Whitewater Common Council Meeting, 2.2.21: 5 Points

The Whitewater Common Council met last night, 2.2.21.

The recording of the meeting is embedded above. The agenda for the meeting is available.

A few remarks, on selected items of the agenda — 

1. Term LimitsWhitewater has relaxed term limits for boards and commissions. A city that has an admitted same-ten-people problem will now allow some of these same people to stay longer (or – more significantly – a few to return to the commissions they’ve so ill-served). Whitewater has a same-ten-people problem because she has a metaphorically narrow perimeter fence. To satisfy an entitled few, Whitewater aggravates her frail condition.

2. Pandemic Stats. The pandemic now stretches over a year, has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, impaired the health of many more, and pushed the economy into recession. These many individual injuries are more than a week of data here or there; following the ups and downs of weekly data is myopic. It’s both an intellectual and rhetorical failure for laypeople to pore over week-to-week charts: laypeople are unskilled at interpreting this data, they fixate too much on favorable or unfavorable short-term trends, and this focus allows both sides of the debate to seize on a week’s waxing or waning counts (it’s getting better!, it’s getting worse!).

No, and no again. Assessments of short-term epidemiological trends should be left to epidemiologists. There’s nothing learned from an unlearned analysis.

From the beginning, a sound approach: recognize accumulating harm, rely on professional analyses and recommendations, and for assessments from laypeople (i.e., non-epidemiologists) look back when the pandemic is over when there is a more comprehensive view.

3. Redeeming a BondCouncil voted to pay off an existing bond early (the bond being a type municipal debt).

That’s a reasonable decision. It matters more what Whitewater does next with her tax incremental districts. There is no evidence – none – that she will do anything other than what she’s done before.

4. Smoking, Vaping. The Whitewater Common Council decided against adopting a proposal to ban smoking and vaping in public parks. In a community of greater sense, no one would smoke or vape. There may be class preferences for or against smoking, but it’s unhealthful for anyone. I would not have supported this ordinance, but one should be candid about the sadness of smoking and vaping: people are choosing incontrovertibly destructive habits. In Whitewater, disregard of a regulation would be (regrettably) widespread.

In the end, this is a cultural failure of great magnitude. (I have supported a mask ordinance as a temporary pandemic measure, for example, but with doubts about its efficacy. People are convinced – rightly or wrongly – long before government comes to call.) If we taught better – in the widest sense of teaching – we’d be living better.

5. Meetings by Audiovisual Conferencing. Whitewater’s Common Council will continue to conduct meetings online and by phone.

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