Posts Tagged ‘City Council’

Damn that alder busy!

January 27, 2010

It’s much more convenient to know alders who run leftist bookstores or who’ve become fixtures at Pizza di Roma. They have no choice but to put up with your interrogation.

With alders whose day jobs (or locations) are less visible from the curb, the task can be much tougher. Here is an email I received in response to a request to meet with Ald. Satya Rhodes-Conway:

I don’t hold office hours, but could schedule a time to meet if you like. Right now, I’m booked through the end of February, but could start looking at the week of March 8th.

Wow. She’s messing with the attention span of a 21 year old blogger. As far as I’m concerned, the world could be engulfed by the sun by March 8th.

City to consider increasing panhandling fines

January 19, 2010

Tonight the City Council will be discussing an ordinance to raise the maximum fine for panhandling and trespassing. According to Mike Verveer, the trespassing ordinance is the closest thing Madison has to a loitering law.

It allows the police to bar people from hanging around in certain areas as long as they put up a poster warning that “trespassers” will be searched and fined. For instance, if there’s a parking lot where the cops believe there is drug dealing going on, they can put up a warning and then subsequently search and fine suspicious individuals found thereafter. The fine is currently $429.

I am no legal expert, but I suspect that very few American cities don’t have constitutionally dubious laws in place which allow the police to easily deal with petty crimes. Similarly, I suspect most local police departments tolerate panhandling and loitering to a certain extent, and only prosecute when it serves some other purpose, such as moving homeless residents to another area. I once heard a Madison cop tell a panhandler to “keep his cup hidden” in a certain area of state st, implying that he wasn’t in acceptable “panhandling zone.”

The ordinance has been proposed by Alds. Thuy and Paul Skidmore. The Public Safety Committee has recommended adoption and the Equal Opportunities Commission has recommended changes. Reports from the Downtown Plan shows panhandling to be a touchy issue for many Madisonians.

Edgewater live blog!

January 5, 2010

The Daily Page’s live blog can be accessed here. It won’t open until a little before the Council proceedings start at around 6:30.

It will be interesting to see how this time differs from the first go-around. How many people will speak this time? How many of the 57 people who registered to speak at the last meeting will do so again?

Perhaps most interestingly, will any votes be changed? The easiest prediction to make is that the project will be approved by the Council, with 14 or 15 votes (does Thuy support?).

Any predictions? Comments? Any inside info?

Budget yields…roof gardens!

November 5, 2009

Brenda Konkel highlights the amendments to the city budget.

Not surprising is the amendment added by Michael Schumacher and budget hawk Jed Sanborn to postpone construction of new Central Library until the city can secure funding, including through private donations.

However, the amendment added by Mike Verveer, Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, Brian Soloman, Satya Rhodes-Conway and Marsha Rummel harkened back to calls made by the Badger Herald Editorial Board in years past:

“In their evaluation, development and deisgn of the new Central Libary, City staff is directed to study and consider the feasibility of inclusind either a rooftop intensive community garden and/or a green roof.”

Roof gardens are the wave of the future. Not only do they provide a sink for the increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, but they make ideal driving ranges (a golf ball never hurt anybody). Unfortunately, Mayor Dave is worried about the potential costs.

ALRC student vote passes committee

October 6, 2009

Ald. Bryon Eagon’s proposal to add a student voting member to the Alcohol License Review Committee was approved by the Common Council Organizational Committee and now awaits approval by the full Council.

After making a series of language changes, Eagon succeeded at winning the votes of Council President Tim Bruer and Ald. Mark Clear, both of whom voted against the original proposal on September 1. Along with the votes of Eagon and Alds. Marsha Rummel and Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, the measure passed 5-2, with Alds. Michael Schumacher and Judy Compton voting against.

Compton disapproved of adding a member to the ALRC who may not be old enough to legally drink. However, both Eagon and Bidar-Sielaff see potential in the possible addition of an underage member. Both believe the underage student population is under-represented in the city’s entertainment and social options. For instance, Eagon openly voiced disappointment last month when developer Scott Acker ditched plans to create a restaurant/bar at University Sq. after dealing with a skeptical ALRC. Supporters of the project saw the bar as a venue where 21+ students and their underage friends could socialize.

For more on the language, go to Bryon Eagon’s blog.

Another go at student ALRC vote

October 5, 2009

It appears Bryon Eagon will be presenting his proposal to add a student voting member to the Alcohol License Review Committee at tomorrow’s meeting of the Common Council Organizational Committee.

Although the proposal was defeated by one vote about a month ago, Eagon hopes that some of the edits he put into the measure, such as allowing students from MATC and Edgewood to qualify for the position, will win him additional support on the committee. If the committee rejects the ordinance yet again, Eagon may then take it to the full Council for an up or down vote.

Council to hold student forum

September 16, 2009

Erik Paulson, who I met the other day at Barriques, alerted my attention to a meeting of the Downtown Coordinating Committee tomorrow night for students. As Paulson noted in the email, the council makes token efforts at student outreach occasionally, but students rarely show up. Can you blame them? If the event is not publicized in the campus press or by the campus government and organizations, how in the hell is a normal person supposed to know about a city council committee meeting?

Tomorrow’s meeting will take place at 5:30 pm at Memorial Union in the Capitol View Room on the 4th floor.

If you have any kind of grievance or insight for local leaders, please, share. No matter how inane or irrelevant, it will at least lend an ounce of legitimacy to the meeting.

KK suspended – where will the jersey chasers go?

September 16, 2009

That’s the question one commenter asked on the Herald article about the Kollege Klub’s one month suspension.

Surprising to see only one council member voted against the suspension. You’d think Bryon Eagon and Bridget Maniaci might have voted against. Of course, even a very pro-bar alder can make a good case for supporting the suspension – fights. Even those who oppose police raids and underage citations can say that the KK had legitimate security issues and there needed to be consequences. In fact, if you oppose bar raids for underage drinking, you can point to the KK as a place where cops actually should be.

UPDATE: According to Eagon, the vote on the Council represented an approval of the deal worked out between the KK owner and the City Attorney’s office. Therefore, a vote in favor was in many ways a vote to accept a sort of plea bargain.

The Herald also discussed the prospect of a student member on the ALRC, but anybody who read the article is probably extremely confused:

Ald. Bryon Eagon, District 8, had made a motion during the previous CCOC meeting to have a student have a vote on the CCOC, but the motion to amend the proposal failed.

The second CCOC should be replaced with ALRC.

Keep in mind: the suspension will take place in December and January, when many students will be away over break.

Another voting member on ALRC?

September 1, 2009

The Alcohol License Review Committee – easily the most politically important committee in the Council. No, it has nothing to do with approving the $100 million renovation of the Edgewater Hotel or the development of “car light” neighborhoods or city trolley systems, but alcohol is the only issue to a fair number of voters, especially if city elections don’t take place during spring break.

Today the ALRC is considering adding another voting member, which would bring the total number of votes on the committee to eight. Currently there are two alders, Michael Schumacher and Mike Verveer, as well as five “residents,” some of whom have technical expertise on the issue, and some of whom are selected by the mayor because…well, he thought they would be chill additions.

In another discussion with Schumacher about alcohol policy, my favorite German on the Council expressed tentative opposition to the proposed plan, mainly because he believes eight voting members would be harder to manage than seven, considering the likelihood of tie votes. Nevertheless, he did indicate support for an alternative plan, which would replace one of the resident members with an alder but keep the overall number at seven. His point is that although many like the idea of resident members, and see their participation as evidence of a keen sense of civic activity in the city, they are still appointed by the mayor, meaning they are less democratic than alders, who are elected officials and are held accountable by their constituents.

But here’s another idea that may be thrown around – how about making Mark Woulf, the non-voting student rep on the committee, a voting member? It’s an idea Bryon Eagon has thrown around. Add Woulf and an alder and bring the number up to 9? That way students get a vote on their favorite issue (I guess some care about book theft) and the committee has an odd number of reps to prevent ties.

Is that possible? No, at least not according to Schumacher, who says he fought a tough political battle just to get a non-voting student rep on ALRC in the first place. Despite that success, the student rep is still only a temporary position that must be re-approved in three years.

What is most surprising about the alcohol politics in this city is the opposition to student participation from, of all places, the bars! It’s the alcohol industry that doesn’t appreciate the presence of a policy maker who represents but mere customers (students). Does that make sense? Why would bars shun a reliably pro-bar vote on the license committee? Schumacher doesn’t quite understand. Would they rather have an anti-alcohol soccer mom?

Edgewater politics

August 27, 2009

I had a very comprehensive discussion with Ald. Bridget Maniaci at the Old Fashioned about the Edgewater development. First I must note that I had an excellent bowl of chili, which was more than filling for one of the “lighter” dishes on the menu. Maybe I should have just gotten a cup. The onions on top were great, I wish they’d put more. When I asked Bridget if there were any good drink specials, she noted there were 2-4-1 rails on Tuesday night, which she said she enjoyed, albeit without the company of Edgewater developers, contrary to a rumor reported to Brenda Konkel. Maniaci defender herself on her own blog.

Maniaci sits on the Landmark Commission, which if you look through the entire approval process, is but one hurdle in a very long race. In fact, as Maniaci explained, Landmarks does no more than give out “Certificates of Appropriateness,” to projects, based on whether the development is “respectful” and in line with the neighborhood’s planning. The certificate isn’t absolutely necessary for approval, however, according to veterans of City Hall [Mike Verveer], it would be unprecedented for a project to go forward without the nod from Landmarks.

Nevertheless, Maniaci emphasized that the city zoning code needs updating. According to her, the code reflects the vision of a different era, when Madison was trying to develop a more “suburban” residential feel, which is where the restrictions on towers comes from. The code does not facilitate integration of residential and commercial interests, and, according to Maniaci, almost every commercial development needs to apply for a Planned Unit Development (PUD) exemption. That comes from the “Plan Commission.” Hence it is not surprising that there are imminent plans to revise the zoning code, and the city website has a zoning code rewrite page.

I couldn’t get Maniaci to commit to any position on the project, and she insists that she doesn’t know how it will ultimately fare before Landmarks or any of the other committees. However, she does believe property owners are unrepresented in Capitol Neighborhoods Inc. and points to other neighborhood groups that are more accessible to non-residents who have a stake in the community.

Here’s the tricky part though. CNI has faced the “openness” fork in the road before. Concerns over lack of student input caused State and Langdon to secede from the organization, led of course by former student alder Eli Judge. Now a pro-development group, the Mansion Hill Coalition, has formed in response to what it says is the group’s disregard for the interests of property owners and businesses. However, others I’ve talked to say CNI will unlikely change its current structure or membership rules because the leaders’ agenda does not involve development. Fred Mohs, a member of the CNI steering committee on the Edgewater renovation, is known to not be on good terms with the Faulkners, who run the Edgewater. Ledell Zellers, another member, is a very active preservationist. (I am trying to contact CNI members about the development to almost no avail)