The grass-roots Common Sense Coalition and a majority of Madison City Council members want to reinstate the city's controversial anti-loitering law to help stop a surge in serious crime.So, deciding whether something ought to be a crime, the key question is not how harmful the activity is, but whether arrests under that law will be racially balanced? And if someone else proposes making some harmful behavior a crime when you think the arrests under that law will not be racially balanced, they deserve to be accused of being distracting and divisive?
But Mayor Dave Cieslewicz said the move is divisive, politically motivated and distracts from an important community conversation on public safety.
The effort "is designed to pull people apart," he said.
The original law, passed in 1997 and dropped over concerns about discrimination in 2002, made it illegal to loiter for the purpose of selling drugs....
The coalition's initiative presents a political challenge for Cieslewicz and liberal council members who want to be tough on crime but face pressures from constituencies to protect civil rights.
"I don't support an anti-loitering ordinance in concept," Cieslewicz said, reserving judgment on a veto. "We don't know what they're going to propose, but I'd be a tough sell."
August 9, 2006
Here in Madison: