In 2012, the City of Madison Common Council passed an ordinance that regulated what people could say on a public sidewalk. This wasn’t the proverbial “yelling ‘fire’ in a crowded theater,” either. No, the Council was attempting to prohibit people from asking for change, a scourge it termed “aggressive panhandling.”
First amendment watchdogs, homeless advocates, street musicians and petition signature seekers lobbied against the measure. The council, however, with the prodding of Mayor Soglin and Downtown Madison, Inc., assured opponents that the regulation would be administered in such a way so as not to trod on free speech rights.
Last week, the City Attorney, Michael May, agreed to direct police to stop enforcing the four-year old ordinance, after the American Civil Liberties Union intervened. ACLU attorney Karyn Rotker joined 8 O’Clock Buzz host Brian Standing to talk about the ordinance.