Tonight the Vending Oversight Committee will look into granting the International Socialist Organization an exemption from the vending ordinance that will allow the group to sell its newspapers on State St.
Bill Lueders wrote about this issue recently. It's interesting, because it highlights an important barrier to political campaigning in Madison. I say political campaigning, not "political speech," because simply handing out flyers or pamphlets is different than selling a product.
No, I'm not suggesting the socialists, of all people, are secretly shrewd capitalists. But they're engaging in an activity that is more than simple advocacy. They're raising money. What would be interesting would be if the city made distinctions between organizations who charge simply to cover the costs of printing, and those who seek a profit, whether for fundraising purposes or private enterprise.
The Downtown Coordinating Committee already voted in favor of the exemption for the ISO earlier this month. Now Vending will likely approve it as well. Ald. Mike Verveer, who sits on the committee, is a sponsor. The other alder, Thuy Pham-Rammele, is unpredictable. I can imagine anything from a vote in favor to a rant about special left wing interests infiltrating city government. Such a rant would probably follow with a "NO" vote.
Is anybody else aware of comparable incidents with other political organizations? There are tons of political activists on State St or Library Mall on a regular basis, but I don't recall seeing a lot of selling taking place on their part. But I could be wrong.
In addition to this item, the VOC will be discussing putting in place a concrete system of seniority for the city's vendors. Kristin Czubkowski recommends watching out for that.