Council thanks Occupy Madison, approves sale of landmark

2012-04-10T23:31:00Z 2012-04-16T12:30:31Z Council thanks Occupy Madison, approves sale of landmarkJEFF GLAZE | Wisconsin State Journal | | 608-252-6138

The Madison City Council recognized members of Occupy Madison at Tuesday’s meeting but stopped short of granting occupiers an extension beyond an April 30 dispersal date.

The council voted unanimously on a resolution thanking Occupy Madison for its contributions to the city, notably its inclusion and empowerment of homeless people, and its cooperation with the city.

About 15 occupiers addressed the council, telling personal stories and urging council members to allow the encampment to continue to exist lawfully, but no such wording was included in the resolution.

Robert Jones, 56, who serves as a cook at the encampment, said Occupy Madison ensured he had a place to go.

Jones recalled a time when he was trying to sleep in Brittingham Park and a police officer approached him, warning it was illegal to sleep in the park. Jones told the officer he knew he was breaking the law but he used all his time at the emergency shelters. The officer, Jones said, told him to go sleep behind a tree where he would be out of sight. "I’m not a shark. I need a place to sleep. ... I’m a human being," Jones said.

Donna Asif, executive director for the Madison Homelessness Initiative, urged the city to support grass-roots movements.

"This way of living, it turned into something that felt like a home. I think something like it is part of the array of solutions," Asif said.

The encampment is at a vacant asphalt lot in the 800 block of East Washington Avenue — one of Madison’s main thoroughfares — that formerly was part of a car dealership. The land now is owned by the city, awaiting redevelopment.

Ald. Bridget Maniaci, 2nd District, who represents the area surrounding Occupy Madison, said her constituents mostly are indifferent on the presence of the movement, but she criticized Occupy Madison’s model as a means to fighting homelessness.

"Really? This is the best we can do? Tents, a 15-amp electrical service and a parking lot? That’s going to solve it?" Maniaci said.

She did have some kind words for the movement, though, saying, "This movement has done a lot to show us where we’re messing up."

• Council members voted 15-5 to approve the sale of the landmark William and Dora Collins House, 704 E. Gorham St., to David Waugh and Bob Klebba for a proposed bed and breakfast. The sale has generated significant debate because it required a change in previous zoning laws, which mandated at least 500 feet between another bed and breakfast. The Collins House sits three doors down from The Livingston Inn bed and breakfast, 752 E. Gorham St.

• Also Tuesday, the City Council authorized numerous land acquisitions to make way for a Highway M and South Junction Road reconstruction project.

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