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Whitewater City Manager tackles transparency dilemma and Youth Build development

Whitewater Common Council members face strict scrutiny over red text agenda items and discuss Youth Build concerns at Feb. 15 meeting.

City Manager Cameron Clapper and Council President Lynn Binnie went back-and-forth with Council Member At Large James Allen, who brought concerns forward over shared governance transparency for public discussion.

Allen discussed violations to the transparency ordinance, which overworked staff on a Friday night, who became confrontational with city executives over the agenda’s red texted items.

One of the agenda items receiving public comment sought approval with the implementation of the “Youth Build” program at the high school.

“He is talking about the items on the agenda with red text,” Clapper stated referring to Allen’s calling out the quorum during public discussion. “What I am talking about is the process of assembling packets, which was read about already. That is something that needs to be addressed, and I am happy to bring this back to be discussed later at another date.”

Clapper’s hot items on his agenda faced tough scrutiny between losing students to Elkhorn and publicly acknowledging his role with transparency errors.

Allen as a city auditor of deeds and member at large inspects what he expects. Allen called out Clapper for his lack of ethical accountability.

  • Transparency drives democracy as stated in the City of Whitewater Code of Ordinances.
  • Under Title 7.04.040 – Responsibility of public office: Public officials hold office for the benefit of the public.
  • Public officials are oath takers, who agree they will not make attempts at deleting agenda items.

According to Allen, the Whitewater Common Council agenda is made available online. An updated agenda must be published more than 72 hours in advance.

Whitewater citizens pay the city for delivery of packets and the red text items were removed past the 72-hour timeframe.

Transparency spotlighted infractions made by the Common Council including weekly reports. Clapper’s city manager update presented several items of discussion.

Clapper’s report presented his ongoing efforts ranging from filling vacancies with a public relations and communications manager at the Whitewater Police Department to welcoming a new library practicum student at the university named Andra Matthews.

Council members addressed concerns brought forward by a Youth Build advocate and his conversation with Elkhorn superintendent.  Whitewater resident Larry Kachel spoke in favor of the council sponsoring the program.

The superintendent informed Kachel that open enrollment of a Whitewater student enrolled in Youth Build attending Elkhorn’s school district reverts funding to Elkhorn and Whitewater schools lose their state aid.

“The reality is we either lose the kid and lose the state aid or keep the state aid and the kid and only receive $1,000 of the $8,000 allocated,” Kachel stated. “I think the biggest benefit of this program is the kids are working and learning.”

Allen indicated Whitewater could receive state aid allocation of up to $13,000. Common Council members decided unanimously that tabling the issue that evening was best.

Members of the council agreed the state aid belonged in the Whitewater community, not the Elkhorn School District.

“Youth Build takes kids and gives them practical experience,” Allen said during a phone interview on Feb. 17. “It’s a great program where high school kids build the house, and an impoverished family moves in upon completion.”

Whitewater Youth Build advocates reinforced that Whitewater’s hosting of the program would maximize determent of Whitewater children leaving the district as an incentive.

The chief concern amongst council members noted there may be zoning issues possibly delaying the implementation of the program in the City of Whitewater. Clapper faces a tough road ahead after receiving heat from alders.

Bradley J. Burt serves the Dane County community as an American Legion Dane County Service Officer. Burt assists those in crisis with his multimedia reporter service as a blogger to distribute virtual information at his Social Media Writing final project called "Outpost 422." Burt returned as a Wisconsin State Certified Journey worker after finding out he could receive 39 credits for his journey worker certificate. The Technical Studies Journey Worker Associate's Degree helped him transfer to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater where he received a waiver. The waiver allowed him to pursue the field of journalism bypassing general education requirements. In 2014, Burt uncovered information about the Wisconsin G.I. Bill as a Veterans Committee Chairperson. Burt joined the American Legion to investigate benefits further. After being elected to Service Officer in 2015, Burt began noticing college benefit opportunities in Wisconsin. In 2017, Burt left his job due to physical limitations from his military service-connected injuries. ​ The Wisconsin G.I. Bill became his life preserver. Burt returned to school to survive unemployability while waiting in appeal for VA benefit denial. Being a Service Officer taught him how to find resources to survive appeal. After interviewing Sgt. Gary Brynjulfson from "The Reflections of Vietnam" and reading Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried," Burt decided to develop a therapeutic writing style to help him cope with anxiety. Outpost 422 developed and journalism became his pursuit. ​ Burt works as an American Legion Service Officer who is surviving by going back to school and writing about his college experience. Burt's portfolio is his passion to pay forward to the next struggling veteran to offer avenues of hope to encourage veterans to try going back to school no matter where they are in life.

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