Editor's Column - March 2004

Spring is a season of change and new beginnings, and Access Press is trying some new ways of laying out the paper. Our regular “In-Brief” section will have a different look and will be expanded to offer more news snippets from around the country and the world.  Also, we are trying to put together a simple and concise way for you to follow the legislative bills, and a summary of the ones we feel are the most important to people with disabilities.  If you have any ideas on how we might do this to best serve your interests and needs, please write or call with your suggestions.

Thanks to Anne Henry from the Disability Law Center, we have a better understanding of what the Legislature has to spend this session—or what they don’t have to spend.  The deficit was less than what was expected … only $160 million.  The governor’s new budget plans cut deeper into many of the social services that most people with disabilities and their families use.  Now more than ever, we all need to make ourselves visible.  Call your senators and representatives and let them know how last years’ cuts affected you.  It is vital for you to maintain close contact with your local disability organizations.  By keeping them informed about your ideas and your needs, they can advocate for you.  They can also call on you and help you tell your story to legislators, helping you advocate for yourself.  The best way to sway the legislators is to let them hear personal stories of how these budget cuts are affecting their constituents.  We elected them; their job is to listen to us!

It seems everyone is expecting Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005 to stay out on strike for quite some time.  The union represents about 2,200 bus drivers, mechanics, and other hourly bus line workers at Metro Transit.  In 1995, Local 1005 was on strike for 18 days.  Ron Lloyd, president of the transit union said he “wouldn’t be surprised if this one lasts two months.”  One of the main stumbling points of the negotiation has been the cost of health insurance for retirees.  This isn’t the first sign that the cost of health insurance is creating serious problems in our society; now is the time to start looking closely at universal health coverage for all citizens.  Although this strike does not affect Metro Mobility, it does affect the disability community and low-income people disproportionately.  Many of our Access Press friends use Metro Transit on a regular basis.  Indeed, one of the Access Press board members depends on Metro Transit to attend our board meetings.  If you’re affected by the bus strike let us know.  Also, call the Metropolitan Council Public Comment Line at 651-602-1500 to explain your situation and why this strike needs to end.  You may also want to call the Transit Union Local at 612-379-2914 and give them your support.