Madison Police Chief Noble Wray may have been just speaking his mind when he told the news media recently that he hoped the Mifflin Street Block Party would soon be a thing of the past.
It's not an unreasonable position for the chief to take. After all, last's year's event was marred by violence, and even in the best of years a full detox center and one or more sexual assault charges are common.
But there's reason to think that last year's extreme problems were an anomaly brought on by a new policy -- gone for this year -- that allowed open intoxicants on the street. Before 2011, we had a decade of relative peace on Mifflin, and there's no reason to believe we won't return to that this year.
The Halloween and Mifflin parties are the rites of fall and spring for UW students who contribute to our economy, both as students and as entrepreneurs and inventors after they graduate. These events are just part of the cultural fabric of this place -- the UW is not Brigham Young.
So, my guess is the party will go on and that's okay as long as we can eliminate the violence, including sexual assaults, and ratchet down the drinking. The idea my administration had for doing that was to lend more structure to the event. That's why we thought a sponsor who booked bands on stages and sold food would be a good thing. It gave Mifflin an identity and a purpose beyond just a massive beer party.
For this year, the city has retreated on that idea, but I think it should be revived. Structure is what helped turn around Halloween, and it seems to me that it is the long-term answer for Mifflin.
This post appeared as an op-ed in this morning's Badger Herald.