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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Thursday, June 13, 2024

Common Council delays Soglin panhandling amendment

The city of Madison Common Council unanimously voted to delay discussion of a motion intended to curb roadside panhandling put forth by Mayor Paul Soglin Tuesday.

Madison suspended enforcement of its General Ordinances regarding panhandling in January after the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin sent a letter to city attorney Michael May, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. The letter raised concerns about whether Madison’s laws unconstitutionally infringed upon the First Amendment rights of panhandlers.

Citing public safety concerns, Soglin was scheduled to propose an amendment to make it “illegal to approach the front or side of a vehicle in operation on the highway for any purpose,” according to the Common Council agenda. After further discussions with May regarding potential First Amendment complications, however, Soglin opted to propose his amendment be put on file and reconsidered in the coming months.

The amendment drew criticism from many who saw it as an attack on the homeless rather than a safety measure. The Homeless Services Consortium of Dane County released a statement in July contending the “amendment is a thinly veiled attempt to criminalize individuals seeking support from their community through panhandling on local roadways,” according to the Wisconsin State Journal. Members of the community expressed concerns about the ordinance preventing the homeless from getting the help they need at Tuesday’s meeting.

Despite the delay, Soglin still had harsh words for the amendment’s critics, and pushed them to consider the proposal when it comes back up.

“We have to protect individuals who don’t know any better and insist on playing in the road,” Soglin said. “I don’t know why people are advocating for a system that will end in serious injury and death.”

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