Tuesday, August 26, 2014

MS Activists Meet with State Senator Joe Fain

Lisa and Martin at the Society's
Day of Activism in Olympia
This summer, MS activists have been keeping the issue of special needs transportation fresh in the minds of legislators. In July, MS activists Lisa and Martin Boon met with State Senator Joe Fain, who serves in a budget leadership role for the Senate Transportation Committee, to ask what can be done to move a statewide transportation funding forward. Martin Boon writes:

"We were glad to meet with the Senator in our district. He was still optimistic with the progress being made toward a solution for transportation funding. We feel he heard our concerns on how important supporting and funding transportation is for all special needs transportation users, and especially the constituents living with MS within the 47th District and our State."

Senator Joe Fain
"We were pleased that the Senator was aware that many of Washington’s special needs grant requests go unfunded, that this fund needs to be protected and enhanced, and that inaction by legislators in Olympia could adversely affect those depending on this transportation assistance, for their day-to-day lifestyle."
Interested in making visits to your state or federal legislators? Let us know

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

More funding for accessible taxis in Seattle!!

The regulation of  ride service companies like Uber, Sidecar and Lift has taken up much of the Seattle City Council's agenda the past few months and in a surprising twist, people with MS now stand to benefit from the discussions. The City Council first passed some regulations in March only to see them overturned amid opposition from ride service advocates. In the resulting negotiations, individuals with MS and others who need accessible taxis won big, as a new surcharge on ride service companies will put more accessible taxis on the road.

A great article from the Seattle Times lays out the details. While it may take some time before we see if the law works as intended, it's great to see that Seattle's elected officials are responsive to the particular needs of people with physical disabilities. This may stem from Seattle Mayor Ed Murray's time in the legislature where, at the request of MS Activists and other disability advocates, he was often supportive of efforts to make the state more accessible.

If you live in Seattle, what's your experience with accessible taxis? Are they easy to find? Responsive? We'd love to know your experience.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

How to stay current as an MS Activist

Given the crazy world of politics, it can be quite difficult for individuals to stay up to speed on various issues. The political environment can change on a dime, as current events shake up the status quo and push politicians towards action, or sometimes inaction. However, the best activists are the ones who have the most current information and can be seen by elected officials as a trustworthy sources.  

To help MS activists stay up to date, we know you need information - and lots of it. To make that happen, we have a variety of communication channels. 

Here are a few of them:
Twitter - follow us @JimFMovesMS and @MSActivist to see what we are doing on your behalf.
Action Alert emails - sign up at NationalMSSociety.org/MSActivist to get information about advocacy and ways you can take action.
Monthly teleconferences - the first Monday of the month at 12:15 p.m., Activists can learn about our advocacy work in detail. The number is 888-279-3775, 4001#. This month's recorded call is available at the bottom of this page .
Our website - find out more about our current priority issues (and now easily available on your phone!).

Do you like to receive information another way? Let us know and we'll see what we can do. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

MS Activists Walk the Walk (and Talk the Talk!) in Seattle

MS activists take action in many ways, whether it's meeting with their legislator, telling their story, determining policy priorities on our Government Relations Committee, or taking advantage of virtual advocacy opportunities through blogging, Twitter, or our MS Action Network.

At Walk MS: Seattle, our volunteers (including MS activists Holly Hawker and Karl Schiller) reached out to future activists by spreading the word about the Greater Northwest Chapter's advocacy work at our MS Activism booth.

Hundreds of participants interacted with our booth at the Gas Works Park rest stop by participating in our “bean poll” (voting on which policy issue matters most by placing a bean in one of three jars), taking a photo in our MS Activism photo booth, or signing up for our MS Activist network email list.

Our Activism Booth by the Numbers:
  • 4: Number of wonderful volunteers at our booth!
  • 400: Walk participants who participated in MS activism booth activities
  • 113: Photos taken in our MS activism photo booth.
  • 3: Photos that Blitz, the Seattle Seahawks mascot, took in our booth.
  • 222: People who ranked "increasing funding for MS research" as the most important thing politicians could be doing to help people living with MS. (That's 54% of the votes.) 
  • 22: New activists signed up for our MS Action Network. Welcome!
For more photos from the booth, visit our Facebook page.

These were just a few simple ways to engage participants and raise awareness about our chapter’s advocacy work. How are you spreading the word about MS? To volunteer or get more involved, contact us!

See you at next year's Walk!

By Linnea Nasman
MS Advocacy Volunteer

Thursday, April 10, 2014

MS Activists meet with Rep. Jessyn Farrell

Yesterday, MS Activists Jonathan Sari and Esti Mintz met with their state Representative Jessyn Farrell to continue the discussion we had during the legislative session on special needs transportation. The National MS Society is very interested in increasing funding for accessible transportation, and we have been talking with legislators about how to make this happen. As the vice-chair of the House Transportation Committee, Rep. Farrell has a particularly powerful role to play in budget negotiations. 

From left to right - Esti Mintz, Nigel Herbig, Rep. Jessyn Farrell, Jonathan Sari, Jim Freeburg
Jonathan and Esti met with Rep. Farrell as part of our Day of Activism in February - soon after they met with her, she moved into a leadership position within the Transportation Committee. Rep. Farrell was particularly interested in helping out and committed to doing whatever she can to ensure our concerns are addressed. It was great to hear her strong support for the issue - we'll definitely be working with her to make it a reality.

If you are interested in meeting with your legislators to discuss accessible transportation (or any other issue affecting the MS community), let us know and we'll help make it happen.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Medical research funding protected by Governor Inslee

Medical research advocates should be pleased with Governor Inslee's recent actions that preserved funding for the Life Sciences Discovery Fund (LSDF). On Friday, the Governor vetoed legislation that would have gutted funding for the LSDF.

The LSDF was created by Governor Gregoire in 2005 from tobacco settlement monies to invest in promising medical research in Washington state. One of the largest LSDF grants went to the Benaroya Research Institute to create an autoimmune research program to look for new treatments for conditions like MS. Since then, the Legislature has significantly reduced funding for the LSDF due to economic troubles, and proposed eliminating funding completely this year.

The Society, along with several other patient advocacy organizations, urged the Governor to veto the funding cut. Increasing funding for medical research has long been a priority for the Society, and we are pleased that medical research will continue in Washington state.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Session finishes up without a transportation package, but with a disability parking bill!

As you probably know, the legislature finished up its business late last week without passing a new transportation plan. Despite pleas from all sorts of transportation advocates (including MS Activists!), legislators could not reach an agreement about how to fix Washington's transportation problems. It's hard to know where to place the blame, but the long and short is that we won't stop talking about the need for additional funding for special needs transportation any time soon.

While talking to legislators about the need to increase funding for accessible transportation, it's become pretty apparent that this is a big issue for people with MS. The stories from people with MS show the significant need for additional transportation options for people with MS and others who can't drive. While many legislators have been sympathetic, our request has been caught up in debates around contracting, union wages, and environmental protections. We'll continue to push for more funding for special needs transportation, so if you haven't already, it's not too late to take action!

On a brighter note, our efforts to protect disabled parking for people with MS paid off. The Legislature passed House Bill 2463 last week with unanimous votes in the House and Senate. MS activists should be proud to know that our work at the Day of Activism in February paid off. Relationships that activists have built over time with their elected officials have been the key to our advocacy efforts and we are grateful that the MS community makes it a priority to get involved in government. Your work improves the lives of people with MS and for that, we are grateful!