Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Santayana must have been talking about Madison's Halloween plans to turn State Street into a gated community

When George Santayana said "those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it," he must have been talking about Mayor Dave's Halloween Plan that the City Council passed last night.
Students managed to push back the schedule slightly, but plans for the city's annual Halloween party still include gating State Street and charging a $5 admission.

With only two dissenting votes, the City Council on Tuesday finalized Mayor Dave Cieslewicz's strategy to minimize mayhem at the event, which for the last four years has ended with police using pepper spray to clear the streets.

The admission charge will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 28, the night of the party, and no one will be admitted onto State Street later than 1:30 a.m. Originally, those times had been set an hour earlier, and residents of State Street will now have free tickets distributed to them, rather than having to pick them up.
Don't get me wrong -- I don't mean we're repeating the admission charge. That's new. What's not new -- and where we are repeating the mistakes of the past -- is the ham-handed, potentially confrontational approach to crowd control.

It blows my mind how local politicos seem determined to forget all of Madison's hard-earned knowledge about crowd control acquired during the era of student protests and Chief Cooper's sensible reforms. Not to mention what we thought we knew about not trading off civil liberties for public order.

I'm with Brenda Konkel on this. She was one of two alders voting against the scheme and explained her reasons in greater detail on her blog.
Given that we haven't had serious injuries or property damage in recent years and we are moving in a positive way away from the troubles we had been having, I don't think we need to take such drastic measures. And by drastic measures, I mean confining people's civil liberties. i.e. blocking off access to a public street. I don't believe someone should have to pay $5 to get on to State St. to go get a gyro. I was even more appalled when city staff suggested that if you had a ticket to go to the an event at the Overture the security people could use their discretion and ask you not to pay. Yet, if you were on your way home from the hockey game you would need to walk several blocks out of your way to cross State St. (That's a whole other topic about why people who go to the Overture Center could get privileges that people who live downtown wouldn't have.) This is still America, these are still our public streets and we shouldn't be required to pay $5 to use them. I believe our jobs on the council are to balance the competing interests and here, we have an improving situation that doesn't need to impose on the civil liberties of the citzens of Madison. In this case, I don't believe the case has been made that imposing on people's civil liberties is necessary and I don't find it appropriate.
And if that's not enough, she also quotes this old dude:
They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. -- Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759
Right on. Besides, it doesn't work. Pray for rain, and lots of it.

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