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Saturday, July 12, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 71.0° F  Overcast
The Daily

CITIZEN DAVE

Citizen Dave: The Mifflin Street Block Party can be cool

What's the way out?
What's the way out?
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Let's start out with what should be an obvious truth. If there's any trouble at this year's Mifflin Street Block Party, it won't be the fault of the UW Dean of Students or the mayor or the police. The fault will be with the perpetrators.

Look, if it helps, I'll take my share of the blame for last year's mess. I'm not sure if the bad stuff would have happened if it hadn't been for the transition between myself and the incoming mayor. Paul Soglin was legitimately focused on other more demanding issues and I was busy looking for more bubble wrap and packing boxes.

Nobody was paying much attention to Mifflin, because for a decade, Mifflin had been a peaceful event. There's wide agreement that we made a mistake in 2011 when we allowed open containers on the street. I was barely aware of that change during the fog of the transition and had I thought about it, I probably would have nixed it. I can't speak for Paul, but my guess is he would have as well. But the bottom line is this was a decision made on my watch by my administration, and so I'll take responsibility for it.

So, the solution seemed straightforward -- go back to banning open containers on the street and put the thing back on the positive trajectory it had been on for all those years before the 2011 debacle.

But for reasons that are not clear to me. a different tack was taken. The mayor set the tone by talking about ending the party, the UW pulled out its police presence in an effort to underscore that it wasn't a university sanctioned event, and Dean of Students Lori Berquam felt the need to produce her ill-fated and now infamous "don't go" video.

(By the way, the remix video is proof of the creativity, talent, and good humor of UW students. I know Lori. She's got a sense of humor and my bet is she got a kick out of it.)

The end result of all this stern lecturing is that tensions have been unnecessarily increased. As a general rule, telling young adults not to do something has the effect of making that thing even more exciting to do.

What's the way out? Well, Paul was smart to ask a committee of students to recommend improvements for this year. Let's hear about what those are, and implement as many of them as are practical and wise.

My advice to students is that moderation and a cool head are good things. Maybe consider drinking a little less, keeping your wits about you, and if you see a tense situation develop, do what you can to diffuse rather than escalate it.

Just taking a deep breath all around might be a good thing at this point.

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