An outdoor concert will get the rare ability to allow patrons to drink alcohol on a cordoned-off Eau Claire street, but city leaders want a broader policy for other events that seek the same.
The City Council voted 10-0 Tuesday afternoon to let the Oxbeaux concert shut down the 500 block of Galloway Street on July 5 and let concertgoers drink alcohol on the street.
“These are pretty chill events overall, and they’re not focused on the drinking aspect,” Councilman Jeremy Gragert said.
Assistant city attorney Jenessa Stromberger said because the concert’s primary revenue comes from ticket sales and food over alcohol was a factor in the city’s decision to allow an exception to the open container ordinance.
The concert will be in a fenced area between The Oxbow Hotel and a parking lot, both of which are owned by event organizer Longform. Concert organizers agreed to other security measures to prevent concert attendees from leaving the area with beer in hand or giving them to minors.
Council members generally lauded the Oxbeaux concert, which is in its second year and draws about 2,000 people, but want to be prepared if other events come forward with a desire to allow beers on city streets.
“We’re opening the door by a crack, a little bit,” Councilwoman Emily Berge said, adding the city should develop a general policy.
Councilman David Strobel said he wanted the city last year to have a deeper discussion about closing down streets for events.
“I had a fairness issue I didn’t think we addressed,” he said, noting that he raised the issue in 2017 when Oxbeaux first got approval.
Nicholas Meyer, a partner in the Longform group, said feedback he’d gotten from last year’s concert was positive. One of the negatives from last year was attendees with drinks had to stay in a couple of beer gardens alongside the street, he said,. The exemption to the open container law was sought to allow the crowd to be more evenly distributed in the concert area.
The City Council ordered city staff to draft a code of conduct and ethics for elected officials, study free bus fare for children and change language used in city documents for low-income and disabled people.
Councilman Andrew Werthmann pushed for the code of conduct and ethics item.
“Most of these things already in our consciousness as a staff or a council, but this puts it in writing,” he said.
He noted that the city has a code governing its commissions and committees, but he wanted one that would apply to current and future City Council members.
Councilman Terry Weld noted that much of what would he figures would be in such a document already is part of the council’s handbook.
“I hate to see us spend too much time trying to rewrite what’s already written,” he said.
But the council ultimately voted 10-0 to have city staff work on a code of conduct and ethics for the City Council.
Councilwoman Catherine Emmanuelle led a successful push to have the city adopt “people-first” language.
“It really helps to set that culture of who we want to portray as the city of Eau Claire,” she said.
In new city documents and communications, terms including “low-income people” are no longer to be used, instead replaced with “persons experiencing low income.” “People with disabilities” will be the preferred term over “disabled persons.”
Also, when they are scheduled for updates, the city’s website and code of ordinances will be changed to use those terms.
Councilwoman Jill Christopherson asked what the city should do if it already has an inventory of brochures or forms that use the old terms.
“My preference is that turns into scrap paper or recycle it,” Emmanuelle responded.
She added that many people use online documents now anyways, and if the city doesn’t really adopt “people-first” language, the effort would be hollow.
The “people-first” language push was approved in a 10-0 vote.
Free bus fares
In an 8-2 vote, the council agreed the city should study whether it can provide free fares for students in kindergarten through high school on Eau Claire Transit buses.
Weld and Strobel did raise questions about how much time and resources the three initiatives would require of city employees.
“We going to need to hire more staff to take on these things,” said Weld, who cast a dissenting vote along with Strobel on the free children’s bus fare study.
• Food Truck Fridays, a gathering of several mobile food vendors, received approval to use the city’s downtown Railroad Street parking lot on July 13, Aug. 3, Sept. 7 and Oct. 5.
• The council approved shifting funds within the Hobbs Ice Center’s budget to allow the city-owned facility to make an urgent replacement of essential condenser equipment for $270,267.
• Haas Sons of Thorp won contracts worth $3.68 million for 14 road construction projects ranging from resurfacing to full street replacement, including underground utilities.
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