Common Council Tensions

Whitewater’s Municipal building was full of tension at Tuesday’s Common Council meeting. Despite believing in the city’s transparency ordinance, council member James Allen requested it be waived to have his items appear on the agenda.  

Allen requested to amend the agenda with six additional items. The items were further discussed after the council approved to waive. 

“To wave that notice to the public indicates that there is something urgent and that we have to deal with it tonight,” said Council President Lynn Binnie.   

Running for re-election in the spring, many of Allen’s items added to the agenda were to give community members updates about various developments happening within the city. Keeping constituents informed on these items could lead to Allen’s reelection in the spring.  

Amending the agenda on short notice may cause confusion among the community. The transparency ordinance allows council members to give 72 hours’ notice for additional agenda meetings and postings for meetings.  

“We have a transparency ordinance, and we should follow it. It’s awfully sad and ironic to have one of the items that I asked to speak about is our transparency ordinance,” says Allen. “It’s almost shameful. I had indicated on three different occasions with the clerk that I wanted these items added. They are not an emergency, but because they weren’t added, and I kept getting refused, then I become a little agitated. That is why I insisted they be on tonight’s agenda.” 

Added agenda items: 

  • Code enforcement in Whitewater is meant to ensure that policies and procedures are upheld, and these neighborhood service officers track these violations. Allen is concerned over various code violations that have taken place around the city that have not been addressed. Rather than suggesting direction, Allen sought to raise concern over the lack of training for the NSOs. 
  • Working with the cable company Spectrum, the city of Whitewater requested a piece of equipment to allow for broadcasting live meetings. According to Allen, Spectrum has been stalling on every community that needs the equipment, including Whitewater, which requested it six months ago. Allen proposes a form letter to put pressure on the company. He states that it could be sent to other communities to hold Spectrum accountable. 
  • To ensure that members of the council need not stay late on Friday nights refining the agenda, Allen urges staff to have items in on time and to allow for previously proposed items to appear on the agenda, eliminating the need for the transparency ordinance. He also asks that members have their materials to the clerk by 5 p.m. on Wednesday.  

“I’m not looking to publicly shame anybody, but staff is clearly not getting their stuff to the city clerk and that is why we are having issues,” says Allen. 

  • Allen amended the agenda to include item C-4 C to ensure that no agreement had been reached regarding the Youth Build Program. This program allows students to learn new skills and aids in the development of new homes. Community concerns involve the losing of children within Whitewater’s school district to Elkhorn, a neighboring community with the program and the opportunities that come alongside it. Adria Speck, a candidate for the School Board in Whitewater, explained the city’s obligation to its students and asked that Elkhorn find students for the program within their own community.  
  • The final item was to bring to light the development of the multi-family building on Tratt Street. Allen added this item to bring it before the community, so it is discussed in public. An agreement was reached to look further at this item at a future meeting.

News habits for more accurate information

My online consumption habits can vary week to week. With busy schedules, I do not have as much time to watch or read the news as I would like. News that I find myself watching and keeping track of are those that involve race or ethnic issues as well as those surrounding gender or LGBTQ rights.  

News stories like the Texas abortion laws are those I am intrigued by. This is more national level, and on local levels I kept track of Waukesha school district’s decision to take away the pandemic free lunch program on the basis of spoiling the children. Since this decision and backlash the decision has since been reversed.  

I also watch the Royal Purple for recent local news. I do not keep track of news from my home town, mainly because it is an exceedingly small area and there is not a reliable news source. Anything that I hear about our town is through other people or Facebook, and it is gossip more than anything.  

I do not usually use or keep track of any specific news sites. My use of news sites usually includes hearing about a story from someone or via social media and use Google to find the latest news on the subject. After using Google, the sites that I often find myself using is The New York Times or NPR.  

Sites such as these and others utilize multimedia platforms, and because of this I find myself reading text as well as watching videos. My favorite way to receive news is through reading text, because it is in this way that I can ensure I am properly engaged with the material. With many videos, I find myself zoning out and having to go back to a previous statement in the video. Occasionally, after reading news text, I will turn to videos for further information.  

Most often, Facebook and Twitter utilize videos as forms of news. In this case, I definitely start my news watch with these social media sites, and continue from there. Sites like this may obviously not be the most reliable sources of information. Because of that, I will deem something trustworthy and reliable by seeking out further information from trusted sources. 

 I remember a time when I was younger where I read an article about a famous actor passing away, only to look further into it and found that it was a common hoax that was spread throughout the internet. This is why I do not trust all information I come across on sites, whether it be Facebook or Twitter.  

After doing my research on particular articles, I may share the initial post. Beyond this, I don’t interact with news, which includes commenting or emailing reporters.  

My news gathering habits are different than each person. Unlike my dad who shares and believes every post on Facebook, I will continue to do my own research to ensure I am getting the most accurate information available to me. 

The stress of pandemic learning

I am sat here thinking about the last year of my education at The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Last semester, with vaccinations only just in sight, the burnout grew quickly.

Coming into this semester, I was dreading the idea of sitting in a classroom being bombarded with new assignments and hundreds of pages of reading. Three weeks in, I’ve been seeing posts circulating my home pages about many feeling overwhelmed and stressed, wondering how they could feel this way so early on.

I think it is important to realize that this feeling does not mean there is something wrong with the student, but rather that learning through a pandemic is hard. Worrying over our classes and assignments while staying healthy can be exhausting.

I am realizing that this last year of my education is going to be difficult, not just because of new opportunities, but because a world-wide pandemic leaves every person feeling drained.

That being said, we all should be easier on ourselves and take this semester one day at a time.