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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.

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.

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    

Procedures for City Meetings During COVID-19 Emergency

On Friday, I executed a Proclamation that requires electronic meetings during this emergency and provides the framework for such meetings. The Proclamation follows the state’s advice regarding electronic meetings and open meetings laws,. It also includes practical procedures to ensure electronic meetings can proceed smoothly. There are some limitations to a public phone call or internet-based meeting that could have dozens or more people potentially participating.

The Proclamation was necessary because, without it, the Common Council could not legally hold its next meeting to consider a policy for these meetings. It would violate Mequon’s ordinances.

Staff reviewed and commented on the terms. However, the blame for the drafting is on me (it looks better in its original typewritten form – this website program does not have tabs).

The Common Council will have the opportunity to approve, amend or reject these terms at the next Common Council meeting on April 14.

The folowing is the text of the Proclamation:

I, John M. Wirth, as Mayor and Chief Executive Officer of the City of Mequon, make the following Proclamation in consideration of the following:

A.  COVID-19, a novel strain of coronavirus, was detected in December of 2019 and has subsequently spread throughout the world, including every state in the United States.

B.  On January 3, 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

C.  On March 12, 2020, Governor Tony Evers declared a public health emergency in connection with COVID-19.

D.  On March 13, 2020, President Donald Trump proclaimed a National Emergency in connection with concerning COVID-19.

E. On March 16, 2020, I proclaimed, on behalf of the City of Mequon, a Public Health Emergency as defined in Wisconsin Statutes Section 323.02(16) and a Disaster as defined in Wisconsin Statutes Section 323.02(6); accordingly, the City of Mequon implemented its emergency authority under Wisconsin Statutes Section 323.11. The Common Council affirmed that proclamation at its meeting on March 17, 2020.

F. According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, there were 1,730 total confirmed cases of people with COVID-19 in Wisconsin as of April 2, 2020, with 31 confirmed deaths, and COVID-19 had been confirmed in 52 counties in the State of Wisconsin, including Ozaukee County. According to the Washington Ozaukee Public Health Department, there were 49 total confirmed cases of people with COVID-19 in Ozaukee County as of April 2, 2020, with five confirmed deaths. Mequon-Thiensville had 23 of the 49 confirmed cases in Ozaukee County.

G.  With a few exceptions, the Mequon Code of Ordinances (the “Code”) contains various provisions mandating that officials and the public appear and vote in person at meetings of the Common Council, Planning Commission and the City’s various other boards, commissions and committees (each of the foregoing being a “City body”).

H.  Meetings of the various City bodies have been postponed since March 17, 2020, allowing the City time to plan for future meetings while maintaining social distancing.

I.  The City of Mequon always values public input and believes that, generally, meetings should be in person; however, during the current emergency, and considering various orders of the Governor and the policy in favor of social distancing, in-person meetings would be inappropriate.

J.  The City should resume meetings for the following and other reasons:

  1. No one knows how long the current emergency situation will last.
  2. Without meetings of the City bodies, the City is unable to move forward with its own policies and initiatives, to proceed with its own construction projects, including its road program, to effectively govern and provide the services the public expects from the City or to support those Essential Activities, Essential Governmental Functions and Essential Businesses and Operations authorized under Wisconsin’s Safer at Home Order (the “Governor’s Order”).
  3. Various residential and commercial construction projects cannot move forward without approvals by the applicable City bodies despite being Essential Businesses and Operations under the Governor’s Order, and delays in approvals by the City might prompt defaults under various private contracts.
  4. Fairness to various parties interested in deliberations of the City’s bodies dictates prompt consideration of the matters considered during such deliberations.

K.  It is necessary and proper, pursuant to Wisconsin Statutes Section 323.14(4)(b), in order to provide for the health, safety, protection and welfare of people and property within the City, for me to issue this Proclamation in advance of a Common Council meeting in order to allow (a) the Common Council’s standing committees to meet electronically in advance of the Common Council’s consideration and (2) the Common Council to meet electronically to consider the provisions of this Proclamation.

BASED ON THE FOREGOING and pursuant to Wisconsin Statutes Sections 323.14(4)(b) and 323.52(1) and Sections 26-24 of the Code, I proclaim as follows:

1.  Generally. Based on the imprudence of holding in-person meetings, the location for all meetings of City bodies shall be held electronically and in compliance with the regulations set forth in this Proclamation. No City body other than the ad hoc Emergency Management Committee or the Common Council, if a special meeting becomes necessary, shall meet prior to April 14, 2020. A City body, at the discretion of its chair and subject to staff availability, may hold a special meeting after that date outside of its regularly meeting schedule to replace a meeting that has been postponed.

2.  Architectural Board. Due to the number of reserve panel members of the Architectural Board (as described in Section 2-443(b) of the Code), and the difficulty of coordinating an electronic meeting with a large number of potential attendees, including reserve panel members who only participate for part of the meeting, the Architectural Board will only consist of the five at-large members, as defined in Sec. 2-443(a) of the Code. A quorum shall consist of three members. Any reserve panel member may serve as an alternate member if the permanent alternate member(s) are unable to participate.

3.  Regulations. Each electronic meeting shall be subject to the following regulations:

     (a)  Packets. No paper copies of the packet for any City body’s meeting shall be made by the City; instead, links to the packets shall be electronically transmitted to members of the City body.

     (b)  Notices. The City shall provide notices of the meeting pursuant to state law and the Code. Notices shall (a) inform the public that the meeting will be held remotely, (b) provide all information necessary for the public to monitor the meeting, including the telephone number, video conference link and any necessary passcodes or other login information; (c) provide that, except with respect to a public hearing, public comments should be sent to an email address specified in the notice or delivered in writing to the City depository at City Hall, in either instance no later than two hours prior to the meeting (except with respect to a morning meeting, no later than 4:00 p.m. on the day prior to the meeting); and (d) provide that reasonable accommodations will be made for people without telephone or internet access or who are deaf or hard of hearing provided that notice of such need is provided to the City in the same manner as public comments.

    (c)  Platform. Unless otherwise approved by city staff, all meetings shall be held using an electronic (internet and/or conference call) platform provided by the City.

   (d)  Telephonic Option. To the extent an internet-based meeting is conducted, participants and the public shall be provided with an alternative local or toll-free telephone dial-in option for listening to the meeting so that lack of internet access is not a barrier to listening to the meeting.

     (e)  Recording of Meetings. All meetings shall be recorded. To the extent a video of a meeting would ordinarily be posted to the City’s website, Channel 25 or youtube.com, the recording shall be posted instead of the video.

    (f)  Roll Call and Announcement. At the beginning of each meeting, the chair or staff liaison shall conduct the roll call. Upon determination that a quorum is on-line, the chair shall (i) request that members of the City body identify themselves before they begin to speak; (ii) remind all members of the City body not to speak over one another; (iii) tell all people participating in or observing the meeting to silence their phones or microphones except when speaking; and (iv) inform the public that public comments cannot be heard during the meeting (except with respect to public hearings, if applicable) but that, for future meetings, comments can be provided in advance of the meeting as specified on the public notice.

     (g)  Public Hearings.

  • (i)     If a public hearing is on the agenda, the section describing the public hearing shall notify the public that, in order to be recognized during such meeting, a person must notify the City of his or her request to be recognized by email to an email address specified in the notice or by leaving a message on the voice mail of a person specified in the notice, in either instance no later than two hours prior to the meeting (except with respect to a morning meeting, no later than 4:00 p.m. on the day prior to the meeting).
  • (ii)     Only people who have registered as described above to speak during a public hearing shall be recognized.
  • (iii)     Matters for which a public hearing is held shall be considered by the City body immediately following the public hearing.

(h)  Speaking at Meetings. Only the following people may speak during a meeting:

  • (i)     Members of the City body.
  • (ii)    City staff and consultants engaged by the City.
  • (iii)   The public during any public hearing.
  • (iv)    Whenever a City body is acting as a quasi-judicial body, any party to the matter being reviewed, any agent for such a party and any witness called by a party or the City.
  • (v)  In the discretion of the chair, any applicant, or the agent for any applicant. An applicant shall be a person or entity who has paid the required fee in connection with the matter being discussed.

   (i)  Public Comments. Public comments received by the City pursuant to Section 3(b) shall be read (or summarized in the discretion of the chair) by staff or the chair when the applicable matter is discussed.

    (j)  Recognition by Chair. No person shall speak at a meeting unless he or she first states his or her name and then is recognized by the chair.

    (k)  Disruption. The chair may cut-off any person on the call if such person is not allowed to speak or if a person is otherwise allowed to speak but becomes disruptive to the orderly conduct of the meeting.

    (l)  Non-Verbal Communications. Members of the City body shall not communicate with other members during any meeting utilizing any non-verbal means, including without limitation email, text messaging or any digital chat feature within the platform.

    (m)  Closed Sessions. To the extent a City body goes into closed session, either (i) all connections to the electronic meeting shall be disconnected and locked other than those people legally entitled to participate in the closed session, and no action shall be taken on any matter discussed in closed session until another scheduled and noticed meeting after the closed session; or (ii) people legally entitled to participate in the closed session will transition to a private telephonic conference, and no action shall be taken on any matter discussed in closed session until the City body returns to the original open session electronic meeting if so noted in the agenda, or until another scheduled and noticed meeting after the closed session.

4.  Common Council Meetings. In order to keep Common Council meetings orderly, and to reduce the time of meetings that will necessarily be made longer through electronic meetings, the following additional changes are made:

    (a)  Amendments. Any member of the Common Council who desires to propose an amendment to any ordinance, resolution or other matter being considered by the Common Council should email a written copy of the amendment to the City Administrator, the department member named on the memorandum for the item and all members of the Common Council at least two hours prior to the meeting. No amendment shall be precluded if it is not so emailed; however, if the Mayor or other presiding officer determines that consideration of an amendment offered orally (other than an amendment to this Proclamation when it is considered pursuant to Section 7) will cause confusion or unduly delay the meeting, such presiding officer may order that such item be tabled until the next meeting so the amendment can be put in writing and distributed to the Council.

    (b)  Public Appearances and Public Comments. The Section of the normal Common Council agenda entitled Public Appearances and Public Comments shall be deleted. To the extent written comments are received by the Clerk that would otherwise be heard in that part of the meeting, the Clerk shall provide copies to the Common Council.

5.  Postponement. Nothing in this Proclamation shall remove any discretion by a chair to postpone, to the extent allowed by law, a meeting or matter if the chair determines that postponement is in the public interest.

6.  Conflicting Ordinances. To the extent that this Proclamation conflicts with any provision of the Code, the provisions of this Proclamation shall govern and shall constitute an amendment to such provision of the Code until such time as the City’s emergency proclamation is terminated or this Proclamation is amended or terminated. To the extent any ordinance is not amended by this Proclamation explicitly or by necessary implication, including any ordinance governing the procedures of a City body, such ordinance remains in full force and effect.

7.  Common Council Ratification. Pursuant to Wisconsin Statutes Section 323.14(4)(b), this Proclamation is subject to ratification, alteration, modification or repeal by the Common Council at its next meeting, which shall occur as soon as the Common Council can meet, but the subsequent action taken by the Common Council shall not affect the prior validity of this Proclamation.

COVID-19: What You Can Do to Help

This virus is a challenge. If we all do our part through better hygiene and social distancing, we can reduce the spread of the disease and ultimately defeat it.

Meanwhile, many of our neighbors are hurting. There are things we all can do to help minimize the impact. The following are some of the many great recommendations I have received. I will add more as I receive more recommendations. Check back.

  • Keep in touch. Many, particularly our seniors, are feeling closed off and alone. It only takes a few minutes to call someone a couple of times a week to say hi and see if they need anything. We need to stay connected while we are distancing.
  • #PayUpFront So many of our local businesses are truly hurting: bars, restaurants, barbers, beauticians, day-cares and merchants, just to name a few.  If we want to see them make it through this, THEY NEED OUR HELP NOW. If you can, buy gift certificates or prepay for a few weeks’ of service. Even if they are closed, they have a lot of expenses. There is a little risk – some might not make it – but if each of us who can #PayUpFront does so, whether a few dollars or a few hundred dollars, we can minimize that risk. Have faith.
  • Order a meal for pick-up at your favorite restaurant. According to the CDC, food does not transmit coronavirus. Our restaurants need the business. Without it, many may fail.
  • Donate to the hungry. On Wednesday, I will be placing some boxes for food (and money) donations for Family Sharing of Ozaukee County inside the front door of City Hall (the doors along Cedarburg Road). I will be picking the donations up and delivering them. Those doors will be open for the next week and a half during ordinary business hours while in-person voting is happening. I plan to follow all of these recommendations, but this is my particular contribution.
  • Give blood. Blood is in very short supply and very much needed. One opportunity will be at Lumen Christi Church on Thursday, April 2, from noon until 5:00 p.m. All are welcome. COVID-19 protocols will be followed. I will let you know as more blood drives become available. Or, find a location by clicking here.
  • Help with supplies. If your business has gloves, masks, gowns or other personal protective equipment, both the City (firefighters, police and inspectors) and the hospital could use them. Please let me know if you have a line on any of them.
  • Even though you can vote in-person, don’t. Instead, please vote by mail. There is still time. You can request an absentee ballot by clicking here.  It is simple, and takes only a couple of minutes. If you need more help, you can call 262-236-2911 or email Janet Meyer at jmeyer@ci.mequon.wi.us.
  • If you insist on voting in person (but please don’t), bring your own (black or blue only) pen. That way people are not sharing pens. Felt tipped pens are preferable. And keep your distance in line.

Mequon ad hoc Emergency Management Committee

I have appointed an ad hoc committee to provide advice to the City regarding COVID-19. The members include representatives of a variety of Mequon organizations. They can tell the City what they are doing, and the City can provide the same information to them.

I am trying to use as many tools, and gather as many opinions, as I can. It is a committee with diverse perspectives, both politically and professionally.

The committee will not be setting local policy. That is up to the mayor and the Common Council as a whole. Instead, they will exchange information and, with staff and the public, provide advice.

Obviously, most policies will be set at the federal and state levels. However, the city is left to implement some of those policies and to ensure that the City continues to provide essential services while complying with federal and state policies.

There will be no criticism of either the President or the Governor at the meetings. That is not the point of the body. Instead, we want to ensure that we do the best job we can in implementing the policies that exist. To do that, we know to know what others are doing. The inclusion of any member is not an endorsement of that member. It is a recognition that he or she is a member of a body that makes a difference.

The committee includes the following:

Ascension Hospital Dr. Jason Staszko
Chamber of Commerce Jessica Liebau
Common Council Dr. Kathleen Schneider
Concordia University of Wisconsin Dr. Patrick Ferry and Gretchen Jameson
Mequon-Thiensville School District Dr. Matt Joynt
Other Medical Dr. David Tick
Ozaukee County Supervisor Dave Henrichs
State of Wisconsin Sen. Alberta Darling, Rep. Jim Ott and Rep. Dan Knodl

I will chair the committee. The City Administrator, Assistant City Administrator, Police Chief, Fire Chief and City Attorney (as well as other staff on an as-needed basis) will assist the committee.

I continue to seek advice from as many members of the public as possible. Please send your comments to me at mayor@ci.mequon.wi.us and/or to the City Administrator Will Jones at wjones@ci.mequon.wi.us.

Meetings of the committee are available to the public; however, all such meetings will be conducted electronically; therefore, the discussion on the call needs to be limited to the members and staff. Public comments should be submitted at least one hour prior to the meeting. When they are scheduled, meeting times and dates will be posted on the city website and can be seen by clicking here.

Empathy and Shared Sacrifice

ration-book-three-front

Most of us have watched many hours of press conferences and news reports and read more articles than we can count about COVID-19. Like it or not, this disease has fundamentally changed our country.

My reaction to both this pandemic and the response of federal and state leaders has evolved over the last few weeks. Federal and state officials are now taking this threat seriously. Regardless of motives, they have become engaged, work on responses and establish rules based on recommendations of health experts. Health experts talk about social distancing, and immunity, and flattening the curve.

But something has gnawed at me even as the response has improved. I now know what it is.

Leaders have failed to express empathy while setting rules. There has been so much policy and health talk, but not enough talk about the real human cost. When I say cost, I do not just mean lives or dollars.

Let’s face it. Even in the worst-case projections, it is unlikely that most of us will die or get seriously ill. Many of us will not even know someone who does. We are being asked to change our lives to defeat something that is unlikely to have much of a direct effect on our lives.

My generation and generations that follow really have never before been asked to sacrifice in a serious way. Many serve their communities, but it has been service that, while impactful, is usually not truly painful. Few (soldiers and some religious being the exception) have ever been asked to truly sacrifice a piece of their lives for the common good.

Yet, our country has a proud tradition of real shared sacrifice. Usually it has been during wartime or depression. Prior generations heard the call to arms and responded. They lived through food, clothing, tools and fuel rationing. Women worked factory jobs during World War II. Seniors and children contributed. Everyone did. Most people did not personally benefit. They did it for the greater good, not because they expected to see Nazis breaching our shores or because they had personal relationships with slaves. They did it because it was right and good. They did it because they were Americans.

Today, we are again being asked to share sacrifice. We all are working our way through it.

It is difficult to find childcare. It is sickening to see our investments plunge in value, jeopardizing planned retirements and retirement dates. Our social lives are disrupted. Our sports teams are on hiatus. Vacations are canceled.  Working at home can be annoying. We can’t go to our bars, restaurants, libraries and events. We avoid crowds. It will cost all of us money. Some of us businesses will fall behind. We might have to wait a day or week to find toilet paper or bread.

All of that is a sacrifice. We do it because we as a society cannot stand by and watch thousands or hundreds of thousands or more of our fellow Americans die when we could have done something.

But the burden of shared sacrifice does not fall on our shoulders equally.

Many people are losing jobs. The impact affects some of our most vulnerable neighbors – single parents, the disabled, the uneducated and the disadvantaged. It can have a ripple effect, resulting in lost homes, ruined families and hungry children. For some, it is a terrible setback. For others, it can be truly tragic. Fortunately, we have a safety net that will somewhat temper the impact. But the impact will still be greater than what most of us will face.

But the impact does not stop with those people. The impact on them might not even be the greatest.

Others are losing their lives’ work. Many thousands of small business owners are scared. These people took their lives’ savings and risked it. They have spent years or decades struggling to build their dream, investing their blood, sweat and tears. They have mortgages and rental payments, loans, personal guaranties, and costs even when they are shut down. They are concerned for their employees. They have sleepless nights over the decisions they have to make. They are concerned about their families’ futures. These are the people who provide us meals, care for our children, invest in our properties, run our hotels, and make and sell us stuff we need or want. Many of these people are the ones who are the first to donate time and money to our charities and support our communities.

These merchants and small business owners run the risk of the same personal tragedies as their employees. Owing far more money, they also run the risk of years of lawsuits for unpaid bills or even bankruptcy. Yet, although they personally lose so much more, government always seems to find a way to help workers and the big employers. The little guy is ignored.

Most of these people are supporting the new-normal policies that are wreaking havoc on their lives. They aren’t complaining. They understand the concept of sacrifice. They know that what is happening is right, even though it is affecting them more than most of us.

In turn, if we really all are in this together – if this is shared sacrifice – we need to find ways to support them. And we must acknowledge the magnitude of their sacrifices.

As FDR said when imploring Americans to support the war effort:

I know the American farmer, the American workman, and the American businessman. I know that they will gladly embrace this economy and equality of sacrifice, satisfied that it is necessary for the most vital and compelling motive in all their lives.

This current effort is a war. The enemy is unknown, unpredictable and deadly. We might differ on the tactics to fight this war. We might differ about how this will turn out. We might even differ (although it is harder and harder to rationally differ) about the need for this war. But it is here.

Despite our differences, we must all sacrifice to hasten this war’s end. And, we need to do what we can to support those who, right now, are bearing the greater burden. Ultimately, we need to have “equality of sacrifice.”

Maybe we can’t do anything to make our national and state leaders truly care. But we, individually on a local level, can. And we each individually need to find ways to turn that care into real, tangible support.

Thank you to everyone who is doing his or her part. I trust that we all will step up and do more.

Ivana’s Trunk

I have received many emails regarding Ivana’s Trunk. By this post, I am trying to answer the most common questions. If I am missing anything, please let me know.

I like Ivana’s Trunk. I have been in the store multiple times and bought a few things over the years. I hope it can find a way to survive.

However, as explained below, Ivana’s Trunk’s owner knew she was violating the law when she moved Ivana’s Trunk to its current location. And, contrary to what some of Ivana’s Trunk’s loudest supporters say, I have no magic wand that can turn Ivana’s Trunk’s code violations into compliance or that can waive those violations.

I am open to suggestions as to how to allow Ivana’s trunk to survive. However, whatever the City does, it needs to also ensure that it protects its integrity and integrity of its zoning enforcement, that it is even-handed and that it does not jeopardize its ability to enforce its zoning laws generally.

In every survey, and during elections, residents tell elected officials that there are all sorts of uses they do not want to see in Mequon. Any elected official who would advocate for 10 story buildings, check cashing stores, a flea market or a Goodwill superstore would be laughed out of office. Mequon keeps those things from happening through its zoning code. If Mequon decided to ignore its code in some instances, it would have legal trouble maintaining it in others.

I understand and respect that Ivana’s Trunk has many loyal customers. However, I think it is important, considering the amount of email I am getting, for people to have the facts.

Ivana’s Trunk Knew that It Could Not Operate in Its Current location When It Moved There.

Ivana’s Truck has been operating illegally at its location since taking occupancy in 2018 (over 18 months ago).  When the business owner sought to take occupancy of the current location, City staff informed the people representing the business that it was illegal to open the business there.  It moved there anyway.

Not only is Ivana’s Trunk current location impermissible, but it reportedly has been selling and storing things outside (an ordinance violation). In October, I received an email from a concerned resident who said:  “I personally have enjoyed going into Ivana’s Trunk on Port Washington Road.  However, I think all the ‘treasures/things’ outside are becoming an eyesore. At first just a few items, now it looks like a junk yard.”

Also, upon information and belief, Ivana’s Trunk has other building code violations. Ivana’s Trunk has not had plumbing, electrical or other required inspections.

Several years ago, Ivana’s Trunk did basically the same exact thing. It moved to a location in the Town Center without proper zoning. The City stretched the language of the zoning code (there was some gray area in the language for the Town Center’s Arrival Corridor) to allow it to stay there, knowing that the owner of the building was likely to tear the building down in the near future. Ivana’s Trunk also put-up illegal signs at that location, presumably knowing they were not allowed, and illegally stored and displayed materials outside.

Ivana’s Trunk, or its supporters, have tried to make it sound as if it is being picked on by the City. The opposite is true. It has repeatedly, and knowingly, violated the rules, assuming that the City would cave under pressure. Ivana’s Trunk has apparently taken the position that it is more fruitful to ask for forgiveness.

The City Has Given Ivana’s Trunk Over 1-1/2 Years to Fix Its Problem.

This is not a heavy-handed, quick enforcement action. The City could have shut Ivana’s Trunk down as soon as it moved to its current location. City staff did not. It gave Ivana’s Trunk time to move, or to pursue a zoning code change. As explained below, the City then undertook a review of the applicable zoning code provisions and told Ivana’s Trunk that it would wait on enforcement until that review was completed.

Resale Shops Have Been Illegal on Port Washington Road for Decades.

This is not a new issue. Resale shops have been illegal on Port Washington Road for 30 years or more. The City did not change the rules to prevent Ivana’s Trunk from staying in its location as some have suggested.

Under State Law, the City Cannot Grant a Variance to Allow Ivana’s Trunk to Stay in Its Current Location.

Some people have suggested that the City should grant Ivana’s trunk a variance. That is not allowed under Wisconsin law. Variances can be granted under some circumstances for technical or quantitative standards (e.g., the number of feet a building is setback, the size of a sign). However, a variance cannot be granted to allow an illegal use in a zoning district.

Under State Law, Ivana’s Trunk Cannot be “Grandfathered.”

Some people have suggested that Ivan’s Trunk should be “grandfathered.” Under state and local law,  grandfathered rights ONLY apply to businesses that were operating legally in a location before a code change. Ivana’s Trunk was never operating legally in this location.

Isn’t this Just Bureaucratic Rules-are-Rules Narrowmindedness?

I agree that government (on all levels) too often has a rules-are-rules, unthinking mindset. But this is not that. Government cannot just ignore laws if it ever hopes to enforce them. Government cannot just pick and choose winners and losers. It can exercise discretion in interpretation, but the law is very clear in this instance. There is no gray area. Government can be lenient in enforcement to minimize harm. Mequon has done that for over 1-1/2 years. And government can look at the rules and decide if they should be changed. See below. But it is wrong to just ignore the rules for one business and not for others. If the public wants the City to throw out the zoning code, or make it far less effective, it should say so.

In Light of Ivana’s Trunk’s Illegal Use, and Requests by Two Clothing Resellers, the Planning Commission and Common Council Extensively Reviewed Zoning for Resale Shops Over the Past Several Months.

There were public meetings regarding Mequon’s resale ordinances on the following dates:

Planning Commission                         October 7, 2019
Planning Commission                         November 11, 2019
Finance-Personnel Committee          January 14, 2020
Common Council                                  January 14, 2020
Special Meeting/Finance-
Personnel Committee                          January 22, 2020
Common Council                                  February 10, 2020

The City passed new ordinances allowing clothing and clothing accessory resale shops as conditional uses in the B-2 zoning district (Mequon’s general retail areas) and resale furniture and household merchandise, as well as architectural salvage, (the classifications uthat would cover Ivana’s Trunk) as conditional uses in the B-5 zoning district (light industrial).

Ivana’s Trunk appeared at one or two of the initial meetings; therefore, it knew about the review and had an opportunity to  make its preferences known. It was represented by an attorney. For some reason, it did not participate after those initial meetings, and did not ask its friends, who are now speaking up, to say anything during that process.

The Building in Which Ivana’s Trunk is Located is in the B-4 Zoning District, and the Planning Commission and Common Council Unanimously Decided Not to Include Resale Shops in the B-4 District.

For reasons that I do not fully understand, many years ago, the property on which Ivana’s Trunk is currently located was zoned B-4. B-4 is Mequon’s zoning for a business park. Uses that are allowed in a business park are professional offices, business offices and financial, insurance and real estate offices. The code has a list of compatible other uses that may be allowed as conditional uses in B-4. A retail resale shop is not listed.

At the meetings listed above, both the Planning Commission and the Common Council unanimously opted not to add resale shops to the list of compatible conditional uses in B-4. Not a single one of these 14 people moved to allow household resale shops in the B-4 district. They concluded that a resale shop would not be compatible in our business parks. In any of our true business parks, such a business would detract from the value and use of those parks.hey are not general retail areas or areas that cater in these kinds of goods.

While it is true that Ivana’s Trunk’s building does not make much sense as a “business park,” that is how it is zoned. If the owner desired, he could redevelop the property as a business park. He is allowed to put uses in the building that could go in a business park. Until Ivana’s Trunk, that is how he has been using it.

The property could be rezoned. That request should come from the property owner.

So, What Can Ivana’s Trunk Do?

Ivanna’s Trunk has three options:

  1. It could propose an amendment to Mequon’s zoning code to allow its use in the B-4 district. There is a few for such a “text amendment.” Considering the process that the Planning Commission and the Common Council just went through, that might not be a productive option.
  2. It could ask its landlord to seek to rezone the property from B-4 to B-5. There would be a great deal of community opposition to having light industrial in that location on Port Washington Road. Moreover, I expect that the landlord has other plans for that property.
  3. It could find a location in the B-5 district and move there.

Ivana’s Trunk took a big risk when it moved to a location where it clearly is not allowed. The City has done what it can and should both to give Ivana’s Trunk time and to review its policies.

Rule of Law?

“A government of laws, not of men.” – John Adams

As Mequon mayor, I need to follow the law. It is hard to imagine anyone differing with that. Lately, however, I have received many emails from residents saying that it is my job to stop the city from “harassing” a popular business that knowingly and flagrantly broke (and continues to break) the law.

I cannot, and should not be able to, assert myself in a way that keeps the law from being followed. I can seek to have the city review whether the current law is good (I have done that and will continue to do so). I can even seek to ask staff to find reasonable approaches to enforcing the law. But I cannot just ignore the law or stop employees from enforcing it. I do not have that authority (they do not report to me), and should not have that authority.

I note, without getting into the details (this is not the right time or place), that city officials have given the aggrieved business owner many months to solve the problem.

I am not a “rules are rules” guy who believes that rules should be reflexively and strictly enforced regardless of the circumstances. Stupid things are done by government too often when government treats everything as black and white.

On the other hand, we are supposed to be law-abiding, and government makes a mockery of the law when it selectively enforces in ways that do not put everyone on an equal footing.

This situation made me think: where do people get the idea that I (or any elected official) can just make the law up as I go?

I think this has become far too prevalent in our country.

Certainly, on a national basis, too many voters have come to believe that the president is all-powerful. One presidential candidate says that “[f]ossil fuel executives should be criminally prosecuted for the destruction they have knowingly caused.” He does not seem to much care about whether any laws have been broken. That same candidate proposes to ignore federal laws and “legalize marijuana in the first 100 days with executive action.”

Presidents (and presidential candidates) now believe they make the laws. They believe they are immune from being prosecuted from breaking the law. They believe they are above Congress and the courts.

Sometimes governors and even legislatures seem un-restrained by the law.

I do not want to weigh-in publicly on whether the policies any federal or state candidate or official espouses are good ideas. Or even if they have the authority they claim. That is not my job.

But the idea that government can ignore process and make up the rules outside of the formal law-making process seems to be trickling down from the federal government to the states to local government. And amazingly, too many voters not only accept it but encourage it.

It is a terrible trend. I will not go there as mayor and will do everything I can (within my very limited authority) to ensure that Mequon does not follow that trend.

Stairs to Nowhere?

About a year ago, I heard that the County planned to put stairs to the lakefront at Virmond Park (Virmond is a county, not city park). A few days ago, I saw this post on Facebook.

Virmond Stairs

So, I followed up with one of our fine County Supervisors to see when this would be completed.

I learned that the County did not allocate sufficient funds for the project, so it will only be going part way down the bluff and end at an outlook. This was an odd decision by the County Board. In life, half a loaf is often better than no loaf, but I am not quite sure what was accomplished here. The lake can be viewed from the top of the bluff. Maybe I am missing something, but I expected that the benefit of the stairs would be to reach the lake.

I also know of no effort to raise private funds to complete the shortfall.

I do not have much interaction with most of our County Board members. I expect you do not either. However, residents of the City of Mequon pay a disproportionate share of the  taxes collected by the County. When something impacts our community, we should know about it. I did not know that the project started, or that it would not be completed. There should be better communication between our levels of government. I am going to make that a priority.