SOL 18: March for Our Lives—Tyler, TX—My Statement, by J.D. Meyer

Tyler, Texas was one of the hundreds of cities which had a March for Our Lives event on Saturday March 24th from 10-Noon. It was held on the Downtown Square, just like the Dreamers event on March 6th. It was estimated that 200 people attended the event; all ages were represented, and lots of folks had signs.

Tyler is in Smith County–a city of 105K, roughly 100 miles east of Dallas. Politically, Tyler is known for always voting Republican but having a low voter turnout. Economically, Tyler is classified as an “Eds and Meds” Economy with two large hospitals and three colleges. There are lots of restaurants and hotels too. A quarter-million people work in Tyler during the day; then just over half go home to some small town.

Anne McCrady was the host of the event. She is locally famous for the annual Art of Peace event in Fall–as well as poetry and activism in general. We heard from Reverend Stuart Baskin, a Presbyterian minister–who gave a stirring speech at a Martin Luther King celebration several years ago. The 2010 MLK Community Celebration fulfilled Dr. King’s prediction that one day the sons of the slave master and slave would sit at the table of brotherhood together. The other keynote speaker that day was Wallace Jefferson–the first African-American Chief Justice in Texas. Reverend Baskin’s great, great grandfather once owned Judge Jefferson’s great, great grandfather! http://english.ohmynews.com/ArticleView/article_view.asp?no=385940&rel_no=1 I told him about my account of his talk that I’d had published in South Korea. His daughter remembered me as her substitute teacher at a nearby high school. Then it was time to “pass the mic around.” Here’s my take, to borrow an expression from Fareed Zakaria.

“I’m a former teacher too. Assault rifles should be for the military, not civilians. And not many military need assault rifles either–except the infantry and some others. You don’t need an assault rifle if you’re taking care of a helicopter.
We should be embarrassed at being the most dangerous advanced country. It’s not enough to be safer than Honduras.
And finally, when we closed our eyes and thought of a shooting victim, I remembered a favorite student and got misty-eyed. Not all gang violence is Crips vs. Bloods. It can be Intra-Crip violence. Thank you.”

Mrs. McCrady and I happened to attend the same church today, and she congratulated me for my talk. I visited with her husband, Dr. Mike McCrady before the service. It turns out Dr. McCrady knows my pulmonologist, Dr. Luis Destarac. This has been a good weekend.

SOL18: Assisting a Local Journalist: Future Story About Coping with Obstacles to Success Faced by Locals

I received a Facebook message from our star local newspaper’s photojournalist that she was in the process of co-authoring an article about obstacles to success faced by locals: poverty, medical/mental disabilities, incarceration, and lack of housing. I was flattered that she wanted my input; she’s been a favorite acquaintance and neighbor for a few years. You’ll notice that I added “coping” to this article.

I’m a former teacher who is disabled with COPD and asthma. To get on SSDI, I went for tests at a local hospital–East Texas Medical Center. Later I got on Medicare and became connected with the East Texas Council for independent Living (ETCIL) and entered a nursing home for eight months. I got two overdue surgeries while I was there. However, I couldn’t get discharged until I got on Medicaid and was turned down the first time. So I went to the Records Department of ETMC and got a complete list of my Emergency Room visits for the previous four years. Most of y’all have probably heard that Texas is the largest state not to have Medicaid expansion. It’s so wonderful to have Cigna health care. I get maintenance medicine, have a pulmonologist and a G.P. that are really great and nice, and discovered what else was wrong with me health-wise. I study my Asthma-COPD Overlap Syndrome and have a binder and a couple of folders on the illness; some articles are by me on my Word Press.

I mentioned that I went to the City of Tyler Neighborhood Services to get an apartment rental discount through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The local center for independent living relocation specialist facilitated the process. Later when I moved across town, I did it all myself. Before I got on Meals on Wheels and SNAP Food Stamps, I went to a couple of local food pantries once per month.

Besides specifically telling her to call Neighborhood Services and ETCIL, I told her about my main volunteer activity: East Texas Human Needs Network (ETHNN). We have five committees: Education, Employment, Healthcare, Housing, & Transportation. Transportation is my main focus because I ride the bus regularly, as I quit driving several years ago. I’ve arranged field trips with lunch for all five lines. We went to both shopping centers, two grocery stores, and Neighborhood Services. I also attend Education and Healthcare committee meetings.If more people rode the bus, we’d have less traffic, pollution, and more bus routes.

Just between us for now, I’ve really been trying to advertise the importance of finding a match between personality and college major choice/vocation. The local university wants to improve its graduation rate, so I sent my article on the topic to a couple of friends who work there. Furthermore, career counseling centers should advertise the free online Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) instruments.

To conclude for now, I told the photojournalist that I may not make much money, but I don’t spend much either. Just because one may be a retired teacher (prematurely, in my case), a teacher never quits teaching.

SOL18: Recent Highlights: Supporting the Dreamers, Pulmonologist Visit Followed by Long Walk, and Reaction to Resilience Talk, by JD Meyer

After writing a lengthy description of the first part of the Transportation Works Conference in Waco on Thursday, March 1st, I’ve missed doing blogs since then.

This afternoon, I went to a DACA Dreamers event downtown and held up a beautiful sign for the cause that had a picture of a big butterfly. Apparently, butterflies are symbols for the cause since they don’t have to worry about national boundaries. I’d gone shopping at La Michoacana on my way there, and bought two jars of pickled nopalitos (cactus), spicy tamarind candy, granola, and more. A photographer took a picture of my groceries and outfit—a red T-shirt with a Maya pyramid, a cap with a flag of Mexico, and a long-sleeved shirt with a Mexican design. She talked into her fancy cell phone too. Watch for me on a Mexican TV station! I met the principal of one of one of Tyler’s two high schools at the event–quite a pleasant surprise.

Yesterday, I read and commented on three SOL blogs. One was about how multicultural education is needed to reflect the composition of your class. Another was a response to the prompt, “If you really knew me, then…” The other was about a mom taking care of her baby.

Earlier that day, I got a pulmonology exam and showed improvement since October. Since I moved in February and started going to three committee meetings instead of one for my favorite non-profit, I’ve missed pulmonology rehabilitation meetings, so I was told to go get a new evaluation. Not only had I improved in the past four or five months, but I’m better than when I first started going to a pulmonologist in 2012! I brought a backpack full of folders and binders on my research of asthma and COPD: original articles, journal articles, drug descriptions, and illness descriptions from the hospital emergency room.

Ironically, I missed my bus transfer on the way home, so I took a less direct bus (straight south) and walked several blocks to the southeast in one hour and 12 minutes! I finally used a $25 gift card to buy a book at a store on the way—something on urban studies. Aren’t we supposed to be vague and not try to sell the book nor the store? On my walk, I found some artificial flowers too—white, yellow, and red. I wash out fancy beverage cans and convert them into industrial art vases.

I heard a fine talk on resilience on Sunday at church. References were made to plants by the speaker, a biology professor. That got me thinking about the concept. Resilience is the opposite of being fragile or showing withdrawn shame and a lack of assertiveness. I feel more resilient since my move across town.

SOL18: Report on TX SILC Transportation Works Summit to ETHNN Transportation Cmte, Part 1 by JD Meyer

I attended the 2nd annual Transportation Works Summit in Waco, TX “Collaboration & Connectivity” on Thursday, January 25 through Friday, January 26th in Waco. Last year’s conference was in Austin, and the theme was “Identifying & Removing Barriers through Innovation.” Major topics included city transit, paratransit, Uber and Lyft, violation of parking for the handicapped, and sidewalk concerns. If there was less dependence on cars, there would be increased efficiency and safety because there would be fewer cars on the road.

The first speakers were from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. Their topic was “Emerging Issues & Advances in Accessible Transportation.” Low-vision people can be helped through Smart Cane Assistive Navigation (SCAN). Pathway Solutions for wheelchairs examines sidewalk conditions and curb cuts. Carnegie Mellon developed smart phones with traffic signals.
Houston METRO has 12 routes with 2400 stops and aspires to have 9600 stops. Plus, they’re being funded by Google! Houston also has a paratransit feeder service pilot program. It serves an area within a ¾ mile area around fixed routes, as well as beyond the required area. Capital Metro of Austin’s grant application, Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP IDEA), integrates transit and pedestrian planning. The technology is Open Source, so anyone can use it. San Antonio has a bunch of bond initiatives, including sidewalks.

The speaker hoped that someday sidewalks would be viewed as important as roads. Later we heard from Brian East, that sidewalks built after 1-27-92 must have curb ramps. Brian East works for Disability Rights Texas.
As for other states, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has a paratransit agreement with Uber and Lyft. Washington Metro Area has an on-demand paratransit that’s partly subsidized and allows service animals. Some places are experimenting with autonomous vehicles; that means they can drive themselves without a driver. Texas A&M has low-speed autonomous vehicles that are golf cart look-alikes for its giant campus. Automated Vehicle proving grounds are in seven Texas cities: Arlington, Austin, Bryan-College Station, Corpus Christi, Huston, and San Antonio.

Wheelchair passengers riding planes is a concern as a staggering 98% of them don’t travel by plane. However, more children would survive a plane wreck than a car wreck. Qstraint is the leader of wheelchair tie down services, and it’s passed a 20G crash test—doubled in eight years! Wheelchair test criteria examines if the rider would be thrown out of a plane, fall over on its side, be ripped away from the floor, and if the straps were adequate. Partnerships have developed between airlines, plane manufacturers, wheelchair manufacturers, and universities. Recall that Collaboration & Connectivity was the theme of the 2018 transportation summit.

At the Lunch Panel, we found out that Texas is a leader in accessible buildings. There have been efforts to move into rural areas with Uber and Lyft because the drivers would have their own vehicles. Public transport is stronger when cities are bigger. It’s expensive for transit to run paratransit.

Upon hearing that paratransit can be hampered by a lack of funds, when I returned to Tyler, I proposed that we look for the for-profit businesses that would have a vested interest in paratransit and get a tax deduction for donations! “Eds and Meds” place like East Texas Medical Center (ETMC) and UT Health-NE are the most obvious. But how about banks? Tyler has a bunch, and it could be really good public relations. Then a lawyer friend suggested looking for businesses that have a large percentage of employees using Tyler Transit as possible donors.