CTD40: Jordan’s Story

CTD Celebrates 40 years

2018 is a big year for CTD, in part, because we are turning 40! To celebrate our ruby anniversary, we present the CTD40 blog series, which will collect stories from our friends, colleagues, founders, supporters, and the people we serve about our shared history.

Jordan Fogle, 2017 CTD Policy Intern

I had just moved back to Texas. The mental fatigue caused by many years working and commuting in New York City had finally come to outweigh the romanticism we had adopted to cope with the city’s oppressive, industrial character. My girlfriend and I were blessed with an opportunity to live in my parents’ old condo on Judge’s Hill, near the heart of Downtown Austin. I was having trouble pinpointing exactly what work I wanted to pursue. I had experience in health administration and support for people with developmental disabilities, as well as a burgeoning interest in music therapy and public policy.

When the wooden guitars in the window of CTD caught my eye, I assumed it was a rustic day habilitation music therapy organization. After learning about their inspiring mission, I sent my resume along with high hopes, and to my great fortune, Mr. Borel asked me to meet him on the porch.

Upon our first meeting, I remember marveling at Mr. Borel’s demeanor, so calm amid the complex issues inhabiting his work life. I would come to view his office, decorated with paintings of the planets, as symbolic of his big-picture perspective, which contrasts the tunnel vision that bureaucracy typically fosters.

On the porch that day, I met Laura, Chase, and Chris as well. Immediately, I was struck by the warmth, wit, and unyielding passion of the staff. It became clear that they needed all hands on deck as crunch time approached. In exchange, they would provide me professional development on the front lines of the 85th Legislative Session. I could not have anticipated then the connections I would come to discover between them and myself, which I now cherish so deeply.

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Four people in business dress are lined up casually against a wall, all turning to smile at the camera. Before working at CTD, I had never spent much time at the Capitol, let alone been witness to the immeasurable nuances of its day-to-day functioning. The floor plan still confounds me, as does the notion that you can bypass the metal detectors if you have a gun permit. Though my suit jackets and pants were often mismatched, and my physical presentation humble in comparison to the snappy dressers on the scene, I managed to disguise myself behind Chris Masey’s relentless southern charm and legendary loquaciousness.

Jotting meeting notes down for Chris as he interfaced with legislators, their staff, and various advocacy organizations, I was able to briefly gaze into the kaleidoscopic inner workings of special education policy at the state level. Above: The Special Ed “dream team” between House and Senate hearings, Apr. 25: Disability Rights Texas’ Rachel Gandy and Steven Aleman with CTD’s Chris and Jordan.

In spite of the profound nausea the Freedom Caucasus provoked in the pit of my stomach (along with Dukes’s work ethic, Carlos Uresti’s business practices, Dan Patrick’s face, the imagery of shooting hogs from hot air balloons, etc.), I was inspired daily by the tireless efforts of many genuinely humanistic lawmakers. Wu. Zerwas. Strauss. Gina Hinojosa. Bernal. Anchia. Zaffarini. Moody. Thompson. These names are among the first to surface in my mind when envisioning role models of public service. Beyond striving for truth and justice, their resolve in the face of adversity (namely partisan hacks) is what elevates them in my mind.

I save the Priority Special Education bill-tracking sheets that Chris distributed to keep our colleagues informed throughout the process as mementos of my time at CTD. Among the many passed bills I fondly recall, SB160 (which eliminated the 8.5% CAP by prohibiting any future monitoring system performance indicator based on the enrollment of percentage of students receiving special education services) is the one I am most proud to have worked on.

Also etched into my memory are bills that failed to succeed, HB21 being the most notable example. Though it did not “die” per se, when the senate stripped HB21 of $1.5 billion of new public school funding and all its reforms to the outdated formulas for allocating that money, it was among the most dramatic twists in the process that I experienced overall. It is still unsettling when I think back to that infamous day when Larry Taylor broke the news in Committee, leaving many in utter shock. Huberty’s outrage was palpable on the floor later that week.

Through the successes and failures, it was not my ability to memorize up-to-date statistics that bonded me to the disability rights advocates (which was awful). It was not the anguish we shared when witnessing the death of quality bills. It was not the despair we felt while watching good men fail to advance common sense measures among spineless bigots complicity held hostage by corporate lobbyists. Instead, what bonded me to them was an unspoken sense that, if we played our cards right, we could help distribute resources in a way that more truly reflected the needs of the Texas people.

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By the end of the 6 months I worked at CTD, I learned first-hand that kindhearted, person-centered initiatives are often stymied by miscommunication, presumptuousness, genuine maliciousness, and misguided personal agendas. I learned that in the midst of the uncompromising, ideological stalemate that is partisan politics, advocates must be content simply being on the “right” side of any given fight, no matter how fleeting it seems in the short term (a la the Hispanic caucus with SB 4 or the Bathroom Bill condemners).

Future generations will want to know that you tried to help those with unmet needs when you had your chance. They want to know that you made “good” given your present circumstances no matter the fiscal note attached. The everyday heroes who frequent CTD’s “Fridays On The Porch” live in service to these truths.

To have met such remarkable mentors, I am sincerely grateful. CTD’s astonishing capacity to make me feel included given my inexperience was humbling. They allowed me to be a guide during their Raise Your Voice advocacy-training event. Also, Chris somehow imbued me with the confidence to testify before the health and human services committee on a bill related to the hiring of more elementary school nurses (in an ironic twist of fate, I subsequently worked at Pease Elementary School where I often substituted in the absence of a school nurse, needless to say the bill did not pass in its original form).

Crammed in those narrow gallery seats and committee-meeting rooms watching the messy grace of democracy play itself out, I got a slightly better sense of the opposing mentalities at war within the American psyche. I also developed an unhealthy fondness for the turkey clubs from the Capitol Grill. I still gaze up at the Capitol like a memorial to my time spent there and accept that I can’t begin to fathom the countless human endeavors underway. Distilled within those carved, pink edifices is humanity as it is, in all of its ineptitude, capability, selfishness, and altruism.

I am going to Graduate School at UT in the fall of 2018 for Music and Human Learning. As I have been hired on as the principal mower of CTD’s lawn (as well as included in the TCDD Fellow’s Policy Advisory Council), I feel they have generously made a place for me in their orbit.

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Have your own CTD story to share? Contact Communications Director Laura Perna at lperna@txdisabilities.org or 512-478-3366 x305.

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