Editor's note: Plominski refused to provide a photograph of herself or allow one to be taken.
Stepping into her new job as Madison's Alcohol Policy Coordinator, Katherine Plominski has her homework cut out for her. She's gearing up for graduation from UW-Madison Law School in May while getting a crash course in city alcohol policy. She officially becomes Madison's second bar czar on Oct. 29.
The Alcohol Policy Coordinator position is jointly funded by the city of Madison and the UW-Madison to address alcohol-related issues on campus and in the community.
A former bartender, Plominski, 29, recently completed work as a Hayes Intern, working with the Madison Police Department and Dane County District Attorney's Office to develop strategies for addressing stalking on the UW-Madison campus. Plominski also served as a Judicial Intern for the Wisconsin Supreme Court. And she volunteers for Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Dane County.
Plominski recently spoke with The Daily Page about the issues she'll tackle, whether UW's party-school reputation is a good or bad thing, and the ultimate goal of alcohol regulations.
The Daily Page: As Madison's new bar czar, what are the top three issues you'll focus on?
Plominski: Because I have not started yet, it's difficult for me to say what three issues I'll tackle. I think it's important to develop relationships with the key stakeholders and get input from the mayor's office, the schools, the alcohol licensing committee, et cetera. Once I gather input from all of the key stakeholders, then together we'll hopefully address the main areas.
As a student, what alcohol-related events trouble you the most, personally?
Personally, what is upsetting to me is the number of people going to detox per semester. It's a very high number and I believe it's a very high threshold to go to detox. I'm not exactly sure what the criteria is, but it's something like you not knowing who the president is, you not knowing what year it is, things like that.
Does UW-Madison's reputation as a party school hurt or help the city's image?
I think it hurts the city and the school. Wisconsin is such a wonderful place and has so many other things to be proud of.... It's somewhat sad to me. It's also an association that gets tied on to every student. I've experienced it personally when I've gone to business lunches and things and they'll say, 'Oh, you go to Wisconsin, you must be a big partier,' which is not the case at all. It seems like we should be known for something other than binge drinking.
What issue is more important to public health: Student binge drinking or the chronic alcoholism of Madison's homeless population?
I don't feel comfortable answering that question, because the information I have about the homeless drinking population is limited to whatever I get through the limited media filters. It is possible that once I find out more information and do more research it is certainly possible that the homeless chronic alcoholism problem might be more important to public safety, but I just don't have the information to make that judgment at this particular moment.
Going into this position not very familiar with the existing policies, where do you begin educating yourself?
You're going to want to look at local ordinances. And there are a lot of things that a person in this position might want to do, like easy answers, but you're limited by federal law, you're limited by state law and you're working mostly with local ordinance. So whatever you decide to put forth in front of the City Council, you have to: A, be Constitutional [and] B, comply with federal and state laws.
In the complicated politics of alcohol regulation, what is the ultimate goal?
The ultimate goal, I think, would be to slowly change perceptions and attitudes about alcohol. And I realize I'm facing hundreds of years of custom and the way people are used to drinking, so I fully accept that people will be hesitant to change. So, maybe little steps are what we'll end up achieving. These things really take time.
Assuming you like to imbibe now and again, what's your drink of choice: beer, spirits or wine?
Wine is the drink of choice.
What's your favorite bar?
I don't know if I should answer that, because I don't want to create the perception that I'm favoring one bar over another. I really enjoy most of them about the same. There are just a few that personally aren't my cup of tea.