The controversial dismissal of Karen Craig from the city’s Commission on Disability has diverted a great deal of attention from significant issues of disabled access and rights. Ms. Craig is to be commended for her service on the Commission on Disability, but under the present Berkeley City leadership, she can do more good away from the Commission.
Having read through a City of Berkeley Commissioner’s Manual I learned that the role of a Commissioner is primarily as an advisor to the City Council and City Manager. The Manual states that Commission Reports presented to the Council “should reflect all opposing viewpoints.” This leads one to wonder why Ms. Craig’s “fundamental differences” with Council member Maio’s viewpoint should lead to her dismissal. Nevertheless, all Berkeley City Commissioner’s serve at the pleasure of the Council ember who appointed them and Karen Craig has been asked to leave the Commission. I believe that the disability community in Berkeley will benefit from Ms. Craig’s leadership away from the Commission because she will no longer be constrained by political requirements, such as bowing to the opinion of the City Council.
Any City-operated Commission is political. I would like to see some strong, non-political advocacy for the disabled, the unsheltered and other under-represented minorities throughout Berkeley. Such advocacy should rest with members of the community unconstrained by the Mayor and Council. Karen Craig is one of the few leaders in the disability community with the courage to speak out, even when her voice is being muffled by Berkeley’s political leadership. If the Daily Planet wants to write long articles on Karen Craig’s story, they should follow her to the controversial sites such as lack of physical access at public events, fairs and forums; public transportation venues; sidewalks rendered impassible by sandwich board signs; and the problematic and often failing emergency attendant care by EDI, inc. I for one think it is a waste of time to protest Karen’s dismissal from the Commission. We, the disabled of Berkeley, would benefit more from meeting with Karen and supporting her efforts outside the commission, not just while it is the stuff of headlines, but for the long haul.