If you've heard anything at all about this week's meeting then you've probably heard about the bike lanes on Mason Street. Following several hours of debate on Tuesday the Municipal Services Committee voted 3-2 to recommend approval of installation of two, six-foot wide bike lanes on either side of Mason Street from Prospect Avenue to the north city limits, removing street parking on all but a couple of blocks of the street.
This is easily the most debated issue that's come forward in my short time around the council, as Tuesday's 4 1/2 hour committee meeting wasn't even the only time it's been discussed. I understand that there's really no popular decision available here, as either the bike community or many of the residents on this street will be upset with any choice made.
With that said, I'm planning on voting for this for the following reasons:
- After listening to debate Tuesday night I'm increasingly convinced that there's not a better location that isn't simply an attempt to remove this issue from one street and put it on another street or collection of streets.
- The compromises I've heard proposed (one-way bike lanes on different streets and/or a "hybrid" system like on Capitol) don't really resonate with me. The one-way bike lanes create a compliance issue if bikers decide to go the wrong way and the format currently used on Capitol created both a bike and parking lane that are too narrow to be useful.
Also under the Muni Services heading, Wednesday night will be the first time the full council hears Alderman Croatt's resolution calling for the city to look at other options regarding the city's new recycling bins. This will likely draw some conversation but is unlikely to be too controversial, as all the resolution is asking for is a study of alternatives and no changes are likely to be made until the 2014 budget.
City Plan Commission
The Commission met last Monday and again voted to approve a special use permit for the proposed Kwik Trip on Highway JJ. There doesn't appear to be any new developments in this issue over the last two weeks, so I'd expect it to pass council without major issue.
The big issue for me this week comes from the Finance Committee, where members voted 3-2 on Wednesday to recommend approval of a plan that would establish an ongoing system to set interest rates for property owners who opt to finance their special assessment payments.
The proposed plan is going to be controversial because the proposed system is likely to raise the rate from 6% to 9% for 2014. Council just voted last fall to lower the rate from 9% to 6%.
I've written about this at length in the past, but I'm strongly opposed to this plan as written. I spoke against this plan at the Finance Committee meeting last week and plan on speaking against it again on Wednesday. Simply put, we all have constituents that have no choice but to finance their special assessments with the city. They may be ineligible for loans, unemployed or underemployed, retired and on a fixed income or in some other kind of financial bind that limits their options. We need to be exceptionally careful as a council that we don't set a rate that's arbitrarily high and punitive to those among us who can least afford it.