Malloy enlists disabled in budget fight — gets protest at his office

mark pazniokas / ctmirror.org

Elaine Kolb backs out of the governor’s outer office after her arrest for trespassing. Gary Gross is following.

A day after Gov. Dannel P. Malloy all but invited disabled recipients of state services to lobby for a new budget, some did: They targeted him in a demonstration that ended with the arrest of five protesters in his outer office at the Capitol.

State Capitol police issued summonses for third-degree trespassing to five protesters, three of whom arrived in either wheelchairs or a motorized scooter, after they refused to leave. Malloy, who was attending an event in Bridgeport celebrating the opening of an affordable housing development, missed the protest.

“Don’t break my chair. Please stop!” Elaine Kolb loudly told a police officer, who tried to move her chair. In a lower voice, she added, “I ask very nicely, please don’t break my chair.”

The officer left her blocking the doorway.

The incident ended amicably. Kolb, Melissa Marshall, Ellanah Sherman, Gary Gross and Molly Cole left smiling after police handed each a summons requiring them to appear in court on July 23 to answer the misdemeanor charge.

They were part of a larger crowd of mentally and physically disabled Connecticut residents, some accompanied by caretakers, and advocates, who demonstrated against cuts to services for the disabled. They wanted to urge Malloy to reconsider his opposition to raising taxes to close a $2.3 billion deficit this year.

The protesters called themselves the Connecticut Cross-Disability Lifespan Alliance.

One of the groups represented in the protest was HARC Inc., a non-profit provider of services that Malloy toured the previous day, when he told reporters that lawmakers need to see the impact of the budget impasse on residents to change the political dynamic. The state has been without a budget since July 1.

“If the people in the legislature were feeling the kind of pain that the people at HARC were feeling, we’d get there,” Malloy said. “And when they start to feel that level of discomfort, we will get there.”

None of those arrested were with HARC, and the protest Tuesday appeared to be in the works prior to the governor’s visit.

“I was hoping to see the governor,” said Dana Reilly, who has been using services provided by another state-funded, non-profit agency, Futures Inc., for the past four years. “I hope to say that I hope to keep going to Futures.”

Futures provides adult and child services, including a school, for those with intellectual disabilities. Reilly has greatly benefited from their driving services which allow her to have a job and make all her doctor’s appointments.

“We don’t drive, so we depend on the staff,” Reilly said.

Using his executive authority, Malloy has imposed six furlough days due to take effect later this month from operations for Futures. The state has been without a budget since July 1.

mark pazniokas / ctmirror.org

Elaine Kolb shows her trespassing summons to reporters.

“You’d be surprised how much a day off can affect these individuals,” said Jalissia Jimenaz, an employee at Futures. “They can’t get to work because we can’t drive them, so they have to take the day off, or we can’t get them to their doctor’s appointments.”

Many other organizations, including HARC and ARC, were represent among the protestors. ARC which provides care for adults with mental disabilities, has been shut down since the state budget didn’t pass on July 1.

Jim Humphrey said he came to the Capitol on behalf on his adult son, Ben.

“He can’t go to ARC until there’s funding,” Humphrey said.  “It’s been shut down ever since the state didn’t pass the budget. I’ve needed to watch my son.”

Ben, who has aged out of public school services provided until age 21, has Down’s Syndrome and autism. He had been attending ARC for five days a week, six hours a day. Jim was planning to speak with legislators about the impact lack of ARC care has had on his family.

“He’s my son, so I’ll do what I can to take care of him,” Jim said. “Hopefully they’ll be funding so he can go back to what I call adult care.”

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