Wednesday, September 09, 2009

More Monona Council Report

More from last night's city council meeting. It is becoming increasingly apparent that the 2010 operating budget is going to be extremely difficult. Just my luck to finally get on Personnel and Finance when the entire economy goes in the crapper. [Obviously this is part of a vast conspiracy against me (wisecrack alert)].

The council's partial rejection of the negotiated pair of two-year labor agreements with the police union is unprecedented in my recollection. I don't recall ever having rejected agreements that staff had negotiated. It really made me feel sick to do it, but I could not justify signing the city on to 3% raises in 2011 and 2012 even with the increased health insurance contributions. The police union may well take this matter to arbitration, but it is hard to imagine an arbitrator awarding those 3% raises in the current economic conditions.

Let me be clear, I don't think these contracts were extravagant under normal economic circumstances. When will see normal economic conditions again? Or will we?

The police union has refused to go along with a one day furlough. The contract does not allow management to impose a furlough, but does allow management to impose a layoff. The mayor indicated that one officer will be laid off beginning October 1 through the end of the year to equal the savings from the furlough day. Personally, I did not hold this action against the police union. The police budget is going to feel a certain amount of pain. If they want to make one officer take all the pain rather than spread it, that is basically their choice under the contract. My union faced the same choice and chose to spread the pain, which makes more sense to me.

The council did approve nearly identical contracts for the dispatcher's union basically because, at least for my part, the dollars are so few. Dispatchers make maybe 60% of what uniformed officers make and there are only four of them. They are also at the low end of the pay range for dispatchers in the area.

The council again heard from residents along the north end of Monona Drive objecting to the planned 8'-wide sidewalk on the west side. Near the end of the meeting, alder Kugle requested that this matter be brought back to the council again. My problem with reconsidering this item is that it has been considered and reconsidered multiple times at the ad hoc committee and at the council. Nothing has changed, but the opponents appear to have successfully pressured the council to look at it again. We made up our mind on the issue, but don't have the will to keep it that way.

We had already sent our approval of the design to the city of Madison for approval by their governing bodies (council and Board of Public Works). If we change our mind, I assume they will have to sign off on that change - which they probably would do, but the 2011 construction schedule is heading right out the window.

By the way, Marianne Lichtfeld said her opposition to the wider sidewalk is not part of a personal battle between herself and me. She hoped I would agree. Certainly, it would be silly for either of us to base our view on the sidewalk issue on some personal differences. In my case, it would be even worse than silly because I am elected and have an obligation to do what is right for the whole community. Let me be clear: my opinion on the sidewalk issue is based on my evaluation of the safety and convenience of the entire community. I think it is the right thing to do. It has nothing to do with Marianne Lichtfeld.


  1. Ugh, are you KIDDING ME? I hadn't realized that the 8' sidewalk thing was going to come up (again), or I would have been at the council meeting (again) to argue and point out that sidewalks and bike lanes are imperative to our quality of life. At the last meeting I was at it was discussed, with the Mayor casting the deciding vote to keep the 8' sidewalks. How is it that once something is decided it can be brought up again, and again, and again, and again until the people get the result that they want?

    PS - Hope Chad is running for council next year.

  2. Doug-
    What is the rule about bringing something back to the council after it has been voted on and decided. Doesn't there need to be some reason or some showing of not-all-the-evidence-was-in? Otherwise, what stops you all from voting and revoting incessantly? I don't get it. Done and done,right? Move on.

  3. Doug I completely agree with you reference this whole 8 foot wide sidewalk business. It was put to a vote and a decision was made. Get over it people. You lost. Your precived power and money isn't going to get you what you want.

    I am starting to fear that somehow before the Monona Dr. construction is over Monona is going to somehow screw this up.

  4. Hey Doug, welcome back! Quick question, is there some place that lists the agenda for this Monday's Council Meeting? I was looking here:

    but nothing's been posted yet.

  5. The agenda has not been posted, but I understand that the sidewalk width will be back on the agenda.

    Our ordinances allow any two alders to get something on the agenda. OTOH, Robert's Rules require that motions for reconsideration be made by a member of the prevailing side at the next meeting.

    Whatever, it is dysfunctional to keep revisiting stuff. And the 2011 construction date is already in severe jeopardy.

  6. You'd think that Robert's Rules have a pretty good point, since unless some member of the prevailing side is willing to change their mind, it's going to come down to the 4-3 vote with the Mayor breaking the tie.

    So maybe it's just that at the City Council Meeting that I was at there were hardly any dissenting voices (for an 8' sidewalk), but what exactly is the claim that making it narrower will actually make it safer? Currently on a narrow, broken sidewalk (5'? 6'?), families and young children ride on the sidewalk. Yes, a bike lane will entice the competent adult rider to ride in the street, where they ABSOLUTELY should be. But what about the incompetent riders, the young children, weaving back and forth on the current sidewalk? They're not going to ride in the road, PERIOD. Making the sidewalk narrow is going to make it more dangerous for them, not less.

    I understand that Marianne Lichtfeld doesn't want to lose any more of her front yard than she has to. Fine. That's a worthwhile argument to have. But lets knock off any pretense that having a narrower sidewalk is somehow going to be safer for pedestrians and children walking and bicycling along this route. Unless someone can provide proof (study, documentation, etc) that a narrower sidewalk is safer for all involved, can we just drop this sham?

  7. Travis,

    I hope you'll speak at the council meeting. You make persuasive arguments that should be heard.

  8. If I'm in town, I will ABSOLUTELY speak at the meeting. As I was riding back from Willy St. Festival yesterday afternoon (in the road on Monona Drive, as I should), I passed by a group of about 15 people riding bikes on the sidewalk going north. There were 3 adult women and ~12 girls, all between the ages of 5 and 10 or so. Since we were traveling in opposite directions I didn't stop to ask where they were going, but assuming they were going up to Michaels or Java Cat or whatever, how exactly should they be going? The kids were all too young to ride in the street. I wouldn't expect the parents to ride in the (opposite side of the) street in the new bike lane, so are they just NOT supposed to go to Michaels for ice cream?