Council Roundup: Debating Guns At City Hall, Refinancing To Save, Beer And Wine Approved For MKE City Sippers, Vicious Dogs

It was an eventful City Council meeting Tuesday night.

Some of the key votes, in addition to honoring Kris Schell upon her retirement from Human Concerns …

  • Aldermen carrying guns. The council split, 4-4, on a proposal that would have allowed alderpersons to carry weapons, concealed or otherwise, inside City Hall. Currently, only sworn police officers are allowed to do so. With a tie vote, I cast a deciding “no” vote, and the motion failed. I voted this way because I don’t believe that allowing council members to arm themselves makes us any safer inside City Hall, be it at meetings or not. We have added several measures in recent years to increase safety in the main council chambers – including adding panic buttons and phones that ring right to the police department, located just down the hall from the chambers, and asking officers to attend meetings where we sense a debate may become contentious – and I am comfortable with those measures. While reasonable people can disagree on this, and there is obviously a much larger and polarized debate on the issue of guns, I would rather leave law enforcement in the hands of professionals trained to keep us safe from those who want to hurt us.
  • Refinancing. The council also voted to refinance $1.64 million in city debt, delivering significant savings: more than $200,000 in interest payments over the next decade. Consider it another example of our strong Aa2 bond rating – thanks to sound and responsible financial management over the years — at work.
  • MKE City Sippers. The council also unanimously voted to issue Class B beer and Class C wine licenses to MKE City Sippers, where Nicole plans to sell local craft beer from Brenner Brewing Co. on Milwaukee’s South Side and wines from Forgotten Fire in Peshtigo for her music and other events, to start. She started selling tonight.

The council also gave initial approval to a change in the ordinance to require the council give approval to the city attorney before he or she seeks, in Milwaukee County Circuit Court, to have a vicious dog euthanized. The council also clarified language regarding departmental enforcement and impoundment of animals suspected of being dangerous or vicious. This is another in a series of updates we’ve made to our city code around how the city handles vicious dogs. Previous changes include moving the burden of proving whether or not a dog is dangerous, vicious, or a pit bull from the police department to the health department.

(Note: The ordinance that bans pit bulls or pit bull mixes in South Milwaukee remains unchanged.)

14 Comments

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14 responses to “Council Roundup: Debating Guns At City Hall, Refinancing To Save, Beer And Wine Approved For MKE City Sippers, Vicious Dogs

  1. As far as guns, they may end up shooting each other.It sounds like you have a good response plan now.

  2. jhayslett

    Thank you for voting no on the aldermen/gun motion, Erik.

  3. Aschmidt

    Erik,
    Thank you for keeping the citizens of SM up to date. I am curious to know what your and the board’s reasoning is on the ban of pitbulls in the first place. Are those reasons supported with data? Copious amounts of current data? I know the ordinance has been in place for a while, but I feel it warrants significant research to continue to uphold the ban.
    I suppose the bottom line is I would be interested to see the source/data that was used to create this ordinance and the reasons it should continue.
    Thank you for this venue in which we can communicate openly and quickly with one another.

  4. Lisa Pieper

    Mr. Mayor, perhaps you should blog on the $26,000 (yes, that IS the correct figure) from block grant money (ultimately taxpayers money) that you were in support of for picnic tables and umbrellas for the 24 day a year Farmers Market. And no, the Council actually referred the dog ordinance back to committee for further review. Selective blogging can be unappealing.

    • Happy to respond. First, it’s impossible to write about every council action on this blog. I don’t have the time, nor do I think readers would want to read it. That is why I typically haven’t written about individual community block grant awards. In this case, here are some more details …

      Yes, the county, as part of its overall block grant awards from 2014, approved funding for the South Milwaukee Downtown Market, which will be used for more and better picnic tables and umbrellas. This is among many other projects across the area getting funds. I 100% stand by the decision. I think it’s a good use of this money, an investment in community development and in a community attraction that is only growing in popularity – and one that serves people of all income levels. Other communities have received money for their farmers’ markets for similar reasons. That said, the action taken Tuesday night was not to approve the project – the county did that in 2014. What the council did – and I support – is approve “fronting the money” for the project and another City Hall project until the county pays us back with CDBG funds in coming months.

      As to the vicious dog ordinance changes, yes, it was initial approval only, as I stated. The measure will be sent back to the Legislation & Permits Committee for more discussion and, theoretically, final approval at the July 28 council meeting. But that will be up to the committee and the council.

      • Ryan

        Can you please explain what other uses the $26,000 could have been used for? Why was it decided to spend this money on tables and umbrellas? Those should be some nice tables for $26,000.

  5. Lisa Pieper

    Because other city’s did it makes it right? I’m very surprised that the Mayor of our city couldn’t find a more appropriate use for that large of a block grant. No one is asking you to blog about “everything”. Just seems you continuously omit information about taxpayers money going to your personal pet projects.

  6. Vincent Koehler

    Mayor Eric Books: My wife and I thank you for using your tie-breaking vote to deny council  members carry guns into city hall meetings. You exemplify good judgment and courage. Lois and Vincent Koehler 116 Lake Drive

  7. Joseph Wilhelm

    Thank you Mayor Brooks for voting against alderman being allowed to carry weapons in City Hall.   I agree that our police force has things well under control and should be the only ones allowed to have weapons in City Hall.Debra & Joe Wilhelm

  8. (Updated from my initial comment with new information) Ryan: Thanks for the question. First, I want to be clear: The city now plays only a small role in CDBG awards. We used to recommend projects to the county. Now, we don’t do that. Applications are made to the county, which approves CDBG fund expenditures. They fund a number of projects every year. This one was approved in 2014, and the money is actually being spent this year. That said, I stand behind the expenditure. To me, investing in the market is a clear investment in community development. Some have called this a “pet project” for me. Call it what you like, but I’m proud to say that I and the city have gotten behind the farmers’ market, and I want to continue to find ways to invest in its long-term sustainability. It’s a significant piece of our promising future as a city, and we need to get behind activities like this in every way we can. To your specific question: Yes, CDBG dollars could have theoretically been spent in any number of places, and on any number of projects and organizations. I say “theoretically” because I can’t say what kind of other options there were for projects. Often in South Milwaukee there aren’t many options that come forward of groups looking for this money, especially given the various limitations and restrictions placed on this money, too long to list here. I would love to have a long list of projects come forward seeking this money and be eligible for it; that’s often not the case.

  9. Lisa Pieper

    I agree wholeheartedly that the Farmers Market is a great for our city and community. Where I disagree is using any taxpayer dollars to enhance it. The Farmers Market is held 20 days out of the year. No, the Market is not a part of the city but rather its own entity, no different than the Lion’s Club, the Friends of Mill Pond, the Heritage Day Parade etc. The land the Market sits on was acquired by the city purchasing blighted properties with the intent to sell it to recoup the investment. The Market has since made it its home. There was a push to redo the street…and not just the street but decorative enhancements too. If my memory serves me correctly it was in the $400,000 range. All while streets all over the city remain in disrepair that actually have taxpayers homes on them. I understand that the Market requires some costs but it also brings in approximately $25,000 annually in vendor fees. There are many things the city could use and if the Mayor was aware of CDBG funds that were available, perhaps a better suggestion was available than $26,000 worth of tables and umbrellas.

  10. Dave Kieck

    First Mayor Brooks Thank You for breaking the tie to keep the Alderpersons from bringing guns into the council chambers. I was surprised to learn about this effort just the other day. How was this proposal brought forward. Usually through your blogs you do a great job in keeping the citizens informed of issues being considered, How did this get to a vote with NO public debate. My understanding of how legislation should be enacted would start at committee level then come out of committee with a recommendation and then request city attorney to draft new legislation for Alderpersons to bring forward for a vote which takes three readings allowing the citizens to wiegh in on the proposal, How did this proposal move forward? I also understand there is talk of proposing a compromise solution of enacting this using a sunset provision again Mayor Brooks if this happens please VETO the proposal. Let me end by saying in the 28 years I served as an Alderperson, School Board Member and Mayor of our great community I NEVER felt the need to carry a gun what a sad thought that some of our current elected officials feel their life is in danger each time they enter City Hall!!

    • Thanks, Dave. To answer your question, it was indeed brought forward through the committee process, first discussed at a Legislation and Permits Committee meeting and then sent that night to the council floor for a vote on a first reading. I broke the 4-4 vote on that. I have typically not blogged council meeting “previews,” as I just don’t have time for it. I usually just do recaps. That is why you didn’t hear about it beforehand — that, and I didn’t know this was going on an agenda until several days before the meeting.

  11. Amy

    We all share the same goal of making South Milwaukee a safe and humane community for people and animals alike. That’s why I am so disappointed to hear that the city continues to cling to it’s breed ban.

    The research on this subject is clear. Breed-discriminatory policies and laws are an ineffective means of protecting the public from dangerous dogs. Our focus should always be on regulating individual dangerous dogs (of any breed), as well as the irresponsible and reckless owners who cause so many of these problems.

    At the same time, policies like the pit bull ban force our shelters to increase the needless killing of otherwise wonderful family pets. This archaic and inhumane approach to rule making is unacceptable.

    I urge you to reconsider the current ordinance and instead focus resources on enacting policies that will keep our county safe.

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