The Madison Common Council approved an ordinance that will allow the city to set up a list of people who are barred from buying alcohol at city stores.
The resolution was passed unanimously, even earning the support of Ald. Marsha Rummel, who earlier had expressed concerns that the measure could be considered discrimination against people based on health conditions.
Mike Basford (frequent Sconz commenter), the Program Director for Housing Initiatives, which specializes in finding housing for the homeless, spoke to the Council on the proposal, saying he did not support or oppose the measure, but emphasized that simply banning the hardest drinkers from liquor stores would not stop them from drinking.
"Addicts can be extremely resourceful when feeding an addiction," he said. He gave examples of substitutes for booze that alcoholic clients of his have resorted to, such as rubbing alcohol and turpentine.
The lead sponsor of the ordinance, Ald. Michael Schumacher, assured skeptics that he saw the no-drink list as only "one piece of the puzzle" of combating addiction and other alcohol-related issues in the city.
Rummel asked Basford as well as members of city staff if there were constitutional implications to putting a certain group of people on a list, and denying them a right that everybody else has. In particular she asked why people who are convicted of OWI are not "put on a list."
City attorneys responded that in general terms, OWI offenders are put on a list it's called a criminal record and it often results in the deprivation of certain rights, such as driving. Moreover, they emphasized that in accordance with a 1971 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Wisconsin v. Constantineau, Madison can ban certain persons from buying alcohol, as long it provides the affected people due process.
Hence, in addition to a concrete standard for getting put on the list (more than six hospital visits from intoxication in six months), the city also set up an appeals process for people to challenge their placement on the list, as well as criteria for being eventually removed from it (less than six visits in six months).