Monday, August 12, 2013

What You May Not Know: Week of August 12

The Appleton Common Council has an abbreviated committee schedule this week, with two of my assignments (the Fox Cities Transit Commission and Parks and Rec committee) taking a cycle off. There's still a lot to talk about, though, so let's get right to it:

Community and Economic Development, Monday, 5 pm

It's likely some of this week's biggest news will happen tomorrow, when the CEDC committee meets to discuss four items I think are pretty significant.

First on the agenda is Alderperson Jirschele's resolution calling for the city to hire a consultant to help move along the proposed Exhibition Center project. News broke last week that the project has cleared a key hurdle by reaching an agreement between the initiative's leaders and the Paper Valley Hotel, which led to this resolution being referred back to committee for more discussion about where we stand.

Another important item on the agenda is related to that one: The committee will, at some point, go into closed session to discuss real estate negotiations regarding the project.

Third, the city will take up potential changes to the Fair Housing Ordinance, which I discussed in this space two weeks ago. That issue was held in the interest of time at the last CEDC meeting.

Finally, another conversation about Community Development Block Grants is on tap. Last week I mentioned that I wasn't happy with a proposal to use $37,133 in federal grant money earmarked for low and middle-income persons to pay for parking lot work at Einstein Park/School. Last Wednesday at council I submitted an amendment to strike that project from the grant recipients, and it passed by a 7-6 vote. You may already know that if you've read Sunday's Post Crescent.

Now that council has voted to remove that project, the question of what to do with this money remains. I'm hoping to hear some alternatives at this meeting and I'll be grateful for the opportunity to put this revenue towards a project that better fits the stated goals of the CDBG initiative.

Municipal Services, Tuesday, 5:30 pm

An issue with a very specific impact on the 13th district will be up for action when the Municipal Services Committee meets on Tuesday night. As part of road work scheduled to be completed in 2015 city staff is proposing installing bike lanes and sidewalks along Glendale Avenue east of Ballard, through the industrial park.

Frequent readers of this site know that I've been a proponent of bike lanes during my tenure on council, but I have some concerns in this case:

  • First and foremost, I'm very worried about he potential safety implications of encouraging more people to bike on a street that's frequently trafficked by semis and other heavy equipment. Even if adding a bike lane back here reduces the risk of bike-on-vehicle accidents, we're going to be encouraging people to bike in an area that's inherently risky.
  • Second, because of the way this industrial park is laid out, installing sidewalks and/or bike lanes on this street is going to have a pretty clear and immediate negative impact on some of the businesses in this space. Losing space in front of their business to road expansion and/or sidewalks and losing parking to bike lanes are very real concerns for some longtime tenants of this space that have already been harmed by construction on Ballard and now will face construction on Glendale.
As I've said before, I'm not against bike lanes. Before I can support any proposal to install them on Glendale, though, I'll need to be convinced that they're actually going to be safe and that they're not creating an undue hardship on our industrial property owners. 

I'm hoping to meet with city staff before Tuesday's meeting to talk about the situation and see if there might be any places where we can compromise. I'm hopeful we can reach an agreement that will be both a safety improvement and can be constructed without damaging existing businesses.

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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