Monday, September 11, 2017

What you may not know: Week of September 11

The Appleton Common Council has a full committee schedule this week, and here are some of the highlights:

Finance Committee, Monday. 5:30 pm

The City of Appleton's municipal borders have seen a great deal of changes over the years and are rarely square due to single property annexations, boundary agreements with our neighboring municipalities and other factors that make it difficult to simply draw straight lines on a map. These issues have come to the forefront again recently as the Town of Harrison and Town of Menasha incorporated into the Villages of Harrison and Fox Crossing, further complicating border issues.

This week the Finance Committee will be asked to review a resolution submitted by my predecessor, Alderman Jim Clemons, in 2009 calling for the city to develop a ten-year plan to take action to "square off" municipal borders.

While challenging to achieve, having a collection of easily defined and clear borders would allow the city to improve efficiency when providing services. Around our borders there are a significant numbers of peninsulas and islands where various city/village/town departments have to drive across another municipality to provide services to their constituents.

Getting to that point, however, is not as easy as it sounds. Transferring property between two municipalities impacts both communities' tax bases, as one loses the property value and another gains it. In addition, bringing property into the city creates challenges related to the expansion of city infrastructure (especially utilities) and disposing of dated infrastructure like septic tanks. Once the city has invested in building roads and utility mains to a property, it's unlikely we're going to happily forfeit that tax base and hand it to another municipality. Similarly, it's unlikely other municipalities will simply forfeit property to us just to allow us to square off our borders.

In the end, I suspect this could lead to an interesting discussion on priorities and the value of efficiency as compared to preservation of our tax base.

Parks and Recreation, Monday, 6:30 pm

Back in July the Common Council received a resolution from Alderpersons Bob Baker, Vered Meltzer and Keir Dvorachek calling for the city to take a collection of actions in response to climate change and the threat that the federal government will attempt to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. The four actions requested by the resolution are:

  1. (The City) Indicates its commitment to reducing GHG emissions through future implementation of a Climate Action Plan; and 
  2. Join other US cities in the Climate Mayors network in adopting and supporting the goals of the Paris Agreement; and 
  3. Commits to exploring the potential benefits and costs of adopting policies and programs that promote the long-term goal of GHG emissions reduction while maximizing economic and social co-benefits of such action. 
  4. Form a Climate Change Board, to be filled by citizens of Appleton, city officials, and city staff to help set these goals and policies.
It's my understanding that the mayor recently met with the three authors of this resolution to outline actions the city is currently taking to encourage sustainability as part of our participation in the Green Tier Legacy Communities. Tonight the Parks & Recreation Committee will be asked to make a recommendation on this resolution in that context. 

Over the last few months I've received a significant amount of contact from individuals interested in seeing the city take a stand on this issue. Hopefully this item will present a positive opportunity for the city to discuss actions we've already taken and possible opportunities to continue to improve.

Community and Economic Development, Wednesday, 4:30 pm

The time of year has come once again for the city to begin work on Community Development Block Grants for the year ahead. Per usual, the city is expected to receive about $535,000 in grants from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and those funds will provide resources for a collection of city programs and grants to local organizations. 

As one of the first steps in the CDBG process, on Wednesday the CED Committee will be asked to recommend approval of the city programs expected to receive grant funding:
  • $115,000 for the Housing Rehabilitation Loan Program
  • $60,000 for the Appleton Housing Authority
  • $40,000 for the city's Neighborhood Program
  • $75,000 combined for the city's CDBG administrative costs and Fair Housing Services.
In addition for 2018 these requests include an expansion of the Appleton Police Department's "Summer of Service" program. The initiative, which has been active in the city for several years, works with at-risk teens to develop teamwork, work ethic and engagement skills. Receiving grant funding would allow for the expansion of this program to cover some of the Police Department's costs and offer a stipend to the students involved, which greatly raises the interest level in participating. The PD's grant request is for $51,847.71 to expand the program.

You can see all of this week's meeting agendas 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.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Council Invocation for September 6

Tonight I have the honor of giving the invocation before our regular council meeting. Here is the statement I plan to share:

Typically when asked to give the invocation I start with two goals: The first is to be brief, and the second is to be lighthearted. I'll still be brief tonight but in light of recent events, the cleanup from a hurricane immediately adjacent to the preparations for another and wildfires raging from Montana to California, tonight does not seem like an appropriate time to stand up and tell a joke.

So tonight I come to you with two things: First, a request to take a moment today to think of those that have lost everything, and those on the edge of losing still more.

Second, I wanted to share with you my sincere hope that, on the worst day of your life, you'll find someone who sincerely wants to offer assistance, and that they'll help without asking why you need it.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

What you may not know: Week of September 5

Hopefully everyone is back from a safe and happy holiday weekend. The Appleton Common Council will hold our regularly scheduled meeting this Wednesday, and here are some of the highlights from our agenda:

2018 Special Assessments

As I mentioned in my last update, work continues to establish a policy for special assessments for the city's street and utility work for next year. Special assessments for street reconstructions were eliminated when the city's Vehicle Registration Fee (aka "Wheel Tax") was implemented three years ago, but assessments and the related policies remain for the construction of new streets and underground utility work.

Two weeks ago the Finance Committee voted unanimously to approve a proposal that includes one significant change related to homes located on commercially zoned property. Those properties will now be treated the same as R2 (multifamily) properties in regards to assessments. This change was made in response to issues experienced along N. Fair Street following last year's assessments.

Library Process

Also last week the Finance Committee voted unanimously to recommend approval of a request for the Appleton Public Library to proceed with work on a Request For Proposals (RFP) for a future mixed-use library. Assuming council votes to proceed with this process, we are expected to see and vote to approve the final RFP before it goes out.

Southside Regional Park

A proposed regional park for an underserved area of the city on the south side has been in discussion for a long time but, for a variety of reasons, has never quite come to fruition. The process of rectifying that issue took a step forward two weeks ago when the Parks & Recreation Committee voted to recommend that staff begin negotiations with property owners to attempt to acquire space for the proposed park. As noted in Madeleine Behr's Post Crescent story, any final agreement or decision to purchase land would require another council vote to approve. However, this represents real progress on a longstanding issue for the first time in a long time and I'm excited to see it moving forward.

You can see all of this week's meeting agendas 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.