A city committee on Friday green-lighted a request to use Downtown streets for a "Walkerville" protest village starting Saturday night, setting the stage for a continuous presence by opponents of Gov. Scott Walker's budget who will spend their nights camped in tents along the roads.
But not everyone Downtown is happy about it.
"If a bike-riding event is bad for business, then a tent city is, too," wrote John Taylor, owner of an art gallery on North Carroll Street, in an email to the city.
While he acknowledged some food vendors may see a little pickup in business, he doubted protesters would clamor for what he sells: antiquities, notable books and rare maps. And having protesters camped outside will only worsen a problem the store already has with homeless people loitering out front, said one of his employees, David Landau.
At the city's Street Use Staff Commission meeting, the plan won support from County Sup. Annalise Eicher, City Council member Lisa Subeck and Mayor Paul Soglin's office.
"It's a great opportunity for the city of Madison to help with the idea of open government," Eicher said, noting that access to the state Capitol has been drastically restricted since the mass protests in February and March.
In granting the permit, the committee required that most sleeping tents be broken down and removed from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Friday and from 4:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday. However, sleeping tents at three sites — in front of Grace Episcopal Church on Carroll Street, in front of the former Anchor Bank on West Mifflin and in front of the Manchester office building on East Mifflin — will be allowed to stay up during the day. First-aid, food and information tents also will be allowed to stay up during daylight hours.
Protest organizer We Are Wisconsin agreed to a raft of provisions about keeping the tents as far as possible from buildings and buses, keeping their area clean and ensuring safe passage for pedestrians and shoppers.
The committee gave the city's police and fire departments authority to close down the village at any time if they see fit.
The proposed camping area, across the street from the state Capitol, includes: North Carroll Street from State Street to West Washington Avenue; South Carroll between West Washington and Main Street; West Mifflin Street from State Street to Wisconsin Avenue; and East Mifflin Street from Wisconsin Avenue to North Pinckney Street. It also includes the "30 on the Square" cul-de-sac at 30 W. Mifflin St. and the Philosophers' Stones area between the Wisconsin Historical Museum and Myles Teddywedgers Cornish, 101 State St.
Organizers have another hurdle to clear: a special event campground permit. County health services supervisor Beth Cleary said the Madison-Dane County Health Department, which issues the permits, will inspect the site Saturday night before the group's 7 p.m. kickoff rally and likely grant the permit, which costs $378, if the site meets agreed upon standards for drinking water, toilets and garbage collection.
Organizer David Boetcher said We Are Wisconsin — an alliance of community groups, labor unions and others — did not believe it would have been granted a permit to be located on the Capitol grounds.