Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

So much for reality for Scrima


The downtown task force met Wednesday night without much of the drama promised by a few businesses on Facebook. By the end of the evening it was clear that nobody is out to destroy Freeman Friday Night Live (FFNL), Kerry Mackay of the Steaming Cup thinks the parking spots in front of his place are his, and that Vicky Hekkers is willing to buy the police ten devices to help enforce the city’s noise ordinance.

See? It all works out.

Alderman Roger Patton was the first to complain about the format, pointing out that the mayor was seated on the throne while everyone else was stuck looking up at him. Mayor Jeff Scrima didn’t see a problem with that.

There was near unanimity on the first agenda item, consumption of alcohol in public spaces. Nobody on the task force wanted free range booze. Keep those alcoholic beverages corralled so we can keep FFNL a family event, they all said.

The lone dissenter at the meeting was me. As the meeting dragged on I wanted to return to the first item so I could do a live demonstration. Unfortunately, over at the press table public drunkenness is kinda frowned upon. (Haven’t any of these people seen The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance?)

Item # 2, street closures, brought out the apocalyptic visions of the end of FFNL. Nothing was resolved on the issue, and few seem to think that anything will be resolved soon. One landlord raised the obvious question: how can I rent an upstairs space downtown when I have to tell them they won’t have any access or parking every Friday night? Just tell them it’s safer that way.

Item # 3, hours of operation, the owner of Magellan’s seemed interested in working things out and wished the issue was less subjective for the police. Tony Bodway was interested in keeping the question of noise subjective. Downtown resident Vicky Hekkers was willing to put her money on the table to resolve the issue by buying the police department appropriate noise meters. Nobody wanted to push FFNL’s hours later (I still think 10:00 PM is reasonable). Alderman Roger Patton announced his “people” fold chairs slowly and like free, loud music.

Alderman Eric Payne complained that all the business owners were just thinking of themselves and not about the residents downtown that have to put up with FFNL, the street closings, the noise, and their alderman (actually he didn’t say the last part). Payne pointed out that residents downtown complained during the cafe seating debate but they were mostly ignored then and may be just giving up in frustration now.

Item # 4, parking, acting-as-everything Steve Crandell will make a presentation at the next meeting on the wonders of angled parking spots. Not only do they allow more cars to park, they cure leprosy. George Wang of Waukesha Tattoo will be at his 1,000th meeting on the subject to remind the committee members that they have looked at the issue multiple times before and rejected angled parking on the west end of Main Street each time. Art gallery owner Lynn Gaffey wondered why anyone was bothering to talk about the issue when we don’t know the effect of new construction on the West End. Like that ever stopped people from having an opinion before. Roger Igielski of Allo Chocolat would rather talk about Guinness truffles instead of angled parking. He says the truffles are delicious.

Everyone agreed that it’s terrible that business owners and their employees take up all of the available parking downtown. Everyone agreed. Everyone. yep.

Kerry Mackay of Steaming Cup explained that he requests the closing of the spots in front of his store six months (I exaggerate) before he has to set up a stage because inevitably someone parks in his spots. Jeff Barta pointed out that roads, and this is a complicated point, are for cars. Kerry Mackay then suggested that if cars park in his spot, perhaps he could just have them towed away. Potential customers may or may not be still inside the car when the tow truck takes them away.

Local resident Kevin Larson suggested the city charge big bucks for the parking spots. Nobody suggested naming rights.

Finally, item # 5, the “fair and excessive complaints” discussion directed against Tom and Vicky Hekkers. Alderman Steve Johnson moved to have the item removed from the agenda, Alderman Joe Pieper seconded, spoke in support, followed by Alderman Payne. The task force then moved to a vote and unanimously decided to dump the mayor’s version of reality. Guess the score-settling by Scrima will just have to find another forum.

Then the topic came up of where the task force should meet next time. It was near-universally agreed that it shouldn’t be city hall but somewhere where the task force members could sit as equals facing each other. The press contingent unanimously shivered when someone suggested a church basement.

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