Saturday, August 17th, 2019

Stepping up downtown

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Waukesha Freeman 12/4/14 Page A4 Opinion

Stepping up downtown

Will Patton be recalled?Untitled

As we clear the dishes from one holiday and plunge headlong to the next, we might lose sight of what’s really important. Have you started shopping for my Christmas present yet?

Christmas for us started with the downtown tree lighting event, sponsored by the City of Waukesha Chamber of Commerce. The Salvation Army was there as were many of your friends and neighbors. Noticeably missing were some of the Downtown Business Association members still upset that Catherine Huelsman noticed that the tree was actually hers.

My advice to the DBA is that if you’re going to pick fights with the property owners downtown, don’t be surprised when they remind you who owns the place.

Despite the pouting of the DBA members who promised to find their own tree, the Christmas tree lighting ceremony was a nice civic event that promoted shopping downtown.

OK, there was that bizarre moment when the chamber’s executive director Jim Hahn complained about capitalism making people shop on Thanksgiving, but the hot chocolate from the Salvation Army was good and the singing was fun.

It was a nice evening and we were fortunate enough to have the time to stop in at a couple of businesses downtown.

A few days later we were at the Christmas Parade, also run by the chamber. Yes, I’m obligated to chide Mayor Shawn Reilly for not attending. On the other hand, I doubt it will take three years of prodding for him to remember the occasion.

Next time Reilly goes to New Orleans for a po’ boy festival he has to bring back sandwiches for everyone. The parade itself was run with efficiency even with the bad weather. Or perhaps it moved so quickly because of the rain. Regardless, the complaints about the running of the parade seem to have died this year and it remains a popular event.

There is a point to this, other than to thank those that stopped me to say they liked my column on the minimum wage. These events do show that there are others who are willing to step up downtown to do their part to benefit the city.

On Tuesday night, the Common Council voted to end the Memo of Understanding with the DBA. Alderman Aaron Perry was correct in pointing out that it’s absurd for the city to be in such an agreement after the audit of the defunct Business Improvement District’s finances revealed a number of irregularities, including an invoice from the DBA referred to the Sheriff’s Department.

The next step for the city should be to put the Farmers Market out to bid. Let’s see if another organization, one with a more reputable standing in the community, can put together an acceptable proposal for running the Farmers Market.

It was always a bizarre position for City Administrator Ed Henschel to take that the Farmers Market was not a city asset. It was started and run by the downtown BID. When that organization was dissolved amidst all the fighting downtown, the assets became the responsibility of the city until they could be divested with the proceeds going to the property owners.

Unfortunately the BID’s dissolution has been as rancorous as its last year of existence. The city is caught in the middle, a hangover from former Mayor Jeff Scrima’s meddling in downtown.

*** Speaking of downtown, there is growing support for the possible recall of Alderman Roger Patton. Patton won re-election by just a handful of votes last time and would be vulnerable to a recall. Organizing a recall is relatively easy with social media today. There is certainly cause to recall Patton. His recent advocacy of raising the minimum wage, which would hurt the small businesses in his district, didn’t help his cause.

Patton’s age and health may make him too sympathetic to be recalled. He had to be helped to get to the button to light the downtown Christmas tree and he was seen in a wheelchair later. A recall election campaign could look like people are just picking on an old man.

It would probably be better, as one downtown business owner suggested to me, if Patton just resigned. Unfortunately, I’m guessing that won’t happen.

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