Madison Mayor Paul Soglin has $190,000 set aside, and the way he sees it, it will either go toward policing the Mifflin Street Block Party or to summer youth programs. And it all depends on whether partygoers behave this upcoming weekend.
In a press conference Monday, with a large check sitting to his right, Soglin detailed his latest strategy to deter people from attending the annual spring party. He said it would cost $190,000 to police the event, but any amount spared this year would go toward summer youth programs.
"This year in particular there's been a lot of discussion over the right to party," Soglin said. "That right to party can't infringe on the safety of others, and it shouldn't infringe on our concern for city resources, our concern for kids who otherwise would -- through no choice of their own -- spend their entire summer in the streets."
Soglin has talked for two years about his desire to do away with the block party commonly attended by University of Wisconsin-Madison students and put the money used on police resources to other uses.
If funds were left over from the event, Soglin said he would propose in a resolution to amend the city budget and make the money available for summer youth programs. He said if half of the $190,000 could be saved, his plan would be a success.
The mayor said he'd like to see 90% saved in 2014.
According to Community Development division Director Jim O'Keefe, $150,000 would fund 60 to 75 summer youth employment slots or full-time summer camp for 75 to 100 children.
Soglin said law enforcement funds are already committed to the Mifflin Street Block Party, but money could be saved in the area of criminal investigations. The 2011 event saw two stabbings and several cases of sexual assault, battery and theft. A crackdown of sorts in 2012 led to fewer incidents, but more arrests.
"If we have a serious criminal case emerging out of the event, it may take a handful of officers throughout the night, into the next day and then [the monetary cost] will just keep mounting," Soglin said.
Madison Police Chief Noble Wray also spoke at the press conference and said he hopes this effort would lead to a decline in the police presence at the block party.
Ald. Mike Verveer, whose District 4 includes the West Mifflin Street area, said he credits Soglin for thinking outside the box and identifying where the money "should" be spent. But he doesn't ultimately think the cause will win over potential attendees.
"I hate to say it, but I think it's true," Verveer said. "I think Mother Nature, frankly, will have the biggest impact on what happens Saturday."
Verveer is hosting an annual neighborhood meeting on the block party this Wednesday, May 1 at 7 p.m. at the Madison Senior Center. All Mifflin residents and any other stakeholders may attend.
Meanwhile, the "Save the Mifflin Street Block Party 2013" Facebook page currently has over 2,500 "Likes." Nick Glattard, who helps run the page, said via email that it is a "travesty" the city is trying to end the party.
"We may be consistently ranked in the top 10 party schools, but our priorities have always been our education," he continued. "We have worked hard all year to make this great school proud. Don't pay us back by taking away our traditional celebration of what it is to be a Badger."
Soglin said he would reveal next week whether any money has been saved.