Monday, December 8, 2014

What you may not know: Week of December 8

After a few quiet weeks, the Appleton Common Council has a busy committee week scheduled in what's likely to be our final full slate of 2014. Here's a preview of the agendas on tap:

Community and Economic Development Committee, Monday, 5 pm

It's time once again for council to look at requests for funding via the federally-backed Community Development Block Grant program, and the CEDC committee will take a big step in that process when they meet on Monday.

Our anticipated federal funding for the CDBG program for 2015 is $500,000, and of that $317,000 is divided among the city's Homeowner Rehabilitation Loan Program, Neighborhood Services Program, Fair Housing Services, the Appleton Housing Authority and administrative costs. That leaves $183,000 to be divided among non-governmental organizations that apply for funds as community partners.

A six-member panel recently met to review grant applications and produce a recommendation for the allocation of the remaining funds. Each member was asked to review the requests and produce their own recommendation, then the group came together to compare notes and combine their findings into one final allocation. Here are their results:
  • Greater Fox Cities Area Habitat for Humanity would receive $70,000 of the $96,000 they requested (73%) for rehabilitation of four properties.
  • Housing Partnership of the Fox Cities would receive $31,000 of their requested $31,200 (99%) to rehab and repair three units and the parking area at the Wire Works Apartments.
  • Harbor House would receive $23,000 of their requested $25,000 (92%) to help fund support counseling and advocacy staff positions.
  • STEP Industries would receive $20,000 of their requested $30,000 (67%) to help fund staff positions, support program participants and support other programs.
  • Fox Valley Warming Shelter would receive the $15,000 they requested (100%) to help fund staff positions.
  • Emergency Shelter of the Fox Valley would receive $14,000 of the $15,000 (93%) they requested to support a House Supervisor position and pay for utility costs.
  • Rebuilding Together Fox Valley would receive $10,000 of the $25,000 (40%) they requested for modifications to 12 households to increase accessibility, repair roofs or replace windows.
All told the panel was tasked with allocating $183,000 in funds over $237,200 in requests, and HUD regulations prohibit more than $75,000 from being spent on "public service activities." 

The committee will have the opportunity to amend or approve these recommendations before passing them along to council for final approval next week.

In addition, there is an information item on this agenda regarding the proposed Exhibition Center. Council elected to hold its action item regarding a land purchase for the project last Wednesday, and will take that item up again when we meet in our regularly scheduled session on Wednesday, December 17.

Finance Committee, Wednesday, 4:30 pm

Wednesday will be a busy day for the Finance Committee, which has a public appearance, seven action items and ten information items on a packed agenda. The action item I suspect many readers will find most interesting is also the first one on the agenda: A request to approve a contract with Vision Internet to redesign and rebuild the Appleton.org website.

The city's current website was built in 2009 and 2010 and is obselete in many ways. The current website is unable to offer many of the features users have come to expect from municipal websites, has been a challenge to upgrade over the years and needs to be built on a platform that allows us to do more with it internally. The staff recommendation in this case is to contract with Vision Internet, a company that has previously produced more than 600 municipal sites for other communities. The contract calls for $54,465 to be spent on the rebuild and budgets $5,535 for contingencies that may arise during the project.

It's very disappointing to have to spend money to replace a website just a few years after completing the previous one, but in the digital age our city website is one of the primary public faces of our community. This rebuild is necessary, but it also needs to come with a better plan to keep the site fresh moving forward so we're not doing this every five years in perpetuity.

Safety & Licensing Committee, Thursday, 5 pm

The Safety & Licensing Committee also has a busy agenda for Thursday, with 20 action items and several information items that could merit extended discussion.

One of those action items is a request to approve a stipulation negotiated to be added to the liquor license of La Michoacana Bar & Grill on College Avenue. This facility currently houses both the aforementioned restaurant in addition to Antro Nightclub, which made headlines recently due to a massive brawl in the establishment that led to a stabbing. This and multiple other incidents and concerns led to the city negotiating a deal with the business and property owners to allow the restaurant to continue to operate, if the nightclub operations immediately cease. The owners agreed to this arrangement to avoid a possible revocation of their liquor license for both businesses.

Another item on Thursday's agenda as an information item is a review of the Police Department's use of social media. This issue has been percolating now for quite some time: Here's a Post Crescent story where I was quoted on the matter back in early October.

There's absolutely no doubt that social media, when used correctly, can be a great tool to disseminate information and make our community safer. There's also a tremendous risk, however, that allowing and engaging in public debates in comments on Facebook leads to inappropriate content on the site and impacts suspects' right to a fair trial. The department's page is monitored for inappropriate activity, but performing that monitoring also occupies a fair amount of officers' valuable time.

We need to find a way to do better here. Social media is a tremendous resource that isn't going away anytime soon, but we need to be certain we're using it in an efficient way and not allowing others to abuse it.

You can see agendas for all of this week's meetings and the full schedule at the city's Legistar page.

Keeping you informed on issues that may impact you around the city is one of my primary goals as an alderman. Making the council's activity as accessible as possible to as many people as are interested is part of my goal to make it easier for more people to get involved with issues that matter to them.

Monday, December 1, 2014

What you may not know: Week of December 1

Most of the Appleton Common Council's committee meetings were canceled last week due to Thanksgiving, but what would otherwise have been a pretty quiet scheduled council meeting on Wednesday night could now have one big headline:

Exhibition Center land purchase

Negotiations and discussions continue regarding a proposal to build an Exhibition Center adjacent to the Radisson Paper Valley hotel downtown, and those plans could take a big step forward on Wednesday night as council will be asked to approve an agreement to purchase the site of the proposed facility from Outagamie County.

This item is one step in the process and, even if approved, a lot of hurdles remain for the project. No work could begin until or unless the city reaches an agreement with the hotel's new owners (it's scheduled to go up for auction on Wednesday) on a lease for the space.

I've been away for several days on a family matter and haven't had a chance to review all of the memos and paperwork we've received on Wednesday's action item, so I'm not ready to make any definitive statement on whether or not I support moving forward this way. I will say, however, that I continue to have grave concerns about the risk the city is taking if we end up owning this building.

Organizational meeting

Before Wednesday's regularly scheduled meeting the council will come together for an organizational meeting to discuss our council rules and make any needed changes to our operations going forward. Any alderperson can propose a rule change on the floor at this meeting, but several of my colleagues and I have pre-submitted two proposals for consideration.

The first deals with our procedure regarding action items that are referred back to their committee of jurisdiction for further review. Frequently when we consider controversial or high profile items an alderperson elects to send the item back to committee for a second look before council takes an official action. Any single alderperson can request an item be referred back at council.

This creates a situation, however, where we sometimes waste a significant amount of our constituents' time. It's not unusual for high profile items to draw a significant number of public speakers who take time out of their schedules to come address us and are disappointed when no official action is taken and they're asked to come back later. Four of us have co-submitted a resolution calling for this process to change in the following ways:
  1. If an alderperson wishes to use their automatic refer-back to send an item back to its committee of jurisdiction, they must announce that intention by the end of the day on the Monday preceding a council meeting.
  2. If an alderperson wishes to refer an item back on the council floor, they must make a motion to do so and council must vote to approve that motion.
The first clause above will hopefully allow alderpersons to reach out to potentially interested constituents to alert them of the change and save them the time of coming to a meeting for a vote that won't happen. The second clause will still allow for refer backs to be used if needed, but raises the bar for doing so. I think this resolution gives us an opportunity to be more respectful of the time of everyone involved.

Our second resolution, co-submitted by five of us, is in regard to voting procedure. State statute requires that any action item must receive votes from a majority of the council to pass, which in our case is eight votes from our 15 members. We're still required to have eight votes to pass an item, however, even if all 15 members are not present.

This creates a couple of fairness challenges, including one that has come up a couple of times during my tenure on the council. We had a vote earlier this year where the action item failed to pass largely because a couple of council members were absent. Seven alderpersons voted to approve the item and six voted to deny, so the item failed despite a majority of the council neither approving nor denying the item.

Our proposed rule change allows council to delay action in cases like this to allow the body to act more definitively at a later date. Any item that does not receive a majority vote to either approve or deny would be held until our next meeting, with the hope that a larger attendance will allow council to make a clear decision to approve or deny.

Update on an item from last week:

In my post a week ago I mentioned a resolution I had proposed calling for the city to review its zoning code regarding lights on gas station canopies. That item passed unanimously at the City Plan Commission last Monday and will appear before the council on Wednesday.

You can see agendas for all of this week's meetings and the full schedule at the city's Legistar page.

Keeping you informed on issues that may impact you around the city is one of my primary goals as an alderman. Making the council's activity as accessible as possible to as many people as are interested is part of my goal to make it easier for more people to get involved with issues that matter to them.

Monday, November 24, 2014

What you may not know: Week of November 24

As you might expect, this is an abbreviated week for the Appleton Common Council as we prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday and Tuesday night's parade. We do have some business to attend to on Monday night, however, before we go:

City Plan Commission, Monday, 4 pm

As you may have seen in Monday's Post Crescent, on Monday afternoon the City Plan Commission will review a proposal to rezone the former site of the Woolen Mills on the riverfront into a new apartment complex. The renovated facility is expected to house 60 apartments, and would be the fourth major residential project on the riverfront in recent years.

Creating a new vision for and redeveloping vacant sites is one of the critical challenges involved in maintaining a vibrant community, and being able to do so while also retaining some of the historic value of the existing structure is an added bonus. Projects like this sometimes create infrastructure challenges that we'll have to work through, but I'm glad to see progress being made to enhance our riverfront.

At this meeting the commission will also hear a resolution I submitted last week asking the commission and council to review and possibly revise zoning code language regarding lighting on canopies over gas pumps. This resolution stems from a recent ruling by the Board of Zoning Appeals that found our existing ordinances to be somewhat unclear on this issue. The resolution is simply a call for a review, so any final action on this matter will happen at a later date.

Human Resources Committee, Monday, 5:15 pm

Once the City Plan Commission has wrapped up, the Human Resources Committee will come together to consider several organizational shifts within the city, including the following:

  • Restructuring the organizational layout of the Parks, Recreation and Facilities Department to eliminate our Parks Planner/Liaison position when the employee retires and create a Deputy Director position.
  • Reclassify two seasonal positions in our Recreation division as .67 FTE (full time equivalent) to better reflect the actual workload of these positions and allow them to receive the benefits that come with their work level.
  • Reorganizing the supervisor structure at the Police Department to allow an employee that works primarily with handling electronic evidence to be supervised by the Lieutenant in charge of investigations.
  • Eliminating an Operations Supervisor and part-time bus operator position at Valley Transit and replacing it with two road supervisors to respond to concerns in a more efficient fashion.
None of these four changes are likely to have any financial impact (no impact is budgeted at this point), but the four changes allow city departments to be better prepared for unforeseen circumstances in the future, appropriately compensate and classify existing employees and provide a higher level of service on a more responsive timeframe. As an alderman I'm happy to see departments constantly striving to make internal improvements that will enhance operations going forward.

You can see agendas for all of this week's meetings and the full schedule at the city's Legistar page.

Keeping you informed on issues that may impact you around the city is one of my primary goals as an alderman. Making the council's activity as accessible as possible to as many people as are interested is part of my goal to make it easier for more people to get involved with issues that matter to them.

Monday, November 10, 2014

What you may not know: Week of November 10

This would normally be a full committee week for the Appleton Common Council, but much of that work will be overshadowed or rescheduled this week as the council wraps up the 2015 budget process. The full council will meet on Wednesday night at 6 pm to make final amendments before approving the end result.

A small handful of amendments were presented and passed at Budget Saturday:
  • Eliminating $10,000 budgeted to be contributed to the Fox Cities Regional Partnership, a local economic development organization.
  • Adding $8500 for the stormwater utility (an enterprise fund separate from the general budget) to study the geological and technical feasibility of a proposed stormwater project at Lions Park.
In addition to those amendments, I have pre-submitted the following proposals for consideration on Wednesday:

Sharing funding responsibility for the acquisition of a new police dog for our K9 program. In the past the City has asked for donations to raise money for the purchase and training of new K9 officers for the Police Department. This year's budget, as currently presented, includes $18,000 for the acquisition and training of a new dog. 

At Budget Saturday Mayor Hanna stated that the K9 units have become critical to the department's work, so he preferred to budget for them outright as opposed to seeking donations. My proposal would take us a step in that direction by maintaining funding for training and recertification of K9 units but removing funding for the acqusition of a dog and continuing to fundraise for that purpose. The cost savings of this amendment would be $9000.

Removing rent paid to Reid Golf Course for winter activities. As many of you likely know, the Parks and Recreation Department operates several winter programs at Reid Golf Course, including cross country skiing. The city currently pays rent to the golf course (an enterprise fund separate from the general fund) for the ability to use the facility and clubhouse during the winter. 

The golf course currently owes the city $165,000 as part of an interest-free general fund advance given to the course in 2002. The fund is scheduled to repay this money at a rate of $5000 per year for the next five years before halting payments for five years from 2020-24 and making two payments totaling $140,000 in 2025 and 2026.

I don't think it's right for the city to be paying rent to the golf course when the course still owes the city so much money on a 24-year interest-free loan. As such, I've submitted an amendment calling for the city to stop paying rent at Reid, instead applying the revenue that would have gone to the course to the course's debt. The cost savings of this amendment would be $8500 per year until the debt is repaid.

Restructuring street lighting improvements. The city's Capital Improvement Plan currently calls for $59,907 to be spent each of the next eight years upgrading city-owned decorative street lighting to LED fixtures. The upgrades will reduce energy usage on the lights, which reduces their operating cost and is also better for the environment.

As we enter some years of potentially increased borrowing, however, I think it makes sense to slow this project down a bit instead of tacking it on to our growing debt load. I've proposed an amendment that would change this project from every year for eight years to alternating over the next 16 years. Stretching this project out would remove nearly $120,000 from our borrowing combined in 2016 and 2018.

Eliminating proposed tennis courts at Highview Park. The Parks and Recreation Department's Capital Improvements Plan calls for the construction of new tennis courts at Highview Park on the city's north side in 2015. If you're not familiar with Highview Park, it's north of Highway 41 and in the neighborhood between Meade and Richmond Streets.

These courts would fulfill a "service area need," as the city has not owned any courts in this area since removing facilities at Memorial Park several years ago. This need is currently filled by an agreement allowing members of the public to use courts at Fox Valley Lutheran High School, which is about a mile and a half away from the park.

Highview Park is tucked away in a relatively new residential neighborhood, and isn't visible from any major street. Of the four streets that border the park, only one even connects to a major street. FVL, on the other hand, is on the corner of a county highway (JJ) and Meade Street, and is clearly visible to a lot of passing traffic.

I think both the city and the sport of tennis are better served by continuing to partner with FVL to provide access to tennis courts in an easy to locate, highly visible space than by constructing new courts that many of our constituents won't even know are there. I proposed an amendment to eliminate the plan to construct courts, which would remove $120,000 from this year's proposed borrowing.

Removing funding for re-purchase of industrial park lots. The 2014 budget contained $200,000 to be used for the repurchase of vacant industrial park lots that have been purchased by developers but not built. The money was not used but appears in the budget again for next year. Under the covenants of the park, purchasers have one year to begin work on their properties, and the city has the right to reacquire their lots if they wait too long.

A memo before the Community and Economic Development Committee in March of this year showed the following:
  • There were nine remaining purchased but undeveloped lots in the park. (A project has since begun on one of them, so eight remain). All of them have an explanation for their current development delays.
  • $200,000 would not be an adequate amount of money to repurchase some of those lots.
  • In addition, some of the lots in question had been re-sold without the city being given its right of first refusal, and it's unclear if we still have the right to repurchase them from their second owner.
Given these facts, I've proposed an amendment to remove this expenditure from the budget and remove $200,000 from our proposed borrowing.

If all five of these amendments pass, they would combine to remove $51,500 in general fund spending and $439,814 in city borrowing over the next five years. 

You can see agendas for all of this week's meetings and the full schedule at the city's Legistar page.

Keeping you informed on issues that may impact you around the city is one of my primary goals as an alderman. Making the council's activity as accessible as possible to as many people as are interested is part of my goal to make it easier for more people to get involved with issues that matter to them.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

What you may not know: Week of November 5

The 2015 budget process for the City of Appleton continues this week with a couple of key milestones in the process.

Budget public hearing, Wednesday, 6 p.m.

As I mentioned in last week's update, the Finance Committee held its annual special all-day meeting on Saturday to conduct the first full public review of the budget and make its first round of amendments. Changes made on Saturday include the following:

  • Eliminating $10,000 budgeted to be contributed to the Fox Cities Regional Partnership, a local economic development organization.
  • Adding $8500 for the stormwater utility (an enterprise fund separate from the general budget) to study the geological and technical feasibility of a proposed stormwater project at Lions Park.
The next step comes on Wednesday night at 6 p.m. when the full council will meet early for a public hearing on the budget. No official action will be taken on the budget on Wednesday night, but this is an opportunity for the public to weigh in on 2015's proposals before a final vote is taken next week.

The final step in the process is a special council meeting for budget adoption on Wednesday, November 12. It's likely we'll have another robust round of amendments offered before reaching our final decision that night.

Full council meeting, Wednesday, 7 p.m.

At 7 p.m. or following the conclusion of the public hearing, whichever comes later, the full council will meet in regularly-scheduled session to take up non-budget related business. The two most notable items on the agenda are things I discussed last week:
  • Last Wednesday the Transit Commission met in special session to unanimously approve a proposed fare increase for Valley Transit for 2015. The most notable changes are a cash fare increase from $1.80 to $2 per ride, a price increase from $56 to $60 for a 30-day pass and the creation of a $.75 youth fare. 
  • Also last Wednesday the Finance Committee voted 4-1 to recommend denial of a resolution calling for the proposed new Appleton Public Library to be sent to an advisory referendum. 
The council will likely take a final vote on both items at this meeting.

You can see agendas for all of this week's meetings and the full schedule at the city's Legistar page.

Keeping you informed on issues that may impact you around the city is one of my primary goals as an alderman. Making the council's activity as accessible as possible to as many people as are interested is part of my goal to make it easier for more people to get involved with issues that matter to them.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What you may not know: Week of October 27

October is a five-Wednesday month, so this would typically be an off week for the Appleton Common Council. Due to one postponement and a couple of special meetings, however, it's one of our busiest weeks of the year. Here's what's on my calendar:

Fox Cities Transit Commission, Wednesday, 3 pm

The Transit Commission will meet in special session on Wednesday to approve Valley Transit's 2015 budget, which includes a fare increase for most fixed route riders for the first time since 2009. The most notable fare changes are as follows:

  • The regular cash fare will rise from $1.80 to $2.00 per trip.
  • A ten-ride ticket will go up from $15 to $17.
  • 30-day passes will go up from $56 to $60.
  • For the first time a 30-day freedom pass will be offered for children and priced at $22.
  • A youth fare will also be created at $.75, eliminating the need for children to pay the full cash fare.
Raising prices for services that many low-income users depend on is never an easy decision, but after five years of flat fares it's time to make a small increase. The rule of thumb for transit is that fares cover somewhere between 15-20% of the total operating cost, and Valley Transit has been operating at the low end of that spectrum for multiple years now. 

Incidentally, moving the cash fare from $1.80 to $2 could also have a noticeable impact on the buses' on-time performance as it will significantly reduce passengers' need to get change cards for $.20. Improving on-time performance is a major goal for the service going forward.

Finance Committee, Wednesday, 4:30 pm

The Finance Committee was unable to meet at its normally scheduled time last week, so we'll meet on Wednesday to take on a very significant agenda. The headline from the meeting is likely to be the committee recommendation on a resolution calling for a referendum on the proposed new Appleton Public Library.

The current proposal for the library calls for the city to borrow $30 million over a three-year span to finance the site acquisition, site preparation and construction of a new facility, a figure that would be repaid over 22 years (each individual borrow would be repaid over 20 years). That averages out to less than $1.4 million in principal repayment per year, plus our historically-low municipal interest rate, spread over the entire city tax base. An additional $7 million is expected to come from private sources.

The need for the library to expand to a new, larger, updated facility is clearly laid out in the very first bullet point on this APL150 FAQ page. Library usage and circulation has nearly tripled since the current facility opened in 1981, and the use of technology has gone from an afterthought to a primary service. Given that need, the decision on whether or not to go to referendum hinges on three questions:
  1. Do we feel that the estimated property tax impact of this project is significant enough to require public confirmation? 
  2. If we elect not to build a new library at this time, will there ever be a better opportunity?
  3. Would a decision to delay this project until a referendum can be held (likely February or April of 2015) have an unwarranted negative impact on both the project and our partners in making it happen?
In my opinion, the answers to those questions are likely no, no and yes. We're still working on the specific numbers for property tax impact, but it appears likely the annual payments will be relatively low and spread out over both an extended period of time and the entirety of our tax base, so individual property tax changes will be small. 

Furthermore, our relatively low municipal debt (easily the smallest per capita of any community in our size group statewide) and track record for solid financial practices put us in a position to receive a very favorable interest rate for this project. Municipal bond interest rates are already at a near rock-bottom level, and we'll be among the most desirable in that group. Simply put, if we wait on this project it's likely to get significantly more expensive down the road.

Finally, delaying this project would create a significant issue for everyone involved. Both current owners of the properties likely to be used for this project, the church and Michiel's, have been operating with this potential development hanging over their head for some time now. Opting to go to referendum would leave them to face that uncertainty for six more months. That's particularly challenging when it comes to businesses based on events, who would be unable to book for the future but would have to attempt to continue to operate. Delays could also have a strong negative impact on the city's ability to hire contractors and architects mid-year to keep the project on schedule for completion and avoid costly overruns.

It's never easy to say an issue shouldn't go before the voters and I know this decision won't be popular with everyone, but I think it's time to move forward with this project.

Finance Committee (again), Saturday, 8 am

Last but certainly not least, the 2015 budget process takes a significant step forward on Saturday when the Finance Committee (with the remainder of the council also likely to be in attendance) meets for a full day to review and make our committee's recommendation on the full document. 

The library is, of course, likely to be one of the primary topics of discussion at this meeting but every department will be reviewed and amendments to the Mayor's proposals will be considered. It's a very long day but a necessary step in our efforts to do the most we can with the resources we have available.

After Saturday, the full budget will be presented and open for discussion at a public hearing before our November 5 council meeting and will be amended and adopted at our November 12 meeting.

You can see agendas for all of this week's meetings and the full schedule at the city's Legistar page.

Keeping you informed on issues that may impact you around the city is one of my primary goals as an alderman. Making the council's activity as accessible as possible to as many people as are interested is part of my goal to make it easier for more people to get involved with issues that matter to them.

Monday, October 13, 2014

What you may not know: MRAP edition

Apologies for missing a week last week: Our committee week agendas largely featured items that I didn't expect to have wide appeal, items I had discussed previously or items I knew I'd get a chance to discuss again later. I don't take weeks off from this blog often, but I didn't feel like I had much to share last week that would have been a valuable use of your time or mine.

As you might expect following a quiet committee week, we have a relatively quiet agenda for Wednesday night's regularly scheduled council meeting. I do have some new information to share, however, about an item we've discussed before:

MRAP Update

On September 17 two alderpersons submitted a resolution calling for the city to review several issues related to the Appleton Police Department's new Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle.

The original resolution called for four actions:
  1. A budgetary review of the costs involved in keeping, outfitting and preparing officers to use the MRAP vehicle.
  2. A staff review of options for returning, selling or disposing of the vehicle.
  3. A review of the process of acquiring such vehicles or military surplus items in the future.
  4. A review of processes involving active shooters that could be conducted without using "military vehicles."
At the Safety & Licensing Committee's first meeting to discuss this resolution, we removed items 2 and 4 after an extended debate. The remaining resolution was referred back to committee at our October 1 council meeting, and was discussed again at that level last Thursday. The committee's recommendation remains the same, but I think the second conversation on the issue was very illuminating.

First of all, at that second meeting we had our first opportunity to hear the police department's policy on when the MRAP could be used. You can hear it for yourself at approximately 37:30 in the meeting video, but I'll also do my best to transcribe it here:

The primary utilization of the rescue vehicle is:

A) As a rescue vehicle for the evacuation of officers and our citizens from an unsafe environment
B) To safely insert a team, SWAT or a team of patrol officers or deputies into an otherwise unsafe environment
C) The rescue vehicle may be staged in a nearby area on incidents where the uses listed above could be reasonably anticipated, and
D) Absent reasons identified above, the rescue vehicle is not intended for use in a crowd-control environment.

At this point I think it's important to note that altering tactical policies isn't something we as a council can do. Those decisions fall under the jurisdiction of the Police & Fire Commission, not the Common Council. However, I think having this opportunity to review that policy addressed some of the concerns regarding the MRAP vehicle. 

Two weeks ago I wrote, "I'm in favor of a strong policy regarding when it (the MRAP) can or cannot be used. I don't want to see the MRAP in parades or see it used for crowd control or non-emergency purposes, but if the unthinkable happens and we need it, I want our officers to have access to it." The policy detailed above satisfies my concerns.

I suspect we'll still hear some debate on this issue on Wednesday night and perhaps we'll get the opportunity to discuss more proposed amendments, but as things stand right now I'm comfortable with the situation in play.

You can see agendas for all of this week's meetings and the full schedule at the city's Legistar page.

Keeping you informed on issues that may impact you around the city is one of my primary goals as an alderman. Making the council's activity as accessible as possible to as many people as are interested is part of my goal to make it easier for more people to get involved with issues that matter to them.