Monday, October 31, 2005

Institutionalized Discrimination Against PWD's in The City of Cambridge, MA

City's Human Rights Ordinance is
NOT in Compliance With The ADA
Here in Cambridge Mass we, PWD's have to face multiple non compliance issues. I have been speaking out about this for several years. I have put my concerns in writing, and I have filed 2 complaints against the City with the Mass Commission Against Discrimination.
Today, In City Council, on the City Manager's Adgenda, Item #2, is his response back to the City Council re their request for a "status report" on the City's compliance with the ADA.
Why did the City Council make this request? beacuse the "disability question" was asked at a canidiates forum sponsered by the progressive democrats. The Q was..."If you are elected to City Council, will you put in an order bringing all City Ordinances into compliance with the ADA?" Of course all who answered responded, "yes!"
The sitting City Councillors were challenged by one of the challengers for a seat on City Council, he said, those of you who are on City Council now, why wait for the election? Why don't you put the order in now? After the forum, David Maher called me over, and asked me to set an appointment with him to discuss this. He was obviously concerned. We met for over an hour at City Hall. The result was the order he put in, and which all City Councillors supported...
City Council Order 0-51
That the City Manager be and hearby is requested to provide the City Council with a status report regarding the City's compliance with the Americans with Disabilities ACT (ADA) in all relevant aspects of City work, policies and ordinances.
The Status Report, if you can call it that, falls far short of the City Councils request. It fails to even mention doing a self evaluation and having a transition report. It mentions only one City program, the Facade Improvement Program, the only Policy mentioned is referred to as the "City ADA Policies" and which are not even enumerated, and most disturbing, this so called "Status Report" only mentions one City Ordinance. That is a far cry from "all City Ordinances."
One wonders what is on the City's self evaluation and transition plan?
The ordinance mentioned is non other that the INFAMOUS "City's Human Rights Ordinance" (Cambridge Municipal Code * 2.76.120). This ordinance is NOT in compliance with the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1990, the ADA, and herein lies the looming potential for a class action law suit.
This is institutionalized discrimination, folks!
Cease and desist!
I have requested the City Council not to accept this bogus status report.
I have requested the City Council to put in an order bringing all City Ordinances into compliance with the ADA.
I have requested the City Council set up a committee or a sub committee, where PWD's with the broadest experience can be engaged with the POLICY MAKERS at the City Council level, so as to bring an end to the institutionalized discrimination we are subjected to EVERY DAY here in Cambridge Mass!
Why the delay?
I am not opposed to having the Commission for Persons with Disabilities continue existing, I just want to remove the rubber stamp from their hands.
PS: This is Halloween, not April Fools!

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Haunt The Mayor!


Just love the work John is doing raising awareness about brick sidewalks, walkways! We also have this problem in Cambridge MA. I objected when the City Council passed a policy order recently, asking Harvard to pave everything with bricks! I was ignored, and the order was adopted. I do hope Harvard has more comm0n sense, and ignors it!

Then another order was adopted in City Council requesting a report on the City's policy re brick sidewalks. The fact is the Cambridge Commission on Disabilities objected to the use of bericks in the new renovations of Harvard Square, but their objecions were ignored, and it is my understanding that millions of taxpayers dollars will be used to pave Harvard Square with bricks, thereby limiting access to thousands of PWD's with mobility problems, not to mention pregnant women and cute young things in high heels!

The use of bricks in Cambridge in the past was based on the fact that it was the least expensive paving, not because it was "beautiful." We should follow this "historical" president, and continue using the less expensive concrete to pave Harvard square, so we can look at the beautiful, and Historic buildings, instead of looking at the bricks under our feet so we don't trip and fall.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Question of the week...Habitat or Harborage?

At a recent Area 4 meeting, "Have dinner with the Mayor," many more folks than expected came to enjoy food and conversation. Despite the moderators attempt to "allow" questions on all subjects, most grilled the Mayor on what is now known as rat infestation. The Mayor and City Manager attempted to satisfy everyone that everything that could be done was being done. The Mayor finally stated that the City was suing at least one homeowner for "harborage," or having weeds in his yard.

What does this have to do with persons with disabilities?

A few years ago, a passer-by dumped a large white plastic kitchen bag full of garbage on the sidewalk in front of my house. It happened a couple hours after the DPW had collected the trash from my street, and a couple of hours before they would get to the side streets in my neighbourhood. I called DPW to inform them, and was treated quite rudely....

"We are not going to come out and pick it up!" (You are kidding me, aren't you? The City wouldn't let a bag of garbage just sit all week on the sidewalk? Would they?) "But, I protested, you wouldn't have to send someone out to pick it up, because the truck will make the turn right across from my house to collect trash on the side street, and they could easily pick up that bag at that time, if you notify them." "No, the way it works is, you have to bring that bag into your place and put it out next week." (??? You can't be serious?) "Excuse me? You want me to collect someone else's garbage, and keep it in my place for a week? I just can't agree with that." "Well, if you don't you will be ticketed because you are responsible for the sidewalk in front of your house." "Gee, I am totally disabled, and on the City's Snow Exemption Program, I don't think I am able to pick up that big bag, nor am I required to pick it up." "Oh, what is your name, Oh I see, OK, so you won't get a ticket if the trash is out all week."

"Wait a minute," I say quickly, as she is about to hang up, "Here is my address, please have them pick this up." "Oh, no, we are not going to pick it up, but don't worry, you won't get a ticket." Does she think this is about the rules, and getting fined if you break the rules? "So, if the bag of garbage sits out there all week I won't get a ticket, so you won't radio the garbage truck to pick it up when they swing past my house in an hour or two, so the rule is that bag of garbage will sit out on the sidewalk all week, until the next pick up day?" "That's right, you don't need to worry, you won't get a ticket."

"But what about the garbage, won't it attract rats?" I don't want it out there all week, I want someone to pick it up. "It is a nuisence!" "Why are you giving me a hard time, I told you you won't get a ticket." "I am not giving you a hard time, I didn't call because I was afraid of getting a ticket, I called because I want that bag of garbage picked up as it is a nuisence, and if it sits out there all week, animals will get into it, and it will attract rats." She responded, "I am calling inspectional services."

Shortly thereafter, the garbage truck lumbered down the street, stopped in front of my house to negociate the tight turn, rolled 20 feet, and picked up the garbage in from the front of the two houses on the corners opposite my house. They did not, of course pick up the garbage bag that had been dumped in front of my house. I even went over to them and asked nicely. No. That is against the rules, "You should have put it out on time."

Couple days later, the large white plastic kitchen bag full of garbage was broken open, and garbage was strewn up and down the sidewalk. Skunk, I suspect. Then the inspectional services "man" arrived. He did not give me a ticket for the garbage, but he did write up a "violation" ticket for my covered, unregistered car parked in my driveway. He left, and no one came to pick up the garbage, broken bag and all. After all, the rule says they will pick it up on the next schedualled collection day.

The City Instructs Me On It's Rodent Control Policy

Naturally, I called to complain, but all that happened was I was subjected to a verbal version of the City's rodent control policy. So, that is the whole point here. I told them their rodent control policy was based on nonsense, and if they continued to "feed the rats" soon the whole City would be over-run with them, and it wouldn't be just me complaining, but the City Councillors phone would be ringing off the hooks. Of course I was ignored, and told I didn't know what I was talking about. They were the "experts." I then called the City's Commission For Persons with Disabilities, to ask about a program for PWD's and to solve this problem, and was told, "don't worry, you won't get a ticket." (for the garbage, that is.) LOL

Today The City IS Over-run With Rats

Several meetings have been held as a result of dozens if not hundreds of calls to the Mayor's office, and other City Councillors. The City has held the requsite "Talk Shows" where they present In Person their bogus Rodent Control Program. Everyday folks get up and challenge the "Rat Facts." Whatever happened to using the knowledge in the community? The inspectional services "man" displayed his complete lack of accurate knowledge on the subject. He sounded like the exterminator that you won't ever call again. The City's "science" expert on rat behavior was spewing more disinformation, like what you might hear in a bar.

We are subjected to Did You Know..."Rodents die off in the winter, breed in the spring, and the way to get rid of them is to find and fill in their borrows?" Just pure bunk. I stand, and point out that if they fill in the borrows it will just drive the rats further into the community. One of the "experts" then tells the crowd that I am wrong. Another person affirms what I said, and said she had complained about that very thing, and even brought the "experts" out to look at the new borrows, and they still denied it. The Mayor responded that he had confidence in the City's employees, (he did not call them experts,) so she said she was going to get a camera and take pictures. Bravo!

Shall we now sterillize the City to get rid of the rats?

At the most recent rodent control emergency meeting, the City's program no longer included filling in of borrows. The City did agree rat proof containers with tight fitting lids were important, and once again I pointed out that the City must not collect the lids with the trash. Then the City's experts got into the nonsense again. Bringing legal action against homeowners who had "weeds" in their yards. Someone pointed out that the rodents did not discriminate, and chewed rosebushes and garden veggies as well. The City claimed that Habitat and Harborage must be eliminated. I pointed out that their "science" was based on opinion, and there was no scientific study to show that neat clean grassy lawns, or indeed, bricking everything over was a deterrent to rodents in search of a meal or a home, due to filled in borrows and harborage elimination!

Then the issue of rabies in possums, coons and skunks was brought up as a reason for harborage elimiation. HUH? I pointed out that "rabies in wildlife" and "rodent infestation" were two different issues. I pointed out that even if we eliminated all wild life we would still have the rodent problem. I asked if it was the City's goal to eliminate all wildlife from the City as a rodent control measure. And I suggested we "bait for rabies" if we were afraid of rabies in our wildlife population. I also requested that the City change it's policy, and when someone called and wanted garbage on the sidewalk or street picked up, the City should pick it up. Of course, the City must end the use of garbage dumpsters at public schools and housing as feeding stations. (Stop blaming property owners, and clean up it's own mess.)

Once again, we control the rodents by not feeding them. And harborage is NOT more likely to cause rodent infestation.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Who Should Be Involved In Policy Making

Town Meeting Replaced by Chat Room Poses Threat

  • Nothing poses a bigger challenge to democracy that e-mail communications, especially e-mail lists that circulate and discuss leglislation. The town meeting, once public, and requiring one identify oneself when making statements, has been replaced by a more sinister "secret" meeting, or should I call it "chat room." Various techniques are used to manipulate who is and is not included, and, in general, access to this form of "government" is limited by limited, or limiting income.
  • Seniors and persons with disabilities, living on extreem limited fixed income, are usually priced out of this form of government access, they are not included in the conversation. Low income workers, single parents, and of course, the homeless are also left behind as this form os "sharing" information at the policy making level. The fact is that if fees for service is the requirement for inclusion, half of Americans will be left out of the national, State, County and Local conversation!!!
  • The solution to this will not be easy to imagine, as it is not only an old dog computer that allowes dial up, or access to the library, for 1/2 hour per week, that is necessary to "be involved." One idea that has been floated, and not to solve the problem of who will be included, is blanklet Wi-Fi. Once again, how will we include those who cannot afford to be connected? Google, has an idea, and the decision that will be made in San Fransico will reverberrate from sea to sea.