Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Dispatch from Jones St: Seven Days and Counting

The North Carolina General Assembly will be back in session in just seven days. There are some serious issues facing the 170 elected officials who will be sworn in on January 28, 2009.

There is real concern about the health and stability of the State Health Plan. Many news outlets are reporting that to keep the health plan "healthy" we will need to see a $300 million dollar infusion.

Then there is Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Abuse needs. Our state has watched people with developmental disabilities in the south east loose all of their supports and services. This has sent families into crisis. We have witnessed two LMEs falter. 

There is a real need to stabalize these systems and to promote and expand community based services for all three populations served under the Division of MH, DD, SA.

The next big issue is going to be affordable housing. We need more of it. There is a shortage of it. Investing in housing options is an economic stimulus plan.

Last but not least is addressing the dropout rates of students with disabilities in our public school system. 

Lots to do and not a lot of money to do it with. Still these are the times of great leadership and innovation. Let's get to work.

HIll Report: Regulations on Hold

First order of business was to freeze all of the former President Bush's executive orders for 120 days as they are now under review by President Obama's team.

Hill Report: President Obama's Cabinet Update

The following members of President Obama's cabinet were approved yesterday by unanimous vote.
Steven Chu-Energy Secretary
Arne Duncan-Education Secretary
Janet Napolitano-Homeland Security
Ken Salazar-Interior
Eric Shinseki-Veterans Affairs
Tom Vilsack-Agriculture

We are expecting to have a full floor vote today to confirm Senator Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The New Website: President Obama

With a click of a mousekey we have not only a new President but a new webpage for the White House.

Sincere Thanks for Joining Us

I would like to thanks all those folks who have visited this blog during the election. We hope you have enjoyed our blogging and have found this site useful and helpful. With the inauguration all but finished, except for the parade and the balls, we are going to retire this site for the next two years.

Election 2010 will see the site spring back to life! Have a lovely day and enjoy the process that is uniquely America! The smooth and effective transfer of power and the beauty that is the American democratic process.

Thanks again.

Text of President Obama's Inaugural Address

Text of President Barack Obama's inaugural address

The Associated Press
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Text of President Barack Obama's inaugural address on Tuesday, as prepared for delivery and released by the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

OBAMA: My fellow citizens:

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because we the people have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land — a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America — they will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted — for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act — not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions — who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account — to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day — because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control — and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort — even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West — know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment — a moment that will define a generation — it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence — the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed — why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

"Let it be told to the future world ... that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet (it)."

America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

The World Welcomes: President Barack Obama

I slightly rocky swearing in but hey there is a lot of pressure in administering this important oath.

Musical Interlude

Here is some more trivia for you.  Disability History trivia.  Itzhak Perlman is performing right now.  Mr. Perlman is an Israeli-American violinist who contracted polio at age four.  Truly a national treasure.

A World Welcomes Vice President Joe Biden

With a few quick but important words we now have a new Vice-President.  Welcome Vice President Joe Biden.

Swearing in of Vice-President Elect Joe Biden

Dianne Feinstien Opens the Inauguration

Dianne Feinstein provides the opening comments.

This is IT!

President-elect Barack Obama is about to enter the seating area at the Capital. We are going to take a moment here to just be in the moment.

Vice President Elect Joe Biden Just Entered the Grand Stands

This is it! The Vice President-elect Joe Biden just entered the Grand Stands and was greeted by cheers and handshakes.

The Bible of Choice

President-elect Barack Obama will be using the Lincoln bible today. It has not been used since Lincoln took the oath of office.
Yes, more trivia.

Entering the Grand stands

The first children are entering the grand stands now..

The Moving Van is at the White House

Yep. It is moving day at the White House. This is fascinating. Having moved into my new home five months ago it makes it all seem so "normal". The moving van pulls up to a house and your stuff moves in. Big difference being...Obama is moving into the White House.

Where is Ryan Beckwith?

Ryan just Twittered that he is about 30 feet from the podium. He says "he has amazing seats!"

Just about to start

We are almost to the start of this historic moment. The grandstands are full, the honorables have taken their seats in the grand stand. The former Presidents are taking their seats now. Currently they are showing the following former Presidents; President George H. Bush and Barbara Bush, President Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter, and finally President Bill Clinton and Senator Hillary Clinton.

President Bush and President-elect Obama at the White House

President Bush and President-elect Obama are getting ready to leave the White House and make their way to the Capital. Waiting for them is a throng of Americans both in DC and watching across the nation. No matter how many years you do this job, it is clear by the number of Senators and Representatives snapping pictures that there is still awe in the process.

Senator Ted Kennedy

One of the leading advocates for people with disabilities, Senator Ted Kennedy has entered the seating area. Senator Kennedy has had serious health issues over the past few months. It was wonderful to see him walking on his own power. Great moment and just one of many.

We are expecting Senator Kennedy to again lead the discussion on health care for all. It is very important to our national security that we finally address how to get all people in our nation affordable health care.

Looks Like the Motorcade is on the Way

MSNBC just did a break away shot showing a motorcade. Looks like we are getting closer.

Julia's Musings: Not Politics as Usual

I do politics for a living. I am proud to be a lobbyist and a blogger but sometimes you feel like it is all politics as usual. Today, not so much. Watching the faces of the people in DC, hearing the cheers, the smiles, the joy of people of all colors, all religions and all ages is truly amazing. The euphoria of the moment is definitely overwhelming. The job now is to keep all of these folks engaged in the process.

Watching the Inauguration

There are bunches of ways to watch the happenings today. All of the major stations are carrying live coverage, also being covered on Facebook via CNN and on the web.

1 hour and eight minutes to the start of the ceremony.

Coffee anyone?

Well, President Bush and President-elect Obama are having some coffee right now.

MSNBC Is Talking about Muhammed Ali

Muhammed Ali is in attendance for the inauguration today. MSNBC was showing him entering the stands. Quick reminder to those of you like me who were to young to remember, Mr. Ali was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War. His challenge to the war went all the way to the Supreme Court of the US.

Here is more about Muhammed Ali.

The Obama's and the Bush's Greet Each Other

The Obama's and the Bush's have greeted each other on the steps of the White House. Mrs. Obama presented Mrs. Bush with a gift. I have never seen that before but what a lovely and gracious thing to do. This is a very interesting transition of power. President Bush is leaving the office with an approval rating of 22% and Mr. Obama is entering the office with an approval rating of 75%.

Here is another hot tip: right after the swearing in Congress will reconvene to approve several of Obama's cabinet choices. Rumor has it that first up with be Senator Hillary Clinton's vote as she becomes Secretary of State. The drama will then move to New York as Governor Paterson decides who with take Senator Clinton's seat.

Obama Watch: President-elect is leaving St. John's Church

President-elect Obama is leaving St. John's Church on his way to the White House. If anyone is curious, Michelle Obama is wearing all American designers. Don't ya love trivia.

Inauguration Schedule

Tuesday, Jan.20, 2009 is Inauguration Day, including the swearing-in ceremony, a parade and countless inaugural balls.

Swearing-in ceremony festivities commence at 10:00 a.m. EST, 7:00 a.m. PST.
Highlights include:
• Invocation: Dr. Rick Warren
• Musical Selection: Aretha Franklin
• Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden will be sworn into office
• Musical Selection: John Williams with Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma , Gabriela Montero and Anthony McGill
• President-elect Barack H. Obama will take the Oath of Office, using President Lincoln’s Inaugural Bible
• Inaugural Address
• President Obama escorts outgoing President George W. Bush to a departure ceremony
• Poem: Elizabeth Alexander
• Benediction: The Reverend Dr. Joseph E. Lowery
• The National Anthem: The United States Navy Band “Sea Chanters"

The 56th Inaugural Parade begins around 2:30 p.m. EST, making its way from the Capitol to the White House.

Here is more information.

How many are on the mall?

Well, looks like we will need to guess because the National Park Service no longer does the count for the inauguration.  Here is my guess, lots!   There are lots and lots of folks on the mall today and it is a beautiful image.
All reports are that that transportation in DC is working well, the waits are long and the metro is full but people are being calm and friendly.

Julia's Musings: Yes We Can be Anything We Want to Be.

Before we start our coverage of the inauguration I am going to take a moment of personal privlege. As a student of politics I am always moved at the way our nation handles the transfer of power. It is always a moment in my life when i am amazed that we can put away our partisan views, step aside from the often ugly rhetoric of a campaign cycle, and simply come together to support and welcome the next President of the United States.

Today is a historic moment in our shared national history. Today the first African-American will take the oath of office and will lead this great nation. It is an amazing moment and one that I personally had hoped for but was unsure I would ever see .

My mother, a child of the Great Depression and the first college graduate in my family, spent years teaching in Harlem, New York. She told her students every day that they could be anything they wanted to be. Their future was up to them.

I graduated from Citrus High School in Inverness Florida in 1984. We were the first class to graduate that was completely integrated from kindergarten to twelth grade. We were also told we could be anything we wanted to be. The future was up to us.

Today those words are no longer mere rhetoric, they are no longer "just words" to spur kids along their path. Today we can all share in MLK's dream. Today we can all believe in a future where the dialogue of race can move to a dialogue of how we can as a "united" country reach out tho those who need help and how we can move our nation forward. Today we can see a brighter future for all Americans.

There will be work ahead of us. It will not be easy. We will need to remind all our elected leaders that there are real education issues, real health care issues, real housing issues and real employment issues for people with disabilities in our nation.
That work will begin minutes after the swearing in. But for now, let us all enjoy this moment and revel in the reality that hope won.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

People with Disabilities Attending the Festivities in DC: Here are the Accomodations

If you are a person with a disability attending President Barack Obama's inauguration, the event will be made accessible for all of us! Congratulations to the team in DC who is making this happen. The following information comes to us from Delaware On Line.


Organizers and transportation officials say people with disabilities and the elderly should expect long delays in getting to the National Mall, parade route and swearing-in ceremony. They are advising everyone to plan ahead and have a backup plan. Here's what to expect:

• No cars with disability tags or license plates will be allowed to park around the Capitol.

• People with disabilities attending the swearing-in ceremony may be dropped off at South Capitol and E Street and North Capitol and E Street, where golf carts will be available to transport them to security checkpoints.

• Canes, including those with a fold-down seat, walkers and scooters are allowed.

• There will be raised platforms for wheelchair users in the seating areas at the Capitol, but space is limited. Similar platforms will be on the National Mall, too.

• Americans With Disabilities Act-compliant bleachers will be available along the parade route for people with disabilities who have parade tickets and those who don't.

• Sign-language interpreters will be in different sections at the swearing-in and along the parade route. Open captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing will be available on large TV screens on the Mall and parade route.

• Audio description services will be available for the blind and visually impaired at the swearing-in ceremony and the parade.

• Thirteen entry points for the parade will open at 7 a.m. Tuesday. All will accommodate people with disabilities.

• MetroAccess, the Metro transit system's subscription service for people with disabilities, will operate its regular schedule, but there will not be service to inauguration venues.

• Access to elevators in Metro's train stations will probably be limited because of crowds. Escalators won't be operating in certain stations.

• Wheelchair-accessible portable toilets will be available along the parade route and at the National Mall and Capitol grounds.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

President Obama's Inauguration

We will be blogging this event. No we are not in DC but we will be watching TV.