Madison adopts panhandling ordinance

The AP

City leaders in Madison have approved a highly debated panhandling ordinance after a marathon meeting.

The ordinance approved by the Common Council early Wednesday bans panhandling in dozens of busy traffic spots across the city.

The council’s meeting began Tuesday but lasted into the morning, when the ordinance passed 12-8.

WKOW-TV reports that Mayor Paul Soglin told the council he has long believed it unsafe to let anyone, even firefighters with boots, ask for money at busy intersections.

“The accidents, the deaths, are well documented and we all know if you want to help, the best thing to do is to support our housing initiatives,” Soglin said.

Alderwoman Amanda Hall called the ordinance “really mean,” saying it discriminates against people in need who are already in a tough position.

She also dismissed arguments that the ordinance was intended to keep people safe. Hall noted there is little data over the last two decades that suggests panhandling is unsafe, with only one instance of someone being hit by a vehicle.

The mayor said the city will roll out an education campaign in the coming months and that staff members will visit the critical intersections to explain the new ordinance. Soglin added that his office doesn’t want to arrest anyone.