Monday, September 17, 2018

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Public Good Order ordinance tabled by Eau Claire City Council

Council concerned that wording was too vague

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    City Hall in Eau Claire on August 5, 2016. Staff Photo by Dan Reiland

    Dan Reiland

  • Kathy-Mitchell
  • Beaton-Kate-041916

An ordinance that would change the way that police officers approach those who are excessively intoxicated was tabled by Eau Claire City Council Tuesday following concerns that the wording was too vague and should be refined.

On an amended vote to postpone the Public Good Order ordinance until a later date likely within the next few months, council members voted 7-3 in favor of that option. Councilman Michael Xiong was absent.

Following a presentation Monday by the ordinance’s drafter, assistant city attorney Jenessa Stromberger, and Eau Claire police deputy chief of patrol Chad Hoyord, mostly UW-Eau Claire students and staff spoke out against the proposal and in favor of delaying it. 

Those opinions were amplified by the 3rd Ward and Historic Randall Park neighborhood association members, who said more time to provide feedback on the ordinance would be beneficial for all involved. 

While touted as a tool that would be a “culture change” for a community burdened by excessive drinking, opponents claimed the language left too much open for interpretation.

The ordinance would allow police officers to issue citations for people yelling, disturbing or otherwise annoying others in a public place, for people causing physical neighborhood disruption or for those who are publicly intoxicated and are a threat to themselves or others.

The ordinance goes further to propose that no more than 10 riders be dropped off between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. in any single block of the Randall Park and 3rd Ward neighborhoods if the bus riders don’t live there.  

Much of the comments Monday focused on the Right Way Shuttle Bus, which provides safe passage for students who have been drinking. 

Councilwoman Kathy Mitchell proposed that the council “start over” with a new plan to address the fallout from excessive drinking in the community, which has been described by officers as taking the form of property damage and unwelcome guests, specifically at house parties.

“Pretend like we don’t have a draft ordinance at all and start with a task force that will identify problems and solutions, get feedback and formulate recommendations that would go to the city attorney who would draft an ordinance and seek community feedback,” she said.

The council decided against the language to “postpone indefinitely,” as that might have meant the ordinance wouldn’t come back for at least another year. Instead they left it up to City Manager Dale Peters to put the ordinance back on the agenda when enough community discussion has taken place.

The council also agreed to a resolution that forms an ad hoc Neighborhood Safety and Relations Task Force, which will be managed by Peters. The task force would include representatives from the local colleges, the neighborhood associations, the health department and several others.

Peters would be charged with convening meetings with stakeholders, setting ground rules on how the group would interact, and review problems and solution using evidence-based data and programs related to alcohol use. 

He said he would like to bring back the ordinance by the first meeting in May. 

In other news

» The City Council approved a resolution to adopt recommendations of a report from the city’s Sustainability Advisory Committee to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and further pursue renewable energy options. 

The recommendations came out of a directive by City Council last year to the sustainability committee to draft ways the city can align itself with the Paris climate agreement.

Specifically, the goals are to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 with targets of 5 percent by 2020 and additional incremental increases to 40 percent by 2050. The other goal is to obtain 100 percent renewable energy by 2050 for both the municipality and city.

Being carbon neutral means the amount of carbon dioxide emitted is equal to or less than the amount captured.

An amendment was approved that would require the city to approve all purchase decisions above $500,000 related to this resolution and include a cost-benefits analysis. 

“I’m most excited about the environmental impact we can see locally and globally,” said Councilwoman Kate Beaton. “It fits into the way our city is growing.”

» The City Council approved loosening a beekeeping ordinance, removing a requirement for getting neighbors’ consent every year with each beekeeping permit renewal.

That will only be necessary if the property owners change, the applicant is the subject of a bee-related complaint or the beekeeper wants to increase the number of hives. 

Beekeepers also would only have to submit a diagram of the beekeeping operation and its location on their lot when they’re increasing the number of hives or moving them. 

Contact: 715-833-9206, elizabeth.dohms@ecpc.com, @EDohms_LT on Twitter


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