School District

Daily Bread for 5.8.24: The Special-Interest Hierarchy of a Small Town (Adjacent Support)

Good morning.

Wednesday in Whitewater will be partly sunny with a high of 75. Sunrise is 5:38 and sunset 8:04 for 14h 26m 27s of daytime. The moon is new with 0.2 percent of its visible disk illuminated.

On this day in 1877, at Gilmore’s Gardens in New York City, the first Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show opens.

In September, I wrote of The Special-Interest Hierarchy of a Small Town:

In a small town, and perhaps elsewhere, there are four tiers within a special-interest hierarchy: principals, operatives, catspaws, and residents. Only the first three serve, reliably, the special interest; the fourth is a large group of unaffiliated people that the special interests must persuade or dissuade repeatedly. 

A special-interest faction, or in the case of the Whitewater Schools an unresponsive board and superintendent, depends on the reliable service of the first three groups (principals, operatives, and catspaws). Some residents, however, may be counted on now and again to support special-interest or insider-group actions. These kinds of residents offer hit-or-miss support. I’ll list a few of them, readily recognizable in Whitewater and towns across the world.

Boosterism and Toxic Positivity. There are always a few residents who feel that criticism is a crime, an offense against man and God, and so must not be tolerated. The boosters feel that accentuating the positive, and burying the negative, is a legitimate (indeed necessary) pursuit. You’ll see them patrol social media looking to rebuke others who offer sincere criticism.

The delusional are sufferers of toxic positivity; the most acute cases are simply lickspittles.

Many of these types are a few moments away from screaming ‘love it or leave it.’ All of those who would do so are ignorant of their own country’s proud history of robust criticism. Even the most degraded hovel in medieval Europe, flea and lice-infested, had apologists of someone’s special schemes. Centuries later, in an America that is a world-historical state, there are still a few locals who live as though American liberties meant nothing, carrying on as though vulgar locals in a rat-dominated hamlet of 1300s Bavaria.

The indictment and conviction of the boosters: narrow of mind and small of heart.

These types, however, are useful as apologists and enforcers of special-interest schemes.

(A better outlook: Tragic Optimism as an Alternative to Toxic Positivity.)

The Concerned Passerby. When faced with a challenge to their position, special interest men cannot always count on themselves as principals, or their operatives and reliable catspaws. Cronyism and entitlement do not run themselves! They’ll look around, and find someone who seems unaffiliated, but is willing to do their work now and again. Although not reliable all the time, these types can be persuaded for a specific task.

They’ll seem like concerned passersby, simply trying to help, but no! They’re truly working to advance a special-interest or closed-government perspective. They’re harder to spot than boosters, sufferers of toxic positivity, or lickspittles, but still identifiable to ordinary residents. They’ll show up and profess simple concern, as ‘adults in the room,’ but after listening to them, it’s clear they’re rationalizing a nefarious cause (e.g., advancing a self-dealer’s plan, or shutting down a discussion).

Scoundrels. Special-interest men want to win, and that means bending public policy to their own ends. Closed-government types want to control public policy without public consent. In both cases, they pervert public life. They create a corrupted, degenerate form of government.

When faced with a difficult challenge, and when smearing challengers is too much even for principals, operatives, and catspaws, they’ll turn to scoundrels. The Oxford American Dictionary offers a plentiful list of synonyms that describe the type (e.g., rogue, rascal, good-for-nothing, reprobate, unprincipled person; cheat, swindler, fraudster, trickster, charlatan; informal villain, beast, son of a bitch, SOB, rat, louse, cur, hound, skunk, heel, snake, snake in the grass, wretch, scumbag, bad egg, stinker).

Scoundrels will say anything to aid a special-interest or closed-government cause, while the principals, operatives, and catspaws delight from a distance. (These main types know what’s happening, hoping it will benefit them, yet hoping it won’t be identified back to them.)

In all of this, however, the overwhelming majority of ordinary residents are normal & well-adjusted. It’s a only few, entitled and avaricious, or entitled and autocratic, who beset and bedevil a community.

NASA Simulation’s Plunge Into the Whitewater School District’s Central Office a Black Hole:

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 4.3.24: 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 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 3.26.24: These Aren’t the MAGA Claims You Were Looking For

Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will be rainy with a high of 52. Sunrise is 6:44 and sunset 7:15 for 12h 30m 43s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 98.6 percent of its visible disk illuminated.

Whitewater’s Finance Committee meets at 5 PM.

On this day in 1812, a political cartoon in the Boston-Gazette coins the term “gerrymander” to describe oddly shaped electoral districts designed to help incumbents win reelection.

A brief post today, about Boardmember Maryann Zimmerman to follow yesterday’s post about conservative populism more generally. (A more detailed series on the district and proposals to improve governance can wait until after the election. Too many people in this town have election fever, and it’s left them dehydrated and decomposed. Their malady is not mine.)

Anyone who has visited this site knows that this bleeding-heart libertarian blogger is, and always will be, an opponent of conservative populism, MAGA, Trumpism, or whatever one calls that ideology. Never Trump before Never Trump, so to speak. See yesterday’s example Rep. Mike Gallagher Knows that MAGA Will Be Someone Else’s Headache Soon.

I am also someone whose family, teachers, and professors did their level best to inspire in me a respect for principle, reasoning, and tradition (in that order). Any success that this pupil has had in that regard owes only to them; they had poor clay with which to work. All their effort on my behalf, over so many years, leads me now and again to see something clearly.

And this is one of those times: 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.  Mrs. Zimmerman may hold, as I think she does, conservative populist views. To the extent that she holds those views — but only to the extent that she holds those views — we would find ourselves in disagreement.

Some of her ardent supporters most assuredly hold conservative populist views. To the extent that they hold those views — but only to the extent that they hold those views — we would find ourselves in disagreement.

If in this beautiful city, the answer to Mrs. Zimmerman’s nonpartisan concerns and proposals is an answer directed in opposition to conservative populism, then that answer is misdirected, to the degradation of scholastic standards.  

It’s that simple.

I’ve never met Mrs. Zimmerman; we may never meet.  One needn’t have met her to grasp that she is willing to speak and write in support of her views when, by striking contrast, 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. (Those who know the law know that those assertions are not merely false but risibly self-serving.)

The district has a superintendent who not only won’t speak but has tried to prevent others from speaking. In Maryann Zimmerman’s recent claims, and in her composed defense of them, there’s no trace of partisan ideology. She’s been admirably clear and steady. Others want to see what’s not there; they are looking into an empty room.

These aren’t the MAGA claims they were looking for.

Total Solar Eclipse 2024 explained. Date, maps, times and more:

The United States, Mexico and Canada will experience a total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024.’s Brett Tingley explains what you can expect. Total solar eclipse 2024: Everything you need to know:…

WARNING: People should always use protective solar eclipse eyewear when viewing a solar eclipse.

Credit: | NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, 

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. 

Daily Bread for 3.15.24: A Sunshine Week Story

 Good morning.

Friday in Whitewater will be sunny with a high of 52. Sunrise is 7:04 and sunset 7:02 for 11h 58m 32s of daytime. The moon is a waxing crescent with 33.4 percent of its visible disk illuminated.

On this day in 1991, the Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany comes into effect, granting full sovereignty to the Federal Republic of Germany.

  It’s Sunshine Week in America. You know, your right to know. Miles Maguire has published a story for Sunshine Week about the fight for open government in Wisconsin entitled UW-Oshkosh buried facts about mishandled Native American remains. Sunshine laws uncovered them:

Last April the Wisconsin Examiner published an examination of the way that Native American human remains have been retained by public institutions in Oshkosh long after the passage of a federal law that was intended to speed their repatriation to the tribes that once inhabited the area.

The article included some startling details that demonstrated the callousness of the institutions, especially the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. But the university also managed to keep even more graphic information out of the story.

For example, readers did not learn that a Native American skull, collected in Oshkosh on the south bank of the Fox River, had been stolen in 1990 from an exhibit case on campus and “broken during the bungled burglary.” Nor did they read about the time that the remains of one individual went missing from an excavation where an assistant professor found 43 burials but apparently lost track of one “en route to the archaeology laboratory.”

The reason that these details, contained in inventory records that had been easily accessible at the campus library, were not included in my story was that during the course of my reporting university officials stepped in and placed the documents in a restricted area. I was in the midst of reviewing the documents when the university decided that they needed to be kept from the public on the basis of what turned out to be a completely bogus rationale.

Last month the university released a full set of the inventory records under prodding from the Winnebago County district attorney, whose investigation showed that UW Oshkosh had repeatedly and egregiously manipulated state law.

The DA’s investigation confirmed what I had asserted in a complaint filed in July, that UW Oshkosh had made a mockery of the state’s public records law, slow-walking responses, making up excuses for redacting information and misapplying doctrines like the attorney-client privilege. Among other things, I pointed out, UWO had withheld documents from me that it had released to another news organization and claimed that it had the right to keep from me a copy of an email that I myself had written.

(Emphasis added.)

Again and again: public officials in public institutions conducting public business aren’t entitled to private avenues of concealment. Officials who would like private protections can find those defenses just as soon as they return to private life. 

Not a moment sooner.

See also Speech & Debate in the Whitewater Schools. 

Watch Brewers grounds crew remove outfield covering at American Family Field before opening day:

Daily Bread for 3.9.24: From Here & Now, a Discussion of Wisconsin’s New Law on Reading Instruction

 Good morning.

Saturday in Whitewater will be sunny with a high of 40. Sunrise is 6:14 and sunset 5:55 for 11h 41m 07s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 1 percent of its visible disk illuminated.

On this day in 1841, the U.S. Supreme Court rules in the United States v. The Amistad case that captive Africans who had seized control of the ship carrying them had been taken into slavery illegally.

PBS Wisconsin’s Here & Now aired last night a segment on Wisconsin’s new law on reading instruction. That segment is embedded below: 

See also The Wisconsin DPI List of Science-Based Reading Curriculums: ‘Wisconsin, and other states, have moved to a public science of reading curriculum as a matter of law. In this way, the course (for now) on the general approach toward literacy in early grades has been set, even if the debate has not been settled between different academic perspectives (the science of reading or balanced literacy). Adopting a science of reading approach is state policy rather than a local decision.’

The Oldest Junk Boat Left in Hong Kong:

Daily Bread for 3.8.24: Speech & Debate in the Whitewater Schools

 Good morning.

Friday in Whitewater will be rainy with a high of 45. Sunrise is 6:16 and sunset 5:54 for 11h 38m 12s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 5.1 percent of its visible disk illuminated.

On this day in 1775, an anonymous writer, thought by some to be Thomas Paine, publishes “African Slavery in America,” an article in the American colonies calling for the emancipation of slaves and the abolition of slavery

No principled person, having observed over these recent months the conduct of the Whitewater School Board and its superintendent, could remain unconcerned. 

Since 2007, when FREE WHITEWATER first began publishing, no official in this city has advanced action through counsel against a resident, whether a private party or government official, to restrain free speech & debate1.  For this superintendent to have done so was a grave mistake. Since 2007, when FREE WHITEWATER first began publishing, no official in this city has sought refuge in closed sessions, so obviously to conceal error, as this board president and some other boardmembers have done. 

Since 2007, no official in this city has suggested, as this school board president has done, that a board member might be liable to censure for lawful speech. Principled men and women in Whitewater should not tolerate — must not tolerate — efforts to stifle speech through threats of censure.

The particular compensation awarded to an employee is less important than the method of the award by whom awarded and to whom awarded (especially if through a procurement policy).  Everyone who works in the Whitewater Unified School District works as an employee of a public institution paid at public expense. No employee of the Whitewater Unified School District has a private contract with a private employer. They have public contracts with a public employer. 

Those in this district who wish to work as private employees should — and must — seek private employment. There can be no private exceptions for anyone working for the public Whitewater Unified School District.

  1. This superintendent must abandon any legal action against the free speech rights of either boardmembers or residents. Failure to abandon action against speech rights should be disqualifying from public employment in the Whitewater Unified School District.  It is impossible for a principled person committed to free expression to hold otherwise.  

  2. This board president and any other board members must abandon the threat of censure against another board member over this matter. Failure to abandon the threat of censure should be disqualifying from membership on the Whitewater Unified School District Board. 

  3. The Whitewater Unified School District Board meets in regular session on Monday, March 18th. That regular session must offer an open dialogue between this superintendent and the residents of the community, other than a mere public comment period, to answer residents’ questions fully to the reasonable satisfaction of those residents. That regular session must offer an open dialogue between this school board and the residents of the community, other than a mere public comment period, to answer residents’ questions fully to the reasonable satisfaction of those residents. 

  4. The decision of this board president, other board members, and this superintendent to engage in dialogue is the right path forward to reconciliation. It is fair for all parties. Failure to take this opportunity should be disqualifying from employment or board membership in this district.

  5. There is time, but only a little time, left for this board, this board president, these board members, and this superintendent to speak candidly to Whitewater. Principled men and women in Whitewater should not tolerate — must not tolerate — concealment through closed sessions, cease-and-desist actions, and threats of censure.

Americans, including those of us in Whitewater, are inclined to kindness. Many of us these last few months have been restrained, and through this restraint, shown respect and kindness. Franklin Roosevelt was right, when speaking of our people, that no one should mistake our kindness for weakness.  

True in his time, and true in ours.

1. Someone once did worse, but then his career in this city later came to a deservedly ignominious end.

Daily Bread for 3.4.24: Two Quick Points on Local Government, Special Interests, Etc.

 Good morning.

Monday in Whitewater will be mostly sunny during the day, and rainy this evening, with a high of 64. Sunrise is 6:22 and sunset 5:49 for 11h 26m 33s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 39.7 percent of its visible disk illuminated.

There will be Election Inspector Training today in Whitewater at 2:30 PM and 4:30 PM. Whitewater’s Lakes Advisory Committee meets at 5 PM, and the Equal Opportunities Commission also meets at 5 PM.

On this day in 1776, the Continental Army fortifies Dorchester Heights with cannon, leading the British troops to abandon the Siege of Boston.

Two quick reminders on local government, special interests, etc.:

First, the closer you look, the less you seeStand back a bit, and what seems large is only one part of a panorama.  

Second, a good way to measure the strength of a position (considering its quality of being strong, its merit, and its desirability) is to ask: would one trade that position for another one?  

Dangerous Winds and Deep Snow Ensnarl California

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 2.5.24: Best They Take Their Own Advice

 Good morning.

Monday in Whitewater will be partly cloudy with a high of 42. Sunrise is 7:04 and sunset 5:13 for 10h 09m 24s  of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 24.8% of its visible disk illuminated.

On this day in 1945, General MacArthur returns to Manila.

  On Thursday, January 25th, Whitewater School District Superintendent Dr. Caroline Pate-Hefty and Board President Larry Kachel issued the following statement:

Successful school districts stay relentlessly focused on results and outcomes for their students. Dr. Pate-Hefty talked with Mr. Larry Kachel, board president, many times this week. We both hope for stability in the district and want to support our team/staff.

To be clear, the allegations made in the Monday, January 22nd board meeting were inaccurate. They were also fully investigated and reviewed by Mr. Kachel and the board attorney. There is no violation of board policy or ethics standards for the superintendent to make and negotiate salary offers; that is a requirement of the position for functional operations. According to Wisconsin State Statutes 118.24 and 19.85, administrator contracts are reviewed annually at a closed session of the board meeting. This was done according to the requirements.

The board and administration agree that the current policy language for contract negotiation is vague and are working collaboratively via the policy review process to improve clear guidance beginning in the January policy meeting; good policy is how we improve functional operations.

As we turn the corner in math and literacy, we will stay focused on the amazing work our staff and students are doing.

Emphasis added.

Best that they take their own advice. 

California battered by hurricane-force winds and heavy rain: