Tuesday, March 26, 2013

An Organizational Support Announcement

This morning in my email I received some great news: My campaign has earned the support of the REALTORS® Association of Northeast Wisconsin. They're the third organization to announce their support for my campaign, joining Wisconsin Progress and Fair Wisconsin.

I'm proud to have a diverse group of organizations supporting my campaign, because it shows that my goals as an alderman appeal to a wide audience of prospective voters. I'm honored by the support I've found as part of my effort to get elected and get more voters involved in the processes of city government.

Of course, at the end of the day the only endorsement that truly matters in this campaign is yours. While I'm grateful to have the support of these organizations, none of it will matter if you don't get out to the polls and vote on April 2, or before by voting early at City Hall.  

As I write this the polls close in six days, nine hours and six minutes. I'd be honored to have your support for this campaign's final days. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

What You May Not Know: Week Of March 24

First, a campaign note: I still have a limited number of yard signs available, so if you live in District 13 and would like one please let me know as soon as possible by commenting on this post or emailing me at FFGKyle[at]gmail[dot]com. 

Moving on, this is the last week of committee meetings before the April 2 election, and here are the three things that've caught my attention:

City Plan Commission

The City Plan Commission meets Monday at 4 pm and their first action item on the agenda is approval of a special use permit for Kwik Trip to open a store along County Highway JJ in District 13. This is the first I'd heard of plans to add a location in the neighborhood, and to be honest I don't know much more about it. The parcel of land proposed is listed as being within the 13th district, which means it would have to be somewhere between Ballard Rd and an area slightly east of French Road.

The land proposed for the station is currently zoned agricultural, but Kwik Trip is planning on using it for a convenience store, gasoline sales and a car wash.

More on the plan, including renderings of the proposed store, are available on pages 17-22 of this week's Alderperson Weekly Packet.

Human Resources

The Human Resources Committee meets Monday at 6 pm and their lone action item is approval of the Police Department's request to "over-hire" one police officer using funds available from budgeted salary for a vacant position.

Chief Helein's memo to the council regarding this request lays out the details: A current officer is planning on retiring in September and the over-hire would allow the department to have an officer trained and ready to step into the job at that point. If the council were to deny this request then the new officer wouldn't be ready until sometime in 2014.

The additional wages the department would take on for this extra officer can be balanced out by using the salary budgeted for a "communication technician" position that is currently vacant, so hiring this new officer early won't have a major impact on the financial bottom line.


The Finance Committee meets on Wednesday at 5 and after weeks of discussion, this week they may act on a resolution regarding the interest rate on loans for special assessments.

Until recently the city had charged 9% interest for five years when property owners chose to pay for special assessment work in installments, but last year the council changed that rate to 6%. Now they're trying to find a metric to allow the interest rate to adjust itself going forward.

A key point in the debate on this issue to this point has been whether or not these loans classify as "secured" debt, a factor which will go a long way towards determining the eventual interest rate. Comparing these loans to "unsecured" loan rates could actually mean an eventual result significantly higher than the previous 9%.

At any rate, the Finance Committee is expected to make a recommendation to the Board of Public Works, and that could happen as soon as Wednesday.

Keeping you informed on issues that may impact you around the city is one of my primary goals as a candidate for and a potential member of Appleton's City Council. 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, March 18, 2013

What You May Not Know: Week Of March 18

The full Common Council will meet on Wednesday, March 20 at 7 pm for the final time before the April 2 election. Here are some of the topics on their agenda:

Human Resources:

The Human Resources committee met for over two hours on Monday, March 11 to discuss proposals for the city's non-union compensation plan and eventually approved the following resolution:
Be it resolved that a new appeals board be appointed by the Mayor to hear and decide appeals to the most recently adopted compensation plan. The appeals process shall allow for the appealing employee and the compensation consultant to present their rationale for an appeal and allow for the appeals board to make a final determination for each appeal.
That resolution was approved 4-0, and will appear in front of the council this week. All other previous proposals were recommended to be denied.

Municipal Services:

As I mentioned last week, the Municipal Services committee met on Tuesday and one of their action items was approval of the installation of bike lanes on Mason Street this summer. The meeting was reportedly quite heated with both proponents and opponents of the bike lanes on hand, but the committee did eventually vote 4-1 to recommend approval of the installation.

Appointment of a new IT Director:

Two weeks ago the Council was asked to approve the appointment of Interim IT Director Dean Fox, along with a plan that paid him $25,000 to move from Greenville to Appleton and gave him 24 months to do so. Both the expense and the timing were not well received, so this week the Mayor will again present Interim Director Fox, but with a modified proposal.

Instead of receiving $25,000 in cash, Director Fox would now receive compensation directly tied to his full moving expenses, including the realtor fees on the sale of his home. His time to move has also been changed from 24 months to 12 months. This is, of course, pending council approval.

Keeping you informed on issues that may impact you around the city is one of my primary goals as a candidate for and a potential member of Appleton's City Council. 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, March 11, 2013

What You May Not Know: Week Of March 11

This week we'll start with some announcements:

First, the League of Women Voters is holding a candidate forum Wednesday night at 6 at the Appleton Public Library. I'll be there along with five other candidates for the three contested races in the April 2 election, and I'm looking forward to the opportunity to discuss Appleton's future.

Second, I'm expecting yard signs to come in later today (Monday). If you live in the district and would like one, let me know by commenting on this post or emailing me at FFGKyle@gmail.com.

Now, moving on to this week's committee highlights:

City Planning Commission, Monday, 4 pm:

The City Planning Commission meets at 4 pm Monday to discuss action items including Alderman Joe Martin's recent resolution to allow honeybees to be kept on urban farms in the city, provided the owners have a permit from the Health Department.

This is certain to draw lots of conversation from both opponents and proponents, and at the moment I'm not entirely sure where I stand on it. I'm in favor of the benefit of having beehives on urban farms in the city, but I'd need to hear more about how these hives are regulated and any potentially related safety issues before I'd be comfortable supporting it.

Human Resources, Monday, 5 pm:

The city's non-union compensation plan is a big story again this week, as Alderman Teege Metille's alternate proposal has been sent back to committee for revisions and cleanup. Metille's plan, which can be seen on pages 61-62 of this week's Alderpersons weekly packet, calls for a classification compensation study team of department heads and non-management employees to work together with the HR department to reevaluate and recommend changes to the city's current compensation plan.

An amendment to remove Alderman Metille's proposal and replace it with the original Carlson Consulting plan was defeated on the floor during Wednesday's full council meeting, so now we're moving forward with a discussion of this new plan.

This has been a hot issue for months and there's been a lot of criticism of the council for the length of the process, but I think when we're talking about the pay plan for hundreds of city employees it's more important to get this right than to do it quickly.

Municipal Services, Tuesday, 4 pm:

 Action item A on this week's agenda is the approval of the addition of bike lanes on Mason Street from Prospect Avenue all the way up to the north city limits, which are a few blocks north of Northland Avenue. The bike lanes will be six feet wide, as compared to the 12-foot traffic lanes.

This is part of the city's On-Street Bicycle Lane Plan, which was approved unanimously by the council back in 2010. Mason Street is listen in the plan as "a critical north-south 'backbone' segment of the bike lane network," and "the only continuous north south connection in the area that is capable of safely accomodating bicycles."

The biggest drawback of this plan is that the on-street parking on both sides of Mason Street would have to be removed to make room for the lanes. The notes on these proposed lanes say "negligible on-street parking actually occurs" in this location.

I'll be curious to see if there's any public reaction to this proposal, the addition of bike lanes or the removal of parking to do so. I'm in favor of adding the bike lanes, but I can see how local residents losing the parking in front of their homes would not be.

Finance, Wednesday, 5 pm:

The finance committee will meet in a closed session on Wednesday, but once their meeting reopens they once again have a discussion planned regarding the proposed change to the interest rate for deferred payments on special assessments. This committee had an interesting conversation with members of the Realtors Association of Northeast Wisconsin two weeks ago regarding the divide over whether these city loans should be viewed as "secured" or "unsecured," and what that could mean for potential interest rates.

It's unlikely anything concrete will be decided this week on this matter, but the groundwork is being laid for a future proposal.

Keeping you informed on issues that may impact you around the city is one of my primary goals as a candidate for and a potential member of Appleton's City Council. 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, March 4, 2013

What You May Not Know: Week Of March 4

The Appleton Common Council will meet on Wednesday night at 7 pm to discuss issues including the following:

Appointment of a new IT Director

After a very long and drawn-out hiring process, on Wednesday Mayor Tim Hanna will present Dean Fox as a candidate for the city's vacant IT Director position. Mr. Fox has been serving as interim director of the department since 2011.

One of the biggest, if not the biggest, sticking points in the effort to hire a new IT Director has been the city's requirement that all city directors live in Appleton. Mr. Fox currently lives outside the city, but Wednesday's proposal calls for him to receive $25,000 in relocation expenses, and also calls for him to get 24 months instead of the usual 12 to move into the city limits.

I've previously spoken out against residency requirements for city directors, and to me this proposal feels like a slap at council members who have refused to waive them. Paying someone $25,000 to move into the city seems excessive, especially when paired with a two-year relocation period.

I've heard nothing but complimentary things about Mr. Fox's work as interim director, but I expect the terms of his agreement to move to the permanent position to be a pretty heavy topic of debate on Wednesday.

Street Repairs

The council will hold a public hearing Wednesday night regarding plans for street repairs, sidewalk additions and driveway aprons for projects to be completed in 2013, including the following streets in District 13:
  • Applecart Drive
  • Appleview Drive
  • Ashbury Drive, from French Road to Cherryvale Avenue
  • Benvally Drive
  • Cherryvale Avenue
  • Sourapple Drive
All of these repairs will be levied as special assessments onto property owners on those streets.

Human Resources

The HR committee is once again one of this week's top stories as last Monday they (by a 3-2 vote) approved a new proposal for the city's non-union compensation plan that calls for a review of all city worker classifications before the end of April and a new city classification compensation study team.

You can read the full amendment on pages 51-52 of this week's Alderpersons Weekly Packet.

This plan does represent a step forward towards achieving a new plan, but also a step away from previous proposals presented by Carlson Consulting, which have been controversial to say the least. This new proposal calls for much more employee involvement in the process and will hopefully produce a fair solution.

Keeping you informed on issues that may impact you around the city is one of my primary goals as a candidate for and a potential member of Appleton's City Council. 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.

Friday, March 1, 2013

A Little (Or A Lot) More About Me

This week I've started the second major step in my campaign, heading out to the doors to introduce myself to potential voters. If you live near the south end of the district, there's a strong chance you've seen one of the 400+ brochures I've delivered this week or talked to me in person.

This morning I got an email from one of the people who saw the brochure, though, wanting to know a little more about me and my background. I hope he won't mind that I'm sharing my answers to his questions with you.

How long have you lived in Appleton?

It'll be four years in June. I'm a native Wisconsinite (born in Wisconsin Rapids, went to high school in Minocqua). My wife and I stayed in Des Moines for a few years following college, but bought our house here in 2009.

What brought you here?

My wife grew up here, and when we got the opportunity to move back here a few years ago we jumped on it. She's a pharmacist at AMC, and her parents and one of her grandparents are longtime Appletonians.
Do you have kids? How many? What are their interests?
We don't have any kids. We may someday, but I think we both have other things we'd like to do first. For now it's just the two of us and our miniature dachshund, Gorman.

Where did you grow up?
As I mentioned before I was born in Wisconsin Rapids, where my dad still lives. I moved to Minocqua with my mom when I was ten and went to high school there before college at Drake.

Previous employment?

After Drake I signed on with a campaign for Governor of Iowa, starting as a part time volunteer and working my way up the ladder to Communications Director. I later served as a statewide organizer for Common Cause, a non-profit that works on good government issues and owned part of a small business before setting all of that aside to focus on my writing when we moved to Appleton.


No. I have the utmost respect for those who serve our community and our country but my life has never led me down that path.
What else, besides baseball, puts fire in your belly?
Even when I'm not writing for Brew Crew Ball, I do a pretty wide variety of written projects for other venues. I'm always writing something. I'm also a pretty big sports fan all around, and spend a lot of the baseball offseason watching high school (I'm a season pass holder at North) and college basketball. I'm also a big supporter of local agriculture, so you can find me most Saturday mornings at the farmers market, either indoor or outdoor. Finally, I'm a volunteer tutor for the Appleton School District, teaching reading to first graders at Ferber and math to third graders at Huntley.

What about Appleton makes your jump for joy?
Appleton really is a remarkable place to live, as I said in my brochure. I love that it has many of the amenities you'd expect from a larger city, like the PAC, farmers market, etc, but still feels smaller and is quite safe. I think the city is largely well-run and maintained, and that includes the schools. I also think the city has done a great job continuing to move forward and positioning itself to look to the future.

And what irks you about Appleton?
As I've said to countless people at doors over the last few days, I don't think the city does enough to keep citizens informed of what's going on and encourage them to get involved. I think a lot of city government's functions are technically "open" but often not easily accessible. I think conversations that the public should be involved in frequently pass without public knowledge, and I think that's a shame. I think we as a society don't involve enough people in the actual day-to-day process of governing, and we owe it to our citizens to make sure they know what's going on and how to get involved.

I also think it's possible that some of the things that make Appleton great occasionally get taken for granted. We need politicians in office who understand the strengths we have and will work to maintain them.