Centro and the Smoke Alarm


This morning I learned that in November 2013 a palliative-care nurse practitioner testified at a hearing that with my glucose level as high as it was, I would be dead within six months.

Here I still am.

I’ve been counted dead so many times that a friend sent me a cartoon: cat standing at the heavenly gates, waiting while St. Peter punches another hole in the cat’s nine-lives card.

My glucose, which should be below 110, has been over 350 for four years, and over 500 for a couple of years. The medical expectation would be that my kidneys would be failing—they aren’t. In fact, without pharmaceuticals and with homeopathy they are getting better. My eyesight should be failing. In fact, since I got off the oxycodone it’s getting better. By now they should have started cutting off parts of me—toes, feet, legs. Nope, still got all my parts.

Every so often my friendly doctor asks, “Why aren’t they studying you? Why aren’t they trying to figure out why you are doing so well despite your high glucose?” I think that’s a good question. I think the medical profession only can see sickness, not health.

Anyway, did I tell you that the United States has again changed the name of my major malady? First, they called it chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), which doesn’t begin to suggest how serious it is. Then they called it chronic fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS), which is my preference because it puts the immune thing right out there where people—even physician people—have to see it.

Then an international consortium of physicians said, “No, no, it’s myalgic encephalomyelitis.” It’s an autoimmune disease that affects the nervous system and the immune system, and is probably caused by a virus gravitating to the brain. Um, yeah, a strep infection when I was 14.

Last week NPR reported “a 15-member panel of the Institute of Medicine, an independent government advisory body with a lot of clout” has decided to call it “systemic exertion intolerance disease, or SEID for short.” The characteristics are:
• “Profound fatigue lasting at least six months;
• “Total exhaustion after even minor physical or mental exertion that patients sometimes describe as a “crash” and is known medically as post-exertional malaise;
• “Unrefreshing sleep;
• “Cognitive impairment (aka “brain fog”) or a worsening of symptoms upon standing.”

Yeah, I’ve got “profound fatigue” lasting, um, let’s see, 54 years. When I was in 12th grade I used to take a nap every day when I got home from school. For the last 11 years I’ve needed to use a power wheelchair—is that fatigue that is “profound” enough to qualify?

“Total exhaustion . . . patients describe as a ‘crash’ . . .” Well, let me tell you about it. Last week I went to a hearing at City Hall regarding Centro and Call-a-Bus. The bus couldn’t drop me at City Hall’s wheelchair accessible entrance because it was on the wrong side. The temperature was, as one news anchor put it, “a blistering 2 degrees.” The woman in the wheelchair parked in the aisle in front of me wouldn’t get out of the way so I could speak. Channel 9 News, the Post-Standard and NPR local news all recorded quotes from my testimony. I found myself accidentally sitting in front of Centro’s Executive Director Frank Kobliski.

I gotta tell you this one: Frank and I got to be friends—I thought—after I went to him and explained that Call-a-Bus was substandard. Frank and I exchanged emails and phone calls. We had meetings in his office and at my home. He wanted to get me in with his wife’s cardiologist. We worked together to upgrade Call-a-Bus. When he wouldn’t spend the money necessary to get the job done right, I filed a complaint with the FTA Office of Civil Rights and got Centro investigated.

Meanwhile, I had pressured Kobliski into recreating Centro’s accessibility board, which is mandatory under the Americans with Disabilities Act and which Centro had discontinued. I was the only one on the board who actually used Call-a-Bus as my primary mode of transportation. All the other “stakeholders” (as defined by Centro) on the board were talking about plans for 2018 and the design for a new grant application.

I was talking about the old man on the Southside who would leave his weekly meeting at 9:00 p.m. and then have to sit on an upturned bucket in a garage in below-freezing weather and wait an hour for Call-a-Bus because CAB wouldn’t play by the rules and pick him up after he got out of the meeting. I finally got mad, quit the board, and went to the newspaper.

Frank Kobliski never spoke to me again.

So there I was in the Common Council room at City Hall on Thursday night and I moved across the center aisle to get out of the way and found myself sitting in front of Frank. Well, I just grinned up at him. I mean, really—what’s he going to do about it? And he totally ignored me—looked over my head and refused to acknowledge that I existed. So I continued to sit there and grin at him.

After while I had to move to let someone else out and I ended up sitting next to Frank. And I kept on grinning. I hoped somebody, somewhere was taking a picture of us. The man is such a hypocrite. Among other things, he dyes his hair. I have this on good authority from his special assistant Betty Petrie. One day at Centro headquarters we were both in the restroom when she decided to go all girlish and confidential and tell that he dyes his hair.

I don’t know whether I was more shocked that he did it, or that she was so disloyal as to tell me.

Anyway, after I got home, to bed, and to sleep, my (absent) neighbor’s smoke alarm sounded for 90 minutes and I was awake half the night. Centro and the smoke alarm caused “total exhaustion . . . that patients sometimes describe as a ‘crash’ and is known medically as post-exertional malaise,” so I’ve been wrecked for nearly a week.

Posted in Call-a-Bus, Centro, chronic fatigue, disability, Transportation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

$71? You’ve Got to be Kidding.


It is 7:25 a.m. and the sun is peering bleakly through a haze. The temperature is eight but feels like -12. It is predicted to go up to a blazing 11 degrees this afternoon. “Niagara Falls freezes over” is today’s headline. Beneath my window one of Syracuse University’s big CATs is plowing snow and using its loud backup horn. (The afore-mentioned “haze” was an oncoming snow storm, which is now falling hard.)

Last night the S.U. vs. Louisville basketball game tipped off at 7:00 p.m., which is also about the time that fat snowflakes started to fall. On my way to bed at 9:00 p.m., I noticed a car in the parking lot with its parking lights on. Oh dear. Somebody’s going to come out of the game and find a dead battery. Should I call S.U.’s Dept. of Public Safety? Ask them to check out the car with its lights on? Broadcast it in the Carrier Dome?

You see, an activist is not a hairy fellow carrying a protest sign with nasty words on it. Activism is a lifestyle that says “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.” I’m going to do something about it. I am going to act. An activist is one who takes action, contrary to all the folks who sit on their butts, look at the world passing by, and do exactly nothing.

So while I’m debating making the phone call, I see another car with its lights on. And another. And lots of dark figures streaming down the hill, remotely activating their car lights. The game is over and the fans are coming into the parking lot, which has been snowed on for two hard hours. They open their car doors and trunks and wave their arms antically as they sweep off snow. Have you ever seen, from above, a parking lot full of people all simultaneously cleaning snow off their cars? It looks like a cover on The New Yorker.

At night, I turn the thermometer in my apartment down to 72 degrees; in the morning it registers 65 degrees. I had been asking tenants to bring their National Grid bills to the Tenants Action Council meeting last night.

The first problem with this is that all the notices about the meeting were taken down. Related Management’s state supervisor said she could stop that problem. She said she had directed our manager to write a letter that would go to all tenants today or tomorrow. Yesterday our manager said, “That’s news to me; I know nothing about it.”

So the turnout at the meeting was very low. I was the only one there who could read the National Grid bill and find “Account Activity: Current Charges” and “Summary of Current Charges: Total Current Charges,” the two being the same number. You have to understand, dear reader, that people in low-income housing are not smart. If they were smart then they’d have an earned-income high enough to keep them out of poverty.

Further, in low-income housing for people who are elderly, the tenant’s mental faculties have been dummied down either by various illnesses that reduce brain acuity or by the drugs used to treat those illnesses. In this building, there are 176 tenants, 91% of whom are disabled.

It is hard, if not impossible, to get an accurate reading of how many HUD-subsidized high-rises there are in the city. (The difficulty, in part, is that on the Internet “HUD homes” is a euphemism for houses, apartments not included.)

A rough estimate is that there are about a dozen of the buildings, with an average of about 200 tenants in each, so we may be talking about 2200 people living like this—although that is probably a conservative estimate. (Give me a couple hours to do the research and I could give you a more accurate number, but I don’t have a couple hours. My aide is in the kitchen and I have to go cook with her as she doesn’t know how to cook.)

The problem of interpreting the National Grid bill is further complicated by HEAP and the Budget Plan. The Budget Plan used to be an average that was figured once a year; it no longer is. My bill says that my budget plan amount is $94.00—and it “will change to $175.00 effective with your next bill.” That’s some average, isn’t it? I do pay my bill every month.

HEAP is the Home Energy Assistance Program for people below the poverty line. In November we are told that we will get $400 but we are never told when it will go to the electric company. One tenant says her HEAP payment does not appear on her February bill; mine is not on my January bill. Last year, later in the season, we got an additional $50. The year before, it was $100. On my bill, which is characteristic of the rest of the tenants, it says “Accumulated Budget Plan charges -594.00” and “Accumulated Actual Charges 731.81.” My $400 from HEAP will be completely wiped out the moment it reaches National Grid.

And what of Related Management’s state supervisor, when we tell her that leaking windows are taking all our money? Well, for starters, she doesn’t believe the tenants. She asks us to trust her but she doesn’t trust us. We are angry; very angry. When I ask her for specific names, dates and actions, she says, “I don’t know; I don’t know.” Then she gets defensive, then angry, then asks why I am so angry. “Because I live in your property” I am tempted to say, but hold my tongue.

She says that she has referred it to her Compliance Department, which ten months ago reviewed our heating bills and gave an allowance of $71/month.

Posted in activism, Government Services, Housing, HUD-subsidized housing, Poverty, Powerlessness | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Day in the Life of an Activist


It is 7:23 a.m. and the sun is rising over Syracuse; the temperature is zero. I always find zero a particularly dispiriting temperature, rather like a flat line on an EKG: everything has come to a halt; life is over. Underneath my window a front loader is shoveling snow into a dump truck for transport elsewhere. I live over the corner of a Syracuse University parking lot and they have been pushing the snow into the corner for weeks. Now they have to truck it out. But wait! S.U., if you want to save money, just let the snow sit there. The parking lot is rarely even half-full; there’s plenty of room for the snow so why waste the money and man-effort to truck it out?

With the thermometer in my apartment turned up full to 85 degrees, the temperature by my bed is 68. The temperature at the windowsill is too low to register. That hasn’t changed, nor will it in the foreseeable future. Yesterday, on the elevator, a tenant told me that he is heating his apartment by turning on his oven and this month’s bill from National Grid is $300. His apartment—all our apartments—are 540 square feet, about the size of a two-car garage. My heating bill this month is $179. Last night a man—a normal, healthy, working man who doesn’t live here—said that his apartment is 1200 square feet and his heating bill is only $119.

I told the man in the elevator to bring his National Grid bill and come to the Tenants Action Council meeting tonight. He has no way of knowing about the meeting because on Monday, per the manager, we posted notices on every floor about the meeting—and in less than 24 hours other tenants took down all the notices. We suspect that members of the Tenant Association are taking down the signs but we have no proof. It’s childish, and it’s the way things go here at McCarthy Manor.

At last week’s meeting with the state supervisor for Related Management, she said that was no problem, she could put a stop to the signs being removed, so yesterday I called her and told her the signs were down—what was she going to do about it? She said that she and the manager were creating a letter that would go to all tenants and tell them not to take down the signs. Really? A letter? I’m so not impressed.

The reason we can’t get another tenants group started in this building is because of Sharon Sherman, executive director and only employee of the Greater Syracuse Tenants Network. (See also https://annecwoodlen.wordpress.com/2012/09/04/one-woman-and-a-facade/.) She has a HUD grant, through the City of Syracuse, which used to be to work as an advisor to tenants in low-income housing. The grant was re-drawn to work with the homeless. Nevertheless, Sherman is coming into our home to the Tenant Association meetings, where she chooses the president, sets the agenda and runs the meeting.

I have called many people over the years to try to get Sherman out of our home, but have been unsuccessful. So, yesterday, after calling the Related Management supervisor, I called City Hall and talked to the guy who takes the HUD money and funnels it to Sherman. Four times, I asked him when Sherman’s grant comes up for renewal. After twenty minutes, he finally told me, but first he told me that if we wanted her out of our building then we should get the manager or the owner to ban her.

Fact: HUD’s rules are very clear and emphatic: Owners and Managers CANNOT in any way, shape or form do anything to constrain tenant organization or activity. Sherman presents as a tenant advocate and management won’t touch her. Sherman has fewer than two dozen supporters in this building and the Tenant Association president is an old, hard of hearing woman who is on oxygen and sits silently for forty minutes while Sherman runs the meeting. The president of the Tenant Association is also the treasurer on Sherman’s board.

So I move on to a phone call to the director of the HUD field office in Buffalo. I do not call the project manager because he is useless. If I file a complaint, all he does is forward it to their subcontractor CGI, which always decides in favor of management. If I request information, he says he will get it and call me back: he never does.

The director listens to me as I tell her that all our money is going to pay for heat that is going out the window. She asks some reasonable questions and then says she will get back to me later in the day. She doesn’t.

Then my aide and I get on Centro’s Call-a-Bus to go grocery shopping. The bus has four single seats on the right and four double seats on the left, which can be folded up to allow for wheelchair tie-downs. My aide sits on the right behind the only other passenger on board. The front two seats on the left are empty and I ask the driver to raise one of the seats so I can move forward and talk to my aide about the shopping trip. The driver refuses.

There are two reasons why some drivers do this: first, they want to flaunt their power and “put me in my place”; second, they are lazy and don’t want to have to bend over again. I have the right to sit in any vacant place on the bus. The last two drivers to pull this on me were both black men. I have said, “Don’t you remember Rosa Parks? She refused to sit in the back of the bus because she was black; I refuse to sit in the back because I’m in a wheelchair.”

It makes no difference; the driver ignores me. He is not a nice man and my aide and I have repeatedly had trouble with him. I pull out my cell phone, call Centro and file a complaint against the driver while he sits there and listens.

The state supervisor of Related Management, the City Hall commissioner, Sharon Sherman, the HUD director, and now this. Yet to come: a tenant who is mad at me, another go-round with the Related supervisor, and a third visit from the wheelchair repairmen because his company is demanding a serial number that doesn’t exist.

You tell me: where’s the joy? Where’s the happiness? Where’s the love? Where is there anything in all of this that makes life worth living?

Posted in activism, Call-a-Bus, Centro, disability rights, Government Services, Housing, HUD-subsidized housing, Poverty, Power, power wheelchairs, Powerlessness, Transportation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Government Employees–Beyond Improvement?


It is 7:27 a.m. and the sun is rising over Syracuse. Chimney smoke flows flat across the city: the temperature is -4. Why does the smoke flow flat when it’s icy cold? I’ve been watching it for years and when it is only somewhat cold then the chimney smoke rises; when it’s terribly cold then the smoke lies flat. Maybe one of my more scientific readers can explain that. Please do. There is no snow plow under my window this morning because there was no snow last night—praise be to Allah, and apologies to my friend who lives to ski.

With the thermometer in my apartment turned up full to 85 degrees, the temperature by my bed is 68. The temperature at the windowsill is too low to register. That hasn’t changed, nor will it in the foreseeable future. Last week I met with Betty Perry, who manages 32 properties from Long Island to Buffalo. She works for Related Companies, which is based in New York City and owns our apartment building. Go to http://www.related.com/ and scroll all the way down the page to see their luxury condos. Related is loaded with money and they don’t spend any on us poor folk.

The Related web site doesn’t show McCarthy Manor or Parkside Commons, low income high-rise apartment buildings that they own in Syracuse, but if you go to http://www.apartmentfinder.com/New-York/Syracuse-Apartments/Parkside-Commons-Apartments you’ll find a lovely layout about how nice it is to live at Parkside, a 400-plus-unit apartment building. No pricing or floor plans are available, but “Features & Amenities” include hot water. Oh, wow. And video monitoring. Another site reports 24-hour security. What’s up with that? Go to Syracuse.com, the on-line Post-Standard newspaper, and you will find that Parkside has had three shootings in the past six years. And how’s your neighborhood doing?

So I’ve been filing complaints up the wazoo—not to mention up the hierarchy. The McCarthy Manor manager’s supervisor has an office at Parkside. The Parkside supervisor’s supervisor has been sending me unappealing emails, so I called Related’s designated senior vice president. Then I got a call-back from the supervisor’s supervisor.

Note to activists: the way to get the attention of upper management is to go over their head to the top guy. He will send a terse message to his chief assistant saying, “Fix this.” When a person hears it from her supervisor instead of her client, then she fixes it. If your HUD project manager is not moving on the problem then reach out to his boss.

They never see it coming. Every government employee sees himself as the absolute boss of every citizen. This is true from the minimum-wage call-taker at Medicaid transportation up to—lemme tell you a story.

One day I called Washington and talked to a government lawyer about something I needed. I don’t remember what it was, but it was urgent. The lawyer was an arrogant gold-plated ass who was condescending and rude, and told me he might get around to my problem in about three months.

I hung up, re-called the department, asked for the director and said I wanted to file a complaint against an employee. Always use that “complaint against an employee” phrase because the boss has to deal with that. Say anything else and the boss will route your call to some hireling. In this case, the boss was a woman; I don’t know whether or not that’s relevant, but she listened to what I had to say.

Ten minutes later the gold-plated ass called me back, apologized, and said he’d take care of the problem in three days. These people who think they can push the citizens around—which is pretty much every government employee—think they are the be-all and end-all (i.e., “a person or thing considered to be beyond improvement”) and they never see it coming. They never, ever think you will call their boss and hold them accountable for mistreating a citizen.

You are the boss: you are the citizen for whom the government works. You pay their salary. Always hold them accountable! The biggest problem with our government is that citizens won’t hold individual employees accountable for their actions. Where this all ends, of course, is with a person holding an elected office. He/she knows that if enough citizens get pissed off then he/she/it will be voted out of office. The elected official either will send a message through his part of government that the citizen is to be accommodated or he will get un-elected.

So Betty Perry, at the behest of the senior vice president of a really, really rich company, called and offered me a 30-minute meeting. I am the functional head of the Tenants Action Council; the Tenants Association got two hours of face-time with her assistant. Unfair or not, I took the offer of a meeting.

Ostensibly, the meeting was between the state supervisor and me, but I am old, experienced, and know how to read the signs. She would bring herself, the local supervisor, and the building manager. No one in the hierarchy ever travels alone; they have to have a couple other people with them, even if only to meet with an old, poor, sick broad in a wheelchair. So I got a couple more old sick broads in wheelchairs to go with me. We wheeled into the meeting and the local supervisor’s eyes widened in surprise and she said, “Oh, there are others with you!”

Note to activists: never go alone to a meeting with the power people. They plan a gang rape, which is never any fun for the rapee.

Posted in activism, Government Services, Housing, HUD-subsidized housing, Power | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Poor and Sick in America: Me and My Neighbors


It is 7:26 a.m. and the sun is rising over Syracuse. Chimney smoke flows flat across the city: the temperature is -10. The snow plow in the parking lot below my window is irritating with its back-up horn.

With the thermometer in my apartment turned up full to 85 degrees, the temperature by my bed is 68. The temperature at the windowsill is too low to register. A few years ago, the owners of this 176-unit, HUD-subsidized apartment building decided to rehab it so they could sell the building. The new windows either are substandard or were not properly installed. Either way, 176 tenants are cold all winter.

The new management tells us to wear more clothes, or cover the windows with opaque plastic. The plastic shuts out what little sunlight we get, and without sunlight we are all vulnerable to seasonal affective disorder. There is generally—with the exception of George W. Bush—a correlation between intelligence and income: stupid people are poor.

More than 90 percent of the tenants in this building, which is typical of all HUD high-rise apartment buildings, are below the poverty level. My Social Security is now $850 a month. Of that, this month $179 is going to National Grid, the power company, to pay for heat that is literally going out the window.

We have had a Tenant Association since the building’s erection 35 years ago. The Tenant Association plans parties which are poorly attended, and starts fights. Sharon Sherman, who is the executive director—and only employee—of the Greater Syracuse Tenants Network, has taken over our Tenant Association. Her HUD grant, issued through the City of Syracuse, is to work with the homeless but instead she comes into our home, takes over the Tenant Association meeting, appoints the president, sets the agenda, and runs the meeting. How can she do that? She has a grant and no supervisor. Management can’t touch her. City Hall fired her when she worked there, but left us as her helpless victims.

I have tried to start another tenants’ group—the Tenant Action Council—but Sherman is working against us and management won’t recognize us. The law requires that we be heard but who’s going to enforce the law? Legal Aide? They are so under-funded and over-worked that every day they have a triage meeting to see where they can refer cases. Lawyers only work for money and the tenants have none. If you can’t afford a lawyer to press the law then there is no law.

A citizen action group wants me to attend a city hearing about Centro, the bus company, which is planning to cut services and raise fares. The meeting is the same night as the Tenant Action Council. There is no tenant who will substitute for me at that meeting. Of my two strongest supporters, one is so sick that she turns off her phone and sleeps all day. I haven’t been able to reach her in almost a week. The other person describes herself as “timid.” I’m it; I’m all they’ve got.

The last time I went to City Hall for an evening hearing, they had locked the only wheelchair-accessible door. The wind-chill for Thursday is predicted to be below zero. The bus drops me off in my wheelchair and if I find the door locked, what am I to do? Freeze?

Yesterday I wanted to attend a jazz concert at a hotel three blocks away. We have had more than seven feet of snow this winter, most of it in the last three weeks. The temperatures have been dangerously low for longer than I’ve ever seen them in the fifty years I’ve lived in Syracuse. I can bundle up warm enough to go three blocks, despite my sedentary state and low metabolism, but will my wheelchair make it?

Since before Thanksgiving, I have been trying to get wheelchair repair but cannot because the vendor who sold me the chair failed to get the Medicaid repair contract. No other vendor in the county will repair a wheelchair that they did not sell. I finally was directed to a vendor in California, which charged $249 to replace the charger—and $350 to drive 140 miles from Albany to do it. Now their corporate headquarters won’t let them schedule any new appointments, no reason given.

I had to work through a state senator’s office, which had the heft to get the county director of Medicaid to work with them. This time I was told to call some company in Texas, which sent a repairman from Fulton, only 29 miles away. He says that in addition to two new batteries, I need two new drive wheels and four new balance wheels. They’re bare.

He went back to Fulton and filed the order. It was rejected because, they said, there was no wheelchair with the serial number he had filed. A week later he came back to re-copy the serial number. Turned out he had gotten the number right the first time, so he took a picture of it with his iPod or whatever, and sent it back. Meanwhile, my doctor and I had decided that after waiting two months for repair, the only option was to get a new wheelchair. His office manager worked with me to file the application.

Two weeks ago, I found out that Medicare had rejected the application because it was not filed in the right form. They’d sent it back to the doctor’s office where it had been sitting for two weeks. When I called, neither the doctor nor the office manager were in.

Meanwhile, the doctor’s office has canceled my next three appointments. Why? Because a hospital has hired him for two days a week. The hospital pays him more than his private patients do, and he repeatedly has to go to the bank to take out loans to meet his office payroll. He is the only private physician I know who accepts Medicaid and he’s going broke.

So yesterday I dared not go to the jazz concert because my wheelchair tires are bare and every time the building superintendent plows the snow, he blocks the access to the sidewalks and the curb-cut at the front door and then doesn’t shovel them out. And we report it to the manager and she does nothing. And her superiors won’t recognize the Tenants Action Council. And we are all too sick to fight back. And you don’t know we even exist because we are warehoused in HUD-subsidized high-rise apartment buildings, instead of being allowed to live in private apartments in your neighborhood where you can get to know us and send your teenage kids to shovel our driveways.

A bit of a poem from the back of my mind:
I can’t go on
I mean I can’t go on
I really can’t go on
So I guess I’ll get up
And go on.

Have a blessed day, all you people who are healthy enough to work and therefore able to earn more than $850 a month.

Posted in Call-a-Bus, Centro, disability, Government Services, HUD-subsidized housing, Medicaid, Medicare, Onondaga County, physician, Poverty, power wheelchairs, Powerlessness, Transportation | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Centro: Cutting Services and Raising Fares–Again


Frank Kobliski, executive director of Centro bus company, has announced that services will be cut and fares will be raised to make up a $5 million short-fall. He said–and did–the same thing four years ago when I wrote the following blog. It is as relevant today as it was then.

Someone calling himself zombiewalks has posted a comment on Syracuse.com saying, “Call me crazy, but 2 bucks to go anywhere? Im not sure why that is a bad thing… And this comment “I will have to decide between food and transportation,” she said.’ is crazy… People seriously can’t budget 2 dollars?”

The “2 bucks” being talked about refers to Centro bus company raising its rates. Newspaper reports state that Centro is raising its rates to $2.00, but the person choosing between food and transportation is disabled, so she’s using Centro’s paratransit service, Call-a-Bus. Call-a-Bus fares will be going from $1.50 to $2.50.

Now, as for “People seriously can’t budget 2 dollars?” let’s look at the picture. The woman who said she would have to decide between food and transportation also said she is a volunteer at ARISE. Let us suppose that she volunteers three times a week. And she goes to church once a week. And she goes grocery shopping once a week. That’s five trips a week. Currently the cost is $1.50 for a one-way ride. That’s $3.00 round-trip, times five trips, which is $15.00 a week or $64.50 a month. At $2.50 a ride that will become to $107.50 a month—an increase of $43 dollars.

Centro’s Call-a-Bus has about five thousand riders, every one of them disabled and living in Onondaga County (according to the last census there are 70,000 people in Onondaga County who have a disabling condition). Most of them are on Social Security Disability, which pays $782 a month. And transportation is about to cost $107 a month. And we’re not just talking about volunteering—which is giving back to the community—we’re talking about going to the grocery store, bank, drug store, library, the mall, your niece’s wedding and—the ultimate impossibility—going out to dinner or a movie. We are talking about disabled people who have no other means of transportation.

Aside from transportation, let’s talk about what else that $782 has to cover: rent, National Grid, groceries, phone—forget cable television and the Internet, you can’t afford them—and paying $20 a month to do the laundry. The washer and dryer each cost $1.25 and you do two loads a week. And if there isn’t a laundry in your apartment building (of course you live in an apartment; you lost your house years ago) then you have to factor in paying for Call-a-Bus to take you to do your laundry.

You have $782 a month and you now will have to budget $107 for transportation. You can’t. You will have to quit volunteering. So much for ‘seriously budgeting 2 dollars.’ And that $782 a month you’re living on this year? It was the same last year. And the year before. Social Security increases, by law, are tied to the earnings of the great middle class. If the middle class is struggling, then poor people struggle right along with them.

Now, let’s talk about Centro.

On May 17, 2009, the Post-Standard reported:

“But the number that has jumped the most in the past decade has been in the salaries of Centro’s top three executives. They have doubled.

“Since 2000, the salary of Frank Kobliski, Centro’s executive director, rose 93 percent from $79,800 to $154,128. The salary of Steven Share, Centro’s senior vice president of finance and administration, climbed 86 percent from $72,600 to $134,876.

“A third executive at Centro, John Renock, senior vice president of corporation operations, is also paid $134,876.”

Either you can pay $154,128 to one man—Frank Kobliski—or you can use the money to pay for five round-trip rides a week for 52 weeks for 118 people with disabilities.

According to the Post-Standard’s February 18, 2011, report:

“The proposal does not call for layoffs among administrative staff . . . This year, the 102 Centro administrative workers did not receive their usual cost-of-living pay increase, although longevity increases remained.”

On December 18, 2010, the Post-Standard reported:

“Those changes leave Centro still facing an estimated $4.8 million budget deficit next year. To make up the gap, more route cuts, consolidations and a possible fare hike are possible. ‘No stone is unturned,’ Frank Kobliski, Centro executive director, said at a finance committee meeting before the full board met. ‘Nothing is sacred.’ . . The administrative staff, now at 100 people, usually gets a pay raise each year. . . Centro’s current $59.9 million budget is on track to finish in the black.”

In these hard times, Kobliski added two people to the administrative staff. Instead of cutting administrative costs, he added to them.

A decade ago, Centro’s budget was $43 million; now it is $59.7 million, and the executive director can’t make ends meet. The executive director, who earns $154,000, is making up the short fall by raising rates and cutting services for people living on less than $10,000 a year.

I’ve got some suggestions.

First, fire Kobliski. His salary has gone up 93%; his budget has gone up 39%, and his administrative staff has actually increased but he still can’t make ends meet. He said, “No stone is unturned . . . nothing is sacred.” Take him at his word.

Second, every time a route is cut, a driver is laid off, or a rate is raised, cut administration. Centro is top heavy with people who talk, not people who do. Put the money into the buses and drivers on the road, not the administrators in the office.

Third, when making rate increases, pro rate them so that the poorest people suffer the least increase.

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Homeopathic Remedy


“Anne, you mentioned that you did work with a naturopath and were using magnesium to ameliorate your binge eating.  Can you tell me more about that?”

Reader, I am working with a homeopath, not a naturopath—big difference.  I am taking mercurous acetate, not magnesium, and it is not for binge eating, it is for over-all healing.  In the process of recovery, I have achieved a level of emotional stability that I have not had in decades.  Homeopathy is doing good things that no psych med ever did.

However—and this is a big HOWEVER—do not go out and buy mercurous acetate and expect it to work for you.  This is NOT a remedy that is designed to cure all psych ills; it is a remedy that was chosen by the homeopath specifically to heal MY ills.  Homeopathic remedies are a very precise fit for a specific individual.  Mercurous acetate is not a cure for depression; it is a cure for Annie.

My worst problem is the damage that pharmaceuticals have done to my immune system.  You may have a perfectly healthy immune system but your agonies may be coming from some entirely different source.  Depression can come from psychosocial, biomechanical, biochemical or environmental sources.  Other emotional distress can have other roots.

Go see a good homeopathic practitioner.  Let him/her do what they are trained to do and figure out what remedy is right for you.  I STRONGLY RECOMMEND homeopathy.  It is healing without harm.  But it is not a do-it-yourself project.  Anne

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