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Our finest takes and political writing of 2019

Highlights from a year of stories about architecture, obelisks, and expensive tents.

If you’re looking for someone to assure you that all is well in Madison’s cultural scene, or hoping to come together with people of different political persuasions over a cup of lukewarm civility, we at Tone Madison simply cannot help you. It’s been a good year to speak up bluntly about what ails our city and state, to explore the nitty-gritty of important activism, to get blocked by Paul Soglin. Incorporating elements of commentary and reporting, and sometimes both at once, here are some of our standout opinion and politics pieces of 2019.

Mary Dahlman Begley on the Humanities Building:

The Humanities Building tells us how it is put together. Below the limestone cap, concrete beams poke out above the main mass of the building. They are holding the roof mass up; their visibility reassures us that they are strong enough. Below, the main mass of the building is comprised of a two-story figure-eight ring of classrooms, enclosing a courtyard and secondary mass within its perimeter. The rhythm of the main mass is so predictable, it’s like a drumbeat. 

Dayna Long on re-committing to the defense of abortion rights:

Madison has the potential and the imperative to lead the way in building an unapologetic defense of abortion. We could start by flexing on the creeps in our own community, from Vigil for Life, to crisis pregnancy centers, to the churches and businesses that give them material support, which deserve to be picketed and peacefully disrupted. Our response to anti-abortion groups that try to mobilize at the Capitol—like the March for Life in January—should be similar. People who do anti-abortion work in Madison should feel discouraged at every turn. They don’t have the home-team advantage here.

Friends Of Freedom, Inc. on the group’s work:

Coverage of Freedom, Inc. has been anti-Black, has erased their Southeast Asian members, and has portrayed them as so much less than the scholars and leaders they are. Recent coverage has even published staff salaries and budget information and insinuated without evidence or cause that somehow something (there is no claim about what) is off in their resources. As allies of Freedom, Inc. and as Madison residents, we affirm our support for and gratitude to the staff and members of Freedom, Inc. for the work they do to heal those of us who’ve experienced violence and to create a community in which repair is possible. We thank them for fighting for and focusing their resources on low- to no-income community members. We affirm our commitment to value and protect—in action—Black and Brown children. We affirm our commitment to push back against the white supremacist narrative around “order” and the shaming of Black and Brown people for demanding that their children are valued as fully human and that their safety needs are met. 

Jess Haven on school board elections:

Our attention is most urgently required to carefully sift through “progressive” candidates, however, in order to gain a sense of who can actually hear, understand and validate underserved youth and families of color. To find out which candidates have the gusto to stand for and implement what they know is right by these children, rather than hide behind their fears and discomfort—an option current board members’ privilege affords them. What we must not continue to accept is leadership that quietly moves the bar around and gaslights our community’s children to the point of exhaustion in a failing, ugly charade of diplomacy. 

Emily Mills on the F-35s:

It’s clear there are strong opinions on both sides of the issue, regardless of how well anyone understands the details. I can’t help but worry that our community is about to become just another casualty in the rush to be unquestioningly pro-military, or even just to back anything that looks like it might secure a handful of jobs, regardless of collateral damage. Plenty of people I know and respect so far support the plan. All I can do is hope they listen to the real concerns of the folks who live here, and take a hard look at the glaring question marks that remain.

Grant Phipps on vegan activism in Dane County:

In addition to abstaining from the consumption of animal products, vegan activists often use nonviolent tactics to advocate for the welfare of animals. Contrary to “the stereotype of the smug, self-satisfied, annoying vegan,” people in this movement consistently discuss the realities of our world and how they themselves are bound up in it. As local activist Jeff Stanek puts it, “What distinguishes veganism from non-veganism is not that we’re not participating in these injustices and violence, but that we’re trying within ourselves and within society to correct them.”

Steven Slack on Rep. Jimmy Anderson’s battle with Robin Vos over disability accommodations:

His Larry David-esque use of “grandstanding” during this particular exchange aside, here Vos is expecting what so many expect of the disabled, and of other underrepresented communities:

Why can’t you make your demands more politely?

Why can’t you be calm when you ask for basic dignities and inclusion?

Why can’t you protest in a more respectful manner at a more respectful time?

Why can’t you do it the right way?

Chris Lay on the removal of “Nails’ Tales”:

 I think the university should reverse its decision to effectively mothball this potent power-pillar of pigskin, uprooting it only to replace it with a bigger, taller, and outright stronger shaft that will cast even longer shadows and cause our gridiron enemies to quake in their cleats at the sight of its girth.

Dayna Long on homelessness and an L.L. Bean’s marketing display on the Square:

I don’t hate fun, free beer, or s’mores, nor am I really even upset at L.L. Bean (though I do think it’s gross of the city to lease out public space to private companies to host events that are essentially just commercials, and that issuing a permit to L.L. Bean for this event in particular was both stupid and offensive). I’m also not under the impression things are fine at the top of State Street. They’re not. And it’s upsetting specifically because it’s so clear that the folks spending their days (and many of their nights) sitting and sleeping there are not having a good time. They are having the worst time. No “party” is taking place.  

Scott Gordon on Journey Mental Health Center’s union:

The main sticking point is that the union says that Journey treats paid time off differently for its unionized and non-unionized employees. Under the current union contract, unionized clinical staff hired after February 2017 get no paid time off up front, and have to accrue it before they start using it: 120 hours (15 days) after one year of employment, four weeks after two years, five weeks after five years, and 6 weeks after nine years. (Unionized staff hired before February 2017 were allowed to keep a previous, better PTO package.) Non-union staff at Journey, the union says, start with five weeks of paid time off in year one, get it up front, and have an easier time carrying unused PTO over from one year to the next.  The union recently conducted a survey of 67 employees, of whom several complained about not having enough PTO.

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