Disability Perspective: 1970’s Thinking in Proposed Charter Amendment

by Bob Planthold on January 16, 2008

Tomorrow, there is scheduled a Rules Committee hearing on a proposed Charter Amendment. This was introduced right before Thanksgiving and sat quietly through the “Holiday Season” awaiting a hearing — a time when the attention of many, even at City Hall, isn’t quite so focussed.

This would require consideration of women and minorities for appointment to city commissions, task forces, advisory bodies, and such. So what’s the “disability perspective” on this attempt at responding to, if not improving, diversity? Bluntly, it reflects the political values and LAWS of the 1970s, while ignoring what has happened in the 1980s [passage of the Older Americans Act] and the 1990s [passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.]

This Charter Amendment favors SOME disenfranchised groups by requiring priority in consideration of appointments to San Francisco’s public bodies, but also OMITS some disenfranchised groups from such priority.

Statistics from the US Census, the Social Security Administration, and even the Mayor’s Office on Disability indicate that anywhere from one-sixth to one-fifth of the people of San Francisco have a disability.

The above statistical estimates do not include those many who are seniors but not having any impairment that rises to the level of a disability.

How is it that such a large percentage of the population of San Francisco, especially when ALREADY members of a legally-protected class, aren’t considered appropriate for having an EQUAL priority with other disenfranchised groups?

More importantly, how is it that the City Attorney’s office allows legislation to be drafted and considered when it shows such bias against disenfranchised groups?

This same neglect and bias, from the Supervisors and from the City Attorney, hearkens back to the disability-biased Prop. B in the November, 2006 election. Here again, as with the currently proposed charter amendment, the intended BENEFIT of that ballot measure is appropriate.

BUT, Prop. B selectively exempted only SOME public officials with only a FEW impairing conditions from attending meetings of the public body on which they hold a seat.

Prop. B, passed in November, 2006, does not apply to a public official dealing with such problems as the energy-draining effects of chemotherapy nor to someone recovering from hip replacement surgery.

Both that recently passed Charter Amendment as well as this proposed one say, indirectly, that people with disabilities and seniors are not needing nor worthy of priority for consideration of applicability of in appointments to San Francisco government boards, commissions, task forces, and advisory bodies.

Again, statistics about the level of UNemployment of people with disabilities, UNDERemployment of people with disabilities, and homeownership by people with disabilities indicates that the disabled in San Francisco aren’t part of the economic and social mainstream of San Francisco. Those patterns of semi-exclusion carry through as to membership on city task forces, commissions, advisory groups, and boards.

When will the Supes. and the City Attorney advance past the 1970s? When will their political and professional values get into the 21st Century? When will the disabled and seniors get their appropriate and proportional respect? Will any Supes. read this and respond–or stay aloof from involvement with people with disabilities and with seniors as to priority consideration in appointments to city advisory groups, task forces, commissions, and board?

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