Monday, May 12, 2014

What you may not know: Week of May 12

The Appleton Common Council has a busy committee week planned, and here are some of the items I'm watching:

Transit Commission, Wednesday, 3 pm

For several years now Valley Transit has operated a somewhat popular service called "the Connector," which helps potential VT riders get to work and other obligations that require transportation before or after fixed-route bus service is available for the day. The service is used almost entirely for employment purposes, carrying passengers that work early or late shifts at businesses around the community.

A recent change in federal funding models, however, has had a significant impact on the Connector. A federal fund that used to provide money specifically for its operation has gone away, and local partners and agencies that have combined to fill in the financial gap in the past (most notably the United Way) are not in a position to simply replace that income.

As such, the Transit Commission, which currently consists of eight members from communities around the valley, will hold a public hearing on Wednesday to discuss the possibility of raising the far for The Connector by one dollar, from $3+bus fare for passengers coming from outside the "Connector Zone" and $5 for trips within the zone to $4+bus fare and $6, respectively.

Transit fare increases are always a touchy subject because they tend to have a significant impact on people who can least afford it. At present, though, it looks like raising the fare may be the only way to find the resources to continue to operate this important service.

Also at this meeting, the Transit Commission is expected to vote on a proposal to expand their membership from eight to 15 members to allow us to better represent all of the communities served by Valley Transit.

Safety & Licensing, Thursday, 5 pm

A day after the Transit Commission meets to discuss the Connector, one of the Safety & Licensing committee's action items Thursday night deals with another vehicle you may soon be seeing around the city.

Recent state legislation has legalized quadricycles, or "pedal pubs" that can be driven on city streets while passengers drink beverages they've brought on board. The state law allows municipalities to decide how they'd like to handle this, and a few weeks ago several members of the committee (everyone but me, basically) expressed interest in passing an ordinance barring alcohol consumption on these vehicles.

Appleton apparently has at least one entrepreneur interested in starting a quadricycle business, which has already experienced some success in Milwaukee and Madison, Minneapolis and Rochester, Minnesota, Des Moines, Iowa, Grand Rapids, Michigan and many more places across the midwest and the nation.

I'm likely fighting a losing battle on this one (with the committee, at least), but I think we'll be making a mistake if we ban a potential tourism draw for our city that has pretty clearly been proven to be workable and safe elsewhere.

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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