Transcript from Candidate Forum

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Ericka Jones

CDRNYS
OCTOBER 13, 2016
6:00 P.M. ET
CANDIDATE FORUM

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This text is being provided in realtime format.  Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) or captioning is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings.

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Good evening, everyone.  We’re going to get started in about two minutes, so if you all could come in, sit down, and get excited for a fun night, we’ll get started soon.

Good evening, everyone.  If you would like to take a seat, we’re going to get started.  I want to thank you all for coming out tonight to our annual Candidate Forum on Disability Issues.  We’re so glad to see you all here so that you could be involved in the political process and ask our candidates about disability issues that matter to you.

Our candidate forum is sponsored by Autism Up, the Center for Disability Rights, Mental Health Association, New York Disability Vote Network, the Regional Center for Independent Living, and the Rochester Adapt, and tonight I’m so excited to welcome and let’s all hope I say this right, Helene Biandudi Hofer.  Yeah, do I get a thumbs up?  Yeah, two thumbs up.  I got it right.  You can read her wonderful bio in our program, but if you want to see her beautiful face, just watch WXXI’s Need to Know.  It’s great and she’s great, and we’re so excited to have her here to host our candidate forum, so welcome.

(Applause)

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: Thank you.  So just before we get started, just a few words from me.  This forum tonight is extremely important for those who are here just simply by observing the forum, you’re directly impacted by the issues that the candidates will be discussing, and for the candidates present tonight, as well and for those representing candidates in this year’s election.

It was a few years ago when WXXI launched a partnership with area organizations, including the Golisano Foundation, called Move to Include, and it was all about promoting inclusion, and it was at that time when I started doing a lot of reporting for the Move to Include initiative when I realized, as a journalist, the number of stories and issues directly affecting individuals with intellectual and physical disabilities that were not being covered by local and national media, and generally speaking, were being disregarded to a certain extent.

And for the past few years, I worked with the Center for Disability Rights, and Stephanie, I’m so grateful for her patience with me as we’ve been covering these stories for Need to Know and Move to Include. I’ve learned quite a bit, and one of the main things that I’ve learned is this is a very powerful voting block that cannot be neglected.  I say that for candidates and I say that for myself and for journalists, who should be focusing and covering these issues, so it’s an honor to be here tonight, and I look forward to hearing from the candidates and especially the audience participation, which is always a lot of fun and very interesting.

So with that, we’re going to start with just a little bit of a rundown. We’re going to start with the United States House of Representatives’ 25th District race, so that’s Mark Assini and Louise Slaughter, and Patty Larke will be representing Louise Slaughter tonight.

We will have the candidates come here. They will get a minute to introduce themselves, and then we’ll ask a question. After the candidate has answered the question, that’s when it’s open to you and you’ll be able to ask your questions as well, so we’ll go ahead and get started. Alright.

MARK ASSINI: I’ve seen you everywhere, Patty.

(Laughter)

PATTY LARKE: (Off microphone)

(Laughter)

MARK ASSINI: Is that on?  Patty, do you want to start?

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: Okay. So Republican Mark Assini and Democrat Louise Slaughter, represented by Patty Larke. We’ll start with Mark Assini.

MARK ASSINI: Just a little about me.  I’m Mark Assini.  I’m the Gates Town Supervisor, born and raised in the Town of Gates.  I like to say Gates born/Gates bred, and when I die, I’ll be Gates dead.

I’ve been in the private sector many, many years. I’ve also had some public-sector experience, and will tell you I’m doing this as a passion and nothing else.  I had the opportunity, and in fact, just recently was offered a job in the private sector to run one of the largest companies in the region and have turned it down to stay in public service a little longer.  I still have a few things I’d like to accomplish, so this is a passion from the heart to serve people, all people, and I have love in my heart for everyone.  That’s why I do this.  I really enjoy the job.

And a little bit about me, I’m married with three children.  My son Nicholas, he lives in Manhattan, he works at Goldman Sachs.  I’m waiting for my checks to come back from him.  My daughter lives here in town.  She’s an attorney.  She works for Woods Oviatt Gilman.  And then my other daughter has her degree in psychiatry but lives in Illinois and has three children, so I’m a grandpa three times over.  So that’s a little bit about me.

PATTY LARKE: Good evening, everybody.  I’m Patty Larke from the Office of Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, and for the past 20 years I have had the great privilege to serve in the Congresswoman’s office.  I serve in the capacity of district director, which means I manage the operations out of our district office.

We are not a new office to many of you who — hopefully who are here tonight, many who are here tonight and many who I’ve met previously at Center for Disability Rights events and legislative briefings. About the Congresswoman, you may or may not know that she is now a widow. She was married to her husband Bob for 57 years. She is the parent of three daughters, one who lives in the Rochester area, two who live in the State of Massachusetts. She has seven grandchildren, and she’s about to be a great-grandmother in February.

She has a longstanding history of standing on the side of the less fortunate and people who are in need of a hand up. That’s exactly how we look at it, not a hand out but a hand up, and the Congresswoman is pleased to continue her great advocacy on behalf of Social Security, SSI benefits, Social Security Disability, Social Security Retirement, survivor benefits, widows’ benefits, all those things that help people with a hand up. Also Medicare benefits. She realizes how much Medicaid benefits are a help not only to people in poverty but to people who have developmental disabilities. Her many years of service on the New York State Assembly enable her to understand that quite well, and she looks forward to serving you. I need not tell you she’s vigorous, she’s energetic, and she looks forward to serving you as long as she can. Thank you.

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: Alright. So we’ll get started with the first question. The Disability Integration Act is a crucial piece of legislation that would allow people with disabilities to live in the community instead of being forced into nursing facilities and other institutions. It would allow for services and supports that people receive in nursing facilities to receive those same services in the community. This would increase independence, improve happiness, and the cost is less than living in a nursing facility or other institution.

So the question is: What will you do to support the Disability Integration Act and get your colleagues in Congress to act as well?  And that goes first to Mark Assini.

MARK ASSINI: Well, very good. You answered the question. It’s a very important bill. I would support it. I would talk to my colleagues about it. It’s commonsense stuff. One of the things that I’ve done in Gates — we were told, you know, there’s no way we can continue the level of service that we’re providing without raising taxes. Well, we’ve cut the tax rate every year in the town of Gates, and I’ll get specifically to the answer, but — and we’ve done it while building a new library and opening a new rec center. The reason I tell you that is because there are ways to accomplish things which meet all needs and still satisfy the needs of the taxpayers, specifically on this.

By allowing people to stay in their homes, to be more productive, you not only are saving money for the taxpayer but you’re allowing citizens to be with their families, to be with their loved ones, to be able to do the things they want to do and be productive to society, which is critical, period.

Every single life and every single family has worth. In this case, by supporting this bill, we, in essence, not only save the taxpayer money, but we do what everyone wants, we allow you to live an independent life and do the things you want to do to the best of your ability in the environment that you want. We provide the freedom that I think is so critical for all citizens, and it makes sense.  So it would be very difficult for people that I would talk to, to tell me that they wouldn’t support this because it makes nothing but sense for the taxpayer and it’s the right thing to do for the people that we care about in this community.

PATTY LARKE: As Mr. Assini speaks futuristically; the Congresswoman can share with you her long history of having supported federal dollars that help to support people who need support.  She recently joined the bipartisan — supported by both parties — caucus for people living with disabilities, the congressional caucus that supports people living with disabilities, and in her role there, she’s uniquely qualified as a member of that caucus to advocate for all that is important to people who are living with differing levels of abilities, that’s the way we like to look at it.

She would continue her strong support for the Medicaid dollars that assist with housing, her strong support for and continuous support for transportation dollars, that enable you, once you are integrated, people who have differing level of abilities are integrated into the general population, they then have a challenge of how they’re going to get from place to place. You need a strong advocate for transportation dollars. She has been and will continue to do that on your behalf.

I would just sum it up and say in her role as a member of the bipartisan caucus, House caucus for people living with disabilities, she would continue to serve you well. Key phrase, continue to serve you well.

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: Okay. And we’ll open up questions to the audience. And there’s one mic.

We have one mic and it’s corded, so if you have a question please come up and we will do our best to make it work.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hi. My name is Pilgrim. I have a question for Patty Larke specifically.

PATTY LARKE: What’s your name?

AUDIENCE MEMBER: My name is Pilgrim. Earlier this year, HR 2646, which is the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis bill, was up for a vote in the House of Representatives, and Representative Slaughter voted yes on that bill, and that bill was an ableist piece of legislation that strips rights away from people with mental health disabilities, and it is an abusive piece of legislation that if it passes and becomes law will say that a person can be kept indefinitely in mental health lockup and with no chance of release if they’re mental health arrested or committed, and there’s a lot of other things in that bill that are also disgusting, and I would like to know — I know that the Congresswoman isn’t here herself, but could you give any sort of justification on why she would vote yes to something that is so offensive to people who have mental health disabilities?

PATTY LARKE: I want to make sure I have the name of the bill correctly. It’s HR 2646, and it’s called the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis?  I’ve certainly known of bills that have wording that do not reflect what’s contained in the bill, certainly aware of that. I’m going to be very frank with you, very honest with you, I have no idea why she would have voted against the bill, but I can honestly tell you I want to get your information, and I will communicate directly to you — I can do it via email or by phone, whatever’s easiest for you, because I’d like for you to share it with the community you feel that it needs to be shared with.  I will absolutely do that, so if you would kindly provide me with your contact information, I will provide you with factual information concerning why she took the vote she did.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you.

PATTY LARKE: You’re welcome.

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: Any other questions? Okay. Do you want to come to the mic?

MARK ASSINI: Did you want me to respond?

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: Yes.

MARK ASSINI: Okay.  One of the things that — I have a family member that does struggle with mental health issues, and one of the things that I’ve really been bothered by is the stigma. You know, mental health disorders are like any illness. They can be treated.  They are not something to be afraid of. They are something that we should look at like we look at any other illness and do it in such a way where stigma is not attached to it. It has a stigma in this society, and I’m not speaking to the bill and I certainly don’t want to criticize the Congresswoman. I would just simply say that one of the things we have to do is get beyond the stigma associated with mental illness. There are so many good and decent people that are looked at as lesser because they deal with this particular illness, and it’s got to stop. That’s part of it.

And I’ve seen it with a family member, and it is — it is very sad, it really, truly is. People should be treated with respect and dignity, and that stigma and the attitude that is put forth by many people has to stop.

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: Okay. Additional questions, if you just — yeah, if you would like to –

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Representative Assini, you said you stayed in public service because there are certain things you still wanted to do, and if you haven’t had a chance to tell us already what things you want to continue doing, would you let us know?

MARK ASSINI: Sure. Sure. There’s a few things. I’ll tailor it to this particular group in a second, but one of the things I’m concerned about in our area is the lack of economic growth, the ability to employ people is so critical. We heard about another layoff today at Verizon, and I think that, unfortunately, what’s happened in this community when it comes to the economy is that we have allowed ourselves to be overtaken by very poor trade deals, so one of the things I want to do is talk about how we redo trade in this country to bring jobs back to this this country itself.  We’re losing out to China, to other countries that do not do fair trade, so jobs are critical.

I can tell you, in my community, the Town of Gates, we have the single largest job growth of any area in the entire region. In fact, we have the single largest group of jobs that have just been added within the last six months of any initiative anywhere in the Rochester region, and that came directly — and you can talk to the owner of the tech park — from a very talented businessman by the name Josh Yashar who runs the Triad Group, and we just added jobs not from the area, good-paying entry-level positions and I worked directly with him to help make that happen. I don’t want to take credit for creating them, but I worked with him to make that happen. He has said publicly as a partner I was part of that success.

I’ll go through some of the other things, but — I don’t want to bore you, but specifically, some of the things that you can do are not necessarily legislative, they’re not necessarily partnering with the private sector to create jobs. I’ll give you an example, at Gates High School. We have a mom, Heather Perrera, who came to see me.  Her daughter, Devon, has a service dog, and that particular service dog is probably her lifeline. This young lady has seizures.  She’s a beautiful young lady. She has seizures and other things, and she needs that service dog. In order for her to go to school, that service dog needs to be with her and it is her companion.

The school — and I have nothing against the superintendent, I work with her on a number of things, but on this, this is where I would love to be in Congress to be able to apply maybe a little more pressure, but the service dog was basically denied. They had to have an extra handler, and instead of finding an accommodation, they dug their heels in. This young girl and her mom have now had to take on extraordinary expense to have that service dog and a handler come in when there was a very simple solution that I provided, but I just don’t have the leverage to be able to do anything about it as a town supervisor, but, you know, it’s working with businesses and working on policy to create jobs, but it’s also sometimes not so much the legislation, it’s the ability to go in and maybe affect a change by working with an organization. As a Congress person you have so much clout, and I don’t want to use the word “power,” but you do, and you can use it wisely and use it for the right reasons, so those are the types of things without getting too detail and wonky into the legislative stuff and all the policy stuff. That’s the type of thing that I’d like to do, and I certainly would fight to do that for this community.

(Off microphone)

MARK ASSINI: You’re very welcome.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Good evening. I have a question related to fair wages for workers with disabilities. According to the Fair Labor Standards Act, a clause in there, Section 14C, which permits employers to pay their workers with disabilities pennies per hour.  If elected, what will you directly do to ensure that the Transitioning to Integrated and Meaningful Employment Act is passed?

MARK ASSINI: Start with me, did you want me or –

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: We’ll start with Patty.

PATTY LARKE: Sir, may I have your name?

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Justin Young.

PATTY LARKE: Justin. Okay. I want to make sure I have the correct information, it’s the Fair Labor Standards Act, and it’s a specific section.  What’s the section?

JUSTIN: Section 14C of the act.

PATTY LARKE: Thank you. Again, in her role on the bipartisan health caucus with people living with disabilities, it would be — as a member of that caucus, she has put herself in a position to advocate for fair wages, but at another forum like this with another disability advocacy group last night, we heard very poignant stories about people not earning fair wages, and that is one of the things that she’d be able to address. I will say to you, Justin, that just in September that caucus, House caucus on people living with disabilities, received an advisory — the Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities received a report. It’s over 100-page report. It came out last month, and they’re still — she and other members of the caucus are still reading through the report, but I understand — and I haven’t thoroughly read it yet. I understand it is very revealing, you know, workforce development, and just as the report name says, Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals, which includes pay for individuals, so once the information in this report is completely read and understood, I’m sure it will provide opportunities for members of that caucus and others to chart a path forward to assure that wages are fair for people living with disabilities and competitive with people who are routinely in the workforce.

I’m happy to provide you with a copy of that if you would like it.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Yes, I would.

PATTY LARKE: Okay. I’ll get your email address or whatever address — send it — several various ways we can get to you, but I’ll get it to you before I leave.

MARK ASSINI: One of the issues is the reimbursement formula that’s being used, and that’s one of the reasons why the wages are suppressed, they’re kept down, is because of the reimbursement formula, and a lot of these health care facilities are not paying people fair wages because they do not get the funding necessary to do that. That’s, you know, not an excuse, but that’s what they’re doing it, so I would say to you that the funding associated, especially with these types of workers, needs to be increased.

Now, that’s an odd thing from a Republican, but I can tell you this, that a lot of times you save money when you spend money. I know you hear that all the time, but that’s true, and that’s been my philosophy in the Town of Gates. You can do things, you can increase funding and still find a way, in this case, to make people more productive, to keep them in their homes instead of putting them in an institution, where institutional costs are so much greater than home health care costs, so those types of things are very helpful and they will help, not only with the budget but they help, again, keep people independent, and that’s critical, so funding specifically for those particular workers and for that particular area, federal reimbursements need to be increased.

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: And we have time for one last question, and you just want to come to the mic in the middle. So we’ve got one last question.  Hang on one moment.

MARK ASSINI: If it’s a tough one, I won’t answer it. No, I’m only kidding.

If you talk, then Ken can repeat it in the microphone.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: My question is related to the Fair Labor Standards Act, and I use an attendant myself, and I know that the Fair Labor Standards Act has changed, which should be a good thing, but actually in my case, it’s not a good thing for my attendant to — well, for the (Inaudible) to have to follow that — those rules.

MARK ASSINI: The overtime rules, specifically?

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  The overtime.  They say they protect me, but they’re not because my attendant ended up losing money –

MARK ASSINI: Right.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: — with the overtime rule (Inaudible) went into effect, so how would either one of you deal with that situation?  Is there any chance that you could help us talk to the Labor Department and make the changes necessary?

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: Mr. Assini will go first.

MARK ASSINI: Okay.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Did you hear?

MARK ASSINI: I did. I think you’re referring to specifically the cap on overtime, the attendance.  I mean, that’s insane.  It’s not — doesn’t make any sense to do that, so I would change the rule.  It punishes you because your attendant has to limit the number of hours and you have to find somebody else to fill those hours, and guess what, that costs even more than allowing the person to work the overtime and make the money, so I think it was well-intended when they put it in.  They were trying to make sure the employee was well compensated, but then they put the cap on it, which limited the amount of money that individual under overtime could receive, so — again, all these well-intended laws, and then they end up not thinking through them and it ends up hurting you specifically and actually hurts the attendant because they’re not able to — yeah, not able to make –

(Off microphone)

MARK ASSINI: Right. So I would change that. Again, it’s common sense. We’ve kind of lost a little bit of common sense in this country, and we’ve got to get that back, and that’s not a Democrat or Republican thing, I mean just —

(Beeping)

Is that me? Did I do something wrong? Is the hook coming out?  I’ll turn it over to Patty.

PATTY LARKE: May I have your name?

AUDIENCE MEMBER: My name is Susan (Off microphone)

PATTY LARKE: Okay, Susan. Leading up to the change in the rule, there was much discussion, I’m sure you’re very aware of that, much discussion. Mr. Darling stayed in touch with our office, our Rochester office, and the Congresswoman played a great role in getting the implementation of that rule delayed. You understand that.  And she understood and understands — she understood then what the ramifications of that would be, and she understands now. Again — and I don’t just say this to be repetitive, but in — this is one of the reasons why she joined the bipartisan caucus, House caucus on disabilities. It gives her a great opportunity to continue to use the weight of her being a member of the House of Representatives to advocate for such things as this, and that issue — even though the rule did change, it’s not a dead issue. It’s still being reviewed, and the House caucus is going to play a great role in helping to work that to the benefit of the consumer and the direct care professional, and we do understand how important that is, we do understand.

In another life, when I was between jobs, I worked as a direct care professional for CVS, and it enabled me to understand how very important that role is, you know, the person who’s receiving the services, it’s important to them; the direct care professional is trying to make a living, so totally get that point. We’ve talked about it and I guarantee in her role on the caucus, she will advocate for what’s best and what’s fair.

MARK ASSINI: Again, I think the people who put it in place were well-intentioned, but they just didn’t think it through, they really didn’t.

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: Alright. That wraps our conversation with the candidates for the United States House of Representatives, Mark Assini and Patty Larke, standing in for Louise Slaughter, so can we give them a round of applause?

(Applause)

MARK ASSINI: Thank you for having us. Thanks very much, guys.  I appreciate it.

PATTY LARKE: Thank you.

MARK ASSINI: God bless. Can I bring the puppy with me?

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: Okay. We’re going to take a one-minute break to get things switched out and will be right back with you.

Okay. So we are going to introduce the candidates for New York State Assembly, Dorothy Styk with the 135th District and Harry Bronson of the 138th District.

DOROTHY STYK: Should we switch our name tags for fun?

HARRY BRONSON: No.

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: We’re going to give each candidate a minute to introduce themselves to you, and will start with Dorothy Styk.

DOROTHY STYK: Good evening. It’s a pleasure to be here today.  My name is Dorothy Styk, and I’ve been married to my husband, George, for almost 30 years. We have two sons. My older son Alex is attending Harvard for his MBA and law degree in Boston, and I have a younger son who works in Wall Street in Manhattan. I’ve worked in various sectors in business. I’ve worked for a major CPA firm, I’ve worked for major industry as a computer auditor, I prepared income taxes, I served as a county legislator for two years, and for the past ten years I’ve been working at Brighton High School as a library administrator/secretary.

I’m very excited for running for Assembly. I believe our district needs a strong leader to represent us in it Albany. I’ve always felt strongly about representing my community, and that is something I want to continue in Albany.

Unfortunately, a lot of elected officials, my hopeful colleague aside, are not necessarily in Albany for the right reasons, and we need to put people first and community first, and I’m very happy to be here today to have this opportunity to speak with you. Thank you.

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: Okay. And Harry Bronson.

HARRY BRONSON: Good evening, everybody, and thank you so much for having us here. I always enjoy these events every two years for the campaign and as well as your legislative events in between.

Many of you know who I am; I represent the 138th Assembly District. The district geographically covers the Town of Henrietta, the Town of Chili, and portions the City of Rochester.

Prior to becoming an Assembly member, I was an attorney by trade.  I handled mostly antidiscrimination matters in the employment sector. That included representations under ADA, and our firm represented only individual employees, labor unions, and employee benefit funds, so we were always on the side of the worker in that regard.

Prior to doing antidiscrimination employment work, I also did, on a limited degree, cases in connection with the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and in that sector, what I did was represent families and their children in connection with their IEP, Individualized Education Programs, so I have some familiarity with the issues and the community of people with disabilities, but there’s always more for me to learn.

We’ve done some good things in connection with transportation.  We need to do a lot more in that regard. We’re trying to work very hard to make sure that every person, no matter ability, has an opportunity to lead a full quality life, and I look forward to continuing to work on that issue for you.

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: Okay. So one question for both candidates and then, again, we’ll open up the floor to the audience.

People within the disability community need transportation that is accessible, affordable, and dependable in order to secure employment, access health care, shop for necessities, and engage in their communities. Many need access to paratransit to continue to be part of our community. In fact, without paratransit, many would be in danger of being institutionalized. Paratransit services cost much more to operate and are more expensive for the consumer than regular fixed-route services and they receive federal funding only for capital expenses.

The question, if elected, how will you support appropriate funding for paratransit services, and we’ll give that first to Dorothy Styk.

DOROTHY STYK: I understand that there have been some large gains in transportation spending within the state and that also includes transportation for those with disabilities. There’s no question in my mind that there is a strong need for this transportation, and I would continue to support it in Albany and make sure that funding was available and made a priority.

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: Okay.  And Harry Bronson.

HARRY BRONSON: Yes. This is an area where we have to do a lot more work. We’ve done some good things. We have to do a lot more work.  We have to make sure that every person has the opportunity and access to safe, accessible, affordable, and consistently available transportation. You all live this every day. You know the reality, what transportation is. It can be a barrier or it can be a lifeline.  It can help you get to a place of employment, it can help you get to your medical providers, it can help you get to the grocery store, it can help you be fully integrated into the community.

What we’ve done thus far has helped, but we need to do more.  Most recently we increased in the budget — the current budget provides for $84.5 million for transit capital expenses, that’s to expand the transit systems, much of that in upstate New York, and we also added an additional $10 million to offset the operating costs of the transit facilities. Those two things will be helpful.

We also just recently, at the State, enacted in the State budget what’s called the Upstate Transit Funding Board. This is where we can also have more gains. What it does, that board is required — it’s a nine-member board. It’s required to look at and analyze, particularly in upstate New York, including right here in Rochester, New York, where are the shortcomings of our public transportation system.  That includes our shortcomings with people with disabilities.  I’ve been working with some folks out in Henrietta who reside in the DePaul residents, and they literally feel like they’re trapped in the residence because there is not a bus line that comes close to where they reside, so we need to continue that work, and then most importantly, the paratransit we have to fund, we have to fund.  It’s more expensive, I understand that, but it’s so vitally important, as I mentioned earlier, so that people can be fully integrated into our community because we’re all part of that community.

DOROTHY STYK: If I could make a comment, please. When I was doing research in disabilities, it came as a bit of a shock to me to see that one out of five people are classified as disabled, and this is not an issue that’s going to go away, it’s going to increase.  The percentage is going to increase as time goes on because our population is getting older, and we need more support, so Harry gave you great ideas exactly what’s going on in the Assembly, and I definitely support the need for greater transportation.

There’s nothing worse than getting stuck in a home and feeling that you can’t live a normal life. I mean, people need the right to work, they need the right to go shop, they need to go visit their friends, they need to go see their physicians, and by no doubt this is something that we would definitely support in Albany, absolutely.

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: Okay. So we’ll open the floor for audience questions, and then, again, we’ve got one mic, so we’ll make it work.

(Off microphone)

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you. Okay. One of the issues that is sure to come before the Assembly in 2017 is a bill to legalize assisted suicide or physician-assisted suicide, and most people aren’t aware that over 12 national disability organizations and many state and local disability organizations oppose those bills because of the dangers of mistake, coercion, and abuse that people are largely not very familiar with because they don’t fit in a sound bite. I’m not going to ask what your position would be on that, but rather, I’d like to ask if you would commit to meeting with the disability community, to being educated about the real facts, the technical provisions of the bills, the realities of what are happening in states where it has been legalized, and would you consider after that what your position is, and will you urge your colleagues to meet and be educated by us as well?

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: Okay. Harry Bronson first.

HARRY BRONSON: Sure. That’s an excellent question. I’m so glad you brought it up, because I have not taken a position on the issue.  As many of you have been following that bill, it actually moved rather rapidly. We didn’t think it was going to get the traction that it did this year, so some of us who hadn’t really focused on studying and educating and learning more about the impacts, both the intentional impacts as well as the unintentional impacts were, like, oh, we’ve got to catch up here, so I welcome the opportunity. I have already spoken to some folks about that, individuals with disabilities, and I welcome that opportunity because this is — this is a very, very important decision we’re going to have to make, and I want to be as informed as possible.  So thank you for bringing this up.

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: Dorothy Styk.

DOROTHY STYK: I also agree this is a very important issue. Not having been in the Assembly, I’m not as familiar with the bill as Assemblyman Bronson, but in order to be a good public servant, you have to be informed, and by no means would I not meet with any group in order to get more information to become better educated to make the right decision. I’m always interested in what people have to say.  I am your voice, and I need to express that voice when I go to vote.

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: Okay. And we’ll take our next question

AUDIENCE MEMBER: My name is Shelly. When I called Lift Line, if I call later on the weekdays — two days or Three days.  (CART unable to understand)

SHELLY: They tell me they got a car early if I want a ride early. I don’t think it’s right. Stuck stick so what you’re saying – is

DOROTHY STYK: Is what you’re saying life line isn’t giving you the flexibility and the support you need and you have to plan your life ahead of time?

SHELLY: Yeah.

DOROTHY STYK: Which is not reasonable because Harry and I can just get in a car at any time and do what we have to do and you don’t have that support.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: One more time.  I didn’t get that one.  How –

DOROTHY STYK: Can you repeat the last part?

HARRY BRONSON: What you just said?

SHELLY: How do I know what I’m going to do —

DOROTHY STYK: How do you know what you’re going to do in three days?

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yeah.

HARRY BRONSON: Got you. Someone else can also help me understand this, but you need to schedule three days ahead of time, and so the concern is, you know, that may work if you know you have a scheduled doctor’s appointment, but what happens when the doctor changes that appointment.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yeah.

HARRY BRONSON: So that creates additional barriers and hurdles to getting the ride scheduled; is that correct?

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yeah.

HARRY BRONSON: So this is an area that folks can help me understand better, but I don’t know, are there regulations that require the three days or is that something that’s set up locally or what?

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I just was wondering if our CART person could hear us. The law says they have to offer a ride within 24 hours’ notice, but that’s not the response rate we’re getting. We need to call at least three days in advance in order to get a ride anywhere. Calling 24 hours in advance gets us left with no ride.

HARRY BRONSON: Okay. So, in essence, they’re not following the law. Well, we probably should work together and get some letters out to them and have some folks so that if we have examples of when that 24-hour time period’s not being followed so that we can add, I think, some pressure to see if we can get them to do the right thing. Thank you.

DOROTHY STYK: When you have the documentation and support, it’s always easier to go to the organization and to — to discuss it and get better support.

HARRY BRONSON: Let me — since we’re back onto transportation, what I neglected to mention when we were on the original transportation question is that I’m carrying a bill in the Assembly.  It actually was introduced by my predecessors at the request of CDR, and it’s a notice requirement so the regional public transit system, if they’re going to change — a substantial change in any bus route, if this bill were to become law, it would require a public hearing on the proposed changes so that all of you could come and talk about what would be beneficial with that change or not beneficial with that change, and we’ve had some conversations, and CDR hasn’t really pushed it, but we were talking earlier at an earlier event that that may be something we want to focus on this year, and we’ve been having conversations about that. Thank you.

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: And our next question.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yeah. So 50% of police brutality cases in the United States happen against disabled people, and in Rochester specifically, we have a big problem with police interactions between the deaf community, the mentally ill community, and the autistic community, and there’s just not enough training for police officers.  They don’t know what to do when they come across someone having a meltdown or someone having a breakdown or a deaf person that they can’t communicate with.  They don’t know how to handle it, so they react violently.

If elected, what would you do to change training for police officers in New York to make sure that they have acceptable training for how to handle disabled encounters?

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: We’ll give that first to Dorothy Styk.

DOROTHY STYK: As I mentioned earlier, I work at a high school, and we do go through training to learn how to deal with autistic children and meltdowns and different situations, and I agree with you that it’s important because you can’t react well to a situation if you don’t know how to react to a situation.

I would like to think that we could get a committee together to discuss this and maybe bring this to the county sheriff’s department? Would that be the right way to go?

HARRY BRONSON: This is what I think we should do. As many of you know, I’m an openly gay man, and we have worked with the police in connection with the interaction with the police with the LGBT community and most recently with the trans community, and so that was a series of meetings that were held. Unfortunately, in response to a bad interaction between a trans individual and the police, so we’ve got — so we have some models of what we’ve done locally, but also at the State level, currently there is conversations that are being had with law enforcement regarding the — the problems that exist with people of color and law enforcement, and so we’re investigating issues on how we can maybe make some changes to not only improve those relationships but also put regulations in place that would help prevent that kind of assault and abuse and, unfortunately, killings. So what I would think we could do is when I go back to Albany in January, if you all help me get there, is to include this aspect of law enforcement and its relationship with the community in the broader discussion that we’re having, so as we make some changes that we’re also including changes that will be helpful for people with disabilities as well.

DOROTHY STYK: And if I could just interject and say one more thing. When elected, with your help, one of the things — one of my plans when in office is to align myself with experts in different areas and different concerns, and one of those things I want to do is align myself with people — disability rights experts. With these people, I will help — they will not only enhance my knowledge of the issues, I will also understand better the needs of the community.  I have a good idea, but I am in no way an expert, and then with this interaction with these experts, I hope to pass great legislation for the community.

HARRY BRONSON: And let me add on to what Dorothy said. I mean, she’s put that in the perspective of a new person entering public office at the State level. The reality is there are so many things that State legislators are not familiar with, and so it’s folks like you who are willing to share your stories, both your life story as well as your advocacy stories, and share your experiences that helps us understand so we can make the best policy decision possible.

DOROTHY STYK: Absolutely.

HARRY BRONSON: So even though I’ve been in office for a number of years, I still rely on all of you to help me understand what needs to be changed.

DOROTHY STYK: Absolutely.

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: We’ll take our next question.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: My name is Dean Santos, a former employee of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, and I’m aware that in recent years there’s been — well, there’s been a longstanding controversy about what is the best way to develop language in deaf children oral, manual, and now we have cochlear implants, and what’s happening is that there’s a lot of confusion on the part of parents and what kind of decision to make about that.

There is some legislation coming up that has to do with early language testing and intervention.  I believe it’s called Lead K, and I’m wondering if either of you are aware of this or have a position on it.

HARRY BRONSON: I’m not familiar with that piece of legislation.

DOROTHY STYK: I’m not either, I’m sorry.

HARRY BRONSON: But certainly if you send an email or contact my office, we can take a closer look at it. That has not been on the — I mean, folks come into my office, both here and Rochester as well as in Albany.  That has not been on one of the lists of their priorities, but I’m certainly willing to take a look at that.

DOROTHY STYK: Absolutely.

HARRY BRONSON: When I first moved here to Rochester, I had a housemate who was a sign language interpreter, and this was years ago, we’re talking in the early ’90s, and she was talking about that discussion going on in the deaf community and what would be the best approach, so I’m more than happy to take a look at it.

DEAN: Okay.  Thank you.

DOROTHY STYK: Thank you.

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: Okay.  And our next question.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you.

(Off microphone)

(Laughter)

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Oh, we’re good.

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: Okay.  Go ahead.  I see you.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Okay. So I was asking about a committee as far as in the Assembly in Albany and within the government about Medicaid needing to change because I’m alone, I am — I have no roommates or anything, I live alone, which is very difficult as far as budgeting my money, and I am 73 years old, and I have to work part time, and so then I request some type of Medicaid funding for help and assistance to be able to pay my medical bills and my Medicare and my health insurance, and I was denied because of a subsidiary for my 401K, and so I was declined for that because of my extra income, and I don’t — I rely on my pension, and when I started setting up my 401K myself, it was a very small amount that I had saved away, and I don’t want to give that up.  And so when Medicaid wasn’t able to help me, I’m trying to manage on my own, and there’s nothing allowed for me. There’s really nothing out there for me to be able to support myself, and I’m really thinking this government, this needs to change, and I don’t — I’m not really looking to get a roommate, but that’s kind of where my other options are, and we are at a difference of opinions right now and cars cost a lot of money because of maintenance and keeping up with the car, so if that could be looked at, I’d appreciate it, and I’m deaf, and I don’t make a whole lot of money, like I used to.

HARRY BRONSON: So let –

AUDIENCE MEMBER: And that’s not my fault, obviously. This is small money that I get, and I’m doing the best I can. But thank you very much.  Thank you.

HARRY BRONSON: So let me just say that Medicaid is a combination of both federal laws and regulations as well as state laws and regulations, and it gets very convoluted. One of the things that we are working on, however, is folks like you who are kind of in between.  You know, you’re earning some money, you have incomes, you have some assets, and looking at how we can have more of a graduation, if you will, of the benefits, so instead of just having hard, fast rules of cutoffs, we’re looking at ways that — and this came about because of the antipoverty initiative here in Rochester and Monroe County.  We’re looking at ways on social services and other types of support funding if we, as people, are earning more or becoming more independent, instead of having cliffs where their subsidies are immediately cut off, that we have kind of a graduation so that we can ease people in.

So I don’t know if your situation will actually fall into that discussion, but we — it is also the health care area that we’re looking at, and Medicaid is one of them.

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: Okay. We have time for one more question.  Yes.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Good evening.

HARRY BRONSON: Good evening.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I’m on a church work group that is addressing the whole issue of school-to-prison pipeline, and one of the things that is very evident to a lot of us is the — the fact that people with disabilities, particularly mental disabilities, are over-represented in that transition to prison because of the inability of the police to, as was mentioned before, to effectively deal with them.

My question is, is there any legislation that is under way, not just to address behavioral tendencies of the police — because in many cases, they’re good people trying to do what they know how to do, but the question is, is there legislation to address the safety net issues of people who really need to be in some kind of an institution or need to get additional services that are not available to them right now?

HARRY BRONSON: So we — I have had numerous conversations with both the commissioner of the Office of Mental Health as well as the commissioner of the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities. As you know, this state — and this is an area where I have disagreement with the administration. This state has been on the path of the last — for a long time, but certainly under the current administration, of trying to move people out of group homes and things of that nature into the community, which I fully support.  I think that folks should be in the most independent living possible that they can have, and I know you all support that as well.

Mm-hmm.

HARRY BRONSON: That being said, at the same time, the state has been cutting resources to community-based services for people with mental health issues as well as people with developmental disabilities, so it’s inconsistent from a policy standpoint to be doing those two things at the same time.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Right.

HARRY BRONSON: So what we’re trying to do is increase funding for mental health services and increase funding for services for people with developmental disabilities.

As you know, the reality — and I think I heard one of the panelists speak earlier before we came up about the idea is that you can actually save money if you spend it now versus later. The cost of having people go to emergency rooms because they’re having a mental health episode, the cost of having them then hospitalized, the cost of having them in our criminal justice system, law enforcement all the way through the court system and then incarceration, that is not only costly, it’s immoral and it’s wrong because these are conditions that we should be helping people with instead of treating them and criminalizing those conditions. We have to do a lot better than what we’ve been doing.

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: And Dorothy Styk, would you like to respond?

HARRY BRONSON: You can say ditto.

DOROTHY STYK: Well, I agree with Harry, I absolutely agree with Harry, and I’m listening to your concern, and I’m thinking what can I do to help the situation? You know, I work at a school. I’m thinking of the students there. One thing that I think distinguishes me from my opponent is that, you know, there are people — whether it’s in the City of Rochester or in the suburbs, they are in need of work.  I think there are a lot of people — I don’t care whether you’re disabled or not, people need to have a purpose in life and to feel self-worth, and the way of doing that is by promoting work, and we need more work in this area. As someone mentioned, Verizon is losing 600 jobs in the next few months. And what I’m proposing and what I want to see — and I’ve been telling people when I go door-to-door — and I failed, I’m sorry, to mention earlier that the district I want to represent is Webster, Penfield, Perinton, and East Rochester, and what I want to do is have businesses and educational institutions work together, identify jobs that are needed in the area, and I’m thinking more of trade jobs because there are a lot of students I’ve seen in my high school and other schools, they will not go to university, and that’s okay, but they have other talents that are being underutilized, so I want businesses to identify the needs of the community and I want to work with the educational institutions to help make those training opportunities possible.

And by getting people to work, I think that will solve a lot of the issues that you’re talking about, people going to prison, because when people go to work and work together as a community and they understand each other better, I think that solves a lot of issues that we’re having right now.

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: Alright. And that concludes our conversation for the candidates of New York State assembly, Dorothy Styk of the 135th District and Harry Bronson of the 138th District.  Thank you.

DOROTHY STYK: Thank you.

HARRY BRONSON: Thank you all.

(Applause)

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: Okay. We’re going to take one moment to transition to our next candidates.

DOROTHY STYK: Thank you for your card and thank you for your questions. I will follow up for sure.

HARRY BRONSON: Okay.  Great.  Thank you.

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: Alright. Mr. Robach, ready to get going.  Okay.  Talking, talking, talking.  We’ve got to get going.

JOSEPH ROBACH: (Inaudible)

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: Alright. Okay. So we are delighted to have Joseph Robach here of the 56th District for the New York Senate race, and Ann C. Lewis was supposed to be here to join him, but she is not, so we want to thank Mr. Robach for being here tonight.

And this will begin — we’ll give you one minute to introduce yourself, and after that we’ve got one question for you and we will open up the questions to the audience, so you can take your one-minute introduction now.

JOSEPH ROBACH: Okay. Thank you. Good evening, and I want to thank CDR and all the folks who put this forum together. I think it’s very important to be able to interface one-on-one, and I will just say in my one minute, I’ve had a very good ongoing working relationship with CDR and a lot of other groups who are here represented.

Like most families, I have someone in my family who we’ve had to get some services for and extra attention to have her live up to her full capacity, so I know, on a personal level as well as a governmental one, how important it is that we all work together, whether they’re funding issues, inclusionary issues, access issues, transportation issues, how important that is, and hopefully — I know there’s a lot of people in this room. I’ve worked one-on-one to help even assist on an individual basis as well, and hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to do that for another couple of years.

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: Alright. Okay, Mr. Robach, your question.

The United States Supreme Court decided in 1999 that all individuals with disabilities have the right to live in the most integrated setting. Regardless of age, type of disability or level of need, states cannot force people with disabilities to live in institutions. This ruling is most commonly known as the Olmstead decision. New York State currently does not comply with that decision.

The question: What is your plan to promote independent living for seniors and people with disabilities and ensure Olmstead compliance within New York State?

JOSEPH ROBACH: Yeah, and I will give Bruce Darling back there some props, who we did pass a bill in the Senate, I believe it was Jim Seward’s bill which would kind of force a little more inclusion, or for lack of a better term, allow kind of the funding stream to follow the individual instead of go to an organization.

We have another bill, Senate bill S 7247 that would create independent office that would really kind of help all people get a little bit more integrated, but a lot of it is, no question, about money and having the dollars to follow the individuals. We’ve done some minor things from being able to retrofit homes or make requirements for building for new things so people can do that, but I think I can say this; you know, whatever the group’s been, if there’s any ways where we can, you know, use our dollars to allow people to be more independent and not have a one size fits all, I’ve usually been in support of those things and will continue to try to be.

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: Okay. We will open up the questions now to the audience, so if anyone has a question, just a reminder, the mic is on a wire, so we’ll work with you around that. I’m going to try to get this over there. Alright.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I’ll try. Can you hear me? Mr. Robach, the disabled are paid subminimum wages. You are for that, but your party’s against it. Can you explain the difference?  You’re for it, your party is not.

JOSEPH ROBACH: I’m sorry, can you just say the question again?

So I think what Bobbie’s getting at is in your candidate survey, you had responded that –

JOSEPH ROBACH: Yes.

— you feel that sometimes segregated settings and subminimum wages are proficient; however, in the Republican platform, it’s stated that they’re for the Time Act, which is about getting rid of subminimum wages and sheltered workshops, so Bobbie wanted to know why you feel differently.

JOSEPH ROBACH: Very good question. Happy to answer that. And I will say this: In all humility, I don’t think you’ll find anybody who is more honest on a questionnaire in elected office of anybody, so out of all the things on your questionnaire, they were all yes.  That one I don’t feel like it’s a very for, so I have a sister who’s 52 years old, works through the Arc of Monroe County, works in a clothes shop. I am fighting the governor right now not to close those clothes shops, and their idea is that everybody can get integrated and get a job at a restaurant or Chase Pitkin, believe me. Luckily for my sister, she has a very supportive family, siblings, a mom.  If we could have her being more mainstream, she would, but her job is very important to her, not only for the money she makes but for sense of purpose and socialization and talks about it all the time.

So I can’t, on one hand, be fighting the closed shops but then say you have to do all the rules different, so I think that there are different needs, I think there’s different programs, but I’m absolutely for paying people who are doing equal work, regardless of any other challenge they might have, a minimum wage, and that’s just the truth. But I think the carte blanche say we have to outlaw anybody who does anything different, like piecework or anything else.  I think that would be very damaging to people in the OPWDD group, who I work with very much in a professional and on a personal basis, as well as does my whole family. So that’s the only reason why I couldn’t check that “yes” across the board.

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: Okay.  And our next question.

JOSEPH ROBACH: I’m glad you read my questionnaire and answers.

(Laughter)

Sometimes I go to groups, I don’t even think they read them.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: They’re on the website.

JOSEPH ROBACH: Good.  Amen.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hi, Senator Robach. My name’s Diane. I haven’t seen you in a while.

JOSEPH ROBACH: Great.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: There’s a very controversial issue that is going to definitely come before the New York Senate in 2017. It’s already been in front of you, and that’s the assisted suicide or physician-assisted suicide bill, and most people aren’t aware of this, but over 12 national disability organizations and many state and local disability organizations oppose those bills because of the dangers of mistake, coercion, and abuse that they involve.

I’m not going to ask what your position is, but what I would like to ask –

JOSEPH ROBACH: You can.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: — is will you commit to meeting with and being educated by disability advocates –

JOSEPH ROBACH: Mm-hmm

AUDIENCE MEMBER: — about the issue and the details of the bills and the realities of what are going on in the couple of states where it’s legal already, because those things don’t fit in sound bites and they’re not very well-known, but we think it’s urgent that people not formulate positions before they’re more informed about that, and will you also commit to urging your colleagues to do the same thing, to meet with us and be educated?

JOSEPH ROBACH: Absolutely, and certainly good question, and I actually already have, so we had some dialogue on this topic at the legislative event, at CDR, and I’ve had a group of people who I met with in Albany who share your position, and I think for those of you that know me, I — I think living wills are good because I think people ought to have autonomy and control, but I am very much concerned, you know, health care’s critically important, it’s great that people are living longer, but as the costs grow, I don’t want to see a program where there’s a panel or somebody else outside the individuals and their closest loved ones making a decision.

Can those health professionals have dialogue? Absolutely. Can they have input? Yes. But ultimately, I think, it should — any decision, not even end-of-life, but all of them should be with, you know, the entire family.

There are some people that want to move to a bigger program, even more — which I think would be even more concerning to people, or I’ve heard them say that we have — you know, it used to be that sometimes they would discriminate on age whether they’d give somebody a certain treatment modality. I would hate to see them do that based on any other criteria and will always kind of be opposed to that, so I think for the most part we’d be very much in agreement on that issue.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: We’ll follow up.

JOSEPH ROBACH: Okay.  Great.  Thank you.  Good question.

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: Our next question.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hi, Senator Robach.

JOSEPH ROBACH: How are you?

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I had a question about — in its current state, HUD defines homelessness, in part, by —

(Dog shaking leash)

— excuse me — if an individual has lived in a nursing facility or other institution for 90 days or less and has nowhere else to go, my concern is for — there are people with disabilities who have been housed in these facilities for years and years, and while we think it’s really great that these people who have lived in institutions on a short-term basis are giving — are being given this homelessness status, which allows them to receive vouchers and live in the community.

What will you do to promote the integration of people into the community who will be leaving nursing facilities or who want to leave nursing facilities?

JOSEPH ROBACH: Great. That — I certainly think we’re all in the same place. So it’s — it’s not challenging. What I would say is this. We have programs to help people regardless of — without any designation of any — any group or anything else, so there’s some people that think we don’t do enough or — to help people to transition to housing or get assistance now, so there is a program where people are identified as more vulnerable because they have been institutionalized and they’re not sure where they’re going to go independently.  They try to avoid that, but that does happen.

So I think this is one that if we work rationally and compassionately, we ought to be able to find a way, regardless of HUD’s definitions or anything else, to integrate people in there.  You know, the good news is, is New York perfect?  We’re not.  Honestly, are we better than most states?  From everything I can gather, we are, and then sometimes it just comes down to making sure that we have funding streams to make sure that we can integrate people without waiting too long or falling through the cracks, more based on what they need or what they want to do, not someone else telling them what to do.

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: Okay.  Our next question.

(Inaudible) you want to come over to the mic?

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hello, Joe. My name — my question is this: How would you fight for the rights for people with disabilities if Donald Trump becomes president?

JOSEPH ROBACH: Well, in all candor, regardless of who’s the president, at my level I’m going to do everything I can at New York State, and I can honestly say this, and I think I have done a lot of things to advance that, to try and really help people to live their full potential and, you know, share in — as much as we can in New York.

Now, the only thing I would say is regardless of who is or isn’t the president, this is where we talk about resources, I think New York State has used a lot more of our resources, either via Medicaid or other ones.  I would like to see more federal programs, in all candor, to assist us and assist all people in the country by focusing a little bit more, and they could do that through Medicare or their own individual programs, and I don’t want to get anybody excited.  I’m certainly not running for President, I’m not running for Congress, but I’ve urged our congressional representatives, whether they’ve been Democrats or Republicans.  I think it’s absolutely crazy that we are investing billions — I want you to listen to me — billions of dollars to some foreign countries who literally would like to wipe us off the face of the earth.  I think we ought to cut our subsidies to them and spend some of the money here and the infrastructure we need, including human infrastructure.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yeah, I would agree with you on that. Thank you very much.

JOSEPH ROBACH: You’re welcome.

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: Okay.  Our next question.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I have a question.

One minute, Theresa.

JOSEPH ROBACH: Can I ask a question while we’re waiting? How did Harry Bronson do? Was he all right?

(Laughter)

Just checking.

Great.

(Laughter)

AUDIENCE MEMBER: So ridesharing, like Uber, Lyft, they’ve been trying to come into our area they’ve been pretty persistent, but currently they’re not accessible for people with disabilities, and they’ve been pretty stubborn about it as well, so knowing this is a growing issue, would you support legislation that would allow them to come or what would you do?

JOSEPH ROBACH: I think everybody knows what Uber is, and there’s other ones besides Uber, there’s Lyft, there’s several other ones, so we’re trying to do several things and get it here, and I would say this. It’s very popular with the public, but as you point out, I think we would like to do it a little bit differently, and there seems to be — not to disagree with you — a lot of different opinion on how they serve all population groups.

So a lot of people from New York City say they do have people that do Uber that are able to transport a wider range of population groups. I would hope that if we’re going to do that here that would be certainly a part of the program. I think the sticking point is everybody can’t do that, depending on their type of vehicle or what your need is, but the more inclusionary we could make that, obviously the better it would be, and in all honesty, we’re also trying to make sure the playing field is a little bit more level, both in terms of background check for people who drive to Uber, that it matches what you have to do to be a cab driver or a paraprofessional driver in Rochester, and believe it or not, the Assembly, not the Senate, one of the sticking points, wants them to have even more liability insurance rather than in New York City, they have to have half a million dollars. We were requiring a million. The Assembly wanted a million and a half, which I’m not sure I understand the need for that, quite frankly, but I think if done right, maybe not everybody, but it would help a lot, a lot of people in every population group around here, and I just want you to think most of us probably live — I shouldn’t make a presumption — live, you know, kind of in the City of Rochester or in the inner ring suburbs. I deal with some people that live even outside of my district, so think if, you know, you have access as bad as Lift Line is or Medical Motor Services sometimes, they don’t even have access for that. For those people, I think Uber could be even more of a boon or maybe the only game in town, but I would absolutely like to see — and it was one of the sticking points.

They want to say we’ll have people that do it, but they don’t want to talk about any number or any requirement to have that. I don’t know how much of a continued dialogue that will be.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you.

JOSEPH ROBACH: You’re welcome. Good question.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Joe, could I follow up, I’m Stephanie Woodward.  You said you hoped they would have the same services down in other parts of New York as they have offered some accessible rides in New York City, but would you go so far to ensure that it’s in the requirements that in order to operate in New York they do have to offer accessible vehicles with accessible rides in all areas of people with disabilities?

JOSEPH ROBACH: Here’s the dilemma. So Uber says we can now run the service. They don’t have their own vehicles. As a matter of fact, we’re fighting with them about that. They’re even saying, we’re not a transportation company, we’re a technology company; we only link you up with individuals.

So if — let’s just take it at a different category. Let’s say — somebody calls for Uber and says, we’re going to a birthday party, I need a ride for four people and the driver, they’re not going to be able to go in an individual’s car who has a — you know, a Corvette. They can’t fit in that vehicle, so it’s sort of the same thing.

Well, I would hope that a piece of this would be is that there would be an encouragement or an incentive to have vehicles that could take all kinds of people, but Uber will not agree to that, and they say we don’t — that’s not what we do. They’re saying, we’re only a technology company, we’re not a transportation company; whereas, when we say to Lift Line, here’s your government subsidy to do this plus the pay, we could say, you must have X amount of vehicles that will transport all these population groups and whatever they need, be it a wheelchair, be it anything else. That’s the part where I don’t know the answer to that. That’s what we’re trying to figure out.

Now, the question’s going to become down the road, if we don’t get any guarantee, do we not allow them in or do we still allow them in if they meet certain other criteria to help a lot of other people?  Well, but that’s going to be the — that’s going to be the debate, and if anyone has any ideas on how we can better meet that population group with that company, I’m willing to hear it, but we’re even having trouble with them even wanting to agree that they’re a transportation company, if you can believe that, but I’ve been going to these public hearings and listening to cab drivers and other transportation companies too chime in on that, so some of the answers have not really been transparent or very easy to get to consensus or agreement.

They’re saying — if we say you have to have 10% of your drivers, you know, comply and be able to take all people, you know, they don’t want that regulation, then, because they’re saying, we can’t guarantee that. We don’t know who’s going to be available to drive at all or at certain times of the day, and so they have some things that they show you, but then that’s where they’ll say, if you take New York City, we have had people that have stepped up, of course.  They’re a — you know, a city of eight billion people; we’re a city of 220,000 people and a greater community of, you know, 750,000 in Monroe County, so that’s a — that’s still an issue that’s ongoing and being, I guess, discussed, for lack of a better term.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you.

JOSEPH ROBACH: You’re welcome.

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: That concludes our conversation with Senator Joe Robach. We thank you for your time.

(Applause)

JOSEPH ROBACH: Thank you.  Thank you very much.

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: Alright. We just need one moment to transition.

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: Alright. We’d like to welcome Monroe County Clerk Adam Bello.

ADAM BELLO: Hello, everybody.

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: We’re going to give you a one-minute opportunity to do a short introduction. Then we’ve got a question for you and open questions for the audience. Okay?

ADAM BELLO: Fantastic. Well, thank you. Should I go ahead?  Thank you for the opportunity to be here tonight. I was very much looking forward to this. I thought I’d introduce myself to you by talking a little bit about my philosophy in government is that — in particular when it comes to the County Clerk’s office where we are a service department, our job is to provide a service, and it’s largely administrative, and how we could do a better job at doing that and make our services more accessible. I’m sure this will come out in some of our questions here, but my philosophy is to help people.

Government’s role is supposed to be to try to help somebody, to try to use the resources at our disposal to make a difference in people’s lives and in the community. A couple ways we’re doing that with the Clerk’s Office are around our new online reservation system so that accessing DMV services is a little bit more predictable and you can know your date, your time, and location of where you can access those services and be in and out the door as quickly as possible.

And the other initiative that we’re working on is creating a full-time DMV for the City of Rochester. Right now the City of Rochester, we lost our DMV back in 2003, and right now are operating under a Metro Mobile situation whereby downtown DMV services are split between two different locations with limited hours, and one of the locations is not accessible. It’s in the — in the Monroe County Parks Department building, where if you — if you’re in a wheelchair or otherwise can’t take stairs, there’s no way to access those services, and to me, that’s wrong, it’s unfair, and that’s why we’re advocating in our budget next year for the County Clerk’s Office to be able to open a full-time DMV branch downtown in the City Place building where it would be accessible. It would be open every day of the week with the same hours every day, with some predictability, combined with our reservation system.

And it’s my hope that by bringing those changes to the way that we provide our services to residents, we’re making our services more available and really are taking that philosophy of trying to help people.

But I also am aware that no one person — and this is my philosophy to everybody who works in our department — has a monopoly on good ideas. I’m always open to hearing new ways of doing things, ways we can be better and help serve our customers and residents that much better, so I’m looking forward to hearing from you today so you can tell me — I can answer your questions, but you can also tell me how I can do a better job giving you those services at our downtown operations centers and, of course, at our DMVs located throughout the county. Thank you.

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: Adam, paper is not always an accessible way for someone to fill out a form, permit, or a license. What do you — what do you do to ensure access for people with disabilities who need permits, licenses, or forms in and alternate format have that access?

ADAM BELLO: Well, right now we provide an online form — through New York State DMV, a lot of the transactions that are necessary in terms of vehicle registrations, driver’s license renewals, things like that, can be done online right from home if you’d like to do that.

The other way we could do it is when you come into our DMV branches, you initially come through an information counter where you would encounter someone who’s there supposed to help you, they’re supposed to make sure the paperwork’s there, but their other job isn’t just to make sure the paperwork’s there, they’re supposed to help if you have an issue with sight and need help filling out the forms, we can do that. If we have issues in terms of a language barrier, we can arrange for interpreters, we can do sign language interpreting, things like that, and that’s the way — unfortunately, some of what we’re required to do at an actual physical branch is mandated by New York State. The County Clerk’s Office is one of those.  It’s the classic example of a state mandate, when you hear of state and federal mandate. Almost everything we do is mandated by the state, Federal Governments; however, how we provide that service we have discretion, but where they require us to use paper forms, we will make that staff available to help process them.

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: Okay. So I’ll open questions to the audience.

ADAM BELLO: Yeah.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hi, Adam.

ADAM BELLO: Hi.

STEPHANIE WOODWARD: I’m Stephanie Woodward. I’m so glad you mentioned the terrible DMV that we hate so much.

ADAM BELLO: Yes, I do too.

STEPHANIE WOODWARD: So in 2012 the Center for Disability Rights actually wrote a letter to the county about the Americans with Disabilities Act violations that DMV has, mostly everything about it.

ADAM BELLO: Yes.

STEPHANIE WOODWARD: And we received a letter back stating that the DMV didn’t need to be accessible because there was a different accessible DMV that disabled people can use. That’s a clear violation of the ADA. We don’t have restaurants say, well, you could go to our other restaurant location and get in, you just can’t get into this one.

ADAM BELLO: Correct.

STEPHANIE WOODWARD: So I know you talked about advocating for more money in the budget for an accessible DMV, but would that mean closing down this DMV to ensure that there’s not an inaccessible DMV that’s available to some of our citizens but not all of them? And what is the timeline on getting us an accessible DMV?

ADAM BELLO: Yeah, so that’s a great question, I’m glad you asked it. Number one, if I were the county clerk when you wrote that letter to us, that response would have been entirely unacceptable, okay.  I do not like that branch, I do not like that location. Early on when I was appointed county clerk back in late March, early April, I toured the locations. I didn’t think that was sufficient.

In answer to your question, if we’re able to create and get the funding for the full-time DMV downtown at City Place, we will close the DMV at the Parks Department. That wouldn’t be — they both wouldn’t exist. So we would close that, — and again, I would actually like to hear from you, because part of what we would do at City Place and what I’ve talked to the County about — again, unfortunately, my budget is controlled by the County, but I’m an advocate, that’s my job, and so what we’ve done is we’ve met with the facilities team there, we’ve walked through, we’ve toured it. I’ve put money into our budget proposal, and I don’t know what the county legislature will give us, but I’ve put money into the budget proposal and our operating funds to be able to operate that full-time DMV, and we are awaiting an estimate on what a general build-out estimate would be so that we can write to the county planning department to involve us in the CIP process so that we can do a build-out of the first floor of City Place, so our goal is to do it on the first floor, and I just had a conversation out there in the hallway about things like the height of the counters and things like that, and those are excellent ideas that I’d be open to hearing as we go through the construction process.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you.

ADAM BELLO: Absolutely.  You’re very welcome.

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: Okay.  And our next question.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hi.  Sorry.  Not everyone can see me.

(Laughter)

Which mic am I going to? Okay. Hi. My name is Jonathan, my last name is Dollhopf. This is my sign name, and I am — for about the deaf licensure, licensure for people who are deaf, on the back it says, full view mirror/hearing aid, and so this is — this is not my license, this is actually her license.

ADAM BELLO: Okay.

JONATHAN DOLLHOPF: But this is a typical license for a deaf person, and it says on the back, full view mirror/hearing aid, and she is deaf but doesn’t actually have that on her license, so what is the full view mirror? Can you elaborate more on full view mirror?

ADAM BELLO: That’s a good question, Jonathan, and I’m going to be honest with you. I don’t know the answer to that but I will find out, and if you leave me contact information — I will get back to you about that. That’s a good question. I don’t know.

JONATHAN DOLLHOPF: Okay. So one case that I know of, a deaf woman was pulled over by the police –

ADAM BELLO: Okay.

JONATHAN DOLLHOPF: — and she was given a ticket because she wasn’t wearing her hearing aid, and she didn’t have any special mirror or whatever that it says, so when she did go to court, she was fined with that ticket, and they ordered her to get this full view mirror put into her car, and so as I looked up information about this in the DMV and as far as when this was looked into in Albany, they said well that full view mirror means rearview mirror plus the two side mirrors, that’s what full view means.  So on her license, it’s not actually notated on there, but my license does, so I’m wondering can I have that removed, because as a deaf person myself, I don’t use a hearing aid.

ADAM BELLO: Why would you need that on your license? Is that your question?

JONATHAN DOLLHOPF: That is what I’m asking you.

(Laughter)

ADAM BELLO: You shouldn’t. That’s a good question, because you shouldn’t.

JONATHAN DOLLHOPF: Exactly. That’s my point. So I did get a new license, and it says on there “check hearing aid,” and I didn’t want to check that. I still — but, again, I still have it on my license, so is there any — some kind of way that we can get that taken off of license?  It should be by choice, that shouldn’t just be automatically stuck on a license, it should be there by choice.

ADAM BELLO: I agree. So what we can do with that is, Jonathan, two things. Number one, I’m going to leave you my business card, okay, before we leave today so that we can communicate on your individual issue with that on the license, but number two, the — the rules and the forms that come down that we have to fill out in terms of whether it’s optional or not are dictated by New York State; however, I have a role as a county clerk to advocate that they change their policies and change the way they do things, so if there’s a role I can play in doing that, I’ll absolutely do that for you, so — can I give you my card, though, before we leave here?

JONATHAN DOLLHOPF: Yes.

ADAM BELLO: Okay. Fantastic. Thank you. I got everybody else’s card but my own. There we go. Alright. Here you go, Jonathan. Alright.  Thank you.

JONATHAN DOLLHOPF: Thank you.

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: And we have time for one more question.

ADAM BELLO: Okay.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hi.  How are you?

ADAM BELLO: I’m great.  How are you?

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Good, thank you. I appreciate your commitment to accessibility and being an advocate for people with disabilities when it comes to the online request forms that you talked about from the DMVs. I would — I just have a comment about that.

ADAM BELLO: Sure.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: They’re not accessible via screen readers.

ADAM BELLO: Okay.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: And I would like to know if you’d be willing to work with someone who is a screen reader user to ensure that those can be made better?

ADAM BELLO: Okay.  Thank you for that question.  I was unaware of that, and, yes, we can do that. I will talk to the staff about that tomorrow, and we can see what we can do to make that — I mean, my goal with the online reservation system was to make it that much easier and predictable to able to use it.

One of the barriers there is into accessing our services at the DMVs is you never know how long the wait is going to be before you go, right? You don’t know whether you’re going to wait a half hour, 15 minutes or not going to wait at all. In making the reservation — it’s not so much a reservation, it’s like a fast pass, where you show up your designated date and time, you go right to the front of the line, and you’re the next person seen, so there’s now a built-in predictability, so if there’s transportation issues, things like that, you know when you’re going to be able to get in and out of the DMV, but I will look into that tomorrow, okay, and we’ll see what we can do.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you.

ADAM BELLO: You’re very welcome.  Thank you.

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: Okay.

ADAM BELLO: Yeah.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I don’t know if this falls under your purview, but at the courthouse, the security guards who search you when you go in for jury duty or just to go in for whatever reason you go into the courthouse, they are not receptive to being told that someone is autistic and doesn’t want to be touched.

ADAM BELLO: Okay.  Okay.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: So I don’t know if that falls under your purview.

ADAM BELLO: Unfortunately, it does not or I would interject for you. Unfortunately, I’m not, no. But, you know, I go back to — you know, again, my goal really is accessibility. In the Town of Irondequoit, when I was a town supervisor there, we built a brand-new library. I don’t know if anyone here has had a chance to be there, but we made sure to make that a fully accessible library, very wide doorways on the first floor and second floor to be able to get around, and also, I’m very sensitive to this in the sense, you know — I’ll give you an example as well. When I was Irondequoit, I used to be the town supervisor, and our town hall is not accessible.  It was not built that way back in 1952 or whenever it was it was built. We had an issue with our elevator. Our elevator broke the day of a town board meeting, and despite some calls from people to say, well, just continue with the town board meeting as in the room, typically we don’t have anybody show up who would have an issue going up the stairs to get to the town board meeting room. To me that was unacceptable, so we moved the meeting to across the parking lot to a first-floor conference room, where it was fully accessible in the event somebody came, because in my view, government is supposed to be accessible and we’re supposed to make accommodations so everybody can access our services fairly and equitably, and I view that as my job, and so again, if you have ideas as the years progress, if I’m successful here next month, like I said, always open to new ideas how we can do better, but I’ll look into that screen reader and our software for the reservation system. That’s something we will do.

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: Okay. Well, that concludes our conversation with Monroe County Clerk Adam Bello. Thank you.

ADAM BELLO: Thank you so much for the opportunity. I appreciate it. Thank you.

(Applause)

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: Okay. We’ll just take a moment to transition.

Alright. And then to conclude tonight, we will finish up with our United States Senate race and Kyle Weisman is here to represent Robin Laverne Wilson, and Kyle, if you could take one moment to introduce yourself to the audience, we’ll ask you a question and then we’ll transition to audience questions.

KYLE WEISMAN: Okay. Thank you very much. My name is Kyle Weisman, representing Robin Laverne Wilson. She’s running for U.S. Senate against Chuck Schumer.

I kind of thought I had a little bit more time, so I did prepare a little bit of things to say. Hopefully I can be given a little bit of latitude. I have — we both thank everybody for the opportunity to come and speak. My apologies, this is my first time speaking politically in public, but I not only speak today for Robin as her surrogate but also as a person who is disabled. I’m legally blind.  I also have a daughter who is in the autism spectrum, and I am the son of a parent who was bipolar.

The rights of the disabled, as they call us, have been dealt quite minimally. There have been three specific pieces of legislation mentioned today as well as some others. The Disability Integration Act, which allows individuals to receive benefits and services at home, instead of being forced to live in institutions. I think we have the right to live an independent, productive, and dignified life with those who we love around us. Robin, you know, wholeheartedly supports that bill.

The Time Act, which reinvocation business’s 14C certificates does so in a three-year period. Unfortunately, we can’t support the bill as written. The 14C provision is unconstitutional.  The 17th Amendment states that the Congress shall not pass — shall pass no law that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States.

For far too long we have been treated like second-class citizens. We deserve equal pay now and not in three years.  Furthermore, there should be an inquiry of reparation whereby individuals who receive less pay under 14 — under the 14C provision would receive reparations in the form of back pay, and they should have received — that they should have received over the years.

And just to talk in general, you know, because I’ve heard some things back and forth about, you know, different things about pay, Robin as well as the Green Party, in general, supports not only a $15 minimum wage but indexed minimum wage, one that would increase every year based on the Cost of Living Index, just like Social Security Disability and Social Security payments increase every year.

And minimum wage applies to everybody. You know, it doesn’t matter what kind of job you do. You are mandated — you should have minimum wage. It doesn’t matter who you are, what your skills are, what your job is, doesn’t matter. Minimum wage is minimum wage.

The Inclusive Home Design Act, which mandates that all publicly funded, newly constructed single-family homes have one no-step entrance, a first floor bathroom and 32-inch clearance in internal doorways, well, why just publicly fund single-family residences? The same should be mandated for privately funded new construction and multifamily dwellings, like apartment buildings. Furthermore, this should be mandated for all new construction, including but not limited to office buildings, stores, and schools.

These bills and bills like these only treat the symptoms of the problem that we, as differently abled people, face. We see the problem in the fact that we are labeled disabled, and this is — everybody’s talking about this policy, that policy, funding, you know, for this, funding for that, but let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of things.

We are not disabled; we are differently abled. We need mandatory education from elementary to post-graduate programs that teach the people what it means to be disabled, that not all disabled — not all disabilities are visible. I mean, I’m legally blind, but since I have adapted in my environment and have not allowed my vision loss to get in the way of me doing what I need to — need and want to do, many find it hard to believe I’m blind. That we truly and differently — that we are truly and differently abled — sorry — that we are truly differently abled and not disabled.

We need to be seen for what we can do and not what we cannot do. People need to learn that differently abled are just another segment of the diversity that makes our country great. We have different ways of interacting with our environments. We are not broken; we do not need to be fixed; we need to be understood.

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: Mr. Weisman, I’m going to have to ask you to wrap so we can ask you a question and get to audience questions as well.

KYLE WEISMAN: Okay.

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: Alright. The question for you, the Disability Integration Act is a crucial piece of legislation that would allow people with disabilities to live in the community instead of being forced into nursing facilities and other institutions. It would allow for services and supports that people receive in nursing facilities to receive those same services in the community. This would increase independence, improve happiness, and the cost is less than living in a nursing facility or other institution.

What would Robin Laverne Wilson do to support the Disability Integration Act and what would she also do to get her colleagues in the Senate to act and do the same?

KYLE WEISMAN: Well, Robin fully supports it. One thing that I emphasize, that I think there’s even a greater issue. I mean, I think that the nursing home — the nursing home environment, the society we have where we don’t have these big families anymore, we — we put our elderly, we put our mentally ill, we put our disabled in nursing homes instead of taking care of having them at home, having them be able to live at home in their environment with their families.

I think that needs to be changed, not only through legislation but through a societal change, and that — that’s done, like I said, or like I was trying to say, through education, through having people understand what this — what it’s like to be in our shoes.

Legislation alone is not going to fix our problems. Having people — legislatures — legislators who understand what it’s like to be differently abled, through education over time, is ultimately the solution.

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: Okay. We will open the floor for questions for U.S. Senate candidate Robin Wilson.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hi. My name is Meghan Moore, and as a woman with a disability, I — my identity is very much rooted in being disabled, and I — I work very hard to make society accept our community as it is. Quite frankly, I will probably never be able to play baseball because of my disability.  There are things I can’t do.

KYLE WEISMAN: True.

MEGHAN MOORE: That’s what disability means really not able.  I would really strongly encourage you, rather than saying things like differently abled, I’m not differently abled, I’m just not able to do some things, and that’s okay.  What makes me and the rest of these wonderful disabled people here really wonderful is — is that we seek unity through diversity.  It’s not that we subscribe to some — or strive to exist in — like a homogenous sort of community.  Center for Disability Rights is very much about celebrating diversity and full inclusion of difference.  While I understand the good intentions behind differently abled, I think the most powerful thing that you can do is not shy away from a word that is pretty awesome.  I mean, come on, we belong to the coolest minority ever.

(Applause)

And by using the word, by calling people what they are, it not only normalizes it, it familiarizes people with the fact that it’s not a bad word.

Again, unity through difference and unity through diversity is what we strive for, and I’m not differently abled, I’m disabled, and that’s kind of why I’m awesome.  Thanks.

(Applause)

KYLE WEISMAN: Okay.

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: Okay.

KYLE WEISMAN: I definitely see your point. I think the point of my raising differently abled is that, you know, for example, myself as a person who is legally blind, I cannot drive. There are a lot of things I can’t do. I can’t play baseball either, but there are a lot of things I can do. There are a lot of things that I excel at, and what I see is — it’s the difference of viewing a person not by what they can’t do but what they can do, and in the education that I was talking about, educating people about different groups who have different disabilities, as you know, is focusing on how they work within their environment and how they — the positive things they have to offer to the community and to the world as being abled in their own particular way, and, you know, it’s the difference between that and, you know, a culture that too often looks at people like us that, like I said, need to be fixed and need to be helped.

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: Okay.

KYLE WEISMAN: And, you know, we’re not that at all. So I think we agree with each other more than you think.

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: And we have time for one more question before we close.

Go ahead.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yeah. So the Helping Families in Mental Crisis bill has passed the House and is going to be going into the Senate probably next year. If this — this bill is ableism in the guise of helping, it takes rights away from people with neurodivergences, people with mental health issues and gives them to their families and gives them to other people, and it takes choice away from them and gives them to their families, and it — it makes it so we can’t make our own decisions about our own treatment and our own lives, and one of the other things that the bill does is removes the 90-day cap in Medicare payouts for in-patient stays in mental hospitals, so if you have Medicaid/Medicare and you are in a mental hospital, they can keep you indefinitely where they used to have to let you go after 90 days, so that’s one of the things this bill does. So I want to know what Robin’s position would be on this bill.

As I said, it’s — it’s ableism in the guise of helping. It’s not helping.

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: And Kyle, we’ll have to have you give a shortened answer so we can close on time.

KYLE WEISMAN: Alright. So I’ll try to be as brief as possible.  I mean, I think that with — as with any issue of medical care, there has to be emphasis on the patient’s rights, and a person who is — has mental challenges should not lose those rights whatsoever, so, no, if a person is a — an adult, they should be treated like an adult.  I don’t care what their mental illness is. Parents should not — or family members should not supersede what they want to do and how they want to be treated. It’s their choice 100%.

You know, in terms of Medicare and Medicaid, well, they suck.  I have Medicare, and it’s horrible. You know, the Green Party, in general, as well as Robin Laverne Wilson, proposes across-the-board single-payer health care for everybody, regardless of your income, and it’s a single payer system that would pay for everything that that person needs, not only things that we think they need but what that person needs, and that’s up to the patient and the doctor, not bureaucrats.

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: Okay.

KYLE WEISMAN: You know, not an HMO, that’s up to the doctor and the patient.

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: Alright.

KYLE WEISMAN: So, no, of course, we would not support that bill, we would be emphatically against it.

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: That concludes our conversation with Kyle Weisman representing Robin Laverne Wilson and the race for United States Senate. Thank you for being here.

KYLE WEISMAN: Thank you.

(Applause)

HELENE BIANDUDI HOFER: Okay. And that concludes our candidate forum, so thank you to all of you and also thank you for your questions tonight.

(Applause)

ERICKA JONES: If I could get everyone’s attention for just a second. We do have questionnaires to fill out about the event. If you could please take a moment, it’s very short, just to see how we did for the night. Also, we’re really excited because Monroe County is going to offer democracy rides, which are rides to the polls, so if you want to utilize that service, you need to let them know by November 4th. There are flyers out there to give you the phone numbers. Thank you.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Accessible rides?

ERICKA JONES: Yes. You bet.

(Session concluded at 8:03 p.m. ET)

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This text is being provided in realtime format.  Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) or captioning is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings.

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