[nfbwatlk] Blind protesters snub talks on agency post, The Portland Tribune, March 28 2013

Albert Sanchez albertsanchez at suddenlink.net
Thu Mar 28 18:38:06 UTC 2013

My! Goodness!
Albert S

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Nightingale, Noel" <Noel.Nightingale at ed.gov>
To: <nfbwatlk at nfbnet.org>
Sent: Thursday, March 28, 2013 2:08 PM
Subject: [nfbwatlk] Blind protesters snub talks on agency post, The Portland 
Tribune, March 28 2013

> Link:
> http://portlandtribune.com/pt/9-news/134944-blind-protesters-snub-talks-on-agency-post
> Text:
> Blind protesters snub talks on agency post
> Created on Thursday, 28 March 2013 | Written by Steve Law. |
> Critics of state Blind Commission say request is diversion
> --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT - Art Stevenson leads a 
> demonstration outside the Oregon Commission for the Blind headquarters to 
> protest the hiring of a sighted executive director over a qualified blind 
> candidate.
> About two dozen blind activists picketed the Oregon Commission for the 
> Blind headquarters Tuesday to protest the hiring of an inside candidate to 
> lead the troubled agency, snubbing an offer by the new director to come 
> inside and talk it over.
> Protesters, led by Art Stevenson and other members of the National 
> Federation of the Blind in Oregon, are angry that the commission board 
> chose Dacia Johnson instead of outsider Joe Cordova, who is blind and, 
> critics contend, better qualified for the top position.
> To head off the protest, Johnson hired a facilitator, who is blind, and 
> invited the protesters to share their concerns, but nobody went inside.
> "We believe this was to divert attention away from the protest," said 
> protester Randy Hauth.
> "Who we want dialogue with is the commission board, not Dacia Johnson," 
> Stevenson said.
> Instead, protesters marched outside the state agency's Southeast Portland 
> headquarters with signs reading "Time to Clean House, not Hire in House," 
> "We want Joe," and "Blind Abuse."
> Some activists had promised a bigger demonstration, which failed to 
> materialize.
> It could be that blind people are apathetic, uninformed or intimidated 
> about criticizing the agency that provides them with rehabilitation and 
> job-training services, said Tina Hansen of the National Federation of the 
> Blind in Oregon.
> Johnson said her invitation to a dialogue with critics remains open-ended.
> The agency has been damaged by a series of state audits criticizing its 
> financial and personnel management. There's also been an ongoing struggle 
> between the agency's staff and board and a small but feisty group of blind 
> vendors who have government-granted concessions to stock vending machines 
> in public buildings, including Stevenson and Hauth.
> That conflict has gone on for years and has been "cancerous" for the 
> agency, says Steve Hanamura, the blind facilitator hired by Johnson.
> When nobody came inside, Hanamura walked outside to listen to the 
> protesters.
> Hanamura sees the benefits of having a qualified blind person at the helm 
> of the agency, though he said outsiders don't really know the personnel 
> issues that prompted the board's decision.
> Hauth reasoned that Cordova made it to the final four so his background 
> was vetted.
> One of Johnson's first tasks is meeting with lawmakers in Salem who are 
> reviewing the agency's 2013-15 budget.
> Gov. John Kitzhaber proposed eliminating the equivalent of 4.5 full-time 
> positions, or 10 percent of the agency's staffing, Johnson said.
> Some lawmakers are concerned that the state could leverage an additional 
> $1.9 million in federal matching funds if the state would provide an 
> additional $470,000.
> "But the governor had tough choices to make," said Johnson, who works 
> under Kitzhaber.
> Hanamura supported protesters' right to make their voices heard, but said 
> the continuing conflict doesn't help the agency's cause in Salem.
> "You keep doing that, they're going to piss off the governor's office and 
> they're going to shut this place down," he said.
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