The Revere Commission on Disabilities held its regular monthly meeting last Tuesday, February 14, via Zoom.
Chairperson Ralph DeCicco and fellow members Pauline Perno, Asmaa Abou-Fouda, Maria Grimanis, Jason Barone, Ellie Pagan-Vargas, and Robert Brown were on hand for the meeting.
Paul Fahey, a City of Revere Election Commissioner, was the guest speaker. Fahey told the group he has been with the Revere Election Commission since December, 2021.
Fahey spoke about the new, on-line portal available through the Mass. Secretary of State’s office that allows persons who are unable to mark a paper ballot because of their disability to be able to vote on-line. Fahey said this service will be available for the upcoming city election in the fall.
Perno asked whether the portal is available to those who have a temporary disability, such as someone who has had a recent surgery. Fahey said that anyone who attests that he or she is unable to mark a ballot independently can apply to use the new portal.
In addition, Fahey reminded the group that there are many other means by which persons, whether with temporary or permanent disabilities, are able to vote, including by mail, by absentee ballot, or even to have election workers come to their place of residence, such as a nursing home.
Fahey said the city’s general election this year is scheduled for November 7. The primary election date, if needed, will be September 19.
Fahey also told the group that Mayor Brian Arrigo and he are committed to employing poll workers who are representative of the entire community, including persons with disabilities. He asked the commissioners to reach out to persons in the disabilities community who might wish to be part of the election process as poll workers.
“We want persons who are respectful of the entire Revere community,” Fahey said.
Grimanis, who is visually-impaired, said there are many issues confronting persons with disabilities if they go to the polls, including the inability of poll workers to operate the specialized equipment for persons with visual impairments.
Grimanis also asserted that persons with disabilities often are discouraged from voting, which he attributed to “a lack of respect” from poll workers.
Fahey said that every poll worker will be refreshed with the auto-mark equipment in anticipation of the upcoming city election and acknowledged “the need for a broader sensitivity” by those who work at the city’s polls.
After Fahey concluded his presentation, the commission moved on to other business.
Brown, who is the president of the Special Education Parents Advisory Council (SEPAC), spoke briefly about the monthly Open Forum Meeting that was held on Thursday, February 9, and noted that SEPAC’s officers were set to meet on Thursday, February 15.
Brown also noted the upcoming April Autism Walk and will provide more details at a future meeting.
DeCicco discussed the highlights of the monthly Zoom meeting of CODA (the Commissions on Disabilities Alliance) that was held on February 1.
He said that it was noted at the meeting that there are no violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) at the proposed new Northeast Regional Vocational High School to which Revere belongs.
The commissioners then held a brief discussion regarding the fine for parking in a handicapped spot in Revere, which presently stands at $100, and the need to raise the fine amount to the state limit of $300.
DeCicco noted that the City Council has the jurisdiction to change the ordinance to increase the fine for handicapped parking violations.
“We should have a high fee for someone illegally parking in a handicapped spot — it should be an astronomical fee,” DeCicco emphasized.
The commission agreed to send a letter to the City Council requesting that the fine be increased to the $300 limit, adding DeCicco’s suggestion that the revenue raised from fines be utilized by the Disabilities Commission for programs for persons with disabilities.
Perno concluded the meeting by reading the commission’s monthly reminder for all residents:
“The Commission on Disabilities Office works remotely. Residents can speak to staff from our 311 Constituent Service Center Monday through Friday when you call our office at 781-286- 8267. They will be able to answer most questions, but if they are unable to or if you would like a call back from our department, please ask to be transferred to the Disability office’s voicemail and someone will get back to you as soon as possible.
“As always, please let us know if you would like something discussed or brought up and added to our monthly meeting agenda. You can let us know if you would like to speak on any issue or concern. The Commission is here to help and assist all the disabled residents and families of Revere.”
The commission’s next meeting (via Zoom) is set for Tuesday, March 14, at 6:00 PM.