August 2, 2010

City Council Notes: Ald. Marcus takes his lumps

Ald. Eric Marcus
Ald. Eric Marcus is taking up residence on the Common Council as a contrarian voice. All of Marcus' proposals were defeated Monday night, though not for his lack of arguing on their behalf.

Marcus fought for a 60-day moratorium on in-fill construction in the city, tried to stop demolition of the old Spanish Center at 1725 17th St., made his case for the city waiving a $400 fee to acquire records related to Countryside Humane Society and tried to stop a day care on Lathrop Avenue near three bars.

Marcus' efforts weren't entirely fruitless. He didn't get much support on the 60-day moratorium or the Spanish Center, but drew out strong opposition to Countryside's current management and nearly convinced the council to send his day care proposal to the Public Safety and Licensing Committee and the Plan Commission. The day care proposal failed on an 8-7 vote.

Marcus reasoned that a recent ordinance preventing bars from opening a certain distance from daycare centers should work in reverse; daycare centers should not be allowed to open near bars. The request is timely because a daycare center is set to open in the former Peddler's Market on Lathrop Avenue. The center will be near four city bars.

"It doesn't matter if the chicken comes before the egg or the egg before the chicken," Marcus said. "What we end up with at the end of the day is a daycare center surrounded by four taverns."

But echoing a theme throughout a long meeting, opponents said delaying action on the daycare center would be "anti-business." Also, practically, it was pointed out the proposed daycare at 2000 Lathrop Ave. is located on a major roadway, is separated from the surrounding bars, and is self-contained on its site.

Those points were enough to, narrowly, win a majority against delaying the proposed daycare center. 

The minority took Marcus' point that the end result of a daycare center near bars may not be in the city's best interest, regardless of what comes first. Ald. Aron Wisneski said it was worth giving his Public Safety and Licensing Committee a chance to consider the policy behind the decision, but the majority disagreed and the daycare center got council approval. 

CAR25: After months of debate, it appears the city finally has a direction for CAR25. The council voted Monday night to allow the cable-access TV station to spend $40,000 to upgrade its equipment. The money was budgeted to be spent hiring a consultant for the station, but the council agreed to transfer it to CAR25's equipment account. CAR25 Board Chairman Jim Rasmussen spoke in favor of the proposal. Ald. Jim Spangenberg initially asked the proposal be sent to the Finance and Personnel Committee, but later joined with the rest of the council in voting to simply give CAR25 the money to spend.

WARNING TRACK: Four people spoke in favor of the Warning Track bar, 1301 Washington Ave., and its owner Scott Hansen. They said Hansen was a generous man and a good employer who ran a quality bar. The comments weren't enough to stop the City Council from trying to suspend or revoke Hansen's liquor license after a 19-year-old Racine man was killed in the Warning Track on July 10. The underage patron was killed after a bartender failed to check IDs. The council voted Monday night to send the bar to a due process hearing, which is required to revoke a bar's liquor license.

CHICKENS: Racine resident Sue DeKuester kept up her attack on a proposed backyard chicken ordinance. DeKuester spoke during the public comment period, starting her speech by asking, "Everyone take their chicken for a walk this week?" She also said a state expert on backyard chickens gave the Health Board incomplete information, which should invalidate the board's decision to allow a chicken ordinance to move forward.

MONDAY MEETING: The City Council usually meets Tuesday nights, but this week moved its meeting up to Monday to accommodate National Night Out.

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