Sunday, April 21, 2013

What you may not know: Week of April 22

Starting Monday, the city council will have their first full week of committee meetings since installing new alderpersons. For the next year I'm proud to serve on the following committees:
  • Utilities
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Transit Commission
In addition to those committees, here's what I'll be following this week:

City Plan Commission, Monday, 4 pm

The City Plan Commission has three action items on their agenda this week, but the one relevant to District 13 is another planned discussion of the proposed Kwik Trip on Highway JJ near the intersection with Ballard.

If you've been following this issue, you may recall that it raised some eyebrows when developers submitted a plan to build a Kwik Trip on property immediately adjacent to the Citgo that currently operates on this intersection. The Commission recommended the plan be approved by a 5-2 margin when they met last on March 25, but the matter was referred back for further consideration.

If the Commission's job were simply to approve construction of a gas station, this matter would likely sail through without much debate. When the city approves construction of a gas station right next to another station, though, it creates the risk that one station will drive the other out of business and create a vacant, potentially unusable space in the area.

Since the last meeting I've also been notified of some issues with the construction plan that are holding up the city's efforts to approve a site plan. Most of the issues seem minor, though, so that shouldn't be a lasting problem.

I expect this to pass again on Monday, and if it does it will appear before the full council on May 1.

Municipal Services Committee, Tuesday, 5:30 pm

This week's top story will likely be this committee, as a couple of hot-button issues take center stage.

First, one of the committee's proposed action items is the plan to install bike lanes along Mason Street. This installation is part of the Appleton Master Bike Plan which was approved in 2010, but has been met with significant opposition from residents along the street who would lose the right to park on the street in front of their homes.

This is a tough issue because the people who will benefit from this proposal (bike riders) are a largely separate group from the people who are losing something (residents of homes on Mason St). So, while the bicycle community has rallied to support this, the opposition against it has also been quite vocal. This Post Crescent article noted that over 500 residents signed a petition against adding the bike lanes.

In the end I think the consensus opinion is that this bike lane is needed somewhere, but the current plan on Mason Street has a pretty united front against it. I'm hoping we'll hear talk of some kind of compromise that makes this plan something closer to amenable for everyone.

As if that wasn't enough, the longstanding recycling bin issue will also come up on Tuesday. Alderman Croatt's resolution calling for a review of the city's recycling policies regarding the new bins will be debated for the first time. Many members of council have heard many, many complaints about the size of the new bins, so certainly we need to look at alternatives to encourage recycling but also make it easier for people to do so.

Where the rubber hits the road on this issue, though, is going to be cost. The city went with the "one size fits all" approach the first time in an effort to keep costs (and the resulting fees) as low as possible. Once we've figured out what the prospective alternatives will cost, the next step will be determining whether or not the people demanding a change are willing to pay for it.

Finance Committee, Wednesday, 5 pm

A new (although largely unchanged) committee will pick up a longstanding issue on Wednesday night as they once again consider the city's interest rate charged to residents who opt to finance their special assessment payments.

This issue was held two weeks ago primarily because a new council was about to be installed and it was deemed to be better to allow a new committee to take this issue up with a fresh start. As it turns out, four of the five alderpersons on the committee last year are on it again this year.

I think the majority of the common council remains committed to tying this interest rate to some measurable rate to allow it to adjust itself over time based on the market, but there remains some debate about what rate it should be tied to, and how much higher than that rate the city's figure should be.

I remain concerned that, in an effort to avoid competing with banks, we're going to end up setting this rate unnecessarily high and as a result gouging our constituents with limited financial options. None of us were elected to protect banks at the expense of our constituents, but if we set this figure too high that's exactly what we'll be doing.

More on all of these issues can be found in this week's Alderpersons Weekly Packet.

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.


  1. Regarding the bike lanes - I'll be at the Municipal Services Committee on Tuesday in support of them. If not Mason Street, where? That street was not picked at random. The residents of ANY street are just as likely to have the same complaints. The purpose of streets is to move traffic, including bicycles, not necessarily to be parking lots - many streets in town don't allow parking for one reason or another; it's not a guaranteed right. Every house on Mason Street has a driveway that can accommodate an extra car or two. Parking is available on the side streets, so if someone is having a large gathering, parking will be available a half block away. This should not be controversial.
    Becky Krumwiede

  2. Alderman Lobner, I appreciate you taking the time to write about upcoming meetings and share them with Appleton residents. You provide a helpful perspective.


    Rob Gusky