Mayor Sue Bauman’s Panhandling Work Group held its first meeting yesterday afternoon and heard Captain Luis Yudice of the Madison Police Department and Susan Schmitz, president of Downtown Madison, Inc, speak about their experiences with panhandlers.
Mayor Sue Bauman addressed the committee, recommending the city explore alternate approaches to dealing with panhandling rather than simply outlawing it.
Yudice cited a particular trouble spot — the parking lots next to Pizzeria Uno, in between West Gorham and West Gilman Streets.
In recent months, panhandling on State Street has risen a noticeable degree, according to Madison police chief Richard Williams.
A Madison ordinance aims to “ensure unimpeded pedestrian traffic flow, to maintain and protect the physical safety and well-being of pedestrians and to otherwise foster a safe and harassment-free environment in public places in the city of Madison.”
According to the ordinance, panhandlers are not to sit on the sidewalk while seeking a procurement of money, must remain a minimum of 50 feet away from any automatic teller machine and refrain from panhandling on the sidewalk between building walls and light poles.
Penalties for violation of this ordinance range from fines of $10 to $200.
The subcommittee includes members of city hall, officials from the downtown business district and student representatives.
Besides cutting down on panhandling, the subcommittee will focus on the source of the panhandlers.
“[We are] trying to figure out the root cause of why there are so many panhandlers,” Ald. MikeVerveer, District 4, said.