All the communities in our area are struggling economically, but yet Whitewater has fared better than neighboring places. The commitment of a community to transparency inoculates against an inferior, disordered politics of the sort one sees in the nearby cities of Jefferson and Milton.
Look at Jefferson (where city officials dissemble about relationships with fraudulent vendors) or the school district in Milton, Wisconsin (where the school board itself has fought against transparency, where a board member authorizes payments to officials without full board approval, and where twice now the community has thought so little of its school board and administrators that it has rejected their capital requests). In both of those cities, the local newspapers (Daily Jefferson County Union and Milton Courier) have been ineffectual (or, worse, they’ve lied by commission or omission to hide mistakes and fraud).
Government’s commitment to openness is, in the broadest sense, an embrace of a competitive marketplace of ideas. Fast and full information allows the discerning to make better decisions, and expands generally one’s capacity for discernment. (One improves by practice.)
The best record is a recording.
Fundamentally one is entitled to public information as a matter of right, but secondarily the spread of that information is a matter of prudence.
One wishes the best for all places, but Whitewater’s better record on governmental openness since 2010 has kept her from many of the problems that now bedevil Jefferson and Milton.
Update, Tuesday afternoon:
I’ve added replies from the city to an earlier post about our town’s cable access channel Channel 990.
Why a concern over this, why ask about it? Here’s why: the best record is a recording. If we were a different place – larger perhaps, or in a different era – this community might have credibly relied on local newspapers to keep it informed of politics and fiscal policy in the city, school district, and at the university. We don’t have those sort of newspapers. They’ve succumbed to pressures and made compromises that leave their accounts incomplete and unreliable.
Why worry about timing? Because when a poorly written, poorly reported newspaper account gets a head start on a recording, the truth of the recording is left to chase the errors and mendacity of the newspaper account.
Where does one turn? Prudently, one turns to a full and complete record. Communities – like Milton and Jefferson – that rely on dying newspapers become dying towns.
We’ve done better in this regard, but sadly worse practices fester not far beyond our city limits.