Yesterday, I posted about part of a Whitewater Common Council meeting that addressed a traffic signal at a dangerous intersection. See Common Council, 8.20.19: Misperception.
There was another topic at that meeting: the annual audit of the city’s fiscal condition (link below). In another place and time, the fiscal condition of government might be decisive of a community’s economic condition. Whitewater is not that place at this time: difficult economic conditions have overrun conventional government efforts.
Whitewater’s problems do not stem from her finance director (Hatton), and one can assume generally that he’s doing the best he can for a small rural town. His presentation (using slightly different metrics from the Johnson Block audit, appears at 13:30 to 32:33 on the video.)
A bad fiscal condition (a government matter) might make circumstances worse, but a sound fiscal condition will not attract anyone when general economic conditions (of the community and area) are weak. It matters that a finance director does his work well, but he cannot be expected – no one in his position could be expected – to heal and uplift this city through municipal fiscal management. It’s enough that he brings order and competence where it was previously missing.
Government in Whitewater stoops low in a different place — in actions like those of her Community Development Authority.
If you build it, they will come is a futile mantra when residents have greater immediate needs and there’s no one able to come except at an exorbitant price that satisfies none of those greater immediate needs. See The Rural Condition: Life expectancy for Wisconsin babies falls and The rural America death spiral (‘Many of the nation’s current pathologies are taking a heavy toll on the majority-white population living in rural America, which was severely impacted by the opioid crisis and has dealt with falling populations, job losses and rising suicide rates’).
If a community development authority does not see gains in individual and household income, then community development is a hollow term. In a cardinal measure of meaningful gains, Whitewater’s CDA is a tragic, years-long failure. See A Candid Admission from the Whitewater CDA and Reported Family Poverty in Whitewater Increased Over the Last Decade.
The very measure of a successful free-market economy is the ability to lift people out of poverty by producing gains in individual and household income through the private productive efforts of capital and labor.
Whitewater should, wherever possible, redistribute what it can from over-priced capital projects to immediate human care, re-orient city employees into a genuine community enforcement that begins with the assumption that many are in need and that no residents are adversaries within their own town, and speak plainly about these needs.
Honest to goodness: even the Soviets knew how to build offices, roads, centers, and hotels. Even the Soviets knew how to put names and slogans on the sides of buildings.
And yet, and yet — their people were still poor.