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Mayor to Mifflin: Ditch the party and unused police money will go to youth programs

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Attendees at Saturday’s Mifflin Street block party could help keep youths off the street this summer by toning down the drinking and accompanying misbehavior at the annual event, Mayor Paul Soglin said Monday.

Soglin said he wants to put any unused portion of the $190,000 designated for policing the unauthorized block party toward funding summer day camp or employment programs for youths. The budget amendment would require City Council approval.

“Is he trying to make us feel bad?” asked Lauren Cochlin, 23, who lives in the 500 block of Mifflin Street and plans to once again participate in the celebration marking the end of the UW-Madison school year. 

Soglin called it a “real-world decision” for attendees who in recent years have gone beyond “the right to party and the tradition” associated with the event with “some very serious situations that have been life-threatening.”

Cochlin, who attributes the problems associated with the block party to people from out of town, said “it would be great” if money earmarked for police costs could instead benefit local youths.

But just how likely that will be remains to be seen, said Soglin, who would consider it a success if the city could cut police costs for the day to $95,000 this year.

Police and city officials have been hoping to end the party, which has taken place for more than four decades, after the 2011 party was marred by two stabbings and three sexual assaults.

“At one point in time, we felt we almost lost the street,” Madison Police Chief Noble Wray said.

This year, an alternative celebration, the Revelry Music and Arts Festival, is being presented on campus, based at Union South, 1308 W. Dayton St.

But Cochlin said the Mifflin Street gathering, which dates to 1969, and for years was designed as a protest against the Vietnam War or a fundraiser for the now-defunct Mifflin Street Co-op is a tradition that won’t die.

“We work hard, we party hard — that’s what our school is known for,” said Cochlin, who graduated from UW-Madison in August with a degree in political science and communications, and will study public health and public affairs in graduate school beginning this fall.

Cochlin said she has worked with police in the past to keep underage drinkers and people she and her housemates don’t know from crashing their party.

“This is one of the most fun days on campus,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be out of control.”

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