first of two parts
Newspapers need a cause. William Randolph Hearst’s was war with Spain. Col. McCormick wanted commies out of the State Department. The great crusade of our favorite Madison morning daily these days is moving bus traffic off State Street.
“Madison is excited about turning State Street into a grand pedestrian mall, with more space for people to walk, dine and shop outside,” the Wisconsin State Journal ballyhoos. “State Street needs a burst of energy to bring the community back. That’s what a pedestrian mall could provide.”
What State Street needs is people — hungry, thirsty, in need of goods to buy, ready to be entertained. And feel safe doing so. Because State Street has been knocked to its knees by three bean balls:
- The pandemic shutdown
- Social justice race riots, and
- Crime and human squalor.
The Blaska Policy Werkes expeditionary force deployed to lower State Street Saturday 03-06-21 on a reconnaissance mission. We wanted a first-hand look-see.
College kids walking the streets were face-masked up, even under a 10-mile high sky. Madison WI will emerge from its Covid cocoon now that arms are getting vaccine.
The outdoor patio at State Street Brats, at the corner of Frances Street, was packed with revelers even in temperatures only in the mid-40 degrees F. No masks there.
One of every three storefronts remained boarded up, the result of the June 2020 racial justice riots. Some of those were open for business behind the plywood, which was painted with the propaganda in whose cause the “mostly peaceful” protested.
That’s the wild card of State Street’s revival. The return of the social justice warriors is more unpredictable than the emergence of a Covid-19 variant. Could be any incident anywhere in the U.S. Ominously, jury selection has begun in Minneapolis for the trial of the policeman involved in the George Floyd incident.
How will the State Journal’s grand pedestrian mall protect storefronts from the ‘mostly peaceful’ protests enraged by anything short of the accused police officers’ public hanging?
Madison’s standing order to police is “stand down.” The city council wants to take away non-lethal methods of crowd control, such as tear gas. Two of the five alders most in support of police are fighting for their political careers in next April’s elections. Two others didn’t bother seeking re-election. It takes only a small band of midnight militants to smash blocks of plate glass. Must shopkeepers hire their own militia? The State Journal endorsed the right candidates but made only a tepid case.
Then there’s crime — especially on the Capitol end of State Street — and quality of life issues: drunkeness, aggressive panhandling, profanity, public urination, debris. The photograph accompanying this blog was taken at 4 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon: a “homeless” person sleeping it off in front of a boarded-up storefront. We’re supposed to feel guilty, according to Progressive Dane.
Blaska’s Bottom Line: Which is why Marc Eisen’s two-parter in the on-line InBusiness magazine is a must-read. We’ll dip into that in Part 2.