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Hayse: Fund SEATS in new budget

BY GUEST COLUMN | MARCH 25, 2013 5:00 AM

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The cities of Iowa City and Coralville were irresponsible in not thinking about paying for para-transit when they were developing their budgets. According to the Johnson County Board of Supervisors, the cities were told in September 2012 that Johnson County would significantly reduce its funding to subsidize SEATS for both of these cities.

My question is, why didn’t people figure out a plan? Why did the county have to cut funding before there was another plan in place? As a person with a disability, I feel discriminated against.

Even worse, my needs and the needs of others who have utilized SEATS have been pushed aside to build an animal shelter. Our leaders are not prioritizing appropriately the way that they spend money. Funding for SEATS continues to be a problem that needs to be solved permanently. It is a wonderful program that Iowa City, Coralville, and Johnson County should be proud of and should support as a model for the rest of the country.

As it is now structured, SEATS is a model. If the powers that be are allowed to restructure it, fewer people are going to fewer places. What the American with Disabilities Act mandates is minimal.

What the county has subsidized has exceeded what the ADA mandates. People who pay taxes are worried that if Iowa City and Coralville pick up the tab, their taxes will go up. So I am getting emails stating that it’s OK to cut Sunday services.

Therefore, people who choose to go to worship via SEATS are no longer going to have that option. I know for myself that I no longer have the option to transfer into a car because my disability has progressed. I am sure there are others. Curb-to-curb service or having individuals wait at bus stops is just not feasible for so many people with varying degrees of disability both physical and cognitive. They need the extra support so they can participate and contribute to community life.

I fought the fight more than 20 years ago to get the ADA passed. It is infuriating to know that still, 20 years later, we are referred to as the “silent minority.” How many times do we have to prove that the quality of our lives is as important as the quality of those who do not experience disabilities. I know it’s a hard job for me just to get up, get dressed, brush my teeth, eat, and get my coat on to get out the door. I am so happy to see the friendly face at my door after my first initial struggle. I am not the only one that has these types of struggles and delays in activities of daily living just to make it to the door on time.

The mere suggestion that we’re going to turn back time and regress our transportation services is crazy. Sometimes, I feel like taking all the councilors’ and the supervisors’ car keys away for a week and see how they can negotiate getting to work, their meetings, the grocery store, and having a social life.

Of course, this is illegal, so I cannot do it. But I am damn sure if it happened, they would think harder about how important para-transit is and would empathize more with those who use it on a daily basis. Also, they would realize how lucky they are to have a para-transit program such as SEATS in their community. I have lived in other cities. Getting a ride on time is a great service. It should be a right, not a luxury. Having SEATS funding and services reduced feels like a violation of our rights. This is personal, and it hurts. It hurts to be left behind in the dust.

Casey Hayse
Johnson County resident


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