Thursday, July 20, 2006

I'm With Soglin

Question his motives if you will, but I am 100% in agreement with Paul Soglin on the new City of Madison Halloween plan. For those of you outside of Madison, the city wants to charge a $5.00 fee for Halloween partiers to enter State Street to hit the bars.

Soglin says:

I suppose it is debatable as to whether or not blocking the street and charging admission is Constitutionally permissible. I think it is not.

This is not a toll road.
This is not a section of a public park.
This is not a public street where vendors can charge but everyone has free access.

Even if reactionary courts say such an impediment to the First Amendment is permissible, it is rather stunning for a city that is trying outdo Berkeley as the most progressive American town.

True, Madison property taxpayers have to pay the expense of extra police for the party. However, the Halloween problem is a law enforcement problem, not a taxpayer problem.

My solution? Eliminate bar times on Halloween. Rather than having 50,000 kids dumped out onto the street at the same time, let them all trickle out on their own terms throughout the night and early morning. The crowds will be more sparse, and the cops will be able to address any post-bar problems more effectively. On the down side, kids will get drunker staying in the bars for longer, which ups the likelihood that some poor girl will end up smooching a guy that looks like me.

But let's be honest - while the kids are drinking at the bars, the ones that get drunk enough to cause problems are the ones that get completely bombed at home before showing up on State Street. We shouldn't penalize the businesses for the actions of underage out of staters hell-bent on destruction.

UPDATE: George Twigg in Mayor Cieslewicz' office took time off from singing for Depeche Mode long enough to e-mail me and point out that it would take a change in state law to allow bars to stay open past bar time. So get on your phone to your state legislators (although session is done for this year, and nothing will be passed before Halloween of this year). Maybe we can negotiate a two year deal where some bars close early this year, while the others agree to close early the year after, just to keep the crowds staggered. Probably unlikely, but the bars are going to lose revenue from partiers with the plan announced yesterday - they're hurt either way.