New Panhandling Restrictions Under Consideration

By: Dana Brueck
By: Dana Brueck

A new effort is underway to restrict what some people consider a constant aggravation in Madison's downtown, panhandling. A city council member introduced his proposal during a community meeting on the issue Wednesday morning.

It's not the noise, or the remarks.

Some say it's about downtown's quality of life.

"I think for certain people, they choose to go elsewhere," bookstore owner Sandi Torkildson says.

Perhaps they go elsewhere to avoid people like Matches.

"Yesterday I made, like, 12 bucks. I spent it on food," he says.

"Matches" declined to go on camera but says he's an 18-year-old, who panhandles.

Torkildson says, "I see people panhandling and I see people walking by, diverting their eyes maybe passing a business by because they want to keep walking."

Torkildson owns a business just off of State Street.

"I don't know if there's any other business area in Madison that actually deals with this on the same level that we do," she says.

Torkildson supports a new effort to restrict panhandling citywide. The proposal bans the practice within 25 feet of any open sidewalk cafe, within 25 feet of an intersection, or within 12 feet of a store front.

"For example, downtown there are almost on a regular basis panhandlers outside of any liquor store," 4th District Ald. Mike Verveer says.

Current law allows panhandling between State Street light posts and the curb. Some say the boundaries need to change anyway due to reconstruction.

"We're doing away with the light poles that created the current artificial barrier under the existing ordinance," Verveer says.

Supporters of the measure say the restrictions will lessen a practice that only feeds a person's addiction.

Torkildson says, "if you really want to help you should give to programs that help people get out of that lifestyle."

Instead of giving to the person living it.

"It's basically as bad as abolishing panhandling on State Street, which is only place in Madison you can make money," Matches says.

Council member Mike Verveer says the restrictions still leave room for panhandlers to operate.

He says the amendment could go to a full council vote sometime in May.

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