Tuesday, September 30, 2014

What you may not know: Week of September 29

Apologies for the belated post, but the Appleton Common Council will meet on Wednesday at 7 pm and the agenda includes three items we've discussed in this space before. Here are the updates:

Painted sign resolution

At last week's City Plan Commission we voted 7-0 to recommend approval of a staff recommendation to modify the city's ordinances regarding signs painted on the sides of buildings. The changes proposed would allow a percentage of a building on commercial property to feature a painted sign.

We've been through this discussion multiple times now and it represents a pretty significant challenge: We either need to allow all painted signs below a certain set of dimensions, allow no painted signs, or allow some signs and try to establish how we're going to define what is and is not allowed. The Commission recommended the first of those three options, and I think that's the right decision.

Lions Park repurposing

At a joint meeting last week the Utilities and Parks & Recreation Committees both voted unanimously to recommend approval of a two-year delay on a proposed stormwater project at Lions Park on the city's south side. An area near the park experienced significant flooding twice in a decade during what's known as "100-year" rain events during the 2000's, leading the city to take some steps and consider more to mitigate stormwater risk in this area.

Current and recently concluded projects at Appleton East High School are expected to reduce potential flooding by better than 40%, and it appears we're going to stop there for a while and allow the Stormwater Utility to focus on other projects.

This one will almost certainly come up again at some point in the future, but the committees that voted to recommend a two-delay include nine of the 15 council members. As such, their recommendation should pass easily at council.

Military surplus vehicles

Last week the Safety & Licensing Committee voted 4-1 to approve an amended version of a resolution submitted by two alderpersons calling for the city to review the process and expenses involved with acquiring and training officers to use military surplus vehicles like the city's Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle we recently received through the federal 1033 program.

The original resolution called for four actions:

  1. A budgetary review of the costs involved in keeping, outfitting and preparing officers to use the MRAP vehicle.
  2. A staff review of options for returning, selling or disposing of the vehicle.
  3. A review of the process of acquiring such vehicles or military surplus items in the future.
  4. A review of processes involving active shooters that could be conducted without using "military vehicles."
The amended version of the resolution recommended items #1 and 3 for approval but removed items #2 and 4 from the discussion. I voted in favor of that amendment and the resolution as amended.

There's a tough balance to find here between people who are concerned regarding the "militarization" of the police and the desire to have the best tools available to be used in emergency situations. I think having the vehicle (which the city shares with Outagamie County, by the way) will help to keep our officers and civilians safe in the hopefully rare event that it's needed. If anything, I'm in favor of a strong policy regarding when it can or cannot be used. I don't want to see the MRAP in parades or see it used for crowd control or non-emergency purposes, but if the unthinkable happens and we need it, I want our officers to have access to it.

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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