Mifflin Street mayhem
The long-running Mifflin Street Block Party has been a policing nightmare from the beginning ("Good Fun or Good Riddance?," 5/3/2013). It never has been an end-of-year celebration for 20-year-old students (have we forgotten the drinking age is now 21?), but rather a free-for-all for how much people can get away with.
I can remember years when there were significant fires set in the street and people falling off second-floor porches, as well as a large turnout of partygoers from other communities and other states - coming to Madison to get drunk.
We are now better informed about the connection between binge drinking and its many negative effects, including sexual assaults. We need continued leadership in Madison to help ratchet back the amount of alcohol that is consumed in binge-drinking environments (of which the Mifflin Block Party was one of the biggest).
I have to disagree with Dave Cieslewicz. I do not think that the Mifflin Street Block Party is simply the result of the exuberance of youth, nor do I think that the only choices the city had were to "come down hard" on the party or allow it to be "little more than an underage drunk fest."
Citizen Dave, when he was Mayor Dave, presided over one of Mifflin's worst years, while Mayor Paul Soglin has seen the party in many of its incarnations - he was arrested not once, but twice at the first Mifflin party in 1969 when he was already a member of the Common Council.
As a former Mifflin Street Co-op staffer, I was part of the group that organized the Mifflin Street Block Party for a number of years. The reason the party was both successful and safe was because it was an organized event with a theme and a reason for being.
The Mifflin Street Block Party is not a random event that just happens because people are young - it grew out of a tradition of organization to work for justice and a better world, whether that means opposition to an unjust war in Vietnam, or an effort to build an economic system that supports local farmers and pesticide-free food. And when a community decides to organize a party around important issues, it can still be a fun time - as those block parties certainly were.
Regarding Ruth Conniff's article on right-wing groups and the "school choice movement" in Wisconsin, I agree with everything she said ("The Dark Forces Behind School Choice," 5/10/2013).
My only qualm is that calling the movement a "school choice" movement is nothing but a euphemism. As Ms. Conniff and others have pointed out, this "movement" has several policy goals, including attacking both public education and the teachers unions.
Call it what it is: the school privatization movement.