Editor's Column - September 2013

In a summer of unusually mild weather, it kind of figured that the end of August would bring a week of record-breaking heat just in time for the State Fair. Attendance hit some record-breaking lows because of the heat. Then the last Sunday of the State Fair was a beautiful day and because of the cooler temperatures the final two days of the Fair resulted in record-breaking crowds. Oh well. Normal is overrated.

This year’s Charlie Smith Award banquet will be on the first Friday in November as it has been for the last nine years. This year we’ve received nominations for a very strong mix of candidates for the Charlie Smith Award. Throughout this issue, we have biographies and photographs of most of the nominees. As you’ll see after reading them, the Access Press board of directors had a difficult time choosing the honoree. Every one of the nominees deserves applause from each of us for their hard work and efforts to improve the lives of Minnesotans with disabilities and our older adults. Each one has made a distinct impact on the disability community and expanded the services that are available to our community. We will be inviting each of the nominees to the banquet, and I hope you’ll plan to come, applaud them, and help us give special recognition to 2013 Charlie Smith Award recipient, Cal Appleby. Appleby has a long record of accomplishments, but we want especially to recognize his contributions in making higher education at Augsburg University more accessible to people with disabilities.

Sue Mattson has written a very informative commentary on the Olmstead plan. As you’ll read, Mattson has been closely following what will be a landmark change for the future of Minnesota’s disability community. She brings forward some challenging concerns from the committee working on the Olmstead plans. She explains how this plan will affect the Minnesota Department of Human Services and how DHS interacts with all of us who use their services. It is very difficult to achieve both constructive transparency and policy oversight in such a huge state agency, but we need both in an organization that manages so much taxpayer money. All of us have responsibilities as taxpayers and clients of the Department of Human Services, and DHS in turn has the tremendous responsibility to supply social health supports, with swiftness and dignity as the legislature has intended. Unfortunately, sometimes the way that legislation is ultimately written and adopted slants one intent or philosophy over others, and the way that supports are delivered and used do not always execute the same legislative intent. It’s critical that the Olmstead plan establish clear guidelines, and well-defined appeal processes that are weighted in favor of the consumer rather than in favor of the department.

Congratulations to all those self-advocates, Commissioners, council members and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, who worked to make the light rail more accessible to the skyway. Now with the new elevator in such close proximity to the light rail station and to the skyway, people with mobility disabilities will have a much easier time during the winter to access each area. We thank you for your hard work and dedication.

Finally, a reminder that MNCCD’s 5% Campaign is in full swing. The campaign rollout in Duluth was a huge success with Rep. Tom Huntley (DFL—Duluth) signing on along with other legislators from northern Minnesota. I understand also that some Congressional staffers at the state fair became excited about the new campaign and will be supporting it. Now, we all have to attend one of the forums that

MNCCD is putting on for the campaign (see the Events listing on page 12). We also have to encourage our caregivers to support the campaign by being at the forums and telling their stories.

Stay safe and enjoy the beautiful September weather while it lasts.