Monday, June 22, 2015

What you may not know: Week of June 22

It's a committee week for the Appleton Common Council, and here are some of the items I'll be keeping an eye on:

City Plan Commission, Monday, 4 pm

Two weeks ago I mentioned a pending discussion on the possibility of expanding urban beekeeping in the city by allowing owners of residential property to apply for a permit to keep up to five beehives on their property. The commission was split at that time and held the item for two weeks to gather more information.

Debates like this are challenging sometimes because of the need to deal with a perception of a threat. When done correctly, urban beekeeping poses at best a minimal sting risk. However, I've been told that previous debates on this topic were dominated by constituents fearful of bees, regardless of how small the risk may be.

Getting stuck in the middle of debates like this is one of the more challenging aspects of this job. Unless we receive some evidence that urban beekeeping poses a substantial threat to neighboring properties, the Plan Commission and the council will likely have to choose between:

  1. Passing good public policy despite knowing it will upset many of our constituents, or
  2. Siding with our concerned constituents and rejecting a policy based on their (at least partially) unsubstantiated fears.
Or we could pursue a third option, I suppose: Continue to delay action. That's the safest course.

Human Resources, Monday, 5 pm

Over a month ago I wrote about a pending action item at the HR Committee calling for council to set the salaries for the mayor and city attorney's offices for their 2016-20 terms. This committee has been considering these items for some time now, but made headlines last week when one member suggested that this could be the time to review Appleton's longstanding policy of having a full-time mayor in place of a city manager.

At this time I don't plan on supporting a change to the current system. I don't see a problem with the way the city operates under the current structure and, as I noted in the post linked above, comparable cities with city managers pay their managers somewhere between $35-50,000 more annually than we're spending on a mayor. If we're going to make a change and spend that much more money, I'd need to see pretty significant proof that there's something to be gained.

With that said, if this is an option my colleagues would like to explore then this is probably as good a time as any to do it.

Finance Committee, Tuesday, 4:30 pm

Several weeks ago one member of the council asked the City Attorney's office to look at possibilities that could allow members to vote on items remotely when they are unable to attend our meetings. This week the Finance Committee will be asked to make a recommendation on one proposed ordinance that would address that concern.

Serving on the Appleton Common Council is a part-time job (in theory, at least), and from time to time we all have things come up, whether it's a personal or family medical issue, work travel, vacations, etc, that prevent us from being able to attend meetings. Our voting structure, however, creates a real issue when members are absent: State statute requires that at least eight of our 15 members vote to approve any action, regardless of how many members are present. This can create and has created situations where an item that would have passed if all 15 members were present has failed at least partially due to members absent.

The ordinance we're being asked to consider would allow members with a reasonable excuse for their absence to participate in meetings via speaker phone. That would go a long way towards solving the issue I mentioned above, but might create some new challenges. There are process issues I'd like to see resolved before I'd be comfortable supporting this.

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment