By Brandi Makuski
After a public hearing that yielded only one speaker from the audience, the Stevens Point Common Council on April 16 approved the creation of an ordinance governing a new bicycle safety commission by a vote of 8-1.
In March, Councilwoman Tori Jennings proposed the city’s bicycle and pedestrian advisory committee (BPAC) be replaced with a five-member bicycle‐pedestrian street safety commission (BPSSC). Unlike BPAC, the new commission would be recognized under city ordinance, bringing to it a more formal standing, Jennings said.
Mayor Mike Wiza would later refute that claim, saying the advisory committee already had all the authority and oversight proposed with the new commission.
The only member of the public to speak on the issue Monday was Trevor Roark, BPAC chairman, who thanked Jennings for making the proposal, and applauded the community development department, which has publicly supported the change.
Roark also said he rode his bike to the April 16 meeting but noted the bike rack outside the courthouse was buried in snow, but the parking lot had been cleared for motorists—something he referred to as “inequity” in alternative modes of transportation he expected to level out with time.
“Livability is high priority for our city…the evolution of BPAC makes sense,” he said.
Councilwoman Mary McComb, who was unable to attend the meeting because she was out of the country, spoke of her support via handwritten letter that was read into the record by Councilwoman Meleesa Johnson. McComb’s letter read in part that the city needed to improve conditions for “non-auto, personal transportation”, adding that it “improves the environment for walkers and bikers”.
A letter of support was also read into the record from the Wisconsin Bike Federation.
Alderman Mike Phillips questioned why the new commission was being placed under the oversight of community development, saying purview of the city’s public works or streets departments would make better sense.
“I think this commission is a bridge between the two, as well as [police department],” Jennings responded.
While most on the council voiced some level of support for the change, Wiza said it was an unnecessary move because the new commission didn’t have any more authority or oversight than BPAC already had.
“The new ordinance doesn’t fix any of the concerns the group expressed,” Wiza said. “You have the votes to pass this, I know, but is passing this more important than actually solving the problems?”
When asked for clarification on the need for the new commission, Jennings only replied, “This ordinance is an effort at accountability and responsible government.”
Jeremy Slowinski provided the sole no vote. Alders Jennings, David Shorr, Mary Kneebone, Heidi Oberstadt, Shaun Morrow, Cathy Dugan and Mike Phillips voted in favor.
Council members Mary McComb and Cindy Nebel were absent.
To make way for the new commission, Wiza officially dissolved BPAC on April 17. The city is now seeking applications for those interested in serving on the new commission. More information on the application process is available at stevenspoint.com.