Monday, February 24, 2014

What you may not know: Week of February 23

The Appleton Common Council wraps up February with a full week of committee meetings, and here are some of the highlights I'll be following:

Municipal Services, Tuesday, 5:30 pm

Two weeks ago the Municipal Services Committee received a request to waive the parking fees at the city's "Yellow" parking ramp once annually during the American Cancer Society's annual "Sole Burner" 5k. The committee rejected the request by a 4-0 vote, noting that waiving the fee would set a precedent that could lead to other groups that hold downtown events reaching out for similar consideration. After hearing from representatives from the Sole Burner at Wednesday's council meeting, I elected to refer this matter back to the committee, where it will be heard again on Tuesday night.

I sent this matter back to committee because I think there's a conversation to be had about compromise. The Cancer Society came to us because they're looking to reduce costs for their event to allow more of their proceeds to go to their mission: supporting cancer research. The committee rejected a request to waive the fee because they don't want to open up the ramp for free. Somewhere in the middle, I think we can reach an agreement.

Currently, the city opens up the ramp from 6-9 am on the day of the event, and the Cancer Society pays $2 (the normal fee) for every car that enters the ramp during that time. In 2013 that was about $1500. It's likely that not all of those cars were there for the race. It's also likely that 750 cars is significantly more than use the ramp most Saturday mornings that time of year (this is before the outdoor farmers market begins).

While I recognize the city's reluctance to give up the parking revenue for free, I also think finding a way to help the Cancer Society achieve their goal of spending less on parking and more on cancer research is the right thing to do. I hope we'll find a way to do that.

Parks and Recreation, Wednesday, 6 pm

A month ago, as we finished debating a proposal to allow dogs into Appleton's parks (a proposal which failed), Alderperson Cathy Spears submitted a resolution calling for the city to build a "dog friendly" area on Water Street at the location of the city's former Water Treatment Plant.

During the debate on dogs in parks I attempted to make it clear that dogs in parks and dog parks are very separate issues. Dog parks are a place to let your dog run free and exercise off-leash, while allowing dogs in parks would allow for dogs to be in a much more controlled state and setting. The activities involved in the two proposals are very different.

With that said, I would be in favor of the city adding an additional dog park. Before we select this as the right location, however, there are several questions I'll need to have answered:

  • First of all, is this parcel of land the right size to accommodate this use? 
  • Would the proximity to the river create any issues? 
  • What are the alternatives for this property? Could we be turning away a possible opportunity to put riverfront property back on the tax rolls?
  • Is this location our most convenient option for potential users?
I appreciate any effort to make Appleton a more dog-friendly community, but I'm entering this conversation as a bit of a skeptic.

You can see agendas for all of this week's meetings and the full schedule at the city's Legistar page.

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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