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2011 Resolutions

The official policy statements of the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan are established every year with annual resolutions adopted at the state convention.

The resolutions committee meets early during the convention. Each proposed resolution is read, spoken for by the authoring member, considered, and then ultimately withdrawn or recommended for passage or disapproval by the Convention.

Resolution 2011-02: Regarding RIGHT TO DUE PROCESS ADMINISTRATIVE HEARINGS

WHEREAS, all entities of State and local government are required to follow the effective communications requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, including the obligation to affirmatively, let alone upon request, remit information sin alternate formats to people who are blind; and

WHEREAS, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires that all recipients of federal funds provide auxiliary aids and services to those who are blind; and

WHEREAS, the United States Supreme Court found in Tennessee v Lanethat state and local courts are not immune from these obligations and, indeed, have high responsibilities in these regards, for lack of access fundamentally denies “due process and equal protection under the law”; and

WHEREAS, the Michigan Administrative Hearing Systems (MAHS) is both a Title II entity, federal fund recipient and an administrative law program where blind Business Enterprise Program participants and advocates, as well as others, routinely appear to seek justice and receive due process and equal protection under laws, including Public Act 260 of 1978 as well as major aspects of the Rehabilitation Act; and

WHEREAS, MAHS, in documented fashion and principals therein, have denied advocates and respondents who are blind repeatedly information in accessible formats and in a timely manner; and

WHEREAS, these are systemic, chronic, pervasive and fundamental violations of the civil rights of all Michigan citizens who are blind, as a class, by failure to act affirmatively in these regards; and

WHEREAS, the Michigan Commission for the Blind has also been complicit in not only ensuring that MAHS follows these laws, but rather, has repeatedly violated these very same provisions of the law in these administrative proceedings which are in and of themselves conscious and malicious acts of discrimination perpetuated repeatedly against numerous blind individuals: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan, in convention assembled, this sixth day of November, 2011, in the City of Kalamazoo, Michigan, that this organization will lodge a Complaint against the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (MAHS’s parent), MAHS, and The Michigan Commission for the Blind within the United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section, and the civil rights office of the United States Attorney in the Eastern District of Michigan; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization will seek any legal support in these matters from other resources, including our National office.

Resolution 2011-03: Regarding COMMISSION BOARD ADMINISTRATIVE SUPPORT

WHEREAS, over the years, the Michigan Commission for the Blind Board has received quality secretarial and administrative support; and

WHEREAS, notwithstanding this support, it is inappropriate for the Commission Board to co-mingle administrative support with that of the Commission Director; and

WHEREAS, the Rehabilitation Act clearly calls for separate and independent administrative support staff directed and controlled by the Board; and

WHEREAS, the Michigan Commission for the Blind Board in its September 2011 meeting passed a unanimous motion to establish separate clerical support for the Board: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan, in convention assembled, this sixth day of November, 2011, in the City of Kalamazoo, Michigan, that this organization calls upon the Michigan Commission for the Blind to take all appropriate, affirmative and expeditious steps to secure adequate and appropriate secretarial and administrative support as called for in the Rehabilitation Act, and adequate enough to assist the Michigan Commission for the Blind board in carrying out its duties and responsibilities; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization commends the Michigan Commission for the Blind Board for taking action to establish separate secretarial and support services.

Resolution 2011-04: Regarding MICHIGAN COMMISSION FOR THE BLIND MINUTES

WHEREAS, the Michigan Commission for the Blind has been in operation since 1978; and

WHEREAS, until the repressive present regime, the commission met approximately eleven (11) times per year and is responsible to develop policy which affects blind Michigan citizens; and

WHEREAS, it is very difficult to ascertain all relevant Commission policy pertaining to any specific topic or related topics; and

WHEREAS, open and transparent government and the efficient operation of the Commission Board call for ready access to all policies and related discussions: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan, in convention assembled, this sixth day of November, 2011, in the City of Kalamazoo, Michigan, that this organization call upon the Commission Board to enact policies to organize a searchable public database of Commission motions and minutes that is available to Commissioners, staff and the public via the internet.

Resolution 2011-05: Regarding EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATIONS AND THE MICHIGAN COMMISSION FOR THE BLIND

WHEREAS, Title I of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires that all Vocational Rehabilitation agencies, including the Michigan Commission for the Blind (MCB) communicates effectively through “appropriate modes of communication: with all customers; and

WHEREAS, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Subpart e, Communications) requires that all entities of State and local government provide information to all people who are blind in their most effective format and in a timely manner, including, of course, all those engaged with the Michigan Commission for the Blind; and

WHEREAS, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires the same; and

WHEREAS, it has been documented over the years that MCB does not, in all cases, remit timely materials in Braille, audio, electronic, or large print even after continued requests from customers, Business Enterprise Program licensees and members of the public who are blind; and

WHEREAS, these documented and ongoing breaches of civil rights laws delay, deny and otherwise inhibit delivery of required services and “due process and equal protection” under these laws and thus constitute systemic, chronic and pervasive acts of discrimination against people who are blind in the State of Michigan; and

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan is the leading advocate for the rights of all the blind of Michigan, and believes such violations of the law by the MCB denies blind persons of their right to equal access and such violations could be readily corrected by the MCB: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan, in convention assembled, this sixth day of November, 2011, in the City of Kalamazoo, Michigan, that this organization files a Complaint forthwith to the United States Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights against the Michigan Commission for the Blind detailing the chronic acts of discrimination and demanding prompt compliance with all applicable laws in these regards.

Resolution 2011-06: Regarding NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND OF MICHIGAN

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan is an affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind, the oldest and largest organization of all the blind in the country; and

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan is actively involved in many activities that improve the lives of blind people in Michigan, including civil rights, advocacy, the education of blind children and adults, good training and job placement for the blind, information and technology access; and

WHEREAS, the Michigan Commission for the Blind Business Enterprise Program (BEP) operates a phone information line called the Operator Information Exchange Line which is supported with state and federal funds and is designed for the purpose of providing useful information to BEP operators; and

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan attempted to place an announcement about its up-and-coming annual State Convention on the Operator Information Exchange Line for the BEP operators in Michigan; and

WHEREAS, management of the BEP, without permission from the Federation’s representative, edited out the portion of the announcement which contained information about the state convention and only included information about the NFBM Merchants division training seminar; and

WHEREAS, a second submittal about the convention was rejected outright by BEP management; and

WHEREAS, BEP management subsequently admitted denial of our announcement on this Information Exchange Line which is supported by federal and state funds because such information was available elsewhere; and

WHEREAS, to our knowledge there are no known laws, rules, policies or guidelines restricting the placement of information on the operator information exchange line; and

WHEREAS, such censorship is a violation of our first amendment rights to free speech; and

WHEREAS, such blatant discrimination of the NFBM by a state employee is a violation of our right to public access: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan, in convention assembled, this sixth day of November, 2011, in the city of Kalamazoo, Michigan, that this organization condemns and deplores such discriminatory action on the part of Michigan Commission for the Blind BEP management; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that sanctions be placed on the employees responsible for such behavior; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this organization takes all necessary steps to stop this discriminatory behavior of BEP management, including the Michigan Commission for the Blind establishing a written policy instructing all staff that such discriminatory actions against the NFBM in the future will not be tolerated.

Resolution 2011-07: Regarding CHALLENGE EXPERIENCES

WHEREAS, successful, quality rehabilitation for the blind includes such mandatory skills as Braille, Cane Travel, Daily Living Skills, Technology, and Manual Arts; and

WHEREAS, these skills represent a minimum, or can be considered, core competencies for a person to become prepared to live successfully in the world as a blind person; and

WHEREAS, in order to fully benefit from these skills each person must have a philosophic view of blindness which encompasses these skills plus an intrinsic belief in oneself which informs an approach to life based on confidence and empowerment; and

WHEREAS, successful rehabilitation programs include “challenge experiences” that require the student to aggregate and consolidate the individual skills to accomplish a goal that challenges and stretches the students’ self-image as a blind person. Examples of such experiences include rock climbing, water skiing, sky diving, participation in large social events such as state fairs, Mardi Gras, etc.; and

WHEREAS, the Michigan Commission for the Blind Training Center (MCBTC), in response to student demand, created a marksmanship challenge activity which served the ambient cultural needs of Michigan’s outdoor hunting and sports environment; and

WHEREAS, this marksmanship program was aborted in a drastic and destructive manner brutally repressing the spontaneous self-empowerment of blind people who were exercising their self-empowerment, thus undermining and stunting the full possibilities of a quality rehabilitation program; and

WHEREAS, now that the misguided, mean and regressive actions to repress the positive goals of the National Federation of the Blind as expressed in positive and progressive rehabilitation administration have been repudiated and shown for what they are, anti-consumer and anti-NFB; and

WHEREAS, it is now time to resume progress toward progressive, positive and creative rehabilitation that empowers blind people and creates an environment of encouragement and high expectation leading to personal freedom and confidence which will therefore lead to success in vocational and community pursuits; and

WHEREAS, the MCBTC must assume its rightful role as the planning, organizing and motivating engine within the Michigan Commission for the Blind rehabilitation programs: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan, in convention assembled, this sixth day of November, 2011, in the City of Kalamazoo, Michigan, that this organization demands in the strongest terms possible that the Michigan Commission for the Blind Board take immediate and affirmative steps to enable the MCBTC to develop signature challenge programs reflective of the unique environment and needs in Michigan and that they reflect the diverse interests of Michigan citizens; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Board act in its December meeting to initiate a planning process that will produce a plan for creative and effective challenge activities to be presented to the Commission for consideration in the March 2012 board meeting that incorporates the philosophical and skill building requirements as cited above; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Board incorporate this planning and implementation of an acceptable challenge program into the MCB Director’s Performance Plan for 2012, and that the Board monitor progress towards this goal and take appropriate action if the goal is not achieved; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization demands the reinstatement of the marksmanship class at the MCBTC.

Resolution 2011-08: Regarding NEW HORIZONS

WHEREAS, Gwen McNeal has been on the Board of Trustees of New Horizons since 2010; and

WHEREAS, the Michigan Commission for the Blind (MCB) through McNeal, continues to do business with New Horizons to this date including contracting for evaluations and engages New Horizons personnel on other cash match agreements, including one with Oakland County Schools; and

WHEREAS, in the Rehabilitation Services Administration’s (RSA) 5-year Monitoring Report, RSA found that the Michigan Commission for the Blind, the Macomb Intermediate School District, and New Horizons Rehabilitation Services engaged in an illegal “cash match” agreement whereby New Horizons kicked in funds for federal match, and then received a no-bid contract (see Finding 6); and

WHEREAS, MCB Regional Manager Gwen McNeal was the responsible agent for this and even gave an award to New Horizons in 2008; and

WHEREAS, this, by any reasonable definition, constitutes a conflict of interest between this MCB Regional Administrator and a Community Rehabilitation Program; and

WHEREAS, this clearly violates state ethics guidelines and may well be a violation of state and federal laws: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan, in convention assembled, this sixth day of November, 2011, in the City of Kalamazoo, Michigan, that this organization abhors this sort of apparent conflict of interests; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization informs, in writing, Rehabilitation Services Administration, the Office of the Inspector General in the United States Department of Education, and the Michigan Attorney General’s Public Integrity Office about this situation and requesting a thorough investigation into these and other practices.

Resolution 2011-09: Regarding COLLEGE POLICY/MEANS TEST

WHEREAS, the Michigan Commission for the Blind has a history of requiring college students who receive Social Security benefits to financially participate in the cost of their vocational rehabilitation services as documented in the 2009 Monitoring Report issued by the Rehabilitation Services Administration; and

WHEREAS, this is illegal under the Rehabilitation Act of 1998 regulations to ask college students who receive Social Security benefits to financially participate in the cost of their rehabilitation services; and

WHEREAS, the Michigan Commission for the Blind was asked to revise this specific policy by the Rehabilitation Services Administration to comply with federal laws and procedures; and

WHEREAS, the Michigan Commission for the Blind spent a considerable amount of time changing and updating the entire college student policy without specifically addressing the issue of asking college students who receive Social Security benefits to financially participate in the costs of their vocational rehabilitation services; and

WHEREAS, the Michigan Commission for the Blind insisted on creating a Means test as a part of this new college policy; and

WHEREAS, the Michigan Commission for the Blind refuses to revise agency policies and procedures regarding the vocational rehabilitation services it provides to college students to comply with federal laws and procedures; and

WHEREAS, the lack of revising and implementing policies and procedures for providing vocational rehabilitation services to college students that comply with federal laws and procedures is a direct reflection of the lack of leadership provided to the Michigan Commission for the Blind through the agency director: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan, in convention assembled, this sixth day of November, 2011, in the City of Kalamazoo, Michigan, That this organization calls upon the Michigan Commission for the Blind to immediately cease and desist the use of any Financial Needs Form that requires the financial participation of any college student and creates a Means test for college students who receives Social Security benefits; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization calls upon the Michigan Commission for the Blind Board of Directors to seek appropriate disciplinary action, up to and including, the termination of the agency director based upon his inability to adopt and implement policies and procedures for administering vocational rehabilitation services to college students that adequately reflect federal laws and procedures.

Resolution 2011-10: Regarding FIRE CANNON

WHEREAS, Michigan Commission for the Blind (MCB) Director Patrick D. Cannon has personally engaged in retaliatory actions in documented fashion against Christine Boone, Hazell Brooks, and David Robinson, that are still not fully resolved and typify reckless and illegal behaviors which have already cost case services for customers of MCB to be restrained, let alone the personal cost to these stalwart blind people; and

WHEREAS, Cannon has directly, and through his subordinates, violated core provisions of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as amended for more than a decade, including, illegal means testing, failures to “fast track” SSI/SSDI recipients, violations of maintenance, informed choice, and even basic eligibility, among others, in both policy and practice harming all blind persons seeking services from MCB; and

WHEREAS, Cannon and subordinates have committed documented violations and perverted the Business Enterprise Program and Public Act 260 too many times to articulate by the employment of sighted persons over competent blind persons; and

WHEREAS, Cannon has scoffed at the Rehabilitation Services Administration which is the primary funder of MCB even to the point of not ensuring corrective actions required in the RSA monitoring report due almost one (1) year ago; and

WHEREAS, Cannon has directly violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act which violates the civil rights of the entire class of blind people in Michigan; and

WHEREAS, Cannon has actively worked to suborn due process rights of individuals and has openly scoffed at legal processes themselves by not responding to lawful subpoenas; and

WHEREAS, Cannon has directly intervened to control the MCB Board with extra legal and highly political measures from the ethics attacks against former Commissioner Eagle to his recent, documented interventions with the Governor’s appointed office in a ludicrous attempt to deny commissioners the right to write their own by-laws; and

WHEREAS, Cannon has directly, and through his subordinates, repeatedly violated the Open Meetings Act and the Michigan Freedom of Information Act; and

WHEREAS, Cannon has directly intervened to deny vital information to the MCB Board in a timely and accessible manner, impeding them in fulfilling their duties: from not remitting state plan information for over a decade, to not ensuring that all complete transcripts, including exhibits, were afforded to commissioners in reviews of A.L.J. decisions; and

WHEREAS, these and other actions represent not only malfeasance, misfeasance and nonfeasance, but also violations of law and equity over a protracted period of time, and in numerous instances so as to be construed to be pervasive and malicious by any reasonable person and thus accuse of dismissal from his position: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan, in convention assembled, this sixth day of November, 2011, in the City of Kalamazoo, Michigan, that this organization will transmit a letter to Governor Richard Snyder, LARA Director Steven Hilfinger, and Patrick Cannon’s immediate supervisor, Steven Arwood which states that Cannon should be immediately dismissed as director of MCB for cause.

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