Tidying the Town

A new school year begins, and thousands of students on whom the economy of this city depends are returning to Whitewater. Volunteers, as they’ve done previously, will help tidy up the town. These volunteers have, I think, held similar clean-up efforts in June and July.

It’s a fine idea. (I’ve not been part of those efforts, and deserve no credit for them; one simply notices others’ good work.)

Charitable work like this is important for our small city. One doesn’t have to be an urban theorist to understand that cleaning up matters, but the idea of idea of this sort of small-scale responsibility runs deeply through theorist Jane Jacobs’s Death and Life of Great American Cities.

Whenever I see volunteerism like this, I think of her great & profound book; whenever I read something of Jacobs’s book, I think of small & effective volunteerism like this.

And yet, there’s a sadness in this. A small group of residents commits itself to making Whitewater cleaner and more beautiful, yet not far away another small group of officials schemes to bring trash and toxins to the city as a revolutionary achievement.

These wholly conflicting projects aren’t those of different countries or cities, but a contemporary disparity within a small place. It’s a disparity between a lingering way of the past and a more responsible one of our future. (For more about Whitewater along these lines, see Horses and Automobiles, Contemporaneously.)

These conflicting ways won’t persist beside each other forever. One is fated to wither.

We’ve bumps and obstacles ahead, but I have a firm confidence about how our city will develop: we have a more open, responsible, diligent, and vibrant Whitewater ahead of us – a New Whitewater.

Along the way, there will be much to do.

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