Editor's Column - January 2019

I hope everyone had a great holiday season. It’s always a time to reconnect with family and friends.

I had a very good time in Arizona with my siblings and in-laws and each of their expanding families. It seems there’s a new addition to the families every year. I was fortunate enough to have a first real connection with a grandnephew who is a fearless 4-year-old. His grandmother, my sister, called me before I arrived at her home to tell me not to get out of my van until they were outside, because “Maverick wants to watch the van ramp come out.” It was great fun; he was pushing people away to watch, and after he had seen how the first tie-down worked, when I left, he took care of securing me in place. He’ll be the next engineer in our family.

The new year means lots of new activity for the Access Press family. On January 3, governor-elect Tim Walz named more commissioners. Senator Tony Lourey will be commissioner of the Department of Human Services, and Jan Malcolm, the commissioner of the Department of Health, will stay on. We should be happy with these two picks. Commissioner Malcolm has experience in this role, and Governor Walz will be the third governor she has worked with. She is a brilliant, compassionate and ideal public-spirited professional person for the position, and a great mentor for her eventual successor.

Commissioner Lourey has had plenty of experience with health and human services, after chairing the Health and Human Services Finance committee from 2013-2016 during the Democratic majority in the Senate. We need someone with a strong financial background to find the means to run the largest state agency, and to finance one-third of the state budget—which in my opinion is already in a financial crisis. We need new inventive ways to finance and improved Minnesota’s quality of life; we need a creative thinker at DHS who can critically think though and judge how to meet the current and future medical needs of all Minnesotans.

With President Trump holding everything up with his eccentric government shutdown to build his southern boarder wall, we may have a much harder time working with state government to improve Minnesotans’ quality of life. The impact and long-term repercussions of this irrational act will hit us when we cannot get federal funding for new social programs or federal matching funds for current programs like subsidized housing, day care, and food stamps. Will we be worried in another month about payment of individual tax refunds? The possible list of major consequences is long. I hope by the time you read this, the shutdown is history and we don’t see a repeat of this political tactic ever again.

The disability community needs some new tactics also with the news that Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities transitions from a staff-led grpup to volunteer leadership and a donation-based consortium. The plan, as I understand it, is that MNCCD will be hiring a lobbyist to work at the capital for the group’s political priorities. I hope MNCCD can go back to its old ways of running and be as effective as it was in its volunteer run days. MNCCD was very effective in its old ways of getting many independent living programs established—like the PCA program, subsidized housing for the disabled, advancement in state-covered medications for brain injuries and mental healthcare and medical assistance for employed people with disabilities.

As the new year begins, I am happy to report that 2018 was a good one for
Access Press. We received funding from the UCare Foundation and from the Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation, in addition to many generous individual donations. We’re moving forward with strategic planning, board and staff development, a new more accessible website, a new computer and networking system and many other improvements. The computer system is almost done, thanks to Microsoft volunteers. The strategic planning efforts will include contacting stakeholders for input, so many of you will be phoned and surveyed to help with ideas for improvements and how to develop a 21st century Access Press.

Have a good month and please help with your best ideas for preserving and improving Access Press.