Correction: Northwest Corner of Highland and Port Washington Roads

I inadvertently posted that the proposed building will be 39,500 square feet. That is inaccurate. The proposal is for 29,500 square feet. I apologize for the error, although it does not change the analysis, just the magnitude by which the building is oversized.

Northwest Corner of Highland and Port Washington Roads

On Tuesday, the Common Council will consider rezoning the northwest corner of Highland and Port Washington Roads for a 29,500 square foot medical office building on about 3.9 acres. I voted against this proposal at the Planning Commission. I do not support this rezoning as proposed. I write to make clear why.

I welcome medical office buildings within our commercial areas. If Ascension had proposed this building south of Highland Road or in the Town Center, I would be a proponent. I hope that, if the proposal is rejected, Ascension will move the proposed clinic to one of the vacant parcels that is designed to accomodate it.

My position is consistent with statements I made when running for office, at the Council consultation, at the subcommittee, at Planning Commission, to neighbors and to the developer. I do not like unpredictability. I do not think it is fair to developers, users or the public. Unpredictability, more than almost anything else, hurts a community’s reputation. We should be clear and consistent.

It is true that the Planning Commission Policy Subcommittee, which I chair, supports Neighborhood Commercial for this corner. Although I would personally be happy if the entire parcel remained residential, I have been supportive of Neighborhood Commercial for a small development on the corner. It would shield the residential development much as the Highland House does. My support for some neighborhood use on that corner dates back to discussions almost a decade ago.

According to Sec. 58-293 (the existing Neighborhood Commercial ordinance), Neighborhood Commercial is supposed to be “office, retail and services designed to serve immediate residential neighborhoods.” Similarly, the proposed Neighborhood Commercial zoning district for North Port Washington Road, as drafted by staff, states that the district is to provide “office and services … providing neighborhood scale services for nearby residential neighborhoods.”

The proposed medical office building is truly unnecessary for the immediate or nearby residential neighborhoods. It is being built to draw people from all of Mequon and nearby communities. That alone, however, would not necessarily lose my support.

My support for rezoning this corner to Neighborhood Commercial has, however, always been conditioned on the size of the parcel being comparable to the size of the commercial properties across the street. One of those parcels is 2.27 acres. The other is 3.01 acres. The proposal before the Council is almost another acre larger. If it was the same size as the Highland House property, there would business property across from business property; instead, it will also be across from residential properties. Nevertheless, even that might not necessarily lose my support.

The size of the building, however, is a bigger issue. The existing Neighborhood Commercial zoning district limits uses by right to 20,000 square feet. The proposed building is basically 50% larger. It would put another big building in a residential neighborhood. Although exceeding 20,000 square feet is possible with a PUD rezoning, it is not allowed as a matter of right for a reason. A building larger than 20,000 square feet should be the exception rather than the rule. This will be a very large building. A larger building might be appropriate if it is absolutely necessary for a particular use and the use meets some particular objective. Although the proposed building looks very nice, and I would support it and its size in an area designed for general office use, I cannot imagine a compelling city objective that this proposal fulfills in this location. If it deserves the larger size, what proposal would not? The size clearly indicates that the building is designed to draw medical professionals and customers from well beyond “nearby immediate residential neighborhoods.”

I pledged when I ran for this position to do what I can to invigorate Mequon’s existing commercial areas. Adding large scale commercial uses to other areas does not do that. There is a limit to how much commercial development a city with our population can absorb, and Mequon has limited population growth. This building will draw medical tenants away from our existing medical office spaces in areas designed for offices. Adding large scale commercial in one area most likely reduces the demand in others (in addition to changing the nature of this neighborhood).

Then there is the rest of the parcel. I have been very clear that I will not support rezoning the rest to anything other than residential. It is the last significant sewered single-family site on the east side of Mequon. It is the best single-family parcel left in the city. If the developer wanted to gain my support, it would have had the PUD apply to the whole parcel and made it clear that the rest will be single-family. They did not do that, and they have done nothing else to indicate that they plan to have the rest remain single-family. I can only assume that, after this rezoning, they will return with some or all of the high intensity uses they previously showed the Council. They might even use this clinic as an argument that the rest of the parcel should not be single-family.

I note that, under Mequon’s ordinances, the purpose of PUD zoning is to create a development that has “coordinated area site planning, diversified location of structures and/or mixing of compatible uses.” Admittedly, a single building is not precluded, but using it for a single building when most of the parcel is not covered is questionable.

I likely would have supported a 15,000 to 20,000 square foot building on this site with a concurrent commitment to develop the rest as single-family. I would have compromised on lot size and use. I might even have compromised on building size if, for example, it was two-stories and designed to be vertically and architecturally unobtrusive. However, with the lot size and building size, and no approved plan or commitment for the rest of the parcel, I cannot support this proposal. There is too much compromise.

Orders v. Personal Responsibility

Our country has suffered a tremendous loss of life, and many workers and business owners have been hurt. On at least those two points, both Trump and Biden agree.
 
As a result, we are bombarded with arguments about fault and orders and policies. These arguments make for tasty political fodder. Meanwhile, people die, businesses are destroyed and our economy stagnates.
 
Rather than arguing against or for blanket orders – I will leave that to those whose job it is to make those arguments – I implore everyone to exercise personal responsibility.
 
Those who defend orders need to remember they mean nothing without voluntary compliance. There are not enough cops and bureaucrats. Conversely, by not wearing masks and social distancing, opponents of orders provide ammunition, as the virus spreads, to those who advocate for them.
 
Our community has been relatively fortunate. Despite the virus raging across Wisconsin, we have had relatively few deaths, our hospitals have capacity and our infection rate is lower than many places in the state.
 
I have heard many explanations as to why we are doing better than other communities. I am convinced that our residents have done a better job of mask-wearing and social distancing. I have personally seen communities where nobody wears masks. At first they were fine, but most or all now have problems.

We need to keep it up and strive to improve.

It is not cowardice or a threat to liberty to take precautions that might help others.
 
Like many of you, I recoil from rules. I do not believe that it is government’s job to protect me from myself. However, I do not look at the CDC recommendations as rules. I do not follow them because they are required, to virtue signal or primarily to protect myself. Instead, I see them as considerate precautions voluntarily followed by polite, responsible, conservative people who care about others and the Golden Rule. They are the right thing to do.

  • Wear a mask when you are indoors outside of your home.
  • When possible, rather than meeting in-person, reach out virtually to socialize or to conduct business.
  • If an in-person meeting is necessary, wear a mask.
  • Keep your in-person social group small.
  • Stay out of crowds. Do not plan large in-person events.
  • Keep your distance when you are with people other than your family.

Although annoying, these are modest efforts. Most of the best medical minds assure us that these efforts will slow the spread. If they prove to be wrong, and that is possible, we have only been inconvenienced. However, if they are effective and we ignore them, we spread the disease and hasten the deaths, sickness and perhaps long-term chronic illnesses of even more people.

“Neither the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt.  He therefore is the truest friend of the liberty of his country who tries most to promote its virtue.” – Samuel Adams

“It is substantially true that virtue and morality is a necessary spring of popular government.” – George Washington

“To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical idea.”– James Madison

Mequon Police Ready to Assist Wauwatosa

The Mequon Police Department stands ready to assist the police in Wauwatosa this evening. So do other departments. There are detailed cooperation agreements among law enforcement agencies. This system ensures that communities can and will rapidly provide necessary reinforcements and that the assisting departments are also able to cover their own communities’ needs. We all are safer because of these men and women.

“SIGN, SIGN, EVERYWHERE A SIGN, BLOCKIN’ OUT THE SCENERY, BREAKIN’ MY MIND…”-Five Man Electric Band (1970)

Some people hate them. Some people proudly display them. Yard signs are part of the American political process.

The City of Mequon respects people’s right to express their political positions by posting signs provided they do so on their own private property.

The City of Mequon, however, does not allow yard signs on public property, and no one has the right to put a yard sign on private property without the owner’s permission.

The Mequon Police Department will remove signs on public property. Public property includes:

  • Parks
  • Library
  • City hall and other facilities
  • School property
  • County property
  • Road rights-of-way

The Police Department will not necessarily be looking for illegally placed signs; however, when it comes across them, or when it receives complaints, it will remove them. Signs placed on public property will be deemed abandoned. They will not be saved for retrieval. The Police Department has already removed and disposed of several for this election.

Determining the area of a road right-of-way is somewhat complicated. Generally, signs are not allowed in the area between a sidewalk and a road or between a drainage ditch and a road.

Private property owners may also dispose of any sign found on their property without permission. The City will not monitor the placement of signs on private property; however, entrance areas to subdivisions and condominiums, business properties, golf courses and undeveloped land are all private property. If you see a yard sign in one of those areas and believe that it is there without permission, call the owner.

Please do not put signs on other people’s property without their permission. It is trespass. And do not remove signs from other people’s property. That is theft. The Police Department will respond to complaints and take enforcement action as necessary.

Civility and Following the Law

“Dirty Jew.” That was what one Mequon resident, enraged his neighbor would post a Biden yard sign, allegedly called the neighbor as he ripped down the neighbor’s sign. The angry resident allegedly got in his neighbor’s face, said he would rip down any replacement signs and told him that “Jews” were the cause of the riots in Portland. He then left and temporarily put up a homemade “Jews 4 Trump” sign in his own front lawn (even though his parents tried to raise him Catholic).

Really?!?

This was absolutely wrong. And, assuming the facts are accurate, it is illegal.

There have always been hateful people with extreme views and awful behavior. Unfortunately, some will always exist.

But over the last few months, some people have excused overt incivility and horrible behavior because an issue is important to them. People picketed the school superintendent’s home – his home where his wife and children live! Some use the term Nazis when referring to Trump supporters. A few of our neighbors gave the finger to Black Lives Matter protesters and asked to have BLM signs banned. Kids made a video mocking George Floyd’s death. People have suggested that supporting our police is somehow an affront to people of color. Small groups on each side of the virus debate have acted vilely toward those with different opinions. People try to shut down discussion about all sorts of topics on social media.

To be clear, I think most Mequon residents abhor this hateful behavior. It is not what we are about.

Yes, we all have the inalienable right to free speech. But having the right to do something does not mean that doing it is right.

There is no societal issue that is improved by hating or demeaning others. Hate and division rarely, if ever, advance a cause and always are destructive.

I stay out of issues when they do not affect city government or its responsibilities. I believe that, as mayor, restraint is necessarily part of my job (one I often dislike). I am supposed to create community, not divide it.

However, incivility is permeating all discussions, including those about city government. And when someone goes onto another’s property and defaces their sign, that rightfully calls the police (the most important service the city provides) into play. Trespass and disorderly conduct are illegal acts (the resident described above was arrested).

Tensions always run high during elections. Even local races become passionate. Presidential elections raise the temperature even higher. Activists, state and national politicians (of both parties) and the media (real and fake) accuse others of ruining our country and imply, in the process, that only people who agree with them have our best interests at heart. They use division to make themselves relevant.

These weeks going into the presidential election, and perhaps the weeks following it, will test our character. Can we recognize that people with whom we disagree are not bad people (even if we believe them to be wrong)? Can we handle our differences civilly?

I truly believe that the vast majority of Mequon residents – people of color and white people; people of all faiths; Republicans, Democrats and independents – are good people. I am hopeful that we can keep our heads.

This election, the discussion about race and our opinions about the virus, as important as they may be, are not so important that we should destroy our community and our humanity.

City government cannot require civility. It can do little about hatefulness. Hopefully, our elected officials will not contribute to it. Mequon’s staff will faithfully conduct the election. All will do their jobs.

But, when people cross the line, as the resident described above did, our fine police department will fully enforce the law. Leave your neighbors’ yard signs alone. Taking them is theft. Do not put signs on public property. It is illegal. Do not put signs on others’ private property. That is trespass. Do not threaten people with whom you disagree. That is assault. Do not provoke fights. That is disorderly conduct. Do not touch your neighbor. At a minimum, it is assault, and it might be battery.

But it is not enough to just comply with the law. Good people follow not just the law, but the Golden Rule. Sometimes, the right thing is to not express an opinion. When we do, we need to be kind. Words matter. Tone matters. Actions matter. It is not easy. I am not perfect, but I am trying. If we all do that, the law becomes unnecessary.

Let’s all pray that we can emerge from this moment without too much damage.

The City’s Emergency Management Committee

Today at 3:00, the City has its biweekly Emergency Management Committee (EMC) meeting. The EMC was designed for various stakeholders to advise the City what the City should do, and what they are doing, in response to the COVID-19 virus. It is not designed for the City to advise the stakeholders.

Representatives on the EMC include me (as mayor). three doctors (one of whom is also an alderman), a State Senator, an Assembly Representative, and a representative of the library, Chamber of Commerce, County Board, Concordia University and Mequon-Thiensville School District.

Today, in response to the school board’s decision to start the school year virtually, members of the community have registered to speak (at last report, 15). I will recognize them to speak.

I will ask, however, that they tailor their comments to advice for the City. The EMC does NOT exist to advise the school district. I recognize that is not what the people who registered want to hear. I will not cut them off so long as their comments for the district are short and provided that the comments are civil. Personal attacks, particularly on an issue like this (which is not the purpose of the meeting) are not acceptable.

I would also note that public comments during a meeting are just that – comments. It is not an opportunity for a back and forth with committee members.

Finally, on Facebook, people have suggested that members of the school board participate on the EMC. They do not. Only Dr. Joynt is a member. Although he advises the school board, he cannot change the policy. The policymakers will not be at the meeting. Therefore, although I always encourage members of the public to participate in the City’s meetings, this will not be the best forum to effectuate change.

Ozaukee County Testing and Contact Tracing

In received the following information from the Washington Ozaukee Public Health Department (WOPHD) in response to some questions posed to me. I thought this would be of interest to people in Mequon.

Is there a COVID-219 testing program in Ozaukee County?

Medical providers are conducting testing in our jurisdiction. WOPHD also has a relationship with a provider to conduct testing for certain high priority populations (first responders, health care workers, LTCF residents, etc) and others identified during public health investigations (contact tracing).

How does WOPHD find out about positive (or negative) tests?

We find out about all test results via a state system called the Wisconsin Electronic Disease Surveillance System (WEDSS). We receive results for individuals who reside in our jurisdiction. So if someone gets tested but has an address in Racine County, the Racine County Health Department would get their results. The entity that provides the testing generally calls with results as well. Individuals who test at National Guard sites are contacted by the National Guard if they are negative, and the local health department where they reside calls if they are positive. If someone is tested by their doctor, the doctor’s office generally calls with results.

WOPHD always follows-up with positives regardless of whether they were contacted by the test provider.

Is WOPHD doing contact tracing? I know people who were exposed to positive cases, but were never contacted.

WOPHD is absolutely doing contact tracing. WOPHD follows-up with all positives and all close contacts that are identified. In addition to WOPHD department staff, WOPHD has hired 30+ LTE contact tracers to keep up with the case load.

That said, WOPHD can only use the information that people provide to it. So if a positive case doesn’t inform WOPHD of a close contact, WOPHD wouldn’t know about them.

Governor’s Mask Order

Mequon will comply with the Governor’s new mask order unless a court says it is unenforceable. Masks will be required in municipal buildings and facilities.

However, like the enforcement of all laws, enforcement involves discretion. Our police department has limited resources. The police are not going to be on mask patrol and spend the time verifying if people qualify under one of the 14 exceptions specified in the order. Emergency responses, robberies and so forth still have precedence over the mask mandate. Although they will not be looking for violations, if the police are confronted with a violation, they will use education as their primary way to address the situation.

The police will, however, fully support businesses and organizations when patrons become belligerent or disruptive when asked to wear a mask.

The Governor specifically states in his Frequently Asked Questions document that, if people see people who are not wearing masks, they should do nothing. They should not call the police.

Mequon encourages wearing masks, social distancing and compliance with the guidelines of the Washington Ozaukee Public Health Department.

Black Life Matters Mural

Earlier today, a city contractor removed the Black Lives Matter mural on public property along Mequon Road between Buntrock Avenue and Weston Drive. The mural, which was painted on a retaining wall adjacent to Mequon Road and the Spur 16 mixed-use development, was originally installed on Saturday, June 20, following or during a peaceful protest.

The decision to remove the mural does not in any way reflect my or the city’s position about the message the mural portrayed. The city and I value inclusion, oppose racism and are committed to continually examining and improving our procedures and policies to ensure the city treats all people fairly. The City seeks to treat every individual, business and organization with dignity, fairness, honesty and respect, and to apply all laws, statutes and ordinances equally and consistently, without exception. Laws apply to everyone.

The people who created the mural did not have a permit. City ordinances do not allow for the installation of signage, art or other visual displays without a proper permit.

As I understand the law, and as a couple of attorneys affirmed, if the city permitted the mural to stay, then anyone could post any message or art on that wall – a MAGA logo, a NARAL mural, a pro or anti-gun message, Biden or Trump campaign art – virtually anything. Under the United States Supreme Court’s public forum doctrine, with very limited exceptions, governments cannot pick and choose what content to allow in public spaces once they allow signs or murals or other content-based displays in those spaces.

One of the organizers of the protest suggests that she had approval. She emailed me shortly before the march to see if some concerned artists could use chalk on the sidewalk at Spur 16 to create a mural. I assumed she was asking about the many sidewalks in Spur 16. The protest was going to end in Spur 16. I said that she needed to ask the owner of Spur 16 because it would be on private property. She did, and the owner approved the mural.

However, the mural was not placed on a sidewalk; instead, it was placed on a wall. It was not placed on the Spur 16 site; instead, it was placed on public property. Moreover, if chalk was used, it clearly was some unusual chalk because, despite rain on at least three days (one with over 1.3″), it did not bleed or wash away. The sidewalk and street chalk art at Milwaukee festivals (e.g., Bastille Days) or on home driveways quickly goes away.

The organizer acknowledges that the mural was temporary (even though it had not even begun to wash away after almost three weeks). It was never designed to be there permanently.

Under the circumstances, it was appropriate to remove the mural. Without a change in city ordinances, which would need to be adopted by the common council, Mequon does not allow unregulated signage, art or other visual displays in public places.

The Mequon Police Department is Committed to Keeping our Community Safe AND Doing it the Right Way

I am shocked and saddened by the horrific killing of Mr. Floyd. It was criminal and inexcusable.

A silver lining, if there can be one under these circumstances, is that people at every level of government (at least most) are assessing what they are doing right and what they should do differently. There is always room for improvement, but I can report that the people in Mequon should be pleased with the Mequon Police Department.

Over the past year, the Mequon Police Department has proactively prepared an updated policy manual, including policies to ensure that lethal force is only used when absolutely necessary; that force of any kind is not used excessively; that officers de-escalate rather than escalate tense situations; and that bias may not be the basis for policing decisions.

I am proud to say that the Mequon Police Department is ahead of the curve. There have been many policies suggested by residents over the past several days. The department adopted every one of them before being asked under these circumstances. You can see these policies by  clicking the following link:

Mequon_Police_Department_Policy_Manual

This focus on good, community-based policing centered around fairness, justice and safety is not new. It is how our officers have been trained in the past and continue to be trained.

Importantly, the Mequon Police Department hires good men and women. Policies and training are vitally important, but none of that matters if you did not have officers of high character. Mequon does at every level, from the Chief to the newest recruit. Chief Patrick Pryor, his command staff and the Police and Fire Commission insist on it.

The leadership of the Mequon Police Department is in great hands. We are fortunate Chief Pryor is one of the finest, most honest and most ethical people I know. And he has an exceedingly fine command staff. Like the rest of us, Chief Pryor is appalled by the killing of Mr. Floyd. You can read his statement by clicking the following link:

Statement by Chief Patrick Pryor 

Of course, I do not know what each individual officer believes in his or her heart, but I truly believe that our officers treat each situation based on the perceived threat using legitimate criteria. That certainly is the expectation.

There is always more work to do. But I am confident that the Mequon Police Department is committed to keeping our community safe and doing it the right way.

In our nation’s rightful efforts to ensure that police do not perform heinous acts like those that occurred in Minnesota, we must be ever mindful that policing is a dangerous job. Hundreds of police officers die on the job each year. Over the past couple of decades, an average of 85 officers have been feloniously killed each year. And last year alone, police officers were assaulted over 50,000 times.

When compared to the number of civilians killed each year by police, the number of officers killed might appear small; however, the vast majority of civilians killed were involved in criminal acts and had weapons. In almost all instances, the officers who were compelled to use force were protecting their communities in very difficult conditions. I am not defending the use of excessive force, but unfortunately force, if used correctly, is sometimes a necessary part of  policing.

Efforts to make positive change must not put our officers further at risk. Officers must be able to protect themselves and to use deadly force when appropriate. They cannot effectively serve or protect our communities if they fear for their lives or if they are not allowed to defend themselves or our people or property. Fortunately, in Mequon, deadly force has almost never been necessary, and the vast majority of police contacts involve no force whatsoever.

Chief Pryor and I have received many questions over the past couple of days. You can read many of the questions, and the Police Department’s answers, by clicking here.

We will continue to look for ways to ensure that ALL people are treated justly. 

Support positive, responsible change. Black lives matter, as do all lives. Justice matters. Bias is inexcusable. Bad police officers should be removed from the job. Criminal police officers must be prosecuted.

All of that being said, support our police even while insisting on societal change. They are protecting us. They have a stressful and dangerous job and are on our side, and we have very good people serving us.

Reopening Mequon

This morning I issued a procalamation regarding the reopening of Mequon.

I consulted with a variety of Mequon business people and medical professionals and other community leaders before issuing this. Some members and leaders of the Chamber of Commerce have already expressed their approval of this plan.

Mequon is very concerned about both its business community and the spread of the virus. Mequon businesses and residents have been very responsible, and I am certain they will continue to be responsible. This plan only imposes temporary restrictions on businesses that tend to accumulate larger numbers of people in close proximity and businesses that necessitate close proximity between provider and customer.

All businesses can reopen now, but with some limitations for a short period. Those limitations go away on a weekly basis. In the interim, there is an opportunity to determine if reopening has increased the spread of the virus.

I fully expect that the State will issue rules (but this time going through the proper rule-making process involving the legislature) shortly. This Proclamation provides a bridge to those rules.

I recognize that some people will be unhappy about this. One group will be unhappy that there are any restrictions, and one group will be unhappy that there are not significantly more. I have been fielding calls and emails from both of those ends ever since the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued its decision.

I truly believe, however, that the vast majority fall between these two extremes. I have also been hearing from them on an almost non-stop basis.

I agree that adults should be able to make their own decisions. I do not support laws that protect people from themselves  (we have too many of them). However, the concern over the virus is not a concern for people getting themselves sick. It is a concern over people getting others sick. There are many seniors and people with health concerns (in Mequon that is a large percentage of the population) who cannot stay at home because of work, grocery shopping, doctor appointments and all of the other things we all need to do.

I also recognize that most people in Mequon have been very responsible. However, laws  are made for those who are less responsible.

This is a short interim step designed to find if there is a spike. If all works well, our seniors and the people with health concerns (in Mequon that is a large percentage of the population) will then see that it is safe to frequent our businesses. If all goes well, we will very shortly be fully reopened. 

If, on the other hand, the virus spreads uncontrollably and our hospitals become overwhelmed, we have a problem. We do not want that to happen. We live right on the edge of the community with the most infections. We do not want similar concerns.

This is precisely the kind of regulation that both parties in the legislature have suggested. It would not surprise me if the state’s ultimate regulations a week or so from now look something like this.

Unlike what happened at the state, this is not a one person fiat. This kind of Proclamation is specifically allowed under the Wisconsin Statutes, and the Common Council will have  an opportunity to modify or reject it. This would have been proposed and done at a Common Council meeting, but we do not have one scheduled for almost a month. I intedn to call a special session, but those take some time. Based on the timing of the Supreme Court decision, it did not make sense to have businesses closed, then reopened, and then partially closed again.

One final point. The Proclamation has not reopened the playgrounds, playing fields and pool. I fully expect the playgrounds and playing fields, and likely the pool, will open shortly. We are not yet even to Memorial Day. We first want to see that there is no short-term spike, to ready them for use, and to at least have a chance to make plans with the groups that run the organized activites. 

You can read a copy of the Proclamation by clicking here.

What About Hartford? What the City Can Do in Response to the Extended Order

I have received several emails asking why I am not doing what the Hartford mayor is doing. According to news reports, the Hartford mayor has announced that Hartford will not be following the Safter at Home order.

I am convinced that a mayor does not have the right to do what the mayor in Hartford is doing. I am uncertain that is even what is happening in Hartford. Just because he said something does not mean the Police Chief is following his directive. A Police Chief is not obligated to follow an illegal order.

The question is whether the DHS order is legal.

First, even the legislature is not arguing that the Governor does not have the authority to issue extraordinary orders through May 11 (the 60th day). The Governor has broad powers for 60 days. There are a few provisions (e.g., restricting places of religious worship) that might be unconstitutional even before May 11 (although there is some caselaw and history supporting it), but it appears the Governor has the right to order the rest for 60 days.

It appears, however, that the Governor does not have the right to extend the order beyond May 11. Perhaps recognizing his lack of authority, the Secretary-Designee of DHS instead issued the most recent order (which is largely the same as the oroiginal order).

The legislature is challenging whether whether DHS has the authority to issue any order (rather than a rule that could be modified by the legislature through the rulemakng process) or an order that goes as far as it has.

I seriously question whether the Governor has the authority to do anything that extends beyond May 11. I have been raising that issue for weeks. I also question whether DHS has the authority it asserts.

The issue will be decided by the Wisconsin Supreme Court, most likely within the next week. We will know then what is lawful and what is not.

As a creature of state government, local government’s choice is to follow the rules or challenge them in court. I do not support the right some municipalities have asserted to create Safe Havens for illegal aliens or gun free zones in contravention of federal and state laws. Similarly, I do not believe municipalities should turn their back on state rules here.

Considering that the legislature is already challenging the order, and the Wisconsin Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision within a week, I see no reason to spend the money to file another suit.

I am not defending all the decisions that were made in connection with this epidemic. I expect I would have done things somewhat differently but, then again, if I were making the decisions, I also would have more experts on whom to rely. I certainly would have made things clearer and more consistent. I think the Governor has over-reached, at least by having DHS extend the order past May 11 without legislative approval and by not making clearer and more coherent and consistent rules. He should be working with the legislature as required by state statutes (as I understand them) either by agreeing to and working to pass a mutually agreeable statute or issuing a rule that would be subject to the rulemaking oversight process. A rule under that process could have been enacted in less than two weeks.

I have a great deal of sympathy for the people who have contracted the illness, those who have died and their families, and the businesses and workers who have suffered greatly from this situation. My own income is down, and like everyone else, my retirement savings have been crushed. I am part owner of a business that has lost about 80-90% of its business but still keeps its doors open while losing money, knowing if it closes it is unlikely to ever reopen. Still, I recognize many have been hurt much more than I, and I am fortunate to have some cushion. I am doing what I can on a local level (e.g., we just created a small loan program for Mequon businesses and suspended some regulations). I hope to see some modification of the rules quickly while still keeping in place the most necessary protections.

I fully expect things will change, one way or another, within the next week or so. At that point, I will reassess my position and that of the Common Council. Either there will be a state law that is clearly defined, or the issue will be returned to the local level. Then, we will have to assess whether the Ozaukee County Health Department has authority that supersedes the authority of the City and the extent of the County’s authority (we are looking at that now). Its authority might preclude the City from doing anything. To the extent the authority rests with the City, I will do my best to assist businesses while also keeping people safe.

City Relaxes Some Curbside Business Regulations For the Balance of the COVID-19 Crisis

The City’s primary concern is the health of our residents. However, this crisis is also causing significant damage to our local businesses. I want to help as much as I can.  Today, I issued a proclamation relaxing some signage and display rules to assist businesses who are trying to make it with cubside service. Many of the extra signs you see around Mequon are acceptable and understandable. This proclamation largely formalizes what has been occurring. I want to ensure, however, that businesses and residents realize that these practices are acceptable and encouraged under the circumstances. Also, by formualizing this, I have eliminated any questions and concerns city staff might have about enforcing regulations. You can read the proclamation by clicking here.

Effect of COVID-19 Crisis on City Revenues

I received an email today regarding the effect of the current crisis on city revenues.  The question was interesting to me, so I thought I would provide a short explanation for whomever might be interested.

Municipal revenues are very different than state revenues. Accordingly, what is happening with the economy should have only marginal impact on the city’s 2020 revenue.

The city’s primary revenue source is real estate taxes. We do not receive income or sales taxes, which fluctuate greatly based on the economy. Real estate taxes change based on the economy, but the change is over a period of years. Real estate taxes used in 2020 were assessed last year and already are largely collected. Real estate tax collections for 2020 will not be materially affected by the virus or the economic fallout from the virus.

The city receives some money from the state. I have asked the governor’s office to let us know sooner rather than later if those shared revenues will be affected in 2020 so we can plan. A recent statement by the governor appears to indicate that there will be no local impact. We will see.

There are some less significant sources of revenue that might be impacted. Those include things like rental fees and permit fees. Rental fees will be down. Building permit fees will be down a bit, but ongoing construction projects have not stopped. To the extent they deviate from budget projections, the city will be able to deal with the changes. The city has some reserves.

2020 should be fine. City revenues change, but the change is not as volatile as the changes on the federal and state levels. Nevertheless, the city will monitor changes closely.

Economic changes have a bigger impact on revenues over time. 2021 real estate tax revenue is based on January 1, 2020 real estate values. However, collectability may be an issue in 2021 if the economy is in a prolonged recession. If that is the case, property values may be down in January 2021, thereby affecting 2022 revenues. However, it is far too early to determine what impact this mess will have in 2021 and beyond.

Mequon COVID-19 Business Loan Opportunity

FlagTuesday night, the Common Council unanimously approved a small loan program for Mequon small businesses. Many years ago, the City received federal funds for a business loan program. The loan pool is replenished as loans are repaid. The program previously had the normal red tape that you would expect from a federal program.  However, due to some loosening of federal restrictions, and in connection with this economic disaster, the City has the opportunity to make it now available simply, more quickly and in small increments.

There are a lot of businesses that are suffering. The loans the City can offer clearly are not a full solution, but they might provide the bridge that allows a business to survive or revive.

Here is a basic summary of the terms:

ELIGIBILITY:  Any business with operations open to the public in the City of Mequon. Had to be open prior to January 1, 2019. Must have been in a good financial condition before the emergency order.  Maximum 25 FTE employees as of the beginning of the emergency order.
EXCLUDED BUSINESSES: Speculative investment companies. Real estate investment companies. Lending institutions. Businesses owned by members of the Common Council, the Economic Development Board or officials and staff involved in the program.
APPLICATION: Simple city application with financial statements (both for the business and guarantors – 2019 and 2020 to date)
LOAN AMOUNT: Not to exceed $15,000 (there are also three loans available for $5,000 each).
INTEREST: Interest free through June 30, 2021. 1% per year thereafter.
TERM: 5 years. May be prepaid at any time without penalty.
GUARANTY: From each principal owning 20% or more of the equity interests in the business.

Applications will be reviewed and approved or denied within five business days of receipt. The City will be prepared to close promptly after approval. Loans must be closed within five business days of approval. The City hopes to make this process even faster.

The Common Council approved $150,000 for this program. Depending on its success, there is an opportunity for additional loans when and if that amount is fully used.

The City will begin processing applications on TUESDAY, MAY 5. However, applicants can receive applications and other information before then by contacting:

Kim Tollefson
Director of Development
City of Mequon
Office 262-236-2903
Cell: 414-807-3074

Email: ktollefson@ci.mequon.wi.us

Please pass this on to business owners you know who could use this bit of assistance.


“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
-Thomas Edison

“Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.”
– Babe Ruth

Letter to Governor Evers

On April 21, nine days ago, I sent a letter to Governor Evers, Senator Fitzgerald and Representative Vos. None of them responded. Today, I followed up with another letter to Governor Evers. You can read my letter by clicking here. The original letter is attached.

Again, it is unlikely that Governor Evers or anyone else in Madison will listen to one mayor, but I needed to try.

Request by Legislature to Work With Governor

Subsequent to my letter to our state officials (I do not suggest my letter had anything to do with it), Senator Fitzgerald and Representative Vos sent a letter to the Governor’s Secretary-Designee of the Department of Health Services. They state:

Legislative leaders have repeatedly asked Governor Evers to work with them to develop a plan, but he refuses to give us a seat at the table.

They called for “immediate, cooperative work” and asked the Governor and Secretart-Designee to “work with us immediately.”

You can read the full letter here. Since I publiicly called for legislative leaders to seek a meeting, I ought to acknowledge that, to some extent, they have done so.

Have they extended an olive branch? No. The letter is far from that. It is as much an explanation for their lawsuoit as it is a request to work together. But perhaps there is some willingness to engage in discussions.

I can find no evidence that the Governor has directly responded.

Various Republican legislators have endorsed, or at least expressed openness to, some of the other plans that have been proposed. One such plan can be seen here. Another here. There are others.

For purposes of comparison, the Governor’s plan can be seen here, and the federal guidelines can be seen here.

I am not taking a position on which plan is better. They all lack specificity and have omissions. I seriously doubt that any of these plans could receive bipartisan support as written.

The best plan would be one that both parties and most people can support. Perhaps they could take elements from each of these plans and call it the Wisconsin Plan. Purists will not like it – it will in part be too restrictive and in part be insufficiently restrictive. Some will say that it not sufficiently science-based. Some will say that it does not open the economy quickly enough. It will be imperfect, but an imperfect plan is better than either no plan or a plan that half the state will ignore and ridicule. Wisconsin needs a plan that everyone can rally around. That is the best cure for both the virus and the economy. And we have to be concerned with both. 

The sooner the Governor and legislative leadership meet, the sooner we will know if they can possibly work toward an agreement on a meaningful plan. Maybe that can only happen after the Wisconsin Supreme Court has weighed in. That would be disappointing.

To come to an agreement, both sides need to be willing to talk and negotiate in good faith, they need to want to reach an agreement, they have to care about mitigating the damage from the virus and the damage to our economy, and they need to be able to share credit. Can any of them do that?

We Need Consensus, Not a Political Battle

There is a political battle brewing between the Governor and the legislature. The solution to this health and economic crisis is not a political battle; rather, we need a consensual plan that we all can rally around. This afternoon, I sent this letter to Governor Evers, Senator Fitzgerald and Representative Vos and this letter to our own legislators, Senator Darling and Representative Ott.

I am not so naive as to think letters from the mayor of a small city will make a big difference. However, I do not want to let the opportunity pass, however small.

Despite COVID-19, Mequon and Thiensville are Still a Community of Restaurants

UPDATED: April 12, 2020

Mequon and Thiensville restaurants have been hit hard by the current public health emergency. Please join me in supporting our restaurants. They are essential members of our community, and we want them around when this ends. I list restaurants that are still offering delivery, curbside, takeout and drive through service.

According to the CDC, “[c]urrently, there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food.” If using takeout, please remember to maintain the 6′ social distancing requirement.

Mequon resident Janet Fussell used my prior list from this site and updated it to show who is doing what. Mequon Community Development Department employee Kris Hoeft then double-checked these lists. Thanks to both of them.

I suggest you call before going. This is a very fluid situation. Things change.

Please let me know if you find errors.

If you would like a sortable Excel spreadsheet, click here. If you would like a printable PDF, click here.

MEQUON RESTAURANTS

NAMEDELIVERYCURBSIDETAKE OUTDRIVE THROUGHHOURS
Café 1505 XX 10am -2
Café Corazon XX 2-8
Chancery Pub & Restaurant XX M-Sat 11-9; Sun 11-8
China Buffet  X M closed; T-Th 11am-9:30; F-Sat 11am-10; Sun 11:30am-9 
Cousins   X M-Sat 10am-8; Sun 10:30am-7
Crave X  M-Th 11am-10; F-Sat 11am-11; Sun 11am-8, 
Culver’s   X10am-10
Delish DeliveredX X  
Domino’s Pizza   X X 10am-12midnight 
Einstein Bros Bagels   XX 6am-2 
Ferrante’s X  M-Th 11:30am-9; F 11:30am-10; Sat 4:30-10; Sun 4:30-9
Foxtown Brewing  X  M-T Closed; W-Th 3-7; F-Sun 12noon-7
Harvey’s Central GrillXX  W; F; Sat
Highland HouseXX  11am-8 take out; 12noon-8 delivery 
Hong Anh Palace    X M-Th 11-9; F-Sat 11-10; Sun 4-9
Jimmy Johns  X X 10am-9 
Leonardo’s Pizza ParlourX X M-Th 11am-930; F-Sat 11am-10; Sun 2-930
Libby Montana  X 11am-8
McDonald’s    X5am-12midnight 
Mequon Pizza CompanyX X M closed; T 4-9; W-Th 11am-9; F 11am-10; Sat 4-10; Sun 4-9
Noodles & Company XX 10:30am-8
Panera Bread   X X 8am-7 
Pizza Hut/Wing Street   X X closed
Ruby Tap X  T-Sat 12noon-6
Santorini Grill XX 11am-8
Screaming Tuna XX 11am-8
Sobelmans Pub N Grill Mequon  X Mon-F 11am-10; Sat 11am-11; Sun 11am-9, 
Spanky’s Hideaway XX 11am-8
Starbucks        X6am-4
Subway   X 9am-8
Taco Bell    X10am-12midnight 
Vietnamese Noodles  X X  
Zaffiro’s  X X Sun-Th 11am-10; F-Sat 11am-11pm
Zarletti  X  10-8

THIENSVILLE RESTAURANTS

Cheel, The  X  W-Sat 2-8
Chuck’s Place XX  
Cousin’s  X 10am-6 
Downtown PizzaXX  M, W, Th 4-8; F-Sat 3-9; Sun 4-8; Tue closed 
East Sun  X X M-F 11am-9: Sat-Sun 4-9
Falafel Guys X  Sun-Mon closed; Tu-Th 11am-8; F-Sat 11am-9
Mila’s European Bakery  X M-Sat 6am-6; Sun 10am-2
Prime Minister Family Restaurant X X M-Th 11am-7; F11am-8; Sat-Sun 10am-8
Purple Frog, The (at Glaze) X  9am-3
Shully’s Catering X  M-Sat 10am-7 (call by 4pm); Sun 10am-5 (call by 2pm)
Skippy’s Burger Bar X  Sun-M closed; Tu-Th 4-8; F-Sat 11-8

And we do not want to forget our restaurants that are temporarily closed. We look forward to them being back in business soon.

 Mequon 
Fox Den, TheColectivo CoffeeMr. B’s
Anodyne Coffee  FiddleheadsNines American Bistro
Bavette La Boucherie First Watch Purple Door Ice Cream
Beans & Barley  Happy Dough Lucky Range Line Inn 
Bowls Jodi’s 19th Tee at Mee-kwon ParkSt. Paul’s Fish Market
Café Hollander Landmark Wooden Goose Café 
   
 Thiensville 
Baree, The    
Cheel, The   
Fiddleheads  
Remington’s River Inn