Licensing & Permit committee becomes commission
At Monday night’s Common Council meeting, the second reading of the proposed changes by Alderperson Ray Misner to various sections of the Code of General Ordinances regarding the change in responsibilities of the “Committee on Licensing/Permit,” allocating them to the “Commission on Licensing/Permit” or “Committee on Judicial Review” was approved. Misner stated that he felt that this change will make the process of getting licenses issued more efficient.
There was considerable discussion on this topic. Misner started off by making an amendment. One of the proposed changes included would be to add two representatives from the community to the commission, one from the Tavern League, and one from the Concerned Citizens Coalition (CCC). Misner wanted the words “or organization similar in nature” added after the reference to the CCC. The other members of the commission would be the City Plan Commission. Members of the Judicial Review Committee would be the current members of the Licensing & Permit Committee.
Alderperson Tod Ohnstad said that he would not be supporting the changes. He mentioned that, in their packets was included a copy of a letter which was received from the CCC, stating that they didn’t wish to participate in the newly-formed commission. Misner stated that he continuously made mention that the CCC, or an organization similar in nature, would be given a seat at the table. “It was never absolute.” Misner stated that it had nothing to do with the letter. “We have a great relationship. They stated in their letter that they’d participate in the best ways that they can.”
Alderperson David Bogdala stated that he would be supporting the changes. “In the past, the Licensing & Permit Committee was a sub-committee of the Finance Committee. As times change, we change when appropriate. They are a great group of folks. We have to look at how we can do things differently to streamline the process. If the application is ok, the city clerks should be able to approve it. We should move forward to looking at that. This is not the end game; it’s the beginning of a new era. We need to work with organizations, whatever their names may be.”
Alderperson Anthony Kennedy spoke as a former member of the Licensing & Permit Committee. He said, “Seeing as I’m no longer on it, my first thought would be ‘Go for it.’ But, I don’t see any efficiencies. Having two committees now: the Judicial Review Committee, and the Commission on Licensing & Permits. The Judicial Review Committee would be responsible for handling revocation hearings. The Commission on Licensing & Permits would issue licenses. We’re demonizing the Commission on Licensing & Permits, and grandstanding. We’re also demonizing the City Plan Commission. Currently, the Licensing & Permit Committee does these two functions. We’re playing one side against another. I’m challenging what we have in front of us. I don’t know if it will do. I don’t agree with the Chairman. I don’t feel it gets to the perceived problems of the Licensing & Permit Committee. The correcting body becomes the Judicial Review Committee. That’s a problem. It won’t give us the efficiencies we think. I just don’t think it’s the right idea right now.”
Alderperson Michael Orth said that he believes the reorganization is needed because the system in place is “one committee being the judge and jury. That’s not right. How can one body license, then participate in revocation hearings? They’d have to put aside all their objectivity. These should be separate functions. Isn’t there a law that states that only elected officials can serve in the capacity of a judge? Isn’t this a requirement of State law? I think this is a conflict. Revocation hearings are expensive hearings, they’re timely, and costly. It’s not a good process. Is it a perfect system? I don’t know. But, it tries to solve some complaints regarding the process. I’m supporting it.”
Alderperson Eric Haugaard wanted to know if this does pass, who will be the final authority, the Commission and the Committee, or the Common Council. Ed Antaramian, city attorney, responded that the Common Council would be the final authority, with the exception of hearings. The former committee which becomes the new commission would have no changes. Kennedy wanted to know if we were in violation of some state law. Antaramian said “No.”
Mayor Keith Bosman passed the gavel at this point. ”Because the mayor is part of the City Plan Commission, it gives it two strikes right off the bat. I feel that the Licensing & Permit Committee does a good job. Of the dozens of licenses that it approves, only a very few are brought to this floor. Rarely, a few people argue the results. There are a half dozen revocation hearings in a year. I see more problems rather than solutions. I’m opposed to it. I feel it’s causing a lot more problems.”
Misner’s comments then were: “The mayor plays a major role in the city to bring establishments to the city. That hasn’t panned out. The mayor needs to play a larger role. We would have a greater opportunity for success if businesses went to the mayor. It’s nice to have a point person. The mayor ensures the success of our city. It’s a great tool for the mayor. The current Licensing & Permit Committee is blamed for problems. They have no direct authority over the staff. The mayor can make changes. If he doesn’t see this as the answer, then maybe it’s the tool which will provide the answer. I’ve enjoyed my run on the Licensing & Permit Committee. It’s been six years. I don’t give up this responsibility lightly. But, it’s bigger than me. We need to process complaints. It’s best to have those than can make changes lead the way.”
A roll call vote was taken, and the vote was 9 to 7. The changes passed. Those alderpersons voting against were Eric Haugaard, Jan Michalski, Rocco LaMacchia, Tod Ohnstad, Patrick Juliana, Anthony Kennedy, and Jesse Downing.