Thursday, June 30, 2016

Running the Race

Summer’s here, and everything’s gone quiet:

-          Finding a replacement for Laura Nuss seems to be going nowhere fast.  Last I had heard (see “Here’s the Scoop,” May 12) the process of reviewing candidates was expected to get started around Memorial Day, but local disability organizations are hearing nothing from the mayor’s office about starting that process.  Andy Reese, the interim director, is settling in.

-          Yvette Alexander was defeated by former mayor Vincent Gray as the Democratic nominee for her seat on the D.C. council, so the long-delayed rescheduling of the joint hearing on the Citizens with Intellectual Disabilities Civil Rights Restoration Act ( is seeming even less likely to happen during this council session.

Summer doldrums are real, and it’s easy to feel discouraged.  But when advocating for change it pays to remember that old adage from Aesop’s fable about the tortoise and the hare, “Slow and steady wins the race.”

I was thinking about this when I attended the third public session of the D.C. statehood commission on June 13 (  Now THAT is an effort that’s been under way for decades, and the forces are still arrayed against allowing D.C. residents our full rights to representation in the U.S. House and Senate.  What’s almost worse is that those who live here are so used to the situation that few of us try to do anything about it.  This new effort, which may show up on the November ballot if it makes it through the council, deserves serious support and effort from all of us.

Think about how hard people with disabilities have pushed, and continue to push, for their civil rights.  As a matter of fact, while I was attending the statehood convention that morning, self-advocates from Project Action! were meeting to talk about how they can bring more pressure to bear to get B21-385 back onto the council agenda.  They aren’t giving up because they know how far things have come already and that, sooner or later, this odd relic of D.C.’s history, civil commitment, will finally be rolled aside.

But it all takes effort.  So I’d like to add extra pressure with some direct personal appeals:

-          Ms. Alexander, I’ve appreciated your hearing me out when I’ve testified before your committee, and you seem sincere about making progress on the rights of D.C. citizens with disabilities.  You could leave an important legacy by moving ahead on B21-385 – so give Council member McDuffie a call and say, “Let’s schedule that hearing!”

-          Mr. Walker, everyone’s wondering what’s up with the search for a new director of the Department on Disability Services.  There’s a meeting of the Supporting Families Community of Practice on July 11.  How about coming to talk to families about where the process stands?

-          Everyone - add your voice by posting a comment on these issues.  And while you’re reading, pay attention to the progress of the constitution for New Columbia through the D.C. council.  It may show up on the ballot in November, and it deserves your support.  Imagine how much more we could do about the future of our family members with disabilities if we actually had national voting representation.

Now I think of it, we need to have the impatience of the hare and the determination of the tortoise in the race.  And above all, don’t just stand there!

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