A Madison city official presented a new plan to broaden the definition of a public nuisance to the University of Wisconsin student government Monday night following an ongoing debate over recent nuisance party legislation.
As requested by the Madison Police Department, Madison officials drafted a new plan to make the definition of a nuisance party more flexible.
However, some members of the Associated Students of Madison Legislative Affairs committee said they worried the new draft’s definition is too broad and the fines are too high, but a few who worked with the bill before note that it has improved.
“The idea was to give officers the tools to be able to tackle parties,” said Mark Woulf, Madison’s alcohol policy coordinator. “They really don’t want to create tension. It’s all about cooperation.”
In the draft, tenant fines were doubled and a new policy was administered. The new policy stated the party only had to meet one requirement in the definition of nuisance to be qualified as a nuisance.
If the police did classify a party as nuisance, the party would not get any charges out of the ordinary, though, Woulf noted.
“This does not change how police respond to parties in general. Let’s say the people won’t cooperate; then they will be fined for many things like over-crowding and underage [drinking],” Woulf said. “As always, it comes back to the level of cooperation.”
If the tenant cooperates with the police, the next step would be to meet with the city, landlord and police department to devise a plan for a six-month probation period.
Fines would only be implemented if the landlord or tenant did not show up to the meeting or if there was another party within the probation period.
Examples of non-cooperation from tenants would include locking the door when the police show up, missing the meeting or having another party.
“If a certain house is classified as a nuisance once, will the police keep an eye out on that specific house since they know it was previously known for complaints”? Legislative Affairs Chair Hannah Somers asked.
Woulf replied police would only make house stops based on complaints and would not act as a party patrol.
Committee members also raised concerns during the meeting over a landlord’s ability to carry over their fines to the tenants, evict the tenants or patrol the tenant’s place regularly.
“My major fear was that students would not get a say before they are fined,” Legislative Affairs member Devon Maiar said.
Although there were concerns, a few representatives have worked with the bill before and feel that each draft is improving.
Legislative Affairs member Andrew Mackens said the nuisance party bill is used as a tool, because there will be multiple reviews before a party is declared a nuisance or not.
At a previous meeting with the city, they mentioned the parties in this category have 500 or more guests, Mackens noted.
“I don’t think it’s going to be a big deal because the city isn’t going to want to meet with all these people,” Somers said. “It would cost a great deal of money, and there just isn’t enough time.”