District 3 Blog
Biergarten Update Ahead of Tomorrow's Vote
I wanted to be in touch ahead of the vote tomorrow evening on the Olbrich Biergarten proposal.
For those of you who have given this some thought and written me about it, thank you! Although this project is a few miles outside our district, I have heard from many of you and I'm proud to have such engaged and thoughtful residents.
The emails and phone calls for and against the project are pretty evenly split (you couldn't make this easy for me, could you? :)), and I'd like to share with you some of my thoughts on the project. Once you give it a read, chime in if you think there's a perspective I've missed.
Alcohol in Wisconsin
Seriously, it's everywhere. In Wisconsin, we can't seem to contemplate having a good time without alcohol. Consider our neighbors who avoid alcohol for religious reasons. Consider our neighbors who have struggled with alcohol and substance abuse. Certainly everyone should feel welcome, comfortable, and safe in our public spaces. Addiction and recovery can be isolating enough, the last thing we want to do is make our neighbors feel isolated from fully joining in and enjoying our community events, parks, and public spaces.
The above perspective is valid, and it's a reality for many of our neighbors-but applying that individual perspective to deny a specific project, doesn't seem quite fair. I can say with confidence that it's not typically how the process works in the city-or pretty much any city. From what I and other alders have heard, it seems clear that we need to take a good long look at how many alcohol venues are succeeding here in our city. At the same time, it would be unjust to deny this one particular project simply because there are other alcohol establishments succeeding around it, and a lot more flourishing all over the city and state.
Transparency of Process
Madison has a proud tradition of total and complete transparency of process at every step and every turn. We alders hawkishly watch who is gathered chatting before and after meetings to make sure that we don't form a quorum of the body or the council organizational meeting. Not kidding, I once had to wait outside the ladies room during a break during a council meeting because there were too many of my colleagues inside the restroom and we didn't want to risk even the appearance of side chatting. We take a certain pride in being the guardians of this proud and important tradition, this total transparency of government.
Much has been made of my colleague Sara Eskrich's role on the council and the fact that her husband is one of the biergarten proposal co-architects. I've worked with Sara for almost 2 years now and I've formed a few impressions: she's very smart, she works incredibly hard (seriously, she makes me feel like a slacker sometimes), and she never takes shortcuts, ever. I've seen Sara at budget hearings at midnight crunching numbers and drafting motions. I've seen her hold three public meetings on the same proposal in her district. She just doesn't cut corners or take shortcuts. I've read what's been said, and I just have no question about her integrity or honesty. I know that we see corruption in so many places in government today. I know many of us are seeing red. But I encourage you to keep some faith in those of us just trying to get all of our council work done and get home before midnight.
Whenever there's more than about 6 people in a public space, public safety can be a concern, especially if one of them is me, I can be a klutz. Add alcohol to the mix of any community space and public safety can be a greater concern. Some of you have emailed me about public safety concerns in the park and I want to speak to those.
Like you, I've been to events in Olbrich Park and just spent time on the beach there. Prior to the ban on alcohol in the park, I noticed a higher than acceptable amount of beer and liquor bottles smashed in and around the parking lot. Since the alcohol ban, I've noticed few bottles and less litter in general. The tightly controlled biergarten environment won't, I don't believe, take us back to where the park was a few years ago. The biergarten won't serve beer in glass bottles. I hope this helps alleviate some safety concerns with respect to glass and related litter.
I've also heard from you about safety with respect to traffic. The parking lot and the lot across the street near the baseball diamonds are often busy with various events going on in both places. Attendees, pedestrians, and cyclists are all pretty used to the traffic patterns and there are special crosswalks to make pedestrians more visible. While no system is foolproof and drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians will all need to stay alert in that area, I believe the proposal will work just fine in this respect.
I'm eager to hear more from anyone who believes I've missed something. It's getting to be a bit later and I want to get this out with time for you to read it before tomorrow so it's certainly possible that something's been skipped.
Thanks as always for your attention, your thoughtfulness, and your critical thinking on the issues
Looking forward to hearing from you,
Alder, District 3
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