Citizen Wausau

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Does Anyone Even Know?

by on March 27th, 2011

So, once again downtown is aswirl with rumors.  Once again there is talk about the city council and Lisa Rassmussen, Exhibitour, and booze on the streets, and now we add in the  concerts on the square and Romey Wagner.  And, for lack of a better phrase, we add a sort of walking chardonnay fatigue.

Last year we went through this whole thing.  Exhibitour organizers did, or did not, have a waiver that let people walk the streets of downtown with wine in glasses.  They had been doing it that way for years.  All this nonsense about Public Health and Safety Committee Chair Lisa Rassmussen and the police chief having too much power, and all the rest.

Well, we are back to those rumors.  I have heard form Exhibitour people that Lisa Rasmussen has once again started her vendetta against all things wine- and culture-related downtown.  My good friend Mark Craig had a pretty good thread going on Facebook, with lots of sort-of true things going on.  The e-mails flew, Twitter was alive and Lisa was once again a demon.  Chief Hardel came out and said…no wait, he did not come out and say anything.  Contrary to what people might say, the chief made no public comments about this recently.  Public is different than what you think he might have told you in private.

So let us review…it is illegal to drink booze while standing on the street, on the sidewalk, in a car, while walking down railroad tracks, and while piloting a plane.  It is illegal.  Exhibitour would like people to walk from venue to venue with a glass of wine in their hands, if they so choose.  It seems to be the backbone of the event, the walking from place to place with wine.

It appears that this part of the event is in some sort of jeopardy.  From my reading of last year, it appears that a waiver can be given to Exhibitour for the event, allowing for this to happen.

This is once again a real and valid discussion.  The city council put together a policy that would address this style of event and make some sort of permit-type process happen.  Wausau Area Events made proper use of the process, even getting in their waiver request more than 60 days in advance, which seems like a ridiculously long lead time. All that aside, they applied and Monday, March 21, were denied a waiver which would have allowed walking with wine between Exhibitour galleries. Setting up the process, it turns out, does not mean an application will be approved.

Now we start into the rumor mill, Part Two.  The rumor started off with Lisa Rassmussen and Chief Hardel supposedly wanting to stop people from bringing their own carry-in wine or beer to the concerts on the square.  The rumor was that they wanted to make these dry events and start ticketing people who opened containers filled with pain-go-bye-bye juice.  Boy, was this false.

What actually happened was Romey Wagner, a member of the Public Health and Safety Committee, asked the chair of that committee, Lisa Rassmussen, to put the alcohol-on the square issue on a future agenda for discussion.  Wagner has a legal right to ask for this conversation.  He is a member of the committee and has a right to put something on the agenda for the committee to discuss. That is not going to happen until April 18.

But, then things spun completely out of control.  Lisa Rassmussen sent me a nice e-mail explaining what had happened and her position on the whole thing.  It was unsolicited and, honestly, it was nice.  She explained that Romey is allowed to put something on the agenda.

So, it seems that all of this is a bit premature.  Does it signal a desire on the part of a least a few people to make changes in policy?  Sure it does.  Does it have a clear and easy way out?  Sure it does.  Go through the process of naming The 400 Block a park, and then all the rules and policies that apply to a park will apply to it.

Is there anything that can be done for Exhibitour?  Who knows?  What should be done?  A temporary waiver of the open intoxicants rule that applies to everyone else throughout the city?  I cannot imagine the chief going for that.  So, you tell me what should be done.

There is always a ton of criticism that all of the city council’s time in is devoted to downtown issues, at the expense of the rest of the city.  Well, doesn’t this sort of thing validate that kind of thinking?  I cannot walk from Athletic Park to The Red Cross Office with a glass of Pinot Noir in my hands.  Why should I be allowed to do it from Allistair Deacon’s to The Mint?  What is the essential difference?

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