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April 27, 2005 – Odem-Davis

Ms. Bettye Odem-Davis

Chief Bureau of Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Department of Human Resources

 

Dear Ms. Odem-Davis:

 

On behalf of the Illinois Committee of Blind Vendors and myself as its Chairman, I want to share with you a deep concern I have about certain new initiatives in the Bureau. The Great Lakes Naval Training Center issue and the resulting litigation demonstrated to the Committee that the Department of Human Resources is more interested in protecting a competing program for people with disabilities headed by a non-disabled, well-paid bureaucracy than in preserving the legal rights of the Randolph-Sheppard blind vending facility program.

 

There have been efforts within the Bureau to “cooperate” with community rehabilitation programs ( NISH agencies) with the expectation that there may be some joint projects being developed. I want to go on record with you that the Committee has absolutely no desire or intention that the Bureau and the Business Enterprise Program deal in any way with NISH agencies.

 

Although you may not be aware of it at your level of State government, NISH and its cooperating agencies, such as Goodwill Industries, have declare war on the Randolph-Sheppard program. Goodwill has distributed to its affiliated groups a draft letter to Congress that maligns the blind vendors of the country and dismisses the program’s importance. NISH and its agencies would like nothing better than to destroy the priority that exists in law, ratified by every federal court that has addressed the issue, with respect to military dining troop feeding contracts. If it is successful in getting Congress to legislate the end of that aspect of the priority, it is likely that there will be moves to eliminate the Randolph-Sheppard priority altogether. We cannot, and we will not, allow that to happen.

 

I hope you are supportive of the position of the Committee in this matter, and that you strongly indicate that position to your superiors in the Department.

 

 

Sincerely,

 

John Gordon