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Maio speaks out on Commissioner Craig’s dismissal

By Hank SimsDaily Planet staff
Tuesday September 11, 2001

In her first interview with the press since removing a popular member of the Commission on Disability, Councilmember Linda Maio defended her actions and denied that she acted at the behest of another councilmember. 

Maio dismissed Karen Craig, her representative to the city’s commission for the last four years, in a letter sent just before she left for vacation last month.  

“I think Karen has been a real fighter for the disabled,” said Maio. “I think she can continue to be that. But as far as the commission goes, I think we need a different approach.”  

Maio stated that Craig’s relationship with Easy Does It, a non-profit organization that provides emergency services for the city’s disabled population, led to her decision to have Craig replaced. Specifically, Maio said that Craig, an outspoken member of the commission, hindered EDI’s ability to aid the disabled by relating to the organization in a confrontational way. 

“The way the commission chose to deal with EDI is to continuously call them before the commission to grill them,” Maio said. “It was getting exhausting.” 

Maio said that EDI, which over the years has had trouble filling its board of directors and keeping executive personnel, is an organization that needs nurturing. 

“That’s what I hoped the commission would do – help them, bring them along,” she said. “I explained this to Karen. She seemed not to be able to understand this.” 

“I’m not saying that EDI is a perfect organization – it’s not. They’re a young board and they need to grow up and mature. They need an attorney on the board. They need someone with business skills.” 

EDI and the commission have differed over a number of issues, including the definition of “emergency services” and EDI’s “overuse policy,” which limits the number of hours that EDI spends with each client. 

Craig and her supporters deny that the EDI issue was the true reason she was replaced. Over the last month, they have blamed Councilmember Dona Spring, who they say personally dislikes Craig and resents her influence, with pressuring Maio to remove her. Maio denies these charges. 

“I can’t say that Dona didn’t influence me, because she did,” Maio said. “But Karen was my appointee, and I didn’t take action because another councilmember asked me to.”  

“It was my own decision, and I take full responsibility for it.” 

In an interview Monday, Craig repeated her accusations against Spring. She said the fact that she, among all the commissioners, was singled out, was evidence that Spring was involved in her removal. 

“I was one of the nine people who voted on all of the issues. I was not the ringleader,” she said. “There were people on that commission just as outspoken as I was.” 

Craig said that she feared for Berkeley’s political climate in the wake of her removal.  

“I have grave concerns about the future of the Commission on Disability – or any commission – when anyone who speaks out or asks very hard questions can be gotten rid of,” she said 

“I don’t want the COD to wind up being a commission of ‘good little crips.’ We have to speak out.” 

Meanwhile, volunteers led by Miya Rodolfo-Sioson, the chair of the Commission on Disability, are circulating a petition asking the city council to restate Craig. 

“Our aim is to get Karen back on the commission, and to show that she has lots of support in the community,” said Rodolfo-Sioson. 

“I just don’t see how taking Karen off the commission helps anyone in the community. I don’t think it’s going to reduce tension between EDI and the commission. Karen has been so effective on the commission – losing her, (over) this whole Easy Does It controversy, is a real blow.” 

Rodolfo-Sioson said that she also wants to call attention to the “way commissioners can be removed when they are outspoken and have unpopular opinions.” 

“I was expecting this kind of response,” Maio said of the petition drive, “but I’m just going to have to weather it.” 

Maio said that she has received many letters from disabled people in support of her action, but are asking Maio to keep their names confidential because they fear being “shunned” by the disabled community.  

“Her detractors will not identify themselves, because they’re afraid of reprisal,” she said. “To a person, people are asking that they not be identified.” 

“In the end, I really feel it was the right thing to do,” said Maio. “It’s absolutely not personal. It’s about a difference of opinion, a difference of approach between Karen and me.”