Whitewater’s Common Council Meeting for 10.15.13 (Downtown Whitewater and Whitewater’s Merchant Class)

Municipal funding for local business groups, including Downtown Whitewater, Inc., lies ahead.  I’ll not discuss those line items today.  Instead, I’ll offer a simple observation about local merchants.

Whitewater has spent too much time and money on failed big-ticket, white-collar projects and too little time on her local, merchant class.

I’ve no particular interest in favoring local retailers over national ones; I’ve every reason to cheer local merchants (1) generally as part of true entrepreneurship, and (2) as against empty and laughable ‘investment’ schemes that merely transfer public money from common people to preening, glib-talking men. 

The antidote to the florid, phony press releases for these schemes is to read something insightful; the cure for enduring some prattling fool’s attempt at sophistication is to visit a merchant.  

For reading I’ll always choose the early Jane Jacobs; for visits one should talk to a local businessperson in town.  One reads with an open mind; one visits as an ordinary customer. 

When I walk through the city, through its downtown, I’m both happy and concerned. I’m happy for what we have; worried that our focus isn’t on a true, productive, merchant class, but instead is on big schemes. 

Last night, Downtown Whitewater’s director, Tamara Brodnicki, spoke to Common Council, in a quarterly presentation about her members’ and organization’s progress.  Few presentations interest me more – better a simple discussion about merchants than a day about grand ideas. 

She spoke about actual developments and upcoming events. That’s as it should be here, from all groups, always: a list of progress and of concrete plans.

Here’s what should weigh on us, long beyond the fall budget season: nothing good will come to a city that doesn’t support an open, vibrant, market culture.  No one will move and invest here if the downtown isn’t a success. 
Structures, plans, organizations, budgets, re-zoning – all that awaits, and may have more than one outcome.   

It’s well past time, though, for this city to look away from the big-but-futile, toward the small-but-hopeful.

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