For those who live, work or operate businesses in downtown Madison, panhandling is an accepted fact of life. Now a proposal from the mayor to ban panhandlers on State Street and within 150 feet of businesses with liquor licenses looks as if it will be scaled back. That’s too bad.
As the Wisconsin State Journal reports, panhandling is only allowed on the 500 block of State Street, a restriction which is widely ignored. Hardly a week goes by without someone putting the touch on me outside our WRN office in the 200 block. Just Tuesday, a woman interrupted her ongoing dialogue with herself to ask me for a cigarette.
Usually, of course, the request is for cash, and that money is used to buy booze, a point made by Mayor Paul Soglin.
“The situation is dangerous not only to the people who are walking the steet, but to those who are participating in the consumption of alcohol, which comes from the panhandling.”
True enough, but Alders Lisa Subeck and Satya Rhodes-Conway somehow persuaded the mayor to refer the proposed ordinance amendment to his office and the city attorney. So, for now anyway, it’s status quo on State Street. Visitors to Madison might want to practice keeping their eyes averted, if their plans include a trip to State Street.