The following letter was sent to the Kaukauna Common Council.
August 17, 2008
Salutations. I have never before addressed the Common Council with any concerns or suggestions, so if my approach is unorthodox, I offer my sincere apologies. I also apologize if my letter is rather weighty, as there are multiple issues I would like to cover in the course of this letter.
I think of Kaukauna as a unique city that offers a bridge between tradition and the future. Unlike Little Chute, we’re not guided by a common culture, but we have no less of a strong heritage and feel a great deal of pride in this. My family has been here well over a hundred years, and I’m not in the minority for being able to claim that. Yet, we’re also a growing and changing city and I believe we’re of a perfect size to be able to adapt and change with relative ease. Today I wanted to discuss three proposals for moving Kaukauna ahead — ways that will benefit the city as well as the citizens of the community. Please hear me out.
1. Bulb Exchange
My first proposal is simple, and perhaps was even done by the city and I missed it. I think the city would do well to offer a light bulb exchange, where the citizens could turn in old light bulbs for newer, more efficient light bulbs. It’s an easy way to reduce energy costs, help the environment and best of all the bulbs last longer. Bulbs could be kept at a certain department in the city year-round, or it could be a special event. I thought one way to promote this would be to feature bulb exchange on the same week as “big pickup” — citizens could make their lighting more energy efficient at the same time that they are dumping electricity-guzzling refrigerators.
The newer bulbs are being advocated by countless organizations, are an easy switch and will someday likely be the standard. Yet, I’d be willing to bet that less than half of the residents of Kaukauna have ever had one in their home. Let’s change that.
2. Municipal Internet
I have enclosed an article — “The Promise of Municipal Broadband” by Craig Aaron — for your perusal. Municipal broadband has been a dream of mine for several years and I always felt Kaukauna was the perfect city to actualize it.
Kaukauna already has a tradition of providing utilities to the residents, thanks to our hydroelectric facility. We know more than any surrounding city the benefits of city-run utilities; the local government takes in more revenue, creates more jobs and provides lower costs to those who are subscribers. I see the Internet in much the same way. Internet connections are becoming more and more a necessity — or at least a great advantage — in our society. Schools, businesses and many individuals thrive due to their ability to send and receive information online. I don’t find it far-fetched or unreasonable to believe that Kaukauna is capable of doing what Time Warner or Comcast already does.
With the infrastructure already in place, costs to the city should be low. These savings can be passed on to the citizens. Why pay $50 a month when you can pay $30 for the same service, with it conveniently added to your utility bill? And, like electricity, this is revenue for the city, offsetting other costs. With the recent crunch of funds for the Kaukauna School District, it’s no secret our city could use the extra income. And here’s one answer, a service many people want and that would be easy to provide — creating revenue, saving money and creating jobs. Perhaps I’m idealistic, but I see this as the next big step in creating a stronger community.
3. Solar Panels
I have enclosed a second article — “The Roof in on Fire” — for your consideration. Solar power is another passion of mine, though I accept this is something more of a long-term idea rather than something that would likely be implemented immediately.
In the article, we have cities such as Berkeley helping homes get set up with solar panels. As with the other proposals, this is a winner for everyone. The city gets a steady stream of payments, residents (eventually) get lower heating and electricity bills. And this does nothing to undermine the hydroelectricity — rather, it complements it and frees it up, as we cannot deny that our current setup has its limits.
The only reason I consider this proposal long-term rather than short-term is due to cost. I’m not sure how many people would jump on the idea, as the costs don’t really pay off for a few years… and people don’t tend to favor what will help them later rather than now. (Luckily, as the article states, costs are falling dramatically.) I can speak from experience. Growing up on the south side of town twenty years ago, we had a row of solar panels on our home. And, just as expected, we were able to achieve a savings on energy bills because of this. With today’s improved technology, the savings would be even greater. With rising heat costs — particularly natural gas — this could be a lucrative deal for both the city and the resident if adequately promoted.
These are a few ideas I had for improving the well-being of the community. I will be sure to contact the council again when I have mulled over future ideas. I would appreciate feedback from the council, but most importantly I would appreciate a serious consideration of the ideas raised here. We could be environmental and economic “trailblazers” and the journey starts with the simplest of steps.
Thank you very much for your time and all you do for the city,
Kaukauna, WI 54130