Answering Three Questions

Post 58 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 received an email over the weekend which posed a few questions about this series (and then veered into topics unrelated). I’ll post a summary of the questions and my replies (sent via email already, in greater detail).

1. Shouldn’t city leaders receive the benefit of the doubt in what they do? It’s a political organization, not a child, that one’s considering when one considers municipal policy.

Look around Wisconsin, whatever one’s politics, and then contend with seriousness that government deserves the benefit of the doubt in long-range policies with fiscal, economic, environmental, health, and business culture implications (like this one). If you’re a Republican, do you feel that policies enacted by Democrats necessarily require the benefit of the doubt? If you’re a Democrat, do you feel that policies enacted by Republicans necessarily require the benefit of the doubt?

There just aren’t many people who see things so trustingly. Perhaps once, but events have a way of sobering one’s views.

The implication, as the emailer posed it more fully, is that it as disrespectful to question this city administration’s proposal. On the contrary, it’s a measure of respect to consider the proposal in detail, as presented.

2. Does this series depend on Whitewater going forward with waste importation? No, I’ll write about what happens when it happens, and focus on events where they happen. If Whitewater goes forward with waste-importation, then I will continue to focus on that local project. Having the project close-at-hand makes some work easier, and offers a long-range project to consider.

Still, there’s no reason to write about what’s not happening. If Whitewater’s government ceases the effort, then I will redirect the series to other communities, and related topics, in the state.

But what happens, here or elsewhere, is out of my hands. I’d guess that Whitewater will proceed with the project, but it’s just a guess. (The fact that as recently as 1.19.15 a member of Whitewater’s Common Council described the likelihood of passage as a ‘squeaker’ shows that a full-time staff can get just about anything it wants locally.) There’s not, to my mind, the slightest chance that this project will look like a close-call, or a squeaker, to a wider audience. That’s part of my interest: why do some communities reject these projects, and why are some willing to swallow them?

3. Why do you think city government is doing this, except to make money for Whitewater? I’m not certain of the motivation, but the question implicates revenue-generation for the government, not for residents. These two are not the same. One can confidently answer: some projects cause more harm than good. This seems likely to be one of those projects.

Next up: The Contentions Made in a Single Meeting.