Michael Horne
Plenty of Horne

Fox Point Decrees: Pedestrians Must Wear Reflective Clothing

The village with no sidewalks or street lights will require pedestrians to be visible at a distance of 500 feet.

By - Jan 22nd, 2014 02:13 pm

Leave it to a North Shore suburb to come up with the area’s first nighttime dress code for pedestrians.

Welcome to Ch. 23 Sec. 23.08 of the Fox Point Village Code, set to go into effect on March 1st, 2014. If you plan to visit this burg, dress accordingly, or face the penalty of the law.

What to wear? You have your choice of

  • “At least 4 square inches of the outer layer [of clothing that is] reflectorized such that it is is visible from a distance of up to 500 feet. Front and rear.”
  • Two square inch reflectors or reflecting tape, fore and aft.
  • A flashlight.

The village enacted these requirements because it is “difficult for drivers of motor vehicles to see pedestrians in such circumstances and accidents and injuries could easily occur.” Of course, it might be easier to see the pedestrians if the streets were lit (there are no street lights) or if there were any sidewalks (there are none).  The village already requires pedestrians to walk on the left side of the roadway, and to hustle off to the gravel shoulder or grassy ditch upon the approach of a vehicle.

Village attorney Eric J. Larson [U-Minnesota Law School ’90] of the Arenz, Molter, Macy, Riffle and Larson law firm of Waukesha wrote an opinion saying the Village has the power to enforce the restrictions. “Requiring pedestrians to have reflectorized clothing does not logically conflict with the State regulations, because the State imposes substantially similar requirements on bicycles, for example.”

Larson cites Wisconsin Statutes 347.489(1) to support his contention. The law requires bicycles to be equipped with at least a front light and a rear reflector for nighttime operation. “It is reasonable to impose these requirements on other users of the roadway that are not driving within motor vehicles.” He then goes on to add that “motor vehicles themselves have significantly more stringent visibility requirements.”

But bicycles and motor vehicles are vehicles. Pedestrians are not.

Of course actual cities have taken care of their visibility requirements by providing streetlights and sidewalks so that pedestrians are not obliged to share the roadway with traffic. Fox Point has saved its residents many millions of dollars — and sent a message that pedestrians are not welcome — by not having sidewalks or lighting.

I have a few concerns with this ordinance. For one thing, Fox Point has a cluster of businesses on N. Port Washington Rd. that are served by the Milwaukee County Transit System. Many of the minimum-wage earners employed by these firms take the bus to work. Must they wear reflectors to walk from the bus stop to their jobs?

Would the village use this ordinance to stop-and-frisk those pedestrians who are not sufficiently reflectorized?

And I really wonder if the village can successfully enforce this ordinance when it comes to the matter of observant Jews, many dressed in black, who walk to and from their religious services in Fox Point synagogues.But village manager Melissa Bohse thinks this is no problem. In an emailed response to Urban Milwaukee about this, she wrote:  “I am not aware of a religious tenet of any religious faith that would prohibit use of any of the options available to pedestrians on roadways after dark under the ordinance, much less prohibit all of the options.”

New Tavern for North Broadway

J Squared LLC filed an application with the City of Milwaukee to open a tavern on the second floor of 628 N. Broadway. The site is located above “The Box,” described as a “one-of-a-kind event venue located in the heart of downtown Milwaukee.” Both entities would be operated by Jamie L. Berger and his partner Jaime D. Levine, of Mequon. The tavern would not have a restaurant, but would be available for catered events. The pair hope to offer live entertainment, including “instrumental, D.J., bands, Karaoke, Dancing by Patrons and Dancing by Performers” in the location. That latter item sometimes raises eyebrows among members of the Licenses Committee charged with approving the application.

The 14,400 square-foot property was built in 1900 according to city records (it looks older to me) and is owned by MBI Properties, LLC., c/o Robert A. Levine, who paid $387,000 for it in 2008. The four-story building is assessed at $294,000. The operating partners will pay $1,000 per month for the second floor space, a considerable discount to the $12.87 per square foot annual rent ($3,603 per month) that the assessor figures the space could command. Other new businesses on the block, located between E. Wisconsin Ave. and E. Michigan St. include Residence, a furniture store at 612 N. Broadway and Stuff, at 608 N. Broadway. The block has seen considerable revitalization since the opening of the Hilton Garden Inn across the street.

Also in the 4th Aldermanic District of Ald. Robert Bauman, an application has been made for a tavern license by the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, located in a lovely mansion at 1584 N. Prospect Ave. Management figures alcohol sales will represent 1 per cent of the revenues of the music school. Every drop counts… Other changes coming: Thomas L. Wackman will be the former agent and Anthony Skoufis, who owns 10 per cent of the place, will take over at Apartment 720, a second floor joint at 720 N. Milwaukee St. … Wackman will also transfer the agent responsibilities for Dick’s Pizza, 730 N. Milwaukee St. to Adam Kirchner, a 50 per cent owner of the place who gives his address as 720 N. Milwaukee St. … Port of Call, 106 W. Wells St. wants to add live entertainment and karaoke to its lineup.

New Chair for Public Policy Forum

The 101-year old Public Policy Forum, which is studying plans to finance Milwaukee’s cultural and sports venues, has appointed a new chairman. He is 42-year old Andrew Schiesl, an attorney who is the corporate counsel for Gardner Denver. Until last year he served in the same position at Quad Graphics.

Executive Director Rob Henken gave an address at the Rotary Club of Milwaukee luncheon Tuesday, January 14th 2014 at the group’s regular meeting at the War Memorial Center. He discussed his group’s two-part strategy for finding funding for cultural and sports activities here. The first report, issued in December, 2013, outlined the great need for capital investments on the part of selected Milwaukee institutions, including the Parks, the Bradley Center, The Milwaukee Public Museum, the Marcus Center and other county entities. The report found that our institutions are hurting for cash. It concentrated on 6 organizations that own, or aspire to own, their own facilities.

The second report, due sometime in March, will explore the area’s options for funding needed improvements and operating funds after studying how it is done in selected other comparable communities. Organizations here have done a relatively good job innovating their programs in the face of declining public support and changing market needs, he said. But capital expenses are a different story. “It’s difficult to innovate one’s way out of a leaky roof,” he said.

At the same time, it is difficult to raise private funds for basic repair and upkeep of county-owned properties like the Milwaukee County Parks which has $82.5 million in capital needs over the next 5 years. Most of these capital needs are related to repairs and replacement, and not big improvements. The County put a cap on its borrowing, further complicating attempts to improve its infrastructure.

While a 1 per cent increase in the Milwaukee County sales tax could raise $130 million annually, Henken’s group has not yet determined how much in bonding that sum could support. Regional funding, by way of a multi-county tax (which may be a political impossibility) could provide its own set of problems, since a number of regional cultural facilities not currently under study would probably like their share of the funds.

The group’s upcoming report will be used by a task force of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, whose chairman is John Daniels, to make specific recommendations. Daniels was at the meeting, as were Mike Mervis, Bill DeLind (now showing nudes in his art gallery), Kris Martinsek and Pam Garvey among others. While the meeting was underway, Milwaukee County Supervisor Russell Stamper II issued a press release calling for any study of a possible tax for cultural and entertainment venues to include funds for public transit. Numerous studies have suggested the need for a dedicated funding source for entertainment, culture and transit. It would be a shame if our comprehensive study would not include this as part of the discussion.

Meeting on Downtown Development Set

There will be an informational meeting on the Lakefront Gateway Project at the Milwaukee Public Market, 400 N. Water St. on Wednesday January 22nd. The meeting will be held in an open house format, says Kris Martinsek, who handed out brochures for the meeting at the Rotary Club, and then collected any left behind by the participants. Participants are invited to give their feedback on the “removal, realignment and reconstruction” of Eastbound I-794 exit ramp, and the reconstruction of certain city streets, including E. Clybourn St., N. Harbor Drive and N. Lincoln Memorial Drive.

These plans were discussed at a GMC meeting at the University Club earlier this month.

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10 thoughts on “Plenty of Horne: Fox Point Decrees: Pedestrians Must Wear Reflective Clothing”

  1. Dave says:

    The new law in Fox Point is bad law that validates motorist entitlement. Smart money knows it will be invoked to defend reckless and/or incompetent drivers who kill or maim innocent pedestrians, including children. The law conflicts with the nationwide push to enhance pedestrian and bicyclist safety & motorist awareness; very specifically, it runs counter Vulnerable User Law that recently passed the State Senate.

    And yes, it will most certainly be used to harass people of the wrong color.

  2. jeff Jordan says:

    Mr Henkin obviously did not report on the needs, pointed out by task force members of Common Ground, that taxing for millions for a sports arena should be accompanied by millions to upgrade the outdoor sports facilities in Milwaukee County Schools. As a member of Common Ground’s Fair Play Team,I participated in a survey of the fields and equipment we ask our kids to use. It is pathetic situation with potholes in football, soccer and baseball fields, cracks in the asphalt on our tennis, basketball and playgrounds and the absence of nets on basketball goals, and tennis courts. The ugly truth is that regional competition in state sports can not be held in Milwaukee because of the lack of adequate facilities.
    The condition of the cultural facilities in this city are important. They exist because of the ceiling on property tax, the low sales tax and the inability of Milwaukee to tax it’s own residents for programs we deem important

  3. David Tatarowicz says:

    Fox Point’s new ordinance may be a violation of the right to privacy and also free speech.

    It has been well established that operating a motor vehicle upon a roadway is a privilege and not a right.

    However constitutionally we have a right to travel, and doing so by walking I think would be part of that “right”.

    The clothing that is worn has in other cases been regarded as a part of speech, and may well also be protected.

    The good aspect of this ordinance is that it is in Fox Point, which has no lack of lawyers, and I can see a number of challenges being brought by some of them — especially if one of their kids is stopped and ticketed —- much less, stopped and frisked !!

  4. Walter says:

    I just want to take a slightly contrarian view on money for public school facilities, from both sides.

    Maybe the reason those facilities are in such disrepair, is that they can’t raise the proper amount of revenue. That’s why I hear the goal is to grab money for school rec equipment, through the sales tax, right?

    Maybe the problem is the progressive nature of the property tax. The property tax is a great way to fund general expenses if the property values are relatively uniform. However when you get to a city the size of Milwaukee, there are huge disparities in areas that pay most of the property tax & where the revenues need to be spent.

    Maybe we should be looking at taking the schools off the property tax in Milwaukee & replace it with something else?

    An income tax has the same problem, so that’s out. A sales tax is little better and there are 0 malls in the city, not exactly well positioned for that.

    Maybe we need to have a flat property tax on each residential unit to pay for schools? By cutting out the businesses, we can bring in more jobs that local residents need. This will also cut property taxes on middle class homeowners.

    MPS had a property tax levy in 2013 of $299,400,000, ~38% of the total levy. There are ~255,569 housing units in the city of Milwaukee. That’s $1171.50 per unit.

    Now, I hear it already… what about the poor people that can’t afford this. Good Question. Assuming you have someone that rents, how will their rent increase? The price of rent is driven by demand, if the landlord wanted to charge more & get it, they would already charge a higher rent.

    So, more money for schools… less taxes on the middle class & businesses. A more competitive Milwaukee in the metro, what’s standing in our way? The state of WI… they’d have to approve this & why would they? Does the state of WI want a strong Milwaukee?

  5. Eric S says:

    That Fox Point ordinance is absurd. Pedestrians, as the most vulnerable user of the public way, are required to bear the entire burden of safety? If the concern is actually safety of pedestrians, shouldn’t the speed limits be lowered to a blanket 20mph, accompanied by strict enforcement?

  6. Andy says:

    Everyone is so quick to jump on the Fox Point law as being an attack on anything non-car. While I agree it’s pretty ridiculous… I can’t help but think this has more to do with people’s lack of personal responsibility then it does with the use of the automobile.

    For a direct comparison, look at the law the requires the use of seat belts. Sure this may save lives, but can’t people make the intelligent decision to wear the belts themselves? Personal responsibility for your safety falls mainly on yourself. This law speaks more to the nanny state then it does anything else to me.

    I’m rather disappointed that some people jump to such ideas as racism and/or let this fuel hatred of anything auto.

  7. joy says:

    I have been told that, at the time the village was first established, Fox Point leaders chose not to have sidewalks and streets lights in order to create and preserve a true “residential feel” in the village. Sadly, it is precisely the lack of sidewalks and street lights that places Fox Point at a disadvantage when compared to villages such as Whitefish Bay and Shorewood. Pedestrian friendly streets where small businesses, homes and apartments happily coexist, and that create a true “small town” feel are drawing more and more interest. By contrast, the overdevelopment of the area surrounding the intersection of Brown Deer and Port Washington Roads provides nothing of the sort for Fox Point or Bayside residents. Instead of investing in ways to make Fox Point more pedestrian friendly and attractive to current and future residents, this new ordinance discourages people from leaving their homes.

  8. dave says:

    Those Fox Point lawyers are most likely to be defending kids and adults who kill or injure innocent people. What this law will do most is to help them argue in court that a victim’s reflective gear was dirty, inadequate, non-compliant, etc., when they were run down, and therefore the incompetent/reckless/inattentive driver was blameless. It’s surely not what the Village of Fox Point had in mind, but unintended consequences pretty much define bad law.

    Are there pedestrian deaths due to drivers not wearing seatbelts? No! So the seatbelt argument is irrelevant. The issue here is the Village’s undermining of motorists’ responsibility to OTHER people when they exercise the privilege (not a right) to operate a motor vehicle on public roads. Plainly, some folks feel it is unfair that with this privilege comes responsibility. They are well represented by the Fox Point Village Board, which is coddling motorists and codifying shirking.

  9. Andy says:

    Bringing up the question of how seat belts affect pedestrians is exactly the kind of ridiculousness I was talking about… Clearly the point was lost.

  10. Carol Sklenicka says:

    Micheal Horne’s position seems to be that Fox Point should install street lights rather than ask pedestrians to make themselves visible. But one of the joys of living in Fox Point is its rural feeling. Street lights are expensive and burn a lot of electricity, ergo have a carbon footprint. Seems to me that very practical solution has been found– carry a light when walking on a street just like a bicyclist is doing. I don’t see why a person couldn’t shut the flashlight off when there are no cars around, since approaching cars make their own sound and light. Of course it will be a problem if the ordinance is used for harassment or racial profiling. This is what they should be worrying about.

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