How to Act Like an American (Part III)


(Continued from July 19)

Now here’s the frightening thing:  The only way I know to find out the rules for running Centro’s Call-a-Bus service is to talk to the Federal Transit Administration’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR).  Who else knows this stuff?  It’s way too complicated and specialized to be posted on line anywhere.  There are no reference books in the public library that spell out the rules.  And Centro either doesn’t know or doesn’t care what the rules are, so the only access to the truth is through David Knight at the OCR.  This is sort of like Lincoln freeing the slaves:  if nobody tells them they’re free then they just keep on working in the hot fields.  Centro isn’t going to tell us the correct rules and regulations any more than the plantation owner is going to tell the slaves they’re free.  You have to have knowledge in order to be free.

Meanwhile, back in Syracuse:  After years of trying to work with the Public Transportation Advisory Council at ARISE, it finally became apparent that all they were going to do was complain and complain and complain and never take action, so I began to work with Frank Kobliski, executive director of Centro.

Linda McKeown has been manager of Call-a-Bus (CAB) since shortly after it was started fifteen or twenty years ago, and she makes a terrible job of it.  She used to come to the monthly meetings at ARISE.  She came totally unprepared, which is to say that she didn’t even bring a pen and paper to take notes of problems she might want to look into.  McKeown absolutely stonewalled, and all we knew was what she let slip by accident under my persistent and effective questioning, which always made me wonder what she was hiding.  So one day I gave up on her and called her boss, Frank Kobliski.

One of the cardinal acts of a good citizen is going over the head of the person who’s giving you a hard time and talking to the person’s boss.  I asked Frank for a meeting, he agreed, then showed up with Linda.  Ouch.  I wanted to talk to Frank about Call-a-Bus, which meant talking about Linda, so I didn’t want her there, but Frank said he needed her to provide information.  What I would later come to understand was that Frank knew virtually nothing about how CAB was being run.  We had a copy of a report that Centro had filed in which the complaints about CAB were reported to be zero, even though several of us had filed complaints.  Frank knew nothing about this. Time and again, he told me things that later turned out not to be true.  But Frank was a nice guy—warm, friendly, genial—all that good stuff.

So at that first meeting, I looked at Linda McKeown sitting there in her official Centro knit shirt, and I gulped, and I said to her exactly what I would have said about her.  A friend of mine once said that you never have to worry about me stabbing you in the back; I’ll stab you in the chest and you’ll see it coming.  When talking to or about government employees, I have learned that if your cause is just and your facts are accurate, then go for it.  You have no reason to hide anything.

I started out by explaining to Frank that CAB was not compliant with federal standards, and that a compliance review would establish that, and then one option would be for the federal government to stop providing funding.  At the time, Centro’s annual budget was $41 million, about 88% of which comes from the federal government.  If Centro lost federal funding then Frank Kobliski, doing business as Centro bus company, would be out of business.

I laid it out for him in order to quickly and efficiently get his attention.  I wasn’t telling Frank anything he didn’t already know, but what I was telling him was that I knew, too.  I knew the process that had to be activated to shut him down.  If you are going to challenge a governmental agency, then you have to know how the system works, and I did.  So then we talked. 

I told Frank about riders being kept on the bus for two hours to travel five miles, and ADA eligible rides being denied, and call-takers hanging up on riders if it was hard to understand them because of a disability.  I told him about disabled people being denied eligibility, and complaints being ignored, and Linda absolutely refusing to give out any information about how CAB operates.

I said that we wanted to understand how CAB did its scheduling so we could learn to interface with the system. I asked if we could have a tour of the CAB office.  Frank said, sure, come on in.  It appeared that Frank Kobliski, unlike Linda McKeown, had nothing to hide.  He seemed to be pulling back the curtains and throwing open the windows.  Transparency, praise the Lord!  Let the people and their government agencies be open and honest and work together!  Isn’t that what government of, by and for the people is all about?

So I go home, talk to a couple of my committee members, and notify Linda that we’re available to tour the CAB office next week on Tuesday afternoon, or Wednesday morning, or whatever.  She replies that is not convenient for her and she’ll get back to me in a month or so.  I reach out to Frank and ask him what he meant when he told Linda to meet with us “at her earliest convenience.”  About an hour later, Linda lets me know that next week will be fine.  And so it goes—Linda balks and blocks, and Frank throws open the door.  (To be continued)

 

How to Act Like an American (Part III)

(Continued from July 19)

Now here’s the frightening thing:  The only way I know to find out the rules for running Centro’s Call-a-Bus service is to talk to the Federal Transit Administration’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR).  Who else knows this stuff?  It’s way too complicated and specialized to be posted on line anywhere.  There are no reference books in the public library that spell out the rules.  And Centro either doesn’t know or doesn’t care what the rules are, so the only access to the truth is through David Knight at the OCR.  This is sort of like Lincoln freeing the slaves:  if nobody tells them they’re free then they just keep on working in the hot fields.  Centro isn’t going to tell us the correct rules and regulations any more than the plantation owner is going to tell the slaves they’re free.  You have to have knowledge in order to be free.

Meanwhile, back in Syracuse:  After years of trying to work with the Public Transportation Advisory Council at ARISE, it finally became apparent that all they were going to do was complain and complain and complain and never take action, so I began to work with Frank Kobliski, executive director of Centro.

Linda McKeown has been manager of Call-a-Bus (CAB) since shortly after it was started fifteen or twenty years ago, and she makes a terrible job of it.  She used to come to the monthly meetings at ARISE.  She came totally unprepared, which is to say that she didn’t even bring a pen and paper to take notes of problems she might want to look into.  McKeown absolutely stonewalled, and all we knew was what she let slip by accident under my persistent and effective questioning, which always made me wonder what she was hiding.  So one day I gave up on her and called her boss, Frank Kobliski.

One of the cardinal acts of a good citizen is going over the head of the person who’s giving you a hard time and talking to the person’s boss.  I asked Frank for a meeting, he agreed, then showed up with Linda.  Ouch.  I wanted to talk to Frank about Call-a-Bus, which meant talking about Linda, so I didn’t want her there, but Frank said he needed her to provide information.  What I would later come to understand was that Frank knew virtually nothing about how CAB was being run.  We had a copy of a report that Centro had filed in which the complaints about CAB were reported to be zero, even though several of us had filed complaints.  Frank knew nothing about this. Time and again he told me things that later turned out not to be true.  But Frank was a nice guy—warm, friendly, genial—all that good stuff.

So at that first meeting, I looked at Linda McKeown sitting there in her official Centro knit shirt, and I gulped, and I said to her exactly what I would have said about her.  A friend of mine once said that you never have to worry about me stabbing you in the back; I’ll stab you in the chest and you’ll see it coming.  When talking to or about government employees, I have learned that if your cause is just and your facts are accurate, then go for it.  You have no reason to hide anything.

I started out by explaining to Frank that CAB was not compliant with federal standards, and that a compliance review would establish that, and then one option would be for the federal government to stop providing funding.  At the time, Centro’s annual budget was $41 million, about 88% of which comes from the federal government.  If Centro lost federal funding then Frank Kobliski, doing business as Centro bus company, would be out of business.

I laid it out for him in order to quickly and efficiently get his attention.  I wasn’t telling Frank anything he didn’t already know, but what I was telling him was that I knew, too.  I knew the process that had to be activated to shut him down.  If you are going to challenge a governmental agency, then you have to know how the system works, and I did.  So then we talked. 

I told Frank about riders being kept on the bus for two hours to travel five miles, and ADA eligible rides being denied, and call-takers hanging up on riders if it was hard to understand them because of a disability.  I told him about disabled people being denied eligibility, and complaints being ignored, and Linda absolutely refusing to give out any information about how CAB operates.

I said that we wanted to understand how CAB did its scheduling so we could learn to interface with the system. I asked if we could have a tour of the CAB office.  Frank said, sure, come on in.  It appeared that Frank Kobliski, unlike Linda McKeown, had nothing to hide.  He seemed to be pulling back the curtains and throwing open the windows.  Transparency, praise the Lord!  Let the people and their government agencies be open and honest and work together!  Isn’t that what government of, by and for the people is all about?

So I go home, talk to a couple of my committee members, and notify Linda that we’re available to tour the CAB office next week on Tuesday afternoon, or Wednesday morning, or whatever.  She replies that is not convenient for her and she’ll get back to me in a month or so.  I reach out to Frank and ask him what he meant when he told Linda to meet with us “at her earliest convenience.”  About an hour later, Linda lets me know that next week will be fine.  And so it goes—Linda balks and blocks, and Frank throws open the door.  (To be continued)

 

How to Act Like an American (Part III)

(Continued from July 19)

Now here’s the frightening thing:  The only way I know to find out the rules for running Centro’s Call-a-Bus service is to talk to the Federal Transit Administration’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR).  Who else knows this stuff?  It’s way too complicated and specialized to be posted on line anywhere.  There are no reference books in the public library that spell out the rules.  And Centro either doesn’t know or doesn’t care what the rules are, so the only access to the truth is through David Knight at the OCR.  This is sort of like Lincoln freeing the slaves:  if nobody tells them they’re free then they just keep on working in the hot fields.  Centro isn’t going to tell us the correct rules and regulations any more than the plantation owner is going to tell the slaves they’re free.  You have to have knowledge in order to be free.

Meanwhile, back in Syracuse:  After years of trying to work with the Public Transportation Advisory Council at ARISE, it finally became apparent that all they were going to do was complain and complain and complain and never take action, so I began to work with Frank Kobliski, executive director of Centro.

Linda McKeown has been manager of Call-a-Bus (CAB) since shortly after it was started fifteen or twenty years ago, and she makes a terrible job of it.  She used to come to the monthly meetings at ARISE.  She came totally unprepared, which is to say that she didn’t even bring a pen and paper to take notes of problems she might want to look into.  McKeown absolutely stonewalled, and all we knew was what she let slip by accident under my persistent and effective questioning, which always made me wonder what she was hiding.  So one day I gave up on her and called her boss, Frank Kobliski.

One of the cardinal acts of a good citizen is going over the head of the person who’s giving you a hard time and talking to the person’s boss.  I asked Frank for a meeting, he agreed, then showed up with Linda.  Ouch.  I wanted to talk to Frank about Call-a-Bus, which meant talking about Linda, so I didn’t want her there, but Frank said he needed her to provide information.  What I would later come to understand was that Frank knew virtually nothing about how CAB was being run.  We had a copy of a report that Centro had filed in which the complaints about CAB were reported to be zero, even though several of us had filed complaints.  Frank knew nothing about this. Time and again he told me things that later turned out not to be true.  But Frank was a nice guy—warm, friendly, genial—all that good stuff.

So at that first meeting, I looked at Linda McKeown sitting there in her official Centro knit shirt, and I gulped, and I said to her exactly what I would have said about her.  A friend of mine once said that you never have to worry about me stabbing you in the back; I’ll stab you in the chest and you’ll see it coming.  When talking to or about government employees, I have learned that if your cause is just and your facts are accurate, then go for it.  You have no reason to hide anything.

I started out by explaining to Frank that CAB was not compliant with federal standards, and that a compliance review would establish that, and then one option would be for the federal government to stop providing funding.  At the time, Centro’s annual budget was $41 million, about 88% of which comes from the federal government.  If Centro lost federal funding then Frank Kobliski, doing business as Centro bus company, would be out of business.

I laid it out for him in order to quickly and efficiently get his attention.  I wasn’t telling Frank anything he didn’t already know, but what I was telling him was that I knew, too.  I knew the process that had to be activated to shut him down.  If you are going to challenge a governmental agency, then you have to know how the system works, and I did.  So then we talked. 

I told Frank about riders being kept on the bus for two hours to travel five miles, and ADA eligible rides being denied, and call-takers hanging up on riders if it was hard to understand them because of a disability.  I told him about disabled people being denied eligibility, and complaints being ignored, and Linda absolutely refusing to give out any information about how CAB operates.

I said that we wanted to understand how CAB did its scheduling so we could learn to interface with the system. I asked if we could have a tour of the CAB office.  Frank said, sure, come on in.  It appeared that Frank Kobliski, unlike Linda McKeown, had nothing to hide.  He seemed to be pulling back the curtains and throwing open the windows.  Transparency, praise the Lord!  Let the people and their government agencies be open and honest and work together!  Isn’t that what government of, by and for the people is all about?

So I go home, talk to a couple of my committee members, and notify Linda that we’re available to tour the CAB office next week on Tuesday afternoon, or Wednesday morning, or whatever.  She replies that is not convenient for her and she’ll get back to me in a month or so.  I reach out to Frank and ask him what he meant when he told Linda to meet with us “at her earliest convenience.”  About an hour later, Linda lets me know that next week will be fine.  And so it goes—Linda balks and blocks, and Frank throws open the door.  (To be continued)

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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