Monday, May 6, 2013

What you may not know: Week of May 6

My apologies for the late nature of this post: I got hung up with car trouble on the road Sunday night and lost some scheduled work time.

With that said, the Appleton Common Council has a busy committee week scheduled that will have a largely familiar feel to it, as many of the major agenda items were referred back to committee by one of the members of the council last week. Now seems like as good a time as any to briefly explain how the refer back process works:

  • Any member of council can, at a common council meeting, request that a committee recommendation be sent back to that committee for further discussion or or to address a concern.
  • If a member of council refers an item back, they're expected to appear at the committee meeting it's been referred to and explain their rationale for doing so.
  • The committee then holds a second discussion on the topic and votes to either reaffirm or change their previous decision.
Items may be referred back by any single alderman when they reach the council for the first time. After that they're only allowed an automatic referral if the item has been significantly changed.

Among the five items referred back to committee last week are a few we've discussed before:
  • Bike lanes on Mason Street were referred back to Tuesday's 5:30 pm Municipal Services Committee meeting.
  • The special assessment interest rate change we've discussed at great length in this space has been referred back to Wednesday's 4:30 pm Finance Committee meeting.
In addition to those items, we'll also be discussing the following:

Municipal Services, Tuesday, 5:30 pm

While bike lanes will almost certainly dominate the conversation on Tuesday, there's another matter of significance to District 13 on the agenda. Staff is proposing changes to the traffic signs on Pershing St that would see all of the yield signs along the street replaced with stop signs.

At previous meetings Alderman Croatt has raised the concern that replacing yield signs with stop signs at all intersections on the street could make the speed problem on Pershing worse, as motorists would be confident that all cars will stop for them and may increase their pace. He proposed a plan that would only replace yield signs with stop signs at Pershing's four-way intersections with Viola Street, McDonald Street and Alexander Street.

To be honest, I'm not sure where I stand on this. If you feel strongly about the issue one way or the other, I'd encourage you to post a comment here or email me at to let me know.

Parks and Recreation, Wednesday, 6 pm

Following Wednesday's Finance Committee meeting will be a meeting of the Parks and Recreation Committee, where the lone action item on the agenda is a request by Mark Behnke, owner of Bazil's and Old Town Tavern to lease 1200 square feet in the newly renovated Houdini Plaza for a patio.

If you've been to Bazil's before you may recall that they previously had a smaller patio in the plaza, which they've had an agreement with the city to rent for quite some time now. When the new Houdini Plaza opens they'd like to add some space back there, and you can see the basic concept of their plan on pages 192-94 of this week's Alderperson Weekly Packet.

At present all members of the committee appear to be in agreement that renting the space to Behnke is something we're open to doing provided we can reach an agreement on the right price. That's roughly where we hit the issue: We have an agreement in principle for a lease but are pretty far apart on compensation. The city would like $4,000 annually (about $333/month for the space), while Behnke has said he'd like to pay $1500 annually, or $125/month.

I do think renting out this space is the best outcome for all involved. I think the location we're talking about makes more sense as a patio for Bazil's and OTT than it would for most other purposes. I don't support giving up public space at a discount, though, and I worry that's what we'll be doing if we rent this space out for $125/month.

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.

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