The Madison Common Council passed two major resolutions at its meeting on Tuesday night, both having to do with the consequences of sexual assault in the city. The first requires pharmacies in Madison to post notices about the availability of emergency contraception at other locations if they don't carry the over-the-counter version named Plan B. The second is the Patty resolution, which provides compensation for a sexual assualt victim who was further victimized by the city, prohibits the city from contracting with the Axley Byrnelson law firm for a decade, and requires the MPD to establish policies for the fair treatment of sexual assault victims.
Here are ten lasting impressions from the meeting:
The roll call subsequently revealed that 17 alders out of a total membership of 20 attended the meeting. Alds. Santiago Rosas and Ken Golden were both excused, the latter perhaps taking in (as he is wont to do) a Badger basketball game at the Kohl Center to celebrate his formal announcement of retiring from the council. Lauren Cnare, meanwhile, was absent through most of the night, arriving around 8:10 p.m. to attend the closing minutes of the meeting. The nonattendance of these alders was largely a non-factor in the evening's proceedings, however.
- Mayor Dave Cieslewicz started the meeting off with a moment of silence for Doris Hanson, a former state legislator and head of the Department of Administration who passed on Wednesday, Nov. 8. "She was a fine public servant," said the mayor, who also issued a statement shortly after her passing.
- The first item of business of the night was the honoring for Florence Zmudzinski
This is the resolution:
Expressing thanks to Florence Zmudzinski for serving twenty years as a social worker with the Madison Metropolitan School District
Whereas, Florence Zmudzinski served for twenty years as a social worker with the Madison Metropolitan School District; and
Whereas, prior to her years with the MMSD, she worked with the Madison Redevelopment Authority and also as the Relocation Supervisor for the Triangle Neighborhood Renewal Project where she worked diligently to find decent, affordable housing for the individuals and families being displaced; and
Whereas, her lengthy service to the community went well beyond her employment. In 2004 the Madison YWCA selected Florence as one of its Women of Distinction and recognized her as a long time tenant advocate and for her participation in the organization's family and children's programs; and
Whereas, Florence Zmudzinski was one of the original members of the City Housing Committee, appointed to the committee in March of 1999; and
Whereas, as a member of the Housing Committee, Florence displayed a strong commitment to those who couldn't advocate for themselves. When she chose to speak it was always to achieve fairness for all persons in our community;
Now, therefore, be it resolved, that the Mayor and Common Council commend and thank Florence Zmudzinski for her many years of service to the citizens of the City of Madison.
- Zmudzinski received two standing ovations from the council after this was approved, along with expressions of thanks from Alds. Mike Verveer and Austin King.
Another housing committee member, downtown resident Phil Ejercito, shares his thoughts on her legacy. "She's always been a reliable, insightful and caring individual," he says. "She's always been a reliable tenant advocate, and as one of the younger members on the housing committee, I'd just say I have to admire her example on how to take a compassionate approach to housing."
- The first major item up for discussion at the meeting was the resolution sponsored by Ald. Zach Brandon
There were two registrants speaking in support of this proposal. One was Kelda Roys, the executive director of NARAL/Pro-Choice Wisconsin. She reported that her group recently canvassed eight pharmacies in the city over the phone, and reported sparse availability of Plan B. Reporting on seven pharmacies, Roys said one had it in stock, one was out of stock, one had the prescription form and would soon be carrying it over the counter, two erroneously said prescriptions were required, and two said they did not offer it and had not plans to do so. They also asked for referrals, all of which were "very vague," Roys said. "I think that it shows is that while we've made progress, there is still work to be done."
The other registrant started her comments by saying "I would like to offer my perspective on the issue of easy access as a survivor of rape." She discussed her experiences in being offered EC at a European hospital, and said all women deserve that opportunity. "Pharmacies should really not be a hindrance to women hoping to prevent pregnancy in this situation," she says. "It's so, so important for survivors of sexual assault to know that EC is available."
There were another ten registrants supporting the proposal but not wishing to speak.
- The discussion over the EC ordinance was fairly brief. Austin King
Jed Sanborn, meanwhile, said that he doesn't "really have a strong objection" to the measure, as "compared to some of the other things we do this is rather benign." The alder nevertheless labeled the requirement as 'nanny-statism,' and compared it to those laws requiring the posting of adoption laws at abortion clinics. In all, Sanborn thought it was merely a political statement.
Sponsor Zach Brandon disagreed, saying it is a public health issue due to confusion created by opponents and careless media about the differences between contraceptives and chemical abortive agents. "ED is not an abortive agent," he said. Brandon went on to discuss the various messages and laws he is required to post as the owner of Laundry 101 (such as OSHA standards, workers' compensation laws, and liquor license requirements). "I think this is the model of how you can do regulation in the City of Madison and not go too far."
The resolution is passed with 14 ayes (Benford, Brandon, Bruer, Gruber, King, Knox, Konkel, Olson, Palm, Radomski, Skidmore, Van Rooy, Verveer, and Webber) and three nos (Compton, Sanborn, and Thomas).
- The other major topic of the meeting was the Patty
There were four persons registering to speak on this item. The first speaker was Angela Rose, the founder and director of Promoting Awareness and Victim Empowerment (PAVE), a Madison-founded national organization "dedicated to shattering the silence of sexual violence." She discussed her experiences of being sexually assaulted, and her subsequent negative experiences with the police when reporting the crime.
The following three registrants each told their stories of experiencing sexual assault and the path of reporting and recovery that followed. While one woman had an appropriate and respectful experience with the Madison Police Department after reporting the assault, another did not, saying south district officers treated her unfairly. Urging the council to represent her and other victims of sexual assault in the city, she said "I think Madison can do that by having the police make a policy that prohibits such awful treatment of the victims."
- The discussion and deliberation for this resolution was much more extensive than that for the EC proposal. Resolution sponsor Austin King
King went on to state that the terms of the resolution were a joke. "At the end of the day, this is the most modest resolution I could think of to remedy this," he said. "This is an underwhelming resolution," but one he could be hopeful of in preventing similar situations in the future.
King's initial comments were followed by an attempt by Zach Brandon to amend the resolution to strike the clause blacklisting the city from doing business with the law firm for a decade. Brandon said the city would be "passing the buck" by doing this, and that it should rather accept all of the responsibility for Patty's ordeal. King disagreed, saying this would be no different from other purchasing requirements the city holds, such as the prohibition on contracts with sweatshop. In the end, the amendment failed by a vote of 6 ayes (Brandon, Compton, Radomski, Sanborn, Skidmore, and Thomas) to 11 nos (Benford, Bruer, Gruber, King, Knox, Konkel, Olson, Palm, Van Rooy, Verveer, and Webber).
Many other alders spoke in favor of the resolution. Brenda Konkel tearfully related the experiences of a friend when they both attended UW-Platteville, noting her dismissive treatment by both university and city police following a sexual assault. "I can't imagine what Patty had to go through to make sure that all of this went forward," she said, "the incredible strength of the women who came forward tonight and Patty is something that needs to be celebrated." Mike Verveer and Judy Olson also spoke briefly, thanking Patty, the registrants and others. Noting his concern about the matter as an assistant district attorney for the city, Verveer said he hopes the resolution will "prevent victims of sensitive crimes from being further victimized by the criminal justice system."
One alder spoke against the resolution. Judy Compton objected to the $35,000 in compensation, saying she would have voted for it was this not included. After thanking the registrants, she then told the council that this compensation could set a precedent. Those registrants (and others) reporting problems with Madison police while reporting sexual assault, she said, "could come back and say you owe me money as well."
King incredulously said there was already a precedent for the compensation, noting that the council nearly unanimously approving a payment in 2003 to north-side homeowners in for a sewage problem. He also said that his work with city attorney Michael May in crafting the resolution would prevent the likelihood of future lawsuits from other parties. Tim Bruer responded to Compton's comments as well. "I don't think you can even put a dollar figure on the impact and the anguish" of Patty's ordeal, he said, and that the $35,000 "is a pittance in reality to what this individual list, not just in terms of her job but in terms of her self-esteem and mental health." He asked those opposing the measure to "reach out to their heart and soul" to reconsider their position, saying, "it really does disappoint me that there will be those voting against this."
Compton shot back, saying that she would continue her opposition to the resolution. "There are hundreds of thousands of women who deserve compensation for ill-treatment from police departments all over this country," she said. "Many, many friends, many, many members of my family have been humiliated, but I don't believe that this body should be making this decision." Saying her opposition has nothing to do with rape and applauding nearly everybody else in the room, she maintained her opposition because of the money. "I can't agree with that part of it, and I can't sit back and let you chastise me for that."
Immediately thereafter, the vote was taken and the resolution passed with 15 ayes (Benford, Brandon, Bruer, Gruber, King, Knox, Konkel, Olson, Palm, Radomski, Sanborn, Skidmore, Van Rooy, Verveer, and Webber) and 2 nos (Compton and Thomas). It's also worth noting that Lauren Cnare, who was absent at this point during the meeting, voted against the resolution when it was in committee.
- The work of Isthmus news editor Bill Lueders in investigating, reporting and writing about Patty's ordeals was noted by nearly every alder who spoke on the matter including those opposing the resolution. Each cited his reporting and new book Cry Rape: The True Story of One Woman's Harrowing Quest for Justice
They each comment on the issue:
Zach Brandon: "It was certainly an unintentional theme. I think it was good because the emotion of the first was able to carry us into the second, and even though the vote had already occurred, it helped reinforce the importance of EC. When women are sexually assaulted, you can see the pain and anguish and confusion that goes through their mind, and to expect them to drive from pharmacy to pharmacy to pharmacy is not good for public health."
Austin King: "Tonight was a meeting about women, and issues that impact them. I don't think every African-American is a Democrat, every woman is a feminist, every Birkenstock-wearing alder is an environmentalist, but it's disappointing always seeing traditionally underrepresented communities perpetuate their own oppression. There were women in the police department, in the police and fire commission, the mayor Sue Bauman, and others who were complicit in the victimization of Patty, so its unfortunately not the first time she has had other women turn their backs on her."
- At the end of the meeting, near west-side alder Robbie Webber introduced the resolution she mentioned while speaking in favor of the EC notification requirement for the city's pharmacies. As stated by her and a couple registrants on that item, their hope is that passage of the requirement in Madison will spur action in other Wisconsin cities and at the state level.
This is the resolution:
Encouraging the State of Wisconsin to Require Access to Emergency Contraception
Whereas, contraception is a basic component of healthcare, and
Whereas, emergency contraception is known to be safe and effective if taken within 72 hours of contraceptive failure, and
Whereas, it is unjust to deny women rapid and reliable access to emergency contraception, and
Whereas, in Wisconsin access to emergency contraception can be extremely limited, especially for women in rural areas or those with limited transportation options.
Be it therefore resolved that the Common Council of the City of Madison call on the State Legislature to enact legislation requiring all pharmacies to dispense emergency contraception.
- Besides Webber, this resolution is also sponsored by Alds. Brenda Konkel, Mike Verveer, Judy Olson, Austin King, Tim Gruber, Brian Benford, Isadore Knox, Tim Bruer and Mayor Dave Cieslewicz.
- Just as the meeting was ending shortly before 8:15 p.m., the mayor invited the council and city staff for a round of drinks at Brocach on the Square to celebrate their completion of the 2007 city budget. Cieslewicz joked that those alders who voted against the budget (Brandon, Compton, Skidmore and Thomas) were of course as welcome to attend as those voting for the budget.
In the end, 12 members of the council took the mayor up on his offer, along with several city department heads. The alders joining in on the libations were Zach Brandon, Tim Bruer, Tim Gruber, Austin King, Isadore Knox, Brenda Konkel, Judy Olson, Larry Palm, Jed Sanborn, Paul Van Rooy, and Robbie Webber. The scene was festive and friendly.