‘All Facts Are Friendly’

Post 52 in a series. When Green Turns Brown is an examination of a small town’s digester-energy project, in which Whitewater, Wisconsin would import other cities’ waste, claiming that the result would be both profitable and green.

I’m not sure who first said ‘all facts are friendly,’ but for policy it’s true: one applies theories to what’s true, to conditions as they now actually are. Out of that one hopes for something good, something better than conditions as they now actually are.

Better, however, rests not on mere hope, not on directionless ambition, and surely not on pride. Better policy rests on facts, and on seeing those facts as friendly.

The most recent discussion of waste importation into a city like Whitewater is a cornucopia of contentions, claims, and theories, chock-full, really. Several people have asked me if I will go through the meeting, point by point.

I will.

For all the two years’ time of municipal planning and presentations about a wastewater upgrade, and about waste importation into tiny Whitewater, the 12.15.15 meeting is revealing.

Puzzling, as much as revealing. I’ve reviewed the meeting twice in full, and parts more than that, and there are fundamental claims from city officials or from the vendor that are simply false, almost strangely so. At the same time, by good fortune grounded in hard work, the meeting also saw solid questions about the project from residents or councilmembers. Some of these good questions were ignored, answered erroneously, answered incompletely, or answered evasively.

Why that is, I don’t know. Perhaps this city’s full-time staff members want something so much, are so committed to it, that facts don’t matter anymore. Perhaps facts (even simply ones) seem not friendly but instead inconvenient, or even hostile. To my knowledge, no municipal staff anywhere in our state has said, on camera, as many dubious things about a waste-importation project as Whitewater’s staff members have said about this one.  (That’s disappointing as a resident of Whitewater, but publication of an account may be useful to other communities.)

Even a small town like Whitewater has, after all, millions of dollars at its disposal; even in 2015, that’s a lot of money.

The strangest part of this is that not a word was said from Whitewater’s full-time staff or from her vendor that had to be said, that was compelled – every word, sensible or absurd – was freely given, was unforced. If it should irritate some to read in the new year an assessment of those words, well, those so irritated are the source of their own irritation.

There’s much to transcribe and assess in detail, and time to do it. Good work is methodical, deliberate, and patiently friendly to facts.


Originally published 12.21.15 @ FREE WHITEWATER.