July 16, 2010

Cold & Hard: Spending the night in Arnieville

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Jane Stillwater @ 4:11 pm

Mark Twain’s autobiography is finally getting published — almost one hundred years to the day after he wrote it. And from what I can tell after reading the book’s advance reviews, Twain was also one hundred years ahead of his time, having apparently come back from the grave just in time to give us a much-needed warning about being wary of America’s oligarchs and to nail today’s corporatists for what they are — greedy bastards.

And I think that it was also Mark Twain who said, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”

Me and my daughter Ashley stopped by Arnieville last night, where disabled people are camping out in protest of Governor Schwarzenegger’s callous cuts to their home-care workers’ salaries. Arnieville has been set up on a traffic island on Adeline Street near Russell in Berkeley, right down the street from my apartment. “How’s it going?” I asked some folks in wheelchairs who were sitting in front of the campsite eating dinner and chatting about stuff.

“It’s going okay, considering the horrible mess that our state’s finances are in,” replied a blind woman. “And we’ve going to try to stay here until the State of California actually manages to come up with a budget.” Yikes! That could take for-EVAH.

“It’s not so bad here during the day,” said another woman in a wheelchair, “but at night it gets a bit heavy-duty.” I can imagine — you can’t just take a hot bath, turn off the lights and pop into bed here. No pre-bed glass of warm milk and bedtime stories either. Plus you can’t even turn off the street lights — although the City of Berkeley has been kind enough to not run the sprinklers at 4 am. And the automobile, truck and bus traffic on Adeline Street goes on all night long, just five feet from your head.

“We do have a security team that takes turns keeping watch so it’s fairly safe here, but sometimes I’m the only woman at night and it gets a bit gender-heavy on the masculine side. I wish that we had more women camping out,” looking directly at me as she said this, hint hint. She also wished that the campers had more monetary donations so that they could pay for their wheelchair-accessible PortaPotty. That’s probably not covered in the state budget either.

Then I went home and got to thinking. I gots bad knees. I’m 21% disabled. Those people are doing this for my sake too. I should be out there camping with them! So I went back this evening and asked if I could stay too. “You can borrow my tent,” said my daughter Ashley who used to be a Girl Scout.

And I could wear my warm flannel nightgown and my bunny slippers!

But then, as we sat there chatting with the protesters, fog started rolling in from across the bay, the temperature dropped 20 degrees and I started to chicken out. “And besides, Big Brother 12 is on TV tonight,” I whined. So much for roughing it for a good cause.

So. Will I spend the night in Arnieville tonight? Or will I let people who are even physically weaker than me end up doing the heavy-lifting for all of us? Will I protest the injustice of having so much of California’s tax money go to large corporations and rich people but not to the people who actually need and deserve it — or will I just stay home snug in my bed and turn a blind eye to injustice like most other Californians seem to be doing?

Or will I bite the bullet, haul my sleeping bag out of the closet, be brave like the disabled people down at Arnieville (and Mark Twain), and nail these corporatists for what they really are — greedy bastards.

PS: Yes, I finally did get up enough nerve to actually go camp out. Remember those baby chickens that I got at the county fair last week? Well, last night I looked at them and they looked at me and I swear I actually heard one of them saying, “And you’re the one that’s calling ME a chicken?” So I figured that I’d better put my money where my mouth is.

“You can sleep in that yellow tent over there, said a member of the security team when I arrived (chickenless) at 1:00 am in the morning last night, pillow and blanket in hand.

“And how’s progress on the state budget coming along?” I asked. Not so good. And camping out didn’t go so well either. The ground, like the Governator, was cold and hard too. Plus I’d forgotten my flannel nightgown and bunny slippers. I don’t see how these disabled people do it.

Last night I slept in a yellow tent next to an empty wheelchair, some crutches and an artificial leg.

PPS: Country Joe McDonald is giving a free concert at Arnieville on Saturday July 17, 2010 at 3:00 pm. Please come to the concert. Please support Arnieville. Please donate air mattresses!

PPPS: You can also donate $$$$ to keep Arnieville alive (and representing other Californians besides just the oligarchs) by going to their website at

PPPPS: Does anybody out there want to adopt any baby chickens? Ones that I (almost) promise won’t talk back?

July 2, 2010

Arnieville: Cutting CA home care will cost us six times as much

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Jane Stillwater @ 1:26 pm

If you walk or drive down Adeline Street in south Berkeley right now, you will see dozens of disabled people camping out on the median strip in the middle of the street. “We call this place Arnieville,” I was told. That, however, is not breaking news. That story has already been covered on TV.

People on crutches and in wheelchairs are out in force, protesting a whole bunch of huge new state budget cuts to their home-care provider’s salaries. These care providers allow disabled Californians to live on their own. The disabled protesters have been camping out in protest against these radical and life-endangering cuts since June 22, 2010. But that’s not hot news either.

The disabled campers are holding a press conference over the Fourth of July weekend. Is that going to be big news too? Probably not. Nor is it breaking news that someone just dropped off a homemade blackberry pie for the disabled protesters to eat as they camped. But it was good news for me! My two-year-old granddaughter Mena got a slice of the pie — and she also got a ride on one disabled camper’s wheelchair. Mena thought that was totally cool. But then she didn’t have to be confined to a wheelchair and totally dependent on her home care provider seven days a week for the rest of her life.

Disabled people are the most courageous people I know.

However, one disabled person disagreed with me regarding wheelchairs. “We are not ‘confined’ to our wheelchairs per se,” she said. “Actually, our wheelchairs liberate us and give us freedom. Without them, we would be forced to spend our lives just lying in bed.” I don’t think that Mena would like that either. And using one’s wheelchair to give oneself freedom is a truly appropriate way to celebrate Independence on the Fourth of July — far more appropriate than Washington’s many attempts in the last ten years to disable the United States Constitution.

Perhaps it is breaking news that people in wheelchairs and with other disabilities are building a life-sized paper mache statue of Arnold Schwarzenegger right here on Adeline Street today. Or perhaps not.

It might be sort of newsworthy that a few dozen disabled people are now out here struggling to keep their protest going, to take care of their camp and to take care of themselves when most of them are physically incapacitated — up to 80 or 90%. Please! If there are any civic-minded young and strong volunteers out there who can come down and lend a hand at keeping the camp running, you will be totally welcome.

“Can I help do the dishes or something?” I asked one of the organizers, a woman with an obvious degenerative disease. “Oh, that’s okay,” she replied, perhaps worried that I didn’t look much stronger or energetic than she did.

No, it’s not news that I’m not as able to do the heavy lifting needed at Arnieville as the Governator himself would be. “Hey Arnie! Come down here and help us pitch some tents!”

What really was the breaking hot news at Arnieville today was when my neighbor Jana Ovebo drove up in her wheelchair and said, “If the state eliminates our home care workers as planned, then I will have to be institutionalized — just in order to survive.” Jana has had rheumatoid arthritis since she was nine years old and can barely even move by herself. And yet she still manages to run her own business, Disability, Resources, Exchange & Mobility Supports (DREAMS). And she still manages to come down to Arnieville and protest.

“The cost of my care if I was institutionalized,” stated Jana, “would be SIX TIMES more than what the state is now paying for home care providers.” Without her home-care workers, Jana would either have to be immediately institutionalized or be allowed to die on the street. Either choice sucks eggs.

And one home-care provider involved in the protest just informed me that, “It’s not only our salaries that are at stake: The Terminator is also trying to eliminate 40% of state funding for the entire disabilities program. This would knock thousands of people off the program all together. Then there’s the cuts to Medi-Cal, Adult Day Health and other services that keep seniors and people with disabilities in their communities.” And these people would also have to be institutionalized at six times the cost of what we are paying now? Yikes!

Hurray for Arnieville! That’s the GOOD news.

May 22, 2010

Arnieville pops up in Berkeley

Filed under: Guest Comment — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 3:50 pm



Activissts in Berkeley have set up a tent city, called “Arnieville,” to protest recent budget cuts in California. Photos were taken on Saturday morning, May 22, 2010.

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