Laura Laurenzi is putting her money where Vicki McKenna's mouth is. The Madison firefighter and member of Local 311 last week offered to part with $1,000 if McKenna, a WIBA radio host, could prove Madison firefighters engaged in any of the activities for which McKenna called them "filthy rotten scoundrels" and "lousy, rotten people."
McKenna made these remarks on the air following the April 16 tea party rally on the Capitol Square. She claimed "union thug intimidators sent there by the firefighters union in Madison" stirred up violence and disruption, including booing the National Anthem and "screaming 'whore' at 14-year-old girls."
"We hold up the firefighters as heroes," seethed McKenna. "You're not heroes, no longer."
McKenna also claimed Madison police "stood idly by...while our folks were harassed and pushed around...while vandalism took place, and harassment took place, and people were unable to just walk a path."
Laurenzi, a firefighter for 22 years, isn't buying it. "Show me a Madison firefighter being disrespectful to the flag or in the act of "union thuggery" at [this rally] and I will donate $1,000 to a Madison homeless shelter today," she vowed in an online comment. "With the number of cell phones, media outlets, etc. there, this should not be difficult to produce if it occurred."
McKenna, in an email response to a query from Isthmus, wrote: "If this gal wants to see MFD at the rally on Saturday she and you can go to my facebook page. BTW, Did you see the press release from 311? Also on my FB page."
McKenna's Facebook page links to some videos from the rally and counter-rally, but none that seem to show Madison firefighters or police behaving badly. And the "press release from 311" is actually just a cut-and-paste copy of an invite from the actual counter-rally sponsor, Wisconsin Wave, which urged people to bring puppets and bells to "ring in Wisconsin's independence from corporate rule." McKenna did not respond to follow-up emails from Isthmus.
In an email sent this week to fellow firefighters, Laurenzi vowed to give $1,000 to Grace Episcopal even though McKenna ducked her challenge, to show "we are a proud union; we are honorable people; we help not only each other out in time of need, but also our community."
Madison Fire Chief Debra Amesqua calls McKenna's claims "unfair" and untrue, saying she's heard no complaints about firefighters at this or any other rally (listen to McKenna audio and see article, 4/19/11). Local 311 president Joe Conway says the handful of firefighters who turned out April 16 attended the main counter-rally on the opposite side of the Square.
But the charges lodged by McKenna and others have nonetheless unleashed a torrent of abuse against the city's firefighters. Here are some emails (PDF), from a larger sampling, that Local 311 has received about its alleged role in the tea party event:
"I am appalled at your terrorist tactics in calling for disruption of the Tea Party rally in Madison. Those tactics were used by Hitler's Brown Shirts to silence opposition, and now you are using those same tactics - you should be ashamed!" (Arlene Koniecki)
"every one of you should be fired. if i was a tax payer in a city that had a fire dept i would lobby to shut it down and hire all new staff. your fire fighters you should have no political association!" (Ted Bingham)
"You should be ashamed of yourselves. Obviously it's not the proud profession it used to be. That is a communist symbol on your website? You have no clue just how disgusting all of you look. Move to Cuba." (Mrs. Kilkerys)
"Working man's rights? Never saw that in the constitution. You are a bunch of commie thugs. We will fight you at every turn. Bring it on. Assholes" (Greg Wilson)
"TOUCH ONE HAIR ON THE HEAD OF SARAH PALIN OR ANY CONSERVATIVE AT THIS RALLY AND WE WILL GOD-FUCK YOUR MARXIST ASSES...GOT IT?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" (John Smith)
"SHAME SHAME SHAME.....yes, I will work to decrease Firemens compensation and beni's." (John Q. Public)
"It is such a sad day. Firefighters have become so blatantly Marxist, militant and anti-freedom." (American Mom)
"Who the fuck you think you are? Go ahead and strike, worthless scumbags." (Peter Bright)
Naked bike ride saga continues
A Dane County judge has rejected the city of Madison's appeal of an earlier ruling thwarting its prosecution of a participant in last year's World Naked Bike Ride. But the city intends to keep prosecuting other citations.
As Isthmus reported, Madison Municipal Court Judge James Olds last November dismissed charges against Cesilee Dean, one of nine people issued $429 disorderly conduct fines at the June 19 event. Olds noted there are no state and local laws "specifically prohibiting public nudity." The city, which believes nudity can be a factor in disorderly conduct, appealed.
Circuit court Judge Sarah O'Brien last week ruled that the city appealed under the wrong section of the law. She refused to let it refile under the correct one, saying the City Attorney's Office should have known better, and "I believe enough judicial resources have been used for the litigation of this minor citation."
City Attorney Mike May says the city will not appeal the dismissal of charges against Dean.
"I feel relieved," says Dean, who was represented by attorney Dan Bach, a former deputy attorney general. "It has been a really long time, a lot of waiting."
For the other defendants, it's not over yet. May says that since the judge "didn't really rule on the merits," the city intends to resume its prosecution of the remaining defendants, whose cases were put on hold pending resolution of Dean's case.
And there could be more cases to come. Planning for this year's World Naked Bike Ride in Madison began with a meeting this week.
Isthmus blogger David Blaska recently ran a list of local lefties that included "John Nichols, socialist." He may have meant this description of Cap Times associate editor and Nation correspondent as a putdown. But don't expect Nichols to complain.
His brand-new book is called The S Word: A Short History of an American Tradition... Socialism. The United States, writes Nichols, "has always been and should continue to be informed by socialists, socialist ideals and a socialist critique of public policies." He says the word socialism should be embraced as having "the power to frighten, inform and inspire Americans."
So does John Nichols.
Memorial shines again
Two years ago Isthmus profiled Tom Hardin, the drama and forensics coach at Madison Memorial High, after he led his forensics team to its sixth state championship ("Drama King," 5/8/09). On April 16, his school clinched another title, its eighth in 11 years and a record-breaking four in a row.
Abhilash Sandireddy, a junior who won first place for extemporaneous speaking, credits Hardin's volunteer assistant coaches - including Timothy Scheffler, Andrew Gordon and David Olson - with helping make a winning team. And he says Hardin brings out the best in people by being straightforward and strict. "He basically brings it all together and makes sure the organization works." It does.