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Madison Officials Set To Vote On Outdoor Sleeping Ban

Critics Say Ordinances Are Punitive For Homeless Residents

katie wheeler (CC-BY-NC)

Update: The city council rejected the proposal in a vote on Tuesday night. More coverage to follow.

The Madison Common Council is scheduled to vote Tuesday night on a law that would ban people from sitting on sidewalks in the city’s downtown area — a measure many opponents are calling an attack on Madison’s homeless.

In addition to banning people from sitting or lying on downtown sidewalks from 5:30 a.m. to 1 a.m., the ordinance would make storing property on a public bench for more than an hour illegal.

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Violators wouldn’t just get a slap on the wrist: The fine for a first offense is $100. Strike two is $250.

Speaking to Wisconsin Public Radio last month, council President Denise DeMarb said she plans to vote against the ordinance.

“We’re dealing with our most vulnerable citizens or residents: the homeless,” DeMarb said. “There’s homeless people all over the city, of course. It will simply push them into the neighborhoods. I don’t think that solves anything.”

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin introduced the ordinance this summer, describing it as an effort to make public spaces safer.

A ban on sleeping outside the Madison City County building began last week. The ordinance being considered Tuesday would make it illegal to sit outside any city office from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m.

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