Ive known this was coming for some time. Taking my time thinking about what I was going to write about it. I still don’t know. I delayed posting this until checks cleared.
Of all the bizarre things I have covered here over the last dozen years or so, without a doubt…this one completely perplexes me.
To recap, Marisa has been hammering the city for at least eight years that I am aware of for access to public meetings. She is deaf.
Administration after administration. City employee after city employee and that revolving door of nepotism and glad handing …year after year. It just went on and on and on.
Along the way little things were done to try and shut her up.
They all forgot Marisa is Bulldog through and through. Something these people that move here will never understand. They are incapable of grasping the concept. No matter how many times we tell them. Bulldogs never quit.
I first met Marisa about 12 years or so ago. She was my co worker for a while at the Vidette. It took me a couple of weeks to realize she was deaf. I just thought whatever I was saying was really thought inspiring as she intently locked onto my face every time I said something.
I was mistaken, what I was saying wasn’t all that interesting. She is just very very good at lip reading, facial cues, you know the drill. She had to be. Just for a minute here, put yourself growing up in her shoes.
It was my first interaction with someone who was deaf on a regular basis.
Im used to it now, Marisa is a friend of mine. But I wasn’t then. It takes a bit of getting used to.
I think all of us have a different way of interacting with someone who is deaf, or blind, or otherwise….not like us.
It is initially uncomfortable. Some of us are able to work through it and become comfortable. Some never will. This, in my opinion, is what went on. It is only my opinion, but I have had many years to think about this and can for the life of me not come up with another explanation of what she went through.
It was bad. Real bad. I can’t tell you the number of times she was on my front porch crying after being shut out up at City Hall. She was an elected council member at the time. Hired interpreters refused to come to the city they were treated so bad by city staff. And it only got worse.
She eventually had to resign her position. It was made clear ……she wasn’t welcome. She was making people uncomfortable. She was also asking questions about the dead of night giveaway of our city waterfront. Gulp! Ya, for you new people here, until a few years ago we had about a fifty acre city waterfront property. They sold it for $23,000 with no public notice. Follow the money. Marisa was asking questions.
Can’t have that.
I told her ten years ago when all this started not to take it. “No….No.” she said to me, “I will work with them and teach them about disability and access.“
I remember telling myself at the time….”right cupcake….keep dreaming“.
And I was right.
Lets fast forward a bit to the last couple of years. Yes, its still going on.
She moved out of the city limits to get away from these people. But…….now City Hall wants to grease yet another good ole boy and annex her property and more to get to their property $$$$$$$$. (ALWAYS FOLLOW THE MONEY). It pays to have friends at city hall. No, really, it pays. Talk about an upset bunch of people! Well, that’s another article.
Well, now Marisa and her upset neighbors has to attend meetings and it all starts again. No matter what she asked of them, she was left out. This time with her property at stake.
ENTER THE LAWYERS:
I have been telling her for years to file an ADA suit. Its the only thing this city will take seriously. She resisted. Time and again…..many times writing the city and offering to assist them to end the problem. Never asking for money. Even after all the things they did to her. Much nicer than you or I would be.
Eventually, even she saw the writing on the wall and contacted one of the premier ADA lawyers in the county:
Andrew Rozynski, Esq. Eisenberg & Baum, LLP 24 Union Square East, Penthouse, New York, NY 10003 (212) 353-8700 (Telephone).
You can look him up. He’s a pretty big deal.
The suit was filed against the City of Montesano. WEB ARTICLE. Followed up with charges of retaliation against Marisa by the city. The dance began.
Now here is where it gets interesting and where you come in. You as a taxpayer that is. Remember, they aren’t playing with their money up at city hall…..they play with yours.
Any lawyer you talk to will tell you if you walk into their office that fighting an ADA suit is a waste of time. Well, a good lawyer that is.
The ADA is really so simple. Either you are ADA compliant, or you are not Compliant. If not, you pay. Period.
It boils down to this. Lets say you own a two story little crappy motel someplace. A maid walks in and says she need you to build a million dollar system of elevators due to her bad back.
You won’t have to. But, lets say you own a bunch of little motels and have deep pockets. You bet your bippy you will be building elevators. Its the way ADA works. Everybody…..everybody….knows this. The deeper your pockets….the more you have to accommodate. Montesano has very deep pockets. This is a rich snobby little town. We have a multi million dollar city forest industry as well. We are rolling in attachable money.
No, the city still was so locked onto their hubris that for over a year now they have been spending God knows how much more of your money trying not to let Marisa hear what was going on in the meetings and buying a stupid translations software package that cities use. A year, with a specialized Seattle law firm. Brother, a good 100K? No wait, these were Seattle special lawyers..make that $150k? More? I haven’t looked into any connection this law firm has here locally or with who. An absolute waste of your money. And everyone knew it. Everyone.
I was so looking forward to depositions. I have to admit that. Im only touching on a few things here. I was just itching to unload in a courtroom. I don’t know how many of them up at the city I told face to face to buy the damn hearing system. I don’t care what it costs…and I quote myself “it will be cheaper than an ADA lawsuit”.
Of course I was right.
First of all, ADA suits are federal. No sitting in front of a local judge that attends Xmas parties with city officials and has a brother that needs a city job. No, the judge assigned to this case was the same guy who handled the Green River Killer case. He wouldn’t be high kicking his leg in a local party scene conga line. This was getting serious and about to go in front of a liberal Seattle Jury……and the city knew it.
Time to eat crow and end the charade.
This last couple of weeks papers were signed and money changed hands. The city paid out about $112,000 in your money to Marisa to make her go away and agreed to fix the system. So they will be paying that money as well. And of course there is all the city attorney fees from that special firm they hired to fight putting in a hearing system for the disabled Marissa asked them for many times. Im spitballing here total everything up…..payout, lawyers, hearing system…what $250-300k sounds about right. Didn’t just one Elected Councilman bring this up to the Mayor a year ago? Not one of them? Just kept spending more and more money on Seattle lawyers month after month. Well, I guess the Xmas party invite was more important than your tax dollars.
That’s not the worse part though. It will be open season here in Montesano now with bus bench lawyers sending clients in wheelchairs to measure the slope of parking lots, door handle heights and the such. We have a history of documented discrimination now, and we pay out. Sure…..sure….I’m way off base. Sure I am. Lawyers are incredibly honest and ethical people, what am I thinking.
Here is the bottom line in all of this.
The city will come into ADA compliance with people with hearing disabilities. The software will cost what it will cost. Just as it always would. The only difference now is, we as taxpayers here will spend about another quarter of a million dollars to do it.
Its all a game up at city hall. Its all about taking care of themselves and the good ole boy network, the Xmas party seating chart. People like Marisa….well, who does she think she is anyway. Troublesome little deaf girl. She isn’t one of them. About the only contact any of them have with the people here is during the Christmas Parade where they put on a plastic smile and throw candy at you from their car Window. That’s really about it. A bother for them, I know, but it’s only once a year….so bearable for them.
I guarantee you, even today, even after all of this…there isn’t one person up there that gives two shits if someone who is deaf can attend meetings or someone who is blind can access services.
Here is the deal. You and I, anyone who isn’t one of them……if we ask for something….come between them and a campaign donation….threaten a good ole boy pay back by asking question, make them uncomfortable…….. In their view, we are assholes. Lied to and treated accordingly.
Marisa is much nicer than most of us.
STATEMENT BY MARISA:
“In these changing times, it’s more important than ever to ensure public access remains accessible to everyone, including those of us with disabilities. This settlement reflects my struggle to hold city government accountable and accessible. I hope that this case attracts the attention of elected officials everywhere and reminds them of who their constituents are, and what they are representing. Looking ahead, it is my hope that all people, including people with disabilities, will be able to fully participate in the process of government decision making at all levels.” Marisa Salzer.
There is a whole bunch I feel like writing here. You are going to have to trust me , Im holding back. Just once, for the love of God, just once could just one single elected person at that place …just one time tell this handful of good ole boys to pound sand, refuse their envelope and start to take care of the people that need help in this town. Just once. One lousy time. Any of them think about something other than themselves and their Xmas party seating charts.
Maybe Marisa will go buy a new truck, pay off her mortgage, or set up a college fund for her new kid. She deserves it. She won’t though. It won’t come as any surprise to those of us who count her as a friend. She is donating a portion to the sign language classes at Aberdeen, Hoquiam and Montesano high schools. More charities to follow.
You and I put these people up there at city hall to act in our name. We did this. We are responsible for their behavior. Don’t kid yourself. We did this.
I have avoided talking to Marisa about this for the last year after she filed the suit as I knew I would be on a witness stand at some point. Im looking forward to posting this and talking more to her. Im sure there is alot that even I don’t know about. There always is.
I am not allowed to talk to city elected officials for their side, as last I heard from one of their eunuchs, the local city attorney was so worried about another potential lawsuit they were and I quote “forbidden” to talk to me or my neighbors. Ya, you read that right. Maybe I am allowed to ask questions about other things? Its all very confusing. You may or may not be allowed to talk to them if you want more information. It depends on who you are.
This is how bad it is.
I guarantee you all, even now, every single one of them up there is tight lipped and all butt-hurt . Somebody dared to stand up to them and point a flashlight into the dark corners of city hall. They still don’t get it. I guarantee it.
Local news media interested in more information contact the attorney listed above in this article. He is very forth coming and will provide you with a wealth of material and court documents.
As in all things you have to follow the money. While you or I would have paid, what I am told might be 25-50K for the hearing system and get it done with. You have to put yourselves in the shoes of your elected officials. That is money that can’t be spent glad handing and on pet projects. Its how they think. Some deaf girl? Forget it, she isn’t even on any party lists.
Marissa didn’t want to do this. She bent backward for close for ten years now. Ive lost count how many times she offered to train the city. Help them. Never asking for any money. Ever.
They honestly thought she would just go away. Most people do. They always forget one thing though.
Again, Bulldogs never quit.
NOTE: I am in possession of all court documents going back over a year, however, they contain a great deal of personal information related to all parties, current and past city employees and officials and I don’t feel comfortable posting them in public here. Even if it is news. News media wishing copies, contact listed attorney in this article.
There is also a list of things that Marisa wanted in regard to deaf services for the entire community as it concerns access. Some she got, some she did not get as part of the settlement. They are important issues to address and I am not qualified to speak to them or their ramifications. I have reached out to people that are and will do a follow up as it becomes more clear. I have also reached out to Marisa directly and invited a written essay on disability access as it relates to the public.
I have reached out to Marissa’s attorney to see if he would wish to pen something concerning problems like this with local city governments. Something that might shed more light on the subject in general. I will post should I receive something.
Any further follow up should be conducted via formal local news organizations. Don’t hold your breath. They are on the Xmas party lists as well.