This is series about a proposed digester energy project for Whitewater, one that would rely on importing other cities’ unwanted waste into Whitewater for processing.
A series like this is only indirectly about general wastewater upgrades, at whatever price. It’s about waste importation, and officials’ claims that importation would be clean and profitable. It’s necessarily and directly about the consequences of waste importation, fiscally, economically, environmentally, and as an expression of a city’s business and political culture.
Updated 6.9.15 with video.
Planning for a Public Meeting from John Adams on Vimeo.
During a recent Common Council meeting from June 2nd, at item C3, Common Council discussed a public presentation about upgrades to the wastewater facility. Part of that discussion implicates the digester proposal, but much concerns other matters.
During that discussion, at C3 and again later, City Manager Clapper expresses his confidence in the full project, including implicitly a plan to import waste into Whitewater (he’s not alone in that confidence, among those in attendance).
Part of City Manager Clapper’s confidence comes from a mild or positive reception that he’s received from selected stakeholder groups.
This raises two questions, not needing to be enumerated, but implicated in the entire project and this series.
First, why would anyone doubt that the response to city officials, from among selected audiences, would be other than mild or positive?
Second, does anyone at the 6.2.15 meeting actually believe that my questions are designed simply toward a political vote on the project?
Of the first, there are good examples from across America of waste-importation projects like this one, and how local government approves or rejects them. I’ve no idea what Whitewater’s various engineering firms have said about these votes (if anything), but then, it’s always better to do one’s own research. What Mr. Clapper is now seeing is common, almost predictable, in the short-term in these situations.
Of the second, I’m not interested solely in the short-term, of Whitewater getting or rejecting an importation plan. If City Manager Clapper wanted a vote on this project tomorrow, including importing as much waste into Whitewater as he could shovel, he’d receive easy political approval for that idea.
But looking at this project as a matter of approval or rejection isn’t looking at this project, it would be looking at approval or rejection of it.
Looking at an importation plan (and that’s what this series is about) has value far beyond Whitewater, as an examination of how communities consider, approve, and implement these supposedly green and supposedly energy-generating ideas. What matters most happens only after a program like this starts running.
There’s Whitewater’s importation plan, there are the longterm implications of Whitewater’s plan for Whitewater, and there are the implications of Whitewater’s plan generally, for any community, as a supposed digester-energy project.
These three aren’t the same.
I’ve a guess – and it’s just a guess – about why the obvious, long-term motivation of my series doesn’t (at least doesn’t seem) apparent to City Manager Clapper.
I’ll write about that tomorrow, using an observation a longtime resident sent me about marketing efforts for Whitewater.
Original Common Council Discussion, 6.2.15
WHEN GREEN TURNS BROWN: Mondays @ 10 AM, here on FREE WHITEWATER.
They don’t get what you are doing AT ALL.
It’s a sales pitch from the city.
They cant get it fast enough.
Yeah, they presented in town.You don’t see how they think.No one talks really about “fiscally, economically, environmentally, and as an expression of a city’s business and political culture”.It’s not like that.It’s a sales pitch.Everybody gets that these guys were coached.Everybody also gets that some big players in town think it’s a moneymaker.No one I know thinks these guys really know much more than what they have cribbed from some where.If there is a problem down the road it will come as a big shock to them.They are just selling.
Has anyone given thought to the possibility that they are pushing this because nothing has been growing in this town for a couple years? They are desperate, looking for a reason for another ribbon cutting ceremony and photo op. They’ve got nothing unless you count the Field of Dreams project built for groups. (a project many people dont agree with but would not talk about out of respect for the parents).
It’s certainly possible that one aspect of a digester importation plan is to trumpet that Whitewater has found a new revenue stream (by importing the waste no one else wants) and describing it all as ‘green.’ There would be ribbon-cuttings and photo ops as a consequence. One of several principal questions is what it means to have found a supposed revenue stream (if there should ever emerge a meaningful payment stream) of others’ unwanted waste. The value to Whitewater depends on the gains from ribbon-cuttings, photo ops, and possible tipping fees, etc., from which a sound calculation would subtract the fiscal (budgetary), economic (of the whole city), environmental, health, and business-culture costs of that plan.
Your broader point is well-taken: Whitewater’s full-time city administration hasn’t sparked meaningful private investment gains despite years of an improving American economy (and wouldn’t see them with this program, either).