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Sunday, June 01, 2008

Advocates for People With Disabilies Condemn "Latte" Mailer

On Saturday Morning at the Davis Art Center, advocates for people with disabilities gathered to express their anger and outrage at a mailer sent from Ed Voice.

As we reported yesterday, the ad question spending $91,000 for what it calls "coffee service." However, it ignores the fact that the coffee cart is just part of a new Yolo County training program that will help people dealing with mental illness learn valuable job skills and empower them towards independence.

The program was passed by the Yolo County Board of Supervisors by a 3-2 vote along party lines.

The Sacramento Bee's ad watch roundly criticized the ad:
"$91,000 for coffee service?" reads one flier attacking Yamada, a Yolo County supervisor, for voting to subsidize a coffee cart in a county building. "What was Yamada thinking?"

Turns out it's no ordinary coffee cart – it's designed to provide jobs to people with mental disabilities.

Yolo supervisors voted 3-2 to commit $91,000 to the Turning Point agency for equipment and training. The money stems from a 2005 tax on millionaires that can be spent only for mental-health services.
At the top of the ad, they quote an unnamed Yolo County Supervisor: "When I first read it, I thought it was a mistake. When I heard the explanation, it was worse." Of course what they do not tell you is that that county supervisor was Republican Matt Rexroad.

Supervisor Rexroad reports on his blog yesterday:
"I am now getting hate mail from people for voting against that coffee cart. I am telling you right now --- I will never vote for anything like that coffee cart -- ever. I am proud that I voted no."
This simply illustrates the partisan dimension to the vote. The problem of course is that Cabaldon is a Democrat trying to court Democratic votes.

Marilyn Moyle was one of the participants in the press conference yesterday. She is the Chair of Yolo County's Mental Health Board and a member of NAMI. She described in detail how her son benefited from similar vocational programs in landscaping.
“I’m very concerned about the misleading information that has been mailed out.... I know how important vocational opportunities are for mental health clients – for their recoveries and their self-esteem.”
Christine Totah is a local advocate for people with disabilities. Her son is 12 and has autism. She is also the Treasurer for Mariko Yamada's campaign due to Supervisor Yamada's longtime advocacy for people with disabilities.

Ms. Totah expressed anger, outrage, and disgust at the mailer.
“The mailer really turned my stomach as a taxpayer and a voter.

Even though my son is only twelve, I feel I need to stand up and defend this program and make sure this service stays in place for him because he will need job coaching as he grows up so he can be a productive member of society.

Our coffee cart is an educational service and when compared to the cost of institutionalizing someone suffering from mental illness, the $91,000 is a bargain. It’s one of those issues where a taxpayer in Yolo County can be really proud of where their tax dollars are going.”
She also wondered about an educational advocacy group such as EdVoice attacking a program that at its base is an educational program.

While the Cabaldon campaign has not provided an official response to this, there is a general sense around the community that EdVoice went way too far with both this ad and the Yolo County Housing Authority ad. There has also been considerable backlash against the slew of IEs against Cabaldon by various union interests.

On the other hand, internal polling now shows this is now a neck and neck race. A month ago, Cabaldon was going to walk away with this nomination, now that is very much in doubt. Without the IEs on behalf of the Yamada campaign, they were sunk. This caused groups like the Teacher's Union to go hard and negative the last few weeks. The EdVoice folks had access to polling as wll and quickly went negative against Yamada.

Campaigns go negative because it works unfortunately. These IEs are accountable to no one and they have almost no regulation. At the end of the day, Yamada would not be in this race without them.

So where does that leave the public and the political process? It is hard to say. This race is not alone in that effect either.

From the perspective of public discourse this is a tragedy. The ads launched by EdVoice were untrue for the most part, misleading, mean, and vicious. At the press conference yesterday, families who had children with disabilities felt victimized by the Latte ad. The Housing Authority Ad was a disgrace. The CTA sending out a picture with Cabaldon's car booted was petty and disgraceful for an organization that should be advocating for children, teachers, and education.

Someone has to say no to this stuff.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting