Monday, September 21, 2015

What you may not know: Week of September 20

It's going to be a very busy committee week for the Appleton Common Council, with a collection of items we've mostly discussed before being the most notable:

Human Resources, Monday, 5 pm

The mayor of Appleton serves four-year terms, and will be up for election the next time in April of 2016. Back in March the Human Resources Committee was asked to make a recommendation on the mayoral salary for the next four years, and that action item has been held several times before eventually being approved, then referred back to committee last week.

The recommendation on the table calls for the mayor to receive 1.5% raises in each of the next four Aprils. This roughly amounts to a cost of living increase, and keeps the mayor's salary somewhat static when compared to the rate of inflation.

Months ago I discussed the challenge of finding fair comparable positions to use to set our mayor's salary, as our longstanding structure of a full-time mayor and no city manager or administrator is relatively rare. With that said, I think the mayor's current salary of $94,686 is fair compensation for his role and I support the current recommendation to make modest increases to it over the duration of the next term.

Parks & Recreation, Monday, 6 pm

Over the summer the Parks & Recreation and Safety & Licensing Committees spent a fair amount of time discussing the issue of alcohol in parks, as the Police Department has experienced a spike in issues related to our current policy of allowing park users to drink between 9 am and 9 pm. This policy is somewhat unique in the valley, as nearly all of our neighboring communities have either banned alcohol in parks altogether or require a permit to possess or consume alcohol in parks.

In August the Parks & Recreation Committee asked staff to provide more information on what the ordinance and procedure may look like if Appleton moved to a permit-only model, and on Monday they'll receive that information and be allowed to make a recommendation.

It's unfortunate to have to change a policy in all of our parks because of a relatively small group of people misbehaving in a relatively small number of our parks, but the reality is that our existing ordinances have allowed this to become an issue and have limited our police force's ability to resolve it.

Finance, Tuesday, 4:30 pm

The Finance Committee will be asked on Tuesday to make recommendations on several items, old and new:

  • First, the committee will again be asked to consider a proposed ordinance change that would allow alderpersons who cannot attend meetings to participate and sometimes vote on items. I approve of this item in concept but have been concerned with some of the specifics, including the determination of "good cause" for an alderperson to be absent, the lack of limits on times an alderperson can participate this way, and potential technical challenges involved in ensuring the remote participant can hear all debate and have their participation recorded.
  • The committee will also be asked to approve the city's special assessment policies for the 2016 budget year. I'm still working on evaluating and understanding the proposed changes for the year to come, and hope to have more on this item in future updates.
  • Finally, we'll also be asked to make a recommendation on a proposed change to a relatively new city ordinance dealing with licensing and permitting of businesses on properties that have fallen behind on their property taxes. An issue came to light this summer when a business renting space in a building was denied a license because their landlord had fallen behind on property taxes. The business owner had done nothing wrong but was forced to (at least temporarily) close due to this issue. Our legal department has proposed a change to the ordinance that would address this specific issue but retain much of the ordinance, which has otherwise been useful when dealing with delinquent properties.
Any committee recommendations on the above topics will appear before the full common council at their next scheduled meeting on Wednesday, October 7. 

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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