Candidates forum highlights disability issues

Saturday, October 4, 2008 | 9:22 p.m. CDT; updated 10:40 p.m. CDT, Saturday, October 4, 2008

COLUMBIA — In a room full of people, and even a few guide dogs, candidates for Missouri state offices addressed issues on Saturday afternoon concerning the estimated 1 million disabled Missourians.

The disabilities forum was hosted by the Congress on Disability Policy at the Hilton Garden Conference Center in Columbia. The advocacy group, which started in 2003, includes state associations and councils such as the Brain Injury Association of Missouri and the Missouri Centers for Independent Living.

Barbara Griffin, vice president of People First Missouri, attended along with members of her association and her guide dog, Mardi Gras. She said issues such as cuts to the state's health care program, MO HealthNet, struck a chord with her during the forum.

"They really hurt us in '05," Griffin said.

Candidates answered questions about cuts to MO HealthNet, how they will promote opportunities for people with disabilities and how they would deal with limited resources and wait lists. Improving Missouri's six rehabilitation centers was also discussed.

"I wish everyone in Missouri could tour a rehabilitation center and see what good is happening there," said Sen. Chris Koster, the Democratic candidate for attorney general.

But he added that the centers need more funding, citing a tour of Israel's well-developed rehab centers. "It embarrassed me to see the differences in the degree to which the two cultures offered assistance to the most disabled in their respective countries," he said.

State Rep. Sam Page, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, addressed building accessibility, saying it was a problem for government buildings.

"The Capitol isn't even accessible to people with disabilities," Page said. "How can you lobby if you can't even reach the offices of our state representatives?"

Although Republican and Democratic candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and secretary of state were invited to participate in the discussion, only Page and Koster were present. State Sen. Chuck Graham served as a substitute for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Nixon, and legislative liaison Ron Berry volunteered to speak on behalf Secretary of State Robin Carnahan.

Moderator and disabilities advocate Max Lewis and the candidates made it a point to mention that the Republican candidates neither attended the meeting nor sent a speaker in their place.

"I want you to look at all the names up here and take note of who hasn't showed up," Lewis said.

The sentiment reverberated with some attendees.

"In the past, I've leaned toward the Republican Party because of conservative issues like pro-life," Jefferson City resident Jim Casey said. "I'm now preparing to vote for a lot of Democrats because of life issues. Pro-life means more than anti-abortion."

Mitch Hubbard, the Republican candidate for secretary of state, said he wanted to attend the event but had a full schedule and could not find a replacement. Also absent were Republican gubernatorial candidate Kenny Hulshof, lieutenant governor candidate Peter Kinder and attorney general candidate Michael Gibbons. Calls to their offices, which were closed on Saturday, were not immediately returned.

The candidates who attended also used the forum to encourage attendees to register to vote and turn out on Election Day.

"If you want a government to protect the voiceless, elect one that will speak for the voiceless," Koster said.

A disability forum for Columbia office candidates will be held on Oct. 23 at the Columbia Public Library.

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Charles Dudley Jr October 4, 2008 | 11:01 p.m.

What a great event this was and there was alot of great people from all over the state I saw and met there. Max Lewis was great as the moderator. I'm looking forward to the next such big event in our area.

(Report Comment)
Anna Brown October 6, 2008 | 1:04 p.m.

I am not surprised the Sam Page attended this important forum nor I am surprised the Peter Kinder chose not to attend. i am trying to give Mr. Kinder the benefit of the doubt but it is difficult when the Lt. Governor is supposed to be an advocate for the citizens of the state. Mr. Kinder does not seem to do that and this is just one more example. Sam Page is a true advocate for the people especially in the area of healthcare and jobs.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz October 6, 2008 | 3:20 p.m.

Were the Libertarian Party or Constitution Party candidates sent invitations?

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 6, 2008 | 6:39 p.m.

Were or are they running for offices as I heard nothing of any of them if they are in the news medias we have in this area. Seriously I have not seen one single ad campaign in any local news outlet anywhere.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz October 6, 2008 | 7:37 p.m.

The Libertarian Party will have candidates for Governor, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State, Ninth District U.S. Congress, and 19th District State Senate on the ballot in Boone County. I believe the Constitution Party will have candidates for Governor, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State, and Treasurer on the local ballot.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 7, 2008 | 4:43 a.m.

As I said I have never seen any of those candidates in the local media in anyway shape or form so if they are not in the local media outlets how is somebody to know if those parties actually have people running? Not all of the time do organizers have time to go chasing information down so they pick and choose the obvious candidates they do see in the local media outlets who are pro active and campaigning openly across the entire state. Maybe your groups you mention need to get more into the media outlets here in Missouri and present their views on the issues more. I took a look at those parties general policy issues on Disability ans Health Care on the National Level and they reminded me of John McCain's own policy standings which I do not find acceptable at all.

Use your favorite search engine and go do a little research for yourself. Just type in the parties name and that after that in the same string "views on Disability" or "views on Health Care".
Happy researching.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz October 7, 2008 | 8:29 a.m.

It doesn't look like the county clerk's website has a simple list of which candidates are on the local ballots, although one can request a sample ballot online to see who is on the ballot for your particular precinct. The full listing of all candidates is available from the Secretary of State's website as well.

Third party candidates aren't as visible due to less money and less press coverage, but common courtesy still expects them to be invited to various events. The League of Women voters always does this, and I thank the Missouri Press Association for inviting the statewide Libertarian and Constitution Party debates that were held a few weeks back.

(Report Comment)

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