Monday, January 12, 2015

What you may not know: Week of January 12

It's time for another committee week for the Appleton Common Council, and these are some of the items on my radar:

Municipal Services, Tuesday, 5:30 pm

E. John Street is one of the city's busiest thoroughfares, and it's due for reconstruction in the coming years. On Tuesday night the Municipal Services Committee will get its first opportunity to review the street's proposed redesign, which has been divided into six segments:

  • From Banta Court to E. South River Street, the road will be 46 feet wide with a dedicated left turn lane and bike lanes on both sides.
  • At the intersection of John Street and E. South River Street, a single-lane roundabout will be constructed.
  • From E. South River to Telulah Ave, the road will be 43 feet wide with bike lanes on both sides and restricted parking.
  • From Telulah to Emmers Drive, the road will be 42 feet wide with bike lanes on both sides and restricted parking on one side.
  • From Emmers Drive to Fidelis Street, the road will be 43 feet wide with bike lanes on both sides and restricted on-street parking.
  • Finally, from Fidelis to Mathias Street the road will be 37 feet wide with bike lanes on both sides and restricted on-street parking.
The second item listed above could pose a bit of a challenge, as the proposed roundabout would require more space than the current intersection. The Department of Public Works is proposing taking the extra needed space from the Mead Pool property, but that creates some short and long-term concerns for the pool.

The Parks and Recreation Department has asked for alternatives to be considered before taking space away from the pool, and I hope we'll hear about some of the other possibilities on Tuesday night.

Finance, Wednesday, 4:30 pm

Special assessment reform and Appleton's new wheel tax are back on the agenda this week at the Finance Committee, thanks to a resolution submitted by Alderpersons Croatt and Jirschele. They're calling for a study looking into ways the city can financially or otherwise assist property owners who have recently paid for special assessments, now that some assessments have been eliminated.

This is a good idea in concept, but it creates a variety of concerns:
  • First and foremost, any concerns over the fairness of changing the rules regarding assessments aren't really addressed here. When council changed the special assessment policy we drew a line in time and changed the rule from that point forward. This meant that some people paid for street reconstruction and others would not, based on the time the work was performed. That's less than ideal but unavoidable in my opinion: Making the right decision now doesn't allow us to un-make past decisions. Changing the rules for people who paid a special assessment last year, or three years ago or five years ago won't change that problem, it just moves the line.
  • Second, I'll be interested to see how the authors intend to define the groups who should receive some form of benefit and those who will not. The wheel tax was designed to cover the cost of street reconstruction and eliminate special assessments for those properties, but one could make an argument that residents of streets that recently underwent new street construction should also be included in any benefit.
  • Finally, there's the question of how the city would pay for any changes. I doubt anyone wants us to raise property taxes across the board or borrow more money to pay for special assessment relief for a select group. As such, it's unclear how we could offer any kind of benefit without having to cut another city service to find available resources.
I'll listen to discussion on this one with an open mind but I'm not inclined to support any proposal that fails to address the fairness issue, creates a new fairness issue or causes significant budgetary impact.

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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