Monday, June 16, 2014

What you may not know: Week of June 16

The Appleton Common Council will meet on Wednesday night at 7 pm, and most of the notable items on our agenda have been discussed in this space before. Before I get to the updates, however, I'd like to take a moment to address an item that's appearing before us for the first time, the "Move to Amend" petition.

On May 29 organizers filed a petition with the City of Appleton showing 4514 valid signatures and calling for the following resolution to be either adopted outright or appear on the ballot as a referendum in an upcoming election:

Whereas, the Supreme Court's decisions in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commision and related case law allowed unlimited spending to influence local, state and federal elections;

BE IT RESOLVED that "We the People" of the City of Appleton, Wisconsin, call for reclaiming democracy from the expansion of corporate personhood rights and the corrupting influence of unregulated political contributions and spending. We stand with the Move to Amend campaign and communities across the country supporting passage of an amendment to the United States Constitution stating:

  1. Only human beings - not corporations, limited liability companies, unions, nonprofit organizations, or similar associations - are endowed with constitutional rights; and
  2. Money is not speech, and therefore regulating political contributions and spending is not equivalent to limiting political speech.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we hereby instruct our state and federal representatives to enact resolutions and legislation to advance this effort.

Frequent readers of this space may recall that I have a history with the fight to get big money out of politics. As such, I'm planning on supporting this petition.

Moving on, here are quick updates from the items I discussed last week:

Foremost Dairy site

Last week the Community and Economic Development Committee voted unanimously (3-0 with two members absent) to approve a development agreement with Vetter Denk Ganthet that would allow them to build several buildings combining for 96 residential units on the former Foremost Dairy site just south of the College Avenue bridge on the Fox River.

Despite the unanimous vote, some concerns remain about this development's impact on the existing neighborhood and the existing infrastructure's ability to take on this extra load. I suspect this agreement will eventually pass, either at this meeting or potentially the next one, but I do hope we'll continue to do everything we can to ensure all of our bases are covered here.

Sidewalk cafes

Last week the Safety & Licensing Committee reached a bit of an impasse on proposed changes for the regulation of sidewalk cafes serving alcohol along College Avenue. Appleton Downtown Inc. had previously approached the committee to ask us to remove two restrictions:
  1. A requirement that a server be outdoors at all times when alcohol is being served outside, and
  2. A requirement that a decorative barrier be in place around the cafe to clearly display where the cafe begins and ends and, as such, where alcohol is and is not allowed.
At the committee meeting last week I proposed an amendment that would have removed the first requirement but left the second one in place. I do think the barriers are important as a small, relatively non-intrusive step to clearly define boundaries for alcohol and the cafe. That amendment failed by a 2-2 vote*. The original resolution, unamended, then also failed by a 2-2 vote. 

As such, council will take up this item on Wednesday with a recommendation for denial from the committee. I'm still hopeful we can reach a compromise on this before casting a final vote, but I'm not inclined to support it if waiving both requirements is the only option.

* - For an amendment or action item to pass it must receive a majority vote. So a tie vote counts as a denial.

Downtown parking

Last week I mentioned a pending conversation regarding the possibility that parking meters could be removed downtown and replaced with two-hour parking and technological upgrades that would allow us to better enforce parking regulations.

In the end, however, that conversation was delayed to allow it to coincide with a parking study that will happen this summer. As such, this issue is on hold for now.

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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