Summer is more than half over, which means it’s time to look ahead to the Great Minnesota Get-Together, the State Fair. But before we start thinking about fall, let’s keep enjoying this beautiful summer we’ve had lately. All that June rain was followed by a mild and sometimes cool July. I’m not complaining.
The State Fair has some new attractions this year. Heritage Square has changed completely. Well, it actually no longer exists; a new exhibit and restaurants will take its place. Scooter and wheelchair rentals can be reserved, 24 hours prior to your visit. Metro Transit and Metro Mobility are offering many new accessible rides to the grounds from many more of the park-and-ride sites. Find out more here.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has also increased accessibility features at many of the state parks, giving all of us new opportunities to take better advantage of the outdoors. We’ve got a few months before the snow flies, so why not plan a visit to the parks to bird-watch, to hunt and fish, to see the fall colors and enjoy many other activities that have not been accessible to us previously.
The Olmstead Planning Committee has finished its search for a new executive director, and, as many of you know, Darlene Zangara has been chosen. She introduced herself at the recent 24th anniversary event for the ADA, and it seems like the committee made a good choice. I look forward to meeting her and getting a one-on-one interview for Access Press. We need a strong leader to achieve the goals set out in the plan, which is to create access for all individuals with disabilities to living, learning, working and enjoying life in the most integrated setting in Minnesota communities.
The Olmstead Plan will be an ever-evolving document, continually refined to best suit the needs of the disability community. The document itself needs to address truly broad topic areas: competitive and meaningful employment, safe housing, reliable transportation, K-12 and higher education, access to lifelong learning, and most importantly, social services that support the personal care needs of people with disabilities to ensure access to all these life activities. This is one reason that we all must contact the planning committee to share our thoughts about what is working and what is not working. There is wording in the plan requiring the committee to look at modifications to the document on a six-month cycle. In order to make positive modifications to the plan, the committee will need to target clear and measurable outcomes that determine how the plan is working for all Minnesotans. Public comments can be sent to [email protected]
On August 1, the Star Tribune ran a lengthy story on the raise of minimum wage, from $6.15 to $8, in Minnesota. The article featured a story about Jacquita Berens, who will earn around $53 more a week for her 70-hour workweek. Berens holds three jobs, one of them as a personal care assistant. Berens stated that this increase in income will come in very handy. Indeed. Recently, we celebrated a 5% increase in our PCA reimbursement rate, which was a fantastic accomplishment of which we should be very proud. W also all know that our personal care attendants are still not making ends meet in many cases. There’s something wrong when our personal care assistants are often eligible for many of the same social services for which their clients are eligible. The real kicker about that front-page article in the Star Tribune was pointed out in letters to the editor the next day. A former corporate chief operations officer wrote to point out that just opposite the minimum wage article was another article about Target Corporation hiring its new chief executive officer, Brian Cornell, who will be making about $100,000 per day, or $36 million per year. It’s hard to grasp what job responsibilities could be worth that kind of salary. And what kind of responsibilities are worth a $53 per week increase? One of these earners is taking care of our most vulnerable Minnesota citizens while the other is responsible for millions of dollars in stock returns to Target Corporation investors who are also most likely millionaires or billionaires. I wonder which PCA will get the grand job of taking care of Cornell’s aging parents?
Have a great month and don’t forget nominations are due for the Charlie Smith Award banquet.