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Making This a More Perfect Union: Remembering Bloody Sunday

55 years ago on March 7, 1965, an estimated 525 to 600 champions of civil rights began the first of several nonviolent marches and risked their lives and limbs literally and attempted to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge to make this country a more perfect nation. So many people crossed the bridge from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama for the simple purpose of attempting to register Black Americans to vote. Their mission and their purpose were to force this country to live up to its many principles, statements of morality, creeds and founding documents. Representative John Lewis (D. Ga.), a member and later

one of the youngest leaders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was one of the leaders of the marches.

Photo of young Representative John Lewis crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge
Photo of John Lewis crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge when he was with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee Before Becoming a Congressman for the United States
Civil Rights March showing the many people who crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge
Civil rights activists march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, starting the second march to Montgomery. In the first march, the marchers had been attacked and beaten by Alabama state troopers and local law enforment. Only the third march actually made it all the way to Montgomery. (Photo by © Flip Schulke/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

I think it is important to use this anniversary to make a distinction between the words and writings of those who created the country in which we now live and the events that occurred on that day. The Declaration of Independence, First Continental Congress, July 4, 1776, the following paragraph was included:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

Photo of police officers stopping marchers from proceeding on to vote after they crossed the Edmund Pettiu Bridge
Photo of police in riot gear and deputized citizens of Alabama approaching unarmed marchers after they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
Police and attack dogs attacking marketers who cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge
Photograph demonstrating how the police and deputized citizens of Alabama and their attack dogs attacked the marchers who crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

 

The author of this blog, a somewhat increasingly-jaded attorney who writes to you now about this event that became known as “Bloody Sunday,” has read the words in the Declaration of Independence as well as the other founding documents of our country many times and has become growing late disconcerted by the contradiction between their meaning and reality. I have also spent a great deal of time studying the law of civil rights and about the civil rights movements in this country in particular and other countries as well. But all I am is a simple civil rights lawyer for people with disabilities who works for a nonprofit organization in Denver, Colorado. So why am I writing about this?

Because I care about making this country in which we live a more perfect union so that all human beings regardless of race, religion, gender, disability or ability, and all other human beings obtain and receive the same respect and are entitled to belong just as much as any other human being. There is no superiority of any one of these groups, and there is no meaningful type of “nationalism” which is just another word for shutting out other human beings that are different. The civil rights movement that led to my ability to be able to practice law for people with disabilities, although created by my brothers and sisters with disabilities who came before me, was also built on the broken skull of John Lewis. When I view these photos, tears wells up in my eyes no matter how jaded the process of practicing disability rights law and reading American history has made me become. I do remember reading one of my favorite books, Parting the Waters, by Taylor Branch and calling my good friend, colleague and mentor, Amy Robertson, and saying something like, “I guess disability civil rights lawyers have one advantage over those who represented the great civil rights leaders of the South and others throughout our country and around the world. At least no one is bombing our houses.” Don’t get me wrong, we certainly get our share of slurs throughout the wonders of social media, newspapers and other outlets of incivility. Usually, it comes from the other side (meaning those who oppose our equality, belonging and humanity), often it comes from people who are simply ignorant about the issues, but it sometimes even comes from within our own community. I could certainly cite to many words written and spoken by the “Founding Fathers” of our country that lead me to reach the inevitable conclusion that the entire country was built on a series of lies. First of all, I, like many of you, was taught that Christopher Columbus “discovered” America. I find it extremely difficult to understand how an individual came to discover a land that was already inhabited by a large number of people who, as far as most of us now, were perfectly content with their way of life. They were definitely human beings, and they were here first, living and existing in a way that worked for them until those who came before and after Columbus destroyed their culture, most of their population (through the spread of disease and outright murder) and all of their way of life because our ancestors* thought we knew what was best for the natives of this country now known as the United States of America.

The second major lie in existence when the words quoted above were drafted (often called “Original sin”) committed by those who “founded” this country was the bringing of in innumerable number of human beings from Africa, a continent almost as far away as it could be, to come in shackles on boats and conditions almost certain to cause most of them to die to this country for the sole purpose of being the property and working for our ancestors. Now, as a result of the great works of people like John Lewis, Martin Luther King, Thurgood Marshall, and so many others, the same year that the dogs took bites out of those who crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the same people who were gassed, knocked down by fire hoses, beaten with billy clubs shot, and arrested, our federal government under President Lyndon B. Johnson, sent troops to assist those who are not permitted to vote to be able to do so and passed The Voting Rights Act of 1965 (The Civil Rights Act of 1964 somehow managed to exclude this most important alleged inalienable right of all Americans who were in the words of the First Congressional Congress “created equal” and endowed with exactly the same rights; also interesting is the fact that it took until 1920 for women to have the right to vote; I guess the “Founding Fathers” really meant it when they said “all men are created equal”).

When reviewing that paragraph from the Declaration of Independence, it is difficult to say at what point in history (according to our “Founding Fathers, ” human beings in our society should determine when the government is destructive of the ends set forth in that document, when we as a society have stopped securing the Safety and happiness of our people (coming Social Security benefits and the possibility of attaining healthcare if you have a pre-existing condition, denying any form of long-term care and lying about it in front of TV cameras while having the United States Justice Department argue the exact opposite in federal court), whether the actions taken by our current government are light and transient causes (it is hard to imagine how 400 years of slavery coupled with the continued income inequality based on things like race or disability, The routine murdering of people of color by law enforcement with absolute immunity, the ruining of an entire society and culture leaving only a few to rise up, resisting compliance with the law or changes in the law that will allow the equality that apparently all human beings in this country are supposed to have — “the repeated tyrannies and usurpations”), whether these and other evils have risen to the level of being so insufferable as to require the change or abolishment of government in comparison to the reasons taken by the “Founding Fathers.” And who in the world (literally) did they think they were kidding when they said, “To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world[?]”

Nevertheless, as President Barack Obama reminded us during the 50th anniversary of this same series of marches across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, change has occurred. It has occurred because we have made it occur. It is just that so much more needs to be done. Lawyers are limited by what laws allow us to do. Legislators are motivated by monetary interests and paid lobbyists against whom we have severe inequality.

I am extremely indebted to and thankful for my colleagues, friends and those who came before me whom I never met, all who have disabilities and their colleagues, who made it possible for me to assist in enforcing the civil rights of human beings — people with disabilities. It certainly seems a shame 30 years after the law was written that our society has not come into compliance, and that entities resist with such vigor, that people who would rather die than be disabled and yet they take advantage of those simple modifications that people with disabilities need enable to live equally with nondisabled people (like the example of the police car that parked in the access aisle next to my van at our office), but I can only imagine what those who survived Bloody Sunday must feel regarding the treatment of a population of people who were brought to this country four hundred years ago to do the work and be the property of white people who now hate and despise this population in such a way as that they are incarcerated them in enormously greater proportions than whites, the income inequities between Blacks and whites are extraordinary, and no one can really say with a straight face that equal treatment has been achieved throughout the country.

So in an attempt to return the bright side. I still continue to believe that we are trying to build a “more perfect union.” At least enough of us are, and there is no doubt that great changes have been made. It seems as though it is a never ending fight. And it seems as though we will never “win.” I can’t see it happening in my lifetime, so you Millennials better take it over. You are all humans too. The only tools we seem to have in our European white system of governing and thinking of the creation of laws and enforcement of them. It seems unfortunate that that even though what is required to bring about equality and belonging is often ignored, forgotten or aggressively opposed; we should continue to strive to come up with a better way. By writing this blog, I ask that we will focus on that day, Bloody Sunday. In addition, as we consider during this presidential voting season filled as it is with vitriol and concerns about whether we are actually getting accurate information about candidates and viruses and just about anything else that we must think about in order to improve ourselves and our country that we do the following: Consider where we have come from, what it will take to get to where we are going, to remember always what our fellow human beings have endured before us in order to get to where we are today and to always, always work towards ensuring the existence of the innate equality and belonging of all human beings and building that more perfect union.

Hanging on my wall just to the side of the front door of my house is a very large framed poster of Thurgood Marshall with a quote from him: “in recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute.” I put it there is you can’t leave my house without seeing it. What more can be said then that if we are going to create equality, belonging any more perfect union?

* I use the word “our” to refer to mostly white Europeans who settled in this country. Certainly those whose ancestors who were brought against their will and those who this country has tried to ban, remove and prevent from entering cannot be included.

House Bill 20-1196 and 20-1201 Manufactured Homes

MANUFACTURED HOMES 2020

BOTH PASSED AND SIGNED BY THE GOVERNOR (6/30)

News From The Colorado State Capitol
From the Office of State Rep. Edie Hooton

The manufactured home bills we’ve all been waiting for – House Bills 20-1196 and 20-1201 – will be heard in the House Transportation and Local Government Committee on Wednesday, Feb. 19. The committee hearing begins at 1:30 in Legislative Services Building room “A,” and if you choose to go in person, this building is across 14th Street from the south side of the Capitol.

Why We’re Running These Bills: Part One

We’ve included a link to both bills in the titles below if you haven’t read them yet. But what’s really important is the improvements they can bring to peoples’ quality of life. The points below could be important concepts if you’re persuading a legislator on the committee to vote “yes” on the bills, or if you have colleagues who don’t yet understand why we’re working on manufactured home legislation.

In General

  • Manufactured homeowners normally own their homes, but not the land on which it sits.
  • This can put homeowners at a power disadvantage in disputes with management or in their living environments.
  • Both HB 20-1196 and 20-1201 are designed to help level the playing field, so homeowners would gain increased legal rights and opportunities they don’t have today.

HB 20-1196: Mobile Home Park Act Updates

  • Eviction is a Serious Penalty: Families being evicted might lose their home, some or all of its value, and their place to live. Eviction should not happen for minor offenses.
  • Retaliation is Stressful: Homeowners have rights under the law, and they should be free to exercise these rights without fear of retaliation.
  • Everybody Needs Water: Residents deserve fair and understandable water billing practices. Residents need properly functioning water and sewer systems to live their daily lives.
  • Privacy is Good: Homeowners have a right to peaceful, private enjoyment of their homes and lots, without unexpected and unannounced intrusion from landlords or management.

HB 20-1201: Mobile Home Park Residents Opportunity to Purchase

  • Control Your Destiny: Members of resident-owned communities can work together on their own rules and standards for their park environment.
  • Control Your Rent: Today, national corporations own a growing number of parks, and they may have no reason to keep lot rents affordable. Resident-owned communities might be able to limit rent increases, which would be a great benefit for people on fixed or limited incomes.
  • Keep Your Home: If a park is sold, it’s possible the new owner might want to sell it for redevelopment, even for a different land use like an apartment complex. Resident-owned communities would almost certainly decide to keep their park as a manufactured home park.
  • A Little Help: Communities could assign purchase rights to local governments or housing authorities, and these entities aren’t driven by profit.

Why We’re Running These Bills: Part Two

These bills are the product of many peoples’ work, by no means just legislators. Part of our team has included actual homeowners, some belonging to homeowner advocacy groups, and we’ve used public meetings and other forms of information gathering to learn personal stories about peoples’ experiences.

Our work last year also contributed to quite a bit of interest from Colorado media, and here are some great sources to get perspective on what’s going on in the world of manufactured homes.

Vail Daily Series on Eagle River Village: Journalist David O. Williams did a comprehensive three-part series on problems with potable water at Eagle River Village. The Daily also followed up with a strongly-worded editorial calling for immediate action. Yet half-a-year later, residents still have problems, and the Daily just published two more follow-up stories on the same issue. All six pieces are worth the read, but here’s a quote from an Eagle River Village resident that sums up the unenviable problems in three sentences:

“The water is not drinkable; it’s dirty, not only in color but also in odor. I don’t use the water even to cook, and I spend a lot of money on the five-gallon bottles of water. It’s not only the money, but I’m also using a lot of plastic.”

Parked: Half the American Dream: The Colorado Sun worked with a number of news outlets on this gigantic collaborative effort that captured manufactured home park stories from across Colorado. There are many great stories here, but since HB 20-1201 is up on Wednesday, this story mentions how and why the Yampa Valley Housing Authority purchased the Fish Creek Mobile Home Park and saved 68 manufactured homes. This quote captures part of the essence of why we’re running HB 20-1201:

“…our community sort of freaked out — all of our mobile home parks are going to get wiped out by investors,” said Jason Peasley, executive director of Yampa Valley Housing Authority. “We thought, we will lose that form of affordable housing.”

What’s Next? Both HBs 20-1196 and 20-1201 passed in committee, and now they’ll go to the full House for a vote. If they succeed, they’ll go to the Senate for equal consideration. We’ll keep you posted on bill progress throughout the 2020 legislative session.

Didn’t Make Wednesday’s Hearing? All formal legislative hearings, including committee and floor sessions, can be heard via live audio and recorded after the fact. For House Transportation and Local Government, those who can’t make the hearing in person can just tune in at this link to the “Committee Audio”: https://leg.colorado.gov/committees/transportation-local-government/2020-regular-session

There’s Still Time to Spread the Word: We certainly hope for strong support in Wednesday’s hearing, but your respectful input can still help any legislators who might still be “on the fence” vote in our favor. You can call, email, or write any state legislator at any time, and here’s a link to the Transportation and Local Government Committee, with member names and contact information.

One way or another, our next newsletter will include results from Wednesday’s hearing! Thanks again for your support, and I know we’re all looking for positive results!

SB20-151: The Accountability, Democracy, and Accessibility in Public Transit (ADAPT) Act

Concerning the Administration of the Regional Transportation District

Prepared by Ruscha Public Affairs JoyAnn@RuschaPublicAffairs.com (970-397-4911)
Endorsed by Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition • arc Thrift • ADAPT • Good Business Colorado

Sens. Tate and Rodriguez; Reps. Jackson and Larson

 

Green box with green checkmark YES on SB-151 is a vote for riders and taxpayers

  • Increases fiscal and performance oversight of the Regional Transportation District;
  • Improves coordination with CDOT and municipalities in RTD’s transportation planning;
  • Requires RTD to comply with the same ethics rules as state and local governments;
  • Directs the State Auditor to perform essential audits of the District’s overhead costs;
  • Removes government red tape to allow RTD to reduce its rates and increase revenue;
  • Ensures that RTD is complying with federal antidiscrimination law; and
  • Identifies measures to improve the quality of service for Coloradans with disabilities.

SB-151 is a bipartisan, common-sense bill that will provide better oversight of the Regional Transportation District.

Improving the fiscal health of the Regional Transportation District

  • The state auditor will conduct three audits by 2022: an audit of the district’s salaried pension plan, an audit on the District’s organizational structure and size, and cost efficiency and performance analysis of vehicular service policies to determine the cost savings and additional value in services to the district
  • RTD must give the Board at least a 15-day notice with a request to amend the budget and a 30-day notice of an intent to borrow
  • The TLRC and the Board shall have the authority to inspect RTD records
  • An amendment will be introduced to increase the transparency of how and when taxpayer dollars are spent (similar to the state TOPs system)

Good-government reforms and securing public trust

  • RTD shall live broadcast public meetings
  • RTD must hold monthly meetings and directors must be physically present
  • Whistleblower protections will be granted for employees
  • RTD will be included to the state auditor’s fraud tip line
  • Members of the Board and staff will be subject to Article XXIX of the Colorado Constitution (Amendment 41) and the Independent Ethics Commission, as well as state conflict of interest laws
  • RTD candidates will have contribution limits (RTD is the only statewide election with no limits)

Better services for riders and taxpayers

  • RTD must consider a locality’s need for transit services when making decisions. RTD must also consider anti-discrimination laws, pollution, fiscal health, and whether or not the proposals will actually improve the value of service.
  • The bill repeals the farebox recovery ratio, but keeps the financial reporting requirement
  • The public transit provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act will be incorporated in the RTD Act. A temporary ADA oversight sub-committee will be created under the Transportation Legislation Review Committee, with experts from the general public to provide recommendations on how to improve services for people with disabilities.
  • Two additional Directors will serve as policy experts will be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate – one director will be a policy expert in disability and inclusion and the other will be experienced in transit planning for high-needs areas
  • The State Treasurer and the Executive Director of CDOT will serve as non-voting members to increase fiscal oversight and improve transportation planning coordination
  • An amendment will be introduced to require RTD to consult with local governments when planning route changes

Action Needed! We need you to write to the members of the Senate Finance Committee about SB 20-033

We need you to write to the members of the Senate Finance Committee about SB 20-033. This bill will allow people using the Medicaid Buy-In For Working Adults with Disabilities to keep working if they make it to age 65 and not be forced back into poverty.

Use this link is an easy way to reach all members of Senate Finance.

The text from our fact sheet is below. Please either tell your personal story OR tell them why as a voter, you think this is a good idea. You can also add your own Senator. After it gets out of committee, we will do a campaign for the whole Senate, but it does not hurt to reach out now. 

Please note that there were some changes in the first committee that makes this a better bill. HCPF found a federal authority that will let us use the federal match for clients over age 65, so the bill tells HCPF to change their state plan and use this new authority. 

The bill passed out of Senate Health and Human Services unanimously and now is going to Senate Finance. If you already responded to this campaign, please do so again as the message goes to different people. 

Here is the message that you can use or modify:

Line

LineYou will soon be hearing SB 20-033  that will enable people with disabilities that have used the Medicaid Buy-In for Working Adults with Disabilities to be allowed to continue in the program if they live until age 65 and want or need to continue working. This bill passed out of Senate HHS unanimously

SB 20-033 WILL ALLOW PEOPLE WITH SIGNIFICANT DISABILITIES WHO WORK USING THE MEDICAID BUY-IN TO CONTINUE WORKING AFTER AGE 65.

The Medicaid Buy-In for Working Adults with Disabilities (Buy-In) has been a path out of poverty for people with disabilities since 2014. By allowing people who have a disability and a job to buy into Medicaid and, if needed, long-term services and supports, individuals can earn up to 450% of the Federal Poverty Level while only counting 50% of their earned income. Best of all, there is no asset test. ALL OTHER paths into Medicaid for people with disabilities carry a $2000 asset limit and strict earnings limits.   For those needing daily assistance to stay alive, independent, and productive, the Buy-In program is the only insurance program that meets their needs. There is no other federal program or private insurance option that provides long-term services and supports, which allow the freedom to earn a living.

Two federal authorities are allowing Medicaid Buy-In Programs for the disabled. The federal authority Colorado used that created this program limits it to people between the ages of 16-65. When we created our state program, there was no federal authority to allow people to stay in the program past age 65. Happily, that has changed. This bill will require the State Medicaid Agency (HCPF) to seek the alternative federal authority for employed people with disabilities over age 65.

If we do not pass this bill, we will continue the current situation, which is If a person with a disability lives past the age of 65, to keep the daily living services they need to function – like personal care or wheelchairs – they must qualify for standard Medicaid. This means meeting a strict asset test and earnings limits. To do this, they must impoverish themselves or lose these supports. Individuals have to get rid of any savings and assets accumulated during working years and either stop or dramatically reduce employment.  

In addition to this being patently unfair, other problems include:

  • Retirement is not until age 67 at the earliest.   
  • Most people today work well into their 70’s
  • With housing costs rising, many will not be able to keep their home. The result of ridding themselves of assets and reducing income is to need housing assistance – further crowding the – further crowding the minimal subsidized housing supply.
  • These problems discourage individuals from saving for retirement. 

People using the Medicaid Buy-In Option are generally people that need Medicaid no matter what, but this allows people to be employed and pay into the system. All clients over 65 will have Medicare as primary insurance. Medicaid will just cover services that Medicare does not cover, such as personal care and wheelchairs. This bill creates an equitable, common-sense policy. Please vote yes Green box with green checkmark on SB 20-033.  Line

Once it comes out of finance or if there is other news, you will get another email.


PLEASE remember to identify which districts you live in when you fill out the form!

If you have to look it up, that is OK. (Use this link to find your district.)Just remember to check those boxes so we can easily analyze this. Also, please share the link for this campaign with anyone who will support us!

In solidarity and with gratitude!!

Julie and the team at CCDC

Support HB20-1139 Peer Support Professionals

Position Statement from Mental Health Colorado
POSTPONED INDEFINITELY
Support HB20-1139: Peer Support Professionals
Sponsors: Reps. Caraveo and Pelton

In the past two years, the number of Coloradans who didn’t receive essential mental health or substance use¹ services nearly doubled. In 2019, Colorado’s behavioral health workforce only met 30% of the state’s needs². Peers support professionals can significantly alleviate the gap. Peer supporters are individuals in recovery from mental health/substance use conditions who help others experiencing similar situations.

Problem: Medicaid only reimburses peer support services in a clinical facility, which limits the scope of peer support services in other settings such as jails, OB/GYN clinics, and emergency departments. In addition, without additional educational opportunities, peer supporters reach a professional ceiling, resulting in burnout.

Results of Peer Services:

Data shows that peer support services cut hospitalizations in half, increase engagement in self-care and wellness, and decrease psychotic symptoms.³

The Georgia Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities found that using peer support services in treatment saved an average of $5,494/person for the state.¹ª

HB20-1139 would:

  • Improve how peer support services are billed under Medicaid by allowing Recovery Support Services Organizations (RSSOs) to bill for these services.
    • RSSOs are organizations that provide recovery-focused services and act as an alternative billing mechanism allowing for appropriate oversight of peer-delivered care.
  • Create a peer tax credit to enhance the behavioral health workforce and end stigma.
    • The National Associate for Peer Supporters found that over 80% were interested in more job training.

For more information please contact Lauren Snyder, lsnyder@mentalhealthcolorado.org, 970.946.8029

¹2019 Colorado Health Access Survey: Progress in Peril
²Mental Health Care Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs)
³Peer support among persons with severe mental illnesses:a review of evidence and experience
¹ªA Report on Colorado’s Behavioral Health Peer Provider Workforce

Hey, A**hole! Yeah, you. The jerk who owns the motorcycle with Colorado license plate OSK-069

You know who you are! Yesterday, January 26, 2020, at approximately 2:00 PM at the parking lot at 14th St. and Market Street at least until approximately 5:30 PM.

It may very well be that such language in the title of this blog is unbecoming of the Legal Program Director of a statewide well-established and highly regarded disability rights organization, but, frankly, OSK 069, I don’t give a damn. In this day and age, this seems to be the way people communicate.

So what part of the driver’s exam did you not understand? Yellow crosshatched areas mean, “NO PARKING!”

Picture of motorcycle parked in yellow crosshatched access aisle Picture of motorcycle parked in yellow crosshatched access aisle adjacent to accessible parking space

“It shall be unlawful for any vehicle to park in any area designated for loading and unloading of a vehicle designed for the mobility impaired by pavement markings such as cross-hatching or by other indication. These areas are access aisles and parking by any vehicle is prohibited at all times.”

Denv. Mun. Ord. § 54-485(i).

For those of us who use wheelchairs and who drive vans with sideloading wheelchair lifts or wheelchair ramps, this has become an increasingly common problem: crosshatched access aisles are there for a reason. You know it. Stop acting stupid. This is not motorcycle parking. This is not an accessible parking space. This is an access aisle adjacent to and accessible parking space that is required by law under the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as state law and Denver ordinances. It is there for a purpose. It allows those of us who use wheelchairs who must strive vehicles with wheelchair lifts or wheelchair ramps to have enough space to get in and out of our vehicles.

You knew when you parked your motorcycle in that crosshatched aisle that it was not a parking space. You knew when you parked your motorcycle and that crosshatched aisle that it was illegal. You knew when you parked your motorcycle in that crosshatched aisle you were going to deny somebody who uses a wheelchair access to parking in downtown Denver. You just didn’t care! What kind of person are you? Why is your life more important than mine? Why do you get to enjoy the company of your friends downtown and I don’t? You blocked access to the only place I had anywhere close to where I wanted to go to be able to park. Do you hate people who use wheelchairs? Or are you just an a**hole? You are lucky that people wheelchairs are strong enough to knock your stupid motorcycle over.

Although I was just trying to spend a little time with some friends downtown probably just like you, you made it extremely difficult to do so. Parking for those of us who drive vehicles with sideloading wheelchair lifts or wheelchair ramps is extremely limited. Especially downtown. With the advent of bike lanes that make it virtually impossible to park on the right side of the road (which is absolutely necessary for these kinds of vans) on many of Denver’s streets (an issue that we will be taking on as well because we have no choice), street parking has become almost nonexistent. For many of us, parking garages are very difficult to use because you have to be able to reach out of your vehicle and grab a ticket out of a machine that most of us cannot reach. Therefore, parking garages are off-limits. Surface level parking lots are disappearing as more and more buildings are being constructed. That means all that is left are the handful of surface-level parking lots that still exist. But because you are more important than me, I guess you are entitled to completely disregard the civil rights of people with disabilities.

Oh sure. The Denver ordinances give me options for addressing the issue. For example, I could have spent the couple of hours I had to spend with my friends I had not seen in a long time calling the Denver police. Then I could’ve waited for the Denver police to show up. Then we would’ve had to talk over what the problem was. Then, as usually happens, I would have to show them that they do, in fact, have the right to enforce parking violations on private property. Then, they might issue a ticket or tow you out of the space, but how much of the few hours that I had to spend my friends with this have consumed? Is this the way you wanted to spend your day in downtown Denver? Why should I have to?

But why should you care? You don’t have a disability. You don’t have to drive all over downtown circling the place it is you want to go to over and over again to try to find someplace to let your wheelchair lift or wheelchair ramp down.

No. You just hop on your motorcycle and ride baby ride! And apparently you park wherever you damned well feel like it.

Truth be told, you might have a much better understanding of this issue in the not-to-distant future. In a 2014 study published by the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, motorcycle accidents were the fifth leading cause of spinal court injury. So, who knows? You might have a much clearer understanding of the issue sometime in the near future. Maybe then you’ll care. Until then, kindly please stop screwing up my weekends. I really appreciate it.

And finally, was that a parking ticket I noticed on your motorcycle when I left? I wonder how that happened.

Kindly please, think before you park, A**hole!

UPDATE!!

 

As you will see above, the Denver Municipal Ordinances specifically prohibit vehicles from parking in crosshatched areas. This one is really amazing! (1) it is a Denver police car in the crosshatched zone; (2) it is at CCDC’s office building; (3) that is my van immediately to the left of it, and my ramp unfolds exactly where that police car is parked. The municipal ordinances require calling the police when people park in the spaces. The problem is, of course, very few of us have time to wait for the police to come and deal with the issue. My van cannot be driven by someone else. There is no driver seat, and I have very expensive and technical equipment that I would only want someone who was specifically trained on it to drive it. Therefore, simply backing it out is not an option although everyone always asks me this rather than moving the car out of the illegally parked loading zone.

I had lengthy discussions with our management company to request that they install appropriate accessible parking throughout our building complex and install signs that are also referenced in the Denver Municipal Ordinances that say that there should be a sign posted at the front of the access aisle stating exactly what the sign states.

There is a “loading zone” directly on the other side of the overhang to the entrance of the building. When you look at the picture, you’ll notice that no one is parked there. When I use the seemingly unlawyerly language in the caption of my post, I never thought I would have to apply it to those who are supposed to be enforcing the law I was complaining about.

I guess the guy on the motorcycle was just following an example.

 

 

CCDC CIVIL RIGHTS LEGAL PROGRAM DIRECTOR’S VIEWS ABOUT THE INCREDIBLE LOSS OF THE HONORABLE WILEY Y. DANIEL, SENIOR DISTRICT COURT JUDGE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT OF COLORADO

We lost a great judge. We lost a great person. Senior District Court Judge Wiley Y. Daniel passed away on May 10, 2019. All of the lawyers and their clients who have brought cases in the United States District Court of Colorado before Judge Daniel and all of those lawyers and their clients who could’ve brought cases before Judge Daniel will never be the same. The author of this blog has practiced law in this district for 22 years (in three days it will be 23 years), and I have had the great privilege of practicing before Judge Daniel on numerous occasions. Not enough, but several. He was different in many ways, all of them good.

I certainly do not mean any disrespect to any of the judges in front of whom I have practiced before. Or to any of those in front of whom I currently practice. And it would be inappropriate to comment publicly about judges before whom I might practice. But I must say this: Judge Daniel has always been my favorite. There are too many reasons to list in a blog, but I will do my best to hit the highlights. I want you to know. I feel a great sadness that I will no longer have the fortune to practice before this great judge and great human being ever again. I feel a great sadness that he is no longer with us.

All practicing lawyers, especially those like me who practice in a particular area (in my case, disability rights law as an individual who uses a motorized wheelchair) probably have certain judges they might prefer. They might prefer those judges because, for those of us who practice in federal court, we practice before judges who are nominated by the President of the United States who are then confirmed by the United States Senate; some of us might believe (and some of us do believe) that those political affiliations will color the opinions, attitudes and judgments of our judges. Some practicing lawyers simply might not like the personality of a particular judge. I remember well a particular judge whom most lawyers I know feared yet I never did because I found the particular judge to be fair even though the judge was known for being temperamental, disagreeable and for having a generally antagonistic personality. Some practicing lawyers might dislike a certain judge because that judge opposed the lawyer on a case when the judge was still practicing and had not yet been appointed and confirmed to the bench. There are many reasons why some practicing lawyers don’t like certain judges.

But some judges are just likable no matter what. In this practicing lawyer’s opinion, Judge Daniel was that kind of judge.

As many of you know, in civil practice, lawyers do not go to trial on many cases; nevertheless, we do have many legal arguments we must make before judges regularly in many of our cases. I and my co-counsel had the pleasure of arguing cases before Judge Daniel several times. Judge Daniel was simply different.

One of the most important differences is that Judge Daniel was about “telling it like it is.” This is a theme that describes everything good I have ever felt about him.

The Guidepost: Judge Daniel told it like it was the moment he entered the courtroom, and we heard, “All rise!” We knew that what was coming was going to be the straightforward, simple, plainspoken truth. Often, Judge Daniel would begin a hearing with a statement something like the following: “I have just a couple of comments before we begin.” Or, “Here is what we are going to do today, and here is what we are not going to do today.” These guideposts always told the parties where he was coming from and where he wanted us to go. Even though I don’t believe I have ever practiced before a fairer judge, Judge Daniel made his brief comments (1) to let us all know he knew the history of the case inside and out;[1] (2) this is what the proceeding was about; (3) this was where his interests for the course of the proceeding were;  and (4) we had better follow them because otherwise we were wasting time. A guidepost from the Court is something a practicing lawyer (no matter how many years we have been at it) is very thankful for when entering the courtroom. Judge Daniel told us what he wanted, why he wanted it and why it wasn’t worth bothering doing anything else.

Fairness. Even though Judge Daniel gave us all the guidepost on his way into the hearing, he never failed to make sure the lawyer who might not have received the telegraphed message during the guidepost commentary had the opportunity to make the lawyer’s client’s case. The record was always clear. Both sides would have the opportunity to make all of their arguments before one of them was reminded of the rules set forth in the guidepost. He also found it very important to treat every lawyer and client with the greatest amount of respect. I never saw or heard Judge Daniel be unkind or derogatory in the slightest way to anyone. I also always found him to be very accommodating for attorneys with disabilities and our clients who have disabilities. He did so without even thinking about it. It was just a natural part of who he was and how he understood his role in the “people’s courthouse.”

Writing: I love reading Judge Daniel’s orders. Short, brief, simple and straight-to-the-point sentences. No words wasted. Everything there that needed to be was. Nothing that did not. Looking back over his orders in our cases, he usually cited to one case for legal authority instead of some long, unnecessary string cite. Why bother, when one case will do? He wrote like he talked: He told it like it was.[2]

There are so many other reasons why some other practicing lawyers including myself may have really had great respect for Judge Daniel.

He was the first African-American[3] judge appointed to the United States District Court of Colorado, appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1995. He was born on September 10, 1946, in Louisville Kentucky. He also attended Howard University both as an undergraduate, receiving his Bachelor’s Degree in 1968 and his Juris Doctor Degree in 1971. Howard University is the alma mater of one of my heroes, United States Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall after Justice Marshall was denied admission to the University of Maryland College of Law in 1930 because he was Black.

In 2017, the Center for Legal Inclusiveness presented Judge Daniel with The Lifetime Achievement Award. I think many of the reasons why I greatly respect, like and will miss Judge Daniel are best summed up here in his own words and in his own voice:

Click Here for Captioned YouTube Video of the Honorable Wiley Y. Daniel

Despite the fact that the United States District Court was established in 1876, the only other Black judge appointed to the United States District Court of Colorado is Raymond Moore. Judge Moore was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2013.

[1] He once said in one of our hearings in a case that happened about 4 1/2 years after the case started and every motion a lawyer could dream of was filed in the case (I won’t say by whom): “Unfortunately, even though I’m a Senior Judge, my memory is just as good as before. What can I say, it’s a blessing, but also a curse, sometimes.” Either way, it was always true. He knew the case. We did not have to worry about that.

[2] A typical sentence look like this: “I disagree with this assertion for the reasons stated above.” “I find this argument an attempt by Defendants to re-litigate Plaintiffs’ standing.” “The named Plaintiffs have suffered and will suffer in the future if the Elevated Entrances are not removed.” Maybe that is why Judge Daniel’s Practice Standards warned lawyers like me, “Excessive or prolix statement of facts sections will be STRICKEN.” The bolding appears in his Practice Standards. Why bother using something like “exceedingly and superfluous” when you can simply say “prolix?”

[3] I generally use the word “Black” instead of the word “African-American” even though I know that different individuals prefer different terms, which is why I use the term “African-American” here because it is the term the judge Daniel used. I have been corrected by many friends and colleagues when I have referred to them as “African-American.”  They have explained to me just as I am considered “White,” they are considered “Black.” I have been corrected by friends and colleagues that do not feel as though they are “African-American” because they have no connection to the country of Africa. This makes sense to me since I too was born in this country and many of my ancestors were as well; I don’t feel connected to any other country except America and yet my race is described as “White” or sometimes as “Caucasian,” not as “Welsh-American” or “German American.”

Update on DOJ Project Civic Access Settlement Agreement, Denver Curb Ramps and Denver Sidewalks

One year ago today, the Department of Justice reached an agreement with the City and County of Denver (“City”) under Project Civic Access (“PCA”), the Department’s initiative to ensure that cities, towns, and counties throughout the country comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). That agreement covers accessibility to numerous programs, services, activities and facilities throughout Denver. The agreement specifically addresses Law Enforcement and Effective Communication, Polling Places, Emergency Management Procedures and Policies, Physical Changes to Emergency Shelters, Web-Based Services and Programs, New Construction, Alterations and Physical Changes to Facilities, Programs for Victims of Domestic Violence and Abuse. Many of the deadlines for compliance occurred today, one year after the effective date of the agreement. Click on these links to review the DOJ Press Release and for the DOJ Settlement Agreement. Also, attached is a PDF version of the Agreement with all of the one-year deadlines highlighted.

The Settlement Agreement contains one error in that it states that “On January 20, 2016, Denver and the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center [“CREEC”] reached a separate agreement addressing accessible sidewalks and curb ramps in Denver.” It is correct that CREEC with the assistance of CCDC reached a class action settlement agreement with the City regarding curb ramps, but sidewalks were not addressed. Click on the link to review the Curb Ramp Settlement Agreement. Click on the link here to see CREEC’s Website. This Settlement Agreement provides for comprehensive curb ramp replacement throughout the City. CCDC is unaware of why the issue of sidewalks was excluded from the DOJ Settlement Agreement with the City because the case involving curb ramps was never intended to address sidewalks and was approved by the court as a class-action settlement on September 9, 2016 before the DOJ Settlement Agreement. Click the link here to review the Order Granting Final Approval of Settlement. The rules and regulations that apply to curb ramps are different from those that apply to sidewalks.

With respect to sidewalks, according to a recent article published in the Denverite, the City has launched a project to install sidewalks where they don’t exist and make additional sidewalk repairs. At this time, CCDC does not have additional information regarding the sidewalk project. Click on the link here to see the Denverite article regarding sidewalks.

According to the Denver Office of Disability Rights’ (“DODR”) website, “The Denver Office of Disability Rights coordinates the City and County of Denver’s efforts to ensure compliance with Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Our role is to ensure that all City services and programs are accessible to people with disabilities.” Information is provided on the DODR website regarding curb ramp renovations and installation and the City’s plan for sidewalks and transportation. The  DODR is also listed as the agency to which all notifications or communications under the DOJ Settlement Agreement are to be made. Click here for the link for the Denver Office of Disability Rights. The address and other contact information for the DODR is:

Denver Office of Disability Rights
201 W Colfax, Dept 1102
Denver, CO 80202
Fax: 720-913-8470
E-mail: disabilityaccess@denvergov.org

Kevin Williams
Legal Program Director
CCDC Civil Rights Legal Program
kwilliams@ccdconline.org

CCDC Civil Rights Legal Program will not be taking any new cases until February 1, 2019

As of November 26, 2018, until February 1, 2019, the CCDC Civil Rights Legal Program will not be taking any new cases or intakes. We do not receive funding to provide referrals. Therefore, if you have a legal problem that you think we can assist with, you will need to contact another attorney until January 1, 2018. We apologize for the inconvenience. We will not be returning calls or other intake emails, including social media or by any other method.

Help CCDC with our 2020 Strategic Plan

The CCDC Board of Directors is writing/updating our strategic plan.  This is the first of several surveys we will have to get members input.  If you get this survey via an email from CCDC then you are a member.   https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/5J5PLQW

If you get this survey from another source then you are NOT listed as a member and should join as a member.  It is free and you can choose what topics, if any, about which we will contact you.   You can join at www.ccdconline.org

Your feedback is important.  This survey is about our organizational values.   Our current plan summary is attached.   stratplansummary

The next survey will be about our VISION.

Thank you for your time.


Important Notice
CCDC’s employees and/or volunteers are NOT acting as your attorney. Responses you receive via electronic mail, phone, or in any other manner DO NOT create or constitute an attorney-client relationship between you and the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition (CCDC), or any employee of, or other person associated with, CCDC. The only way an attorney-client relationship is established is if you have a signed retainer agreement with one of the CCDC Legal Program attorneys.

Information received from CCDC’s employees or volunteers, or from this site, should NOT be considered a substitute for the advice of a lawyer. www.ccdconline.org DOES NOT provide any legal advice, and you should consult with your own lawyer for legal advice. This website is a general service that provides information over the internet. The information contained on this site is general information and should not be construed as legal advice to be applied to any specific factual situation.

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