Monday, December 19, 2016

What you may not know: Week of December 19

With the Christmas holiday rapidly approaching and a likely light schedule for the Appleton Common Council for the committee week between Christmas and New Year's Day, this is likely my last update of 2016. Let's start off with a couple of updates on items from last week:

Police Union Contract

Last week the Human Resources and Information Technology Department voted unanimously to approve a new three-year labor contract with the Police Professional Association calling for 2.5% in total raises in 2017 and 2018 (with each year's increase broken into two parts) and 2% in 2019. Assuming council approves this measure, the city should be done negotiating labor contracts for a couple of years.

Updated Towing Ordinance

Last week the Safety & Licensing Committee voted 5-0 to recommend approval of changes to the city's ordinances regarding the "next wrecker up" list used to select towing companies called when a vehicle needs to be towed and the owner either expresses no company preference or is unable to express a preference.

The updated ordinance contains language setting maximum fees that can be charged for towing services, with the goal of creating some level of uniformity in fees among city-generated towing calls. It also establishes a consistent set of office hours for owners of towed vehicles to retrieve their vehicles and/or belongings, and provides a better set of procedures for the city in the event a towing company has to be suspended and/or removed from the list.

Parks and Recreation Reciprocity Agreements

This item is unlikely to be controversial, but I wanted to highlight another extension to a longstanding cooperation agreement with our neighboring communities that helps us all serve our constituents better.

For over 15 years now the City of Appleton has had reciprocity agreements with the cities of Menasha and Neenah regarding our Parks and Recreation programming. This allows residents of all three cities to use each other's pools, recreation programming and boat launches and reserve park pavilions for events at the resident fee. Last week Appleton's Parks and Recreation Committee voted unanimously to extend both of these agreements for five more years, ensuring cooperation through 2021.

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. Good governance happens in the open, and I remain committed to raising awareness on the issues coming before us.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

What you may not know: Week of December 12

First of all, thanks to everyone that has reached out over the last week to offer to sign my nomination petition to help me get back on the ballot to continue to represent the 13th district in the spring elections. I'm happy to report that I've received all of the signatures I needed and turned in my nomination petition on Friday morning.

Meanwhile, due to scheduling issues around the budget season and Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, this week is the only completely uninterrupted committee week on the Appleton Common Council calendar in the months of November and December. As such, we've got a great deal to cover on several busy agendas. Here are some of this week's highlights:

City Plan Commission, Monday, 4 pm

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, the City Plan Commission (which includes one representative from the Common Council, the Mayor, a representative of the Department of Public Works and four citizen members) has been given the opportunity to be the first body to review the updates to the city's strategic plan. This week we have our second review session scheduled and we'll be discussing the following chapters:

  • Transportation
  • Utilities and Community Facilities
  • Agriculture and Natural, Historic and Cultural Resources
  • Economic Development
I didn't live-tweet my pre-reading of the chapters this time, but I did scribble down a couple of interesting notes from my homework:
  • A theory that a reduction in on-street parking and our city requirements for business parking may be depressing the value and development opportunities for properties along portions of Wisconsin Avenue and Richmond Street.
  • A note that Appleton International Airport has grown from 28 acres in 1965 to 1,697 acres today.
The discussions surrounding the strategic plan have been a tremendous opportunity to gather a full overview of the state of the city, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to be a part of them.

Human Resources & Information Technology Committee, Monday, 5 pm

Among the items on this committee's agenda on Monday is a request to recommend approval of the city's new three-year union contract with the Police Professional Association.. The tentative agreement includes 2.5% in total raises in 2017, 2.5% in 2018 and 2% in 2019, with each year's increases broken down into two separate bumps during the calendar year. 

While Act 10 has greatly decreased the number of union positions in municipal government, the city still has three active unions: Police, Fire and Valley Transit. If this deal is approved by the committee and council, all three will have reached agreements on new contracts this year.

Finance Committee, Tuesday, 4:30 pm

I strongly suspect that a proposed ordinance to allow members of the council to attend meetings electronically is the council's longest-standing active item at this point: The resolution was originally proposed in June of 2015 and has been held ever since as staff and alderpersons have worked together to test and improve technology in the council chambers to ensure that alderpersons attending meetings electronically will be able to effectively follow and participate in discussion and remotely attending alderpersons' participation in the meeting will be able to be accurately recorded as part of meeting video.

The item is back on the Finance Committee's agenda on Tuesday and I look forward to hearing what, if anything, has changed to bring this item back to our attention.

Board of Health, Wednesday, 7 am

For the second consecutive month the Board of Health will again discuss the possibilities of allowing a limited number of chickens on residential properties within the city. I mentioned this item when it came before the board last month. This month it is again only being discussed as an informational item, but the discussion will include drafted regulations for how chicken keeping in the city could work and a draft of the proposed application.

Again, this week's discussion is information only, and the Board will not take official action on this item until, at the earliest, their meeting in January.

Safety & Licensing Committee, Wednesday, 6 pm

On Wednesday night the Safety & Licensing Committee will be asked to make a recommendation on proposed changes to the city's towing ordinance. I mentioned some of the work being done behind the scenes on this issue in my previous update.

The city currently maintains a rotating list of towing companies which they call when the Police Department needs to move a citizen vehicle, frequently following an accident or arrest. The vehicle is towed by the next towing company up on the rotating list, and billed by that company.

Issues with our existing towing ordinance, however, have led to inconsistencies in what customers may be charged for similar towing operations and/or differences in the hours a towing company may be open to allow them to retrieve their vehicle or items locked inside. Additionally, the current ordinance isn't always clear regarding what types of infractions can lead to removal or suspension from the list and how a revocation can be appealed.

Over the last several months our city attorneys and the Police Department have done a great deal of work to overhaul this ordinance and create a more consistent practice. The ordinance changes are being presented to the towing companies at their mandatory meeting with the Police Department this week, will come before the committee on Wednesday and could be approved by the Common Council as soon as next week.

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. Good governance happens in the open, and I remain committed to raising awareness on the issues coming before us.

Monday, December 5, 2016

What you may not know: Week of December 5

Before I get to this week's council update, I have a bit of housekeeping to take care of:

Nominations for council positions in the city's odd numbered districts (including mine, the 13th) are open and I'm planning on seeking re-election this April. This week I'll be looking for signatures on my nomination petition to get back on the ballot to seek my third term. If you live in the 13th aldermanic district and would be willing to sign, please contact me via my Facebook page, call me at (920)574-2092 or leave a comment on one of our neighborhood social media pages to let me know. Thank you in advance.

The Appleton Common Council has a regularly scheduled full council meeting on Wednesday night, but it will likely be brief as we have very few committee recommendations from the Thanksgiving committee week to take care of. However, I was still busy during our scheduled council off week last week, and here are a couple of issues I'm currently working on behind the scenes:

  • Over the last year I've heard an increasing number of concerns regarding parking issues around USA Youth Soccer Complex on the days of tournaments and other large events. I'm currently working to set up a meeting between stakeholders on this issue (three city departments, myself, USA Youth Inc. and the Appleton Soccer Club) to discuss any changes that can be made to improve this situation before the season kicks off again in the spring. It's my understanding that this item will be on the USA Youth board meeting agenda on 12/21, so I'm hopeful we can get to work on this after the first of the new year.
  • Additionally, as part of my role as chair of the city's Safety & Licensing Committee, I've been asked to help with revisions and suggestions for an upcoming (and long-needed) update to the city's Towing Ordinances. Last week I met with two of our city attorneys and a representative from the Appleton Police Department to review and suggest potential changes to this proposal, which is scheduled to go before the committee next week.
No official action will be taken on either of these items this week. However, both items are likely to come up in future updates in the weeks and months to come.

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. Good governance happens in the open, and I remain committed to raising awareness on the issues coming before us.