At last night’s meeting of the Whitewater Common Council, among other items — the council slightly modified its mask ordinance, discussed (but took no action on) a racial justice initiative that would create an Equal Opportunities Committee, voted unanimously to extend the lake drawdown project for approximately another year, and voted to continue virtual public meetings until local public health measures showed an abating pandemic. (The full recording of the meeting appears above; the agenda – the order of which was slightly adjusted during the meeting – is available here.)
A few remarks —
1. Mask Ordinance Amendment. Whitewater amended its mask ordinance to allow a single speaker in certain settings (political or religious, for example) to remove his or her mask while speaking to an assembly situated sufficiently far from that speaker. (Video, 34:30.) A simple modification like this accords more closely with the state’s mask ordinance. The amendment passed, and the council waived a second reading of the ordinance.
2. Racial Justice Initiative. These recent months there have been gatherings, discussions, and marches in the city about racial justice, notably more acute since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. (More than one local group has been involved in these events, and their aims are generally the same but particularly different from each other.) Whitewater’s city manager and the city’s council discussed an upcoming ordinance for the creation of an Equal Opportunities Committee. (Video, 48:15) This committee, as described last night, would be a seven-member body, with one council member, and six people from the area (either as residents or employees working here). (Video, 1:03:30.)
It’s best to wait for the draft of the ordinance before offering more about its yet-to-be-decided particulars.
Racial justice, apart from the scope of a single ordinance, is a far larger topic deserving consideration at length after some of these preliminary matters are decided.
3. Residency. If the city wants to open committee membership (such as for an Equal Opportunities Committee) to residents living within the school district’s boundaries, there’s no significant objection to offer. By contrast, if the city wants to extend membership to employees who merely work here, that extension is a poor idea. People should be free to work and live where they want, but Whitewater needn’t extend committee spaces to those for whom Whitewater is simply a day job. See The Commuter Class.
There’s so much talk about stakeholders, but a stake should mean residency in the immediate area, voting in the immediate area, and beginning & ending each day in the area. Whitewater’s more than an airport lounge or a gas station along an expressway. No one who truly commits to a place happily goes off elsewhere each night.
Those who wish to improve the city – and even more those who wish to exercise political or legal authority within it – should be here to experience the consequences of their actions. Whitewater can find good candidates for an Equal Opportunities Committee from among those who live close by.
4. Lake Drawdown Project. So Whitewater has two lakes in town, they’ve become clogged with invasive species, and the city has undertaken to drain those lakes to rid them of unwanted plants and fish. If it takes another year to assure (so best as one can) that the lakes are restored to good health, it’s time well spent. (Video, 1:13:40.)
5. Virtual Meetings of the Municipal Government. This council voted unanimously to continue virtual meetings until the pandemic’s reach into Whitewater recedes. (Video, 2:14:15.) In these months, the city government has functioned as well as others nearby with this format. It’s a sensible decision to continue for now in a virtual format. The arguments offered for re-opening deserve separate consideration, another time, for their inadequacy. (Video, 1:53:55.)
6. Political Vacancies. This last decade has been a time of great change in Whitewater. Look away for even a moment, and people and places are different. (Video, 2:18:02.) Change like this is better than an alternative of the same few people for decade after decade.