the Poorest City in Wisconsin

Samuel Stebbins and Michael B. Sauter, from 24/7 Wall Street, report Which town in your state is the poorest? Here is the list @ Gannett’s USA Today. For Wisconsin, they contend it’s Whitewater: Town median household income: $30,934 State median household income: $54,610 Town poverty rate: 38.2% Town population: 14,840 Whitewater has both the lowest median household income and the…

A Candid Admission from the Whitewater CDA

Sometimes, however rarely, even in places with the most stubborn boosterism, an official admits – wittingly or unwittingly – the failure of longstanding policy. Dave Carlson, executive director of the Whitewater Community Development Authority, is such an official. In a press release from March 27th, lauding a provision of the Trump tax bill, Carlson quotes…

A National Study on Big-City Economic Development

What’s the relationship, if any, between economic development and inclusion? A study from the Brookings Institution (Metro Monitor 2018) suggests that for large metropolitan areas, there may be one. (I’ll not try to fit these data into a local container. That’s why there’s no ‘The Scene from Whitewater Wisconsin’ logo attached to this post.) Here’s…

Dane, Not the WOW Counties

For many years, Republicans have railed against Madison, and against Dane County, as bastions of dysfunctional liberalism. Indeed, this impulse has been strong even after the GOP gained control of both chambers of the legislature and the governor’s office. Funny, though, that it’s Dane County – not the WOW counties of Waukesha, Ozaukee, or Washington – that’s…

‘Don’t worry about them – the rest of us feel great!

A doctor walks into a town of one-hundred people, and finds that half of them are pale, feverish, and vomiting blood. The physician calls out to a community leader, “Send for help, you have an epidemic on your hands.” The community leader replies, “Oh no, don’t worry about them – the rest of us feel…

Contrast

Consider the contrast between how the Janesville Gazette‘s publisher want his city to be seen, and how an economics reporter describes the Janesville area: Janesville Gazette editorial, A question for Janesville to consider: [James] Fallows and his wife learned the differences between success and failure during a 54,000-mile journey across the United States in a single-engine…