Madison is a town steeped in history. This history is part of the reason I chose to attend school here. My father and his brother, my uncle, both attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison for at least a semester, as well as a few of my cousins and friends.
I can’t help but notice that a lot of Madison’s history—in the form of businesses, buildings and events—is disappearing. Talks are underway to destroy Stadium Bar to put up yet another high-rise and Logan’s Madtown Restaurant and Bar closed Monday after a city lawsuit prompted owner Joe Bendetti to pack up and head for Texas (of all places).
As they say: “When it rains, it pours.” The Associated Students of Madison, the Wisconsin Alumni Student Board and other campus leadership met Tuesday to discuss implementing an alternative to the Mifflin Street Block Party, a yearly event that has come to define the city of Madison.
The police have shut down Mifflin Street to traffic in the past and have given the event’s entertainment rights to private companies in an attempt to establish “a reason to attend the Mifflin Street Block Party other than to consume alcohol,” according to the 2011 event summary by the Madison Police Department.
This is an admirable cause, but let’s be real: Mifflin is a drinking event. The pre-event planning should be centered on keeping the drinking under control instead of trying to lower the number of people consuming. Mifflin poses a problem that is pretty non-existent at Freakfest: house parties.
Mifflin is a residential street. I know of more than one person whose decision to live on the street was related (at least in part) to the end-of-the-year block party. It’s much harder for the police to monitor dangerous events related to consumption on private property due to the Fourth Amendment right requiring warrants to search private property.
To gain the consent necessary to monitor these parties I propose that (gasp!) police and residents agree on rules for these house parties to mitigate risk for all involved.
The Greek system here on campus provides a good model with “social contracts” given for house parties. In these contracts, houses are required to abide by certain rules, including a name list at the entrance, fencing around the yard to control attendance, no common sources of alcohol and the distribution of wristbands to attendees to signify those 21 and older, among others rules.
Residents can agree to sign these contracts, which will provide that if the stated rules are followed that no tickets can be issued. A private company, in addition to providing the entertainment and attractions (as in past years), will also provide security to parties interested in agreeing to such terms. An area requiring the purchase of tickets featuring live music or other attractions would offset the costs to this company.
Police should shut down the street to traffic and allow people to mill about and enjoy the atmosphere, albeit still citing those who break the city’s open-container law.
If residents refuse to agree to such terms, their parties will come under even greater scrutiny. While this may not catch on in year one (hey, even Freakfest was a mess the first year) it will turn the event around in years to come and allow us to keep this inalienable part of Madison history.
This is Brett’s first time on the opinion page of The Daily Cardinal. Send him more ideas on how to save Mifflin. Please send all feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.