Citizens go on-line to dig at Warren council member they say is out of line.
By Lisa Martino
Two Macomb County teachers, a homemaker and other cyber-protesters may have inspired a new saying for folks fighting city hall: Don't get mad, get a Web page.
Even though Joan Greif, Dan Butterworth and Anton Anderssen have never met, they and at least a handful of others have joined forces to utilize a new forum for expressing anger at the actions of Warren City Council member Gloria Sankuer.
They say she has overstepped her boundaries as a public servant and tried to censor what's available to Internet users at Warren Public Libraries.
Instead of a trip to city hall, a letter or even a phone call to Sankuer to express their views, the three have taken their battle on-line, where hundreds, maybe even thousands, of people will see.
Sankuer is the only member of the City Council's Internet Access Committee, Library Internet Committee and Warren Public Decency Committee. Sankuer, who failed to return repeated calls from the Metro Times, has in the past proposed a "civility ordinance" to ban insults at council meetings and a "paparazzi amendment" to the city's anti-stalking ordinance, which would limit the access of television and print media to public officials.
Butterworth, Greif and Anderssen say what has them so upset is not that Sankuer wants to protect children from pornography on the Internet by having blocking software installed, but that the software would prohibit children from accessing some educational information. And the software would also block adults from viewing the sites.
In lieu of requesting the software, the Warren City Council passed an alternate resolution, also proposed by Sankuer, asking the libraries to monitor Internet usage. In the event a patron is seen accessing a questionable site, librarians are to ask that person to stop. Library officials say they haven't had to do that yet.
After reading an article about Sankuer's July run-in with a Warren librarian who wouldn't help her access pornographic material on the Internet (due to the resolution introduced by Sankuer herself), Butterworth was amused. When he read that Sankuer berated the librarian for not making an exception in her case, he became incensed.
As a result, the Center Line resident sat down at his computer and created what is now the "Sankuer is a hypocrite and an idiot" page. After sending a few e-mail messages to fellow America Online users living in Warren, interest began to snowball.
Butterworth's text-laden page takes a sarcastic jab at the councilwoman's stance on pornography and contains links such as "Sankuer's Evil Spirits Page" and a satirical "In Her Own Words." Sankuer has even inspired poetry and cartoons. There are also links to recent articles that have been written about the councilwoman's causes.
Butterworth, an adult education teacher in Hazel Park, says he has counted at least 800 visitors to his main page in the last month and a half and has received e-mail almost daily on the subject. The majority of the comments, he says, have been supportive of him.
But other reactions to the site -- most notably Sankuer's -- have not been pleasant.
Warren Police Chief Robert W. Graham says that last month Sankuer contacted him about having criminal charges brought against the authors of the pages, claiming they are "cyberstalking" her in violation of the city stalking ordinance. Graham says it would be a stretch to make a connection between stalking and free expression through a Web page. The ordinance defines stalking by electronic media as direct, unwanted contact with an individual.
"I think that it would be bending it a little bit to make it fit in to what she's talking about," he says.
"To say that I'm stalking her is ridiculous," says Butterworth. "She's either completely ignorant of what the word means or she's being abusive of it."
Yet one may wonder why Butterworth -- who doesn't even live in Warren -- cares about a Warren politician's crusades, but he believes the impact of what Sankuer is proposing reaches everyone in Macomb County.
"If you define harassment as anything that bothers someone, then she's harassing me," he says. "She's messing with the whole Macomb County library system."
Sankuer does not see it that way. In a rebuttal to her critics on the editorial page of a recent Detroit News, she writes: "Public libraries are tax-funded. Buildings, personnel, books, magazines and equipment are all paid for by taxpayers. Taxpayers don't want pornography in their libraries, and yet they have no say. That is not democracy."
Anderssen, another Warren resident and instructor at Oakland Community College, sees the Internet as a great educational tool for children and Sankuer's effort as misguided.
His page, called "Gloria Sankuer/Naked Pictures Page," is a text-filled page with links to sites depicting nudity in various forms. It also contains Bible verses making reference to nudity and lust.
"Sankuer's panoramic ban on naked pictures forbids library access to some educational Web sites on self-examination for breast cancer, genital herpes, birth defects, prostate cancer, uterine cancer and basic human reproduction," says Anderssen.
Jane Koger, deputy director of the Library Co-operative of Macomb, which oversees the county library and has say-so on the blocking issue, also points to the cumbersome nature of the software. It is for this reason that she discouraged the use of the software when members of the Warren Library Commission contacted her at Sankuer's urging.
"It does limit and it doesn't discriminate, it only takes words out of context," she says. "It is not divined for use in a library setting. It's meant to be used at home."
Warren Library Commission member Richard Palmer says the commission has dropped the software issue, but it has agreed to position computers so that librarians can monitor what is being accessed.
He says there have been no problems reported with adults or children accessing pornography before or since Sankuer brought up the issue.
Greif sums up the entire debate and events leading up to it by using one word: "laughable."
Greif was publisher of the now-defunct Warren Examiner, a biweekly newspaper that focused on political issues in the city, when she began doing "Counciltoons," political cartoons based on Warren council meetings. The cartoons continue on the Web.
Several of her Sankuer-related cartoons are linked to Butterworth's page.
"None of us are against what she's doing -- that is, none of us wants our children to be exposed to pornography. What we are against is how she went about getting things done," she says. "She has to remember she's a public official and I don't feel she's been professional about it at all."
Greif says Sankuer's efforts are aimed at eradicating something that won't make much difference in the long run.
"This is a moral issue, not a governmental issue," says Greif, a mother of 18- and 21-year-old sons, who believes parents should be the ones responsible for regulating their children's Internet access.
"They don't need to get (pornography) on the Internet. They can go to the corner store and buy a Hustler magazine, and if they are too young to buy it, they can just get someone else to do it for them if they want it," says Greif.
"We're just trying to make light of the whole situation. If this is your belief, keep it in your own backyard; don't try to make other people have your morals. This is not why you are on City Council," she says.
Lisa Martino is a Metro Times staff writer.
Metro Times Newspaper
Opposed to Cyberporn, Official Angry She's Not Exempt from Library Ban
BY KIM NORTH, DETROIT FREE PRESS
Knight-Ridder/Tribune Business News
Jul. 18--City Council members aren't supposed to break the rules.
Especially their own.
But that's what Warren City Councilwoman Gloria Sankuer tried to do last week when she went to a Warren public library and demanded to be shown how to find ``naked pictures'' on the Internet.
But the librarian couldn't show her, because a local ordinance pushed by Sankuer herself forbade it.
The librarian at the Dorothy Busch branch on Ryan wasn't moved when Sankuer flashed her City Council badge.
``My need was urgent. I needed pictures of this disgusting, appalling porno on the Internet,'' Sankuer said Thursday.
Angered, the councilwoman, who said she needed the pictures for official business, raised her voice at the woman.
The city employees' union filed a grievance against Sankuer on Wednesday asking for an apology. The grievance also asks the city to ensure Sankuer never creates such a row again.
Library director Spike Musselman did not name the librarian.
The Warren ordinance orders libraries to keep computer screens free of flesh.
``This is her policy and she wanted us to ignore it,'' Musselman said Thursday.
Sankuer admits berating the woman. But the librarian should have known to make an exception for a councilwoman, Sankuer said. She said she needed pornographic pictures to take to a Macomb County Commission meeting about pornography on the Internet.
The councilwoman declined to say if she would apologize.
``I'm protecting the young and the innocent from the tax-funded porn,'' she said. ``This is a distraction.''