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Green Bay election controversy continues

By Heather Graves
Staff Writer

GREEN BAY – The controversy surrounding the November 2020 election continued at the Tuesday, Nov. 2, City Council meeting.

A request from District 12 Alderperson Jesse Brunette for a full list of funders and donors to Law Forward and States United Democracy Center, the organizations offering free legal help to Green Bay in defense of the election, was denied with a 7-5 vote.

Brunette said his request focused on transparency.

“I simply want to be recorded as a ‘no,’ that’s why I pulled (the item),” Brunette said. “I made my comments at the committee level. I don’t want it to go into closed session again. That’s the opposite of what I want. I want more transparency, not less.”

Before the vote, Green Bay City Attorney Vanessa Chavez informed the council the item wasn’t presented correctly according to Robert’s Rules of Order.

“It is my opinion that this is not currently property in front of this body based on (Robert’s Rules of Order),” Chavez said. “I want you all to be aware of that, and the reason I state that is because we have already moved forward with this organization, we have already moved forward with having this conversation, and what you are basically asking to do is come back and revisit something that was already discussed in closed session and decided as part of decision when we hired this law firm.”

Chavez said it’s also important to note the law firm, regardless of who pays the bill, must act accordingly.

“Law firms, and this was discussed by Attorney (Joanne) Bungert when you guys were at (the Protection and Policy Committee meeting), the rules of professional conduct are very clear as to what the role of an attorney is with respect to representation,” she said, “and just because the person themselves, in this case the City of Green Bay, isn’t the one that is actually funding it, those rules of professional conduct stand in place. Meaning the city is still the one who is ultimately in charge. Who funds it is irrelevant.”

Chavez said the city’s law department has seen no evidence of any violations of these election rules by Law Forward or States United Democracy Center.

Green Bay District 8 Alderperson Chris Wery called it a “clever way of burying the item.”

“I disagree entirely,” Wery said. “I think it is worthy of a discussion.”

District 4 Alderperson Randy Scannell said he is fed up with the insinuations some alderpersons have made regarding the handling of 2020s elections.

“Since some alders want to have a discussion, let’s have that discussion,” Scannell said. “It’s long overdue… Believe me, I’d rather not have this conversation, too, but I’ve had it with these alders poking the bear. It’s got to stop. Let’s start with transparency. All this nonsense about transparency. The only transparency on our end is communicating with our lawyer, our attorney. That is appropriate. Nothing else has been discussed except strategies on how to do this with our lawyer. There are no other transparency problems on our end. All the transparency, and I don’t hear this from certain alders screaming transparency – is on the other end of this investigation. The groups that are pushing this. The dark money supporting them. Just a few days ago, I believe, (they) hired someone named Carol to go into this investigation. We don’t even know the last name. We don’t know what that person is supposed to be doing. That’s transparency.”

Alderpersons Brunette, Wery, John VanderLeest, Brain Johnson and Mark Steuer voted were opposed.

Former Shopko property

Alderpersons unanimously approved a temporary planned unit development (PUD) and a development agreement for further redevelopment for the former Shopko property located at 216 S. Military Ave.

“On its own it would be difficult for staff to recommend approval for the site, because it would not be consistent with the existing zoning and comprehensive plan for the site,” Neil Stechschulte, community and economic development director, said. “However, by entering into a development agreement with (H.J. Martin and Son), submitting a plan within the next hopefully three years… staff felt comfortable permitting the temporary use.”

Stechschulte said the plan focuses on short-term uses of the property, with a redevelopment plan down the road.

He said short-term uses include some industrial warehouse storage, training center for the company’s new employees and leasing space to a health care provider for maintenance and repair work on its equipment. 

Stechschulte said those are the permitted uses of the building specifically listed in the PUD.

He said the temporary plan allows for three years of industrial use, with the possibility of two, one-year extensions, if progress is made toward commercial and residential redevelopment plans for the site.

“This is one of those items that I hope receives unanimous support tonight…,” Johnson said. “This is the perfect temporary use of that facility, which is way better than watching an ideal site, and it gives the city the ability to still have to approve some future outcomes of that.”

The Military Avenue Shopko store closed in April 2019.

H.J. Martin and Son purchased the 125,000-square-foot building in March 2020. 

2022 parking division rates

Alderpersons approved the 2022 parking division rates proposed by Public Works.

Per city policy, the parking division must generate its own revenue to cover operating expenses and facility maintenance.

The council approved no increases in 2020 because of the pandemic.

Public Works Director Steve Grenier said the parking division is feeling the effects of those stagnant numbers.

“I think you may remember… a couple of years ago when we were looking at raising rates, we talked about putting some money away for a rainy day,” Grenier said. “The last 18-20 months, it’s rained pretty constantly in the parking division. So, we’ve actually exhausted all of those reserve funds, and then we have had to defer, or not go into certain capital expenditures for equipment replacement, and instead we have used the money we would have put forward for those activities just to keep our operations solvent for the last two years.” 

The city’s parking division receives no funding from property tax revenue.

“I have complete faith that the staff has analyzed this carefully, and this a modest increase and manageable,” District 3 Alderperson Lynn Gerlach said. “(Grenier) also pointed out that if we don’t pass this, if we don’t find more revenue, the parking division, which is self-sufficient, is going to have to experience some significant cuts. So, I’m absolutely in favor of this.”

Council members approved a 10 cent hourly parking rate increase – from $1 per hour to $1.10 per hour – for the Adams Street Lot and River Ramp.

All remaining ramp hourly rates remain unchanged, at 85 cents per hour

Alderpersons also approved a 5 cent increase to parking meter rates, from 90 cents per hour to 95 cents per hour.

The proposal maintains late fee rates, and a $2 processing fee remains in effect on all citations.

All changes will go into effect Jan. 1.

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