Madison’s mayor proposes an ordinance that would restrict use of downtown benches by the city’s homeless population. “When we’re good at it, in terms of enforcement, it’s a joy to see what our downtown looks like,” Soglin told WIBA. But too often, that’s not the case. “This morning, I counted 6 benches, 100 percent occupied by a homeless individual who was nodding out, storing their goods, and depriving the rest of that public from using that stuff.
Soglin is proposing a Downtown Pedestrian Protection Ordinance. It would limit use of benches, ban sitting, lying, or lodging on public rights of way. The prohibition would run from 5:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. for any city office properties, and from 5:30 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. for the rest of the downtown. The Mayor can expect plenty of opposition from the City Council, where alders recently overrode his veto to declare the homeless a “protected class” in Madison.
“We’ve got members of the public saying, “we’d like a little space downtown,'” Soglin told WIBA. “The answer we’re getting is ‘I’m homeless, I’m a protected class, I can do whatever I want. You can’t touch me.’ I’ve had those exact words said to me as I’ve come out of the city-county building, which is out of control.”
The proposed ordinance will need approval from the Madison Common Council to take effect. Soglin plans to introduce it for referral, but not debate, at next Tuesday’s meeting.