Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Mayors Conference: City bracing for quite a stir

It has been called an opportunity to meet and caucus or a forum for a pro-corporate agenda. Whatever it is, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, when it gets under way Friday in Madison, will draw a high concentration of elected city officials and hordes of protestors or perhaps worse.

At least, that is what the local authorities have prepared for.

City and county department heads and campus administrators say the plan is to ensure Madison residents and University of Wisconsin students can go about their business as usual, while maintaining a safe atmosphere for the public as well as the mayors.

“The county?s goal is to continue to provide services to the citizens who come to the City-County Building,” said Dane County executive Kathleen Falk.

Pedestrians will have to avoid walking around the streets east of the capitol throughout the weekend due to security barricades placed near Monona Terrace, where many of the conference meetings will take place.

The City-County and Municipal buildings shifted and staggered schedules to thin public traffic to and from those offices, and pushed back court hearings and other events until after the conference ends Monday. Those local government buildings are closed as usual over the weekend, when the conference business peaks and potential activists should be out in greater number.

But the university hosts conference meetings both Sunday and Monday, and will limit access to a handful of campus facilities and streets. Officials said the Memorial Union and Union Terrace will be closed June 16 to accommodate the mayors and prevent any safety risks.

“With security concerns that typically accompany any such meeting involving hundreds of elected officials from across the country, we?re limiting access, for one day, to conference participants only,” Union director Mark Guthier said.

Guthier added Sunday is usually the slowest day for programming and events in the summer.

Chancellor John Wiley said he appreciated the opportunity to showcase the campus for the national conference, and his office would not comment on whether the university received any compensation for losses incurred from closing the Union, or if UW would profit from any part of the mayors conference.

Concern over just who will profit is one basis for the expected stream of protest, which Madison security forces suggest could be as severe as recent violent World Trade Organization protests.

Leaders of several groups demonstration groups complain the meetings serve merely as a conduit for corporate institutions to lobby the nation?s city officials all at once.

For example, a meeting scheduled for 11:00 a.m. Friday offers mayors the chance to hear from CitiesFirst, a corporate partnership fronted by a California-based development company. Saturday and Sunday feature discussions with the Mayors Business Council, to which member corporations such as Phillip Morris and Lockheed Martin pay $10,000 a year for lobbying services in their interest, according to Isthmus.

The conference website emphasizes that the gathering also provides a chance for city leaders to meet with federal officials such as Tom Ridge and Tommy Thompson to discuss health issues and intergovernmental security responsibilities.

The presence of Ridge, the White House homeland security advisor, alludes to another worry — that such a concentration of nationwide public officials would be the target of another terrorist attack.

Barricades and beefed-up police forces might handle civil disobedience and vandalism, but would have little affect against a bomb. So deliveries will be off limits for the weekend, boats will be prevented from harboring at Monona Terrace and the conference organizers are already double-checking press accreditation and identification.

Friday through Monday, police will sift through visitors’ IDs and credentials.

Partially, this closed-door policy is what concerns the potentially less-menacing protestors who feel the mayors have even more leeway to cavort with corporate lobbyists out from under the public eye. Other critics find fault in the security precautions themselves, for which the costs are estimated as much as $700,000.

The only certainty this weekend, as the city continues to haggle over security measures, the mayors meet with interests and one another and protestors shout outside, is the volume will increase audibly downtown.

How the U.S. Conference of Mayors will affect students June 16:

– The 700 and 800 bocks of Langdon Street will be closed at 4 p.m.

– Lots 1 and 6, located at Memorial Union and Helen C. White hall, will be closed

– The Howard Temin Lakeshore Path will be closed from the Limnology Building to Lake Street

– Several nearby buildings, including Memorial Library, will be closed to the public after 4 p.m.

– Van Galder/Coach USA and Badger Bus service to Chicago and O’Hare Airport will continue to drop off and pick up passengers in front of the Union until 3 p.m. After 3 p.m., buses will stop on University Avenue by the Elvehjem Museum of Art, two blocks south. Normal service will resume after 10 p.m.

– Park Street and Observatory Drive will remain open, but Park Street will be closed after 4 p.m. to accommodate a conference event at the Kohl Center. Dayton Street will remain open.

– The Southeast Recreational Facility (SERF) will be closed at 4:30 p.m.

– Union South will maintain regular summer hours.

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