It’s budget season for local governments across Wisconsin, including Whitewater. Presentations beginning in October will conclude with a vote in November.
A few introductory remarks on that process follow.
City Manager, Cameron Clapper. City Manager Clapper has two tasks, not one: daily management the city’s local government, and normalizing the way his administration describes local government’s functions.
In a city with a normal and mature politics, he’d have only the former task; it’s his particular circumstance that Whitewater has not had that kind of local government, particularly in the years immediately before Mr. Clapper’s appointment.
That’s not been Whitewater: this city has had the (wholly unnecessary) small-town disease of insecurity, of ridiculously describing every action in the grandest terms, of exaggerating accomplishments beyond the point of lying, and of hiding municipal mistakes rather than honestly admitting them.
I’ve neither respect nor sympathy for that way of speaking. It’s unbecoming and unworthy of capable, mature American men and women.
Many from among the generation of city notables before Mr. Clapper has lived this way and come up in the city this way, and prefers people who – regardless of their origins – talk that same way.
That way – of that generation – has no demographic future. They’ll either decline with a bang or a whimper, but decline they will.
As much as running the city government, Mr. Clapper has the chance and obligation to help to normalize politics in this city, to speak (as he typically does) in a matter-of-fact, conventional way. To do so has been, and will be, all to the good.
That’s no small, back-handed compliment – after what we’ve seen of those who came before him, Mr. Clapper’s way can make a big improvement.
The pressure to adopt the bad and embarrassing habits of others will be intense, of course; people like that prefer their own kind, or those who become like them.
What has been said, famously, of Ancient Israel is probably good advice for a leader in this city: Israel’s excellence lay not in how she was like the other nations around her, but in how she was different from them.
Whitewater doesn’t need puffery – we are a place worth loving, contending over, and building, as we are, and hope to be, without exaggeration or manipulation.
One wishes him the best, truly – success here would be of great benefit to the city’s future. We’ve gone on far too long the wrong way, and should delay the inevitable right way no longer.
Budgets & the Economy. We’ve a city budget, and a school district budget, but it’s the environment in which officials propose those budgets that matters even more.
The economy comes first, and fiscal accounts (that is, public budgets for cities, counties, schools) come second.
Knowing whether a flock of condors will survive requires knowing something of the environment in which they live. One could study their anatomy endlessly and still have no definite answer without an adequate environmental understanding.
So, here seems to be a reasonable plan for thinking about budgets:
1. A survey of our city’s economy.
2. A look at our long-term fiscal outlook.
3. Review of the 2014 budget proposal for the city.
(The same plan applies for our public school budget, county budget, etc.)
It’s economic, long-term fiscal, and short-term fiscal, in that order, I think.
When thinking about 2014’s budget, for city or schools, that’s how I’ll proceed over the weeks ahead.
Next: Downtown Whitewater and Whitewater’s Merchant Class