Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Tax Deferral is NOT an Acceptable Substitution For Tax Relief

It's not nice to fool our seniors!
Tonight, in City Council, the proposals from the City re the Tax Attack we have been subjected to failed to provide meaningful tax relief for seniors over 65, and did NOT provide any tax relief for persons who cannot work as a result of their disability and survive on SSI.
Instead, tax deferral was offered, which is a taking, albeit later, and which is not tax relief. What we need is to raise the "Income Limit" used to qualify from $20,000 to at least $40,000. The COLA should have been used each year so our seniors were not left behind.
Also ignored, was tax relief for those on SSI. Is it the intention of our State and City that homeowners who become disabled should not be provided any tax relief whatsoever? Our tax policy means we think PWDs do not have a right to live in their own homes. I believe this is wrong, and this needs to be fixed. This is the FOURTH year in a row that I have said this.
Last year, as a result of my continued speaking about this problem, Councillor David Maher put in a "late order" that was signed onto by the full council. It called for a "report" on the effect escallating property taxes had on seniors and persons with disabilities. Here is a copy of the order, but, WHERE IS THE REPORT???



November 22, 2004


The City Manager be and hereby is requested to appoint a special committee to look at issues of escalating property tax assessments and their effect on long term, senior, and disabled residents; and be it further

That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to direct this special committee to report back to the City Council prior to the submission of the Fiscal Year 2006 budget on its findings, including answers to the following questions:

1. Are there additional steps that the City of Cambridge could take in this matter?
2. Are there legislative changes that the City should be proposing to the state?

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Yuppy Ghetto

Well, here is a photo or two, (LOL) of the brand spanking new Yuppy Ghetto that for some unfathomable reason the City of Cambridge permitted. It consists of twenty town houses and condo units of three bedrooma, family units, and one car gargarge parking for each unit. Not one single unit is accessible. Nor visitable. The State of MA requires that sidewalks be 48" wide, but here, at Valentine Place, the sidewalk is only 36" wide at the wisest part, with some parts of the sidewalk only 33"wide, which is a violation of both State and Federal standards. I might add, that since no one with a disability is allowed to rent or visit these new dwellings, that it is also a violation of Fair Housing Laws and Ordinances. If the City continues to allow housing like this to be built, soon we will have segration, with no place for persons with mobility issues to live. This is certainly inconsistant with the concept of home care. While I agree we should not force owners of properties constructed before 1990, the year the ADA was passed, to modify their units for accessability, I thought we would pass ordaninces to insure we would not build any more housing that, BY DESIGN, discriminated against persons with mobility disabilities. When will we ever learn?

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Visitability or Universal Design

This post is dedicated to Mark!

The question of the week is Visitability or Universal Design? Now that it is obvious that a major portion of New Orleans needs to be rebuilt, we ask, to what standards should new construction be held to. Stories of persons with disabilities being trapped in their own homes, because their wheelchairs couldn't fit through the doors makes us all wonder; why do we continue to build housing that is inaccessable?

Perhaps we hope no one in our family will ever need a wheel chair, or electric scooter? But, what if we are wrong? What if our significant other suffers a stroke? Our beautiful daughter is struck by a drunk driver? Our son suffers a spinal cord injury on the football field? What if our boss's wife can't get into our new MacMansion with her brand new, shiny, red electric scooter? DA!

Today most people, given a choice, would certainly choose a house that would allow our all our son's friends to come to his birthday party, all our daughters supporters to come to her bar mitzfa, and even our mother in law to visit, if only for a week. Given the choice. But most people will not get that choice. Builders are out to maximize profits. Unless we, like other cities and states, adopt minimum building standards, new homes will continue to be built that discriminate against people with disabilities.

Which is better, visitability or accessability?

I have now come to the conclusion that visitability is preferrable. It is a good median. It allows for basic accessibility, and can be easily modified to provide more access. Of course the modifications would come at the home owner's expense. The expense of including visitability is modest, estimated to be between $100 and $600, depending on design elements. This cost is minimal considering the benifits, marketability, and the insurance it provides in case someone in your very own family should need a scooter.

Cambridge should adopt visitability standards for all new housing construction, both as an innoculation against charges of segregation that will result if new housing discriminates against people with disabilities, and so those builders that want to build to that standard aren't priced out of the market by unethical developers who just don't care about the community.

What do you think? Visitability or Universal Design?

Massachusetts' Unsustainable fiscal Policy

The City of Cambridge and the State of Massachusetts has an unsustainable fiscal policy.
This needs to be corrected immediately!
The State of Florida has 1/2 as many nursing home beds as Mass, per capita of elderly population. What this means is that Mass needs to expand home care, and help seniors and persons with disabilities stay in their own homes as long as is feasible.
For the last ten years other states have taken effective action to reduce over dependence on nursing home care. They have instituted home care programs that are as much as 10 times less costly to the tax payer. Mass needs to catch up fast, as our budget cannot continue to bend over for the instirutional care lobby. People who need nursing home care shopuld be provided the best possible care, and that is not possible when homes are flooded with those who want and can remain in their own homes.
The cost to the taxpayer has risen 17% from 2000 to 2004, and is choking the budget. The "waiting list" for moving out of nursing homes and back into the community has been reported to be as many as 700! The stste needs to address this problem with a comprehensive plan, not political knee jerks. The first move should be HELPING seniors and PWD's on SSI remain at home by removing barriers. By barriers, I don't just mean visitability, but the disparate tax burden must be removed. Living on extremely limited fixed income does not work when medical bills and taxes together make up all of ones "income." the State must provide meaningful property tax relief for seniors, and raise the income limits from $20,000 to $40,000. The State MUST include people who are unable to work as a result of their disabilities, surving on SSI, statutory tax relief equall to that of seniors under clause 41. Currently max SSI is $693 per month. Taxpayers cannot afford to push these "property tax payers" out of their homes and into institutions where not only do they not pay taxes anymore, but it now costs 20 times as much the SSI income to support them in the nursing home!!!
In addition, the State should provide for waivers of fees, such as the luxury tax on that old car with HP plates used as a medical necessity! And why are persons with disabilities surviving on SSI not even covered by any "program" in the City of Cambridge? Is this the case in all the cities in Mass?
It is one thing to support home care, but this must include helping seniors remain in their own homes in the first place. Comprehensive property tax and fees reform as an incentive is needed. It makes no sense to tax folks out of their homes and into nursing homes and then put them on a long wait list to be returned to the community! END THIS VICIOUS CIRCLE!!!
Another issue is accessibility. How can one return home if the house is not made accessible? In the past housing was not built with the needs of seniors and people with disabilities in mind. Today, we should NOT be regreating the problems of the past. I believe that we should require all new homes to be built to the standards of Visitability. More on this later.

Police POLICY fails to protect guide dog from bike on crowded sidewalk threat

Here is what the problem looks like, a bike, violating the State's Motor Vehicle Laws, riding on a crowded sidewalk in Central Square, on Mass Ave near Inman St, right outside City Hall, and only yards from the Police Station.
The bike comes up from behind a blind pedestrian using a guide dog. This "team" does not have the same "ability" as other pedestrians to jump aside, to avoid the danger. The bike rider believes he alone, should decide how much risk the blind pedestrian with guide dog should be exposed to.
Seniors, and persons with disabilities have repetedly testified in meetings and hearings that they do not want to be subjected to this danger time and again. We want the bikes off the sidewalks.
The City Coulcil plays the same "claim and blame" game, passing the buck to the City Manager. In a meeting last winter on the "4 Polint Of Safety" where the Police Commissioner's asigned City Attorney speaks for him, the City trys to limit risk, whild advocation more propaganda, ie more "education for the public." No ordinance is ordered by City Council to require the Police to enforce the Motor Vehicle Laws and protect seniors and people with disabilities from risk and unnessary danger, thereby denying their right to safe access to sidewalks, accessible pedestrian ramps and crosswalks.
City Council Holds another "Talk Show!"
On Wednesday, September 20, at the joint committee meeting re "bikes running red lights," deputy Superintendent Robert F. Ames presented information, a "report", claiming that bikes running red lights was still a problem, but they had succeeded in reducing "crosswalk" violations. No report on violations of bikes blocking the accessible pedestrian ramps was made, even though I brought this complaint to the Mayor, and then the City Council two years ago. On June 30, 2005, I photographed a police assignment enforcing the Motor Vehicle Laws in Central Sq. they stoped cars, but not bikes. The crosswalk and accessable pedestrian ramps were continually blocked. A blind person using a whits cane "ran into" a car blocking the accessible pedestrian ramp, after negociating his way around biks stopped on the crosswalk, and he went the wrong way around. NO ONE OF THE OFFICERS CAME TO HIS AID!!!
How many books are there?
When I raised this point during public comment, Deputy Superintendent Ames replied that the individual officers were to blame, and that they should ticket the bikes violating MV laws. However, is this really the truth? Isn't it true that when the officers were assigned to duty in Central Square, the officers were issued the "book" that is for cars and NOT the "book" that is for bikes? Isn't it true that police on bikes are issued the "book" that has violations for bikes? Isn't it true that officers assigned to foot patrol are issued neither of these two books? They are issued books for parking? Why didn't Deputy Superintendent Ames explain this to the City Councillors? Isn't this the REAL policy of the CPD and the City?
Washing their hands!
Why didn't the City Councillors ask questions that would reaveal the problem is with the practice and policy of the police? Has the city council used the public input and concerns to develop questions that would help them "get control" of the police policy? Or do we live in a police state where the City Councillors are helpless elected bystanders, forever wringing their hands, or should I say, washing their hands?

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Lady in Red Shoes

A senior with red shoes came to the Special City Council Meeting, with the Massachusetts Delegation to discuss issues and concerns regarding property taxes and municipal revenue, held at 5:30pm on Sept 22, 2005. A total of 5 members of the Mass Delegation appeared through their staff: Amy Seto from Rachael Kaprielian office, Rosie Hunter from Anne Paulson's office, Korynn Schorly from Alice Wolf's office, Matt McKenna from Steven Tolman's office and last but not least, Jimmy Gondolfe from robert Travaglini's office. Several of us plain old residents of this City were there, and well prepared for our 3 min allowence of "hearing from the public." We were quite surprized by the Mayor's show of generosity in extending our time limit to 5 min.

Almost as soon as the meeting was called to order, the delegation was questioned as to how to spell their names, and whose office they werew from. This, of course, was one of the main reasons the public came, even if that reason was not what the City council had in mind. Shortly after the first speaked addressed the miks, the Lady in Red Shoes got up and walked out. I quickly followed her into the hall, and she turned to me almost in tears, "They are going to raise our taxes again." she stated firmly, but quite shaking, so I showed her my e-mail address and new blog address, and invited her to contact her, and told her I was fighting for her.

Even before I returned to my seat my name was called. i want to thank Amy, Rosie, Korynn, Matt and Jimmy for coming to here us. I know that another invited member of the Mass delegation, one who didn't come, thought this meeting would be filled with a bunch of people who don't know what is going on, and who just need to vent! But those members of the delegation who did come were treated to something quite different, we do know what is going on, and we expect both the Mass Delegation and the Cambridge City Council to listen-up! I believe we each spoke to a different aspect of the "Tax-attack" as I prefer to call it, or the Tax Bomb as new candidate for City council likes to call it.

The Lady in Red Shoes calls it unfair to seniors.

Indeed, whatever other inequities the Mass Property Tax codes, and City of Cambridge property Tax system have, the disparate burden to seniors is glaring. which is why I cannot understand why the Special Tax Committee called for by David Maher, City Councilor, failed to address needed reform of the Statutory Exemptions. certainly there must be 3 dozen bills on the hill screaming obout the need of seniors for tax relief. Let me state right not, tax deferrment is not to be confused with tax relief!!! Tax deferrment is just a taking, albeit later, not now. Common now, it's not nice to fool seniors who have been paying taxes and voting for you guys for years now. Tax relief, and the long delayed reform of the Statutory Exemptions is what is called for here.

Disparate Burden

Seniors with extreemly low fixed income and persons with disabilities who are unable to work as a result of their disability and live on SSI, are hardest hit when the State shifts the burden of taxes from income based revenues to property taxes and fees for service. but that is just what the state has done. not only that, the State has not provided any statutory exemption for those surviving on SSI. Does the State believe that homeowners who become disabled should lose their homes because the property tax and water fees exceeds 10% of their income, even aproaching 25% of SSI benifits?

The State needs to increase the $20,000 income limit for Statutory exemption 41 and include PWDs on SSI. Please note that the low income limit is BELOW the income limit to qualify for the City's Snow Exemption Program, whis is set each January using the Executive Office of Elder Affairs Guidelines for State funded home care services, and currently is $21,339. If the Median Income in the Boston Area is $57,900 today, what was it when the income limit for clause 41 was set at $20,000? Are the Cities allowed to apply COLA to raise the income limet annually? Should not the state require that? In New Jersey ther is an effort to raise the income limit from $40,000 to $60,000. Other states are looking at a freeze for seniors and the permanently disabled.

I must say I am disapointed with the Usuall Suspects, the mainstream news media for failing to report on this. Instead they confine themselves to repeating the propaganda they hear at "Talk Shows" or public meetings, hearings, as though lip service was a substitute for concrete action. Therefore I was upset at the meeting Thursday, as my letter to the editor was not published in time for the meeting. Senior issues are being brushed aside, and People With Disibilities are ignored altogether! We are the invisible people! I am calling on the mainstream media, to report on the issue of the disparate burden property taxes place on seniors AND people with disabilities, and how that relates to POVERTY!!!

Here is a copy of the letter I sent to the Cambridge Mass Delegation:

Dear Representatives and Senators,

Property taxes and Fees places a disparate burden on folks with limited fixed income, seniors and persons with disabilities living on SSI, whether or not they are tenents or homeowners.

Many of our elected officials clearly understand this issue, but have failed to take effective action; instead giving us a talk show with propaganda and lip service.

We should ask, and I am now you, "What effective legislation have you writen or filed that would remove this unfair disparate burden to people with disabilities living on SSI and seniors living on limited fixed income?"

Please send your response to me at the address listed below, or by e-mail.


Kathy Podgers

Friday, September 23, 2005

Naughty girl, you have to follw the rules!

No Lunch For Me Today At Senior Center!!

After going to the meeting re property taxes this
Morning at City Hall, I returned home to rest. I
Called S.P. about signing up for the City’s Snow
Exemption Program, and was told an aid had been
Trying to call me. So I gave her my cell, as normally
I do not answer my land line, which is downstairs. I
Also asked if she would provide for me a copy of this
years application and info, she said she would leave
it for me at the front desk.

After a brief rest, back up and out, to the Senior Center,
where I can print my e-mails. I arrived a few min
before noon, and thought I would have lunch if they had
enough. I asked at the desk if I needed to get a “ticket”
and was told, no, just get in line. At the cafeteria I walked
in and was told no late lunch until 12pm, and to sit down,
but there were no chairs, so I went upstairs. Af 12 I returned
down to the cafeteria, and was in line with my things
set up on my tray…

“Do you want soup?” she asked, “What is it?” I amswered.
“Vegetable soup.”, “Sure.” I replied. She carefully ladeled
it into a styro bowl, then asked “Do you have your “Senior
Dine” card?” I replied, confused, “I’m sorry, but what did
you say?” “Do you have your meals card?” “Oh, I don’t
have a card, but I am sure I qualify for it, but I have
never been asked for a card before, is this new?” “It’s a
couple of months, now. I can’t serve you if you don’t
have the card.”

The lady next to her said “Don’t wory, you can still get lunch,
Go over there, and wait in line, and fill out an application.” I
Told her I would go sit down, with all the stuff I was holding,
and could someone please give me the application. No, was
the answer, you have to go over there, and stand in line. I
explained that I was disabled, and not feeling well, and I
didn’t think I could balance the tray, and stand in line while
everyone was paying for their lunchs, and at the same time
fill out an application. “You look like you can walk ok to me,
no one is going to give you the form, you have to stand in line.

Hidden disability.

So, I went to sit doen, but there were no seats, and I was being
Yelled at that I had to stand in line and fill out the application. So,
I went to the front desk, to ask for Emma, and was told she was
not there. SP was called. I found a seat at a table in the hall, and
at down, shaking all over, now. When SP came I tried to tell her
what had happened, and what the problem was, but she told me
she didn’t need to here from me, and started excoriating me. “They
didn’t ask you to prove you are disabled.” Indeed. “No, SP. I told
them, and they didn’t believe it, and wouldn’t help.” SP not listening.
“I am going upstairs to the lab, now.” I told her. No form given to me.

No Stand In Line, No Application!

I put my things down in a chair, and went out to purchase a sandwich

Thursday, September 22, 2005

What the Chronicle failed to include in today's edition!

Hi Deb Eisner, editor, Cambridge Chronocle, I have "cut" the sentance that "endorses" so I hope you will run this?

BTW I did not recieve in the mail the tax info that was just sent.


To the editor -- This year's property tax increase falls disproportionately on senior citizens and people with disabilities. It's forcing them to make hard choices about going into public housing or nursing homes rather than stay in their own home.

This will drive taxes up for everyone else in the long run, because it's more expensive to support people in public housing than in their own home. People on Disability SSI have a maximum fixed income of $693 per month, and seniors also have fixed limited income. When taxes and fees for service approach 25% of that fixed income, those people are forced out of their homes.

The City Council's tax increase last year pushed many people on fixed income into that category -- where their property taxes exceeded their ability to pay. That's not an affordable housing policy -- it's a policy that pushes the most vulnerable homeowners out of their homes.

We need to fix this problem. I have attended the meetings the special tax committee has held, and have followed up on the Senior Town Meeting reports.
I have confidence that the City needs to understand thoroughly the issue of the disparate burden of property taxes on senior citizens and people with disabilities, in order to take the effective action necessary to insure our most vulnerable homeowners are not displaced.

Yours very truely, Kathy Podgers, Pearl St
I had hoped this letter would have run in today's edition of the Chronicle, as there is a special City Council meeting at 5:30 this evening, especially to "host" the Mass delegation on "The Hill." Now I wonder, what was the REAL reason the Chronicle didn't print my lketter to the editor?

Keep families together, keep neighborhoods together, and bring the pets!

The out islands protecting Galveston Bay are looking like a ghost town this morning, as the massive evacuation of 60,000 residents has gone so much more smoothly than in New Orleans. The key to getting residents to evacuate Galveston two days before landfall of Rita is keeping families and neighbors together, and providing reasonable assurance of security; plenty of troops.
Oh, and please, bring your pets!
The outcry of those who had to leave their pets behind in disorganized fleeing of flood waters in the aftermath of Katrina, and the heart wrenching video of desperate family "members" struggeling to swim to rescue boats, is now recognized as unnessary. I have called many times for keeping families together in emergency plans.
Now, think about this, can anyone imagine why a blind woman would be asked to leave her guide dog behind? No service animals allowed in emergency evacuations? Truely hard to imagine, sometimes, man's inhumanity to man. It is no wonder people with disabilities, who have long been "left behind" would choose to stay behind with man's best friend!
Houston, we are with you!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Blocked Access at Central Sq. Crosswalk

Three motorcycle police officers were on assignment at this intersection. They seemed to "take turns" enforcing traffic laws. I did see them stop a couple of cars that ran the light. But they did absolutely nothing about the repetedly blocked crosswalk, which posed a hazard especially to individuals with mobility disabilities. It is the City's responsibility to insure people have safe access. The police must be given all the "books" they need to enforce the many and various violations!

104 Disability rights activists arrested!!!!!

News FLASH!!! I have just recieved from one of my news feeds a story that 500 ADAPT activists occupied the offices of Congressional leaders Monday, and 104 were arrested! I have NOT seen this story from the usual suspects, (mainstream media) and I am begining to believe we truely are the "invisible individuals!" ADAPT has been concerned about the medical cuts that are forcing individuals back into nursing homes at a huge expense to the taxpayers, not to mention the loss of freedom individuals experience. End wharehousing now!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Dragon's Teeth

Upton Sinclair was born on this day, in 1878. He wrote Dragon's Teeth in 1942, about the rise of Nazism in Germany, which won the Pulitzer Prize in '43. He also wrote notable books about rats, Oil, and injustice.

Monday, September 19, 2005

A Many Headed Beast

In City Council, this evening, on the City Managers agenda, was a report on emergency preparedness efforts in the event of an influenza pandemic, received from Chief Public Health Officer, Harold Cox. This report states, among other things, that at the local level, Lynn Schoeff is the Director of Emergency Preparedness.

Earlier today, I received in the mail a response to my request to the Mayor, for the City's Emergency Management Plan, including evacuation and shelters.

"Thursday, September 15th, 2005, Dear Ms Podgers, Enclosed is a copy of the Evacuation report you have requested. If you have any specific questions or concerns, please contact the Director of the Emergency Management Department, David O'Connor, at 617 349 4842. Sincerely, Michael Sullivan, Mayor"

The next page is on letter head paper, City Of Cambridge, 147 Hampshire St, Emergency Management Department, David B. O'Connor, director.

"To Nicole Bukowski
from David O'Connor

If your constituent has questions please encourage her to call me"

This document is not dated.

The next page starts....


but it does not state what it is 3.12 of!!!

The 6 paragraphs raise more questions than answers, for example one sentence states "It is estimated that 20% of the population will require transportation." Gee, in another report the City claims that more than 40% of the population uses walking or biking for transportation. What is the 20% figure based on?

Another paragraph refers to "special needs" populations, as being in "facilities," and the facilities should have their own plans and resources; but no where does it address the needs or seniors and/or individuals with disabilities who are not "in facilities" and there is no plan mentioned for them. This is discrimination, and a fair housing violation.

This section of what document I don't know also states that there is an "Operation Exodus" plan. But Operation Exodus was not included in the mailing to me.

The next page is 3.13 Responsibilities For Evacuation Operations; A. Mitigation, A. Preparedness, B. Response, and C. Recovery. And, no, that is not a typo, there are two A's.

Of note is #5, under A. Preparedness, "Provide public education regarding evacuation procedures." I will get back to this.

Another page, included, Figure 3.0, Traffic Control Points (TCPS) & Evacuation Routes Map

There is nothing on this page, except the word "deleted" in magic marker.

The last page included is...3.14 Health Facility Evacuation Activities. This page should be a concern to all.

Now, back to preparedness, and providing public information regarding evacuation procedures...I have been trying to get information about this very thing, and made the round of calls, and finally prevailed upon the Mayor to see if he could get a-hold of this information. After I received this curious "report" by the Emergency management Department, director David o'Conner, I asked the following question of the following people and received the following responses...

Q...Is the Emergency Management And Evacuation Plan that provides for the City Of Cambridge, on the City of Cambridge website?

Vice Mayor Decker's office replied, "I don't know."

Mayor Sullivan's office replied to ask the City Manager.

The City Manager's office replied, "I don't know."

Back to Mayor Sullivan, "I'll let the Mayor know you want him to call you."

I have reported this In City Council this evening, and requested the City Council to please have the Emergency Management Plans published on the City's website.

Let's hope we can see these plans, and make sure they fill the bill, before we find out the hard way that they fall short.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Meeting Cindy

Yesterday I drove over to the Cambridge Common hoping to meet Cindy Sheehan. I parked in a designated HP space at the far end of the Common, and hiked to the entrance where the event, "Bring Them Home Now," was being "staged." I arrived quite late, and had a few minutes to visit tables set up with various pleas for justice. I asked each and every one who would listen, where are Civil Rights for persons with disabilities addressed in your concerns for justice? and pointed out that the event was not "accessible." The response to me was curious. More on this later.

Shortly, Cathy Hoffmann, director of the Cambridge Peace Commission began speaking. I wished to hear some modicum of truth from the director of the Peace Commission, here in Cambridge, but all I heard was passion! Now, don't get me wrong, but the truth about the war, is important, and seems to be ignored time after time. For example, back in the day, when I was a painting major at Mass College Of Art, I took a year off, got a job, and volunteered at Chelsea Naval Hospital to visit with the "medivacs" from the killing fields of Viet Nam. These were our generation's casualties that didn't die of their wounds on the battlefield, but lived to be lifted out of country and back to the Good Ol' USA. The wounded, a polite word, indeed, suffered some of the most disabling injuries one could imagine. Loss of legs or arms were some of the "minor" problems. The idea was we "co-eds" could restore their "sense of manhood" by letting them know we found them "attractive." You see, many were abandoned by their wives or girlfriends, as they were viewed as an ugly burden.

While I was playing chess with the armless, and walking with the legless, my classmates were cutting class and marching in the streets. This was their choice, and may have contributed to the realization that the war in Viet Nam was not in the best interest of the American People. Still, those who marched confused the justice issue with the political issue. The same thing seems to be happening today. The literature available at the event at the Common no where mentioned those casualties who will affect us the most, the ones who return to swell the ranks of Americans With Disabilities, now 56 million strong. Once again, persons with disabilities are ignored; we are the new "invisible man."

There were flyers...some were connecting the war in Iraq with "Katrina." One flyer, "After Katrina, Fund Full recovery Of Gulf Coast, Not War In Iraq," did carry a photo of one of those who was "left behind" and not evacuated. a man in a wheel chair, and his attendant. But the flyer did not see this as a Civil Rights issue for persons with disabilities, the right to be included in all programs, and not "left out", but as a racial discrimination issue, as the man was Black! No where in this flyer was the truth, that persons with disabilities had been abandoned, and left behind to drown like rats, even mentioned!!! The flyer stated at the end...
"Our voices must be heard. Call the White House to demand immediate and effective relief efforts in New Orleans, along the Gulf Coast, and wherever the refugees are being taken. The White House phone number is 202-456-1111. And make our own contribution through either of these two special hurricane relief funds: AFL-CIO and NAACP

BTW, did you know you can dedicate your donations to Katrina relief for aid to the disabled who were disproportionately affected? They have been scattered around the country, where they have not even been "signed up" for FEMA nor Red Cross aid. Some may even be permanently lost in the shuffle, and emergency relief workers do not even know they exist! The disabilities community is working on their own to find the lost and abandoned!

My message to Cambridge United for Justice with Peace...isn't it time you bagan addressing the affect of the Iraq war and the aftermath of Katrina on our very own communities? Shouldn't you begin "hearing our voice" and at least give us a line on your brochure, so at least we know you acknowledge "our right to exist?" Does the emergency evacuation plan here in Cambridge exist? Are we persons with disabilities, all disabilities included in the plan and in the planning? Does anyone care if it is a disability issue, and not political fodder?

After the speaking was over, protest music began, all the usual suspects (reporters from the established media) were there, and I saw Chris Helms smiling, hat askew, and jotting in his note book. The entrenched media also ignore us. Here is an event, purported to protest the harm suffered by our sons and lovers, which is held in an inaccessible area of the Common, and no one takes note? Why is that? How does the way the media portray us, or ignore us, contribute to the abandonment and loss of wonderful voices, Voices of Experience? Should the fact that some of us are black be used to divide us? Should racism be used as a red herring?

Then someone directed me to Cindy. She was holding a bunch of yellow roses. We spoke for a few minutes, and she heard me out. I gave her my name and email, and her aid promptly took it from her. She is a lovely woman. Not at all as portrayed in the bleating media!

We met, eye to eye, two women with experience.