Police called on Ability Fierce for Trying to Meet with NYS Sen. Kevin Parker
(Dear reader: This is part of a two part post, which I may later edit down into one, but I wanted to put out the news part before it gets old. Later, I'll post all the ponderations this has caused me. There's a little too much he said/she said for my style but I was basically trying to get down everything that happened - stay tuned for Part II)
Is NYS Sen. Kevin Parker an ableist? I don’t know, I’d have to say the jury is still out on that one after what happened to me at his Brooklyn office today. I’d like to think he realizes that a significant percentage of his constituents are disabled and he just doesn’t know how to help them. But _ at least, for the moment _ I can’t rule out the possibility that he just doesn’t care. Either way, it doesn’t much matter, he’s my state senator it’s my job to make him care - that’s just democracy.
So what happened? Well, it all started with me trying to get an appointment to discuss Gov. Cuomo’s threat to upend the Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program, something that would be devastating for tens of thousands of elderly, disabled and their care givers. On Wednesday morning, I sent a email to Parker’s chief-of-staff and press person. I followed up with phone calls, leaving a message on his chief-of-staff’s voice mail and speaking with a woman at his Brooklyn office who told me the press person, Raven, only comes in on Thursdays. By Wednesday’s end, when I didn’t hear back, I thought I’d go visit his office in person_ something that usually does the trick with the added advantage of them getting to know you better. It didn’t quite go that way.
I came in and asked for Raven and was told she wasn’t coming in on this particular Thursday. I asked if the senator or Vaughn Mayers _ Parker’s chief of staff _ was there and the woman behind the desk said they were not. I explained that I wanted a meeting with the senator and the woman took my card and wrote down what I was after on the back of it. She told me that she was the scheduler and that she would get back to me by email with some possible times and dates. It was raining outside and the office was far from where I live. I hadn’t made the trip to leave without an appointment so I said I would wait for the email and sat down.
She said she had to move stuff around in his schedule and that it would take a while. I told her that was fine.
The woman had her baby with her and there was a large playpen with toys sprawled out across the floor before the rows of seats where I was siting. I tried to engage her about the kid but she wasn’t very friendly. After about a half hour, she told me she would send me the possible times in the email and that she needed to put her baby in the play pen and that I needed to go. I said, “You’re really doing this?” And she told me she was.
I sat back down and she called someone, I figured was the police. I waited a while longer and then I got an email giving me an appointment for Apr. 4 _ long after the budget I had come to talk with the senator about would be voted on. I asked her if she had anything earlier and reminded her that she said she would give me a selection of dates and times.
She kind of chided me for being uppity and then she called the police back to tell them she needed someone, “right now.”
I asked if she was really going to kick a disability advocate out of a state senator’s office and she said she was kicking out a constituent _ though I didn’t know how that made it any better. I told her this would make the senator look bad and she said that it wouldn’t because he did so many good things. I sat back down and waited for the police.
After a while I tweeted @SenatorParker “Is NYS Sen. Kevin Parker an ableist.” Then someone else called the woman to talk about me and she got up and finished the call in the back out of ear shot. A little while later a guy came in and introduced himself as Parker’s Chief of Staff Vaughn Mayers and we spoke in his office.
I made a round about pitch to let him know a little about our struggle with Purchase. And I mentioned that everyone from our state assembly member to the mayor and the governor weighed in on Nick’s story last summer. Even U.S. Sen. Gillibrand’s office called us back, after a couple of weeks. But we never heard back from Parker and that it was hard to even get in touch with him. I told him I sent him an email which he said he didn’t get before eventually finding it.
He finally asked me what I wanted the senator to do and I said: “Protect the Program.” He copied Nick’s Open Letter to Gov. Cuomo and pasted it in some other file and asked me to send him a letter in his voice or the Senator’s voice that he could then send along to Cuomo. When he walked me out there were two squad cars and five or six officers standing outside around them. We all said hello, smiled and I went on my merry way, but I'm still trying to figure out what happened.