Here is the plan:
Mark this date: Tuesday, February 7 (a date that will live … in infamy!) That is when Squire will be driven through the protective gates of the Stately Manor, his gracious abode, to the Temple of Mammon, aka: the City-County Building in downtown Madison.
He is scheduled to arrive minutes before the 6:30 p.m. convening of the Madison Common Council. He arrives early in order to — quill pen in hand — fill out the multifarious forms the City of Madison requires of its citizens before being allowed their paltry three minutes of First Amendment exercise.
Your Humble Squire demands to appear before the city’s overlords in regard to the proposed amendment to Section 12.325 of city ordinances. The effect of this legislation is to get those fake “Homeless” beggars off the median strips at places like Odana Road and Whitney Way. He will speak in favor.
For a solid two hours last night (01-03-16) the Madison Common Council twisted its thumbs, pulled its hair, and over-thought the issue before deciding — if that be the right word — to defer thinking about it for another month, until the February 7 meeting.
The ‘fraidy Bunch
Swear on the souls of my agricultural ancestors, this Madison council suffers paralysis every time the term “homeless” is uttered. (Snotty quotation marks.)
We’re already on the fourth version of the proposed ordinance. (Here it is in its present state.) The proposal “to limit persons entering or staying on highways” has been dragged — since August! — like the character Angel in the Sam Peckinpah movie The Wild Bunch through countless committee meetings, hearings, redrafts, and lawyer-ing. (The bloody paper trail, here.)
Tested by the streets department for public safety, reviewed by the police department for enforceability, put under the electron microscope by the city attorney’s office for constitutionality. Still, the council waffled.
If fretting were an Olympic sport, this bunch would get the gold.
If we pass this ordinance, could we conduct an education campaign? (Very well, we’ll hand out leaflets.) Could we post signage? (Too expensive.) Could the first offense result only in a warning? (O.K., fine.) What if I stop to hand my child his lunch? Will I be arrested? (Get serious.) Could we get a report on who, when, where, and how. (Alright, fine.)
Still, the council dithered.
Yes, it would apply to firefighters asking to “fill the boot” for charity. Yes, it would apply to candidates for public office holding their campaign signs. This is a safety issue, a distraction for drivers (especially when some are stupid enough to part with their hard-earned money), a danger to the media squatter. Fatalities reported in other cities.
Still, the council hemmed and hawed.
Even Mayor Soglin gets it
Mayor Paul Soglin left the chair in order to speak to the ordinance. Had to; no citizen testified other than Madame Brenda, who exhorted the council to continue enabling destructive behavior. It’s what she does.
Soglin was magnificent! Truly. Just the right soupçon of righteous anger with a dash of frustration thrown in.
“This is not a homeless issue,” he intoned. “It is being manufactured as a homeless issue. Because some of the people have signs that say they are homeless does not mean they are homeless. Because some have signs that say they are [military] veterans does not mean they are veterans.”
Soglin noted that the city (and the county, don’t forget) devote millions of dollars to mitigate homelessness. The panhandlers (oh, how Ald. Shiva Bidar-Sielaff hates to use that term!) on the medians of busy streets have been offered services, he said. And refused them.
Instead, Soglin related, one of the median beggars was seen at the Ho-Chunk Casino trying to double his street winnings. The beggar at Verona and Raymond Roads buys a round at Bennett’s Country Club tavern, boasting about her take.
Now for your reporter’s personal observation. The median panhandlers we see here on the West side are young, fit, and able. Their eyes are clear and their posture straight. They are dressed well; no holes or patches, no wrong sizes, no filth.
Their cardboard signs are the same size and neatly lettered.
Read the sign!
Let’s get this straight:
• These people are not homeless.
• They are not disabled.
• They do not appear to be drunk, hung over, drug-addled or mentally ill.
• Nor are they indigent.
They could walk a block in any direction — whether it’s Whitney Way, Gammon Road, Stoughton Road, University Avenue, or East Wash — and obtain gainful employment. This city is awash in Help Wanted signs.
So back to the Policy Werkes’ Plan of Action:
When the renowned name “Blaska” is intoned by the presiding officer at Common Council meeting of February 7, 2017, your dutiful scrivener will stride to the podium for his rendezvous with destiny.
He will look out over the eager faces of the 20 alders straining to catch his words of wisdom.
But no words will escape his febrile lips. Instead, he will stand there for the entirety of the three minutes allotted him. Silent. All the while he will hold a neatly lettered cardboard sign measuring 16 x 12 inches. It will read:
“HOMELESS? OR BONELESS?”
Thank you. Any questions for Mr. Blaska?