Whitewater Common Council Meeting, 1.19.21: 6 Points

The Whitewater Common Council met last night, 1.19.21. The agenda for the meeting is available.

A few remarks, on selected items of the agenda — 

1. Public Works Buildings. Whitewater plans to update its public works buildings, now scattered over a multi-acre plot near Starin Road. The total estimated price is high for a small town (about $9.3 million) but elements of the project could be updated in stages, with legally-necessary changes (ADA-related) selected sooner. There’s now no fixed plan; selecting among options yet awaits.

2. A Sign Ordinance. Months upon months of work, of city employees, consultants, and elected officials led to updates of Whitewater’s sign ordinance. There has been only one essential purpose to these updates: that they bring the city into compliance with federal law on the limits of content-based sign restrictions. Reed v. Town of Gilbert, 576 U.S. 155 (2015).  Everything else has been discretionary only, a series of preferences.  In difficult times, as these have been, time spent on discretion over sign restrictions is time spent wastefully. If Whitewater were richer or healthier, then surplus time would have been less wasteful. No one would praise others for wasting food, but saving it. A culture of self-congratulation (look how well this went!) matters when the work is creditable. Only compliance with the law, being necessary, was creditable.

3. A New Water Tower.  The city plans to build a new water tower near the Bridge to Nowhere and Well No. 9. There was some concern in town about where this tower might go, but this was always the likely spot.  There is much work to do, beginning with an eminent domain claim, before there will be a new tower.

4. The 2020 Annual Report and 2021 Management Plan.  Whitewater’s city manager discussed the 2020 Annual Report and 2021 Management Plan, having neither sent a copy of it to the common council nor posted it in the packet online. He claimed a problem with email distribution, but a report could have been completed days ago, and both placed online for the community and sent to council members. (It’s annual, after all, so he would have known long in advance that it was due.)

Repeated apologies during the meeting for the absence of copies focused on what council did not timely receive, but council members are mere representatives of a larger community. It was the community, itself, that should have received the report online before the meeting. 

How odd, when Whitewater’s city manager discussed protest events of 2020, that he used only vague terms about national issues, etc. National protests began as a consequence of the wrongful death of the unarmed George Floyd in Minneaspolis after a police officer pressed against Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes, 46 seconds.

Why it so hard for this city manager to be clear about the cause of these protests, and use Floyd’s name?

Perhaps it’s easier for him to complain about others’ concern over Floyd’s death when outside the city council chambers than it is for him to address the legitimate concern over Floyd’s death when in the city council chambers. 

There was the dog-ate-my-homework contention that COVID-19 made addressing some matters harder. Not at all: COVID-19 has not struck this city manager or this local government mute; he and they could and should have spoken plainly and directly. Whitewater is not an autonomous region but a small American city; that which stains the nation stains the city.

 Updated, 1.21.21: In response to a comment from CDA member Al Stanek, this section of the post is in error and needs correcting. He wasn’t describing the CDA as top-down, but was contending that it should not be top-down. The original post had his views backward. Here’s a link to his full comment and my reply in the comments section.  The original and erroneous remarks are below – better to leave in errors, I think, with an update (above), than to erase the mistake from the publication. (That’s a key reason for an archive, too: so that others can see not simply where a claim or prediction was right, but where it went wrong.)

Original begins —

How predictable, that a member of the Community Development Authority mentions that it’s a top-down authority. He’s half right – it is top-down, but also unaccountable (except to a few landlords, bankers, and anti-market development types). It’s a public body that’s run like a private club for a few who’ve watched the city deteriorate while singing their own praises.

The town fathers of the dirtiest, most vulgar town in Alabama would envy the accomplished buffoonery and market manipulation of the Whitewater Comunity Development Authority.

Original ends.

 5. Term Limits for Boards and Commissions. Honest to goodness, the only important issue about term limits is whether board members who have failed the city time and again will make their way back to the places of their prior negligence. They will.

 6. Asides.

 Shh… Council members sometimes speak on subjects as nebulously as possible, to keep their meaning or specific subject hidden from the record (that thing we talked about, etc.). Only a neon sign would be more obvious.

Those who make the news should not be reporting or editing the news. Plain everywhere but to a few here.

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2 years ago

Shhhh is exactly right. Just like their noninformative facebook posts.

gentle ben
2 years ago

John Adams,

Thank you for bringing up the need to keep the community informed. Especially during this pandemic, we need leadership from our local government and we need them to provide us with more information than ever. We need clear and concise information on a regular and timely basis. I’m feeling like Whitewater’s leadership has taken a long holiday at the worst possible time. Ben