Jim Firth, City Council Grass Valley

Jim Firth: City Council Grass Valley

Q: At FREED, we interact with a lot of people who would like to participate in public meetings, but who are unable to get reasonable accommodations for their disabilities. What are some of the barriers that people with disabilities might find in attending a public meeting, and how might reasonable accommodations be provided?

Firth: I’m finding that most organizations in Nevada County are sensitive to the needs of disabled citizens. “Official public meetings” are required to be accessible. Difficulties do arise when a public event is held in a private location. Many event organizers will have a volunteer assigned to assist people needing help with a wheelchair or walker. People might also just need a ride to an event. My issue with limited public (bus) transportation was addressed at the forum, and I do feel that a call service such as the one I’m familiar with in Calistoga, CA named VanGo needs to be explored here in western Nevada County.


Q: The numbers of Americans needing long-term care will more than double, from 12 million to 27 million by 2050. Medicare does not cover long-term care. With the aging of the U.S. population how would you recommend your city or county address its current and growing needs for long-term services and supports?

Firth: Some of the initial drafts of the Affordable Care Act included long term care. This is a national problem and cities or county’s are not equipped to tackle this issue without State or Federal help. In California there are still people, including myself, interested in pursuing a “single payer” health care program. A “California Plan” could include a long term care option, and I believe it’s worth the effort. Right now, however, the State Legislature is taking a wait & see approach regarding the ACA, and that has stalled the forward momentum on creating a single payer program in California.


Q: Independent, low income, housing for seniors and people with disabilities is highly impacted. Many low income facilities have 2 year waiting lists. What types of public policy would you favor in order to ensure older adults or people with disabilities who have fixed low incomes can afford to live near vital community services (hospitals, shopping, social services).

Firth: Wolf Creek housing in Nevada City and now in Grass Valley is addressing this need. Unfortunately, the need is greater than the supply of adequate units suitable for disabled residents. Cities and County’s are required to have a housing element in their master plans. The obstacle now in this area is a lack of housing development. The plans that have been approved like Loma Rica do not address either affordability or disability issues. The city could have, and in my opinion, should have required as a mitigation to approving such a large scale development inclusion of permanently affordable and handicap accessible units scattered throughout the development.


Q: As a regional example, Yuba City neglected the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) requirements when remodeling Plumas Street, a primary district for shopping and restaurants, thus creating barriers for seniors, people with disabilities, bicyclists, women with strollers etc. A complaint was filed with the Department of Justice and Yuba City had to renovate the street again, in order to be in compliance. Good planning and guidance from the top down would have saved Yuba City millions of dollars. How can a city council prevent this sort of thing from happening?

Firth: Elect Jim Firth to the Grass Valley City Council in 2014 and continue electing people who understand the needs of disabled citizens and are willing to stand up to the Development/Contractor’s lobby that currently dominates the Grass Valley City Council.


Q: Individuals who cannot drive face barriers in traveling to work, shopping, social events and city council meetings, because of limited public transit options. How might the city work with nonprofits, businesses, as well as cultural or entertainment organizations to enhance transportation options in a rural community? What kinds of transportation options would you like to see in our rural community?

Firth: I mentioned the VanGo program in Calistoga, CA above. It will take a public & not-for-profit partnership to secure State, Federal and grant funds that can support a similar operation here in Nevada County. There is also the option of carpooling. This would take substantial coordination, volunteers, and a method to share expenses with those who do the driving. It’s worth exploring.