Mifflin Turns 40 Quietly
May 4, 2009 9:38 AM
A few weeks after I first took office in 2003, then Police Chief Richard Williams asked to come see me. He showed up in my conference room with his full command staff all in uniform. They proceeded to lay out their plans for the upcoming Mifflin Street spring student party. There were plans for hundreds of cops in riot gear in staging areas and Metro buses waiting to bring them to the street if needed.
I sat quietly and listened and wondered if we were really planning the invasion of Fitchburg. It all seemed a little too much for a student party. But then again, you have to put yourself back in that time. Mifflin had started out in 1969 as a counter-culture protest resulting in a three-day standoff. And just a few years before I took office it had gotten ugly again with fires in the street and some tense confrontations. So Williams' preparations, while extreme, weren't altogether misplaced.
Fast forward to 2009, and times have changed for the better...by a lot. Last Saturday's event went extremely well. Citations, mostly for underage drinking and open intoxicants, were down from 440 last year to 140 this year. And, after a harrowing week and a half, we were able to come up with a sponsor for the event. DCNY PRO and WSUM took out a street permit, set up stages, booked bands and arranged for food. They did a nice job.
Look, I'm not kidding myself here. Mifflin is still too much about drinking...actually, drinking a lot. But for the first time in over a decade, the City had a responsible party to work with and there was more to do than just get wasted. This is something we can build on, much like we turned around Halloween.
There are many people to recognize for this. Ald. Mike Verveer came close to securing another sponsor earlier and has always worked hard to make Mifflin safe. Central District Police Captain Mary Schauff is among the best the MPD has. Calm, reasonable and tough when necessary, she is a perfect fit for her district, and Police Chief Noble Wray deserves the lion's share of the credit for recognizing her talent and putting her where she can do the most good. Alcohol Policy Coordinator Katherine Plominski did her part. And it is no accident that Joel Plant from my office has been at the center of both the Halloween and now the Mifflin improvements. I only deserve credit for having the good sense to hire the guy.
But I want to single out rookie Alder Bridget Maniaci. When the Wisconsin Union Directorate backed out as a potential sponsor only two weeks before the event, I just assumed sponsorship was not going to happen this year. But literally within hours of taking office, new Ald. Maniaci jumped in to help find new sponsors, including the student radio station WSUM, which was key. Bridget represents the Second District, which has a student population on its west side and, at 25, she is closer to students than most of the rest of us can be. Still, I'll be honest. I was skeptical that it would work. But it did. Beautifully. And Ald. Maniaci deserves credit for her initiative.