To the Editor,
My Valentine’s gift from Ellis County was a letter issued Feb. 14, 2013, including revised tax statements for 2012 and 2013. This was necessary because of the “CORRECTED TAX CEILINGS TO REFLECT CHANGE FROMDISABILITY EXEMPTION TO OVER 65.” Also, there was a “corrected bill” for the difference; I was to pay for the increase.
The letter from the county set off bells and whistles within me because I already knew of clear directives readily available against varied abuses of the disabled and their associates under federal law as explained in the body of laws, regulations, and court decisions relative to the American Disabilities Act.
I made numerous telephone calls and several visits to various county officials to address the matter. In short, I was getting the run around. (It seemed a small matter to the county easily addressed by “just pay it.” But I don’t pay unjust charges, my standard.)
I also had asked and received from the county for an itemized spreadsheet to detail the related taxes for the last two years; it clearly made my case as I saw it. Always get as much information as is possible.
After much ado involving a legion of buck-passers, I was directed to Kathy Rodrigue. We talked by phone, and she promptly dealt with the tax in perfect agreement with my prior thoughts on the matter. I received a confirming letter from her dated June 26.
“As we have administered this law, it has been interpreted that the ceiling could either be on the disability or the ‘Over 65’ but not both. I appreciate that you challenged us to look from a jurisdictional perspective and we will now consider which ceiling is the lowest option for these individuals as a disabled person who turns 65 ....With the recalculation the ‘Over 65’ ceiling was more advantageous to you in total, but did not consider looking at each jurisdiction individually to consider which one was best for you. It has always been our practice to seek the greatest benefit for property owners and your challenge gave us a different way of looking at ceilings.”
I wish all our public sevants shared Kathy’s humility and willing consideration. However, under the ADA the fact of the centralization of the county budget, the county judge and the commission’s court are those that have the ultimate duty and legal responsibility for following the laws as they apply to me as a disabled person, or what applies to you.
This “little” tax matter has not been fully concluded since I am still due to be paid for my expenses and my effort involved but I doubt that will happen quickly. The Supreme Court and the U.S. Congress continue to say is that there is no state immunity for violations of the ADA. This includes possible fines and just compensatory damages for transgressions. Court processes are not always needed for a variety of reasons not to be highlighted here but negotiation is an early step if not previously tried.
There remain other/greater issues with Ellis County that beg our attention. According to regulations it is preferable that ADA matters be sorted out in an informal manner. For the county, one designated person is to efficiently receive and handle ADA complaints, not try to bury any issues but honestly solve problems. Formal complaints are to be made public and stored in a public file, not hidden away as official abusers might otherwise desire. Later decisions recognize verbal complaints as valid also. Anyone can make a complaint under the ADA for any disabled persons who might need assistance, even if not requested by the abused.
There is a widespread popular resistance amongst many entities in Texas to know and follow certain federal laws where “States Rights” has some political currency but the ADA by a special Act of Congress is exempt from the Unintended Mandates Act. Officials often conveniently disregard their oaths of office which reminds them of the U.S. Constitution, the real source of governmental powers.
Much of the ADA is indicative of the rights of all persons and therefore as restatements of matters even beyond the original purposes of the ADA that serve to reinforce our inclusive civil liberties.
In a separate matter, contrary to federal ADA requirements it is obvious the filibuster rules of the Texas Senate would tend to filter out or exclude persons with disabilities including even unknown threats to health in order to obey their barbaric “ordeal” requirements.
Therefore, in simple terms what Wendy Davis had to face regardless of her willingness to attempt such was simply unconstitutional to start with. The powerful officials and the approving members of the Texas Senate should be more than ashamed of themselves, certainly be made to quickly remedy their rules to make them legally fair and humane.
We in general should be about electing and/or hiring public servants who are well qualified for positions within the restraints indicative of public trust. Those outside of these requirements are disqualified should be avoided, or purged.