Mar 14, 2011
For advocates, it's our values that count. They must inform the decisions that legislators make in Salem and DC.
I’m on a flight from Portland to DC to meet with other P&A directors from around the country to discuss issues of mutual concern.
Oddly enough, while I’m doing this, Congress is trying to decide if and how our funding will continue for the next six months. P&As are not slated for elimination in any of the proposed budgets, but if a budget is not agreed upon soon, DRO may run out of reserves and be forced to temporarily close our doors. I don’t expect that to happen, but it does get one’s attention.
Imagine that. Even though all legislators agree that we should continue to receive federal funding, the overall budget battles may mean that we are unable to pay our staff and provide some services to our clients and potential clients. I say “some” because, as a law office, we have an ethical obligation to continue to serve our existing clients whether we are paid or not.
Perhaps this trip is a costly excess right now. I know that if I didn’t take the trip, it would solve less than 1% of next month’s payroll cost and I really do need to know what’s happening in Washington. So here I am in my cramped seat thinking back to yesterday at the state capitol where I had yet another discussion about the budget and service cuts that are looming. Which programs will be eliminated? Which services will be scaled back? Whose salaries and provider rates will take a hit? Is this trip taking me from the frying pan to the fire, or the reverse?
Troubling questions, indeed. But I remind myself that we in the disability rights movement are warriors. We have seen tough times before and have learned that though we may face hardships, we can never give ground on our values. More than ever, this is a time emphasize support of integrated, community-based services that promote choice, independence and self-direction. It is clearly a time to put aside old institutional models because they are expensive, ineffective and repressive.
In DC, I will be hearing about the many exciting initiatives happening around the country to further our values. From this comes energy and inspiration, things that some would discourage us from expecting in our capitols.