The agenda for the evening's meeting contained, among other things , over 20 "disallow claims" in which Oshkosh residents were being denied any city assistance for the damages incurred during the June flooding. In addition, the agenda included a change to city ordinances specifically regarding the Energy and Environmental Advisory Commission (E&E).
When Jon and Mark got to the E&E resolution, Mark said that the language in the existing ordinance is outdated and the city was simply getting it up to date. Jon did not proceed to ask what that specifically means.
Immediately following the radio show was the council meeting, in which many residents made concerning statements regarding the flooding and their experience with the city. According to multiple residents, no one from the city nor the insurance provider ever looked into any potential causes of sewer water back-up into their basements (for those not aware, simply having extra rainfall shouldn't necessarily result in sewer water back-up). What may have been found had a review occurred remains a mystery, but the findings could have possibly included faulty sewer line work, damage to city sewer lines, questionable water line connections that pool storm water and sewer water, or others.
Just before the council arrived at the Disallow Claims portion, they discussed the E&E resolution. The resolution was brought by Jessica King, and was supported by Mayor Tower, who cast the lone vote in favor of it (all other councilors voted to send it to the E&E for review and improvement). Included in the "outdated language" was the following:
1. Advise the City Manager and/or Common Council on specific energy and environmental problems or concerns.
2. Review and advise the City Manager and/or Common Council on proposed or existing State and Federal laws and rules pertaining to energy conservation and their potential effect on the community.
3. Develop a comprehensive energy education plan, including emergency measures.
4. Advise the City Manager and Common Council on existing or proposed City ordinances which have energy and/or environmental implications. Serve as liaison on specific issues with Wisconsin Public Service, Advocap, Winnebago County, East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (ECWRPC), and other agencies as requested by the City Manager and/or Common Council.
5. Develop methods and procedures through which the City of Oshkosh can more efficiently utilize energy.
In reality, most if not all of the above five items are as important today as they were 30 years ago. In addition, it is probably very important that a third party review city actions to determine the environmental impact. This is called accountability and good government. What I suspect was the case is that numbers 1, 2, and 4 were a problem for particular city staff, since numerous times the E&E board had attempted to review other existing activities of the city only to be told "this is not your responsibility" by acting city manager Fitzpatrick, city attorney Lorenson, and others. The "don't question other municipal activity" didn't fit the reality, so it was determined that a change was needed.
My question is this: When huge portions of the city are significantly burdened by flooding, which partially MAY have been the result of negligence on behalf of the city, which has cost some families and business owners well over $10,000 that insurance providers won't cover, and in which NO review of the issue or useful feedback was provided by the city nor the city's insurance carrier, then why doesn't the city or the council attempt to modify a board, or modify current city staff responsibilities, or create a new emergency & disaster response team to include the responsibility of meeting with residents effected by an emergency / disaster, to hear their issues and claims, to gather documentation from local officials and from the damaged site, to review the information, and to provide a recommendation to staff and the council regarding how the issue can be resolved, who may be at fault, what they recommend for potential compensation, and what role the city can play in providing valuable customer service to distressed residents?
I guess I see the above as this: To increase accountability, or to remove it.
A "well done" to the councilors that did not support the E&E ordinance and instead provided support to the existing E&E board. Following an effective check of city priorities, maybe citizens, councilors, and staff can see how we can increase the accountability, effectiveness, and leadership of our municipal government. I think all of the council, significant quantities of Oshkosh residents, and hopefully some staff all feel that the city's response to the flooding displayed none of the above.