God Bless Our Regional Center Workers

The social workers and aides at the Redwood Coast Regional Center don’t get much publicity or recognition for their largely thankless work supporting and advocating for our developmentally disabled citizens. Folks with retardation, autism, seizure disorders etc. sometimes need help dealing with school, employment and life in general and the folks at the Regional Center are there to help them.  They are overworked, underpaid, and take shit regularly from the State, the clients, the parents etc. Anyone who works at the Regional Center is a candidate for sainthood, IMHO.

If you know anyone who works there, tell them you appreciate them. They don’t get that often.


OYSTER FESTIVAL-Too Big For the Plaza?

It was only a couple of days before Saturday’s Festival that I took a really good look at the festival map. I discovered to my horror that the powers-that-be at Arcata Main Street had decided to eliminate the parking lot/shuttle stop on Samoa Boulevard down around K Street “due to not enough use”, as the staffer told me when I called to complain. Their revised plan was to cut off access to the Plaza from the North so that anyone who rode the shuttles and got off at their stops on 11th Street had to walk all the way down to 7th Street to get access.

I know three extra blocks doesn’t sound like much, but when you’re (hopefully temporarily) disabled as I am that’s a real issue. I’m using a cane due to a recent knee replacement and three blocks is beyond my comfort zone so I called Arcata Main Street and spoke with a nice person who directed me to their “ADA parking” off 7th Street. Those dear folks, with all the good intentions in the world, had set side a big fat 16 parking spaces for a festival expected to attract 16,000 oyster fans. Even the person I was speaking to realized how silly that sounded. I don’t recall the actually ADA setasides for outdoor Festivals but it’s a helluva lot more than 1 in 1000. 

So we ended up showing up at before 8am in order to get a closeby parking space. In a way, it was great because by the time the Plaza got hot and crowded, we were ready to go home. On the other hand, when you leave at noon you miss a lot of stuff.  I found myself wondering WHY the Festival is on the Plaza in the first place. There’s no connection between the Plaza and the Oysters and the Festival disrupts the Farmers’ Market every year. Moving it to the Community Center would lost the “Festival” aspect. The Festival should be held on the BAY!!  Woodley Island isn’t part of Arcata Main Street’s domain plus it’s too small and getting everyone on and off the island would be a nightmare.  But looking ahead to an era when lots of interesting developments are coming up in Samoa, I hope that one day the Festival will expand its footprint,  reducing the congestion.  We can only hope.

Congratulations to AMS and their volunteers for another successful Festival, but let’s put a little more thought into the arrangements next year. 


Dinner with Dogs??

Do you love dogs?  Sure.

Do you love OPD (Other Peoples’ Dogs)?  Uh, not so much.  

Well, as of January 1, California restaurants with patio spaces will be allowed to serve dogs right along with their owners, assuming the owners are human. This “change” will probably affect Humboldt less than more urban regions  because plenty of local eateries are already allowing dogs. The rules are that the patios must have separate entrances so that the doggies don’t enter the restaurant itself and they continue to be banned from food preparation areas. The new rule does NOT mandate that dogs must be allowed on patios; that’s up to the proprietors.  Nor does it change any of the rules on bona fide service animals. 

I’m a dog owner who does not envision taking my dog to a restaurant in this lifetime. For one thing, she’d eat everything in sight.  For another, she’d never be able to share space with one of those cute fuzzy little dogs that look and sound exactly like her squeak-toys. The other question is, do I want to share a table with someone else’s dog?  When MY dog drools  on the table, it’s cute. When YOUR dog does it, it’s disgusting.

I’m all in favor of consumer choice, so when I pass by a patio cafe where chows are chowing down in favor of a human-only environment, that’s a valid choice. I wonder how the majority of Humboldt diners will react to their new dining companions.

The Man from Freshwater Farms

I met Rick Storre on two occasions. The first was when I visited Freshwater Farms to find a native-plant solution for my planter boxes that always looked like hell, stuffed with geraniums that never seemed to thrive. I entered the building and eventually a friendly man showed up. From the way he settled into his seat, I could tell this was going to be a long chat. It was. It was the kind of chat that takes place when one oldtime Humboldter encounters another.

We reviewed his parents and grandparents, and mine, and gossiped for an hour or so. It felt like being in Ireland, where purchases are never hurried. He suggested a certain type of huckleberry for my planters and I left with six of them.  Three died immediately  and I called him for advice. I went back to FF and he replaced them cheerily. Eventually I managed to kill all of them and went back to geraniums.

I must have passed by FF a thousand times since then, secure in the knowledge that there was a friendly and intelligent person within. Today I feel very empty inside. The house where the bodies were found is a few blocks from me and I feel violated. I lost an acqaintance. I can only imagine how his friends and family feel.

And I feel that I’m losing my town. I don’t recognize a Eureka where St Bernard’s Church is considered in a “bad neighborhood” or where people are murdered a short walk from my home. The people who are running for County or City offices had better have some ideas for change. Mental illness is perhaps the toughest issue facing our society and balancing the rights of the mentally ill with the rights of people like me who are supposedly sane is a conundrum for which all the answers are expensive. Necessary, but expensive.

All I know is that I feel empty. “And the sky is crying.”

“Season of Wonder and Light”- Bah, Humbug!

I have my curmudgeon hat on today, an effect of reading this morning’s papers and blogs.   Any of you wanting sugarplum fairies should be reading elsewhere. To begin-

Eureka City Schools, Loleta Union School District Sued for racism, sexism.   Is this a surprise to anyone, especially considering the ongoing festering situation in Ferndale?  When I was attending Eureka High, the Native American kids were almost completely segregated, to Hoopa. Sounds like things haven’t changed much. If ANY of these allegations are true, and I suspect these may be just the tip of the iceberg, some heads should roll.

Chet Albin Appointed to Eureka City Council-  Anyone who has to take down his Facebook page out of fear that his constituents might see it does not have the moral fiber to hold public office. Nor do the folks who orchestrated this outrage.

Jason Singleton Vilified for ADA Suits- Both his letter to the North Coast Journal, reprinted this morning in the Times-Standard  and Chris Jones’ My Word in the Times-Standard this morning (links not available for either) tell it like it is. As I posted here last week, if the city/county staff were tasked to do MEANINGFUL ADA reviews before issuing permits, poof! Problem solved.  The most distressing news is that otherwise rational businesspeople are trying to address their issue through demonstrating at the courthouse, a useless circle-jerk. Gee, those “Occupy” demos worked out so well…

The GPU has been hijacked and thrown back to the Planning Commission  and the Planning Commission is one vote away from being controlled by HumCPR.    Not good news when any special interest group has this much clout, especially when the voters are demoralized and disorganized (in comparison.) I happened to notice yesterday while driving on 5th Street in Eureka that the CPR has a storefront now, where the Republicans’ office was. Don’t know how long they’ve been there.

Finally, Two Good People Have Left Us.  Leon Berliner and Silas Morrison the younger both had obituaries in the Times-Standard today. My first job in rehab was at Redwoods United, Inc. long after Leon had moved on to the  Cornucopia.  No agency helped more people with disabilities in this county and that program is sorely missed. Silas was a friend and an unforgettable personality. I will miss him a lot.

Sincere wishes for a happy holiday, despite the foregoing. You can’t ALWAYS have a Merry Christmas. There’s always next year.


NCEPD- Honoring the success stories of people with disabilities

I just attended an event that more of you should go to- the annual recognition luncheon of Northwest Committee for the Employment of People with Disabilities, or NCEPD. As an old Rehab counselor and former member of the Committee, I’ve attended quite a few of these and they are truly amazing events. You hear stories of courage, stories of generosity, stories of ingenious problem solving, a glimpse into a world people without disabilities rarely think about.  Our friend Bob Van Fleet used to refer to the non-disabled folks as CRABs- Currently Regarded as Able Bodied. It only takes one car collision, motorcycle crash or work accident to turn a CRAB into a person with a disability and of course many people are disabled from birth.  Giving these folks a chance to be self-sufficient is one of the best things an employer can do, for themselves and for the community. Thus, both the employee and employer are honored.

I hadn’t been in a couple of  years and was pleased to find that Reaching for Independence , a parents’ group in Fortuna which was just getting started when I left, has become a multi-service agency. If you’re not familiar with the rehab agencies and their programs, be aware you can locate a suitable candidate for your vacancy and get tax credits and FREE job coaching which which continues during the entire term of employment. The clients range from folks who do best at repetitive tasks to geniuses who happen to use wheelchairs. Or medications for seizure disorders. Or clocks that TELL you the time. Or screen readers for visually impaired people so that they, too, can waste time on Facebook as well as attend distance learning classes at schools and colleges. I should mention that both CR and HSU have many services for people with disabilities, who by most counts comprise about ten per cent of the population.

Services for those of us who are older? Not a problem. After all, you have two choices in life- you can become disabled or you can die young. I know which I’m picking.

I met a gentleman who is retiring from HSU after 38 years. Could have sat out the whole time on Social Security, but  chose to work. The Department of Rehabilitation is not a perfect agency but they DO turn people with disabilities into taxpayers. We should  all support them.

Another agency worthy of your support is Tri-County Independent Living, which is having its seventh annual disabilities expo on Friday from 10am to 3pm in the Vickers Building at Redwood Acres, where many of the local organizations offering choices to people with disabilities will be present, including HTA which will be bringing a bus to demonstrate their accommodations and services.  Admission is free.  Finally, the next day, Saturday, the Humboldt County Library is holding a Reading Fair to familiarize low-vision and blind patrons with a range of equipment to help with reading. The library has a loan closet which offers an opportunity to try equipment before making expensive purchases.  The Fair is from 1pm to 3pm Saturday. Show up! You just might learn something.

One thing I learned in my time at Rehab is that people with disabilities appreciate having a job, because it’s hard for them to get one. The next time someone from DOR, EDD, HCOE or any of the other agencies that work with people with disabilities approaches you, please consider giving people with disabilities a chance. You won’t be sorry.