Editor’s Column – December 2016

As the year wraps up, I’ve got a few things I’d like to look back on and people I’d like […]

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Tim BenjaminAs the year wraps up, I’ve got a few things I’d like to look back on and people I’d like to recognize. First off, there’s Cliff Poetz, the 2016 Charlie Smith Award winner. We had a great celebration last month recapping his advocacy work. Charlie Larkin, retired director of the Institute on Community Integration, introduced Cliff and provided highlights of his impact over a long career as an advocate. Jerry Smith, also from ICI, provided us with a short documentary. If you missed it, go to our Facebook page and check it out. It’s a bio-pic with some fun laughs. Jerry did a great job of weaving humor into some of the incredible things that Cliff has done to better the quality of life for all of us. Cliff’s own sense of humor is as great as his accomplishments. As I went onstage to present him with the award, he caught me off guard with one of his typical Cliff remarks (“Ok, Tim, come on up and do what you’ve gotta do.”), and I forgot completely what I was going to say.

So since I forgot that night, I want to give my thanks here to everyone for another excellent Charlie Awards dinner: the sponsors, the folks who purchased tables, those who made donations at the event, those who donated and bid on auction items, and all the attendees. We also owe a very special thanks to Senator Amy Klobuchar for her welcoming remarks: people were saying that Minnesota has two very funny senators. Finally, I want to thank the Access
Press Board of Directors, my fantastic staff and the hotel banquet staff for all the planning and execution of a perfect night. The new venue was great, and we had plenty of room for people to get around—between many of the tables two wheelchairs could pass without interrupting those seated. I’m looking forward to next year, and hope you are, too.

Another person I want to extend public thanks to is U.S. Circuit Judge Donovan Frank. We were fortunate to be invited to Judge Frank’s chambers just a couple weeks ago to talk about the Olmstead Plan, how it should affect people with disabilities and how the State of Minnesota should keep its promises to the disability community. Judge Frank is a true ally of the disability community. I really think that he understands our issues completely. Many of us have talked over the years about having policymakers spend a day in a wheelchair to understand what it’s like to use a wheelchair as your only mode of mobility. Well, Judge Frank would be one person I would say doesn’t need to go through that; he already understands and can identify with the difficulties of living with a disability.

Finally, I want to say a sad goodbye and huge thanks to Ellen Houghton, who is retiring. Ellen has been this paper’s desktop publisher for its entire 26-year history. We will miss her collaboration, her skills and most of all her always uplifting attitude. She has been the rock, the backbone of Access Press. She will be missed! We hope for her a long healthy retirement and that she will be dropping in now and again. Thank you, Ellen. We love you!

Have a good month and we’ll talk later.


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  • "Stay safe, Minnesota. Take steps to protect yourself & others from the COVID-19 virus."

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