After a couple of quiet weeks (an off week to end July and a very light council agenda to open August), the Appleton Common Council has a very busy committee week starting today. Here are some of the highlights:
Parks & Recreation/Safety & Licensing joint meeting, Monday, 6 pm
The issue of alcohol in parks has been making significant headlines in recent weeks, and we'll likely take a step towards addressing the issue when the Parks & Recreation and Safety & Licensing committees come together for a special joint meeting Monday night.
The discussion will center around a resolution that would eliminate drinking in the parks without a permit, which would be very similar to the ordinances in place in most communities around the Fox Valley. The hope is that eliminating permit-free alcohol in the parks will help the police keep disorderly, frequently homeless drinkers out of downtown parks.
I sympathize with the police department's desire to do more about this issue, but I worry that we're addressing a symptom of a larger problem here. Our recent annual count showed that homelessness in the city is on the rise, and that's likely a contributing factor to the issues we've been experiencing in the parks. We're certainly capable of chasing these individuals out of the downtown parks, but unless we take steps to address the underlying issues we're just going to find them drinking somewhere else.
Finance, Tuesday, 4:30 pm
On Tuesday we'll discuss another resolution, this one an effort to try to mitigate some unintended consequences to a change to the city's licensing ordinances.
As you likely know, the city licenses all kinds of businesses: restaurants, bars, tattoo parlors, etc. Recently we changed city policy to make issuance and renewal of those licenses contingent on property taxes being up to date, giving us some leverage over property owners that may otherwise have allowed their debts to the city to continue to lapse.
This creates an issue, however, when the property owner and the business operator aren't the same person. We've had at least one instance this summer where a business owner was leasing from a landlord who failed to pay their taxes, causing us to shut down a business that got stuck in the middle of the dispute.
Last week Alderpersons Plank, Martin and I co-submitted a resolution calling for the city to develop a provisional, short-term license to issue in these cases. The provisional license would give tenants an opportunity to continue to operate for up to three months while the tax issue was being resolved, or in the worst case it would allow them to continue to operate temporarily while looking for options to relocate. These tenants have committed no crime, and I hope we'll find a way to help them make the best of a bad situation.
Board of Health, Wednesday, 7 am
Finally, a longstanding debate will reopen on Wednesday morning when the Board of Health will be asked to make a recommendation regarding Alderpersons Dalton and Meltzer's resolution calling for an expansion of urban beekeeping in the city. I've written a fair amount about this issue in the past, and remain convinced that the permitting process we've been using for hives on public institutional and urban farm properties can be tweaked to allow safe, successful, low-impact beekeeping on residential zoning.
Any action these committees or boards take on any of these action items will go as recommendations before the full council at our next scheduled meeting on Wednesday, August 19.
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.