Show Your Work

We’re in a new round of big-project proposals for Whitewater.

Here’s a suggestion, that this municipal administration would do well to follow, for any large-scale proposal:

(1) Release any feasibility study, analysis, or performance contract on the city’s website a month (thirty calendar days) before Council consideration.

(2) Hold a public hearing specifically and exclusively on any major proposal.

(3) For proposals with a long-term environmental impact upon current residents and the next generation of residents, submit a final proposal to a city-wide vote no earlier than two months’ time after the release publicly of all feasibility studies, analyses, and performance contracts, etc.

If municipal leaders believe in their proposals, they will submit them into the marketplace of ideas with ample time for public consideration.

That’s not what’s happened with the initial performance contract from Trane, for example: that company didn’t have its document ready for the respective meeting packet at which it was to be discussed.

No doubt, a hungry pooch foiled that vast corporation’s original plan. They would have provided their documents sooner, I suppose, if only those papers hadn’t found themselves in a canine’s tummy.

(On a smaller financial scale, Dave Mumma of Janesville Transit has done the same thing to Whitewater: he’s sometimes held back his shoddy work until the last minute, literally bringing documents to Council just before he was about to speak.)

It’s a convenient way for a big vendor, etc., to conceal its work from those who will foot the bill.

Watching this municipal administration, one sees a contrast with the last one. Our former municipal manager was his own cheerleader, boosting ill-considered projects as though civilization depended on them. (He collected a few of similar ilk along the way.)

Our current municipal manager is better educated and more affable than his predecessor, and more outwardly cautious, too. He holds back at meetings, allowing his department heads to do the cheering for him.

Cheer they do – watching some of them, one might be forgiven for thinking that those department leaders worked for the very vendors whose projects the city administration should be scrutinizing.

They are so very eager, and at least one so callow, that one wonders: do you not understand these matters, or do you hope that others won’t?

It’s worthwhile to approach these proposals methodically and dispassionately. Here’s my method for blogging on a topic: (1) read, (2) walk around, (3) write initially, (4) ask informally of government (if useful), (5) submit formal requests if necessary, and (6) consider action at law as a regrettable but necessary last recourse.

(See, for an elaboration of these steps, Steps for Blogging on a Policy or Proposal.)

Deliberate, disciplined, determined.

If these gentlemen believe in their ideas – and they very much want the city to believe they do, and to support them – then surely they have the confidence to show their proposals to others for consideration.

It’s a simple suggestion:

Show your work.

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