Editor's Column - January 2006

It seems like we just entered the new millennium and here we are in the second half of its first decade already. I’d like to extend New Year’s greetings and best wishes for 2006 to all Access Press readers. While a new year always brings promise, this one opens with some real challenges. A couple issues have come up over the holiday season that should concern all of us, and in this issue we turn right to them with some in-depth articles.

First, the U.S. budget reconciliation bill that was recently passed with Vice President Cheney’s tie-breaking vote, may bring problems soon to those of us on Medicaid. The Pioneer Press reported that “Minnesota counties’ case management programs should brace for a $121 million cut. A reduction of that size would knock 400 families from the county’s child services and child protection roster, or increase staff caseloads by about 20%. That’s a tall order, as caseloads in some areas are already near record highs.” These case management programs are the programs that fund the public health nurses and social workers for the poor, disabled, and elderly. Case managers, most of them already overloaded, are necessary to keep us out of institutions and to direct us to the social services that keep us living independently. At this point it just isn’t clear how much and where these reductions will affect the disability community.

I just heard that the US House recessed before they could vote on the final wording, so the bill was not enacted into law. This gives us another chance to fight the passing of this bill. When Congress returns at the end of January 2006, the House will again take up the issue. We must call our legislators now and urge them to reconsider, and vote against the passage of this bill. The following representatives should be called: Gutknecht, Kennedy, Kline, Osborne, Ramstad. We will keep you posted. For more information see www.bazelon.org/takeaction/index.htm.

Second, President George W. Bush’s Supreme Court nominee, Samuel A. Alito, Jr., has a troubling record with regard to disability issues. Lance Hegland has written an informative article about Judge Alito’s background and how a Supreme Court judge can affect the interpretation of legislation for many years. The confirmation of Judge Alito, Supreme Court scholars’ say, will most likely weaken enforcement of the Americans with Disability Act. Agencies like the Department of Housing and Urban Development will possibly have to abide by a new style of interpreting the ADA. Alito is considered to have a strict constructionist philosophy, which means he limits his interpretation of the law to the actual wording and phrasing used in the law without giving as much weight to its intent. In some situations this could be considered good, but unfortunately, the ADA has some vague wording and phrasing and there is much to read between the lines in interpreting its intent. A constructionist approach could be devastating to the disability community’s rights to employment, housing, and freedom from discrimination.

Herb Drill contributes a couple of articles about what happened at the World Congress on Disabilities Convention in December. He discusses a media panel that critiqued media coverage of disability issues. The articles bring home for us here at Access Press how important it is that Minnesota’s disability community has its own newspaper. Through Access Press we have some control over coverage of disability issues. Unlike most mainstream media, Access Press relies on people with disabilities as reporters and news sources and not just as examples. These articles make me proud of what we work hard to accomplish at Access Press.

Finally, on a personal level, with a new year ahead, I am reminded of the importance of paying attention to my own motivations in everything. I need to constantly remind myself of how easily my motivation can be, in the words of a wise friend, “polluted by ego.” I have to remember that doing the good deed isn’t meant to make me feel that “I’m a good person.” The intent of doing good actions, in personal life as well as in politics, is not to satisfy individual needs or ego but to help others, to help us all live better and happier lives. Here’s hoping for a good start on that in 2006.