Mayor Bill Dyke’s special commission investigating the Mifflin Block Party Riots of early May gets underway, and hears from a witness who directly challenges the mayor’s account of a key point. Dyke has maintained that he was at Blue Mounds State Park with his son all day on Saturday May 3, and didn’t hear of the disturbance until he returned late that night. But UW grad student Peter Wright tells the 3-man commission he personally called Dyke at his home in Nakoma late that afternoon, told him about the developing chaos, and pleaded with him to come the scene, but that Dyke said he was confident police could handle the situation, and he already had other plans. Wright, a graduate student in political science, testifies that when he told Dyke that Ald. Paul Soglin had been arrested, the mayor sort of chuckled and responded, “I’m not surprised.” Dyke, who did not arrive on the riotous scene until about 10 o’clock that night, declines to respond to Wright’s testimony, or to testify himself before the commission.
As the panel tries to piece together why the riot developed, student complaints about bad absentee landlords are proven true as city inspectors document they don’t maintain their properties as well as those landlords who live in the buildings they own. A comprehensive inspection of 140 buildings in the Mifflin/Bassett street neighborhood finds 615 building and safety code violations — 585 in buildings owned by absentee landlords. Seven of the buildings have such serious violations their occupancy permits are suspended until work is completed. Only 27 buildings have no violations — 23 of them owner-occupied. Among the absentee landlords with the most citations – William Bandy, 54 orders on five properties; Lucien Hanks, 46 orders on eight properties; the Paul E Stark Co, 43 orders on five properties; Pat Lucey, 40 orders on 4 properties. Jerome Mullins and Keith Yellinek each get 12 citations, nine apiece for Don Hovde and Harry Hamilton. Dyke ordered the comprehensive inspection after students cited bad housing conditions as a contributing factor to the Block Party Riot.
The Madison Board of Education may have found a way to help open a neighborhood center in the Williamson Street area – ask the city to buy surplus land at the Marquette School, and turn it over to the Madison Neighborhood Centers Incorporated. That group has been trying for months to get the land to build a center there, but the school board was worried if it offered it for sale, it would have to accept a competing offer from a higher bidder. The board hopes that having the city take the initiative to buy the land will let it avoid offering the land for public sale.
While planning for the future, the board also honors the past, officially renaming the school forest in the driftless area south of Verona the “Col. Joseph W Jackson School Forest, Madison Public Schools.” It was Jackson, who died May 23 at age 90, who decided on his own in 1961 that Madison needed a school forest, starting with a stand of white oak on fifty unglaciated acres. Jackson, who at the same time was helping lead the successful fight to kill the Monona Terrace auditorium because of his contempt for Frank Lloyd Wright, raised the money to buy the land, and then about another 250 acres.
And as the school year ends, so too do two long school board careers, as Ray Sennett and Arthur Dynie Mansfield retire from the board of education after a combined 35 years of service. Sennett, 1622 Yahara Place, has served 23 years including one as president; he’s stepping down to focus on his work as chairman of the boards of Security and Randall state banks. Mansfield, 602 Edgewood Avenue, has served 12 years; professor of physical education at the university of Wisconsin, he will also step down next summer after 30 years as the badger head baseball coach.
Tough times for Madison’s protective services. Three more police officers quit, leaving the department ten men and two policewomen short of the authorized 225 members. And the fire department only gets 25 applications for 11 vacancies – causing the police and fire commission to postpone the written examination and extend the deadline for applications. Fire Chief Ralph McGraw blames the problem on the illegal firefighters strike in March and on the actions of union president Ed Durkin. It was Capt. Durkin who authorized union funds to pay bail for Ald. Paul Soglin when he was arrested at the Mifflin Block Party Riots last month, and who then invited the Mifflanders to party at his home on the far west side. “There are a lot of young men who aren’t sure they want to work for this kind of an organization,” McGraw says.
Gov. Warren Knowles and other dignitaries join more than 300 at the dedication of the UW’s Harry Steenbock Memorial Library at the corner of University and Babcock drives. Biochemistry professor Steenbock, born on a farm in Calumet County in 1886, saved millions of youngsters from the dread bone disease of rickets by discovering in 1924 how to increase Vitamin D by irradiating food with ultraviolet light. The Quaker Oats company offered Steenbock a million dollars for his patent, but he wanted to endow the university’s research activities instead, so he helped create the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, and gave it his patent. The Sunday night celebration is highlighted by the unveiling of an oil portrait of Steenbock, who died in 1965 after 61 years as student, researcher and professor.