Speech & Debate

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 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 3.8.24: 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 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: