Monday, July 20, 2015

What you may not know: Week of July 20

I'm anticipating a quiet committee week for the Appleton Common Council, with the Human Resources, Finance and Community & Economic Development Committees and Transit Commission all canceling their regularly-scheduled meetings. There are still a couple of items of interest, however:

Parks and Recreation, Monday, 6 pm

As you may have seen in the Post Crescent over the weekend, the issue of alcohol use in city parks is becoming a concern and may need to be addressed. Chief Todd Thomas of the Appleton Police Department sent a letter to Parks and Rec committee chair Joe Martin and I (as chair of the Safety & Licensing Committee) late last week to express his concerns.

The concern, in a nutshell, is this: alcohol-related complaints at our downtown parks have skyrocketed this year, with groups congregating to drink during the day and at times harassing other park users. This issue takes up a lot of our police officers' time, has led to some events being removed from the parks and creates the impression that our downtown parks are unsafe.

This issue was at least partially exacerbated by a 2014 change to the city's park ordinances which expanded the hours (moving the start time from noon to 10 am) during which one can legally consume alcohol in the parks. That change stemmed from a five-month review of park ordinances, which included several extensive debates on allowing dogs in parks (a change we eventually opted not to make). In the interest of full disclosure, I was a member of the Parks and Recreation Committee when we made that change. It was largely an afterthought to a long debate on dogs, and I don't remember hearing much in favor of or against it.

Over the coming weeks I suspect we'll hear several possibilities to address this issue, including narrowing the drinking hours in parks or eliminating alcohol in parks without a permit. It's still too early for me to predict how this will go or advocate for a certain outcome. This item is information-only and no action is expected to be taken this week.

Utilities, Tuesday, 5:30 pm

Managing stormwater runoff and the associated flooding issues are one of the elements of running a city that I think a lot of people don't think about. There's a very difficult balance to maintain between spending too much on stormwater infrastructure and allowing flooding to occur, and every project we take on to reduce flooding comes at a not-insignificant financial cost.

Over the last several years the city has been working on a project to better identify properties with large amounts of impervious surfaces and use the actual square footage of that impervious space as the basis for their stormwater charges. That's a time-consuming process and it's being done in multiple phases, with the most recent implementation happening for multifamily properties.

Last week the council heard from several residents of multifamily properties upset over their new stormwater charges, and as a result Alderman Ed Baranowski submitted a resolution calling for a review of this process and its implementation.

The existing process was largely debated and put into place before my time on council, and was the subject of much discussion at that time. I suspect I'll get an opportunity to learn a lot more about it in the coming weeks.

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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