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THE COUNCIL'S BROKEN PLAYWHEN THELDA WILLIAMS GOT THE TEAM TO PUNT ON GAY RIGHTS, CITY HALL KICKED OFF A WHOE NEW BALL GAME

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But before she left, Nadolski gave the council one final surprise. She drafted an amendment to the city's antidiscrimination ordinance that would have extended civil rights protection to gays, the disabled, unmarried people living together and people in the military. At the time, she said she thought the timing was right to bring the issue to the council and that she--as a lame-duck councilmember--was the perfect person to do so. She said she wanted to introduce the legislation two years earlier, but had been dissuaded by her allies in the gay community who feared the political consequences.

But if Nadolski thought she was doing her colleagues on the council a favor by absorbing the political heat by proposing a measure she believed they all supported, she was mistaken. In fact, one Nadolski supporter said there may have been "a bit of spite" in her final gesture. Whatever her motive, some members of the council bristled at what they perceived as an attempt to ram an ordinance through without adequate discussion and debate. In particular, Mayor Johnson was not thrilled with the timing of Nadolski's amendment.

"It was obviously being rushed," Johnson says. "It was being rushed because one councilmember who had been defeated believed that she needed to deliver a going-away present."
And maybe it wasn't just the content of the amendment that made it difficult for some of the council to take. As Kathy Dubs pointed out in her campaign, Nadolski hadn't always been a "team player."

"The first time I went to see Skip Rimsza and Thelda [Williams] and Paul Johnson about this issue, the first thing they brought up to me was that it could never fly because Linda Nadolski had put it on the table," Charlie Harrison, the gay political activist, says. "They were so pissed at her about other things. That really flew in my face pretty badly. That a group of people running the ninth-largest city in the country could trash my life because the wrong person, somebody that they had some juvenile, immature vendetta against, had put it on the table. If that's the way they run this city government, then we're in deep trouble."
But even so, for a time it appeared the amendment would pass. A week before it was brought before the council, Nadolski was counting on five votes--herself, District 8 councilmember Calvin Goode, District 7 councilmember Mary Rose Wilcox, District 4 councilmember Craig Tribken and Williams. At the time, Nadolski told New Times she thought the mayor, seeing that the measure was going to pass, would add his vote. While she allowed that Skip Rimsza, Alan Kennedy and John Nelson might have trouble voting for the amendment because their districts were conservative, Nadolski said she thought there was an outside chance the amendment would pass unanimously.

But Nadolski's coalition fell apart. Williams did not vote as Nadolski expected, but instead supported a substitute motion that prohibited the city from discriminating in its hiring practices or in the delivery of services. The council also sent the original motion, which would have prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation by private businesses within the city, to a panel of community leaders--the Human Relations Commission--for further study.

Williams says she voted her conscience, that she believed the issue needed more discussion than it would have received if it had been passed in December. But Johnson was lobbying several councilmembers, including Williams, to defer action on the proposal and to vote for a compromise. And Williams, at that time, was perceived as a strong ally by the gay community. Having lost Nadolski, some gay organizers were reluctant to have Williams "out on a limb."

"She called me from Washington, D.C., in November to say that she would be back to vote on this thing and be in favor of it," Harrison says. "And she came back the weekend before the vote and, in that amount of time, was turned around from a 'yes' into a 'no.' I believe it was Paul Johnson who turned her around. Paul is incredibly skillful, incredibly persuasive and Thelda has a conservative district."
Harrison says Williams' vote for the substitute amendment was understandable under the circumstances.

"We basically made the decision that, frankly, Johnson had set her up in a position that she could be taken out for voting in favor of this," he says. "I think Thelda was totally right on the issue, but we didn't want to see her take a stand that would cost her seat. She couldn't be the deciding vote."
So Nadolski left the council in characteristic fashion, on the short end of a losing vote. This time it was 6-3, as Goode and Wilcox joined her in refusing to vote for the compromise.

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Philip Martin