Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Howe Could They...

Updated 1-14-09

by Big Noise and Magitator

There is a perverse pride, being from Illinois. We take a chest thumping pride at our corrupt politics and gangster past. Our daughter, who lived in Chicago for several years, is now in Boston. When the Blago scandal broke, she and someone from Rhode Island were talking about it. The woman from RI was saying how corrupt their government was. Our daughter, with great bravado replied, “There was more corruption on my block in Chicago, than in the whole state of Rhode Island.”


Seriously, watch the Illinois pundits that provide commentary on national television. They smile while they pundit. Folks talk to one another about it on the street, smile and shrug. Illinois, the birthplace of “the smoke-filled room”; the “vote early and often” cliché; the patronage of the Dailey machine; the gangster owned city tow lots; and more. What more can we expect here?

I cannot deny I was a part of that Illinois “our politicians and more corrupt than your politicians” fun group. However, it all changed yesterday. I attended a committee hearing about the closure of Howe Developmental Center. We wanted to show our support for closure by showing up at the budget allocation commission meeting. No money means it would have to close.

Pic 1. Woman in raincoat talking on mic; second pic a sign that reads free our people, close Howe Now and third pic of young woman who uses a wheelchair and a man kneeling next to her.(Campaign for Real Choice Photo)

Howe is a hellhole of a residential facility. The federal government decertified it a year ago. Equip for Equality (our protection and advocacy agency) has investigated the facility seven times documenting describing in gruesome detail the deaths of 21 people and multiple instances of abysmal care. Two more people died there in the last two months. The United States Department of Justice is investigating violations of the Constitutional rights of the people living there.

The committee meeting was to start at 3:00. It started at 5:30 (it is after all, Illinois). When they finally met, their first order of business was to “quarantine” any action on the closure until sixty days after the senate impeachment trial verdict. Thus, they knocked the train to close Howe right off the track.

Have these folks every heard of multi-tasking? Can they only handle one thing at a time? People are dying for Christ’s sake!! Our most vulnerable people need action, their very lives are at stake; and this joint committee just put down the ball and walked off the court.

One legislator, Elaine Nekritz, Democrat from Des Plaines spoke for the closure of Howe. She noted Illinois dead last in offering community options to people with disabilities. She also pointed out we are under federal mandate to shut down these institutions. She was outvoted 10 to 1.

AFSCME, and other supporters of keeping Howe open want to use the additional time to pressure the politicians.

We have to use that same time to speak the truth to the legislators. As advocates for people with disabilities, we will use our voices for the most vulnerable. They should not disregard us. We have numbers: as we continue to organize ourselves, our strength will make them feel the power of the disability rights movement.

Crossposted at BigNoise

Here is excellent information on specifics on why Howe should be closed NOW

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Darrow Hozian

(Photo Description: Darrow smiling at the camera. Note the red bandanna he has on his left arm at the bottom of the picture; the bandannas served as our Action Team "colors" at last year's disability rights/independent living conference.)

I first met Darrow Hozian at the office of the Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities in Illinois. I had just been hired and a major part of my duties was to write, publish and mail "The Catalyst", our monthly newsletter. When my first issue was completed and the printer delivered them to the CCDI office to mail to our membership, I had no idea what to do.

Luckily, for me, Darrow and his long time partner Janice Faulstich, had volunteered to do CCDI’s mass mailings a long time before me. They knew what to do. They knew how to sort the 1800 addresses by zip code and which zip codes went in rubber bands with which other. I was so glad to be working with them. It wasn't all that easy either.

Both Darrow and Janice had Cerebral Palsy; I had a hard time understanding what they were saying. Sometimes, they would get as frustrated with me as I would be frustrated with myself. But, we worked well together for two years and liked and respected each other. The Coalition office isn’t the same since Darrow and Janice no longer volunteer their labor there.

Darrow was an individual of tremendous strength and good will. He and Janice’s phone number were at the top of many people with disabilities phone list. If someone's personal assistant didn't show up or someone needed additional help, Darrow was there. If he wasn't Janice was.

Last week we heard from Janice that Darrow was in Intensive Care. This was the second time in the last several months Darrow was admitted to the ICU. I guess we were in denial. It was difficult to imagine someone of Darrow’s strength life being threatened.

On Friday, January 9, Janice got off the elevator at the ICU and knew that Darrow had passed.

Darrow and Janice; it is hard to say one name without the other. But, each has their own identity. They agreed on many things but, like all couples, had their disagreements too. Janice is looking forward to returning home and volunteer for even more tasks. She might even look for a job.

JoAnn Bayer and Darrow Hozian both died in the first two weeks of the New Year. How sad for all of us whose lives have been touched by them. How sad for the Disability Rights Movement to lose two of our shining stars. How important it is for the rest of us to do our best to find dozens of replacements for each leader we have lost.

Cilla (BigNoise) also wrote about Darrow today. You can read her column here.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Harry and George H.W.

(Pictured: Harry Meiselman entertaining the crew playing his harmonica on the hangar deck of the USS San Jacinto circa, 1943)

President Bush and I share a history. We both have fathers who served aboard the USS San Jacinto in World War II. My father, Harry Meiselman, was an enlisted man who joined the Navy, just after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Before that, he was in vaudeville and worked in the Hoboken, N.J. ship yards. George H.W. Bush came from elite prep schools and Yale. My dad reached the rank of petty officer and “bossed” a quad 40 antiaircraft gun. George H.W. was an officer and a pilot.

Today, I watched the commissioning and setting of the first watch of the Navy’s newest nuclear powered super air craft carrier; which is named after my dad’s crew mate on the San Jacinto.

It filled me with emotion. First, was the disgust at the addition of a new weapon of mass destruction and world domination. Second though, was pride at seeing the crew of the boat running to “bring the ship to life.”

I saw our daughter, a Navy veteran,and the children of so many others of us facing the new challenges ahead them. I also thought of my father, as so many of our fathers, running to take their place in the struggle for victory in World War II.

My father died in 1963. Before George H.W. was elected to Congress, before he was CIA director, before he was Vice President or President. My father told a story about the shakedown cruise of the San Jacinto.

There weren’t many Jews on board; all of them were enlistees. The officer corps and the pilot positions were seemingly reserved for those of a higher class. My father referred to them as “young ivy leaguers”.

Before my father died, he told stories of “pogroms” aboard the ship. Young Ivy League pilots would search the ship looking for and beating jews. My father took pride that the Jewish crewmen gave as good as they got.

My father never mentioned George H.W. Bush by name. His story was about Jewish resistance to antisemitism. His stories were lessons for me and my brother not to allow others, no matter how rich or powerful, to push us down. He wanted us to defend ourselves.

I’m not saying that George H.W. Bush had anything to do with these pogroms my father spoke about. But, I do sometimes wonder.