Sunday, June 30, 2013

What you may not know: Week of July 1

The Appleton Common Council is off for the holiday this week. July is a five-Wednesday month, so we've pushed our schedule back a week to allow everyone to spend some time with their families and friends without missing any work. Here's our new July schedule:

Wednesday, July 10: Common Council meets
July 15-18: Committee meetings
Wednesday, July 24: Common Council meets
July 29-August 1: Committee meetings

On behalf of all of us with the city, I'd like to wish you a safe and happy Independence Day. Before I leave for my vacation, though, I do have a few quick things to tell you about.


The Appleton Jaycees will hold their annual fireworks display at Memorial Park on Wednesday, July 3. You can see much more about the event at their webpage, but here's the quick version:

  • Bands Overdrive (5-6:30) and Boogie and the Yo-yos (6:30-9) will be playing in the park before the fireworks.
  • Fireworks will begin at dusk, which is roughly 9 pm.
  • The Jaycees will have food and drink stands at the park, and proceeds support the fireworks display.
Garbage/recycling collection

This week's holiday has shifted the refuse collection schedule a bit. Here's what you need to know:
  • If your garbage day is normally Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, your schedule will not change.
  • If your garbage day is normally Thursday, your garbage and recycling will be collected on Friday.
  • If your garbage day is normally Friday, your garbage will still be collected on Friday but your recycling will be picked up on Saturday.
Downtown trolley

Appleton's downtown trolley will take its maiden voyage for the 2013 season on Friday, July 5, and with the Olde Oneida Street bridge reopened it will be back to its normal route. The trolley is free, operates from 5-11 pm on Thursdays and Fridays and 8 am-11 pm on Saturday, and serves the following locations:
  • The Appleton City Center and Library
  • The downtown YMCA
  • The History Museum at the Castle
  • Pullman's
  • Eagle Flats
  • Between the Locks
  • Fratello's and Atlas Mill
  • The courthouse and police department
  • The Performing Arts Center
Whether you're heading to a specific location or just looking for a tour of Appleton's downtown and riverfront, hop on the Trolley sometime and check it out. 

And, if you're heading to one of those locations but it's not during trolley hours, the same locations are served every 30 minutes for the rest of the week by Valley Transit's Route 9, otherwise known as "The Link." 

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, June 24, 2013

What you may not know: Week of June 24

It's a committee week for the Appleton Common Council, but it's a relatively quiet one: three of our standing committees (Community and Economic Development, Human Resources and Parks and Recreation) have cancelled their scheduled gatherings. Here are some highlights from what's left:

Municipal Services, Tuesday, 5:30 pm

The challenges sometimes caused by parking downtown are an issue I hear about frequently. The city faces a difficult balance in trying to avoid inconveniencing users of downtown facilities any more than necessary while also maximizing the usefulness of limited space to park in the area.

At this week's meeting the committee will discuss a request from Appleton Downtown, Inc. to slightly loosen downtown parking restrictions. Their proposals call for meters downtown which are normally set for two-hour parking to be changed to three-hour parking between 6-9 pm. If approved, this rule would change on January 1, 2014.

As I mentioned above, the challenge of parking downtown is something I hear about a lot. I frequently hear it discussed as a reason people avoid going downtown, both to shop and to use facilities like the library. I know that an adjustment to meter hours isn't going to resolve all of those issues, but I do think it's a potential step in the right direction.

Finance, Wednesday, 4:30 pm

The Finance Committee has a couple of interesting items on their agenda, including a request to approve over $18 million in bond sales. It's my understanding that the bonds allow the city utilities to continue to operate while waiting for revenue to come in. I may be wrong on that, though, and I'm looking forward to learning more about it at the meeting.

Special session, Wednesday, 7 pm

Last week I mentioned  that the council needed to make a decision on what to do with the District 1 seat being vacated by Alderman Teege Mettille. After much debate Wednesday night the council approved a plan to hold a special election on August 20 to select a successor. This comes with a cost of about $6000 (plus another potential $6000 if a primary is needed), but I feel like letting the voters select their own representative is well worth the cost.

Preparations have begun for an August election, though, and we've found that District 1's normal polling location will not be available to host a primary if needed. So the full council will meet in special session Wednesday night to consider alternative locations and presumably be updated on the preparation process for the election.

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.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

What you may not know: Week of June 17

The Appleton Common Council will meet as scheduled on Wednesday at 7 pm, and our most notable discussions this week will likely involve the following:

Other business

The council has a somewhat unusual item to discuss this week, as one of our own is leaving and we need to figure out a plan to fill the resulting vacancy. Alderman Teege Mettille, who was recently re-elected to serve District 1, is leaving the city to take a new job in Ashland and will resign from the council following Wednesday's meeting.

While we all wish Teege the best of luck in his new endeavor, the fact that he was recently re-elected leaves a pretty significant share (22 months) of his term uncovered. The council has three options to replace him:

First, we have the power to simply appoint a replacement. We could announce a plan to appoint Teege's successor at our next meeting, allow all interested parties to speak and pick an interim alderman via secret ballot. This has been done before: Both Alderman Stueck and Alderperson Coenen got their seats this way. An appointed alderperson would hold their seat until the city elections in April, when the public would get to choose a permanent replacement.

This is a relatively quick and easy way to fill the seat, but it comes with three pitfalls:

  • The seat would be filled by a secret ballot from 14 alderpersons, none of whom represent or were elected to serve District 1. Selecting an alderperson this way effectively ensures that we'll get the candidate we want, but that may not be the candidate the voters would choose.
  • Coming and speaking to a group of alderpersons in an effort to win the seat is much, much easier than actually having to go out and campaign. It's possible this process would get us an alderperson who would not actually have been willing to put in the time it would take to win an election. 
  • Finally, even though we're only appointing an alderperson to fill 10 or so months, we're also likely choosing a favorite to win re-election next spring. The benefit of being an incumbent in low turnout elections is remarkably strong, so odds are an appointed alderman would remain in the seat for the long term.
If you don't like the option of appointing a replacement, the second option is to leave the seat vacant until April. This removes the burden of having to appoint someone from the council, but it also leaves the district unrepresented on the council for most of the year.

The third option, and the one I'm planning on supporting, is to hold a special election. This would carry a cost (around $6000) and turnout is likely to be low, but this is the best way to ensure the citizens of District 1 get an alderman that's willing to work to represent them and supports their interests. 

State law requires we wait at least 62 but not more than 77 days to hold a special election. That means the earliest a decision could be made is Tuesday, August 20. However, an alderperson selected this way could fill the remainder of Alderman Mettille's term, which would still be 17 months.

Board of Public Works

The Board of Public Works will meet for the final time before Council on Wednesday and one of their action items is relevant to District 13: There's a plan in place to add to this summer's street paving projects, pouring concrete and adding curb and gutter to the following roads:
  • Ashbury Drive between French Road and Providence Avenue
  • Glory Lane between French Road and Providence Avenue
  • Intertech Drive from Enterprise Avenue to its conclusion
The city estimates that these three projects will cost a combined $490,000, with $344,116.59 expected to be collected in special assessments. If these projects are approved, virtually all of the streets in the neighborhood (the only exception I can think of is Canvasback Circle) will have their improvements completed.

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.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

What you may not know: Week of June 10

It's a committee week for the Appleton Common Council, so let's get right to the highlights:

City Plan Commission

The City Plan Commission will meet on Monday at 4 pm and their lone action item pertains to District 13: a request for the city to annex a roughly 9.5 acre parcel of land along Evergreen Drive. With apologies for my lack of artistic ability, the chunk of land we're talking about is circled in red here:
The proposed annexation says there is no current plan to develop the land being annexed, and as such the property is likely to be zoned "temporary agricultural," with the exception of a small portion in the area of Apple Creek that will be zoned as a Nature Conservatory District, consistent with other areas near the Apple Creek Trail.

Assuming all goes as planned here, this will appear before the Common Council on June 19, July 24 and finally on August 7 before final approval.


The Utilities Committee will meet Tuesday at 4:30 to start a process that may not draw a lot of attention in the short term, but could have a significant impact on the future of the Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Recent regulation changes for outputs into the Fox River have created a situation where the city needs to consider options to significantly lower the volume of phosphorus in water leaving the treatment facility. The plant is normally allowed to discharge one milligram of phosphorus for every liter of output, but by fall of 2015 they'll need to reduce that to .2 milligrams. That's not something the plant, as currently constructed, is equipped to handle. Fortunately, there are several options available for handling the change.

On Tuesday staff will ask the Utilities Committee to accept a bid over $200,000 for an evaluation of the situation and a recommendation regarding how to proceed. The fact that we're approving spending that much money simply to study the problem really shows the magnitude of the situation. 


The Finance Committee will meet Wednesday at 4:30 and a public hearing is scheduled for that time to allow a pair of CPAs from Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, LLP to present the city's Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for 2012. 

Budgeting isn't always the most fun part of an alderperson's job, but it may be the single most important thing we do and looking at how previous budgets have turned out is a key preliminary step in the effort to prepare for 2014.

You can see all of this week's agendas on the city's new Legistar page. This will be our first time using the new system for committee meetings, so bear with us if things don't go exactly as planned.

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, June 4, 2013

What you may not know: Week of June 3

First off, my apologies for the fact that this post didn't run at its usual time. My wife and I were away on a quick mini-vacation for our anniversary, and I'm working on catching up today.

With that said, I'm back in town now and the full council meets Wednesday night at 7 to discuss action items including the following:

Municipal Services

I know I also said this before the last full council meeting, but I'm almost certain the top story from this week's meetings will be the final resolution of a LONG debate about bike lanes on Mason Street. This is an issue the council has been discussing since March (before I was elected), but I think it might finally be time to put it to bed.

At the last council meeting in May we elected to send this issue back to committee one more time for consideration of a plan that would have split the north and southbound bike lanes onto two streets to allow parking to remain on one side of each street. However, after hearing discussion of that plan the Municipal Services Committee voted 4-0 (with one member excused) to revert back to the plan that had been in front of council previously and reaffirm their support of it.

At this point I'm convinced that we've done everything we can to consider alternatives, but we have yet to find anything that serves the community as a whole better than the original plan. I understand that not everyone will be happy with the decision, but as of this writing I intend to support the installation of bike lanes.

As I just said, I know this won't be a unanimous or popular decision. I do hope those on the other side, though, will realize and recognize the amount of work that's gone into trying to find a way to make everyone happy. We've spent months trying to find a way to resolve this, and regardless of how you feel about the outcome I think some recognition is due to everyone who worked on it.

Public Works

Back to issues taking place in District 13, the Board of Public Works will meet at 6 pm Wednesday and two of their action items deal with the plans to add on to Cherryvale Avenue. I talked at length about this project two weeks ago.

This item was held at the last BPW meeting on May 15 due to some issues with the agreement with the developer, and to be honest I haven't heard any updates about it since then. Assuming the disagreements have been resolved, this project is still in line to be done this summer.

Assuming the BPW acts on these items at their 6 pm meeting, their actions will appear as recommendations before the full council at 7.

Parks and Recreation

Elsewhere in topics we've discussed before, about a month ago I mentioned a discussion about allowing Bazil's and Old Town Tavern to lease some space behind their property in Houdini Plaza for a patio for their facility. The city and owner Mark Behnke have reached a tentative agreement, which passed the Parks and Rec committee by a 3-0 vote back in May and will appear in front of the full council on Wednesday night.

You can view the full council agenda on our new Granicus system here. This will be our first meeting using the new system (which I'm being trained on tomorrow afternoon), and while I have some concerns about how it will affect the openness of our meetings I'm curious to see how things will go.

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.