The Commuter Class

When one thinks of a small town – or sees depictions of a small town in books or films – one imagines that the people who work in the town also live in the town. So, city workers live in the town, teachers live in the town, and campus professors live in the town.

For Whitewater, that’s not true: significant numbers of city workers, teachers, and professors live elsewhere. They commute to the city for their daily work, but they purchase homes, raise families, and attend religious & civic events elsewhere. In this way, the City of Whitewater’s motto about the city as a place to ‘live, work, play, and learn’ is only partially fulfilled.

Partially fulfilled: hundreds of professionals combined from the city, school district, and university live in other communities. One needn’t suggest that they must live here; the simple fact of life is that they do not live here.

There a few obvious implications of their choice to live in other places.

Boosterism Fails. Years of public relations touting the city as a place to live have been unpersuasive to hundreds of people who see the city each day. There are myriad government or business marketing schemes to sell the city to others, but scores of people who are are in the city daily from Monday to Friday choose to spend nights and weekends elsewhere.

In effect, Whitewater has a focus group of hundreds of professionals who are telling government and business that they do not wish to live in Whitewater under status quo conditions. These hundreds aren’t buying what’s on offer.

If government and business groups were honest, they would look to themselves to see why these many workers aren’t interested in Whitewater. Instead, the same few longtime residents carry on as before, insisting that more marketing or more press releases will make Whitewater attractive, absurdly claiming that there are no places to live, or that no one knows Whitewater’s location, etc.

These professional workers know where Whitewater is – they drive in and out of the city every day. It’s simply that what local government tells them, and what the local business league tells them, isn’t persuasive. 

Old Whitewater has, primarily, itself to blame for the unwillingness of others to live here.

The Same Ten Six People. Whitewater worries over having too few people for public committees and boards, and so fills those positions with the same people over and over. This same-ten-people problem is so acute in Whitewater it’s now closer to a same-six-people problem. If professionals who choose to live elsewhere chose to live in Whitewater, there would be many more people of talent and ability who could serve on boards and committees.

Limited Understanding. One can acknowledge that people should be free to live where they want yet see that living elsewhere leaves these hundreds of day workers less informed than those who do live here, vote here, and pay taxes here. Residents are the ones who directly feel the affects of local policies on their own households.

Community relations do not happen at a distance of fifteen miles – they happen at a distance of fifteen feet.

Those who are community leaders, either by office or (more often) self-promotion, bear the responsibility for failing to inspire many of these commuting professionals to choose freely to live in Whitewater.

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2 years ago

Yes, there is a crazy over reliance on marketing. Put it this way, if the city is a product why won’t the trial users (work here/live someplace else) buy it? Absolutely right to point out that there are lots of those trial users (who won’t buy).

2 years ago

[…] The Commuter Class […]

2 years ago

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3 months ago

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