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Strong Showing as Waukesha Aldermen Discuss Street Closures for Events

Some fear that a proposed ordinance that is being circulated could put an end to popular weekly summer music events.

A spirited debate about potential changes to the city’s street closures ordinance – changes that some fear will spell the end for a popular weekly music event in downtown Waukesha – broke out Monday night but no action was taken by the Ordinance & License Committee as Mayor Jeff Scrima has a work group to address some of the issues that are related to street closures.

Alderwoman Kathleen Cummings had asked the committee review the street closure ordinance to “define the duties and responsibilities of organizers of Special Events that requests a street closure,” a City Hall document states.

 “All this is is a vetting process,” Cummings said.

However, an example ordinance has been presented among community members that could restrict street closures. The document, which Scrima said was given to him by downtown resident and property owner Vicky Hekkers, calls for special events with more than 2,000 attendees to include “written details  regarding transportation management, parking, crowd control, resident access. Additional, if there will be an extraordinary security measures including searches of persons or vehicles, the applicant shall submit that plan as a separate attachment to the application. If the crowd control or security plan calls for the hiring of private security services, the applicant shall provide the name of the security firm.”

Events that are for more than four days, would require Common Council approval. That would apply to Freeman Friday Night Live, according to the document that was given as a possible ordinance to the Waukesha aldermen.

Other conditions in the ordinance given to the aldermen – the ordinance proposal was not drafted by city staff – includes:

  • A petition of 75 percent of adults that occupy properties on the street for the street closure.
  • A 20-foot free and unobstructed fire lane
  • One portable toilet for every 275 women and one portable toilet for every 300 men attending the event. One out of every five toilets being handicap accessible.
  • Prohibit animals in events where there are food vendors
  • Minimum $2 million insurance

“We have no ordinance that is before the committee that we are going to act on,” said Alderman Steve Johnson, who chairs the Ordinance & License Committee.

Freeman Friday Night Live

While discussion was supposed to be centered on street closures, the majority of the discussion was specifically about Freeman Friday Night Live, a weekly music event that brings an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 people downtown each weekend. The Waukesha Police Department has shut down some downtown streets because of safety reasons.

Anthony Colletti, general manager at The Clark Hotel, brought forward concerns about parking near the hotel, especially for handicapped clients. The hotel works with wedding parties who rent out The Rotunda for receptions.

“I just hope there is some accountability established for whoever desires to close the streets,” Colletti said.

Christine VanderBloemen, who lives in Brookfield but owns property in downtown Waukesha, brought forward concerns about potential insurance liabilities in the case of injury during the event.

“Streets are for traffic, not for people,” she said.

Two men came forward and shared that they found it difficult to find handicapped parking when the streets are closed.

The Fight to Keep Event, Street Closures

However, despite concerns among some community members, a strong showing of support for Freeman Friday Night Live and the street closures that come with it was present during the meeting.

“I don’t understand why we are trying to fix something that isn’t broke,” one man told the Waukesha aldermen. Patch was unable to get his name before he left City Hall. “Leave it alone, we are doing fine. We are getting to the point where it will be easy to close down I-43 than it is Main Street.”

Laura Wied, a Waukesha resident, told the committee she’d hate to see Waukesha move backward by restricting the street closures.

“They are vital. They are really important,” she said. “I feel a lot of pride coming downtown and driving by and seeing Friday Night Live.”

Kathy Garcia, owner of and music stage sponsor, said the children and families have had fun during the events. She begged the aldermen to not take that away from the community.

“To even think about opening these streets now, people are going to get confused,” Garcia said.  “People are going to think Waukesha is a drama city that can’t get their act together.”

At one point in the meeting, Sandy Cianciolo, owner of in downtown Waukesha and a stage sponsor, threatened to remove his business from Waukesha if an ordinance would keep events like Freeman Friday Night Live from continuing.

“This is an attempt to shut down a good thing,” he said.

When Cianciolo sat down after his comment about taking his business from Waukesha, Jody Payne, wife of Waukesha Alderman Eric Payne waved at him and told him “Good bye.” Earlier, while Cianciolo was speaking, Cummings had asked for him to be called out of order for making a personal attack but he was allowed to continue speaking.

Eric Payne spoke about concerns about insurance and liabilities. Payne noted that not all businesses downtown are not involved in Freeman Friday Night Live.

“If something was to happen in front of a vacant building or a business that doesn’t participated because of the street closure, why should they be held responsible?” Payne said.

Jerry Bean January 24, 2012 at 04:04 AM
So here's the big question: How much is the Freeman chipping in each year to make this happen? Maybe they need to pay more to make sure any inconveniences are well paid for if they want to have this event downtown.
Sunny January 24, 2012 at 05:13 AM
Let's just return to the days of there being more drunk/druggies on the sidewalks downtown than families. See how the downtown homeowners will like that again. Please stop finding things to complain about-it's getting old.
Sarah Millard (Editor) January 24, 2012 at 02:17 PM
Let's keep the personal attacks down. You can disagree with a person's position, but please refrain from name calling. One comment's been deleted, but that person is free to re-post the comment without the personal attack.
Old Car Club January 24, 2012 at 03:38 PM
The ring leader of this mess, who wants to increase government restrictions to keep people out of downtown, lives on the west end of Main Street. This person is out of touch and self serving. This person should move out.
Sue January 24, 2012 at 03:45 PM
It's unfortunate that this 'example of an ordinance' that was not brought forward by the City is even being considered or discussed publicly. Does the City, Downtown Association or BID have a problem with the downtown events. What would this also do to the Farmers' Market? Waukesha does not need to return to the days of being a 'difficult city' i.e. a deserted downtown, hard to navigate one way streets, etc. Yes, there are issues but there is also a vibrancy and sense of community that the these events have brought to the city.
St. Swithin January 24, 2012 at 05:03 PM
As a new resident to Waukesha, I was impressed with all the activities and stores in the downtown. As I learned the history of the city I found out about how bad things were here not to many years ago. When I traveled in Europe, I frequently found small towns that had permanently blocked off a small part of their downtown to make it a pedestrian thoroughfare and social gathering place. I think this city is moving in the right direction. I hope the business and civic leaders can manage to come to an agreement on how to maintain and improve upon the work that has already been done.
Daniel Hanson January 24, 2012 at 05:06 PM
My response to this is basically sentimental but I believe also noteworthy: Have lived here since 1956 and can remember well when our downtown was vibrant and full of people meeting and talking with each other in real time..no Facebook, No Texting..real people doing real things and having fun like real humans! Friday Night Live has brought this truly communal spirit back to downtown and it's nothing short of a miracle to me. And now that downtown Waukesha has been chosen as a unique National location for the permanent Gibson/Les Paul displays our downtown is on the verge of greatness ! Please stop this street-closing ordinance gibberish and over-all bitchiness about city streets. This is like the townfolk of River City trying to keep Pool Halls out of the city in "The Music Man."
Paul January 24, 2012 at 05:14 PM
When I moved to Waukesha, the downtown was a mess. Drunks sleeping on the streets, people causing problems, etc. I would not go downtown at night, and rarely even during the day. I regretted my decision to build a house in Waukesha and wished I would have built in Oconomowoc. Now, with a new downtown, Friday Night Live, the farmers market and Frame Park, there are reasons why Waukesha is a great place to live. I tell everybody I know about the great entertainment on Friday nights in Waukesha. Taking this away, will harm all the businesses downtown and return it to its prior state. (Ghost town) Anthony Colletti needs to get a clue on how to drive business. The hotel needs all the exposure it can get. Friday night live gives this exposure. Evidently he wants to drive the hotel further into debt and finally bankrupt.
Jim Murphy January 24, 2012 at 05:35 PM
My wife and I regularly attend the Friday night events, it's probably the best thing that has happened in Waukesha and it's tax free!. I was born here and worked downtown in the 50s at WAUX. The two steets, Main and Broadway, that are closed are a safety measure. When they were open people were indanger of being struck by passing motorists. The Waukesha Freeman should be congratulated for sponsoring these civic events. Businesses that have taken advantage of the crowds are rewarded by the increased sales, families are provided a wholesome outlet in the summer months. Check out the families, the children, the people in wheelchairs who can move around freely without being in danger of being struck by a motor vehicle. It deserves the support of members of the common council.
Susan January 24, 2012 at 06:34 PM
I have lived in Waukesha for over 40 years and greatly enjoy Friday Night Live and many of the other events that are NOW occurring in the downtown area. A true sense of community is replacing isolation that used to exist. You can see families and friends on a weekly basis enjoying the entertainment and each others companionship. There were some concerns brought up and there were also many solutions suggested that could handle those concerns. The willingness of businesses to open their places for people to use their bathrooms, handicapped parking that already exists and other solutions are currently available. Getting this information out to more people seems to be the issue. As far as the Clark Hotel, why can't they have a couple of parking spots on Broadway for the 3 hours that Main street is unavailable on Friday evenings in Summer. As far as the concern about insurance coverage of incidents occurring in front of businesses that are not involved in the event, what happens now on any other day of the week or time of the year? Downtown is becoming a go-to place and I think we need to encourage that. Issues will come up and should be addressed as they do. There are concerned people and businesses who have been working with these issues already. Lets encourage the growth of our downtown.
Mike Miller January 24, 2012 at 08:41 PM
I do not live in Waukesha but I do work in the city. My wife and I love coming into the city to attend Friday Night Live events. The street closures are indeed needed to ensure the safety of the attendees. I'm sure most downtown businesses benefit either directly or indirectly from this wonderful weekly event. I hope the Mayors work group is well balanced and well informed with facts.
James Cornwall January 24, 2012 at 10:13 PM
I also live in Waukesha (39 years) and attending the meeting last night was an eye opener. The hidden agendas were many. I feel we are trying to fix something that isn't broken. Freeman Friday night live is one of several events that would be severely restricted if not cancelled by most ,if not all, of the restrictions that the "proposal package" that Victoria Hekkers gave to Mayor Scrima. If you do away with the street closings whose insurance covers the streets then? I imagine it would be the City of Waukesha. Then our ten million dollar policy is adequate??? Do the downtown property owners have liability insurance for our parades? No. it is a city wide event and has many similarities to the other events that are in danger with the possible thousands attending. Parking is blocked during the parade and the bands create noise and I'm glad the parents keep track of the children or it could result in a law suit. There can be many what ifs and you need to cover them as best you can, which is why we personally have an umbrella policy for the surprises. I'm sure the new committee will address these isues and I'm hoping that the meeting schedule will be published.
Jenni Schwane January 24, 2012 at 10:22 PM
Waukesha has come alive again thanks to everyone who has a part in the wonderful art crawls, Friday Night Live, and the other great happenings here. As a lifelong resident I have seen the city with both it's problems and it' prosperity. Of the two, prosperity is certainly better and these events have had an effect for the positive.
Chris B January 24, 2012 at 11:39 PM
For street closure events I believe that there needs to be guidelines, BUT people that live downtown need to understand that there may be more noise and traffic. That's just the nature of a downtown.
michaelm January 25, 2012 at 06:43 AM
As a more recent resident of only 3 years, it is the downtown events, river front park, and street bands in the parks and on the streets that made us decide to stay here. I can't count how many people I have talked into coming to check out our Summer Friday night events. Many who grew up here had not come to Waukesha in years as their experiences had all been negative of a dying and unsafe downtown. Boy are they surprised! They in turn tell others and the area continues to grow and improve. If we don't get out into the streets and become friends and an open community we will become the opposite, a magnet to drugs, gangs, crime and drunkenness in the streets, only low end bars will want to be in the area and many businesses will disappear and move on to safer family friendly towns. It's our choice, closing the streets in many places has become permanent as cities figure out the value of creating space where people can mingle, shop, be entertained and explore their communities. This was one of the revitalizing factors in many parts of San Francisco and even NYC is considering a permanent closure to Time Square and several other marque streets. Why? Because it attracts businesses, people, taxes, and neighborhood ownership. As a renter of 3 years I know if these events went away and the street closure proposal is clearly intended to do that, would give me and many others strong reason to move away next time my lease renewal comes up.
the 'sha guy January 25, 2012 at 12:49 PM
Wow is somebody messing with that poll. Restrictions on street closings were favored 85-65 in voting. Then I come back and check the poll 35 minutes later and there are 125 more votes added for "no street closings," which is now in the lead with 190+ votes. Looks like someone figured a way around the 1 vote limit.
Waukesha girl January 25, 2012 at 02:09 PM
Maybe people arn't "messing with the poll". If you read the comments instead of just looking at the poll results, you would realize that the MAJORITY of people love the festival and everything that festival does for our community. Personally, Im an employee of a downtown Waukesha restaurant. People LOVE the festival! There was not one incident of disorder or misconduct at the festival last year. I know this because I gladly worked nearly every single friday. It was a safe place for our community to get together and enjoy food and music. There is so much competition in summer that people will just find another one if we ruin this one. It would be ridiculous to not close the streets. Thats part of what makes this so safe. has also been an economic boon for the businesses AND employees. This is our own stimulus package!
megan s January 25, 2012 at 07:37 PM
Someone is tampering with this poll! I went and voted and then went back to read the comments and it was ridiculous. This isnt the bitter little Jody Payne is it?
megan s January 25, 2012 at 07:51 PM
Poll went up over a hundred votes in less than an hour for more restrictions. It seems that you, those that want restrictions, have manipulated this poll. Shame on you. You need to realize that the community needs this festival for its businesses to thrive. Do you really want to go back to the days of drunks and drug dealers? Shame on you.
megan s January 25, 2012 at 07:58 PM
Now it went up 300 votes in 15 minutes. Losers!
the 'sha guy January 25, 2012 at 08:43 PM
I'm confused? Waukesha Girl said that "people arn't messing with the poll". [sic] I was just pointing out that someone was obviously tampering with the poll results last night putting those in favor of street closings in the lead when they were behind. However, if I now understand you correctly, you are in fact claiming that people are messing with the poll? Would you please make up your mind? I'm also not at all against FNL. In fact I often attend so please stop your false assumptions and accusations.
michaelm January 25, 2012 at 10:16 PM
Sure seems like someone is hijacking the poll, but since it also seems like there is some back office dealings and manipulations going on with the whole proposal this should not be surprising. Typical Wisconsin politics, dishonest, manipulated, and lots of theater for the public when the powerful and influential do what ever they want regardless of party, union, or ideological beliefs. It seems everyone cheats is the rule in WI not the exception.
the 'sha guy January 26, 2012 at 10:46 PM
Wow! Looks like the citizens really support more restrictions on the street closings. Nothing to see here, right Waukesha Girl?
Seriously January 27, 2012 at 01:31 AM
Seriously 'sha guy? Oh please. Of course these results are manipulated. I hope you weren't considering this to be anything but a joke once the initial cheating started. Right?
the 'sha guy January 27, 2012 at 01:11 PM
Yes I am aware they are manipulated. In fact, if you look at some earlier posts I was the one who first brought this up. At that time, those in favor of more restrictions were ahead by a realistic vote total of about 85-65 before the manipulation started. It looks like some individuals (not me) took it completely overboard from there. First moving it 100s of votes in favor of no limits on the street closings and then of course moving 1000s of votes in the other direction.
Tim Nekich March 12, 2012 at 06:59 PM
Close Main from Barstow to Clinton only. Designate a Public Parking lot or lots adjacent to Main Street as handicapped only(make sure there is access to it, in and out and have attendant(s) on hand to keep it reserved. Businesses with Private lots need to be provided some access during these events. The event shouldn't be allowed to start any earlier than 5pm and be done by 11pm. These are just some solutions. There are more out there. That would allow for a balance between Safety, Access, Increased exposure for Downtown and some Fun as well. How about some proactive positive interaction instead of all the negatives.
Concerned Citizen April 16, 2012 at 12:23 AM
Why would Alderman Payne and his wife want to encourage businesses to leave Waukesha? Wouldn't they want to encourage more businesses to come into the city? Maybe we should wave goodbye to them instead!
Kate Lynch July 25, 2012 at 02:09 AM
That personal attack was not called for. What is the matter with you. Grow up.
Kate Lynch July 25, 2012 at 02:15 AM
I read that comment also and after reading yours I think you had better go back and read it again. The wife was the one who commented, not Eric! Watch who you are blaming. Just because they are married, doesn't mean they agree!
Kate Lynch July 25, 2012 at 02:18 AM
megan needs to get a grip! I didn't see one comment that says get rid of it. really! slow down and take a breath. you sound like a very bitter person.

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