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Letters to the Editor | April 23, 2019
I direct a small nonprofit with not a penny extra, and I am in full support of House Bill 188, the FAMLI Act.
This law would give employees partial pay replacement during a personal or family medical situation. We have covered the full salary for our employees on medical leave. Is it hard when someone is off for an extended period of time? Of course, but staff pitch in and help because they know that when they need the coverage, their peers will step in for them. As a result, we have loyal employees who are able to really focus on the job when they are at work. FAMLI insurance will cost us less because employers and employees will pay the small premiums with a 40-60.
Our employees do not abuse this; they are eager to get back to work. Donors rightly expect a high level of accountability, and we take that very seriously. When we make the decisions to pay people while on leave, we do so because it is good business, not because it is “nice.” However, shouldering the entire cost is hard for us as a nonprofit. The FAMLI Act would help tremendously.
In summary, as a nonprofit employer with 30-years post-graduate experience, I can say with confidence that FAMLI is good for Colorado nonprofit organizations.
Executive director, Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition
Original Article: Nonprofits would benefit from FAMLI Act
If you follow the news or talk to your neighbors, you know Colorado is in the midst of an affordable-housing crisis. The health and well-being of individual Colorado families is at risk as the cost of housing forces them to live in unhealthy homes, prevents them from having a stable place to live, and consumes so much of their income that they cannot afford other necessities or save money for an emergency. Hundreds of thousands of Coloradans are spending more than half their income on housing — a situation that puts them at risk of homelessness.
Colorado Center on Law and Policy began an effort to inject significant new funding into the budget for affordable housing in 2015. Yet, despite growing concerns, the legislature has only provided small amounts of funding for targeted high-cost populations such as people with mental illness and people leaving the criminal justice system. The legislature has not made a meaningful investment that would address the needs of the 275,000 ordinary Colorado households that are spending more than half of their income on rent.
For the fourth time in as many years, state legislators will have an opportunity to consider a bill that will help relieve the housing crisis without increasing taxes or redirecting funds from other priorities.
Developed by CCLP, House Bill 1322 would invest $30 million a year for three years in the Housing Development Grant Fund. That Fund provides grants and loans for a range of needs, including acquisition, renovation and construction of affordable housing, down-payment assistance, mobile home repair and rental assistance for a range of populations.
If HB 1322 is passed, Colorado Division of Housing would consult with stakeholders from urban and rural communities so that the funds address a variety of needs throughout the state. The legislation reflects input of stakeholders from urban and rural areas, convened by Democrats and Republicans in the House and the Senate.
HB 1322 doesn’t rely on taxpayer dollars or tap into the state budget. Funding will come from the unclaimed property trust fund. This fund holds dormant bank accounts, securities and life insurance proceeds and other abandoned property. While Colorado’s state treasurer makes a tremendous effort to find the owners of these abandoned accounts, hundreds of millions of dollars in the fund remain unclaimed. HB 1322 would put a fraction of that money to good use solving an urgent problem: the lack of affordable housing.
Sponsored by Rep. Dylan Roberts, Sen. Dominick Moreno and Sen. Don Coram, HB 1322 has been endorsed by the Urban Land Conservancy, Enterprise Community Partners, Colorado Municipal League, Colorado Counties, Inc., League of Women Voters, Tourism Industry Association of Colorado, Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association, Housing Colorado, Colorado Apartment Association, Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, Commissioners and Counties Acting Together, Habitat for Humanity Colorado, Interfaith Alliance, Boulder Housing Partners, Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, city of Boulder, The Denver Foundation, Center for Health Progress, Colorado Senior Lobby, Colorado Bankers Association, 9to5, Denver Metro Fair Housing Center, Together Colorado, The Arc of Colorado, Denver Metro Fair Housing Center, Together Colorado and Wells Fargo Bank.
Legislators should also pass House Bill 1245. Sponsored by Rep. Mike Weissman, and Sens. Julie Gonzales and Mike Foote, this legislation would increase funding for affordable housing by limiting the amount of sales tax revenue Colorado’s largest retailers can keep as their “fee” for collecting the tax. The additional revenue would be transferred to the same housing fund within the Department of Local Affairs, and also would be used to preserve or expand the supply of affordable housing in Colorado. HB 1245 would provide roughly $23 million for housing in the first year and $45 million to $50 million per year thereafter.
Both HB 1322 and HB 1245 will help us begin to address the lack of affordable housing in targeted and creative ways without affecting taxpayers or other funding priorities. Both measures deserve support. Together, these bills could help thousands of Coloradans better afford a home so they can devote more of their hard-earned money to other essential needs.
Claire Levy is executive director of Colorado Center on Law and Policy, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that researches, develops and advocates for policies that improve family economic security and health care for all Coloradans.
Original Article: A couple of bills to boost affordable housing — without a tax hike
“Julie Reiskin, executive director of the advocacy group Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, is not involved with Stepping Stone. Reiskin has an adult child with a disability and understands the concerns parents like Barbara Ziegler and Arendt have for their children.
“Some kind of permanent affordable housing is what they need,” Reiskin said. “What you’re talking about is someone with very low income.””
Feb. 27, 2019
Carrie Ann Lucas, who championed people, especially parents, with disabilities and won a major lawsuit to make Kmart more accessible, died on Sunday in Loveland, Colo. She was 47.
Her sister, Courtney Lucas, said the cause was complications of septic shock.
Ms. Lucas, who lived with a rare form of muscular dystrophy for three decades, was an effective advocate for people with disabilities. A lawyer, she successfully forced several businesses to make their premises more accessible in accordance with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
And last year, through her forceful lobbying, she helped change Colorado law to ensure that the disability of a parent or potential guardian could not be the sole basis for denying custody, adoption, foster care or guardianship of a child.
The legislation grew out of her own struggle to adopt her niece, who was in foster care. Ms. Lucas, who used a power wheelchair, breathed through a ventilator, had low vision and minimal hearing, and relied on a feeding tube, went on to adopt a total of four children, all with disabilities.
“We hear things all the time like, ‘How can you be a parent if you can’t throw a football for your son?’ ” she told The Colorado Independent in 2016.
“As disabled people,” she said, “we are always addressing the issue of how society devalues our lives and experiences.”
On Monday, members of both the House and Senate of the Colorado legislature paid tribute to Ms. Lucas and held a moment of silence in her honor. “Carrie Ann Lucas is a testament to doing everything that you can with what you’ve got,” State Senator Julie Gonzales said.
Ms. Lucas’s commitment was evident in her relentless campaign against a measure to allow doctor-assisted suicide (sometimes called “right to die” or “death with dignity”) in Colorado. An active member of the disability rights group Not Dead Yet, she appeared at numerous forums to express her outrage at what she saw as the implicit suggestion that people with disabilities had such a low quality of life that their lives were not worth living.
Despite her protestations, voters approved the measure in 2016. Doctor-assisted death is now legal in seven states and the District of Columbia.
It was a rare defeat in a long career of advocacy. Perhaps her most notable legal victory came in a class-action lawsuit against Kmart, to make its stores more accessible.
Ms. Lucas was the lead plaintiff in that suit, filed in 1999, and in a settlement in 2006, Kmart agreed to pay $13 million in damages to shoppers — the largest payout in a disabilities case at the time — and to bring its 1,400 stores into compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Kmart agreed to spend as much as $70 million over eight years to do so.
Carrie Ann Lucas was born on Nov. 18, 1971, in Twentynine Palms, Calif. Her mother, LaVerne (Rupert) Lucas, was a sales manager; her father, Philip Emory Lucas, served in the Marine Corps for 20 years and was stationed at the base there. When he retired, the family moved to Windsor, Colo., where he was an appliance repair technician.
Carrie Ann graduated from high school in Windsor and went to Whitworth University in Spokane, Wash., graduating in 1994 with a double major in education and sports medicine.
While in high school, she began to lose muscle strength, and by age 17 she was walking with braces. She was in a wheelchair by her early 20s.
Still, she went overseas. She taught middle school science for two years in Saipan, part of the Northern Marianas in the Western Pacific. Her goal was to become a minister, and when she returned to Colorado she earned a master of divinity degree at Iliff School of Theology in Denver in 1999.
As her health deteriorated, her sister said, she became involved with the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, which works for equal rights for people with any kind of disability. She investigated and monitored disability rights cases there.
At the same time, she sought to adopt her niece, Heather, then 9, the disabled daughter of her half brother, Eric Gover, whose family, in Tennessee, was unable to care for her. But because of her own disabilities, Ms. Lucas ran into resistance.
She fought the system and, with the help of a court-appointed special advocate, was able to adopt Heather. The experience inspired her to make sure that the same thing would not happen in Colorado.
Driven by the prejudice she saw against parents with disabilities, Ms. Lucas enrolled at the Sturm College of Law at the University of Denver, where she received a full scholarship. She graduated in 2005 and went on to adopt three more children, Asiza, Adrianne and Anthony, all of whom have disabilities.
Ms. Lucas was executive director of Disabled Parents Rights and served on the board of directors of the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado. In 2017, she ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Windsor City Council.
She was among several people with disabilities who were arrested in 2017 on charges of trespassing after a 58-hour sit-in at the Denver office of Senator Cory Gardner. They were protesting the Republican plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would have reduced Medicaid funding and eliminated services that make it possible for people with disabilities to live independently.
In addition to her sister, her half brother and her children, Ms. Lucas is survived by her parents and her partner, Dr. Kimberley Jackson. Her half sister, Kelli Mann, died in 2017.
For the last several years, Ms. Lucas had been writing a blog, DisabilityPride.com, which provided an unvarnished view of her life.
One of her final entries, the day after Christmas, described her fear of what would happen to her children, now in their late teens and 20s, when she was gone. She said she hoped that she had given them “the tools to thrive if given appropriate supports.” But, she added, she was terrified that they would be separated and lose contact with one another.
“My kids are all adopted and lost their first family,” she wrote. “I desperately don’t want them to lose this family too.”
To Read the Original Article: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/27/obituaries/carrie-ann-lucas-dead.html
CCDC’s Civil Rights Legal Program Director, Kevin Williams, was featured on KDVR’s Monday night broadcast in remembrance of President George H.W. Bush.
“President Bush said himself the greatest thing he did during the course of his presidency was to sign the Americans with Disabilities Act,” Kevin said during the interview.
Click here for the full story.
See article: 9 News Steve Staeger and 9 News Anchor Kyle Clark cover the terrible lapse in disability discrimination statutes: as Julie Reiskin describes during the interview along with others, there are bus stops that do not have sidewalks leading to the bus stop. Cities claim they have no obligation to create a sidewalk where one does not exist. RTD makes the same claim with respect to its bus stops. It is difficult to find any language in the ADA or its implementing regulations that apply to government entities and RTD (or any other disability rights law) that require the creation or alteration of sidewalks, bus stops or bus shelters or anything new. These laws simply say that when you do build something new or make an alteration to it, it must comply with the ADA and the Standards for Accessible Design. This may be something that state law should cover. Otherwise, advocates would have to work on this issue on a city by city basis, or sometimes deal with unincorporated counties. Julie Reiskin points out that the major wheelchair repair shop NuMotion in Denver chose to locate its Denver facility in a place on Smith Road that does not provide for easy RTD access to the shop where wheelchair repairs are conducted routinely. NuMotion’s response is that bus riders should simply take the bus to the next accessible stop and cross the street and take the bus that goes in the other direction back to NuMotion. As 9 News points out, this could add an extra 20 to 30 minutes to any trip for someone who uses a wheelchair and has only RTD as a transportation option (many CCDC members and many people use wheelchairs and other mobility devices in the Denver Metropolitan area). It is ridiculous to have a bus stop that is completely unusable. CCDC members complain about this all over the Denver Metropolitan area. One other issue this story raises that is important to understand is that when cities make certain changes to the roadway, they are required to install ADA-compliant curb ramps. This is true even if there are no sidewalks. Although many try to refer to these as “curb ramps or bus stops to nowhere,” this is simply not true. It is possible that a sidewalk may be installed in the future, and it is also possible that a person in a wheelchair can use the curb ramp, cross the grass, or whatever surface exists other than a sidewalk and still get to the bus stop. There is no such thing as a “curb ramp or bus stop to nowhere.” All curb ramps provide, at least, the opportunity to get to bus stops, businesses, government buildings, etc. There are actually many bus stops that are completely inaccessible to individuals who use wheelchairs. For example, South Colorado Boulevard near Hamden Avenue on the east side has bus stops that require an individual who uses a wheelchair to go from the sidewalk down a completely inaccessible grass hill to access the bus stop. The other option would be to ride in the street on Colorado Boulevard. All of these options are very dangerous and time-consuming, but obviously, people use wheelchairs need to access bus stops just like everyone else. Julie Reiskin who is the executive director of CCDC, as part of her job and for all of her personal transportation needs, uses RTD buses and other RTD services approximately 5 to 6 times a day, often changing buses throughout the day. those of us who use wheelchairs will continue riding down the street in our wheelchairs if that is the only way we can get to a bus stop. As CCDC attorneys, Kevin Williams and Andrew Montoya, will tell you, disability rights laws are very limited in what they cover, and we certainly do not need to impose additional barriers and restrictions on bringing claims. What do we want to do to solve this problem? Do you want your friends, family and others who use wheelchairs riding in the street or on dangerous shoulders of the road to get to a bus stop?
The Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition gave The Pueblo Chieftain and reporter Peter Roper its 2018 ADA Access Media award during the organization’s annual award luncheon in Denver on Oct. 3.
The coalition is an advocacy group whose mission is to protect the rights of the disabled and expand their opportunities.
Roper was recognized for the newspaper’s coverage of the contentious debate in 2017 over plans to change the federal Medicaid program into a block grant to the states.
That’s a change that disabled people fear will lead to a loss in the health-care services that let them lead independent lives outside of institutions. While the disabled make up a small portion of Medicaid recipients, they use about 25 percent of its total dollars on health services and equipment.
Kristen Castor, the coalition’s advocate in Southern Colorado, nominated Roper and The Chieftain for the organization’s media award. She credited the newspaper with accurately explaining the concerns of the disabled to the public during a time when disabled advocates were being arrested in lawmakers’ offices and conducting other kinds of protest.
The other 2018 award winners were attorney Allison Neswood, Denver City Auditor Tim O’Brien, and attorney Joe Beaver.
For people like Louis Apodaca, RTD’s Access-A-Ride program has been a lifeline. Apodaca started to use it after her wheelchair got stuck at a bus stop, and the fire department had to rescue her.
“The bus stops, a lot of times, are on gravel or on grass or mud,” Apodaca, a resident of Denver’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. Continue reading “Proposed Fare Increase For RTD’s Access-A-Ride Worries Those Who Use It”