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10122012 Mifflin (copy)

This was the scene at the Mifflin Street Block Party in 2012.

Apparently the city is a little miffed at the way its handling of the Mifflin Street Block Party was dealt with in the press last week.

“I just wanted to clarify that we, the city, are not canceling anything,” says Mark Woulf, the city’s alcohol policy coordinator. “We’re taking the same approach we did last year, which was to react to the crowds.”

The Madison Police Department last week issued a bulletin to residents that informed them, in bold letters, “There will be no Mifflin Street Block Party on or around Saturday, May 4, in 2013.”

If readers didn’t get the message, the letter reiterates, “There will be no Mifflin Street Block Party in 2013 or beyond.”

That led to a report in the Badger Herald student newspaper saying the city plans to “end to the block party altogether,” and subsequent headlines, including in The Capital Times, that the traditional end-of-school-year bash was canceled.

“We’re a little frustrated with the headline,” said Woulf in a message left on my voicemail on Friday. “We’ve been dealing with calls all day. And it is I think because of a little bit confusing language within the  letter sent by MPD to residents.”

Asked for clarification today, Woulf said the letter made it sound like there was something to cancel. But since no one applied for a street use permit on Mifflin, there is no official event scheduled.

"There was no decision made this year to quote 'cancel' anything, because there was no proposal set forth for anything on or around Mifflin Street," he said. "The only event on that day that was brought forward to the city was a street use permit for the Revelry event on Randall Avenue associated with Union South."

City officials are hoping that those who want to celebrate will attend the UW-sanctioned Revelry Arts and Music Festival, sponsored by a student group, which will feature live music at Union South and on Randall Avenue outside the union.

The letter from the police tells residents that if they’re considering hosting a house party in the downtown area, “the city of Madison is strongly recommending that you reconsider. The Madison Police Department will be operating under a no-tolerance policy in reference to enforcing house party violations on Mifflin Street and the entire downtown area.”

It then lists the fines that could be imposed on those who violate city ordinances concerning nuisance parties, underage drinking and other alcohol-related rules.

But despite the tough talk, Woulf says enforcement will pretty much mirror last year, when police stepped up enforcement to prevent the kind of mayhem that occurred in 2011 when the celebration was marred by stabbings, batteries, sexual assaults and robberies. That year, officials tried to get a handle on the Mifflin Street party by finding a sponsor to provide food and entertainment, but officials changed course last year after that strategy backfired.

Last year’s event was much tamer, drawing about 5,000 people versus about 20,000 in 2011. A heavy police presence confined most of the festivities to porches and yards in the two-block party zone.

Police this year also removed any perception of sanctioning the event by discontinuing a program initiated last year that allowed residents throwing parties who abided by rules regarding underage drinkers, crowd control and selling alcohol to call police to get rid of party crashers.

Like last year, police plan to keep traffic open on Mifflin Street.

They plan to continue the strict enforcement of last year, when they issued more than 500 citations, mostly for open intoxicants and underage drinking, a considerable increase over 2011, when police cited 167 people.

"We are taking the same approach we did last year," Woulf said, "which is a very strict approach."

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Steven Elbow joined The Capital Times in 1999 and has covered law enforcement in addition to city, county and state government. He has also worked for the Portage Daily Register and has written for the Isthmus weekly newspaper in Madison.