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Just in from Jeeves

Is Mayor Peter Gilbert insensitive to the disabled?
By: Jeeves and Kathy Dorsey
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Jeeves is a small dog.

When he’s home, his freedom is limited only by the fence in his backyard

When he is away from home, his freedom is limited only by the length of his leash.

Neither limitation affects the quality of his life.

As such, he needs no further accommodations.

Yet, Jeeves knows individuals whose freedoms are limited both at home and away from home.

Jeeves knows people who have difficulty walking.

Jeeves knows people who have difficulty hearing.

Jeeves knows people who have difficulty seeing.

Jeeves knows people who have difficulty talking.

Jeeves knows people who have difficulty understanding.

Like Jeeves, anyone who interacts with the world around probably knows someone with a disability.

As a result, Jeeves is surprised that so many seem to have difficulty appreciating how disabilities affect the quality of so many lives.

But he’s more surprised by the lack of empathy toward those who need accommodations in order to enjoy the freedoms that others seems to take for granted.

Thankfully, our government intervened to help overcome these shortcomings.

Almost 27 years ago, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law.

This law prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public.

The act is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.

Yet, despite this 1990 law, many seem reluctant to accept it and do anything about it.

Based on his comments during the Jan. 24 City Council meeting, Mayor Peter Gilbert doesn’t seem to get it either.

A video recording of the Jan. 24 council meeting is available through the city’s website at lincolnca.gov.

Jeeves encourages readers to look at the video starting at 1 hour and 14 minutes.

At this time, an exchange begins between a Lincoln resident, Byron Chapman, and Gilbert.

Chapman addressed the City Council about his concerns over agenda Item 10 E., McBean Park Baseball Field Renovations and, in his opinion, the city’s failure to comply with ADA requirements. 

A report about this meeting also appears in the Jan. 26 edition of The News Messenger, “McBean stadium work complete.”

Comments from two readers, Lena Rice Labosky and Jessica Booth, appear together with the online edition of this article about the exchange between Chapman and Gilbert.

Labosky wrote:

“I now know I cannot attend baseball, since it does not have compliant bathrooms! And Gilbert did not just tell Mr, Chapman his time was up, Gilbert shouted Chapman down, yes you heard it SHOUTED! This was the first time I have been ashamed of my mayor!!!”

Booth wrote:

“Mr. Gilbert actually chastised Mr. Chapman for Mr. Chapman's comments! Those in attendance were aghast at this inappropriateness. To make matters worse, Mr. Gilbert did not allow Mr. Chapman the opportunity to respond to the rebuke. Mr. Gilbert shouted at Mr. Chapman to "step away" from the podium when Mr. Chapman attempted to reply. Mr. Gilbert, to be fair, is normally respectful and controlled; however, he created a senseless confrontation which was tense and uncomfortable for all in attendance. Perhaps he was frustrated or tired or both, but we should not excuse this kind of behavior from our elected officials. Residents should never fear being bullied when they advocate before the City Council.”

Jeeves shares their concerns.

And he also finds Gilbert’s comments troubling on another front.

During their exchange, Gilbert asked why Chapman didn’t inform the city of his concerns during the initial phase of this project.

While Jeeves is always happy when he sees city residents share their views during City Council meetings, he doesn’t believe that any resident, including Chapman, should be under any obligation to do so.

As far as Jeeves knows, it’s the city’s responsibility to know the laws that apply to city projects, not the public at large.

Based on the mayor’s “bullying,” Jeeves wonders if residents will come forward again?

During the past four years as a Lincoln councilman and now as mayor, Gilbert has reminded everyone, ad nauseam, about his former council experience in Foster City. 

Jeeves wondered why his experience as a Foster City councilman and mayor didn’t better equip Gilbert with respect to ADA and his response to Chapman.

So Jeeves checked Gilbert’s campaign statements.

Jeeves discovered that Gilbert served on the Foster City Council from 1976 to 1982.

That was more than 34 years ago.

A lot has happened in the years since then, including the invention of cell hones, personal computers and the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

This time span might help explain Gilbert’s lack of knowledge about the disability act.

But Jeeves also discovered that Gilbert served a director of Sun City Lincoln Hills Community Association from 2008 to 2012, which is 18 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

As far as Jeeves knows, the law applies to Sun City as equally as it applies to the city of Lincoln or any other community in this country.

After almost 27 years on the books and as much as Jeeves loves baseball, he believes that it is no longer acceptable to use lack of funds as an excuse to avoid ADA compliance, no matter if it’s for a stadium remodel or any other city project.

If this city doesn’t give any other businesses a pass, why should it be allowed to give itself one?

Jeeves is now left to wonder if Gilbert suffers from another type of disability that prevents him from understanding ADA issues and communicating with constituents.

He wonders if Gilbert has a ‘mind set’ disability rather than a physical or sensory one?

If so, it’s one that’s marked by ignorance, arrogance and callousness.

Jeeves is a small dog at the end of a short leash.

On Jan. 24, Gilbert showed that he can be an even smaller human being.

Perhaps the mayor needs a leash to help him understand his limitations?

Jeeves knows where Gilbert can find one.

Our freedom to address City Council may depend on it.

 

Just In From Jeeves is by Jeeves and Kathy Dorsey. Their column appears twice a month. Jeeves is a Yorkshire terrier bred and born in Lincoln. He spends most of his time in downtown Lincoln around the fountain in Beermann Plaza. Kathy is a 12-year resident of Lincoln and a former downtown business owner. To contact Jeeves or Kathy, e-mailJustinfromJeeves@gmail.com.