This week, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin’s proposal to impose time limits on public benches downtown will go before two committees, starting a lengthy community debate on the controversial ordinance.
Soglin introduced the ordinance in July in his latest attempt to address issues with homelessness and disruptive behavior downtown. The ordinance would limit use of downtown public benches to one hour and would prohibit people from lying on any public bench or sitting, lying or lodging on any public sidewalk or right-of-way from 5:30 a.m. to 1:00 a.m.
The proposed ordinance would also prohibit people from sitting, lying or lodging on any parcel of land where city of Madison offices are located — a definition that includes the City County Building — from 5:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
The ordinance was officially introduced to the City Council at its Tuesday meeting this week, picking up referrals to five different committees.
The first of those take place this week, with the Public Safety Review Committee reviewing the ordinance Tuesday at its 5 p.m. meeting and the Equal Opportunities Commission taking it up on Thursday at its 5 p.m. meeting.
The agendas are not yet set for the other committees, but each committee will likely take it up at its next meeting. For the Downtown Coordinating Committee, that is Aug. 20 at 5:30 p.m. For the Community Development Block Grant Committee, that is Sept. 3 at 5 p.m. The City-County Homeless Issues Committee does not have a meeting scheduled yet.
The ordinance has already drawn sharp critiques from homeless advocates and some council members. District 19 Ald. Mark Clear attempted to vote against the introduction of the ordinance at last week's council meeting. City Attorney Mike May was unclear on whether that was possible on introduction of business, but the body allowed Clear to note his opposition in the minutes. District 9 Ald. Paul Skidmore, meanwhile, has said he will vote for it.
Upon introducing the ordinance at a press conference, Soglin said he expects to have it passed by October, though council President Denise DeMarb said she’d be surprised if it goes through that quickly.