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.

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