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THE JULY 3 COMMON COUNCIL MEETING HAS BEEN CANCELLED. NEXT MEETING IS JULY 17.

HomeCity of AppletonAppleton City Council Update: April 21, 2024

Appleton City Council Update: April 21, 2024

Hi, Neighbors! It’s our first week of the “new” council with new committee members assigned to most of the committees, commissions, and boards. Below please find a summary of what to expect in these meetings this coming week. Each committee will be asked to take on the same few new council year housekeeping items such as electing a vice chairman and officially setting the day/time of the committee’s meeting for the council year. Other than that…

<See the last paragraphs of this blog post for an update on last week’s Common Council vote to remove the Pledge of Allegiance from our committee/commission/board meetings.>

Monday, 04/22/2024

Municipal Services Committee – 4:30pm These committee members will be asked to review and approve a new street design for the proposed Emerald Valley Estates 8-10 Subdivision (north and west of Aquamarine and Providence) using the city’s new Complete Streets Design Guide worksheets. This is a new (added) step in the process of development of a new subdivision in the city. It allows for one more set of meetings in which the public and council members can make public comment on proposed new development in the city. For now, I think this is a good thing. But I fear the further contention that might come with new developments and the not-in-my-backyard neighbors to them. We shall see how this first one goes. If you are interested in the content of this action item, see this memo. Let me know if you have any questions!

Other action items include a request for the placement of a parklet in one parking spot on Washington Street and a request for the placement of tables and chairs in the amenity strip in front of 215 E College Avenue. There will also be a review of the Annual Report (2023) for the Parking Utility. Note that 17% of the income for 2023 was from “Special Revenue” — the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds that were again provided to the utility but have “run dry” for this purpose going forward.

Finance Committee – 5:30pm This committee will hear requests for approval of an over-budget-but-pared-back-to-be-within-budget sanitary storm sewer lining project contract and an under-budget contract for the installation of a new generator at the Parks and Recreation/Facilities Management Department building. While I’m pleased with the latter, the former is of concern because a portion of the planned project had to be postponed until further funds can be made available in the budget… and who knowsa when and how that will be?

Parks and Recreation Committee – 6:15pm This meeting has been cancelled due to lack of agenda items.

Tuesday, 04/23/2024

Fox Cities Transit Commission – 2:50pm After all of the new council year housekeeping items are taken care of, this commission will move on to the potential approval of the March 2024 payments and the potential awarding of a new five-year contract for Paratransit (ADA) services.

Utilities Committee – 4:30pm The one non-housekeeping item on this committee’s agenda is the potential approval of an engineering contract for the rehabilitation of the primary clarifiers for the Appleton Wastewater Treatment Plant (AWWTP).

Wednesday, 04/24/2024

City Plan Commission – 3:30pm This commission will hear two requests as follow:

  • For a Special Use Permit to allow for a 521 square foot tavern (to be constructed inside an existing garage storage space abutting a gas station) at 1201 N Badger Avenue (currently a Mobil station). This one is tricky as the Clerk’s office has made the statement that two different types of alcohol licenses cannot be issued for two separate businesses on premises connected to one another. The existing convenience store and the proposed tavern must have separate entrances, separate restrooms, and separate storage areas for alcohol. Staff recommends that the special use permit be issued but with these restrictions strictly enforced.
  • For acceptance of the dedication of the proposed new outlot for a public trail in the Southpoint Commerce Park.

Human Resources and Information Technology Committee – 4:30pm The folks on this committee might be disappointed as a vote to change their meeting time (from 4:30pm to 6:30pm) is on the table. Last council year, this committee and the Community and Economic Development Committee switched times due to one council member/committee member’s other time commitments. And this year… the reverse switch is in the cards. Besides that and the other new council year standard agenda items, these committee members will also be briefed on some updates to the city’s asbestos safety policy and the city’s personnel record retention policy.

Safety and Licensing Committee – 5:30pm Once again, this committee will be asked to take up the potential approval of a liquor (bartender’s) license for an applicant who has been convicted of five Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) charges — the last two, felony charges per state law. The last time this committee heard more on this item (the initial referral of this vote back to the committee from the full council), the applicant was not present. So the committee opted to hold the item in the hopes of hearing from the applicant himself. Those present at the last meeting heard that there is a potential for the city to come into legal troubles for “employment discrimination” if the applicant’s license was denied after he submits “proof of rehabilitation.” This had us all confused about what would be best for the city as a whole.

This time, however, there is some clarification from the city attorney’s office and the Appleton Police Department (APD) in an updated memo regarding this case. I am relieved that we have some further clarification on this as this updated memo states: “Pursuant to Wis. Stat. §111.335(2)(b) and (3)(a), it is not employment discrimination for a licensing agency to deny an applicant based on an arrest or conviction record where the circumstances of the conviction substantially relate to the circumstances of the particular licensed activity.” (my emphasis added)

I’ll repeat what I mentioned before in this regard: No matter how much I empathize with applicant or feel that he may be working diligently on his personal rehabilitation, it is the safety of the citizens of the entire City of Appleton we council members must keep in mind. And the updated APD memo affirms that their recommendation is a denial of this license. What are your follow-up thoughts?

There is another tricky one on the agenda for this committee as well: The requested licensed premises amendment (expansion of liquor service territory to include a front amenity strip area) for OB’s Brau Haus on College Avenue. This one is contentious as there have been many issues with crime and liquor license violations surrounding this business location. This item was held the last time the committee met but I don’t know that it can keep being held indefinitely so it will have to be discussed soon. I suspect that the number of demerit points this establishment has on its liquor license will be a major topic of discussion. However… committee members (and subsequently, council members) may have no choice but to approve this request since the establishment could possibly sue the city for it elsewise.

Other items on the agenda include requests to approve 1) the renewal of a contract with the city’s current supplier of crossing guards for the city/school district, 2) Appleton Fire Department (AFD) aid agreements with the Kimberly Fire Department and the Grand Chute Fire Department, 3) temporary premises amendments for serving liquor during a street closure for Cinco de Mayo, and 4) multiple temporary liquor licenses for several upcoming festivals and events.

Community Development Committee – 6:30pm This meeting has been cancelled due to lack of agenda items.

That’s all for this Committee Meetings Week. As I always state, it is important to me that I hear from you regarding the items to be discussed during the week or any other city-government-related item. Please always feel free to share your thoughts with me!

Many of you provided feedback to me regarding an important issue I mentioned last week — the potential removal of the Pledge of Allegiance from the city’s committee/commission/board meetings held in the council chambers. Not one person emailed to say that this was a great idea or supported it with logical and cogent arguments for the removal.

As I mentioned in last week’s blog post, it seemed unfathomable to me that there would be a request to remove this small but important piece of our local government meetings. Those who argued to remove it used the following arguments (in italics below). I argued against these flimsy assertions as follows:

  • “People moving in and out of chambers between committee/commission/board meetings make the recitation of the Pledge ‘disrespectful.'” In argument, I gave the example of an experience that many of us have had while attending a baseball game at Fox Cities Stadium or Miller Park (yes, it will always be Miller Park) or even at a Little League game. Everyone is milling about, doing their own thing. But then, the National Anthem begins and we all snap to attention and focus on that one thing. It is our call to pay attention to what is happening then and what will happen next. The Pledge of Allegiance calls us to do the same as a new meeting begins and committees/commissions/boards are then in session. It does not have to be a perfect recitation of the Pledge (as there may be people entering chambers mid-Pledge) as long as we make the effort to recite it politely and with reverence; but it should continue as it is a signal to everyone leaving or entering to be aware that local governance is taking place and proper respect and attention must be paid.
  • When people watch the online recordings of our meetings, all they see are our backsides and the microphones do not pick up our words…. so no one knows what we are doing. This may be one of the most flimsy excuses I have heard. The chairman of the meeting announces that we should all rise and join him/her for the Pledge of Allegiance before we recite it. Everyone who has ever seen others recite the Pledge know from a mile away, with or without sound, what is happening. And the online replays of the meeting all show what agenda item you are watching during the replays of meetings (Item 2. Pledge of Allegiance). It is an insult to those who watch our meetings to assert otherwise.
  • It is a ritual that has become rote because we say it too much. It is, instead, a centering action which begins meetings. If it has become rote to some members of the council, we shouldn’t just do away with it! Perhaps those members for whom this is an issue should dissect it word-for-word when they say it so that it regains meaning for them.
  • I’d rather spend time talking about the plight of the homeless veterans and those with PTSD than spending the time on the Pledge which is a “partisan activity to show what good politicians we are.” I would be willing to bet that a larger number of veterans in the city would want us to continue saying the Pledge than discontinue it. And there is no reason that both things cannot be done — the recitation of the Pledge, which takes seconds, and talking about assisting others. This is not an either/or issue. It can and should be both.

What it boiled down to last Wednesday night is that the following aldermen voted to remove the Pledge of Allegiance from city committee/commission/board meetings:

  • Vered Meltzer, District 2
  • Katie Van Zeeland (who was just re-elected President of the Council), District 5
  • Denise Fenton (the alderman who proposed this removal), District 6
  • Patti Heffernan (a new council member who explicitly stated that her children do not recite the Pledge during their school attendance), District 8
  • Alex Schultz, District 9
  • Vaya Jones, District 10
  • Nate Wolff, District 12

The final vote was 7 aldermen in favor of the removal (see above) and 7 aldermen opposed to the removal. Your alderman, of course, voted in opposition to the removal. Alderman Chad Doran was absent from the meeting as he was on a business trip across the country. The tied vote meant that the motion for the removal of the Pledge failed. So… we will continue this appropriate practice in our local government! But only by the skin of our teeth. I expect that the above aldermen, should they still be seated after next April’s election, will again look to remove this from city meetings.

Thank you again for sharing your comments on this and other items on council and committee agendas recently. I appreciate all comments, suggestions, and feedback that I receive. Please continue to reach out to me with any local government concerns you might have!

I wish you the best of weeks ahead and look forward to continuing to serve our great District 13.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Many thanks to Alderman Hartzheim and the others — including my new alderman, Martyn Smith — who voted to protect the Pledge of Allegiance! Your responses are SPOT ON to those flimsy reasons for voting against the Pledge.

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