Whitewater Common Council Meeting, 6.1.21: 6 Points | FREE WHITEWATER

Whitewater Common Council Meeting, 6.1.21: 6 Points

The Whitewater Common Council met last night, Tuesday, 6.1.21.

Updated 6.3.21 with meeting video. The agenda for the meeting is available electronically.

The council reviewed and approved, among other items, a draft audit of the city government’s finances, a settlement with a local bar that will permit the bar to continue operating, a contract with Bird Rides for an electric scooter program, a plan for filling a council vacancy, and rejected an offer for the purchase of city-owned land near Whitewater’s roundabout.

1. Draft Audit. The City of Whitewater received its annual (2020) financial audit from Johnson Block. The audit described and assessed the financial position of the city goverment and related entities (e.g., the Water Utility and Community Development Authority). (Linked agenda, above, p. 86.)

A reminder, always useful: the city government is not the community. A city budget is not an individual’s or household’s budget. Success of the former does not assure the success of the latter.

2. Settlement with a Local Bar. There has been much talk in this city about whether the city would renew of the alcohol license for Pumpers and Mitchell’s, a downtown bar (known locally simply as Pumpers). Objections to renewal rested on dozens of alleged transgressions, some allegations concerning violations of law, others unfound in any ordinance or statute.  

There was some fuss over this, with people reading, writing, and talking about the future of the bar. Would it lose its license, and did it deserve to do so?

Renewal of a license is an ordinary civil matter, and ordinary civil matters should (rationally) settle. Parties on both sides of an issue should be able to calculate similarly the cost of action or inaction, and arrive at settlement. There are three main reasons that civil matters do not settle: ignorance, novelty, or pride. Inexpereinced parties may have trouble evaluating the cost of the matter, and so find themselves unable to come to an agreed resolution. The matter may be so novel that it is difficult for anyone to assess. (A civil matter like this would not be ordinary and routine.) Finally, pride may stand in the way of an agreed settlement, if at least one party has an irrational assessment of the matter’s true value.

These impediments to settlement were not present in this ordinary matter; it was likely to settle without further proceedings. Indeed, failing to settle would have been a troubling sign.

The bar will be closed for two months’ time, adopt some agreed-upon safeguards, but keep operating. That’s a practical outcome.

3. Bird Scooters. The Whitewater Common Council made a deal (subject to minor revisions) with Bird Rides, for app-activated electric scooters in the city. Hundreds of cities have successfully contracted for Bird scooters, including Wauwatosa this spring. They may be new to Whitewater, but app-based scooter or bike share programs have been around for years in other places, and designers have had time to develop their apps and gear.

(I’ve used Bird scooters now and again while on vacation, including when they first became available. They’re convenient, sturdy, and easy to ride.)

A program like this is a good idea for many places, including Whitewater. One hopes it goes over well.

4. A Council Vacancy. Councilmember Matthew Schulgit resigned his District 2 seat last month, and so that district is now vacant. Council has had recent vacancies, and has a policy for soliciting applicants for appointment. Council will use that same policy, in which there is a thirty-day deadline for applications, to fill this vacancy.

5. Rejecting an Offer for Purchase of Land Near the Roundabout. Returning from closed session, a majority of the members present rejected (5-1) an offer from Midwest WI, LLC – Dollar General for the purchase of city-owned land.

6. Aside. The more practical the meeting – as this one was – the better the city.

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