Tuesday, January 13, 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.”

(OK,-she-is-Mike’s-daughter,-but-we-don’t-like-to-make-those-kind-of-distinctions-in-our-home,-so-I-called-her-my-daughter-too-but-I-don’t-want-to-be-presumptuous-or-make-her-mom-feel-bad-but-I-digress…)

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.(Champaign 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 Matigator

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

1 comment:

sharon lamp said...

Thanks Cilla for reporting on the meeting. It pisses me off to hear that the meeting started 2.5 hours late. Any paratransit riders trying to participate would most likely have been forced to leave before the meeting even started-as we are typically not allowed to make "same-day changes" to our pick-up and drop-off times.

It pisses me off even more that the people and those who attended the meeting were disregarded and the closure of Howe stalled in the name of Blago's impeachment. How much more abuse and how many more deaths will occur in Howe during this time? Why aren't the lives of disabled people in Howe the priority?

My hope though is that other readers and anti-Howe parties will react to such disregard by becoming even more determined to come back or otherwise stick this battle out. Thanks again for spreading the news. sharon lamp