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.

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