Ethnic Festival is This Saturday

The weather forecast is looking good for Saturday’s Ethnic Festival in downtown Two Rivers.

This annual celebration of our nation’s ethnic diversity, brought to you by Two Rivers Main Street with major sponsors Holy Family Memorial and Next Era Energy, runs from 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM.

Events kick off with the Parade of Flags at 9:30 AM.

Main Stage entertainment includes the Mambo Surfers, Ukrainian and Polish dancers, Derek Byrne & Paddygrass Irish song and dance, and the Toledo Swiss Singers.  The Encore Stage, at the north end of the festival area, will feature the Czech Choraliers, Li’l Rev Jewish and Yiddish song and storytelling, and The Three Amigos.

There’s a great variety of ethnic fare in the food court, with several new vendors joining the event this year.

Extend your celebration with a visit to Kurtz’s for their annual Octoberfest, with authentic German beers, food and music.  Schwarz’s Pub will also feature a beer garden and band.

For more information, go to www.tworiversmainstreet.com, or to the Ethnic Fest Facebook page.

Thanks to all of the sponsors and volunteers who make Ethnic Festival another great Two Rivers event.  See you downtown!

Transportation Funding Package:  Sausage with a Surprise Ingredient

The transportation funding bill approved by the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee on the evening of September 5 does not just address transportation funding (or the lack of it) for the current biennium.

It also includes a surprise provision that could make it much more difficult for local government units to acquire land needed for bike trails, walking trails and other pedestrian facilities.

Specifically, this legislation includes a provision that will change State law to “Prohibit any entity with the power of condemnation from using that power for the purpose of establishing or extending recreational trails, bicycle ways or lanes, or pedestrian ways.”

State and local government in Wisconsin historically have had broad power to “condemn” or acquire through eminent domain, property needed for public purposes: streets, parks, water and wastewater plants, public buildings, trails, etc.  Among such public facilities, bike/ped trails have become very popular in recent years.  Many residents and prospective residents view trails as a big component of community quality of life.

Local elected officials don’t take lightly the idea of using condemnation to “take” property from private parties, even with fair compensation for such takings as required by Wisconsin law.

But sometimes such takings are necessary for the public good.  Without this legal tool that has been available to local units for many years, a single property owner could effectively block a project that offers significant community benefits.

So why, out of the all public uses that might be the object of a condemnation action, did the Joint Finance Committee choose to specifically exclude bike lanes and trails and pedestrian ways?

We may never know the answer to that question, because this policy change was slid into the sausage-making process that is our State Budget, instead of being introduced as a bill to be debated in the light of day.

It caught the League of Municipalities by surprise, it caught the Wisconsin Bike Fed by surprise.  It caught local officials across the state by surprise.

It’s tough to get a budget bill amended “on the floor” of the Legislature.  But I urge our area’s state senators and reps to seek removal of this provision when the funding package is presented for a vote.  Failing that, I would urge Governor Walker to consider a line item veto.

This proposed ban on the use of condemnation for bike/ped facilities is a trifecta of bad public policy, for the following reasons; 

–It is a non-fiscal issue that does not belong in a funding bill; whatever your position on the issue, it should be subject to public hearing and debate.

–It reflects a further erosion of local control; the latest example of our state government pre-empting Wisconsin’s local governments from exercising the legal authority they have possessed for many, many years.

–It will prevent local units from developing important bike and pedestrian facilities that residents support for their community health, safety and recreational benefits.

I encourage local residents to contact your legislators, stating your opposition to the Legislature taking this authority away from your local elected officials.

Two Rivers City Manager Greg Buckley can be contacted by calling 920-793-5532 or by e-mailing gbuckley@two-rivers.org.

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