The approximate number of working age adults, from 25-64, in the City of Whitewater proper is 4,134.
This working age population is nestled among a total, estimated population of 14,801.
See, American Community Survey, 2010-2014, 5 year estimates http://factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/ACS/14_5YR/DP05/1600000US5586925.
One can draw three broad but reasonable conclusions from these numbers.
Culturally, local publications present a skewed view of the city, in which one would think Whitewater is older, and more middle class, than her whole population truly is.
Residents eager to advance this impression will typically include nearby (but non-city) residents in local accounts, to fortify the impression of the city as one with a predominant, working-age middle class.
Economically, however, it’s clear that the cultural presumption of a unified community on either side of the city’s borders is false.
If there were genuine commonality between the city proper and neighboring towns, we would have a larger and more robust local economy. Instead, many of our neighbors shop and seek entertainment outside the city, and have done so for years.
So much time has been spent pushing the idea of One City, One View, One Future, so to speak, that when transactions go wrong cocooned local residents are surprised: How did this happen? Are we not huge and robust? Who knew?
We’re beautiful and precious, but we’re neither huge nor robust.
A word of support and distinction, here, meant genuinely: I’ve often been critical of much of the Community Development Authority’s work, but one can see (and hear if one listens) that some of those gentlemen have understood the challenges Whitewater faces. Their solutions are not mine, to be sure, but I’ve no doubt that some of them (including Messrs. Knight and Kachel) can and do assess accurately the difficulties Whitewater faces. Neither their intellect nor perseverance is in doubt.
It’s an ancient truism to say that men and women make history, but not in conditions of their own choosing. Community development in Whitewater – broadly understood – has been dealt a difficult hand.
By contrast, the presentation of policy (as apart from community announcements) that one reads in the Daily Union or Banner evinces scarcely even a sketchy grasp of actual, challenging conditions. It’s all deceptively comforting, but that sort of comfort is ephemeral.
To paraphrase a line from The Usual Suspects, the greatest trick Whitewater’s Old Guard ever pulled was convincing people that local problems don’t exist.
Time takes her toll, far more effectively than any written reply. She’s not rhetorical, but she is instead quietly, coldly unforgiving.
This leads to Whitewater’s municipal fiscal condition. The working-age base on which the city rests isn’t especially large, and the risk of significant, infrastructure capital spending is that it will produce too little in return. The risk of revenue schemes is that they will either cost too much, produce too little even if we had the initial resources, or degrade local conditions for the state of local government’s appetite for revenue.
Shared revenue is a weak substitute for local production.
There’s a way in which excessive local spending will do to Whitewater what it has done to other, far larger places: hollow out the city and drive more people to nearby towns.
I’m sure nearby towns are nice places to live, but I would not find any of them half so desirable as living in the city. I’d not trade residency in the city for elsewhere.
I hope we attract many more residents. Effective attraction requires more than a publisher’s optimism.
Fiscal policies that overburden residents, or revenue schemes like waste-importation that degrade conditions so that prospective residents choose other places to live will always be the wrong policies.
Four thousand one hundred and thirty-four is not a big number, but that’s what makes it a big indicator.